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WATER

 

JUNE 2023

JIM McCUTCHON

A little project written in response to the leader’s request

to write about water in a workshop at the

Santa Barbara Writers Conference 2023

 

 

I don’t often think about water until there isn’t any. Then thirst drives me to the point that water is all I think about as my dry tongue is sticking to my palate. Ocean water, lake water, river water, puddles of water in a street.

 

I remember our home as a child. Water was always available to me by simply turning on a faucet. Now, I am driving across the Mojave Desert. The car overheats, and precious water is rising as steam from the radiator. I stop to let the car cool off. Of course, the air conditioner is not working. It is hot.

 

There are four of us in the car, my two children, my wife and me. The heat is almost unbearable, and I realize that we are losing our internal water store through sweating. I look down the highway, both ways. No cars in sight. Lisa, age 4, says, “I’m thirsty.” Bobby, age 2, merely cries. It comes as a shock to me that he is losing precious water in his tears. My wife tries without success to comfort him. He continues to cry, and his crying is getting weaker. 

 

Oh! I see a car, but it is not a car. It is a mirage of a car moving on a sheet of shimmering water.

 

Will we die here? Desiccated mummies on the side of the road? I decide to fight it. I ration the little water we have in those thin, plastic bottles, giving outsized portions to the kids because they are most

susceptible to heat stroke. When all of it is gone, I resign myself to dying.

 

But wait! Do I see a car? It is not a mirage this time. It’s an SUV, and it stops to ask, “Need help?’” We survive. I will never take water for granted again.

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