The Well Diggers

From her doorway Rachel Rothstein watches as the boy drives off. There is something about him that touches her. She believes that his coming is a sign, the way she believes most things are, but a sign of what, she does not know. As her eyes follow the dust of his wake, she is trying to decide if hiring him was a good decision or a bad one. Lately she’s been prone to bad decisions, moving to New Mexico being high on her list. She makes those mistakes because she lives with the illusion that life will be better if she changes something—if she buys a new sofa; if she loses weight or, at times, gains it; if the kids go to a different school; if they move to another state. And yet none of it ever seems to make a difference, certainly not for long.

Behind her the children are quarreling. She should go inside and stop them, but she is transfixed by the road and the swirl of dust that the boy has left behind. Though she can no longer see or hear his car, she sees the dust and her eyes follow it until he turns the bend about a mile down the road. Overhead black clouds appear. They seem to have come from nowhere. It occurs to her that the boy might be driving right into the storm. She wonders if he will be all right. She assumes he has four-wheel drive.

Davie and Jeremy huddle on the couch in opposite corners, Davie sniffling, watching cartoons. She looks out across the arroyo and wonders if the boy, whose name she cannot recall, made it safely onto the highway. She ponders getting into her SUV and driving out to see, but it would mean throwing the boys into the car, and what if she got stuck?, so in the end she decides that he must be all right. He’s from around here, isn’t he? But still. She knows how these storms can take you by surprise.

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