When the Well Goes Bust, Ch. 14


Harland’s ex-wife, Sally, petitioned the family court for custody of her two grandchildren, and after a lengthy and costly court battle, was finally granted it.

Carissa had left Cynthia’s home that fateful day and went to Ratchel’s apartment. She requested admittance into the Rouge’s, feeling her recent turning out had at least gained her that. She didn’t want to be a mother any longer, didn’t want to be a daughter, didn’t want to be associated with the only family she had. She knew what the Rogues were, which she rationalized, was about what she was. It was in this mindset that she revealed that Harland and Caleb were hiding out at Cynthia’s, feeling that that tidbit of betrayal would seal the deal for her acceptance into the gang. After the degradation of her second ordeal at their hands, she came to realize that the vile depravity that is the pit of hell has no bottom. Luckily, (or so the family thought), her father’s violent and final intervention defined her bottom at long last. She was placed in a state-run drug rehabilitation facility, sent for six months to a halfway house, and finally released on her own recognizance. Upon pondering her homecoming and the internal embarrassment it would entail, she strode to the interstate, stuck out her thumb, and mounted the back of the first Harley that stopped for her. Those who dwell in a living hell often find it hard to leave for fear of the unknown. She’s lost somewhere in San Diego drinking, drugging, stripping, prostituting herself, medicating the slow agonizing march towards an early death, which was always her choice in life. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.

Ratchel met her end in a heroin overdose. Her body was set to sea outside Tijuana, Mexico, only to be unceremoniously eaten by sharks. Death imitated life.

Cynthia was able to repair her home after fighting it out with her insurance company for eighteen months. She skimped and cut corners on some of the repairs in order to hoard enough money for the boob job and liposuction she so desperately wanted. One fine looking woman (for her age), she sits at a golf resort bar weekend nights, slowly sipping bourbon and coke, awaiting the arrival of the right man, as the tourists pour into town seeking short-lived entertainment. There’s been plenty of propositions from men sporting a white band of skin on their left ring finger. She’s held out so far, not knowing that Prince Charming inhabits a much cooler climate.

Caleb was released on bail in order to attend his stepfather’s meager funeral. He pleaded self-defense and was utterly amazed when his slightly above-average court-appointed lawyer convinced a jury of his much older peers to find him innocent. He now lives in Harland’s doublewide, helping his mother with his young niece and nephew. He still refers to the family’s compound as, “Harlandville,” only now out of respect and misgiving instead of sarcasm and spite. He works as an arborist in the Anza-Borrego Valley.

Surprisingly, Harland had a life insurance policy which enabled Caleb to partner up with his mother and get a new truck, new equipment, and keep the compound’s reluctant well in operation. Driller’s estimated the Waverly family would have to go 100 extra feet in depth about every two years to keep running water in their homes. The aquifer that lie beneath them, and seemingly retreated from them at every turn, was like God’s mercy. They would have to seek it out and never would truly know it’s actual depth. Caleb put new “Waverly and Son” signs on the new truck and equipment. He told anyone who cared to ask that it was a sound business decision based on promoting ongoing name recognition, but he had other reasons, which he couldn’t quite put into words. Be careful for what you wish against because, more often than not, that is exactly what you will become.

Caleb now sat at the head of the dinner table, presiding over his increasingly needy and dysfunctional family. He often wondered what, with the passage of a decade of time, would his nephew Lance become? How would his niece, Rebecca, react to not really ever knowing her true biological mother and father when it became her turn to act out during the foreboding teenage years? Could he figure out how to break the cycle of dysfunction that had always plagued the Waverly family? And, if he couldn’t, what would be the extent of the resentment and vengeance that they would visit upon him?

Such were the thoughts crashing about in Caleb’s head as he trekked out across the northern reaches of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, just slightly west of Clark Dry Lake, with the urn of Harland’s ashes held tight and tucked under his right arm like a running back pressing the line on a fourth and one.

He hadn’t expected the tears that were streaming down his face to come so soon, or even come at all. His emotions were as jumbled as a steep bajada rockslide and probably would continue to proceed downhill. Harland had loved this area of the desert. It was as Spartan and as hard and as unforgiving as he was. He may not have understood why, but he was cognizant of the way he and it mirrored each other. Caleb proceeded down a dry, dusty wash to a widened bow-like turn where the ancient Bursera microphylla rose up, twisted and defiant, from the desert floor. The commonly named elephant tree displayed massive swelled trunks with thick, awkward, unexplainable joints. Indians used its sap in healing remedies and guarded tree locations with absolute secrecy.

Caleb looked hard into the crown of dark green, compound leaves with smaller attending leaflets. Harland had shown him the tiny, cream-colored flowers one late July day, back before the war had begun at home and life became a battlefield of overturned emotions and hidden agendas. Harland instructed him that the true beauty of the desert lie in its humble simplicity. The flowers of the Bursera were a case in point. You had to know what to look for before you could appreciate their beauty.

Caleb spread the ashes under the magnificent desert survivor. The young man didn’t understand the God who had allowed such sorrow to enter his life during his formative and ongoing years, so he said no prayer. Instead, he had written a poem as a paper prayer to those lost, yet not unwilling to be found. He did his best to sum up Harland’s life as he had witnessed it.

What do you do
When the well goes bust
Who do you trust
When the well goes bust
Is the Lord just
When the well goes bust
Do your dreams turn to rust
When the well goes bust

For life-giving waters you’ll lust
When the well goes bust
Do what you must
Before the well goes bust
For you finally die
And no longer need to drink from it
Here lies Harland Waverly
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust

The well went bust

Caleb nailed the poem to the trunk of the Busera, turned, and walked away, with the midsummer desert heat blasting at his face. He didn’t see the forgiving sap oozing out of the nail hole and down the face of the poem. It ran slowly for three days, completely covering the words before beginning to, even more slowly, dry to a reddish blur, not unlike blood. Harland Waverly was now at peace, the desert reclaiming her own.



John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect, landscape contractor, and certified arborist. He remains a social malcontent, bordering on loose cannon. John has always been a tree nut in general, much preferring them to people.