Ruiz,” he said without looking at her.nAleja came inside, away from the door, into the cooler air.nThe room brightened. Juniper smoke from the leakynwoodstove hovered under the roof. She smelled grease.n”What can I do for you?” Ernesto asked.n”There is a stone in my garden,” Aleja said.n”There are stones in my garden, too,” Ernesto said,npeering into the engine, “And in my mother’s garden innChimayo.”n”This stone is too heavy for me.”nErnesto went on tinkering, first with a screwdriver, thennwith a small wrench. “You’re as strong as I am,” he said.n”Maybe stronger.”n”You have tools,” Aleja said.nErnesto looked at her for the first time. “Take whatevernyou need.”nShe nodded and searched among the motors for what shenwanted. She took a shovel with a factory-made handle and an. long crowbar.nIn the garden she dug around the stone, down deepernthan the topsoil, where the earth turned to gravel and thennto heavier clay. Several times she stopped and tried to prynthe stone loose with the crowbar, but it would not comenfree.nIt was nearly dark, when she took the shovel and thencrowbar up the hill to Ernesto Saenz’s house. She pausednnow and then on the path to catch her breath and to looknaround her. Across the river the sunlight spread itself innlavender along the dark line of the mesas. But toward thenmountains a deep blue sky settled and turned colder. Anslight breeze drifted over the hills of Chimayo and throughnthe junipers, and she knew the bear on two legs would staynat least until tomorrow.nShe knocked on Ernesto’s door, and Elaine answered.n”It’s Alejandra Ruiz,” Elaine called into the house.nAleja set the shovel and the crowbar against the doornframe.n”Come in, Alejandra Ruiz,” Maria called.nAleja entered the house and pushed the door to. Thensmell of beans and woodsmoke and chicken seized her. Itnwas hot in the room. Maria and the children were eatingnchicken at the table from rectangular tinfoil plates, whilenErnesto sat in the living room watching television with anbowl of beans in his lap.n”Would you like something to eat?” Maria asked. “I’vencooked beans and venison stew for Ernesto because henwon’t eat Lean Cuisine.”n”No, thank you,” Aleja said from the doorway.nErnesto was watching an Anglo program in Spanish, andnhe spooned stew and beans into his mouth and chewed.nAfter a minute he looked at Aleja. “Were you successful?”nhe asked.nAleja shook her head.n”It must be a big stone,” Ernesto said.n”It is a big stone,” Aleja said. For no reason she felt hernjaw set tightly, the skin stretched tight across the bonesnaround her eyes.n”What happened?” Maria asked.n”What is what?” Ernesto said. An advertisement camenon TV, and he watched it more intently than the Anglonprogram. It showed a person’s stomach acid being soothedn16/CHRONICLESnnnby bubbles.n”What have you not done to help?” Maria asked.n”Her garden has a stone in it,” Ernesto said. “My gardennhas stones. The gardens in Chimayo have stones. AlejandranRuiz is the only one whose garden doesn’t have stones.” Henturned to Alejandra again’. “Where was this stone last year ornthe year before, when you were growing the best corn in thenvalley and the best squash?”n”It wasn’t there,” Aleja said.nErnesto set his empty bowl on the floor, stood up, and gotna bottle of beer from the propane refrigerator. “I see,” hensaid. “Not there. It rose overnight in the ground.”n”It appeared,” Aleja said.n”Help Alejandra Ruiz with the stone,” Maria said.n”It’s dark,” Ernesto said.n”I mean tomorrow.”nErnesto snapped the top from the beer bottle with hisnfingernail and looked at the children whose tinfoil platesnwere half full. “All right,” he said. “Tomorrow I will help.”nOn the usual morning in April, before the sun hadngained momentum in the sky, Aleja Ruiz was slow tonmove about. Inside her house was cold. She would get upnand start a fire, make her coffee in the automatic dripnmachine her sister had sent her from Albuquerque, watchnfrom the window as the neighbor children set out along thendirt road toward the bus stop carrying their books and at thensame time trying to get their hands warm in their pockets.nBut that morning she hadn’t slept so soundly as she usuallyndid. She had tossed in her narrow bed and had dreamed ofnvoices soaring over her head like birds, calling to her as theynglided away toward the mountain, disappearing one afternanother into the distance.nWhen she woke, Aleja felt her cold room was annunfamiliar place. She saw the stove, the automatic dripncoffeemaker, and the same configuration of windows. Butnshe got up immediately and went outside. Something wasndifferent.nFrost had patterned the ruts in her yard, glistened pink inncrystals on the window panes. The dry stalks of weeds werenlayered in rime, as were the early buds on the apricot trees.nErnesto Saenz was coming down the path from his shed,npushing a wheelbarrow with tools in it. Aleja Ruiz met himnat the edge of her yard where the path led down to thengarden.n”I have to pick up parts in Espanola,” Ernesto said. “AndnI promised a man his lawn mower by noon. I thought Inwould do this job early.”n”Thank you, Ernesto Saenz. We’ve had a frost.”n”It’s cold,” he said. “You can thank me when I get thenstone rolled down the bank into the river.”n”I will thank you then, too.”nShe followed him down the path. The early sun castnorange like an echo against the sandstone ridges, but it wasnstill cold. Ernesto’s tools — the shovel with the factory-madenhandle, two crowbars, a sledgehammer, and a wedge —nrattled in the wheelbarrow as Ernesto steered it down thenuneven terrain. They didn’t speak. Aleja Ruiz held her barenhands under her armpits.nThe frost was heavier in the garden. It lined thenwest-facing rows that Aleja had already hoed, and etched then