Same Place, Same Things

by Tim Gautreaux

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 627

“Same Place, Same Things” is told in the third-person limited point of view from the perspective of traveling pump-and-well-repairman Harry Lintel. Harry first encounters Ada on her small farm outside a small town in Louisiana. Despite Harry’s uneasiness with her, Ada sees Harry as her salvation from a life she finds dull and unsatisfactory. When Harry realizes how desperate for change Ada really is and how far she has gone in her quest to move on, he understands that he has reached a certain contentment in his own life, one that she will never know.

The story opens with Harry arriving at the farm of Ada and her husband. Harry is a pump repairman who can fix almost anything mechanical. A forty-four-year-old widower from Missouri, he has spent the last few years following droughts around the South as the lack of groundwater in farming communities causes electric well pumps to break with the strain and thus creates a need for his services. On meeting Ada, he is immediately struck by her need to engage him in conversation and her interest in his transient lifestyle. When Harry finally checks the pump, he finds Ada’s husband lying sprawled next to the well, dead. He has apparently electrocuted himself while working on the pump. Uneasy with the situation, Harry asks Ada’s neighbor to notify her of her husband’s death while he calls the sheriff. Harry is surprised that Ada is not particularly grief-stricken by the news, but by the end of the day he is working on pumps at other farms.

The next day, Ada locates Harry working on a pump at a neighboring farm and brings him a lunch containing sandwiches. Conscious of the impropriety of being seen eating and fraternizing with a new widow whose husband has died of what seems to be a freak accident, he quickly finishes the lunch and hurries away. Ada is not easily discouraged and brings him a bottle of strawberry wine that evening while he is dining at the motel café. She leaves him with a kiss that night, and he begins to think about taking her with him on his travels until he falls asleep thinking about his days as a young husband and father. Ada again finds Harry as he works on a farmer’s pump the next day, and over a glass of lemonade, she tells him that this is the third time she has been widowed; she tells him she is sick of seeing the same place and doing the same things all her life.

Something about the death of Ada’s husband has bothered Harry all along, however, and after he leaves Ada, he drives back to her house. Examining the wiring of the pump, he realizes that the electricity to it could be switched on or off from inside the house. Harry recognizes what he has suspected all along: Ada has killed her husband by turning on the electricity to the pump as her husband worked with the wiring.

Harry avoids Ada as he works the parish for the next ten days, until finally he awakes to a rainy morning and leaves in his truck, looking for a new place to work. Stopping for lunch, he finds that Ada has hidden under the tarpaulin in back and means to travel with him. Harry tells her that he knows she has killed her husband and that she cannot come with him. Ada waits for Harry to turn his back and attacks him with one of his own wrenches. She steals his truck and equipment while he lies dazed in the parking lot. He comes to his senses, and in a moment of clarity he knows that, unlike him, she will never find peace.

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