I spent the afternoon driving to New Hartford to the ice cream plant for twenty-five pounds of sliced dry ice. I had them cut the ice into ten-inch long slivers about three-quarters of an inch in width, wrapped the ice in heavy brown paper and drove it back to Brookfield and the widow’s jammed drill-point. It’s all hard-water country here, and the crimped-pipe points they drive down for wells get sealed with calcium scales if you wait enough years, and the pressure falls, the people call, they worry about having to drill new wells and how much it will cost and when they can flush the toilets again, how long they’ll have to wait.
I went in the cellar door without telling her I was there, disconnected the elbow joint, went back out for the ice and, when I had carried the second bundle in, she was standing by her silent well in the damp of her basement, surrounded by furniture draped in plastic sheets, firewood stacked, cardboard boxes of web-crusted Mason jars, the growing heaps of whatever in her life she couldn’t use.
She was small and white and dressed in sweaters and a thin green housecoat. She said “Whatever do you mean to do?” Her hands were folded across her little chest, and she rubbed her gnarled throat. “Is my well dead?”
“No ma’am. I’d like you to go upstairs while I do my small miracle here. Because I’d like you not to worry.
Won’t you go upstairs?”
She said “I live alone—”
I said “You don’t have to worry.”
“I don’t know what to do about - this kind of thing. It gets more and more of a problem - this - all this.” She waved her hand at what she lived in and then hung her hands at her sides.
I said “You go on up and watch the television. I’m going to fix it up. I’ll do a little fixing here and come back tonight and hook her up again and you be ready to make me my after-dinner coffee when I come back. You’ll have water enough to do it with.”