I am standing in the basement with two men who have come to help. The dirt floor has gone to mud. We are all looking down. Something is stuck and will not flow. The men agree they’re going to have to dig. The one with the beard goes off to fetch a shovel. I ask the other one for an estimate of cost. “Oh,” he says, scuffing the floor with the toe of his boot, “this is rocky ground. I expect it will cost as much as it did before.”
It cost a lot before. More than I can now afford to pay again. I think I will just have to give up and go.
I go back upstairs, to the array of rooms so bright and clean and empty. I open my suitcase and stare down into it, wondering how to make everything fit.
The man with the beard finds me there. He comes in a little breathless, and I look up, surprised. “We want to help,” he says. “He had no business quoting you a price. That’s not our job, to estimate cost. We’re here to help.”
“Do you think,” I ask, still worried about costs, “Do you think I could just dig it out myself?”
“Yes,” he says, “I think you could.”
“This is my grandmother’s house, you know?”
“Yes, I know.”
“I thought I would find her here, but I can’t find her. I’ve looked everywhere but still.” I look down at the suitcase and all my black clothes rolled and stacked inside it. It’s nowhere near full. “Did you know that once there was a spiral staircase in every room of this house? A staircase leading up through a hatch and out onto the roof and the sky. Direct access to the sky in every room. But they’re all blocked now except one. One still remains. I’ve been looking for it, but I can’t find it.”
“Don’t fly off,” he says, the man with the beard. “The work is messy, but not hard. It will only take a little digging. All we need to do is hit water and we’re good, everything will open up from there. And you saw how it is down there, it’s saturated with water. It won’t take much more doing.”
“Don’t fly off.”
So I go back down, into the dark and dank of the basement. I take up a shovel and begin to dig. I am opening a trench to run across the middle of the floor, a channel for the flow. It isn’t long before I hit something hard. I think it must be the rock the other man warned me about. But it’s not. It’s bone.
Protruding from the unexcavated bank of dirt is the arm of a skeleton, an arm and a hand holding a crystal ball, holding it out over the trench as if offering it to me. I am overcome with grief. Here I have found my grandmother.
I lay myself down on the dirt in the mud over her bones. I lay myself down to mourn, but the tears pass quickly. The feeling that rushes up to me from the bones is not sorrow or suffering, but gladness. She has been waiting for me. She lay herself down here knowing I would come, knowing I would find her. She wanted to pass her crystal ball to me and this is how she chose to do that.
I accept the ball from her. It is full of her wisdom. It is full of light and warms me through. I press it to my solar plexus and it passes into me. I will carry it there. It will light my way.
I leave the shovel and shift the dirt with my hands gently off the bones of my grandmother. She is wrapped in bright jewel-toned silks unmarred by the rude burial, emerald greens and sapphire blues. She is so happy how it all worked out. I sit on the ground beside her.
There is water seeping in through the rock walls, water running in rivulets over the floor. I understand now what must be done. I let the water’s natural flow wash all the mud away until the bedrock is revealed and all that remains is water running over stone.
The water finds it’s own way. It takes no effort, no effort at all.