Every citizen of Kentucky is required by law to take a bath once a year.
Despina ends up making Alberto's project her own. She and Alberto get Baby Blue Ram and head through the village.
Wow! I never noticed how common the highly painted refrigerators have become! She sees two tourists photographing those visible from the road and a third car is making a video of one, complete with the young artist Guillermo. She smiles at him and waves as she passes.
When they arrive at the river, Alberto picks out a place a little away from the river, under a nice tree.
"Aquí," he indicates, pointing imperiously.
Despina empties her stuff out of Baby Blue Ram, then drives back to the indicated location, takes her borrowed shovel and begins to dig. A crowd soon gathers. Nobody says a thing. They just watch. When the hole is knee deep, she takes the truck back to the village.
"María, ¿quién necesita un buen jardín?"
The old blind matriarch rocks a bit, then comes up with a name. Despina drives over to the house and asks where la señora prefers to have her garden.
Eyes widen slightly, then the lady of the house comes out and points to a rocky piece without a stitch of soil.
Shrugging, Despina thinks, That's odd, but duly unloads some upstream farmer's lost topsoil.
Three loads later, she has a shoulder deep hole slightly longer than she is stretched out. Driving Baby Blue Ram into the current, she feels around for some rounded off stones. Back she goes to the budding bathtub. Starting with the largest stone in the center, she layers others in a circle around it. Several trips later, she has a "tub"... an empty tub.
Cu comes walking down the road from the village, Alberto on his shoulders. In his fluid Spanish, he says, "Veo que has estado ocupada. No importa lo que haces, me parece a causar una conmoción."
"Yes, very busy. That’s a problem? What's the upset this time?" She arches her sore wrists back and forth as she talks.
Stony-faced, he deadpans, "Es que la capa superior del suelo amontonó sobre un lecho de rocas."
Alberto climbs down his father’s back and inspects his tub, ignoring the adult talk.
"Yes, I did pile the topsoil on a bed of rocks! That's where la señora said she wanted her garden." Despina mops sweat threatening to run into her eyes from her forehead with a grubby forearm.
A slight crinkle begins around Cu’s eyes. "Oh. Y ¿cómo se le ocurrió decidir que quería un jardín?"
Blowing her hair up off her face, Despina says, "I asked María who needed a good garden."
The crinkle moves a bit to Cu’s mouth. "Ah, y oh, tan inocente, te redactas en una disputa larga."
"A long running quarrel about topsoil?" Despina frowns.
"Sobre el cuidado adecuado de su familia. María cree que es perezoso porque no tiene un jardín, como si nada se crecen bien por aquí."
Smiling as widely as Alberto, Despina basks in Cu’s undivided attention. "Planting seeds and watering generally do the trick."
A full-blown smile graces Cu’s face. “Hablando de riego, ¿cómo piensas que el agua va a venir a su bañera?”
"I was thinking of making a trench over to the river, and fitting it with a sluice gate so once it got filled up, we could close it off and let the sun warm the water." Despina’s hands wave in the air as she talks.
Despina drops her hands to her sides. "Never mind. You aren't the one who took Alberto to the library, which put strange ideas in his head."
Pulling the shovel from the rear of Baby Blue, she begins the trench. I wish I'd hung onto the gloves Jacques lent me when I planted my tomatoes, but I really thought I was done digging around in what passes here for dirt.
Cu immediately grabs her hand, turning it over to expose blisters nearly ready to pop.
His scowl is back. "Debes usar guantes cuando haces una excavación."
"Yes, but to buy gloves, I'd have to make a trip into town, and the tub wouldn't get done." Despina can feel the red creep up her face.
And have the money to pay for them, she silently adds.
As if the fact that she has blisters gives him the opportunity to step in without seeming to be a party to her latest wild scheme, he takes the shovel and starts to dig. Magically, other shovels appear, and the conduit grows from both ends and the middle all at once.
Juan comes up, holding the top half of a barn door. "¿Está bien?"
Well, no, Juan, it's way too big and too heavy, but if you're presenting it in a friendly fashion, no way am I going to mention that.
She grins at him. "Sí, está bien."
Together, they carry it down to the river end, where Cu eyes it askance, then widens and deepens the hole to fit.
"Gang way!" cries Despina as the last layer of dirt is removed, and the river water takes to its new channel with a vengeance. When the tub is a bit more than half full, Cu begins to lower the door into place.
That's not very full, thinks Despina, but she says nothing. Instead, Despina and Juan grab the other side, but are unable to hold it in place. Miguel's father appears, replacing them. Soon the flow is diverted, and the bañera is not quite overrun.
Sure glad I kept my mouth shut, for once.
Stripping off, Alberto runs for the tub, launching himself from several feet out. The satisfying splash wets some of the more unwary onlookers.
"Por supuesto. Give it a few days for the sun to warm it up, and you'll never know it from the real thing."
A companionable group heads back to the hovels.
"¿Qué pasa con los tomatoes?" Cu asks.
"I've begun to water them every other day. I'm still not real happy with them." Cu and Paul Peter veer off toward the back of her hovel to inspect her garden. Some of the leaves have turned green, others are brown, and some are getting quite black.
Raising his eyebrows, Cu ponders, "Nunca he conocido a las rocas a causa de que ellos parecen estar poniendo negros."
"That's not rock damage! Some green thumb YOU have," contributes Paul Peter. "Now, my mom can really grow a mean tomato. She has a secret formula. She works two-year-old thoroughly dried out sheep manure into the ground around the plant's roots, then top-dresses it with more. Don't spread that around... it's a family secret."
"Oh. I used mine fresh from the horse." Despina looks down as her cheeks turn pink.
"Black thumb!" Paul Peter laughs.
"Well, maybe I can dilute it with more water."
Last updated 3/16/10 Corrected two-year-old, top-dresses; 2/21/10 Added more “tells”; added -- Anonymous; Changed She to Despina, stones that are rounded off to some rounded off stones. Switched Cu’s lines into Spanish. (Where’sMeKilt) 1/8/10 added notice of more fridges getting tourist attention; added tells. 7/14/08 - removed Guillermo’s sale to Class Projects; 1/2/06 (Added Despina's thoughts about gloves, tribal reaction to letter, last line of PP's gardening advice). (8/30/04 Added parts of "Black Thumb")
Word Count: 1159