“Heavens no," he said. “I'm faithful to my wife. What I am going to do is untie the rope and you will climb down the ladder into this hole. If you try to run away I'll just shoot you." He patted the gun in its holster hanging on the belt around his waist. “Do you understand?"
“Why are you doing this? What did I ever do to you?" she said.
“Don't take it personally, sweetheart," he said. “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time." He neared his face to hers. “I'll ask one more time, do you understand my instructions, groundhog?"
“Yes, I understand," she said.
He untied the ropes, and pointing the gun at her, watched as she climbed down the ladder.
“There's a bucket of slop to eat and a bucket of water to drink. I'll be back every few days to give you food and water," he said. “You'll have just enough air to breathe, so I wouldn't recommend using it up by climbing up and down the ladder and trying to get out."
The woman looked up from the bottom of the ladder. “People will be looking for me."
“I'm sure they will," he said.
“How long do you plan to keep me down here?" she said.
“Until you're no longer human," he said.
He slid a two inch thick round piece of plywood punctured with holes over the hole, then slid an iron manhole cover over that. He then unrolled a large piece of brown AstroTurf carpet over that and drove tent spikes around the edge of the carpet, securing it to the ground.
Sweating and drenched, he returned to his truck, and before putting up the tailgate, patted the burlap sack over a man's head. He was wearing a green parka. “Don't worry, groundhog, you're the last one."
The man kicked his bound boots against the floor of the truck. “I'll get you for this, you bastard," the man said, his voice muffled by the sack.
“By the time I let you out of the hole you're going in, you'll be too crazy to do anything but hide in the woods and scavenge for grubs," Lester said
He scraped the mud from his boots on the running board, then got in his truck. He picked up a clipboard from the passenger seat and flipped through several pages of hand drawn maps.
It's all about knowing who is where, he thought.
* * *
Sitting on the back steps of his house, Lester took off his boots and scraped off the mud. Rays of hazy morning sunlight broke through the gray clouds that hung over the landscape. Chilly gusts of wind blew dead leaves across the yard. Pigs in their pen grunted and squealed. Behind him the door squeaked as it opened.
“You were out all night again," his wife said through the screen door.
“Had to repair some fencing over in the south fields," he said, continuing to scrape mud from the side of a boot.
“You're not a young man anymore, Lester. Maybe it's time you hired someone to help out," she said.
“I'm doing just fine," he said. Holding his boots he stood up and gazed out at the fields of harvested corn. A murder of crows were scavenging the ground around a ragged scarecrow that hung askew on a wood cross. The straw had fallen out of its left arm. The shirtsleeve hung limply at its side. He turned and looked at his wife.
“I'll be wanting a big breakfast after I feed the pigs," he said.
“Okay," she said, and then closed the door.
He sat back down and put on his boots and then stretched his legs out and looked at the boots admiringly. The only good thing I got from any of my groundhogs, he thought. Leaving the steps he walked across the gravel covered yard to his truck and took out a stack of six empty black