As Norm Bellaire left the local coffee shop, he ordered a “latte to go” from his favorite barista, Tina Morado. She was an athletic woman, younger than Norm, but not too much so. They enjoyed each other’s company. Norm spent a lot of time with her in the past few months. Tina found Norm attractive. She wished he wasn’t married because she could see herself with him, happy for the first time in a long time.

For Norm, Tina brought comfort and peace to his life. Although it was fleeting, it was welcome. He had forgotten another human could do that. Their long conversations, where he opened up about his marriage, were the best part of his day. Once he left Tina and the coffee shop, Norm had to face the grim reality of going home to his wife, Laura.

A mean spirited, opinionated, combative troll, she was an all-around unpleasant woman. Theirs was not a happy union. She found fault with everything; the particular object of her scorn was Norm. Insults were her specialty. Her own children feared and hated her. When she wasn’t riding Norm, she bullied them. They disrespected their father for failing to stand up to her. Once grown, they each moved far away and pretended as if their parents were dead. The neighbors avoided Laura on the rare occasions when she ventured outside.

One this particular day, as Norm was heading home, he saw a series of signs posted along the streets. Each read: Construction Alert, Work Will Start Soon on a High Speed Fiber and Broadband Network Project in Your Neighborhood. Curious, Norm took a drive through the neighborhood to investigate this project. As he passed the crews digging access holes in the parking strips of front yards, an idea came to him: “I bet I could bury Laura in one of those holes.” The idea fascinated him, but it seemed impractical. He dismissed it, but the more open holes he saw, the more it kept coming back.

As he approached his house, the same signs lined his street. This project would soon begin in his front yard. Laura was sure to complain about any construction that disturbed the “curb appeal” of their house. The objections would fall on him, not the city or work crews. The irony being, she did not particularly like their house.

They lived in a well-tended, colonial two-story house on a cul-de-sac. It had many windows, but Laura didn’t like having a house with so many windows. They bought the house because Norm liked the backyard. He got the house he wanted. Like everything else, Laura resented it.

After arriving home, Laura confronted him. She saw the signs and knew construction in the cul-de-sac would tear up their grass-parking strip. Because she felt this would inconvenience her, on cue, she executed her superpower and started complaining. As her griping filled the air, Norm again mulled over this utility project as a way to end his misery. Despairing he could never pull it off, he tried to forget about it, but he couldn’t.

Laura’s grumbling didn’t continue for long. That evening, her book club met at the town library. Once a week, she’d be gone for three to four hours, giving Norm a much needed break. When she had a book club meeting, she usually came home in a better than average mood. Her having to leave soon cut short her bellyaching. Still, she got some shots in on Norm before departing.

“I want you to call the city and tell them not to dig up our lawn. They are to stay away from our property.”

“Look, this project is already approved. I can’t stop it. Anyway, the city has a utility easement on the parking strip,” Norm said.

“Can you ever be anything but weak? You’re useless, always have been. There better not be a hole dug in our yard. If there is, maybe I’ll bury you in there,” she said as she headed out the door.

Norm said nothing in response. The idea that he had dismissed as not practical came rushing back into his head. It was then he decided, “Enough; she has to go and soon.”


A couple of days later, the work crews arrived to mark utility lines and prepare the area for excavation. Norm went outside to talk to the project supervisor.

“Hi, I’m Norm Bellaire. This is my yard. What are you putting in?”

“Good to meet you, Norm. I’m Joe Sullivan, the project foreman. Everyone calls me Sully.” He continued, “The city is upgrading all Internet and TV communications with 5G capability and super-fast connectivity. It will lower costs and improve access to the Internet for city residents.”

Norm thought, This guy sounds like a commercial. Then he said, “My wife worries about you guys digging up the yard.”

Sully said, “Well, let’s take a look.” Unrolling the maps on the hood of his truck, he said, “I understand. You have a nice house and property and you want to keep it that way. I would, too.” He showed Norm the map for his street. “We will be doing a series of access points for the conduits and fiber cables up and down the street.” Sully looked at the map; finding Norm’s address, he said, “Sorry, but the excavation in front of your house will be extra wide and deep.”

“Extra wide and deep for what?” Norm asked.

“To provide for maintenance and future expansion,” Sully said. “The plans call for access points about every five to six hundred feet. You know, for repairs to the conduits and updates. It’s just luck that a bigger hole is needed on your lot.”

“So, how often does this maintenance or updates take place?”

“Oh, not often; as needed, I guess.” Then, Sully offered up some more information that caught Norm’s attention. “The extra digging will go down to the layer of soil known around these parts as Fremont sour soil. The acidity content is much higher than the layers above it. Our tests show it to be around 2.7 pH. That’s why it’s called sour soil. We will have to use special plastic piping when repairs or upgrades take place. The acidic nature of the soil decomposes organic and metallic artifacts faster than the other soils. Our goal now is to loosen the soil and prepare it for future use.”

Decompose organic matter; interesting, Norm thought. He asked, “How long does it take to decompose something organic?”

“Well, I’m not a scientist, but according to the information I’ve seen, if you put organic matter in this sour soil, like a whole body of, say a deer, it would be gone in a couple of weeks. That’s an estimate. It would depend on the bacteria content, the temperature and moisture, and how loose the sour soil is.”

Then Norm asked, “So when you loosen the sour soil area, will that make it easier to dig in?

“Yeah, but we’re only loosening up about three feet of it, not removing any. We’ll dig out the top soil and clay layers but the sour soil stays. Loosening up that layer will make future repairs and expansion easier. Because of our digging, we will have to shut down the streetlights until we are finished. Once we’re done, we’ll put back the clay and top soil and you won’t even know we were here.”

Norm thanked Sully and headed back to the house. He turned to look at the excavation one more time and saw Sully looking over his front yard and house. He figured Sully was examining the area for the upcoming excavation. With the information Sully provided, the details on how to get rid of Laura started to get clearer.

A few days later, the crews began the excavation. When Laura saw the crew digging a deep, wide hole in her yard, she hit the roof. She spent the day raining down verbal crabapples on Norm.

“I told you to call the city and stop them from digging in our yard. You’re worthless. Why I stay married to you is a mystery. You can’t do anything right. Never mind,” she said. “I will talk to this supervisor myself.”

Storming into the yard, she marched over to Sully and, from what Norm could tell, did her best to complain about the project. Watching from the house, he couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but he noticed they seemed to know one another. He thought it was just his imagination.

At times like this, it was best to let her carry on. When she was in this state, fighting or trying to reason with Laura was pointless. Norm went to his workshop, which sat at the back of the yard. There, away from everything, he could think. His determination to get rid of her grew. With the open hole in the front yard, the opportunity to act was now.


For all installments of “Fremont Sour Soil,” click here.