Divining by Charlotte Pence



We are a train, father and daughter, car and caboose, divining rods held in front of chests. We are water-witching, doodlebugging.  Divining.

We are marching.  I tell him we are ready to parade down Main Street. And I’ll write our banner slogan: Call Spike. He’ll treat you right. He says, Shush. You have to feel it. Shush.

So, I wait for the twitch, wait for the sticks to cross. To x. Follow his pace, head down, feet placed in eight-inch patterns. Listen to whatever it is that rides the wind. Butterfly. Apple. Old bell. Nothing. I am learning how to listen to nothing. More real than what is there. I hear his face sweating, the sticks not moving, the promise from earlier in the morning: We’ll get rich. You would like that, huh? Be like your friends.

His stick rigs. Or doesn’t. We stand so still I see how much everything moves in this yard: the leaves, the squirrels, the shrubs. We stand so still Dad says, I can feel the ground soften. Water. There is water.

Or maybe not. I realize we do not have a machine to drill a well—nor do we know what prevents a well from caving in. I can hear his face reddening, and so I tell him I don’t want a well. I want what I have: a father who is a diviner.



Tell me a secret, I asked him later. Tell me how you know where there is water.

He said: It’s like you can fall down. And just drop and drop and drop. And no one or no thing is there to stop you.

Like the girl who fell in the old well last summer and died? When all the news crews came out and camped by the hole?

No, not like that at all, he said. She was one of the lucky ones. People didn’t forget her.