The Garden of Alejandra Ruiz: A Short Story

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 She had a hoe and a rake (whose handles had each been replaced by Ernesto Saenz, who had whittled the ends of two crooked...

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