Josiah had recently started Kindergarten, and one of the first things he learned was that the Earth is a gigantic ball. The place where Josiah lived was on one side of the ball, and all the way around on the other side were far off countries like China. Josiah had always wanted to visit far off countries. He had thought he would have to wait until he could drive a car or fly an airplane. He didn’t know there was a direct path to them, straight down. There were no streets he wasn’t allowed to cross under the ground, just dirt, and he was allowed to get as dirty as he wanted between school time and dinner.
Josiah had a corner in the back yard that was all his own, so that is where he began. He worked alone. When he had announced that he was going to dig a hole to China, his father had said, “That’s nice,” and his mother had said, “Just be back in time for dinner.” His older brother, George, had laughed and said, “You are such a baby. You can’t dig to China. Under all the dirt is rock, you know, and you can’t dig through that with a plastic shovel. Besides, you would have to go through the center of the earth, and that is lava. No one can go there.” Even though he hated being called a baby, Josiah liked his brother’s answer best. Sometimes it is better to be laughed at than ignored.
Plus, his brother’s answer was useful. Josiah added a hammer and a bucket of cold water to his list of supplies.
Josiah worked hard. He dug down deep with his shovel and piled the dirt in a neat heap next to his hole. He had only gone down as deep as his elbows when he found the first bone. Josiah held it up and brushed the dirt off. It was small, and he knew it was probably an old steak bone that his dog, Stella, had buried. She liked to stick bones in the ground and come back for them later. Still, a bone looks very different when you pull it out of the ground than it does when you see it on your plate after dinner. He was still examining the bone when his next door neighbor stuck his head over the fence.
“Coooool!” said Alexander. “You found a bone! It’s like you’re a paleontologist. I learned all about them at the museum. They dig up dinosaur bones. Can I come dig with you? I want to be a paleontologist, too.”
Josiah considered. Being a scientist who dug up dinosaur bones sounded fun. And with two people digging, he would get to China twice as fast. He told Alexander to get a shovel.
Josiah and Alexander got to work. Working together, the hole was soon twice as wide and getting deeper by the minute. They found several more bones. Alexander told Josiah all about dinosaurs, and they decided that what they had found was a baby dinosaur, since the bones were so small. They figured that no one had ever found the complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur before. Once they put the whole thing together, they would be famous. They dug until they had a small pile of bones and the hole was so deep they had to jump down inside to dig more.
“I’m supposed to tell you that we have half an hour until dinner,” said a voice. It was Josiah’s cousin, Roland. Roland and his family had come to dinner, and he was sent outside to play until the food was ready. “Whoa!!” he said when he saw the hole with the pile of bones next to it. “It’s like you guys are in a war! I read about how soldiers dug trenches to hide in when they were fighting. You must be pretty good soldiers. I can see the bones of your enemies! Can I play, too?”
Josiah considered. It had been a while since they found any more bones, and being a soldier sounded pretty exciting. Plus, three people digging instead of two would make a path to China even faster. He told Roland to hop in.
Josiah and Alexander and Roland got to work. The trench was not deep enough to hide them from enemy bullets, so they had to dig down to get their heads out of sight. Every few minutes enemy fire would rain down on them, and they would drop their shovels and grab their guns to defend themselves. This only made them dig faster when the attack was over, though, and they soon had an admirable trench for their own protection. They had just fought off a particularly fierce advance when Josiah’s mother called them in to dinner.
Climbing out of the hole, the three boys shook hands solemnly. It had been a good day’s work.
“So you couldn’t make it all the way to China, widdle baby?” asked George before bed.
Josiah shrugged. “You can’t dig to China in one day,” he said. “I’ll dig again tomorrow.”
Josiah got in bed, his arms aching from all that digging, and thought about how his grandma always said the road to a place is more exciting than the place itself. He had never believed her before, but now he saw what she meant.
He thought of being a paleontologist and a soldier.
He wondered what else he would get to be on the road to China.