Cistern: (n) an underground reservoir for rainwater.

Until I was twelve years old, I thought a cistern was the female version of brethren. (Well, I probably didn’t, but it seems funny,)

I’ve had one encounter with a cistern. My grandfather lived about two miles outside town in a small home which most dignified citizens would call a shack.

It had no inside toilet, but offered an “outlander” version for brave souls who didn’t mind. Also, right outside the door of this humble domicile was a pump, sitting on top of a cistern.

For years, my grandpa asked me to go out and pump it until I got water to come out of the spout, and bring him what he called “the good drinkin’ stuff.” Matter of fact, he purposely attached his indoor sink to the cistern, so when he turned on the tap he received the superior fluid.

I didn’t think much about it.

One day I was sitting with my grandfather in the front room as he was chewing his tobacco, and trying, with his fading eyesight, to spit in his ‘toon. He offered me a glass of water, and I poured myself a cup. I was just about to drink it when my mother raced into the room as if she were saving me from a burning building, knocked the glass from my hand and scared me to the point of eunuch.

My grandpa laughed. He turned to me and said, “Your Mama thinks the water’s bad. No accountin’ for taste.”

Two weeks later we stayed overnight at the house, and my mother drew a bucket of water from the cistern and set it out on the porch. She left it there for about five minutes and then called me out in the moonlight to look into the bucket.

I had never seen water in a bucket moving around.

It was filled with tiny, tiny little worm-like creatures, swimming like it was their weekend at the Riviera.

I nearly threw up.

I don’t know why the water didn’t make my grandpa sick.

I suppose after you chew tobacco for enough years, it just might be difficult to find anything else that would kill you.



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