It was April and beginning to warm up in the mountains. Snow melted from the deep basins, especially from the exposures facing south and, in shrinking, formed pictures on the slopes—a snow hawk, a pack of running coyotes, an antelope. Alejandra Ruiz knew these animals would disappear as the sun slid into its higher arc, so she told the neighbor children, who belonged to the woman Ernesto Saenz lived with. “That’s an antelope,” she said to them. “Can you see it?” She pointed to the mountain peaks and the children nodded. “That’s a hawk,” she said, “and a bear standing on two legs.”

The children smiled. “We see them,” they said.

But Alejandra Ruiz knew the mountains were too far away for them to make out what she meant to show them. It was too bad, she thought, because in a few days the antelope and the hawk would be gone, and the bear standing on two legs would be water in the rivulets and streams and in the river which was already brown and filling with the melt.

One afternoon on a day of fast clouds, with water tumbling into the gullies, Aleja Ruiz set out from her adobe house to prepare her garden. The best earth was above the river on a narrow plateau. Her mother had planted there, too, and with the same implements Aleja used. She had a hoe and a rake (whose handles had each been replaced by Ernesto Saenz, who had whittled the ends of two crooked junipers to fit rightly into the metal collars) and a small trowel Aleja had bought at the K Mart in Española.

Aleja was not so old as she appeared. Each year she gathered wood for her fires, baked bread, raised chickens (from which she made egg money), hitchhiked into town for her groceries on the days when Ernesto, though he promised her a ride, could not get his truck started. She worked in her garden during the long dry season of summer. She had fine features, a skin tough from the weather, and sharp eyes. But she was prone to ailments. Her hip ached now and then, and sometimes her shoulder. She healed them by working.

From the plateau by the river the dry land rose to the east in uneven hills of pinon and juniper laced with ridges of red sandstone and troughs of arroyos and eroded ravines. Higher up were the foothills and then the mountains where the hawk and the running coyotes and the antelope disappeared day by day. These mountains were called the Sangre de Cristos for the color they bore in the evenings when sunlight flowed down red against the line of ascending shadow.

To the west was the river which, even though brown with the melt, glittered with sun pebbles as it curved away downstream. Beyond the river was a paler terrain of plains and mesas—lower, dryer, hotter.

The crops for which Aleja was readying the soil were corn and squash and beans and potatoes, the usual ones for which she had culled the seeds the previous year and the same ones her mother had planted. Aleja bent over the hoe. Her hip bothered her, but if she held the hoe at a precise angle and leaned on it with just the right pressure, the pain dissipated. She was a slight woman, but work had given her stamina, and there was no hurry. There would be another frost before planting.

That afternoon, when they got home from school, the neighbor children came down the hill to watch Aleja Ruiz in her garden. Aleja spoke to them of the magpies and the scrub jays, of the eagles that circled in the sky above them, of the clouds that drove across the plains.

“Mama says it’s going to rain,” said Pattiann, the oldest child, though Aleja Ruiz never thought of them with the names their mother had given them.

“It’s too cool to rain,” said Aleja Ruiz.

“Maybe it will snow,” said Ray, the little boy, the youngest.

“It’s too warm to snow,” said Aleja Ruiz. “The clouds are moving too fast. These are clouds between the seasons.”

“What are you going to plant?” asked the middle girl, Elaine.

“I will plant what I always plant,” Aleja Ruiz said, “which is corn and beans in the rows where the troughs will catch the rain. The beans will be on the outside where they will get the sun. And squash in the mounds at the ends of the rows. The potatoes will be over closest to the river because potatoes need the most water, and I won’t have to carry the pails so far.”

“What if the garden doesn’t grow?” Ray asked.

“It will grow,” Aleja Ruiz said.

“What if it never rains?” asked Elaine.

“It will rain a little, but not enough. When it doesn’t rain, I will carry water from the river.”

“What if the river goes dry?”

“The river won’t go dry. It never has.”

“But it might,” Elaine said. “There is a chance, even if it’s never happened before.”

Aleja Ruiz admitted there was a possibility. “My mother never saw it dry,” she said. “And neither have I.”

The children stayed a few minutes longer, but they tired of watching the hoeing and went down the embankment to throw stones into the rising water.

On the second afternoon when Aleja Ruiz resumed her work in the garden, she had a pain in her arm. She stooped over the hoe, leaned on the juniper handle, scraped backwards, and loosened the dry earth. The day was partly cloudy and warm, and her shadow was fleeting along with the shadows of the clouds on the ground. She had finished three rows, each straight and tinged with the dark, moister earth beneath the surface. The rows were the length her mother had made them, and the same as last year.

When Aleja turned and began the fourth row, her shadow followed her on the same side, naturally, but it was altered because she backed up in a different direction. Her elbows in the shadow were more pronounced, her head slightly flatter in the kerchief she wore. Still, she looked as though she were doing over what she had already done.

Gradually her arms and shoulders stretched with the motion of the hoeing, and the pain left her arm. But she grew restless. Every few strokes she straightened up and gazed around at the mountains and the moving clouds and the sun which, interspersed with the clouds, had already begun to coax the leaves from the willows along the river. She wondered whether this was a year when there would be no late frost.

Halfway down the row Aleja Ruiz struck a stone. The tick of the metal hoe blade on rock ran a shiver through her arms, up her shoulders, and across her back. She poked the stone, prodded it, clanked the metal on it again. The earth had been hoed and raked and planted so many times it was unusual to find a stone, though now and then, to her surprise, one worked its way to the surface.

She tucked a corner of the hoe against the sharp edge of the stone and pulled, but the blade slipped off. She gripped the juniper handle more tightly and positioned her body for better purchase. But again the metal gave way and the stone stayed in the ground.

Aleja scraped the earth away. The stone was not far beneath the surface, only a few inches, and she uncovered its rough outline. Of course she had dug many stones before. Years ago when she was too young for words, a rain had come in the spring when the river was full of snow hawks and antelope. The water had rushed from its banks and over the corrals her parents had kept, had sent sprawling the huge cottonwoods upriver. It had even risen above the plateau where her mother had planted the garden. She remembered they had been very poor that year, without corn and squash and beans—only stones to dig from the silt and carry away.

That had been long ago, and it was only a dim memory. The stones had all been returned to the river. Except here was a stone. Aleja got down on her knees and scratched it with her trowel. It wasn’t sandstone or shale. Those would have crumbled with the abrasion. This one felt hard like granite. When she stabbed the stone, sparks flew from the blade of the trowel.

She uncovered more of it, found a good hold with her callused hands, pulled and pushed to loosen the stone. She couldn’t move it. She dug a wider arc, deeper into the ground, and the stone expanded around the blade as if the trowel were making the stone larger.

Finally she stood up and went to find Ernesto Saenz.

She knew by the smoke coming from the tin pipe that he was in his shed where, for his living, he fixed small motors—pumps, lawn mowers, weed trimmers, chain saws, anything that ran on gasoline, even outboard engines. He was a thick-set man, beer heavy and bean fat and glad for Maria Yglesias who had consented to live with him.

Aleja Ruiz climbed the hill toward the blowing smoke. Ernesto Saenz was not always willing to help her. Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t. Once he refused to fix her roof when the wind had bent a tin corner and the sun shone into her kitchen, but when her well froze and the pipes burst, he carried water for her every day from his shed and fixed the pipes when they thawed. So now she approached his shed unknowing.

She stepped into the doorway and peered into the darkness. It seemed like darkness compared to the sunlit air. Ernesto was hunched over an Evinrude outboard he had mounted on the back of a chair. Around him were five or six other motors, broken down and waiting, and along the walls more he had not got to. “You’re in my light, Alejandra Ruiz,” he said without looking at her.

Aleja came inside, away from the door, into the cooler air. The room brightened. Juniper smoke from the leaky woodstove hovered under the roof. She smelled grease.

“What can I do for you?” Ernesto asked.

“There is a stone in my garden,” Aleja said.

“There are stones in my garden, too,” Ernesto said, peering into the engine, “And in my mother’s garden in Chimayo.”

“This stone is too heavy for me.”

Ernesto went on tinkering, first with a screwdriver, then with a small wrench. “You’re as strong as I am,” he said. “Maybe stronger.”

“You have tools,” Aleja said.

Ernesto looked at her for the first time. “Take whatever you need.”

She nodded and searched among the motors for what she wanted. She took a shovel with a factory-made handle and a long crowbar.

In the garden she dug around the stone, down deeper than the topsoil, where the earth turned to gravel and then to heavier clay. Several times she stopped and tried to pry the stone loose with the crowbar, but it would not come free.

It was nearly dark, when she took the shovel and the crowbar up the hill to Ernesto Saenz’s house. She paused now and then on the path to catch her breath and to look around her. Across the river the sunlight spread itself in lavender along the dark line of the mesas. But toward the mountains a deep blue sky settled and turned colder. A slight breeze drifted over the hills of Chimayo and through the junipers, and she knew the bear on two legs would stay at least until tomorrow.

She knocked on Ernesto’s door, and Elaine answered. “It’s Alejandra Ruiz,” Elaine called into the house.

Aleja set the shovel and the crowbar against the door frame. “Come in, Alejandra Ruiz,” Maria called. Aleja entered the house and pushed the door to. The smell of beans and woodsmoke and chicken seized her. It was hot in the room. Maria and the children were eating chicken at the table from rectangular tinfoil plates, while Ernesto sat in the living room watching television with a bowl of beans in his lap.

“Would you like something to eat?” Maria asked. “I’ve cooked beans and venison stew for Ernesto because he won’t eat Lean Cuisine.”

“No, thank you,” Aleja said from the doorway.

Ernesto was watching an Anglo program in Spanish, and he spooned stew and beans into his mouth and chewed. After a minute he looked at Aleja. “Were you successful?” he asked.

Aleja shook her head.

“It must be a big stone,” Ernesto said.

“It is a big stone,” Aleja said. For no reason she felt her jaw set tightly, the skin stretched tight across the bones around her eyes.

“What happened?” Maria asked.

“What is what?” Ernesto said. An advertisement came on TV, and he watched it more intently than the Anglo program. It showed a person’s stomach acid being soothed by bubbles.

“What have you not done to help?” Maria asked.

“Her garden has a stone in it,” Ernesto said. “My garden has stones. The gardens in Chimayo have stones. Alejandra Ruiz is the only one whose garden doesn’t have stones.” He turned to Alejandra again. “Where was this stone last year or the year before, when you were growing the best corn in the valley and the best squash?”

“It wasn’t there,” Aleja said.

Ernesto set his empty bowl on the floor, stood up, and got a bottle of beer from the propane refrigerator. “I see,” he said. “Not there. It rose overnight in the ground.”

“It appeared,” Aleja said.

“Help Alejandra Ruiz with the stone,” Maria said.

“It’s dark,” Ernesto said.

“I mean tomorrow.”

Ernesto snapped the top from the beer bottle with his fingernail and looked at the children whose tinfoil plates were half full. “All right,” he said. “Tomorrow I will help.”

On the usual morning in April, before the sun had gained momentum in the sky, Aleja Ruiz was slow to move about. Inside her house was cold. She would get up and start a fire, make her coffee in the automatic drip machine her sister had sent her from Albuquerque, watch from the window as the neighbor children set out along the dirt road toward the bus stop carrying their books and at the same time trying to get their hands warm in their pockets. But that morning she hadn’t slept so soundly as she usually did. She had tossed in her narrow bed and had dreamed of voices soaring over her head like birds, calling to her as they glided away toward the mountain, disappearing one after another into the distance.

When she woke, Aleja felt her cold room was an unfamiliar place. She saw the stove, the automatic drip coffeemaker, and the same configuration of windows. But she got up immediately and went outside. Something was different.

Frost had patterned the ruts in her yard, glistened pink in crystals on the window panes. The dry stalks of weeds were layered in rime, as were the early buds on the apricot trees. Ernesto Saenz was coming down the path from his shed, pushing a wheelbarrow with tools in it. Aleja Ruiz met him at the edge of her yard where the path led down to the garden.

“I have to pick up parts in Española,” Ernesto said. “And I promised a man his lawn mower by noon. I thought I would do this job early.”

“Thank you, Ernesto Saenz. We’ve had a frost.”

“It’s cold,” he said. “You can thank me when I get the stone rolled down the bank into the river.”

“I will thank you then, too.” ,/p.

She followed him down the path. The early sun cast orange like an echo against the sandstone ridges, but it was still cold. Ernesto’s tools—the shovel with the factory-made handle, two crowbars, a sledgehammer, and a wedge—rattled in the wheelbarrow as Ernesto steered it down the uneven terrain. They didn’t speak. Aleja Ruiz held her bare hands under her armpits.

The frost was heavier in the garden. It lined the west-facing rows that Aleja had already hoed, and etched the rock in white. A pile of earth—topsoil, gravel, clay, pebbles—lay in the middle of the garden stubble.

Ernesto wheeled the tools to the spot and considered the job. After a time he said, “I advise you, Alejandra Ruiz, to cover this stone and plant around it.”

“You don’t think you can get it out?”

“I can get it out,” he said. “But there will be a hole.”

“I can fill the hole.”

“Even so, planting around it would be easier. You’ll have to bring in new soil.”

“Nothing will grow over a stone,” Aleja Ruiz said.

Ernesto looked at the sun which was edging up from the mountains into the sky. He followed with his gaze a flock of crows flying from their roost, wherever it was, toward the dump at Chimayo. Then he measured Aleja Ruiz. “You’re a stubborn woman, Alejandra Ruiz.”

“No more stubborn than the crows which fly to the dump,” she said. “No more stubborn than the bear standing on two legs on the mountain.”

Ernesto tried the lever first. He brought a smooth, medium-sized stone from the river bank and set it at the edge of the trench. Then he lodged the crowbar as far under the big stone as he could—there was no part that was exactly under, but he settled the bar into a cleft. Then he inched backward into a crouch and pushed the lever down with all his weight. He grunted and pried. The stone stayed where it was.

He dug with the shovel. Sweat rose on his forehead, steamed into the cold air. He muttered. He swore. He thudded the earth with the blade of the shovel, lifted the heavy clay, showered the clods over the garden. When he got out of the trench to try the lever again, Aleja Ruiz climbed into the hole and went on digging. She lifted the shovelfuls of earth more carefully. The work warmed her. The stone moved outward from the shovel.

Ernesto pried with the crowbar. “Push from the side,” he said. “We’ll move it.”

She put the shovel down and pushed. The stone did not move.

“If we can loosen it a little,” Ernesto said, “then we’ll have it.”

They worked another half hour until Ernesto said he had to go to Española. “I have a business,” he said. “I can’t spend my whole day over a stone in the ground.”

“Thank you for what you’ve done, Ernesto Saenz.”

“Don’t thank me,” he said. Ernesto wiped his forehead on his shirt-sleeve and spat on the ground. “I did nothing.”

Later that afternoon Aleja Ruiz stood in front of her house making bread to take up to Ernesto Saenz and Maria Yglesias to thank them for their efforts. She had sifted the flour, mixed in cinnamon for the children, kneaded the dough on a smooth flat stone under the still-bare branches of the apricot trees. She rolled the dough out, kneaded it again the way her mother had taught her. She made bread three times every week, had made thousands of loaves without questioning the task. She liked the smells and the differing lights of the weathers and the seasons, especially the afternoon light in spring and fall on the plateau and beyond, where the shadows danced across the river gorge.

But that afternoon she took no pleasure in the sunlight or in the sweet warm breeze which slid down the arroyo into her yard. The making of bread was a chore and a sorrow. The shadows did not dance. All she could think of was the stone in her garden.

She had just set the loaves in a wedge of shade by the house to let them rise when she heard a motor churning the air, a motor not of a car which she would have recognized. This motor came too slowly around the barren hill beyond Ernesto Saenz’s shed. With her hand she shaded her eyes from the sun glare. A tractor sputtered into view and came down the dirt land toward the shed. Aleja recognized the driver as Raul Gádin, who was called El Pavo because with such a long neck he looked like a turkey.

Raul stopped at the shed, and Ernesto came out. The motor of the tractor softened. For a few minutes Raul and Ernesto spoke, and Ernesto pointed toward Aleja’s house. Then Ernesto climbed up onto the fender of the tractor and the two men started down the hill toward where Aleja was watching.

Raul Gádin was a tall wiry man, and he squinted all the time. He had a cherry orchard on the outskirts of Chimayo, and before the cherries came in, he hired himself out to cut alfalfa on the irrigated fields of the valley. He did other odd jobs, too, like cutting firewood or pulling stumps or, in winter, plowing driveways for the Anglos or rescuing cars from ditches. He made excuses before he started anything, but wherever there was a job for a tractor, the man to call was El Pavo.

Raul Gádin stopped the tractor at the edge of Aleja’s yard. “He’s doing this for nothing,” Ernesto Saenz said. “I fixed his irrigation pump at the orchard, and Pavo owes me a favor.”

“But why are you using the favor for me?” Aleja asked.

“Nothing is done yet,” Ernesto said. “Do you want a ride?”

He helped Aleja up onto the fender, and Raul Gádin put the tractor into gear and drove down to the garden.

El Pavo stood near the stone and surveyed the terrain for the best position for the tractor. He squinted as if he were thinking very hard. “The problem is leverage,” he said. “With a stump I could put the chain around and pull straight, but with this stone. . . . You see how it is.” He squinted again. “Or with a car there’s a bumper to attach to.”

The trench Ernesto and Aleja had dug was three feet deep and, from one side to the other, perhaps six feet across. The stone was dome-shaped, rough, pocked with dirt and gravel.

“It can’t be that difficult,” Ernesto said.

“I may not have enough chain,” said Raul Gádin.

“This is a stone that wasn’t here before,” Ernesto said. “If we loosen it a little, we can dig it out.”

Ernesto set about fixing the chain around the stone, while Raul steered the tractor into the position he decided was best. Ernesto looped the chain twice around the girth of the stone and attached the remainder double so the tractor could pull on two lengths of chain instead of one. Raul got down on his hands and knees and secured the chain to the ball hitch on the back of the tractor. Then he climbed up into the seat. He revved the engine and shifted into first. The chain creaked and tightened around the stone, bent over the lip of the trench. Nothing happened. The taut chain dug into the earth. Raul Gádin backed up, put the tractor into gear again, and tried to jerk the stone loose. The tractor surged in the air; the stone didn’t move.

Raul turned off the engine and the motor wound down. “Block and tackle,” he said, squinting at Aleja Ruiz. “That’s what we’ll need for this job.”

Aleja Ruiz didn’t know what this was.

“I have it in my truck,” Raul Gádin said, turning to Ernesto. “You’ll have to drive me over.”

Ernesto looked at his watch. “I got a chain saw to deliver,” he said. “I thought you could do this in half an hour.”

Raul Gádin shrugged. “We’ll deliver the chain saw on the way.”

“All right,” Ernesto said. “Alejandra Ruiz, you stay here and make certain the stone doesn’t go anywhere.”

The two men climbed the hill on foot, leaving Alejandra Ruiz and the tractor and the stone in the garden. It seemed to Aleja the stone had grown larger since the morning, but she knew this was her imagination. The stone wasn’t higher than the hills of gravel and topsoil around the trench, but it almost looked as if it were higher than the surrounding garden. It was an optical illusion, she knew, or the way the sun slanted in on the stone through the late afternoon clouds that were gathering over the plains.

She waited an hour, watching the snow figures in the mountains running and running and the sun begin to pink on the high peaks.

The men came back in two trucks. Raul Gádin had brought his own truck with all kinds of contraptions in the back of it Aleja Ruiz had never seen before. El Pavo, who always said he couldn’t do a job, guaranteed the block and tackle would work, and he and Ernesto spent another long interval arranging the cables and the odd wooden apparatus. They hooked cables onto chains, wound the chains around the stone, fixed the chains to the tractor. When the time came to test what they’d done, Raul Gádin made the sign of the cross over himself He started the engine of the tractor and let out the clutch slowly. The apparatus groaned and stretched and the engine of the tractor roared. Raul Gádin squinted back at the stone which stayed in the ground.

During the night it rained. Alejandra Ruiz was jolted from her bed by lightning and thunder and the ratatat of rain on the tin roof of her house. Drips of water came through the seams of the tin sheets and splashed on the floor, but Aleja was too weary to get up. She sat in her bed and listened to the storm move across. Every so often lightning illuminated the grayish hills, the piñons and junipers, the rain itself which fell hard across the dry earth. Then an instant later the land disappeared again and the night resumed as before.

The following morning, after the storm had passed and she had spent a fitful night’s sleep without dreams, Alejandra Ruiz woke to the shouts of people and the noise of cars. Usually she woke at first light, but that morning the sun was already over the mountains and was shining strongly into her doorway. Cars and trucks were parked up at Ernesto Saenz’s shed and more were coming around the barren hill, sliding and splashing on the muddy road. Voices lifted from the shed and from the other side of Aleja’s house where the path led down to the garden.

Aleja put on boots and a housecoat and went outside. The air was crisp and washed clean as it always was after a storm. Rain had fallen in the yard and over the river, but in the mountains it had snowed. The hawk and the running coyotes and the antelope were covered over.

Aleja joined the others on the path. Men had brought shovels and women had come with their children to work themselves and to watch the men. They all greeted Alejandra Ruiz cheerfully. “It’s a fine morning,” they said. “Hello, Alejandra Ruiz. We are glad to help you.”

Fifteen or twenty people were already in the garden gathered around the stone. Some of them Aleja recognized and some she didn’t—Ernesto was there and Maria Yglesias’s three children, and Raul Gádin, and a man called Vago, a strong man who wandered around the streets of Chimayo. Ernesto’s brother was there, and Pedro Maestas, the butcher, and a man with a big mustache whom Aleja had seen before somewhere. Five or six of the men were in the trench digging. Raul Gádin, in an orange highway department vest, squinted from the seat of his tractor as he talked to Vago. Ernesto stood off to one side consulting with a thin man in white slacks and a yellow straw hat.

When Ernesto saw Aleja, he waved her over. “It’s a beautiful morning after the storm, Alejandra Ruiz,” he said.

“My roof leaked,” Aleja said, “and now it’s noisy.”

“This is Señor Montoya, an engineer from Los Alamos,” Ernesto said, holding the thin man’s arm as though the man might escape. “He has owed me a favor since two summers ago when I fixed his outboard motor out on the reservoir at Abiquiu.” “Many people owe you favors, Ernesto Saenz,” Aleja said. “You will have none left for yourself”

The man took off his yellow hat and bowed to her. “I drove from Los Alamos this morning to be of service,” he said.

Aleja avoided his glance and looked past him at the stone. The men had already uncovered more of it, three times as much as had been visible the evening before when Raul Gádin had tried to pull it loose with his tractor and the block and tackle. It was immense now. The stone was at least six feet across (the trench must have been ten) and five feet deep. Twenty men or fifty could never move such a stone. Ten tractors could not move it. And it had grown taller. She was sure of it. Maybe only an inch or two, but it was higher relative to the level of the garden than it had been the afternoon before. It was a stone getting bigger, she thought. Maybe only a corner of it was visible, a tiny part. Maybe it was big as a mountain, and if the stone were taken from her garden there would not be enough earth in Chimayo to fill the hole.

But she said nothing. Instead what struck her was how beautiful the stone was, cleaned by the rain of the bits of dirt and gravel. Its shape was graceful, elegant. In the morning sunlight it shone whitish pink, and the mica in it glittered silver.

“Señor Montoya thinks it is necessary to use explosives,” Ernesto Saenz was saying. “We will dig around the rock and prepare the terrain the way they do when they build a highway through the mountains. Señor Montoya has telephoned for the required permissions.”

“Yes, Señora Ruiz,” Señor Montoya said. “We will bore into the stone from the sides and sheath the explosives so that when they are detonated in the holes, the rock will fragment.”

Aleja watched the children running around the trench laughing and shouting at one another. The men worked several minutes in the trench, then gave way to others. The women who had come had gathered on the hillside above the garden where they were talking and passing around coffee from thermoses.

“It will not take long now,” Ernesto said, smiling at Aleja.

“No, Señora,” Señor Montoya said. “As soon as there is word on the cellular telephone. . . .”

Aleja Ruiz nodded. “Stop,” she said softly.

Señor Montoya stopped in mid-sentence. Ernesto stopped talking.

“Stop the men,” said Aleja Ruiz.

“But we’ve just started,” Ernesto said.


Ernesto set his thumb and forefinger at the corners of his mouth and whistled loudly. The men paused in their work. They leaned on their shovels. Raul Gádin squinted at her, and the man Vago stopped talking. The children stopped running and shouting.

“Thank you, Ernesto Saenz.”

“We have done nothing yet,” Ernesto said.

Aleja Ruiz raised her hands and waved the people away. She did not say anything. She gestured in the air, and everyone understood she meant for them to leave. One by one the men picked up their shovels and climbed from the trench. They moved away from the stone. Those who had not yet reached the garden turned back up the hill. The women left the slope carrying their coffee cups and thermoses. The children crept away quietly.

Even Señor Montoya bowed and backed away, and Ernesto Saenz turned from where he was and began to walk toward the path, following the others. The sun was warm and arced higher above the brown water of the river made fast by the night’s rain. On that fresh morning, as the snow melted again from the mountains, Aleja Ruiz was left alone with the stone in her garden.


This story is included in Kent Nelson’s The Middle of Nowhere.