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Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Part Two

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Part Three

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Part Four

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50



To Miss Winters

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late

Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,

And the green freedom of a cockatoo

—“Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens

Part One

Chapter 1

It began on an ordinary morning at the rancho, of which there’d been too many lately. Maria served him in the breakfast room before she took the buggy into Salinas. It was Sunday, and she attended church with her Mexican family before returning for work Monday. For Eddie, Sundays were no different. After breakfast he would saddle up and start his rounds. Eva, his mother, took breakfast in bed, though Maria set two places for lunch and dinner during the week. Sundays, Eva stayed upstairs in the sitting room off her bedroom to take tea when Father Ignacio came to pray with her and receive alms for the church. Eddie made the tea and set out the fruit and nut empanadas Maria made every Saturday. Eva didn’t go to mass in Salinas anymore.

Eddie Mull was a creature of routine, a routine that started each day with coffee, eggs and toast in the breakfast room looking out on Tesoro’s five thousand acres. Summer or winter, the room was filled with bright flowers gathered around the rancho. He was used to taking breakfast alone, which he’d done since his mother’s descent into invalidity. He was a sociable person, but running a large rancho five miles from town didn’t give him much time for society. His usual company at breakfast was his newspaper, the Salinas Index, delivered by bicycle each morning by one of Maria’s nephews. Eddie was twenty-seven years old and still living alone with his mother in the house where he was born. He’d been thinking a lot about that lately.

Normally, he skimmed the newspaper, looking for the usual things that interest farmers and ranchers: produce and animal prices; weather; the latest ships arriving in Monterey and San Francisco, where they were from and what they were carrying. Local miscellany didn’t interest him. The Index didn’t carry much news from the rest of the state, let alone the nation, but that morning an article about the aqueduct being built to Los Angeles caught his attention. TheIndex was not known for its prose, but the reporter held nothing back, gushing on about “an aqueduct to rival the Romans, the greatest engineering feat in California history, transforming the arid plain of Los Angeles into the new Jerusalem.”

He read the story, drank some coffee and read it again. He’d heard of the aqueduct but never thought much about it. Water interests every rancher and farmer, but Los Angeles is a long way from Salinas. This time, for some reason, it stuck. He set the paper aside to take up with him that night. Sitting back, he stared out at the ranch for as long as he ever had at breakfast, maybe a full half hour, a long time for a busy man with a big ranch to look after. The aqueduct stayed with him all day, in the barns, in the sugar beet fields, on the range with the cattle, back at the house taking coffee with his Mexican foreman after Celestino returned with his family from church.

I think I should go and have a look, he thought.

After Father Ignacio left, Eddie brought the tea service and plates down and put them in the sink for Maria. Sometimes Eva took soup before retiring, but Father Ignacio remarked that she wasn’t feeling good, and when Eddie looked in she said she wasn’t hungry. He warmed the dinner of enchiladas and rice Maria left for him, went over Tesoro accounts for a while, took the Sunday newspaper and headed upstairs, falling asleep reading about the aqueduct.

He was awakened by the clanking of the cow bell Eva kept by her bed, the signal to Maria, who slept at the end of the upstairs hallway. But Maria wasn’t there. Eddie couldn’t remember hearing the bell before on a Sunday night. He threw on his robe and headed down the hall. The grandfather clock on the landing said one o’clock. In her room, he picked the bell up and set it back on the night table. He didn’t like going into her bedroom, never had.

His mother lay on her back, one arm dangling where she’d dropped the bell. Her eyes didn’t see him. Like her mother and her mother before, Eva had a bad heart, but out on her horses when she was younger you’d never know a thing was wrong. She’d lived her life as she wanted, always had. Seeing her like this, sickly, frail, covers pulled up to her neck, was bad. Parchment skin and china bones. It was the women’s damn Latin blood, not like the Mull men, tough stock bred on that desolate Scottish island. Hearts don’t give out on Mull, just hope.

He picked up her arm and felt for a pulse, the faint throbs that tell us we’re still alive. He looked closely into eyes that seemed more annoyed than scared. “Mamá?” He thought he’d try Spanish, but she didn’t respond, just looked out with empty eyes, so maybe it wasn’t the heart. If it was, he should get her coughing, so he sat her up and told her to cough, but she didn’t. Or wouldn’t. Her medicines were on the night table, and he gave her two aspirins, which she managed to get down with his help. He knew he should get her down to the car but waited to see

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