Jugs of Water
When I carry the big jug of water across the field, it drizzles over sprouts working their way anemically through the ground. The wind doesn’t blow the dust as hard today as it did yesterday, and maybe more seeds are sprouting. When I move down the row, walk back to the pump in the ground, I give it a few cranks that squeak empty. My chest is tired and small, concave, a boy’s chest. I used to take a moment at the pump to bend down and tie my shoes, but they’ve rotted into strips and I’ve let them go, like so many other things. There might be rust on the pump, or it might be dusty. The water comes out in a trickle. Enough to dampen the bottom of the jug and turn it into a tin-colored slosh. It grows heavy, so heavy it’s time to turn around and empty it again, down the length of the field where the seeds are sprouting. The air is hot and the dust is blowing. The air is brown and thick with the blowing dust. There is thunder in the distance, like always. It moves not toward me, but away. Sometimes, when the thunder moves closer, the air feels thick with moisture. I know, then, that my break is coming.
It’s been a few months since the thunder has come closer.
I slosh the trickle across the ground and feel my load lighten. It’s been some time now since the others vanished. My bare feet are blistered from the hot rocks that poke through the cracked ground. No matter how many jugs I empty along the rows, it doesn’t keep the red rocky earth from the cracking. I am alone here. There were other waterers, but they fell into the cracks, the cracks so big and the sprouts so tiny.
Nothing much comes to the field anymore. The people who carried the jugs and who fell into the cracks whimpered first into quiet, and then into silence. The silence when I lay back to watch the night sky, without wind kicking up the dust. Up and down I pump the handle to the rusty well, and here comes the trickle. The rust might be dust, and I can still hear the thunder.
When I walk along the rows I avoid the biggest vein of cracked earth. It was the first to shift and part, its darkness cutting across the field like a slow-moving river.
Before, we moved along the land, bending down and straightening up with our jugs, in staggered positions. After the vibrations, the slipping in and falling, so quickly. Swallows darting over the lakes our elder waterers spoke of. So long since they’d seen a lake, since the soft water. One by one they fell into the crack, lost in moments of tired, in moments of tender, like before the sun fell and the night shift began. So long since the rain came. So long since the thunder clapped directly overhead.
Boog put out Rachel Aydt’s (rachelaydt.com) chapbook A Canopy Sack of Details on Aug. 5, 1991, the press’ first day. Aydt is a part-time assistant professor of writing at the New School University. She also teaches a hybrid prose class at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College. She’s published essays and short stories in The White Review, HCE Review, Broad Street Journal, Post Road, Green Mountains Journal, and many other publications, and has completed a memoir. She lives in the East Village and is co-founder of the Crystal Radio Sessions series at the KGB Bar. Twitter: @Rachelrooo/ Insta: @RachelNYCroo