“Said we should have put him through a chipper.”

Phil leaned back on his shovel. Ash was right, but he was buggered if he was going to admit it. Looking at the hole they’d just spent an hour digging, the temptation to go back into town and pay Kennards a quick visit was strong. A slip’n’slide was deeper. It was an embarrassment to the very idea of shallow graves. There was no way that this giant heap of flesh behind him was going to fit any time soon. He did a quick bit of maths in his head, looked back the body and then back to the hole. He shook his head and started scraping soil out of the hole again.

“But it have to be one of those really big bastards scrape that they put whole bloody scrape tree trunks through, Ash. There’s just not scrape enough in the budget for it. We just gotta keep digging. Maybe it’ll soften up a bit further down.”

Ash grunted and started an attempt at digging again. Phil scraped on, beginning to rue the day he got into this sector of the service industry. He should’ve stayed in hospitality, he was good with people, but sometimes you’ve just got to run with the opportunities that present themselves. It started one ladies night at the pub when one of his regulars came in with an inch of foundation over one eye and the hair brushed down to cover the butterfly tape. After a couple of rieslings, what had started as a slip in the shower onto the soap dish turned into a couple of backhanders with stubbie in hand. Growing up with that shit, Phil knew it’d only get worse. Plus, there was little tykes in the house. He had no patience for that crap, so he offered to have a stern word with the soap dish and two days later the arsehole skipped town, never to be seen again.

Course Phil knew where he’d buggered off to, and he’d remain never seen again as long as no one ever dug too deep under the floral clock in town. Before long, the town’s domestic violence rate dropped to near zero after a few other slap happy partners “skipped town” after a chat with Phil and became residents under various bits of the town’s landscaping efforts. Before long, he had a bit of a reputation for quietly convincing people to never be seen again and to his surprise, it paid well. Before long he was a self employed business owner, with an apprentice under his wing. He always re-educated errant husbands pro bono though. Phil was a civic minded bloke in that regard.

But like a turd in a kiddie’s pool, one thing screwed it all up. And that turd was Danny Giancarlo who got a snifter of the good thing Phil was on and set up a shingle on Phil’s patch. At a reduced rate! Before long they were in a price war and now here was Phil with a big bastard to dispose of and not enough money in the job to afford a chipper. It just wasn’t right. Professionalism be damned, he was going have to have a chat with Danny and persuade him to skip town. Maybe under the new bypass. In the meantime, a hole needed to be deeper and wider.

After a long two hours of scraping and swearing, they’d finally managed to open a hole in the earth big enough to fit the latest job in. Phil and Ash rolled him in to his place of final resting with an exhausted grunt. A glance between them decided on the next course of action, a quick beer before filling the hole in again.

Phil went back to the ute, popped open the esky and handed a stubbie over to Ash. They both stood beside the hole, drinking quietly, looking down.

Phil broke the solemn silence.

“Hey Ash. Look, sorry about there not being enough in the job to cover the chipper. I’ll have a chat to Danny about setting some sustainable rates. Not price fixing, mind, just make sure we have an ongoing industry sector. Jobs and growth and all that.”

Ash grunted something resembling understanding. He started fidgeting with his beer.

“Err, Phil?”

Phil looked up at Ash. He was looking like a best man whose just realised he’s left his speech in his other jacket.

“Yeah, Ash?”

Ash was ripping strips off his beer label. He took a deep breath, and with the determination of said speechless best man who’d been in love with the bride since kindergarten and was now going to announce it to all, repercussions be damned, Ash turned to Phil and blurted “Danny offered me a job, I’m taking it, start Monday, thanks for everything, you’re a great bloke and all, taught me heaps, no hard feelings, eh?”

Phil was stunned. Bride assuming best man had a thing for her brother level stunned. He’d apprenticed Ash, taught him everything. That arsehole Danny, taking everything.

“Ash, mate,” he stammered. “But, why? Danny? Striking out on your own, but Danny? If it’s your per job rate, I can probably up that. Maybe see into some qualifications. Why Danny?”

Ash flicked a quick sorrowful glance at Phil.

“Nah, its not that. He’s offered me fulltime with super and all. I need the job security.”

Silence reeled out between them, both just sipping their beers. Ash ended the quiet.

“Look, I’ll just start filling the hole while you finish your beer, yeah?” he said as picked up his shovel.

Phil sighed out a “Yeah, okay” and watched as Ash started to shovel in the dirt. Bloody Danny. He was right fucked now. First he’d taken his business, and now poached his employee. He couldn’t let that stand. Ash had too much knowledge capitol.

There was a loud pop and Ash dropped into the grave, minus most of his head. Phil put the pistol back in his waistband, nudged Ash’s feet in as well, and picked up the shovel. As he started filling in the hole, he began working out a solution to his Danny problem. It was going to involve a chipper, an engine hoist, and Danny seeing it out until the end.