#FridayFlash: Chasing the Water

"Ma? What are Papa and Daniel doing?"

"They're digging the well deeper, Annie. I already told you."

"I know, but why? Will that bring the water back?"

"The water's there. It's just gone down is all. We have to make the well deeper to get at it."

"Why's it gone down? Is it because it hasn't rained in forever?"

"I don't know, Annie. Maybe that's part of it, but Papa doesn't think the drought would dry up the well the way it did. He figures the water table dropped because something shifted in the earth."

"Why did they drop a table down the well? Is it to eat lunch on? So they don't have to come all the way back up to eat?"

"No, Annie, don't be silly. A water table isn't a table table. It's... it's like a big lake, but underground, down among the rocks. See, if I hold this hand up here, that's us. And this hand down here is the level of the water that's underground. And if the level of the water goes down, like this, you have to go a little deeper to get at it. They call it a water table because the level of the water is flat, like a table."

"How big is the water table?"

"Oh, bigger than big. It runs all through the rocks down there, probably from Hanson's Rise all the way out past the Cracktown Forests."

"If it's so big, where did all the water go?"

"Down. It probably drained down some new channel and pooled up somewhere else."

"How far down does the earth go?"

"All the way down."

"All the way down to what?"

"Just all the way down. Down and down and down for miles and miles."

"Are Papa and Daniel going to dig for miles and miles?"

"No, don't be silly. They're going to dig only until they reach the water. Then they'll go just a bit farther, in case it drops again. After that, everything will be just fine again. Everything will be fine."

"How deep was the well back when it had water?"

"About seventy feet."

"And how far down have they dug?"

"About... I don't know. Maybe three hundred feet. Maybe more."

"Is that where all the gravel came from?"

"Yes. They hit a deep seam of it a while ago. It was wet, so they thought maybe that would be it, but... well, yes. That's where the gravel came from."

"But then they hit more clay dirt, didn't they?"

"Yes, they went through the gravel and hit the clay underneath."

"But that was a lucky thing, wasn't it? Isn't that what we use to make the bricks for them? So they can line the well and keep the motherfucker from collapsing?"

"ANNIE! Where on earth did you learn such a word!"

"Is it a bad word? When Papa called the well a motherfucker, did Papa use a bad word?"

"No, Papa doesn't say bad words, even when he's lost his temper. Don't you worry, I'll speak to Papa about his choice of vocabulary around small children when he and Daniel come up tonight. But I don't ever want to hear you say that again. What Papa says is one thing. What you say is quite another, young lady."

"Did they find water under the gravel?"

"No, they didn't."

"Did they find water under the clay?"

"No. Under the clay was sand, then a little more gravel, then shale. That was twenty days ago and they've had nothing but dry shale."

"What's shale?"

"It's the hard, crumbly rock. It's not good for anything. Thank God it's easy to dig through, or... well, it's just what's down there, that's all."

"How long will they keep digging? Mama? Did you hear me? How long will they keep digging?"

"Hush, Annie. They'll dig as long as it takes. The water is there. It's just gone deeper, that's all. Everything will be fine."

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12 comments:

  1. Timeless, all around. It could have been from ancient times, a century ago, now, or in the all too near future. Both the well, and the small children repeating words their parents shouldn't use around them. :-)

    The mother in law once hand-dug a well like that, when she was much younger of course. It hasn't dried up yet.

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    Replies
    1. People will always need water.

      A hand-dug well is a real accomplishment.

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  2. Wow that woman has some patience! Great work Tony!

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    1. Patience with the child? Or with the drought?
      ;-)

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    2. Patience, period, and lots of it, but especially with the child.

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  3. I'm so glad you went for the water table joke, and that the entire story wasn't a setup for it as a punchline. Mature handling of the entire story, Tony. Probably my favorite of your all-dialogue works.

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    1. Thanks, John. I'm glad you liked it!

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  4. Heh, as i'm watching the full XKCD time comic and reading about it. nice synchronicity.

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    Replies
    1. There's a timeless quality about it, isn't there?

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  5. I loved the profanity in this, because it's so funny! It happens all the time, when kids repeat the things they hear their parents say. lol

    Nice one!

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  6. Nice handling of the story. It's all the more effective because there's no interior handwringing, as shows up in so many stories of people vs. nature.

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  7. I don't think the water's ever coming back...

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