hip bothered her, but if she held the hoe at a precise anglenand leaned on it with just the right pressure, the painndissipated. She was a slight woman, but work had given hernstamina, and there was no hurry. There would be anothernfrost before planting.nThat afternoon, when they got home from school, thenneighbor children came down the hill to watch Aleja Ruiz innher garden. Aleja spoke to them of the magpies and thenscrub jays, of the eagles that circled in the sky above them, ofnthe clouds that drove across the plains.n”Mama says it’s going to rain,” said Pattiann, the oldestnchild, though Aleja Ruiz never thought of them with thennames their mother had given them.n”It’s too cool to rain,” said Aleja Ruiz.n”Maybe it will snow,” said Ray, the little boy, thenyoungest.n”It’s too warm to snow,” said Aleja Ruiz. “The clouds arenmoving too fast. These are clouds between the seasons.”n”What are you going to plant?” asked the middle girl,nElaine.n”I will plant what I always plant,” Aleja Ruiz said, “whichnis corn and beans in the rows where the troughs will catchnthe rain. The beans will be on the outside where they willnget the sun. And squash in the mounds at the ends of thenrows. The potatoes will be over closest to the river becausenpotatoes need the most water, and I won’t have to carry thenpails so far.”n”What if the garden doesn’t grow?” Ray asked.n”It will grow,” Aleja Ruiz said.n”What if it never rains?” asked Elaine.n”It will rain a little, but not enough. When it doesn’t rain,nI will carry water from the river.” ‘n”What if the river goes dry?”n”The river won’t go dry. It never has.”n”But it might,” Elaine said. “There is a chance, even ifnit’s never happened before.”nAleja Ruiz admitted there was a possibility. “My mothernnever saw it dry,” she said. “And neither have I.”nThe children stayed a few minutes longer, but they tirednof watching the hoeing and went down the embankment tonthrow stones into the rising water.nOn the second afternoon when Aleja Ruiz resumed hernwork in the garden, she had a pain in her arm. Shenstooped over the hoe, leaned on the juniper handle, scrapednbackwards, and loosened the dry earth. The day was partlyncloudy and warm, and her shadow was fleeting along withnthe shadows of the clouds on the ground. She had finishednthree rows, each straight and tinged with the dark, moisternearth beneath the surface. The rows were the length hernmother had made them, and the same as last year.nWhen Aleja turned and began the fourth row, hernshadow followed her on the same side, naturally, but it wasnaltered because she backed up in a different direction. Hernelbows in the shadow were more pronounced, her headnslighfly flatter in the kerchief she wore. Still, she looked asnthough she were doing over what she had already done.nGradually her arms and shoulders stretched with thenmotion of the hoeing, and the pain left her arm. But shengrew restless. Every few strokes she straightened up andngazed around at the mountains and the moving clouds andnthe sun which, interspersed with the clouds, had alreadynbegun to coax the leaves from the willows along the river.nShe wondered whether this was a year when there would benno late frost.nHalfway down the row Aleja Ruiz struck a stone. The ticknof the metal hoe blade on rock ran a shiver through hernarms, up her shoulders, and across her back. She poked thenstone, prodded it, clanked the metal on it again. The earthnhad been hoed and raked and planted so many times it wasnunusual to find a stone, though now and then, to hernsurprise, one worked its way to the surface.nShe tucked a corner of the hoe against the sharp edge ofnthe stone and pulled, but the blade slipped off. She grippednthe juniper handle more tightly and positioned her body fornbetter purchase. But again the metal gave way and the stonenstayed in the ground.nAleja scraped the earth away. The stone was not farnbeneath the surface, only a few inches, and she uncoverednits rough ouriine. Of course she had dug many stonesnbefore. Years ago when she was too young for words, a rainnhad come in the spring when the river was full of snownhawks and antelope. The water had rushed from its banksnand over the corrals her parents had kept, had sent sprawlingnthe huge cottonwoods upriver. It had even risen above thenplateau where her mother had planted the garden. Shenremembered they had been very poor that year, withoutncorn and squash and beans — only stones to dig from the siltnand carry away.nThat had been long ago, and it was only a dim memory.nThe stones had all been returned to the river. Except herenwas a stone. Aleja got down on her knees and scratched itnwith her trowel. It wasn’t sandstone or shale. Those wouldnhave crumbled with the abrasion. This one felt hard likengranite. When she stabbed the stone, sparks flew from thenblade of the trowel.nShe uncovered more of it, found a good hold with herncallused hands, pulled and pushed to loosen the stone. Shencouldn’t move it. She dug a wider arc, deeper into thenground, and the stone expanded around the blade as if thentrowel were making the stone larger.nFinally she stood up and went to find Ernesto Saenz.nShe knew by the smoke coming from the tin pipe that henwas in his shed where, for his living, he fixed srnallnmotors — pumps, lawn mowers, weed trimmers, chain saws,nanything that ran on gasoline, even outboard engines. Henwas a thick-set man, beer heavy and bean fat and glad fornMaria Yglesias who had consented to live with him.nAleja Ruiz climbed the hill toward the blowing smoke.nErnesto Saenz was not always willing to help her. Sometimesnhe did and sometimes he didn’t. Once he refused tonfix her roof when the wind had bent a tin corner and the sunnshone into her kitchen, but when her well froze and thenpipes burst, he carried water for her every day from his shednand fixed the pipes when they thawed. So now shenapproached his shed unknowing.nShe stepped into the doorway and peered into thendarkness. It seemed like darkness compared to the sunlit air.nErnesto was hunched over an Evinrude outboard he hadnmounted on the back of a chair. Around him were five or sixnother motors, broken down and waiting, and along the wallsnmore he had not got to. “You’re in my light, AlejandrannnNOVEMBER 1991/15n