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The Water Change

The Water Change

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Published by Robert E G Black
Carolyn White of Diamond Cove, California, recounts a tale about how she's spent her long years traveling back and forth between this world and the world of Gardea, where she was a princess and a queen.
Carolyn White of Diamond Cove, California, recounts a tale about how she's spent her long years traveling back and forth between this world and the world of Gardea, where she was a princess and a queen.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Robert E G Black on Jun 14, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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the water changerobert e g black Carolyn White, age 109, took the stage at the Cove Theater just as anyone might. She carrieda cane
a gift from the Town Council for being the oldest person in town
but she did not use itfor support. She walked with little trouble tonight despite arthritis in both knees and her natural,right hip arguing with her artificial, left hip over which one wanted to cause her more pain.The curtain was already drawn. At stage right, there was a bed, unmade. At stage left a doorand a bureau. Downstage, and currently unlit, was a throne. Carolyn took center stage and facedthe audience.
My first thought upon waking, this morning,
she began,
was that I wanted to see all mychildren again before I died. I had a feeling that to
day would be the last day for me… but I have
that feeling most days lately.
 She walked to the bed and started making it, setting the pillows aside as she spoke.
Of course, this being a small town, most of you know me, and you know I have no children.
 She straightened the covers and looked to the audience.
But, you don
t know everything.
 She set the pillows in place and returned to center stage. Stage right went dark. Stage leftremained lit.
I was dreaming just before I woke. I could see me in my bed.
She gestured to the bed, nowleft in shadows like the throne downstage.
It was a dream, so I didn
t wonder how I was lookingat me, my old, frail body, paper-thin skin, pale, wrinkled.
I wasn
‟t breathing. I was dead, there in my bed. Free from…”
She raised the cane and shook it.
Free from this. Free from arthritis and a bad hip, free from grey hair and bad vision, and
children getting out of the way when I come down the street… Well, maybe that last one isn‟
t sobad.
 She looked now not at the audience but over it, beyond it.
No more pain in every joint,every muscle. No trouble with solid foods. No more guilt
 She went to the door at stage left and opened it, then turned to the audience, there by thedoor.
I want to tell you a story, a story about love and life. It begins when I was very young,around the start of the Great War.
The Cove was different then. The roads weren
t paved, though the Crescent did have a loosemacadam layer. There was no Alward House up on the hill, no Road Three Bar, no statue in thecircle, no Cove Theater. The Church of the Five Wounds was new, as was the Eli Pointlighthouse, though the old fortress walls were already crumbling. We still had whalers anchoringin the cove, but not as many as when my parents were younger. Folks had only just started usingthe phrase
melting pot 
, but Diamond Cove was just that. Where the King Pharmaceuticalsbuildings are now
there was the Chinese Quarter, though it was inhabited as well byPortuguese whalers, off and on, plus a few Mexican laborers, and a handful of Germans.
I know what you
re thinking: how can a town this small have a Chinese Quarter? Well, wehad more people then. The whaling had people in and out of the Cove on a daily basis, when thegrey whales were migrating by. And, the winery, the farms around town, they were more laborintensive then. Technology wasn
t so great as today, and where it was, it hadn
t made its waywest to the Cove yet. The Doyle farm
run by another branch of Doyles, not ours
the biggestone around these parts, had tractors, but none of the new gas-powered ones. And, we werepicking grapes by hand.
The Vineyard today isn
t like it was then. It couldn
t be. When prohibition came, myfather
s business went under. He tried bootlegging, tried dealing with speakeasies up in Friscoand down in Los Angeles, but a winery wasn
t really the business to be running when drinkingwas outlawed.
But, this was before that. I worked on the vineyard with my family and some of theMexican laborers. We
d had a lot of Mexicans since before I was born. There was a strike downin Oxnard when I was still toddling, and my father gave money to the strikers
the JapaneseMexican Labor Association, for those of you taking notes. My father would get into a lot of union causes over the years. He
d obsessed over Arthurian legend when he was younger, butlately he was reading Marx. He was a bit of a socialist, my father, a pacifist as well. Had he beenmore able, he would have been out protesting against Vietnam when it came, though he was
nearly as old then as I am today… one hundred nine years. One hundred ten if I make it to
My father hated war. In
17 when Wilson passed the Selective Service Act, my fatherforbade my brother Isaac from even registering. No trouble ended up coming of that, but aroundtown, it was a big thing for a while. Two boys in town,
relatives of… some distance— 
PrescottDoyle and his cousin Stephen
went off to war. Stephen came home in a box.
 Carolyn looked down, thinking, remembering. When she spoke again, her tone was lower, aswas her volume. If not for the microphone clipped to her sweater, no one in the audience wouldhave been able to hear her.
So many boys came home in boxes. Maybe not many here in theCove, but so many around the country, around the world. And, again in World War II. And,Korea
s where Dennis Knox lost his legs. Saved him from a box, I suppose, but he wasnever the same. He was well enough to protest against Vietnam. Orin and I went with him up to
Frisco for some of that…”
 She dwelled on that for a drawn out moment, looked toward the throne downstage then to theaudience again.
ve got a couple local boys in Iraq today, Curtis Denbrough and RaymondMarsh. But, I don
t care to speculate on how they will come home.
Instead, as I said, I want to tell you a story. It really begins on the day I walked down toAhab
s Pipe
that was the local drinking hole long before Road Three came around
to find mybrother Orin, who was supposed to be working but was gambling in the back room of Ahab
sPipe instead, but there
s something you must know about me when I was a girl first.
You know the adage,
every little girl wants to be a princess
? It wasn
t so widespread asDisney might have you believe nowadays, but even when I was a girl back in the aughts, therewere those girls who dreamed of being royalty. The Grand Duchess Anastasia was only a yearyounger than I was. Queen Victoria had only just died. I should have been fine here in the Cove,
my family being one of the wealthy ones… Some day
s, I was. It wasn
t like it is today, kidswanted everything handed to them, cellphones, ipods. I was working on the vineyard by the timeI was ten. And, really, I wouldn
t say I fantasized about being a princess. I dreamt about it,literally. I would go to sleep every near every night dream I was a princess called Sarea LuesaJosefena Antoeneta Vesente de Kebrado in a place called Gual.
The Chumash, who used to lived around these parts
they would tell tale of three worlds,three layers on floating disks: the Sky World, the Middle World, and the Water World. The SkyWorld was supported by the Great Eagle who always flew in the same place, but the stretching of his wings gave us the phases of the moon and eclipses. The Middle World was where we all live,this solid reality. It sits on the backs of two giant serpents. When they get tired and shift position,
3we get earthquakes. And, there was the Water World, underneath, made from the urine of frogs if you can believe it.
It was the night I went looking for my brother that I realized that the Chumash had it partlyright. There were layers to our world, to
world. This Middle World where we all live is justone of them.
d been raised a Christian, but didn
t attend church much. We only had the one church herein the Cove and my father didn
t approve of their approach to our savior. Still, I believed in aGod and the creation as it
s laid out in Genesis. And, one has to wonder why God wouldn
t warnus about other worlds. But, I get ahead of myself, again.
Orin was at Ahab
s Pipe, I knew. My father set me to go get him and drag him home. Isaacwould have been more suited to the task, normally, but he
d been injured while working on oneof the tractors that afternoon. Walking over to Main Street and heading down off the Crescentthat way would have been the easy way to go, but I took a shortcut, down through the trees. Themoon was full, so I could see my way through. And, we didn
t have all those horror films youhave nowadays to make us think monsters were waiting behind every tree and every rock. Thehillside up to the Crescent was as it is today, a mix of mesquite and soapberry, manzanita,cypress, with the odd fir and pine and palm. And, I knew my way down the hill, took the directroute down often. Still, even with the light of the full moon, I had a misstep that night, trippedover an exposed root or a rock and fell, hit my head.
When I stood, it was light. I thought mayhap I
d fallen to unconsciousness when I hit myhead, that I had lay there until morning. But, as I got up, the trees about me seemed different. I
dlearn later that I was surrounded by cather and and even some rovotrees. Despite many a dreamconcerning my life as a princess, I didn
t know these trees, didn
t know the scruboak or theblindyoureye in the underbrush. There was water flowing closeby; I could hear it. Withoutthinking much on it, I headed for the water, to get my bearings. A man was fishing in the riverwhen I came to it. He wore a dark blue surcoat over a loose blouse and leather breeches. Sans thesurcoat, he wouldn
t have looked out of place among our Mexican workers. His skin was dark like theirs, his hair black, and he seemed fit, like as if he had been working every day of his lifeand this was only the first time he
d taken time to fish.
He heard me coming and turned, unconcerned, mayhap expecting someone familiar. Seeingme, though, he was taken aback.
Ho, stranger,
he said.
On a clear day, how are you on this fine afternoon?
She mimickedthe man
s voice as best she could, but as poorly as she did it, she could have easily played it forlaughs.
Like as if it were a dream, the presence of this river did not confuse me at all, but the notionthat I had been left on the hillside until afternoon bothered me. I touched my head where I had hitit. There was blood there.
You are hurt,
the man said.
And, he dropped his fishing pole side the river and came to me and put his arm about myshoulders and walked me downriver. We saw the buildings of Bok fore we came to them, at leastthe tallest of them, which looked a great deal like the California Tower at the Panama-CaliforniaExpo down in San Diego, Spanish Colonial Revival Style. My father had driven us down to theexpo less than a month previous. He
d said he wanted us to know about the
progress andpossibility of the human race.
My father loved the expos. We traveled all the way to Spain in
29 for the Barcelona International Expo, and that was when we had little money to waste so

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