After Water

Longreads

Susie Cagle | Longreads | June 2015 | 21 minutes (5,160 words)

The sun was going down in East Porterville, California, diffusing gold through a thick and creamy fog, as Donna Johnson pulled into the parking lot in front of the Family Dollar.

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Since the valley started running dry, this has become Johnson’s favorite store. The responsibilities were getting overwhelming for the 70-year-old: doctors visits and scans for a shoulder she injured while lifting too-heavy cases of water; a trip to the mechanic to fix the truck door busted by an overeager film crew; a stop at the bank to deposit another generous check that’s still not enough to cover the costs of everything she gives away; a million other small tasks and expenses. But at the Family Dollar she was singularly focused, in her element.

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