I made semifinals in the Flash Friday end of year Flashversary! This time we had a pick of a tunnel leading to light and a 500 word limit.
A Foothold in the Orchard
The clay walls were wet. Somehow it was more hot and humid down here than the tangerine orchard twenty feet above him. Jake’s sweaty hands weren't helping and he slipped again. He wasn't afraid of falling, just screaming on the way down.
“You still down there, boy?” Jake looked up upon hearing the farmer’s slow drawl. The old man’s head looked down the hole, eclipsing the better part of the opening’s light. Jake remained silent.
“Don’t worry. Police ‘er gone. ‘Bout twenty minutes ago,” the farmer said casually, seemingly without any hurry to salvage the man in his dried-out well.
“Good. Thanks. Get me out of here.” Now that his escape from this narrow pit was upon him, he found it harder to keep his grip.
“Now you wait a minute. Policeman says you robbed the credit union. The one on Jefferson Davis and Lee.” He could hear the old man spit something substantial into the weeds on the edge of the hole. Thankfully not into it.
“Don’t worry that bank is insured.”
“It’s a matter of principle young man. You have to live by principles for crissake. I know I do.”
Jake bit his tongue and slipped down another foot. “Let me out and we’ll talk more.”
Jake considered the other hiding places he’d considered: his buddy’s attic, the burned out warehouse, under the overpass. All of them seemed like quaint vacation destinations compared to his location dozens of feet under the ground. In hindsight he should have been more suspect about the easy bargaining with a dotty old man he’d met at the convenience store. The one that was now blocking his way back out.
“Listen, sir!” Jake yelled. “Are you a man of God?” It was a last ditch ploy, but one that had always worked on Jake’s too-sympathetic grandmother.
“Don’t know. What do you think, Officer Philips? Am I a man of God?”
Another man’s silhouette joined the farmer’s at the top of the well. “You chose a poor partner in crime son.” The policeman’s voice carried authority even this far down the well.
Jake’s stomach dropped. For an instant he thought of letting go and ending his life at the bottom of the well. He didn’t want to go back to the prison, but looking down, he noted that there were worse places to end up.
“Let me up. Get me out of here.” Jake yelled. “I’ll take you to the money. I’m turning myself in.”
“Oh we already found your money, son.” The officer held up a small stack of bills. “I got some spending money and looks like ol’ Deke here can finally pay off that outhouse he’s been digging this hole for.”
“Best wishes young man.” The farmer said, somehow sincerely. “If you see my wife down there, let her know I said hi.”
Jake screamed as the two silhouettes disappeared, only to be replaced by a wooden square with a small hole cut in its center.