She wondered where the water was coming from. It hadn’t rained in weeks, the town had banned the burning of yard waste and drought warnings threatened, yet a trickle of runoff burbled its way down the culvert ditch that cut beneath the base of her driveway. Her mouth tightened, and she stuffed the day’s mail back into her box and decided to head upstream. The water gurgled, cutting over the remains of winter grit and the thin grasses brave enough to sprout in the dip alongside the road. She passed house after house—no activity, no lawn-watering, no car-washing, nothing to indicate an unnatural stress upon their aquifer. But as she climbed the hill, beyond the empty Cape Cods and redbrick boxes and by-the-numbers McMansions, the trickle became a stream and the rush of the water grew louder.
The only house left before the dead-end was the Patterson’s colonial, and as far as she knew, Dr. P was on sabbatical and had taken the family to some country she couldn’t pronounce on an archaeological expedition. That was definitely water she heard, though, as she approached the property. And a bottle-green VW Bug she’d never seen before sat in the driveway. A housesitter? What the hell? Mrs. P didn’t believe in them, wouldn’t trust a soul with her precious Hummels and Danish modern furniture and Baccarat crystal. She didn’t even let anyone take in her mail.
“Hello?” she called out, thumping on the front door, but the rush of water was coming from beyond the house. She followed, inching through the not-as-tidy-as-usual grass. And then she saw it. The giant, inflatable pool. The garden hose, which apparently had been employed to fill it, had slipped out and was now turning the side yard into a swamp.
She huffed and stabbed her fists into her hips when she saw the apparent owner of the Bug, apparently asleep on a floaty chair in the middle of the outsized kiddie pool, wearing only boxers and a contented smile. The waste infuriated her, plus the fact he was the kind of man who was so model-gorgeous that he probably felt the world owed him, him and that designed-to-be-devilish curl that fell into his eyes. Her sneakers slipped and sucked mud and soggy turf as she dashed to the side of the house to turn off the faucet, but then had another idea. She grabbed the hose and aimed it straight at the man’s six-pack. He only managed a wide-eyed gasp before capsizing his SS Minnow and came up sputtering while she twisted the nozzle tip closed.
“What the hell, lady?” Now standing in belt-high water, he shook his loose brown curls like a dog.
“Drought,” she snapped. “Climate change. Waste. Do those terms mean anything to you?”
“They should. I’ve been working the last three days putting out that wildfire up on the ridge.”
“Yep. Firefighter. They called us up from Connecticut to help. My uncle said I could crash here between shifts. Was filling up the pool, guess I fell asleep.” He yawned, then gave her a slow once-over. “Hey. You look like you could use a dip, douse some of them flames shooting out your eyes.”
She readied the nozzle at him. He held up his hands. “Kidding. Jeez. I’m sorry. I should have been more careful.”
“How’s the fire?” she asked, dropping the fist clutching the nozzle to her side.
His smile picked up speed but flagged when she narrowed her eyes at him. “Hey. Didn’t mean any harm. I’m just saying, hot day, pool full of water, and Uncle P has the makings for a pitcher of kick-ass margaritas. It’s not every day I meet such a cute environmentalist.”
She aimed the nozzle at him; he cringed and covered his face. When she didn’t shoot, he lowered his hands.
“Is it cold?” she asked.
“Your reception? A bit frosty, yeah. Maybe you want to work on that.”
“I meant the water.”
When he grinned, a little more humbly than before, she tightened the faucet and kicked off her shoes.
This story was inspired during JD Mader’s 2 Minutes. Go! writing fiesta flash-a-thon, held every Friday on his blog. Here’s what we wrote this week. Maybe next week you’ll come by and do some writing.