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MaryAnne Kolton – The Well: A Trilogy

The Well: A Trilogy

I

A Different Kind Of Summer

—–They were at the summerhouse on the lake. Every year her father explained to her
about the old well.
—–“You mustn’t climb up there or remove the cover. If you fall in, Sylvie, you can never,
ever get out.”
—–The rounded, grey stones were surrounded by high weeds and briars. Once, she had
seen a long, thick, black-silver snake slither around the base. Sylvie stayed far away from
the well.
—–This summer, Sylvie’s mother would be commuting. She explained to her five year
old daughter, commuters take the train into the city to work during the week and return
at the weekend to be with their cherished, delightful daughters. Sylvie’s lower lip
trembled.
—–During the time they spent at the lake her father was forever writing. In years past,
she and her mother had gone for hikes, picnicked in the woods, and paddled around the
lake in the old green canoe. On rainy days, they baked spice cookies, blueberry cream
scones and played cards and board games.
—–This year Sylvie had brought tons of books to read, pads of paper, colored pencils
and crayons to “make art happen” as her father said – still she was alone most of the
time. There were no other children to play with, and even though her father walked
with her twice a day, “like the family dog” as she’d heard her mother say to him,
Sylvie was most often listless and bored.
—–It seemed that her parents filled most weekends with arguments this summer.
Often after a fight her mother would search her out, grab her hand and run with
Sylvie down the hill to the lake. There they would swim in their shorts and tee
shirts. Lying on the dock, they deciphered cloud configurations until their
clothes dried.
—–Several nights when she was in bed and supposed to be fast asleep she heard
them shouting at each other – her mother crying in their room afterward.
—–Sylvie woke one Sunday night when her parents were having a louder than
usual argument. She heard her mother scream, “No!” Afterward it was quiet. Sylvie
was beginning to dream again when she heard the screen door on the porch slam.
Still half asleep, she got up and peeked out the window. It was quite dark, but she
thought she saw her father carrying something over his shoulder in the direction
of the old well.
—–Sylvie rubbed at her eyes and dozed off. When she looked again, her father
was gone and she could hear him pacing back and forth on the porch below her.
She went to the top of the stairs and called out, “Daddy?”
—–Her father walked to the foot of the stairs and said, “Right here, Sylvie.”
—–“Where’s Mommy?”
—–“Why, she’s fallen asleep on the porch sofa. You get back in bed and we’ll be right up.”
—–Sylvie scuffed back to her room and crawled into her bed.
—–Sylvie slept.

II

Poking The Crow

—–When Lee-Lee climbed the rounded stones of the old well, shoved the rotting cover
aside, and tumbled down into the black pepper darkness, Chris was six years old. His
mother and her friend Lorena were sitting in the late afternoon shade on the front lawn.
They drank sweet tea, smoked cigarettes and laughed a lot. Mama had told him to be a
good boy, and watch his threeyear-old sister.
—–First, he chased after Lee-Lee when she ran into the barn to watch the pigeons
swoop in and out of the ragged hole in the shingled roof. Then he followed her around
the meadow while she picked wild flowers and threw them away as they died. Next,
she told Chris she was thirsty, so he took her through the back door into the kitchen.
He gave her a sippy cup filled with cold water. She sat down on the floor to drink the
water.
—–Chris waited for her, outside, near the back stoop. He spied a dead crow in the
weeds underneath the kitchen window. He searched around the vast yard for a good,
long stick to poke it with. When he finally found one, just the right thickness and
length, he poked the bird until it rolled over. Chris threw up when he saw the white
squiggly worms crawling all over the decaying flesh and feathers. He washed his face
and hands with water from the garden hose on the side of the old farmhouse.
—–He forgot all about Lee-Lee. He will, however, remember the sound of her
going farther and farther away, for the rest of his life.

III

And Charlie Said. . .

—–Charlie decided he’d better board up the old well on the far edge of his property.
It smelled bad, had been dry for years and was an accident waiting to happen. His
wife, Shirl, had been nagging him, seemed like forever, to seal it shut so nobody got
hurt. She was gone for the afternoon – no doubt spending his money like it would
reinvent itself on the drive home.
—–It was hotter than Hades today. Charlie could feel the sweat gluing his shirt and
pants to his body. He ambled his way to the garage to get the wheelbarrow, nails, a
hammer and several two by fours. Shirl’s yippy, aging poodle came snapping at his
jeans as soon as he got close to the house. The creature had some sort of “separation
anxiety” she called it. Bubbles – what the hell kind of name was that for a dog,
anyway – couldn’t bear to be without Shirl for more than a few minutes. He gave
the dog a kick with his work-booted foot and hollered, “G’wan, get outa here!”
—–Charlie collected everything he needed and then thought to grab a beer or
two from the fridge in the kitchen. He drank them down, lickety split, and because
they tasted so damn good, drank two more.
—–He wheeled the wood and other supplies down to the well. The dratted dog
followed him, biting at his jeans and yapping the whole way. He noticed that the
thing was limping a bit. Probably from when he’d booted him. Oh, there’d be hell
to pay if Shirl came home and there was anything wrong with her precious “boy”
Bubbles. Charlie ran at the dog and yelled “Git!” Bubbles stood his ground, bared
his teeth and snarled at him. At first, Charlie laughed at the animal. Thing no
bigger than a football, trying to show him what’s what. But when Bubbles ran at
Charlie and nipped him high on the ankle, he was no longer amused. What with
the heat of the day, the couple of beers and the nerve of the goddamn animal,
he’d had it. He snatched up the little dog, snapped it’s neck in one quick motion,
and threw it on the ground. “That’ll teach ya,” he mumbled at Bubbles.
—–Right away, Charlie knew he was in big trouble. Now what? Wiping the sweat
from his eyes, he picked Bubbles up out of the weeds. He was dead, that was for
sure. Charlie looked at the dog, looked at the well, and saw the perfect solution.
He swept the cobwebs from the well opening and tossed the dog’s body in. It
was a long time before he heard a soft, far away thump when it hit bottom.
—–He worked feverishly, sweat soaking his hair and clothing. He had to get
the friggin’ well boarded up before his wife got home. When he had nailed the
boards together to make the cover, Charlie began to look around for the
biggest, heaviest rock he could find. When he spied a likely looking prospect,
he loaded it into the wheelbarrow and wrestled it onto the boards.
—–Charlie raced back to the garage and replaced the hammer and nails. He
hung the wheelbarrow on the hooks on the back wall. He closed the garage
door, kicked off his shoes and stumbled up the stairs to the bathroom. In the
few seconds it took him to strip off his clothes, he heard the rumble of the
garage door opening. By the time Shirl got upstairs, he had shampooed
his hair and washed himself clean. Charlie had just stepped out and was
drying himself off when Shirl knocked on the bathroom door. She stuck
her head in and said, “Charlie, have you seen Bubbles?”

- MaryAnne Koltonn

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