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Sitting with his back against the sun-scorched rimrock, Jeremy made the dragonfly appear in the air in front of him. It hovered on the hot breeze, wings shimmering with bluegreen glints. Pretty. He looked automatically over his shoulder. But Dad was down in the dusty fields. With everyone else.

It was safe.

Jeremy hunched farther into his sliver of shade, frowning at his making. It was a little too blue — that was it — and the eyes were too small. He frowned, trying to remember the picture in the insect book. The dragonfly’s bright body darkened as its eye swelled.

Got it. Jeremy smiled and sat up straight. The dragonfly hovered above a withered bush, wings glittering in the sunlight. He sent it darting out over the canyon, leaned over the ledge to watch it.

Far below, a man led a packhorse up the main road from the old riverbed. A stranger. Jeremy let the dragonfly vanish as he squinted against the glare. Man and horse walked with their heads down, like they were both tired. Their feet raised brown puffs of dust that hung in the windless air down there like smoke.

Jeremy held his breath as the stranger stopped at their road. “Come on,” Jeremy breathed. “There’s nowhere else for ten miles.”

As if they’d heard him, the pair turned up the rutted track. The man didn’t pull on the horse’s lead rope. They moved together, like they’d both decided to stop at the farm.

Jeremy scrambled up over the rimrock and lurched into a run. You didn’t see strangers out here very often. Mostly, they stopped at La Grande. The convoys stuck to the interstate, and nobody else went anywhere. Dead grass stems left from the brief spring crackled and snapped under Jeremy’s feet, and the hard ground jolted him, stabbing his twisted knees with bright slivers of pain.

At the top of the steep trail that led down to the farm, Jeremy had to slow up. He limped down the slope, licking dust from his lips, breathing quick and hard. They’d hear it all first — all the news — before he even got there. The sparse needles on the dying pines held the heat close to the ground. Dry branches clawed at him, trying to slow him down even more. They wouldn’t wait for him. They never did. Suddenly furious, Jeremy swung at the branches with his thickened hands, but they only slapped back at him, scratching his face and arms.

Sure enough, by the time he reached the barnyard, the brown-and-white horse was tethered in the dim heat of the sagging barn, unsaddled and drowsing. Everyone would be in the kitchen with the stranger. Jeremy licked his lips again. At least there’d be a pitcher of water out. Even though it wasn’t dinner time. He crossed the sunburned yard and limped up the warped porch steps.

“. . . desertification has finally reached its limit, so the government is putting all its resources into reclamation.”

Desertification? Jeremy paused at the door. The word didn’t have a clear meaning in his head, but it felt dusty and dry as the fields. He peeked inside. The stranger sat in Dad’s place at the big table, surrounded by everyone. He wore a stained tan shirt with a picture of a castle tower embroidered on the pocket. He had dark, curly hair and a long face with a jutting nose. Jeremy pushed the screen door slowly open. The stranger’s face reminded him of the canyon wall, all crags and peaks and sharp shadows.

The door slipped through his fingers and banged closed behind him.

“Jeremy?” His mother threw a quick glance at Dad as she turned around. “Where have you been? I was worried.”

“He snuck up to the rimrock again,” Rupert muttered, just loud enough.

Jeremy flinched, but Dad wasn’t looking at him at all. He’d heard, though. His jaw had gotten tight, but he didn’t even turn his head. Jeremy felt his face getting hot, and edged toward the door.

“Hi.” The stranger’s smile pinned him in place. It crinkled the sun-browned skin around his eyes. “I’m Dan Greely,” he said.

“From the Army Corps of Engineers,” ten-year-old David announced.

“To bring water,” Paulie interrupted his twin.

“You’re not supposed to go up there, Jeremy.” Mother gave Dad an uneasy, sideways glance. “You could fall.”

“So, just how does the Corps of Engineers plan to irrigate the valley when the river’s as dry as a bone?” Jeremy’s father spoke as if no one else had said a word. “God knows, you can’t find water when it ain’t there to be found.”

“Don’t be so hard on him, Everett.” Mother turned back to Dad.

“I ain’t even heard any solid reasons for why the damn country’s dried up,” Dad growled. “Desertification.” He snorted. “Fancy word for no damn rain. Tell me why, surveyor.”

“At least someone’s trying to do something about it.” Mother was using her soothing voice.

They weren’t paying any attention to him any more, not even tattletale Rupert. Jeremy slipped into his favorite place, the crevice between the wood-box and the cold kitchen cookstove.

“We’ll be glad to put you up while you’re about your business,” Mother went on. “It would be like a dream come true for us, if you folks can give us water again. We’ve all wondered sometimes if we did right to stay here and try to hang on.”

“What else could we do?” Dad pushed his chair back a mere inch. “Quit and go work in the bush fields in the Willamette Valley? Go be camp labor?”

“I can’t promise you water,” the stranger said gravely. “I’m just the surveyor. I hear that some of these deep-aquifer projects have been pretty successful, though.”

“It’s enough to know that there’s hope.” Mother’s voice had gone rough, like she wanted to cry.

Jeremy started to peek around the stove, because Mother never cried. He froze as Dad’s hand smacked the tabletop.

“He ain’t dug any wells yet. You kids get back to work. Those beans gotta be weeded by supper, ’cause we’re not wasting water on weeds. Jonathan, I know you and Rupert ain’t finished your pumping yet.”

“Awe, come on,” Rupert whined. “We want to hear about the cities. Are people really eating each other there?”

“You heard your father,” Mother said sharply. “The wash-bucket’s too dirty for supper washup. Rupert, you take it out to the squash — the last two hills in the end row — and bring me a fresh bucket.”

“Aww, Mom!” Rupert shoved his chair back.

Jeremy scrunched down, listening to the scuffle of his brothers’ bare feet as they filed out of the kitchen.

“We don’t have much in the way of hay for your pony.” Dad sounded angry. “How long are you planning on staying, anyway?”

“Not long. I can give you a voucher for food and shelter. When they set up the construction camp, you just take it to the comptroller for payment.”

“Lot of good money’ll do me. There wasn’t enough rain to make hay worth crap anywhere in the county this year. Where’m I gonna buy hay?”

The screen door banged. Jeremy frowned and wiggled into a more comfortable position. Why was Dad angry? The stranger talked about water. Everybody needed water.

“Never mind him.” From the clatter, Mother was dishing up bean-and-squash stew left over from lunch. “You have to understand, it’s hard for him to hope after all these years.” A plate clunked on the table. “You keep pumping water, trying to grow enough to live on, praying the well holds out another year and watching your kids go to bed hungry. You don’t have a lot left for hope. When you’re done, I’ll show you your room. The twins can sleep with Jeremy and Rupert.”

She sounded like she was going to cry again. Jeremy looked down at his loosely curled fists. The thick joints made his fingers look like knobby tree roots. The stranger said something, but Jeremy didn’t catch it. He’d only heard Mother cry once before — when the doctor over in La Grande had told her that there wasn’t anything he could do about Jeremy’s hands or his knees.

This stranger made Dad angry and Mother sad. Jeremy thought about that while he waited, but he couldn’t make any sense of it at all. As soon as the stranger and Mother left the kitchen, Jeremy slipped out of his hiding place. Sure enough, the big plastic pitcher stood on the table, surrounded by empty glasses. You didn’t ask for water between meals. Jeremy listened to the quiet. He lifted the pitcher, clutching it tightly in his thick, awkward grip.

The water was almost as warm as the air by now, but it tasted sweet on his dusty throat. Jeremy swirled the pitcher, watching the last bit of water climb the sides in a miniature whirlpool.

Absently, he made it fill clear to the brim. What would it be like to live in the old days, when it rained all the time and the riverbed was full of water and fish? He imagined a fish, made it appear in the water. He’d seen it in another book, all speckled green with a soft shading of pink on its belly. He made the fish leap out of the pitcher and dive back in, splashing tiny droplets of water that vanished as they fell. Jeremy tilted his head, pleased with himself. Trout. He remembered the fish’s name, now.


Jeremy started at his mother’s cry and dropped the pitcher. Water and fish vanished as the plastic clattered on the linoleum. Throat tight, he stared at the small puddle of real water. The stranger stood behind Mother in the doorway.

“Go see if the hens have laid any eggs.” His mother’s voice quivered. “Do it right now.”

Jeremy limped out the door without looking at either of them.

“Don’t mind him,” he heard his mother say. “He’s clumsy, is all.”

She was afraid that the stranger had seen the fish. Jeremy hurried across the oven glare of the barnyard. What if he had? What if he said something to Dad? His skin twitched with the memory of the last beating, when he’d gotten to daydreaming and made the dragonfly appear in the church. He shivered.

The stranger’s horse snorted at him, pulling back against its halter with a muffled thudding of hooves. “Easy, boy, easy.” Jeremy stumbled to a halt, stretched out his hand. The pinto shook its thick mane and stretched his neck to sniff. Jeremy smiled as the velvety lips brushed his palm. “You’re pretty,” he said, but it wasn’t true. It wasn’t even a horse, really — just a scruffy pony with a thick neck and feet big as dinner plates.

Jeremy sat down stiffly, leaning his back against the old, smooth boards of the barn. “Hey.” He wiggled his toes as the pony sniffed at his bare feet. “It’s not your fault you’re ugly.” He stroked the pony’s nose. “I bet you can run like the wind.”

The pony’s rasping breathing sounded friendly, comforting. Eyes half closed, Jeremy imagined himself galloping over the sunburned meadows. His knees wouldn’t matter at all. He drifted into a dream of wind and galloping hooves.


“Jeremy? It’s supper time. You don’t want to eat, it’s not my loss.”

Rupert’s voice. Jeremy blinked awake, swallowing a yawn. It was almost dark. Straw tickled his cheek, and he remembered.

The stranger had seen him make something.

“I know you’re in here.” Rupert’s voice sounded close.

By now, Dad probably knew about the trout. Jeremy rolled onto his stomach and wriggled under the main beam beneath the wall. He could just fit. Something with tiny feet scuttled across his cheek.

“I hear you, brat.” Rupert’s silhouette loomed against the gray rectangle of the doorway. “You think I want to play hide and seek after I work all day? If I get in trouble, I’ll fix you later.”

The pony laid back its ears and whinnied shrilly.

“Jesus!” Rupert jumped back. “I hope you get your head kicked off,” he yelled.

Jeremy listened to Rupert stomp out of the barn. “Thanks, pony,” he whispered as he scrambled out of his hiding place. He shook powdery dust out of his clothes, listening for the slam of the screen door.

Better to face Rupert later than Dad right now. He’d said never again, after that Sunday. The pony nudged him, and Jeremy scratched absently at its ear. A bat twittered in the darkness over his head. Jeremy looked up, barely able to make out the flittering shadows coming and going through the gray arch of the doorway. His stomach growled as he curled up against the wall of the barn. The pony snuffled softly and moved closer, as if it was glad he was there.

The barn was full of dry creaks and whispers. Something rustled loudly in the loft above Jeremy’s head and he started. Funny how darkness changed the friendly barn, stretched it out so big. Too big and too dark. “What to see a firefly?” Jeremy asked the pony. The darkness seemed to swallow his words. It pressed in around him, as if he had made it angry by talking.

He hadn’t been able to find a picture . . . The firefly appeared, bright as a candle flame in the darkness. It looked sort of like a glowing moth. That didn’t seem quite right, but its warm glow drove back the darkness. Jeremy examined it thoughtfully. Maybe he should make the wings bigger.

“So I wasn’t seeing things,” a voice said.

The pony whinnied and Jeremy snuffed out the firefly. Before he could hide, a dazzling beam of light flashed in his eyes. He raised a hand against the hurting glare.

“Sorry.” The light dipped, illuminating a circular patch of dust and Jeremy’s dirty legs. “So this is where you’ve been. Your brother said he couldn’t find you.” The beam hesitated on Jeremy’s lumpy knees.

The surveyor patted the pony and bent to prop the solar flashlight on the floor. Its powerful beam splashed back from the wall, streaking the straw with shadows. “Can you do it again?” he asked. “Make that insect appear, I mean?”

Jeremy licked his dry lips. “I’m not supposed to . . . make things.”

“I sort of got that impression.” The man gave him a slow, thoughtful smile. “I pretended I didn’t notice. I didn’t want to get you in trouble.”

Jeremy blinked. A grownup worried about getting him in trouble? The bright, comforting light and the surveyor’s amazing claim shut the two of them into a kind of private, magical circle. The firefly glowed to life in the air between them. “What does a real firefly look like?”

“I don’t know.” The surveyor reached out to touch the making, snatched his hand away as his finger passed through the delicate wings.

“It isn’t real. It doesn’t look right.” Disappointed, Jeremy let it fade and vanish.

“Wow.” The surveyor whistled softly. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

He made it sound like Jeremy was doing something wonderful. “Don’t tell I showed you, okay?” He picked at a thread in his cut-off jeans.

“I won’t.” The man answered him seriously, as if he was talking to another grownup. “How old are you?”

“Twelve. I’m small for my age.” Jeremy watched him pick up his marvelous light and swing its bright beam over the pony.

“You look pretty settled, Ezra. I’ll get you some more water in the morning.” The surveyor slapped the pony on the neck. “Come on.” He offered Jeremy a hand. “Let’s go in. I think your mom left a plate out for you.” He gave Jeremy a sideways look. “Your dad went to bed.”

“Oh.” Jeremy scrambled to his feet, wondering how the stranger knew to say that. “Are you going to bring us water?” he asked.

“No,” the man said slowly. “I just make maps. I don’t dig wells or lay pipe.”

“I bet you’re good,” Jeremy said. He wanted to say something nice to this man, and that was all he could think of.

“Thanks,” the surveyor said, but he sounded more sad than pleased. “I’m pretty good at what I do.”

No, he didn’t act like a grownup. He didn’t act like anyone Jeremy had ever met. Thoughtfully, he followed the bright beam of the surveyor’s flashlight into the house.


Next morning was church-Sunday, but the family got up at dawn as usual, because it was such a long walk into town. Jeremy put on his good pair of shorts and went down to take on Mother in the kitchen.

“You can’t go.” She shoved a full water-jug into the lunch pack. “It’s too far.”

She was thinking of the dragonfly. “I won’t forget. I’ll be good,” he said. “Please?”

“Forget it.” Rupert glared at him from the doorway. “The freak’ll forget and do something again.”

“That’s enough.” Mother closed the pack with a jerk. “I’ll bring you a new book.” She wouldn’t meet Jeremy’s eyes. “What do you want?”

“I don’t know.” Jeremy set his jaw. He didn’t usually care, didn’t like church-Sundays, with all the careful eyes that sneaked like Rupert when they looked at his hands and knees, or flat out pitied him. “I want to come,” he said.

“Mom, no . . .”

“I said that’s enough.” Mother looked past Rupert. “Did you get enough breakfast, Mr. Greely?” she asked too cheerfully.

“More than enough, thanks.” The surveyor walked into the kitchen and the conversation ended.

When Jeremy started down the gravel road with them, Mother’s lips got tight and Rupert threw him a look that promised trouble, but Dad acted like he wasn’t even there, and no one else dared say anything. Jeremy limped along as fast as he could, trying not to fall behind. He had won. He wasn’t sure why, but he had.

It was a long, hot walk to town.

Rupert and Jonathan stuck to the surveyor like burrs, asking about the iceberg tugs, Portland, and Seattle and if LA had really drowned in the rising ocean. The surveyor answered their questions gravely and politely. He wore a fresh tan shirt tucked into his faded jeans. It was clean, and the tower on the pocket made it look like it meant something special.

It meant water.

Everyone was there by the time they reached the church — except the Menendez family who lived way down the dry creekbed and sometimes didn’t come in anyway. The Pearson kids were screaming as they took turns jumping off the porch, and Bev Lamont was watching for Jonathan, like she always did.

As soon as they got close enough for people to count the extra person, everyone abandoned their picnic spreads and made for the porch.

‘This is Mr. Greely, a surveyor with the Army Corps of Engineers,” Mother announced as they climbed the wide steps.

“Pleased to meet you.” The surveyor’s warm smile swept the sun-dried faces. “I’ve been sent to make a preliminary survey for a federal irrigation project.” He perched on the porch railing, like he’d done it a hundred times before. “The new Singhe solar cells are going to power a deepwell pumping operation. We think we’ve identified a major, deep aquifer in this region.”

“How come we ain’t heard of this before?” It was bearded Ted Brewster, who ran the Exxon station when he could get ethanol, speaking up from the back of the crowd.

“Come on, Ted.” Fists on her bony hips, gray-haired Sally Brandt raised her voice. “You don’t hear nothin’ on the Spokane radio news.”

“No. That’s a good question.” The surveyor looked around at the dusty faces. “You don’t have internet out here?”

“No power, out here.” Sally shook her head. “Bonneville Power didn’t put the lines back up after a big storm took ’em out . . . oh, must be eight and a half years ago. Said it wasn’t cost effective.”

The surveyor nodded and reached inside his shirt. “I have a letter from the regional supervisor.” He pulled out a white rectangle. “I’m supposed to deliver it to the mayor, city supervisor, or whoever’s in charge.” He raised his eyebrows expectantly.

A gust of wind whispered across the crowded porch, and no one spoke.

“Most people just left.” Jeremy’s father finally stepped forward, fists in the pockets of his patched jeans. “This was wheat and alfalfa land, from the time the Oregon Territory became a state. You can’t farm wheat without water.” His voice sounded loud in the silence. “The National Guard come around and told us to go get work on the Columbia River Pipeline project. They said they had camps for workers. Camps.” He turned his face as if he wanted to spit, but didn’t. “That’s all the help the government was gonna give us. If we stayed, they said, we was on our own.” He paused. “We don’t have a mayor anymore, and the Rev, he died in a dust storm a couple years back. There’s just us.”

The surveyor looked at the dusty faces, one by one. “Like I told Mr. Barlow last night,” he said quietly. “I can’t promise that we’ll find water, or that you’ll grow wheat again. I’m only the surveyor.”

For a long moment, Jeremy’s father stared at the envelope. Then, with a jerky, awkward gesture, he reached out and took it. He pried up the white flap with a blunt thumb and squinted at the print, his forehead wrinkling.

Without a word, he handed the paper to Ted Brewster. Jeremy watched the white paper pass from hand to hand. People held it like it as precious —like it was water. He listened to the dry rustle of the paper. When it came around to Dad again, he stuck it into the glass case beside the door of the church. “I hope to God you find water,” he said softly.

“Amen,” someone said.

“Amen.” The ragged mutter ran through the crowd.

After than, everyone went back to their picnics. After the Reverend had died, they’d moved the pews outside. Families spread clothes on the long, rickety tables inside. There weren’t any more sermons, but people still came to eat together on the church-Sundays. The surveyor wandered from group to group in the colored shadows of the church, eating the food people pressed on him, sharing news from Portland and the rest of the world. They crowded him, talking, brushing up against him, as if his touch would bring them good luck, bring water to the wells and the dead fields.

Jeremy hung back, under the blue-and-green diamonds of the stained-glass window. Finally he went down the narrow stairs to the sparse shelves of the basement library. He found a little paperback book on insects, but it didn’t have a picture of a firefly. He tossed back onto the shelf. When it fell onto the dusty concrete floor, he kicked it, feeling both guilty and pleased when it skittered out of sight under a bottom shelf. Upstairs, the surveyor was giving everyone the same warm grin that he’d given to Jeremy in the barn last night. That made his stomach hurt.

He wandered outside and found little Rita Menendez poking at ants on the front walk. Mrs. Menendez was yelling at the older kids as she started to unpack the lunch, so Jeremy carried Rita off into the dappled shade under the scraggly shrubs. She was too little to know about his makings or mind his hands. Belly still tight, Jeremy made a bright green frog appear on Rita’s knee.

Her gurgly laugh eased some of that tightness. She liked his makings. And she couldn’t tell anyone about ’em. He turned the frog into the dragonfly and she grabbed at it. This time, Jeremy heard the surveyor coming. By the time the man pushed the brittle branches aside, the dragonfly was gone.

“Do you always hide?” He reached down to tickle Rita’s plump chin.

“I’m not hiding.” Jeremy peered up through his sun-bleached hair.

“I need someone to help me.” The surveyor squatted, so that Jeremy had to meet his eyes. “I talked to your father and he said that I could hire you. If you agree. The Corps’ only paying in scrip, and it’s crisis-minimum wage,” he said apologetically.

Jeremy pushed Rita gently off his lap. This man wanted to hire him? When he couldn’t even pull weeds? Hiring was something from the old days, like the flashlight and this man’s clean, creased shirt.

Jeremy wiped his hands on his pants, pressing hard, as if by doing that he could straighten his bent fingers. “I’d like that, Mr. Greely,” he said breathlessly.

“Good.” The man smiled like he meant it. “We’ll get started first thing tomorrow.” He stood, giving Rita a final pat that made her chuckle. “Call me Dan,” he said. “Okay?”


Jeremy didn’t see much of Dan Greely before the next morning. It seemed like everyone had to talk to Dan about watertables, aquifers, deep wells, and the Army Corps of Engineers. They said the words like the Reverend used to say prayers. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dan, Dad, and Jonathan stayed in town. Mother shepherded the rest of them home. The twins were tired, but Rupert was pissed because he couldn’t stay, too. He shoved Jeremy whenever Mother wasn’t looking.

“I hope you work hard for Mr. Greely,” Mother said when she came up to say goodnight. The twins were already snoring in the hot darkness of the attic room.

“Waste of time to hire him,” Rupert growled from his bed. “The pony’s more use.”

“That’s enough.” Mother’s voice sounded sharp as a new nail. “We can’t spare either you or Jonathan from the pumping, so don’t get yourself worked up. You don’t have to go with him.” She bent over Jeremy’s mattress. Her hand trembled just a little as she brushed the hair back from his forehead.

“I’ll be okay.” He wondered if she was worried that he wouldn’t do a good job. He almost told her that Dan knew about the makings and wouldn’t tell Dad, but Rupert was listening. “I’ll do good,” he said, and wished he believed it.

It took Jeremy a long time to fall asleep, but when he did, it seemed as if only moments had passed before he woke up again. At first, he thought Mother was calling him to breakfast. It was still dark, but the east window showed faint gray.

There it was again. Mother’s voice. Too wide awake to fall back to sleep, Jeremy slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the top of the steep stairs, just this side of their bedroom door.

“Stop worrying,” Dad’s low growl drifted through the half-closed door. “What do you think he’s gonna do?”

“I don’t know. He said he needed a helper, but what . . .”

“What can Jeremy do? He can’t do shit, but Greely’s going to pay wages, and we can use anything we can get. Do you understand me?” Dad’s voice sounded like the dry, scouring winds. “How do you think I felt when I had to go crawling to the Brewsters and the Pearsons for food last winter?”

“It wasn’t Jeremy’s fault, Everett, the north well giving out.”

“No one else has an extra mouth to feed. And I had to go begging.”

“I lost three babies after Rupert.” Mother’s voice sounded high and tight.

“Whatever he wants from the boy, he’s paying for it.”

Jeremy tiptoed down the stairs, his teeth clenched so hard they felt as if they were going to break.

A light glowed in the barn’s darkness. “Hi.” Dan pulled a strap tight on the pony’s packsaddle. “I was going to come wake you. Ezra and I are used to starting as soon as it gets light. It gets too hot to work before noon.” He tugged on the pack, nodded to himself. “Did you get something to eat?”


Dan gave him a searching look, then shrugged. “Okay, let’s go.”

It was just light enough to see as they started down the track. The pony stepped over the thin white pipe that carried water from the well to the field. The old bicycle frame of the pump looked like a skeleton sticking up out of the gray dirt. In an hour, Jonathan would be pedaling hard to get his gallons pumped. Then Rupert would take over. The twins would be hauling the buckets, dipping out water to each plant in the bean rows.

“Did your dad build that?” Dan nodded at the metal frame.

“Uh huh.” Jeremy walked a little faster, trying not to limp.

He had had a thousand questions about the outside world to ask, but the sharp whispers in the upstairs bedroom had dried them up like the wind dried up a puddle. He watched Ezra’s big feet kick up the brown dust, feeling dry and empty inside.

“We’ll start here.” The surveyor pulled Ezra to a halt. They were looking down on the dry riverbed and the narrow, rusty bridge. The road went across the riverbed now. It was safer.

The pony waited patiently, head drooping, while Dan unloaded it. “This machine measures distance by bouncing a beam of laser light off a mirror.” Dan set the cracked plastic case down on the ground. “It sits on this tripod and the reflector goes on the other one.” He unloaded a water jug, lunch, an axe, a steel tape measure, and other odds and ends. “Now, we get to work,” he said when he was done.

Sweat stuck Jeremy’s hair to his face as he struggled across the sunbaked clay after Dan. They set up the machine and reflector, took them down, and set them up somewhere else. Sometimes Dan hacked a path through the dry underbrush. It was hard going. In spite of all he could do, Jeremy was limping badly by mid-morning.

“I’m sorry.” Dan stopped abruptly. “You keep up so well, it’s easy to forget that you hurt.”

His tone was matter of fact, without a trace of pity. A knot clogged the back of Jeremy’s throat as Dan boosted him onto Ezra’s back. He sat up straight on the hard packsaddle, arms tight around the precious machine. It felt heavy, dense with the magic that would call water out of the ground. Jeremy tried to imagine the gullied dun hills all green, with blue water tumbling down the old riverbed.

Plenty of water meant it wouldn’t matter so much that he couldn’t pump or carry buckets.

Jeremy thought about water while he held what Dan gave him to hold, and, once or twice, pushed buttons on the distance machine. He could manage that much. It hummed under his touch and bright red numbers winked in a tiny window. He had to remember them, because his fingers were too clumsy to work the tiny keys on Dan’s electronic notepad.

Dan didn’t really need any help with the measuring. Jeremy stood beside the magic machine, watching a single hawk circle in the hard blue sky. Mother had been right. Dan wanted something else from him.

Well, that was okay. Jeremy shrugged as the hawk drifted off southward. No one else thought he had anything to offer.


The sun stood high overhead when they stopped for lunch. It poured searing light down on the land, sucking up their sweat. “We’ll wait until the sun starts to go down,” Dan said. They huddled in a narrow strip of shade beneath the canyon wall. Ezra stood next to them, head down, whisking flies.

They shared warm, plastic-tasting water with the pony, and Dan produced dried apple slices from the lunch pack. He had stripped off his shirt, and sweat gleamed like oil on his brown shoulders. His eyes were gray, Jeremy noticed. They looked bright in his dark face.

“Why do you have to do all the stuff?” Awkwardly, Jeremy scooped up a leathery disc of dried apple. The tart sweetness filled his mouth with a rush of saliva. The old tree behind the house didn’t give very many apples, most years.

“I’m making a map of the ground.” Dan shaded his eyes, squinting in the shimmering heat-haze. “If they’re going to drill a well field, they’ll have to lay pipes, make roads, build buildings. They need to know what the ground looks like.”

“I was trying to imagine lots of water.” Jremy reached for another apple slice. “It’s hard.”

“Yeah,” Dan said harshly. “Don’t start counting the days yet.” He shook himself and his expression softened. “Tell me about your fireflies and your fish that jump out of pitchers.”

“Not much to tell.” Jeremy looked away from Dan’s intent, gray eyes. Was that what he wanted? “If I think of something hard enough, you can see it. It’s not real.” Jeremy drew a zig-zag pattern in the dust with his fingers. “Don’t talk about it, okay? It’s wrong. It’s . . . an abomination. The Devil’s mark. That’s why the rain went away. It was God punishing us . . . for living with abominations. We . . . don’t let . . . abominations . . . live. Like the Pearson’s baby. Like Sally Brandt’s baby, born just this spring.”

“Who said all that?” Dan asked in a hard, quiet voice.

“The Reverend.” Jeremy fixed his eyes on the little troughs in the dust.

Their old nanny goat had a kid with an extra leg last spring. About the time Sally Brandt had her baby. Dad had taken the biggest knife from the kitchen and cut its throat by a bean hill, so that the blood would water the seedlings. The apple slice in Jeremy’s mouth tasted like dust. Feeling stony hard inside, he made the dragonfly appear, sent it darting through the air to land on Dan’s knee with a glitter of wings.

“Holy shit.” Dan flinched, scattering apple slices. “I can almost believe that I feel it.”

He didn’t sound angry. Jeremy sighed and vanished it.

“I heard your Reverend died,” Dan said softly.

Jeremy nodded.

“You got to know that he was wrong. He was just a narrow, scared man, who had to blame this crazy drought on something, because none of us really understand why we didn’t stop it from happening, why we can’t fix it now.”

Jeremy tensed as Dan laid a hand on his shoulder. “In the cities you’d be so hot. What you do is fantastic. It’s wonderful, Jeremy, not something wrong. People would pay you money to see what you could create for them.” He sighed. “Your Dad’s scared of them, isn’t he?”

Scared? Jeremy shook his head. Rupert was scared of the brown lizards that lived under the rocks out behind the outhouse. He killed them all the time. But Dad wasn’t scared of his makings.

Dad hated them.

“Look at this.” Dan yanked a grubby red bandana out of his pocket and shook it. “Watch me make it disappear. Watch carefully now.” He stuffed it into his closed fist. “Are you watching?” He waved his fist around, then snapped open his hand.

Jeremy stared at his empty palm.

“Your handkerchief, sir.” He reached behind Jeremy’s ear, snapped the bandana into view.

“Wow.” Jeremy touched the bandana cautiously. “How did you do that?”

“It’s pretty easy.” Dan looked sad as he stuffed the bandana back into his pocket. “Card tricks, juggling, oh, you can entertain folks, but they all know it’s fake. What you can do is . . . real.” His pale eyes burned. “I think we’d all give a lot to believe in something real. Like what you do. You should come with me, Jeremy.”

Dan acted like the making was a wonderful thing. But Dad had had to ask the Brewsters for food. And the Reverend knew more than anyone in town. Suddenly unsure, Jeremy bent to scoop up the apples that Dan had dropped. “You don’t want to waste these.”

“I wasn’t going to. They’re good apples. I’d give a lot for your talent. It’s real, Jeremy. And it’s wasted here.”

Talent? Jeremy dumped the withered rings of apple into the pack. “You’re a surveyor,” he said. “You don’t need to do tricks.”

“I guess I am.” Dan’s laugh sounded bitter. “So I guess we’d better get back to surveying, huh?”

As they worked through the lengthening shadows of the fading day, strange feelings fluttered in Jeremy’s chest. Could Dan be right? Would people really look at him like Dan had looked at him? All excited?

He could find out. If he went with Dan.

Jeremy thought about that for the rest of the day, while he steadied the machine and pushed buttons. He didn’t say anything to Dan. He might not want Jeremy along.


It seemed like everyone within walking distance was waiting at the house when they plodded back to the farm in the first faint cool of evening. Covered dishes and water jugs cluttered the kitchen table, and Dan was swept into the crowd.

Dan didn’t belong to him here, in the dusty house. Here, he belonged to the grown-ups and the Army Corps of Engineers. Jeremy led Ezra off to the barn to struggle with the pack straps and give the pony some water. If he left with Dan, if Dan would take him, Dad wouldn’t have to ask the Brewsters for food. He pulled at the pony’s tangled mane until the coarse horsehair cut his fingers.


After the first three days, the crowd didn’t show up at the farm any more. They’d heard what news Dan had to tell. They’d sold him the food and supplies that he’d asked for, taking his pale-green voucher slips as payment. Now they were waiting for the construction crews to arrive. Even Dad was waiting. He whistled while he carried water to the potato plants, and he smiled at Dan.

Dan was the water bringer. Everyone smiled at Dan.

It made Jeremy jealous when they were at home and Rupert, Jonathan, and the twins hung around him all the time, pretending they were grownups, too. But they weren’t home very often. He and Dan trudged all over the scorched hills along the river. Dan talked about cities. He talked about the heart of the drylands, with its ghosts and the bones of dead towns and about the oceans eating the shore. He taught Jeremy how to describe the land in numbers. He asked Jeremy to make things every day, and he laughed when Jeremy made a frog appear on Ezra’s head.

Dan never asked outright, but he talked as if Jeremy was going to come with him when he left. To the cities. And the sea.

“Where did you come from?” Jeremy asked on Saturday, just a week after Dan had arrived. They were eating lunch under the same overhang where they’d stopped the first day out.

“The Corps’ regional office in Bonneville.”

“No, I don’t mean that.” Jeremy swallowed cold beans. “I mean before that. Before the surveying. Where were you born?”

“South.” Dan looked out toward the dead river. His gray eyes looked vague, like he was looking past something far away or deep inside his head. “We came up from LA, running from the water wars and the gangs.” His eyelids flickered. “I was pretty little. But the people in the valleys weren’t sharing their water, so we moved on. You leave everything behind you when you’re dying of thirst, one piece at a time. Everything.”

He was silent for a moment. The wind blew grit across the rocks with a soft hiss and Jeremy didn’t make a sound.

“I ended up with the Corps,” Dan said abruptly.

The transition from we to I cut off Jeremy’s questions like a knife. He watched Dan toss a pebble down the slope. It bounced off an old cow skull half-buried in drifted dust.

“I won’t kid you about things.” Dan tossed another pebble at the bleached skull. “I’m leaving soon . . . maybe tomorrow. And if you come with me, you’re going to find out that things aren’t always what they should be. When you’re on the road, you don’t have any options. You do what it takes to stay alive. Sometimes you don’t like it much, but you do it.”

The hard thread of bitterness in Dan’s voice scared Jeremy a little, but it didn’t matter. If you come with me . . .

“Can you make a face?” Dan asked suddenly.

“I don’t know.” Jeremy looked into Dan’s bleak, hungry eyes, stifling a pang of fear. He wanted to say no. Get up and go back to surveying. “I . . . can try.” Dan’s eyes pulled the words out of him.

“She was about sixteen, with brown eyes and black hair. It was straight, like rain falling.” His eyes focused on that invisible something again. “She looked a little like me, but prettier,” he said. “Her nose was thin — I used to kid her about it — an she smiled a lot.”

He could feel it, almost. Dan’s memory. Scared, now, Jeremy shaped a face in his mind, watched it take shape in the air. Dan shook his head.

“Stupid of me to play that kind of game.” Dan laid his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder. “Thanks for trying.”

And just that quickly, he felt the awful shiver that seemed to run through his flesh and the air and the dusty ground.

She smiled, her face brining with warmth and sadness, standing there, looking down at them. Jeremy stared at her, sweat stinging his eyes. She was right — the way the land had been right that day he had looked at it and it had turned green and lush and he had seen water running through the creekbed at the far edge of the field.

“Amy.” Dan’s voice broke.

The sound of Dan’s voice pierced him. The making shivered, dissolved, and vanished. “I’m sorry,” Jeremy whispered, his skin tight with fear. “Dan, I’m sorry.

Dan buried his face in his hands. Hesitantly, Jeremy reached out and touched him.

“It’s all right.” Dan raised his head, drew in a long breath. “You did what I asked.” He shook his head slowly, his face full of wonder. “That was her. Not some image. It was like you called her back for a second. I . . . thought for a minute she was going to say something to me. She was so real.”

Like the green fields full of alfalfa. Jeremy looked away because he could see fear in Dan’s face, too. Not just wonder.

That was why his dad hated them . . . the makings. Because of the green fields.

And hated him.

“Let’s get back.” Dan stood up, looking down the dead valley. “I’m through here.”

“You mean like you’re leaving?” Jeremy scrambled to his feet, forcing the words through the tightness in his throat. “Because of . . . what I did?”

“No.” Dan looked down at him, forced a smile. “The job’s finished. I didn’t expect to be here this long. I shouldn’t have stayed this long.” He glanced restlessly down the valley again. “So. Are you coming?”

“Yes.” Jeremy stood up as straight as he could. “I’m coming.”

“Good.” Dan boosted Jeremy onto Ezra’s back. “I’m leaving early,” he said. “You better not tell your folks.”

“I won’t.”


Nobody was pumping on the bicycle frame as they plodded past. Jeremy looked up at the brown hillside and looked away quickly before they could go green. He had thought that would never happen again. But maybe it could. Anyway, tomorrow he’d be gone.

Ezra broke into a jouncing trot, and Jeremy had to grab the saddle frame as the pony headed for the barnyard and the water tub there.

“Mr. Greely,” Dad called from the porch.

Jeremy stiffened. Dad sounded cold and mad, like the day Jeremy had made the fields go green.

“We want to talk to you.”

Mr. Brewster stepped onto the porch behind him. Rupert and Jonathan followed, with Mr. Mendoza, Sally Brandt, and the Deardorf boys.

Mr. Mendoza had his deer rifle. They all looked angry.

“My brother got into town last night.” Sally’s voice was shrill. “He told me about this scam he heard about back in Pendleton. Seems this guy goes around to little towns pretending to be a surveyor for the Corps. He buys stuff with Corps vouchers.”

“We searched your stuff.” Ted Brewster held up a fist full of white. “You carry a few spare letters, don’t you?” He opened his hand. “You’re a fake.”

The white envelopes fluttered to the dusty ground like dead leaves. Stunned, Jeremy turned to Dan, waiting for him to explain, waiting for Dan to tell them how they were wrong, waiting for him to remind them about the water.

“Dan?” he whispered.

Dan looked at him finally, his head moving slowly on his neck, and Jeremy felt his insides going numb and dead.

“Mother gave you dried apples.” Jeremy swallowed. “Dried apples are for birthdays.”

For one instant, Dan’s gray eyes filled with pain. Then he looked away, turning a bland smile on the approaching grownups. “I heard about some bastard doing that.” He spread his hands. “But I’m legit.”

Dad took one long step forward and smashed his fist into Dan’s face. “He described you.” He looked down at Dan sprawled in the dirt. “He described you real well.”

Dan got up very slowly, wiping dust from his face. Blood smeared his chin. He shrugged. They took him into town, walking around him in a loose ring. Jeremy stood in the road, watching the dust blow away on the hot breeze. When the last trace of dust blew away, he put Ezra into the barn and climbed up onto the rimrock. He didn’t come down until dark.

“I wondered about that guy,” Rupert sneered as they got ready for bed that night. “Federal survey, huh? They don’t care about us, out here. I don’t know how anybody could believe him.”

“Hope is a tempting thing.” Jeremy’s mother leaned against the doorway. She hadn’t scolded Jeremy for running off. “If there was any water around here, no matter how deep, someone would have drilled for it a long time ago.” Her voice was tired. “I guess we all just wanted to hope.”

Jeremy threw himself down on his mattress without looking at her.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured. “I’m sorry for us, and I’m sorry for him, too.”

“They’ll hang him. I heard ’em talking.”

“Shame on you, Rupert. You don’t gloat about a man dying.”

Jeremy buried his face in the pillow. I hate him, too, he thought fiercely. Why couldn’t have Dan been what he said?

“They’re gonna hang him,” Rupert whispered to him after Mother had left. He sounded smug. “No wonder that jerk wanted you to help him. You’re too dumb to figure out he was a fake.”

Jeremy pressed his face into the pillow until he could barely breathe. If he made a sound, if he moved, he’d kill Rupert. Rupert might be almost sixteen, but he’d kill him. Somehow.

Rupert was right. They were going to hang Dan. He’d seen it in their faces when they walked up to him. They hated Dan because he made ’em see that the government, the Army Corps of Engineers really didn’t care about them.

Like Dad hated him for making him see what it used to be like. And would never be again.

Jeremy breathed slowly, listening to the house tick and creak as it cooled a bit. He kept hearing Dan’s sad-bitter voice. You do what it takes to stay alive. Sometimes you don’t like it much, but you do it.

Dan hadn’t lied to him.

Jeremy must have fallen asleep, because he woke up from a dream about the woman with the black hair. Was she part of the we that had turned into I?

Rupert snored, one arm hanging over the side of his mattress. The sloping roof held the day’s heat in and tonight no breeze stirred the hot, still air. Dan would be in the church. In the empty storage bin in the cellar. The one with the bolt on it. Jeremy sat up, heart pounding. The house creaked softly to itself as he tiptoed down the stairs.

“Who’s up?” His father’s spoke from the bottom of the stairs.

“Me.” Jeremy froze, clutching the railing with both hands. “I . . . had to pee,” he stammered. It was a feeble lie. The pot in the bedroom was never full.

“Jeremy?” His father bulked over him, a tower of shadow. “It’s late. I just got back from town.” He ran a thick hand across his face. “You liked Greely.”

“I still like him.” Jeremy forced himself to stand straight. “He’s not a bad man.”

His father grunted, moved down a step. “He’s a parasite,” he said harshly. “His kind live on other peoples’ sweat. There’s no worse crime than that.”

“Isn’t there?” Jeremy’s voice trembled. “Who’s going to share with him? Who’s going to let him have a piece of their orchard or pump from their well some? He was just trying to live, and he didn’t hurt anybody, not really . . .”

“He lied to us and he stole from us.” His tone dismissed Dan, judged and sentenced him. “Get back to bed. Now.”

“No.” Shaking, Jeremy clung to the railing. “If it doesn’t help the crops, it’s bad, isn’t it? Nothing else matters to you. Nothing.”

His father’s hand caught him hard on the side of the head. Jeremy fell against the railing, hot pain spiking through his knee as he sprawled at his father’s feet.

All by itself, the firefly popped into the air between them, glowing like a hot coal.

With a hoarse cry, Dad flinched backward, his hand clenching into a fist. Jeremy stared up at his father through a blur of tears. “It’s not evil. I’m not an abomination. Is it so wrong to know what things looked like?” He cringed away from his father’s fist. “Don’t they count?”

His father lowered his fist slowly. “No,” he said in a strange, choked voice. “They don’t. It doesn’t count, either, that a man’s just trying to stay alive. I . . . I wish it all did. I sure as hell do.” He stepped past Jeremy and went on up the stairs.


Jeremy was right. They’d locked Dan up in the church basement. Yellow light glowed dimly from one of the window wells along the concrete foundation, the only light in the dark, dead town. Jeremy lay down on his stomach and peered through the glassless window. Yep. Mr. Brewster sat on an old pew beside the wooden door of the storage unit, flipping through a tattered hunting magazine by the light of a solar lantern.

He looked wide awake.

Jeremy looked at the sky. Was it getting light? How long until dawn? He leaned over the rim of the well. Mr. Brewster wasn’t going to fall asleep in time.

Mr. Brewster didn’t know about the makings. Probably didn’t anyway. Cold balled in Jeremy belly, so bad that he almost threw up. Bigger, he thought. Bigger would be scarier.

The firefly popped into the air two feet from Mr. Brewster’s magazine, big as a chicken.

“Holy shit!” The pew rocked and nearly went over as Mr. Brewster scrambled to his feet.

Nails biting his palms, Jeremy made the firefly dart at Mr. Brewster’s face. It moved sluggishly, dimming to a dull orange. Oh, God, don’t let it fade. Sweat stung Jeremy’s eyes.

Mr. Brewster yelled and threw his magazine at it. His footsteps pounded up the wooden stairs, and a moment later, the church door thudded open. Jeremy lay flat in the dust as Mr. Brewster ran past him. The ground felt warm, as if the earth had a fever. Shaking all over, Jeremy listened to the footsteps fade.


He scrambled down through the window. A fragment of glass still stuck in the old frame grazed his arm, and he landed on a chair. It collapsed under his weight with a terrible crash. Panting, Jeremy scrambled to his feet. He struggled with the bolt on the storeroom door, bruising his palm. It slid back, and he pushed the heavy door open.

Dan sat on the floor between shelves of musty hymnals and folded choir robes. The yellow light from the lantern made his skin look tawny brown, like the dust. Dried blood streaked his swollen and bruised face.

“Jeremy?” Hope flared in Dan’s eyes.

“Hurry.” Jeremy grabbed his arm.

Dan staggered to his feet and followed Jeremy up the steps, treading on his heels. Someone shouted as they leaped from the porch and Jeremy’s heart lurched. “That way.” He pointed.

Dan threw an arm around him and ran, half-carrying Jeremy as they ducked behind the dark Exxon station. They scrambled under the board fence in the back, lay flat while someone ran and panted past. Mr. Brewster? Gray banded the eastern horizon as Jeremy led Dan across the dusty main street, listening for footsteps, stumbling on the rough pavement. They turned left by the boarded up restaurant, cut through a yard full of drifted dust, dead weeds, and a rusting car.

Jeremy had left Ezra tethered behind the last house on the street. The pony gave a low, growling whinny as they hurried up. Dan stroked his nose to quiet him, his eyes running over the lumpy bulges of the pack.

“It’s all there, food, water, and everything,” Jeremy panted. “Even the machine. It’s not a very good job. I don’t know how to fix a pack. The ground’s pretty hard along the river, so you won’t leave many tracks. Willow creekbed’ll take you way south. It’s the first creekbed past the old feed mill. You can’t miss it. Nobody lives out that way. No water.”

“I thought you were coming with me.” Dan looked down at him.

“I was.” Jeremy looked at the old nylon daypack he’d left on the ground beside Ezra. “I changed my mind.”

“You can’t stay now.” Dan grabbed his shoulders, hard enough to hurt. “They’ll know you let me out. Jeremy, what will they do to you?”

“I don’t know.” Jeremy swallowed, remembering his father’s voice on the stairs. “I just got to stay,” he whispered.

“You’re crazy. You think you’ll make peace with your father?” Dan gave him one short, sharp shake that made Jeremy’s teeth snap together. “You have real magic in your hands. You think that’s ever going to matter to him?”

Jeremy couldn’t speak, could only shake his head.

“Hell, my own choices haven’t turned out too good. Who am I to tell you what you have to do?” Dan wiped Jeremy’s tears away, his fingers rough and dry on Jeremy’s face. “Just don’t let them kill your magic.” He shook Jeremy again, gently this time. “He needs it. They all need it.” He sighed. “I’m outta here. Keep making, Jeremy.” Dan squeezed Jeremy’s shoulder hard, grabbed Ezra’s lead rope, and walked away down the creekbed in the fading night.

Jeremy stood still, the tears drying on his face, listening to Ezra’s muffled hoofbeats fade into the distance. He listened until he could hear nothing but the dry whisper of the morning breeze, then he started back. He thought about cutting across the dun hills and down through the riverbed to get home. Instead, he walked straight back to town.

They might have been waiting for him in front of the church — Mr. Brewster, Sally Brandt, Mr. Mendoza and . . . Dad. Jeremy faltered as they all turned to look at him, wishing in that terrible, frightened instant, that he had gone with Dan after all. They looked at him like they had looked at Dan yesterday, hard and cold. Mr. Brewster walked to meet him, slow and stifflegged, and Jeremy wondered suddenly if they’d hang him in Dan’s place.

“You little, crippled snot.” Mr. Brewster’s hand closed on Jeremy’s shirt, balling up the fabric, lifting him a little off his feet. “You let Greely out. I saw you. Where’s he headed?”

“I don’t know,” Jeremy said.

Mr. Brewster hit him.

Red-and-black light exploded behind Jeremy’s eyelids, and his mouth filled with a harsh, metallic taste. He fell hard and hurting onto his knees, dizzy, eyes blurred with tears, belly full of sickness. Mr. Brewster grabbed him and hauled him to his feet again and Jeremy cringed.

“Knock it off, Ted.”

Dad yanked him away from Mr. Brewster. “I lay hands on my kids. Nobody else.”

“He knows where that bastard’s headed.” Mr. Brewster breathed heavy and fast. “You beat it out of him or I do.”

“He said he doesn’t know. That’s the end of it, you hear me?”

“You talk pretty high and mighty,” Mr. Brewster said softly. “Considering you had to beg for help last winter. Seems like you ought to shut up.”

Jeremy felt his father jerk, as if Mr. Brewter had punched him. He felt his father’s arms quiver and wondered if he would let go, walk away.

“Seems like we all pitched in, when mice got into your seed stock a few years back,” Dad said quietly.

Mr. Brewster made a small, harsh sound.

“Come on, Ted. Let it go.” Sally’s shrill exasperation shattered the tension. “While you’re standing there arguing, Greely’s making tracks for Boardman.”

“We got to split up,” Mr. Mendoza chimed in.

“Let’s spread.” Mr. Brewster glowered at Jeremy. Abruptly he spun on his heel. “I bet the bastard headed west,” he snarled. “We’ll go down the riverbed, cut his tracks.” He stalked off down the street with Mr. Mendoza.

Sally Brandt pushed tousled hair out of her face, sighed. “I’ll go wake up the Deardorfs,” she said. “We’ll spread north and east. You take the south.”

He felt his father’s body move, as if he had nodded. Jeremy stared down at the dust between his feet, tasting blood on his swelling lip, heart pounding so hard it felt like it was going to burst through his ribs. He felt Dad’s hands lift from his shoulders, tensed as his father moved around in front of him, blocking the rising sun. But all he did was to lift Jeremy’s chin, until he had to meet his father’s eyes.

“I thought you’d go with him.”

Jeremy looked at his father’s weathered face. It looked like the hills, all folded into dun gullies. Not angry. Not sad. Just old and dry.

“If we find Greely, we got to hang him,” Dad said. “Right or wrong, we voted, Jeremy.”

“I was going to go.” Jeremy swallowed, tasting dust. “You had to ask for food. Because of me.”

His father’s face twitched.

Without warning, the firefly popped into the air between them again, pale this time, a flickering shadow in the harsh morning light. Jeremy sucked in his breath, snuffed it out as his father flinched away from it. “I’m sorry,” he cried. “I didn’t mean to make it. It just . . . happened. It makes Rita Menendez laugh. I won’t do it again ever.”

“Do it again.” His father’s hand clamped down on Jeremy’s arm. “Right now.”

Trembling, afraid to look at his father’s face, he made the firefly appear again.

His father stared at it for a moment. With a shudder, he thrust his fingers through the firefly, yanked them back and stared at them. “It scares me,” he whispered. “I don’t understand it any more than I understand this damn, never-ending drought.” He looked at Jeremy suddenly. “You scared the pants off Ted. He’s not going to forgive you for that. I don’t think everybody believed what the Reverend had to say, but enough did, son.” He sighed. “I don’t have any good answers. Maybe there aren’t any — not good ones.” He met Jeremy’s eyes. “I’ve got to look south for Greely,” he said. “Which way do you think he’d head? Down Willow creekbed — or by the main road to La Grande?”

Jeremy hesitated for a moment, then straightened his shoulders with a jerk. “I think he went down the main road,” he said and held his breath.

His father shaded his eyes, stared at the dun fold of Willow creekbed in the distance. “There aren’t any good answers.” He sighed. “I’ll look for Greely on the main road,” he said.

* * *

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