They walked side by side toward the pond. The two farmers, the one who had newly discovered the pond and one more, who didn’t know about it and was eager to learn more. They both had dry sprawling farms in the county that had turned to dust, like everyone else’s. Bruce had lived in the county for decades, generations really, growing the food from that land but mostly eating food from elsewhere alongside his potatoes and corn. Their farms had expanded, grown tractors and turbines, and accumulated land. Yet, none of the machines could protect them from the dryness that had descended on them. They had no tool for wringing the moisture out of the earth, no contraption for pulling the rain out of the clouds in the sky. He’d heard someone had invented that, but it wasn’t going to be used for rural California farmers.
So when they learned about the pond, it was like a heart attack of relief. Water, some water, any water. Where was the water coming from? Why hadn’t they known about it before? Surely with all their drones and planes, someone would have seen it, a patch of miracle blue on the land below. However it hid itself and why it appeared now was not known to him, but he was grateful enough to have found it.
He brought his friend with him this time. They slogged through the brambles, stepped over a fallen eucalyptus tree branch, ducked under a low-hanging bay, and found the dock.
“Look,” he told his friend “Isn’t she pretty?”
The sun was casting mid-afternoon light on the water which shimmered like diamonds. A pole stuck out of the water in the middle of the pond, as if someone had measured it. Markings at the top of the pole measured each foot increment. A black and green duck was circling and squawking as it bobbed along the surface of the water.
His friend, Maurice was older than him at just over sixty while Bruce was still in his forties. Maurice’s hair was gray and his eyes are dark brown, like rich soil. He was a stick and bone skinny, but he was the farmer everyone relied on to know important solutions like just what pest was eating the crops and how to lure it away or the right fix for a machine that had stopped running at peak harvest time.
“It doesn’t make sense. We should have found this water by now.” Maurice said. “I would have known about it.”
“Well, you didn’t. I found it this time. And water is water. And water is life.” Bruce replied.
Maurice was silent for a moment and then spoke looking askance talking toward the water “It’s nothing to get too excited about. It’s not much water. We could only feed a couple of acres with this. Probably better for drinking water, increase our ration for the basics, for survival. You aren’t thinking about it for crops are you?”
“You’re right. It’s not much. You know I want to grow food again Maurice more than anything. Maybe this leads to more water. Maybe it’s a spring. Maybe this is the start. I know we need water for ourselves, but I just can’t just give up the fields.”
Maurice shrugged. “It is what it is. Nothing more or less.”
He scratched his head under his baseball cap and squinted.
“I don’t know what you are excited about Bruce.”
Bruce wanted to say more. About what happened when he had touched the water. How water had flowed from his eyes. So much water, it had soaked his clothes and his boats. Those tears became a source. But the spring came from tears after all and he didn’t want to share that. He had planned to tell him. He thought Maurice would understand, the wizened old farmer that he is but in this moment, his pride would not budge. And what if he wanted to keep it for himself? He’d keep it to himself a while longer.
“No, just a dream. Not enough really. I guess I got carried away.”
Maurice patted him on the shoulder.
“I’ll talk with the town about rationing it, but in the meantime, it’s great place to go swimming. Want to swim?”
“What the matter? I’m going in.”
Maurice took off his jeans and t-shirt and lept off the dock into the water. As he hit the water, his body started to convulse and then floated upward, tears streaming down his face.
There was a rowboat at the edge of the dock. Bruce got in, rowed toward Maurice, and pulled his limp form up into the boat. Maurice was still enough to scare Bruce but then coughed and sputtered.