There is a severe drought in the Midwest. With their son Everett away at college on the East Coast, Scooter (the narrator) and Micki (the narrator’s wife) have been conserving water since the beginning while their neighbors continue maintain normal use. When things get dire and the city mandates water usage reduction, Scooter and his wife must conserve even more. They’re upset about it, but the straw doesn’t break until they discover that their neighbors, the Veniers (Alta and Will) have been resorting to unscrupulous and questionable means to get more than their fair share of water. What will it take for the rain to come?
I first found reference to this short story on a site called Love Simple and Prosper. The blogger talked about how the water can be a metaphor for a variety of things that you don’t miss until they’re gone. Money is the one the author mentions specifically, as the topic of the blog post happens to be about layaway on a personal finance blog.
As you read You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til the Well Runs Dry) by T. Coraghessan Boyle, you are struck by how much the narrator’s experience seems so much like real life. Boyle does an excellent job portraying the desperation of the times, the family, and the community as they each resort to desperate measures in their own way to deal with loss. And this loss is not emotional, like the loss you would have for a pet or an uncle who died. Rather, Boyle examines the things people do when they lose simple, material things and lengths they go to just to keep them.
You Don’t Miss Your Water is a very short story that can be read in a matter of minutes. However, it packs meaning and a bit of humor all within a few lines. It represents the epitome of excellence in writing short stories. For that, it deserves to be read several times over.