The Sun looms long against the dirt…….
Thick desert heat pulls down against his skin; he walks with coffee stained teeth, and gristle chewed lips. Day and night are but an inconvenience as he treads through tiny hot pebbles, with only one good shoe. His luggage is worn; sweat-permeated and in labor. Beaded strings cover her wrists, ankles and neck; it’s “her thing” as she put it. His pants were black, now gray and tattered around the ankles, as if hungry beetle snacked on them over night. For all he knows, there could be such a beetle out here that had such a snack. His shirt is drenched; not one stitch of fabric isn’t wet and his knappy hair hangs in long stringy pieces that haven’t seen a comb in years. The desert is hot that day; he feels like it’s making him pay for their sins.
As they walk, seemingly eternally, a mouth opens in front of them; it changes color as they near it from pure black to oven red to mottled brown now to cool grey; it looks creek bed cool to them and they want to engulf their bodies inside of it. When they step inside the hollow opening, a breath of chilly air whispers on them and they nearly give up their lives right there for another touch of it. She knows she will not leave this cave.
16 hours later……
The man starts off again, wearing one of those beads she so loved. His hands bloodstained; he cut off his shirt sleeves and wrung it out, ready to absorb a fresh layer of desert sweat. He could hear the cries of the infant as he took each step, harder than the next. He knew he would never look back. Some watching down on this situation may call him a monster; but he knew, they would change their tune if they knew what his father was like. Hell, even he would agree this was for the best. He’d done the best he could for her; at least she had the strength to give one last push and expel that cancer from inside of her. She’d rest better now, with no desert sun beating on her back like a demon’s claws.
………..she jolted up. Her brain was fried; she felt woozy. His cries somehow pulled her from wherever she was. She saw the byproduct of her misguided love, weeping, red as a beet, saliva spraying forth like a sprinkler. She held him, and smelled him deeply. His body was warm, a beacon of heat as she felt all of hers leaving her body. She wrapped him up tightly in the shirt he was in, then tied it around himself again, like a bundle of newspapers. She tried to walk at first, but there was no power in her legs. So she crawled.
Two dust covered patrons of The Shack, a desert bar caught in the equator of hot death and country life saw a black speck moving slowly towards them; too big to be a turtle or something. They put down their rummy cards and walked out to the mysterious approacher and found a woman, bleeding out before them. Her face raised every so slightly; sand particles clinging to her brow and face like parasites. They found the baby. Before she took her last breath, she pushed the words from her throat.
After twenty years, John Crawford had returned to his birth place. He’d seen the jungles of Borneo, the cliffs of the mountains in China, the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean, and the inside of the brothels in Denmark. He was a man without a home, without roots, so he’d traveled since he could walk. He’d never known his mother, father, any relatives; he grew up in foster homes, orphanges, halfway houses, and sometimes worse. Now, at long last, John Crawford had stepped foot back to the place he entered this world: Nothing, Nevada. The only place in the continental U.S. Google saw fit not to mark on any of it’s maps. It was as the name says: full of nothing. But, a nostalgic trip home wasn’t the reason John had ventured back to these parts; he was looking for something he’d not found in all of the jungles, mountaintops or exotic places in the world; answers.