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Western Short Story
When you travel through the desert you get beat up from the sun, the dirt and the wind.
You become prey to the wiles of the endless drifting grains of wind blow specs of sand that sting like bees, or as some of us desert dogs call’em: natures bullets.
There’s a few of us around.
Not many, and when we see each-other we only snarl because we can’t bark due to our vocal chords being dried up and brittle from a lack of water.
You search and beg for relief from the deadly stare of the sun.
We are Desert Dogs.
We come out here in our search for a path that some say will lead to a hidden mine filled with gold, but that sun, that damn thing never blinks. It’s a contest you never win. Even if you escape, it still looks at you from the marks it leaves on your soul and skin.
Sometime you see the white bones of other Desert Dogs that have been picked clean from the circling vultures which remind you that maybe the choice you made to wander out here just might be the last dumb thought God allowed you to make.
I lived to tell my story. I didn’t find any gold, but I sure as hell got my butt kicked by another wandering Desert Dog. It started off alright. We made a pact to help each-other and if we found the mine we’d split our riches fifty-fifty.
It seemed like a safe bet, but the desert has a way making fools more foolish than they already are, and I should’ve know better, but my brain was being stewed in its own juices from the Devil’s fire ball and I trusted what I saw.
A fool’s heart makes foolish choices.
life's direction that we can't chart. The roads that lead to our
destination seem obvious when we begin riding down them.
Then something unexpected catches us by surprise and we reign in to avoid a collision. Or so we think.
Sometimes, even cowboys can be philosophers.
I think about the moment it all went to hell. It’s all there, in bits and pieces. I just need to reassemble them. They don’t all ft together perfectly, but I can reassemble them so they make the picture complete, but it ain’t pretty.
So there I was, sippin’ me some whiskey in a smoke filled saloon. The girls were lifting their skirts and showin’ their legs while dancing to a wild tune bein’ played on the piano by some wide eyed, greasy musician that couldn’t keep his eyes off the girls. I don’t know how he kept playin’. He wasn’t even looking at the keys.
I overheard two fella’s sayin’ they was gonna head out to the desert and go find that lost mine. One of’em held up a piece of paper with some x’s and lines on it and said that it was the only known map to the lost mine.
That’s when I asked him how much he paid for it. He shook his head back and forth while he folded up that piece of paper and tucked inside his shirt.
“You didn’t hear nothin’!” that’s all he said, but then his slack jawed friend chimed in and added: “You didn’t see nothin’ either.” And then he wadded up some spit and aimed it at my boots.
That’s about when one of them dancers had jumped on top of the piano and started flinging her dress this way and that. All the guys were scrambling to get a good view of her leggy ambition. Some of the music sheets flew off from when she was kicking her heels and I picked one up from the floor. I couldn’t make head nor tails of what it was, but I crinkled it up and shoved it in my pocket.
All I remember is seein’ his brown colored spit from his chew drippin from the side of one of my boots.
And then I was swingin’.
The music was getting louder, and the guys were getting crazier.
I landed two punches square on his jaw. “There ya’ go slack jaw. I fixed up yer face.” That crazy ol’cat got right up and came back for some more. He was too drunk to win this fight, so I knocked him out and dragged his scrawny frame upstairs and threw him on a bed to let him sleep it off.
By the time he’d wake I’d be long gone, but not before I make a deal with his gold miner partner. I knew that gold mine was out there, somewhere, and I knew this other poke had a map to it. I told him I had a map and I already had worked out a route to the abandoned mine, but the heat and scorpions made me come back into town so I could get some replenishments.
I told him I saw his map and that it was the same as mine. He didn’t believe me at first and wanted to see my map. I told him I had to use it out in the desert to shield me from the sun. It’s all wrinkled, and can’t be read no more. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the music sheet. He grabbed it from me and tried reading it, but he was too drunk to know what he was lookin’ at.
The girls were getting’ carried away in the arms of their drunken suitors, and we skedaddled outta there.
We ended up way out in the desert without a horse and not a lick of water.
Our minds were being cooked by the sun, and our voices were all but gone. It was dumb idea to get out here while trying to look for a gold mine. He held up his paper with the x’s and o’s on it and handed it to me. His voice was like a whisper, but I know he said ”Here, take it.” he dropped right there. Dead as door nail.
The desert doesn’t give time for funerals, so I let him be.
I kept walking for a few more days, and then I had to stop. I dropped to the hot desert floor and could feel my skin begin to bake. I closed my eyes and waited for God to come and get me.
As I lay there a felt a coolness rush over my body. I thought maybe that was my soul leaving earth and goin’ to heaven. I opened my eyes and looked through the crusty lids that covered them.
I heard someone sayin’ to me:
“You ain’t no desert dog.”
And then there was warm, sticky, tobacco smellin’ glob that landed on my face.
“You’re a desert rat.”
It was that slack jawed yahoo I beat up in the saloon. He made his way out here just to get even with me. I was half dead and he knew it, but he didn’t pay me no last respects. He stood there and drank from his flask while I tried to reach for it from my soon to be dusty grave. He was smilin’ and teasin’ like some smart ass kid.
I heard him gasp and then he fell right next to me.
I might be nearly dead, but I knew that flask had life giving water in it.
There wasn’t much to spare, but every drop was the sweetest I ever tasted. I got up on my knees and could see the dude who was teasin’ me just a moment ago layin’ as still as a rock.
It’s like he was frozen in the desert.
I was starin’ at him when someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around and saw the prettiest girl I ever saw. Curly blonde hair, a little nose and nice blue eyes.
I asked: “Who are you?” she winked at me.
We stared at each-other for a moment and then she tossed me another flask. She watched as I poured down my wide open mouth.
“You’re number three.” That’s what she said.
I shook my head back and forth slowly while tryin’ to figure out what she was gettin’ at. She pointed at the scrawny, slack jawed dude layin’ in the dust.
“That was my husband.” She said.
“You ain’t got good taste.” I said.
Then she pointed to where the other guy was layin’.
“That was my first husband.” She said.
I said to her: “You got yerself two fellas?”
She smiled as she reached for my hand. “They keep runnin’ out here to get away from me, but I track’em down.”
Now you see, you might think she’s a bit on the Devil’s side, Playin’ a game of cat and mouse, but she wasn’t playin’ no game.
She’s pretty, and deadly that’s for sure.
That map wasn’t to a gold mine, it was her way of getting’ rid of the angry, jealous men in her life. She’d tell’em about a map she found to a lost gold mine, and they’d get all wound up and leave her.
It’s just what she wanted. Get them out to the desert and let’em burn.
That’s how I made it out of the desert alive. A scorned woman saved my life. Yep. It’s true.
I gave up being a desert dog.
There ain’t no gold mine out there fella’s.
It’s a woman’s way to rid herself of the men she don’t want…
…and to keep the ones she does.
You can find Von Kambro's (Todd Selleck) website HERE>>