by Shane Jensen
I have the wrench in my hand. I have skill. I have purpose. I will fix the problem. I am strong.
He yelled to me from the shower earlier, my brother.
“Fuck! Fuck! Hey, the water isn’t running. I’m standing here naked and the water won’t come out. I’ve got it on full blast. Not a drop!”
There is a bead of sweat hanging off my top lip. It’s jiggling around as I try to reach the valve. The well is small. It was dug by the previous owner. To be honest, I would have dug it a little wider. If I gain even an inch on my waist I may not fit anymore. That’s why I’m down here. My brother is a porker. I often wonder if he keeps his weight up so he never has to be the one to climb into the ground when some punk kid thinks it’s funny to close the main valve.
We thought it was a ghost at first. Me and my brother. Then one night I saw the punk kid crawling out, a red baseball cap over his dusty blonde hair, white tennis shoes beaten and browned. The next morning, sure enough, we were dry. Bone dry.
I have found the valve. But the crescent wrench is too wide. I have skill. I am strong. The sweat falls from my lip. My other hand grasps the knurl to adjust the wrench. I wish I had a flashlight. Another bead of sweat begins to form.
Last week I saw the punk kid at the grocery store with his mother. I tailed them back to their house. Sure enough, it’s the house behind ours. Me and my brother’s. I parked down the street and watched.
His mother stood on the front step. She was yelling and throwing her hands in the air. Her purse dangling from her left hand. He stood on the gravel looking up at her. She slammed the door in his face. Then I saw him walk to the end of the driveway with his head down, hands in his pockets. He picked up a few rocks and threw them at the metal mailbox. He missed, but there were dents in it already.
I have turned the valve. This is the fifth time in two weeks. I have skill. I have purpose. I fix problems. Last time I was down here I brought a milk crate to stand on. It’s easier to get to the valve now. My boots don’t get as muddy.
I climb the ladder towards a pink sky. The sunset is beautiful. I’m setting my foot onto soil when a twig snaps nearby.
I squint towards the tree line that separates our yard from the open field adjacent. I see a flash of red and hear footsteps. I approach the tree line. The footsteps are moving faster, crunching alfalfa. Through the trees I see the punk kid running.
I’m running as fast as I can. As fast as I ever have. Good thing my legs are longer. Or I wouldn’t be able to make up the distance.
My brother doesn’t believe me. He still says it’s a ghost. The ghost of our father. He doesn’t accept facts sometimes. I do that for him. His best friend growing up was his invisible friend Stanley. I know all kinds of things about Stanley. I still hear my brother shush him as I walk up the stairs.
“Dad did it again,” he says when the water is off. “What could he be trying to tell us? Stop bothering us, Dad.”
The last few years our parents were alive I kept them and my brother apart from one another as much as possible. Made things easier for everyone.
I grab the back of the punk kid’s shirt. I get as much of it in my hand as possible. His feet keep running, digging into the dirt as I hold him in place. He’s trying hard to get away, but I am strong. I have skill. I fix problems.
He has tired himself out. We stand still in the middle of the field, nothing near but our breath. His back is warm and damp. I feel his breath grow deeper and deeper, until he starts to cry.
I let go of his shirt. The dirt from my hand stains the back of it. He turns around and stares at me. Tears creep down his face. Snot drips from his nose. His mouth opens to say something, but I put my hand on his shoulder and speak first.
“It’s okay,” I say.
He just stares. I take my hand from his shoulder and look down at it. I am strong. I have a purpose. I say it again.
Shane Jensen is a Brooklyn based filmmaker and writer. He was born in Minnesota.