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Author's note: I'll keep this brief. I apologize for the lack of pictures. I hope the story is sufficient. My computer and Hubpages are in discord. I do not know why. Anyway, this story is worth the telling, despite the medium. Already, my internet has shorted twice while logged in. I hope, for all of us, that the issues are resolved, whatever they may be.
By the billionth such daybreak a dozen vultures soared columnar on a cloudless curtain. Soaring silent, their shadows skittered along a parched plainscape patchworked of sagebrush, succulents. Arching heatwaves off a salmon sun apexed the hilly horizonline. Bowled by mesas a mellowed moorland. At the crest of coalesced arroyos a prostrate man. Stripped. Pruned of perspective. Flesh brown, bloodveins like thirsted vines in extremis. His triceps twitched. Flies buzzarded about his sooty footheels. Wasteland cricket stridulations echoed and crescendoed to a permeating white noise. Tawny scorpions contracted articulated tails then scuttled off over the rubificated caliche. Dewdrops on his sunstroked skin evaporated in a steaming dance. One arm folded he flipped faceup. Flaccid phallus like a flat earthworm. Stomach sunken to reveal sternum and ribs. The thoracic cage of twentyfour curved bones rose and fell fluidly. Hyperventilation. He inhaled hot as the sulfurous aftertaste of filterless ciggarettes. He gasped, unable to grasp the extent of this lawless land, this limitless sky he found hisself under. Like clockwork winged specks circled overhead. Him their carrion. Frantic and frazzled he granted that the vultures acted as an aerial signpost. That might alert someone with the right eyes. Like local scavengers, quadrupedal predators, raptorial birds, or the masked man lurking on the peripheries of his thought. His old foe. No amigo. The narcotraficante whom had given him drogas.
She spooned black coffee for him. Come now Papa dont be diffcult.
Her Papa grunted and spluttered the silver spoon from his crusty lips. Coffee percolated through his hoary beard, dribbled down his neck.
He turned his bald liverspotted head.
Drink it a bit. Please drink it Papa.
His milky eyes revolved, sidelong to.
Why you gotta make it so difficult to take care of you. Huh. You wanna go hungry. S’that it. She stared at her barefeet and calico sundress then back at him. She premonitioned her father falling unto a deep vortex of unending sleep. The notional chill of death shivered over her.
She spooned more coffee and offered it atremble.
He tried to turn his body in the rockingchair but barely facilitated his forearm to cross his lap. Ineffectual as a horse hobbled on the frontporch he forwent the coffee and neighed.
Mama aint gonna like hearing how diff’cult you’re bein.
She swallowed the spoonful. Placed the ceramic coffee cup with spoon on the slatlit porch and set a spell at his feet then rose for inside through the bugsplattered flyscreen and came back with an open plastic pouch of Saltillo tobacco and pinched apart sisal rolling papers and measured looseleaf along the center crease. She thumbed it tight stood on one leg with her knee as surface, licked and lit it then put it to her Papa’s lips.
He smoked from the side of his mouth likened in her mind to a tintype of a dead desperado in an open coffin. Quarters on his eyes.
Blindly she kissed his temple and said, I’ill be back, Papa.
It troubled him not to know where she might come back from. Or if at all she would. She had more in her of him than she’d admit but he expelled that which frightened him in a reflection. With habitual indignance he blew smoke parted by her path and rocked, remaining unblinking. She marched around the porchcorner.
If he wants to die so be it, she thought acrimoniously. Detached enough by distance from the slow killing of him by rolling him cancer she detached the horsetrailer from the flatbed truck loosening the bolt lock of the tongue, lowered the jock and cranked counterclockwise until the ballbearing popped up over an inch then chocked the trailer with chopped woodblocks.
The truck ignitioned in hiccups, sputtering, loped forward. Irreligious, yet she still crossed herself, before she drove off.
Her spine sweated from the hot leather as she exited at the end of their elevated gravel drive and unhooked the wroughtiron gate drove unto the gullied roadside and repeated the practice devoutly.
Anyone could climb over it, she knew. If they so wanted. She thought too of her mothers admonitions. A tiny, tinny voice conciliating in demonstrative elocutions: You take care your Papa today M. N make sure he gets his meds. Dont let im fuss ya none tho. O K. I gotta go now baby. Ya be everso good.
But he wouldnt swallow his pills. And she was too terrified of needles to administer injections into the carbuncled webs of his feet. Under those gnarled toenails subungal hemotoma.
He’d had a harder life than her and she forgave him for that fact. She reckoned the road hardened parts of people which only time off of it softened.
A post-traumatic affect.
The road wavered ever onward, onto and through the burnt cobblestone avenued town of Panhandle which ended for her at Clydes Café.
She ordered stryofoam cup of icewater and an iceberg salad with tastless dressing. And ate outside under a pinstripe umbrella. Tensely, she masticated her molars sore. Her gums bled.
She’d read or heard that All Roads Led To Rome but didnt believe it. All her roads led home. Or so it seemed.
More than an hour gone she sat and considered running away. Where going. She did not know. Perhaps Austin. She’d never been. She’d never escaped Carson County’s confines.
She envisioned a kaleidoscope of experiences. A collage of characters made more beautiful by such seamless amalgamation. Of people she knew she would know well. Of the past. Think finer of them altogether as mere figments from the unforgettable. But others she verily wished forever forgetten. As like Billy Parker.
Billy Parker’s lifted Chevy fishtailed into the lot with ornamental horns displayed on the frontfender. Ostentatious. He was not a farmboy but a boy who dressed like a dandied farmer. Parked in the café’s lot he eyed her hotly from his air conditioned cab and revved the engine afore it cut. He ambled up in Ariats and blue jeans and a white shirt spotless. Descendent of carpetbaggers.
Ay M. Howdy.
Heya. She did not lift her eyes, but forked apart her salad.
What’re you doin up here.
I s’pose the same as you.
Playin hookey. He smirked, thumbs through beltloops and forefingers tapping at a silverplated armadillo beltbuckle.
Oh. Yeahp. He paused. D’ya hear bout the party.
She shook her head. Eyed him circumspect.
It is tanight. You should go, he offered.
I dont think so.
Why in t’hell not. It’ll be fun. Everyone’ll be thur.
Why you wanna know why not. I jus dont. Thasall Bill.
Square, he jested, picking his frontteeth with a fingernail.
Yer gointa be there ay. Huh.
A course. Its at Mikey Dona...
Thats why I wont Bill Parker she said and got up and left her styrofoam cup on the table.
He called her A damn Square.
She entered her faded grey truck with rusted hubcaps and drove homeward but not home and took the Panhandle State Park offramp over the highway then a desolate mile till she thumped over metal cattlegrids and snaked amongst lumped loam and willow.
The edge of her world. Where she could think of no thing. Every thing.
She took binoculars from the glovebox and a birdspotters book from the back pocket of the passenger seat and got out and used the back tire to vault onto the truckbed and then shimmied onto the roof. She glassed the surrounding. Squatted crosslegged.
Mexican Jays perched on dead blackjack oak stumps like fingers grasping from the earth.
Knolls of dormant prariedogs.
Grackles shrieking on powerlines in disuse.
Towards distant golden mesas gray swallows that nestled into adobe nests of their own creation. Camouflaged of gray clay.
A coyote clambering up an escarpment of taprock.
Then she spotted a dozen turkey vultures soaring columnar. Flying aloft death. Maybe not yet dead. But dying. By definition.
Grounded she traveled towards their aerial signpost. She supposed it might be a fledgling fallen from an acacia tree. Did vultures deign to cannibalism? May be so. She did not know. Whatever it was, was worth noting in her pocketsized AviFauna. She turned the tassle out and read past poetry.
The meanings of her muses seemed distortedly unintelligible.
Down and out of arroyos she ambled. The binoculars between her breasts beating as and at her heart. Book in hand. The vultures eventually visible to her naked eye, whence she stopped.
No pen could capture this creature above those arid arroyos. No sense of consternation enabled a penning so striking as the reality. And her, an amateur birdwatcher, anyway.
She searched him through the optics.
His flat form faded and reappeared as a heatwave mirage. Yet the man was no mirage. No waterwall obscured her senses. The mirage of a mans death. He should be dead. By all possibility he should be. No one lived out here. Not for long. She knew by her being there and the vultures circling and the lack of scavengers that he was alive. Somehow. Yes. Though how alive she didnt know.
She squinted skin sparkling mutely. Radiated. Eyes opened. Breath beleaguered. As of a spoiled reanimated corpse sprung from six feet of soil.
She crouched to catch her breath and courage. Her lungs hummed healthily but her courage deflated at the causality.
There would undoubtedly be consequence. That was clear. An unseen event she’d never un-see. A painful picture painted long before she’d arrived on its foreground.
She dithered there. She seemed at a simoultaneous advance and retreat. Her decision not to decide, yet. Overscrupulous her.
Eyes closed she searched the red sunlight diffused therein. For an answer. Prayed not to God but to whatever might answer her invocation. What she prayed to was nameless. She hunkered on her heels and meditated clutching at the black binoculars. Maybe for to find reassurance in her Mamas voice. Tell her, Do right M.
She acknowleged she was thrown in with his pitiful lot. She alone determined his fate. She massaged her temples and rose. Enough indecision. The man was dying.
Crept forward and bowed she skirted west a-ways while rainclouds collided overhead in a black billow. Rainsplatter began to patter the parched earth at her barefeet. She heard her heart beat as she set upon him.
Mister. She called Mister. She wanted to ask if he were dead but didnt.
He mumbled deliriously. Dried as a sack of rice.
She stumbled closer, snagging her heels on loose rocks. How long’ve you’ve been out ere, she asked.
He shielded his genitalia with a weak gesture. That the man maintained manners to such an end astounded her. His honorable sensitivity weakened her squeamish aversion. He glanced her barefeet but questioned nothing. She felt as odd as him. Mayhap odder, stooped over such misery.
She bent to him. Rested her hand softly upon his belly. It was slimy with old sweat. He had ceased to sweat.
I’m a call the cops. O K. You just wait ere.
His eyes widened. He whispered with a croak, No. Por fa-vor.
His voice was younger than he looked. She drew back his mangy hair to look for signs of a struggle on his forehead. He seemed untouched. Whatever dark angel had delivered him there had merely lain hands on him. Little else. They’d stripped his clothes but not his soul. She could see that deep. A hope in him.
I cant carry ya mister. I wish I could but I cant.
Camión, he uttered.
What? She leaned over his lips.
He started the consonant s but nodded instead of stating Sí. It noticeably pained him to nod thus off the ground. Or to speak.
Their eyes leveled. His bright blue pupils surrounded by a red sea of veined lightning. A supplicatory sunscorched stare.
I dont know. Damn. God. Damn.
Plez, he begged soft as wind.
Sheit, she swore searchingly.
She barreled the truck deftly over dirtmounds and moors of dried brush and through singed swales to his locale. She loaded him with her strength alone into the passenger seat and slung the seatbelt over him trying to ignore his nudity. There was nothing rude about his countenance. He gave none. He slumped against the glass woodenly into slumber.
She said he was One bulletproof sonofabitch. Though there were no wounds on his body.
After buckling him in she backwheeled in a wide dustfan which followed her tiretracks as the rain quickened. When she hit the gravel road she joggled the shift from R to 1 and uturned to 2 and smelled his putrefaction like steaming garbage then rolled the automatic windows to allow the smell and substance of the rains to suffuse inside and defuse his desiccation.
The momentary jostling over the cattlegrid comforted her. It marked a transition unto the real world where all roads led home. To a reckonable safety.
It felt right to save him. But right feeling as a moral compass showed no degrees of direction. She had no illusions about allegorically saving herself. Only onward at constant speed despite all obstacle. In the pit of her stomach admixed with the acidic coffee residue was an unvarnished sensation of intuition that right oft turned to wrong if left unchecked by a conscience.
She didnt know what she thought as she drove.
Mister, she said.
That much thought is predetermined could not comfort her. You gonna be fine Mister. She repeated this solemn rite. You gonna be fine.
She realized she could not return home.
Instead she headed for the hospital. She drove at mad speed. Desperate to entrust him to abler hands.
When she rolled over main street’s redbrick, condensation from the heat of evaporated midday rain fogged the windshield. She toggled the wipers which screeched trum trum. Everything was heightened. No truer distinction of these developments than that. Gruesomely transcendent. Suddenly glinting revolutions polluted her mottled rearview. Red-blue strobelights. Sirens whee-wawhing.
The rains began again in earnest.
Shit. She jostled the mans thigh. Wake up Mister. Wished he weren't nameless.
She wheeled sharply into the parkinglot of Clydes café. Pulled not into a space but parked abruptly blocking two cars in.
Police. Policia, she pleaded. The man motionless. Damnit. She thwacked the steering wheel. Just fuckin typical. She glanced sidelong her passenger then put her hand on the back of his seat and peered behind for what would unfold, truly atypical.
What a godforsaken send, she cursed.
As the police approached she told herself through fought tears to Calm the fuck down, M. She shook her head. Wiped her mascara. She gandered her classmates in Clydes pressed smug and snug against the long wall of fogged window.
Bill Parker was pointing with his arms.
She retorted, by smooching her middlefinger.
Missy Jones clutched a hand over her braces.
Her classmates mouthed insults. She mouthed some too. Like she’d instigated this rotten luck. By and by everyone in Clydes twigged her. A few presented styrofoam cupss as sardonic cheers to rile her. It worked. They giggled and guffawed inaudibly. They gave a collective thumbs-up, and claps that never connected.
She hated them. Hated them moreso because she couldnt defend herself in this predicament. And how would she with the lawmen. The law would kill him if he wasnt already dead. She checked. His chest rose thinly.
This’s so horseshit crazy.
In the rearview the officers exited in rainwear. Then in the sidemirrors flanked her vehicle. Misshapen in the mirrors. Gangly or dwarfed depending on her perspective.
Her foot pressed the powerless pedal. She imagined she was away already, to Austin or to Dallas. As distant as a dreamscape.
I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know played on the external speakers. An apposite song for pathetic circumstance.
The officers paced with the musical pace.
She laughed hysterically, as she lowered her shoulderstraps. Imagining immodesty might succeed the day.
The officer on the passenger side raised a flashlight needlessly save for the formality of force and clicked his holster then inspected her cargo. Of which there was none save the naked man, her binoculars, and birdspotters book.
The other officer at her side knocked knuckles on the cab. He was thin with a freshly starched uniform under his rainjacket.
Both officers were at the windows. She could not judge fully their opinions since their eyes were concealed behind shades. But their mouths made revulsed motions.
This man needs help, she said. A hospital.
Yer license, said the officer.
D’you not hear me. Off’cer. He needs yall’s help.
First you all’s licenses. Let’s see some I Ds, little lady.
She handed hers over.
She stared at him.
Yeah. Alright, he admitted.
The speaking officer returned to the squad car while the second remained unspeaking at the window with his leathergloved fingers rapping the doorframe. Making an inspection for whatever insight he might come to concerning this peculiar coupling.
Guess away, she thought.
The silent one spoke. Wake him up.
She jostled his thigh. Shook an arm covering his genitalia.
He wont wake.
The officer gesticulated and snapped around the blank face. Hey, wake up. Hey buddy. Amigo. Wakey wakey. The officer opened the door slowly. Unbuckle him.
Yessur. She complied.
Must be an awful nice dream, he said looking at her instead. He grinned crooked as a crossbeat nail. Then lifted him out by the armpits and drug him unto the drizzle and rested him against the cab on cold, cracked concrete.
I dunno sur.
Howd’you know him?
Dontcha go lyin to me now Miss.
Sur. I aint lyin.
Then howd it come you got a naked man in your cab and you dont know him.
Where d’you find him?
Does that matter atall?
We’ll figure it all out.
The other officer strode back and asked her to get out of the truck and she did so and he asked her to turn against the car and spread her legs and put her hands behind the back of her head. She asked if she were under arrest. He patted her down.
Her classmates jeered. Some spilled out of Clydes.
Get back in there y’all. Nothin ta see ere, said the second officer overshoulder the nude man whose weight he sustained under the armpits. He turned him and clasped on clinking cuffs. You’ve a right to remain silent, the officer told him, and anythin said can be used against ya in a court a law. He huffed. The mans eyes rolled white as marbles. Hopeless.
He needs to get to the hospital she argued.
You just hush up, Miss. And be glad we aint booking you too.
Glad? He needs to get to a hospital. Cah-rist. Can’t you see he needsta see a damn doctor.
Why aint you wearing shoes.
Sur, that mans dying and you askin me bout my damn feet sur.
I said hush nawh. And watch that hole uv yers. That aint no way for ladies to talk. We’ll sort him out. And we’ll call ya when ‘e wakes up an’ we need any further info. This an unsightly lil mess you got caught up in, Miss. And you damned lucky to be clean of it. O K. You think this here all over. Now get good and gone home.
He let her loose.
She set defused in the truck and watched them cover the nameless man in a semiopaque rainjacket glistening with water beadlets and escort him heels dragging to the squad car. They pushed him headfirst then shoved him in by the ankles and shut the door. One wiped a hand on his pantleg and entered and they left.
Her former classmates rushed out and waved their hands in salute as she left. She drove away with the rains thwacking the roof, and winds slipstreamed to screaming through an open window.
Where going. She did not know. A way away.
A doctor douzed him with cold icewater out of a bucket through the cylindrical steel of his cell.
He wasnt sure where he was but he was a longshot from Mejico. That much he could tell by that cell. It stank but stank sterile. If he guessed he’d guess Tejas but he was not a guesser.
He awoke in alternate shocks of burns and chills. He was in a loose lightblue jumpsuit spreadeagled on the concrete floor. Through the water he watched the labcoat blur set the bucket down and move a meter forward. Who hunkered with stethoscope dangling.
You gonna be good, asked the mustachioed doctor stood pallid in a pool of light. He spoke in a forced monotone which the man immediately took to a dislike.
He didnt answer.
C’n you lift yerself.
He rested up on his elbows, eyes wide as golfballs.
You need water. Wah-ter. He made the drinking motion. Agua.
I know what water es, he said.
Then go get you some. The doctor indicated a metal sink in the corner. They said you didnt put up any sorta struggle. Then again how could you. You have heatstroke. And godknows what else.
No, said the man. He rolled onto his ribs and onto one knee sideways reached over the sink and turned the water spigot and cupped half a handful then several. Watered thusly with his chin and chest covered it felt like a splash of earthly paradise.
They’ll bring ya food innabit. Firs’ I gotta aks you some questions. That sit right with you sur?
He said Yas through the last slurp.
You speak Anglish?
Sí. Yes. Más o menos.
Fine. Then you unnerstand when I aks you what your name is?
He nodded. Me llamo Juan.
His eyes agreed, Sí Juohn.
You gotta last name, John?
Doe, Juan grinned.
You plannin on pressin charges?
Tal vez. Si puedo, encontrarlo.
D’you member that girl. One who found ya out thur?
Girl? Sí. Muy bonita. Muy amable. Pero muy triste.
Look at your hands.
Juan furrowed his brow.
Your manos. The Doctor showed his palms.
Juan inspected his own.
We couldnt I D you. That means one a two things. Either you aint nobody. Or yer undocumented. Illegal. I’d wager the latter. You know what that means. You’ve known awhile I spect. Uhuh.
Juan’s face fell.
You’ll never see er. Nor’ll you ever see a day in court. You all got no rights. None that matter. That means you tell me who done left you out thur. Otherwise, adios. Comprendo?
A Dios vais.
You go when we say you go. And where.
Juan said nothing.
The man left you to die. Die. The doctor plunged a sharp abstract stake through his labcoat. We want some justice for you.
No soy una rata. Juan puppeteered a scurrying rodent.
Say it in Anglish.
You no know nuthting.
I know more’n you think. I knowed you’re an addict second they dragged you in. Drogas addict. I foretokened it the minnut you woked. My God ya got some shit swimmin in yer system which’ll soon be out. Boy. Then you’ll be needin me. I’ll be yer Dios. You’ll need me.
No. No necesito.
What drugs. What drogas.
You work construction.
See, I know.
You no know.
This man. This hombre. He aint Mexican but he speaks Spanish.
Juan brought his legs to his chest.
He give you drogas and get you hooked. The doctor fingered a hook, hooted. Got you addicted-o. But y'all's work slowed. No money. No dinero. That about right?
Juan spat foamy spittle.
Yeah. S’what I thought. So you start to borrowin. He gets to ownin you somethin awful. He and the drug gots to be your God.
Juan handcombed black lanks of sweatgreased hair overear.
When yer ready ta gimme his nombre you’ll get yer medicina.
Well howdy if that dont help yer case. When you wanna talk some truth just start screamin damnation. The doctor departed.
Juan mumbled Sin nombre.
A guard slipped a tray of beans and unidentifiable meat of the same consistency as the beans beneath the bars without utensils and twirled his keys and said Enjoy mi hombre. Un pequeño regalo del hombre sin nombre. The guard and his bootstomping vanished in the hollow rings of isolation.
Juan tasted the bitter pintobeans. Formed an image of her. Her and her barefeet and her sad expression. He had no thing save time. And not even time was his own.
She, too sacrosanct to be incarcerated there, with him.
La Purísima de la Península. Her discontent arousing hope.