Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Racing the Desert Dawn

Just a few steps more and I can finally get some sleep.
            Those words became Paulo’s mantra as he made his way through sparse scrub under the relentlessly midday sun. His whole life had been in the desert and he would probably die here as well. As far back as anyone knew his kin had called the desert home. Some said that long, long ago they had once been seafarers, but that was a world away and a time long past.
            Sure he might someday wind up in a cushy suburban prison with all the luxuries and accommodations. Paulo could also envision living in a stately townhouse or condo in the city. He wouldn’t even mind being a celebrity up on stage for the whole world to see.
            But those were all just a haze in the distance, shimmering specters on the sand. His life was in the desert and would be until the day he died. He had no doubts about that.
What he was starting to have doubts about was whether or not he would make it out of the sun before he was baked to a crisp. Today’s work had brought farther than he usually liked to go. It’s not that he was concerned about the desert. To him it was simply being home. No matter what happened, no matter how far he had traveled, Paulo always managed to find his way back home.
Last spring had been a close call, but rain in the desert is a mixed blessing. A short, heavy shower had quickly oversaturated the barren hardpan causing flash floods. Paulo had barely crested the far bank when a roaring white and brown wall instantly refilled the once-dry river bed. On this day there was no rain in sight. Not even a single cloud in the sky.
But that didn’t matter. Soon enough he would be able to relax and maybe even get some sleep. He could rest in the shade, enjoying the cool comfort of his earthen home. The desert clay had been used by many in their home construction and Paulo was no exception. It was there, free to use, and home could be made from it, what more did he need to know?
He stopped. The tremor quickly grew until Paulo’s entire world was shaking and rumbling. Then just as quickly it was over. Life in the desert was a lot of things, but boring was definitely not one of them. Many, many things could end your life out here. The desert itself was enough to cull the weakest. The creatures that survived her could be even worse.
But I suppose I am one of them after all. If he could have chuckled he would have but right now there was only home and the prospect of getting there.
He stopped again. The tremor grew more slowly this time, then it started to lessen.
Maybe this time I’ll— but that was it. Everything had stopped, and he was already dead. It happened so fast he never even felt a thing.

“Ya got signal now?” Elmore reached into his breast pocket, pulled out a handkerchief, and cleared the desert dust from his sinuses. “Well woman?”
“You ‘well woman’ ME one mo’ time and I’ll have you like them miners and them little girls—deep in the ground needin’ twenty dozen recue workers to free yo—”
“Do ya got signal or not? The good Lord may wait but the Shriners ain’t gonna an I’m representing our lodge at the national convention this year. You DO remember that’s why we came out here, dontcha Lucille?”
“Oh I KNOW why we came out here, just settle yo’self down before ya git yo ulcer flarin’ up again! I gotta step outta the car first anyhow…” Elmore was already gazing off in the distance as Lucille was climbing out of their Chevy to try her phone again.
“Elmore! Elmore! Get out here!”
Startled back to reality Elmore looked over to see his wife standing in the middle of the desert road pointing at the front of the car and dancing on the pavement. As he came around the front he saw her tormentor. Half sticking out from under the front passenger tire was a huge khaki-colored scorpion.
“Aww Lucille, is that all? Po’ fella was probably just trying to git home and git outta the sun.”

No comments:

Post a Comment