“Hey.” Neal ducked, his short sandy hair, streaked with premature gray, just brushing one of the water pipes that were suspended from the ceiling. They weren’t all that low, and I’m not a short woman; generally speaking, I had to stand well back to see all of Neal at once. He’s not beefy-huge, but the fact that one is always left with an impression of legs, knees, and elbows seems to accentuate his height even more.
The water now covered my clothes, and I could see a bit of dried grass that had been stuck on my trousers floating on the top. I stuck my sandwich in my mouth again and measured out the soap. Watching the debris swirling on the surface of the water and now fully able to appreciate just how unfragrant I had been, I threw in an extra quarter cup of detergent.
“Things are quiet tonight,” he began, shoving his glasses up his nose in a characteristic gesture. “I guess it’s because of—“
“When’s a good time to strategize for tomorrow?” I interrupted, licking some peanut butter off the back of my hand.
“How about now?” Neal answered.
“Okay.” As I hopped up on the washer next to mine, I noticed Neal wasn’t sorting his clothes, and I bit my tongue to keep from pointing out this fact. Neal was a grown adult; if he wanted to put the darks in with the whites, all on the hot water setting, that was up to him. “You first.”
“Alan’s down a little further than he was this morning.” Neal tore the tops off a small package of detergent and one of powdered bleach; I shuddered as he threw both of them in at the same time, right on top of the dry clothes. “He’d have gotten more work done, but I had to get him to clean up his balks—they were bowing way in. Again.”
He didn’t have to say anything more; after two years of graduate school and this his second field season with me, Alan should have been able to keep the walls of his unit straight as he worked. Doing this would allow him to see the relationship between the layers of soil in the ground, the most important evidence that we use to reconstruct the history of a site. Alan’s lack of progress and ability was a genuine concern.
I chewed my lip, thinking this over. “And then there was that little spat between him and Rob—”