Authors: J. Hughey
“Sounds like Nebraska. You have more trees.”
“Hey, that reminds me, do you want to go get pizza tonight, for something to do?”
“Sure,” he said
. He looked at me—really looked at me—for the first time since yesterday afternoon. He exhaled heavily. “This ride is perfect, Violet. Exactly what I needed. I’m glad you thought of it.”
“It’s what got me started biking.
Clearing my head.”
“That’s part of it for me, though it
’s more like my blood starts to feel stale if I don’t keep moving.”
I pointed across the river. “There are trails in the state forest, for hiking mostly but some allow mountain bikes. Maybe we can look at my map back at the house and pick out a loop to do next week.”
For a moment, I imagined we hadn’t left school and could pedal back to our carefree life on campus. He kissed me for the first time in days. Our lips melded in perfect synchronization, touched, blended. I cupped his cheek with my palm, trying to transmit how psyched I was we’d stolen more time, despite his worrying circumstances.
He slid closer to me
to brace an arm behind my back while curving his other hand over my sweaty waist. After a few minutes of kisses that forced my fingers to curl into his shirt, he pulled back to look at me with a half-smile
“How do you always know the right things to say and do, Biker-girl?” he whispered.
My normal response to such a question would be to get flustered and deny, deny, deny. But we were having a moment here, and I didn’t want to ruin it. And I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I tilted my head. “I know we’ve only been going out for a little while, but I feel like I know you. Things are…easy with you.”
He studied my face and tucked
a lock of hair behind my ear. “Yeah,” he agreed gruffly. “As bizarre as our lives have gotten, this minute right now is awesome.”
I smiled up at him an
d nodded. He hopped to his feet then extended a hand to pull me up into his arms.
“My timing sucks,” he said. “Weren’t we in
the parking lot of a trail the last time this happened?”
“The dorm room was good, though.
Maybe we should aim to be under a roof next time.” I pulled his head down for another kiss, felt the strong cords at the back of his neck.
A chuckle rumbled
in his chest, sending happy vibrations through me. “Freakin’ freshman,” he complained.
Our rides near campus prepared us well for pedaling home, but, after straining uphill for nearly a mile, the steeper slope of the driveway felt like a trucker-lower-your-gear grade. Mom and Dad stood off to the left of the drive in the low brush at the edge of the forest, staring at the ground. I stopped with Boone right behind me.
“Did you have a nice ride?” Mom asked
, one hand up to shade her eyes. She liked Boone. I mean, she
liked Boone, and if one thing would make this boardinghouse situation work, that was the thing.
“Yep. Is the power on yet?” I asked. I needed a shower.
“Not yet. I asked Sara to yell down if it came on so I can put in some laundry.”
Boone had laid his bike down to walk toward them.
“Watch your step,” Dad warned. “It gets mucky.”
squinted at the ground at their feet then looked at me. “Is this one of the springs you told me about?”
I nodded, pleased that he remembered
He walked uphill to circle around to where they were. Without a word, he studied the area, noting the source of the spring and the path the steady stream
took through the weeds to a pipe under our driveway where it continued toward the road, off our property. “That puts out good volume,” he said.
“Exactly,” Dad said. “Candy and I were talking about using it
for water, with the power situation being the way it is.”
“That’s why we had you bring all those purification kits,” Mom said to me. “And why I bought so much bleach.
I picked my way up to
“Is this the only one?” Boone asked.
“No, but it’s the biggest. There’s a small one behind the house.”
“Hmm. Can I see it?” All three of us could tell his Nebraska rancher wheels were turning.
We studied the second tiny spring, never more than an annoyance before, since it necessitated a drainage ditch around the yard and made the swampy lawn at its edge grow twice as fast as everywhere else.
“It’s small but more convenient
to the house. Does it freeze in the winter?” Boone noted.
“Never has before,” Dad said.
Boone stuck his hands in the pockets of his bike shorts. “You might want to use both. If you dug a pit here and lined it, you could divert the flow a little and have a source of water handy for the house. The bigger one might be important for volume.”
“I’ve seen springs
with a pipe coming right out of them. Do you think that would work here?”
“It’s worth a try.”
“Don’t disturb it too much,” Mom said. Always the worrier.
Dad, Mom and Boone headed for the garage. I walked our bikes up to the front porch. “Hey Mom, I can hear the TV blaring inside. I guess the power
She rolled her eyes. “Teenagers.”
I yelled as I came through the door. “Thanks for letting everyone know the electricity is back, Sara.”
.” She waved me off, absorbed in the incredible results of some fake reality makeover show. With everything going on in the world, I couldn’t believe fluff like this still got occasional airtime.
I grabbed the opportunity for a
lukewarm shower, determined to feel clean at least once today. I picked up two apples from a basket on the counter on my way to the scraping and digging sounds from outside.
“That fellow’s pretty handy.” Grampa loung
ed on the glider again. He gestured toward Boone at the big spring.
“Hi, Grampa. Where’d you come from?”
“Your dad showed up looking for a digging iron and my rubbers.”
He peered up at me. “A digging iron. You know, to help pry rocks out of holes.”
“And the other thing?”
“My rubbers.” He looked askance at me, and I couldn’t tell if he was joking or starting to get pissed. “My Tingleys.”
“Land sakes, girl, did you grow up in the city? My overboots. My rubber boots
“Well, what does ‘tingly’ have to do with it?”
“Tingley,” he said, shaking his head. “The brand name. T-I-N-G-L-E-Y. Tingley.”
“You honestly don’t know what a rubber boot is?”
“You didn’t say rubber boot.”
He blinked at me, then understanding dawned. “Gah, you and your music video generation makes everything about S-E-X.”
I hadn’t watched
music videos since fourth grade, but I wasn’t going to argue with him.
“That Nebraska kid is ankle-deep. My
are keeping his feet dry.”
, Grampa. I’m bringing this apple to him. Do you need anything? How’s Grandma?”
“Bossy. I should have never retired,” he grumbled. “I
also should’ve kept the little crawler tractor she made me sell last year. Thing’d be handy right now.” He squinted at Boone where he wrenched a grapefruit sized rock out of a muddy hole. “That boy’s a hard worker.”
Grampa had sold the crawler at least five years ago when he’d accidentally driven over Grandma’s favorite rose bush
. He’d mistaken the bucket control for the throttle. The incident unnerved my dad, since Grampa had owned an excavation business for fifty years. I’d heard Dad tell Mom he’d thought his father would remember how to run big equipment long enough to dig his own grave.
“I’m fresh out of tractors. You sure you don’t need anything else?” I asked.
He waved me away. I walked over to where Boone shoveled some gravel into his hole.
“Want an apple?” I called.
As he crunched on it, I surveyed his project, which so far consisted of one muddy hole below and to the left of the spring, about the size of a five-gallon bucket, with a layer of gravel in the bottom. Several sacks of concrete mix lay on a tarp next to four posts.
“We’re gonna put a roof and a fence around it.”
“To keep the ash and the animals out. And then we might lay a pipe in here, make it easier to collect water.” He tossed the apple core into the woods. “Go check out what your parents are doing at the other spring,” he said. “Then come back and help me if you want.”
Mom knelt in the grass with
a printed brochure unfolded and weighted down with rocks in front of her. A black tub rested upside down nearby. Dad hacked at a hole in the lawn. Sweat dripped from his sloe-gin face.
I looked over Mom’s shoulder at instructions on how to install a
“Are we going to farm our own fish
, too?” I asked.
“Very funny,” she said, without looking up.
“Oh, I remember this thing. You were going to add it to the flower garden, like, three years ago.”
“Well, I never got around to it,
” Dad said. “But it’s going to be pretty useful now.”
“Won’t it get algae and frogs and stuff living in it?”
“Probably,” Dad said. “We’re going to put a screen over it, and a cover.”
“Sounds great,” I lied, vowing I would never drink water from any vessel
where frogs lived. “I’m gonna go help Boone.”
We all worked until dusk. We were dirty and sore with blistered palms by the time the digging par
t ended. Or at least three of us were. Boone didn’t seem to mind, even after the long bike ride this morning. Dad carried four beers and two sodas—for Sara and me—to the back patio, though why Sara got anything I didn’t know. All she’d done is watch TV. Mom usually noticed such inequities.
ed his beer bottle like a lover. His lips smacked with bliss after every sip.
, Sara,” Mom said. “You haven’t helped all day. Why don’t you go in and make some sandwiches for all of us for dinner.”
“That isn’t fair. Nobody told me you needed help,” she squealed. “Why do I have to do it?”
“Make sandwiches or dig another foot in that hole for me,” Dad ordered.
“Umm, Boone and I were thinking ab
out going out for pizza,” I ventured, “though he might be too worn out now.”
.” He took another swig from his bottle. “If you’re driving.”
I toasted him with my cola.
Mom handed her car keys and thirty bucks to me. “You going to Carpucci’s?” she asked, referring to the pizza joint at the intersection with the main road to Gardenburg.
. I doubt we’ll be late since we have more construction to do tomorrow.” I said it with a genuine smile. As boring as digging holes might be, like Boone had said, it felt good to have my blood moving, to have an occupation and a project instead of watching the consistently disheartening news. The stock market slid, the power grid destabilized, the jet stream swung back in our direction. And the ash still pumped out of the ground like the water from our springs, only much, much faster.