a crack becomes a void

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
two men

Submitted: June 29, 2008

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Submitted: June 29, 2008

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The wind howled over the crag that overlooked talon peak. Husks of dead plants and animals swept across the bare rock and whistled slightly as the wind passed through their weak and thin bodies. Red dust had settled on the ground, covering the rocks in a thin film of impenetrable filth and the wind picked it up and carried it through the crags as it whistled while being whipped along. The sun sat high in the sky and reflected of the waves of grass that rustled dryly in the breeze. Otis sat on a perch a few yards from the top of the arched peak. The peak itself and its immediate surroundings were too sharp to rest on otherwise he would have enjoyed the view from the top. Mac sat below him on a flat surface which stood out off the peak allowing for him to dangle his feet off the side and kick the red, soft rock deep into the abyss. His eyes watched the pieces float down in the air and hit another peak. The pieces crumbled into dust and carried high into breeze that had been blowing for days.
“Can we done leave yet.” said Mac. His *** hurt and he balanced himself off the ground with his hands to give his bottom a break. Now his hands hurt.
“Yeah, I surpose.” Otis answered. “It aint that pretty. Why’d we come here in the firs’ place?”
“Nature.”
“That all? Weren’t there gold here or silver or copper?”
“Once.”
“But not now. Now all this place got is a few dead animals and rock.”
“Some green and blue down in the canyon.” Mac pointed over the ledge.
“Let’s head down that way. I wouldn’ mind no water. My canteen’s gone dry.”
Both of them got up and dusted the dried flakes of death off of their shorts and boots. Mac put on his pack then helped a smaller and weaker Otis gather his belongings and sling his pack over a bruised shoulder. They began a long descent into the canyon and the sun had begun to set and the temperature began to decline.
Read Canyon dropped deep in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t categorized by depth or degree or the temperatures that wore down on the harsh environment. It didn’t have a state or a country or even a county. It sat in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t on any map one might find at the local ranger station. The only civilization was the small town of Gaston that lay on the outskirts of the front. The rock was red. That’s how it was categorized. It was red. The cliffs, crags, and crests that filled and structured this massive space paralleled the faces of many mountains well known to man yet Read canyon and its formation sat untouched by the filthy hands of man and his machine. Few areas within the bowls of the canyon were named and those areas beings the ones that hikers and campers had ventured through. Yet the vast wilderness that was Read canyon spread throughout the Mojave Desert and ended in a small crack at the edge of the barren land. It was almost a national park. There were signs pointing to it and people would climb up in the hills in their wrecks of cars and smell the blue exhaust and burning fuel and listen to the rods and gears crank and chug just to put an eye to the small crack that opened up into miles of a bleak chasm. They would set up tents near the crack and relax under the shade of the cool canvas chewing on grass and fruit. They made fires near the crack and sung songs and cooked meat and potatoes in water. They lived lives near the crack and all around it but they never put their bodies in it. No fingers or toes. It was merely a void to them and a source of entertainment to their worthless nights of eating themselves to a soft piggish man. Only a few unpack their cars and load up sacks and hike down into the crack as it opens over the sun-scarred sky. The void was there and had been their and humans chose to walk around it and tease and some chose to fall in it.
The sun had nearly sunk over the dusty horizon and dew and moisture began to collect on the two men’s skins and clothes. They had ascended over the crag and began to descend a donkey trail that was ridden with sharp rocks and jagged wood. The bottom of the canyon was still visible but now the blue and green had become a murky yellow and brown and was almost invisible with the lack of sunlight. Both their packs hung heavy over their shoulders and slowed their walk to a drag and a strain. Both boys had become tired from climbing and neither one had nourished their growing stomachs. Each corner and switch back had become a hope of salvation around the side. They hoped to see a pasture of deep green and a river of cool crystal water which flowed from a mysterious mouth. Yet every corner turned into a red, hazy beyond which promised only more crags and hard, serrated rock formations and a continuation of their sluggish movements towards a safe haven.
It was dark after they found a patch of flat ground lining the trail. They both set their packs against a rock face lining the smooth area and put their backs up to rest. Otis pulled out a pack of Marlboro 100’s and grabbed two with his hand. He gave one to Mac and lit it. Then he lit his own and dragged long and hard from the yellow filter. His muscles relaxed as the smoke filled his lungs and when he exhaled, he closed his eyes and dreamt of water and green lush deep in the canyon. Mac tried taking deep drags but his lungs pushed the smoke out his mouth with a harsh gagging and hacking noise. Otis smiled. At least he was better at one thing that Mac, smoking.
“So, we came here fur the nature eh?” said Otis
“I surpose.” said Mac
“What do you mean you surpose?”
“I mean I surpose”
“Oh. Well earlier t’day you says that’s why we gone here.”
“Changed my mind.” said Mac taking another sip at his cigarette. He blew the smoke towards the moon watching it dissipate in the light and he smiled, showing a yellow row of butter colored teeth.
“Well I think I came here for that sun. See. My arms are white as some snow. I hate it. Girls’ gone hate it and I know it. I can’t feel comfterbul with skin white as a rabbit’s ***. Ill never get no love from no girl ‘less that sun brown my skin right here.”
Mac didn’t say another word but just hit from his tobacco and blew smoke out onto the trail and down into the canyon. Otis wanted him to reply but gave up hoping and pretty soon he felt better and closed his eyes again, letting them rest on the dim moonlight and stars.
When Mac opened his eyes, the sun was rising above a mountain far in the distance. It was quiet now and Otis rested sideways up against the rocky face. His cigarette had fallen on his lap and was now black at its tip and the paper and tobacco was wet with morning. He checked the time. Mac sat there for a few minutes and watched as the sun slowly ascended into the sky and brought light upon a vast darkness of cold rock below. His body shivered and his skinned crawled with a wind chill that passed across the dew speckled on his open legs and hands. But he welcomed that uneasiness with a sort of passion that allowed him to enjoy the state to which his life had brought him to this canyon.
His legs ached hard as did his shoulders and much of the muscles that made his structure so fit but he got to his feet and walked into a patch of sun that had breached the cold, dark atmosphere encircling both boys. His body warmed up as he stood there looking down into an ever flowing space and the dew began to boil off his skin and land on the ground, making small muddy drops in the moist dust on the trail.
Mac stood there and waited for a reason to move or a reason to walk. A squall of desert wind blew over the trail bringing along flakes of sand and rock with it. It passed down into the depths and continued dragging along the debris. He watched it move along the rocks, changing shape as it passed an edge or a crack. Then he followed and crossed over the trail and braced his legs as he began to slide down a bowl leading farther into the ravine. His boots kicked up chips of granite and sulfur and red rock into the wind which unluckily brought those chips to his eyes. He only wiped them with his dirty sleeve and kept a steady pace down the bowl towards an adventure. He was by himself and that made it an adventure. If a rock fell and broke his arm or cut his head or leg there was no help for him. It was live or die and that made his heart pump blood towards a mind that sat transfixed in the beauty and panic of nothingness. The continuation of earth and depth only furthered the possibility of certain death and in Mac’s eyes, death meant adventure and an adventure was nothing to be afraid of. It had now dawned on him that an adventure was what makes life possible in such a place as Read Canyon. To live by merely codes and morals that penetrate the fun of an individual limit what the individual can think and can enjoy. He informed himself that this place was a place of enjoyment because of its simplicity. No rules or ethics built this valley or shrouded its true nature and when one adventures down to its depths, true nature reveals.
But Mac began to think too much and his brain hurt so he stopped and just enjoyed the fact that he was here.
A flat ledge peeked out over the lower half of the bowl and Mac noticed that and turned his strained movement towards it. It seemed rather sturdy and a good place to rest and eat and was partially shaded by the steep banks of one area of the bowl. The other half was covered by the ever growing sun which had now risen the temperature in the chasm by a fair amount.
Mac was in full sweat when he reached the ledge but a sense of fulfillment surrounded his ego and he hardly noticed the salty fluid dripping from his brow. The rock on the ledge was still cool so Mac choose to lie in the sun and feel both sides of the canyons weather. His body tingled as the cool rock hit his scarred back and as the warming rays beat upon his uneven skin. He tried closing his eyes but found it better to keep them open. Watching birds pass over the open sky sounded delightful and while resting might have been a better choice, he enjoyed birds more than closed eyes. A red hawk passed by silently with the white moving clouds over the vast blue that promised nothing but harsh burning days and cool running nights. His eyes followed its flapping wings until it passed over the visible edge of the bowl. Mac assumed it would keep on flying over and around until it found food. But it never flew over again and the sky was once again nothing but blue and a few clouds but not rain clouds. Mac had assumed it and his assumption was false. He thought most were and that assuming was weak but he did it anyway. It was his nature.
The rock below him was warming to a hot slab and his skin began to stick with a moist feel to the touch. He checked his wrist watch again and got to his feet and yawned, pushing his arms upwards in a slow awkward movement. The sun had now settled high in the sky and any trace of morning dampness had disappeared from the barren land. The heat was bearing down on the ledge and no shade covered part of it anymore.
Mac moved down farther into the bowls of the canyon.
Otis might have woken up by now and noticed his companion was not with him but that was no big deal. Mac was on his own now and to worry about a thing like that could mean death. He took a snack bar from his pocket and opened it with slippery fingers. The fake chocolate had melted to the wrapper and stuck to his fingers as he bit into the soft center. It tasted good. He licked his fingers and wiped his hands on his pants. Nothing was wrong at that moment. He had entered the cool green section of the deep ravines in the canyon and watched as murky brown water trickled down the rocks and further into oblivion. The food was good and the air was not clean. Nothing was clean in this place and that was perfect. Everything had an essence of filth stuck to it. Yet the trees and rocks and clouds were pure with a dawning imagination of life without the distress of ignorance because the panic of a place ridden with death extinguished the unawareness of the love of life.
Mac found his way to the brown stream and watched it swerve over and under the wet granite. It hadn’t rained in three years yet the stream was always running with cool grimy water. Never much, a trickle or two a times but the water was always there and always would be. With cupped hands he scooped water and put it to his face. It tasted awful. His tongue sifted through the sand and dirt in the water and gathered it at its tip. He spit. A wind picked up and dragged the red dust up into the air. Mac watched it settle in front of the sun, letting the light seep through its body. The mucous in his nose began to dry and crack and his eyes began to tear to keep from drying out from the dust.
He was wearing a t-shirt that said something in Spanish and a picture of palm trees and a curvy girl in a bikini. Maybe that was paradise. His pants sagged on his waist and his boots were new and blistered his feet. He had a few whiskers and his eyes were blue and dull. The brow of his nose protruded from his eyebrows and humped out in front of his forehead and his lips curled over his teeth and were always chapped and speckled with dried crackling blood. His fingers were long and bony and twiddled at his pant legs when he walked.
The sun shone through the red haze of windswept rocks and dirt and dust. It seemed much dirtier deeper in the canyon were the wind was softer and sweeter to the face. More dust clung to cracked earth and to pods of dead plants. Mac wanted to spend the night down here. He didn’t care if the dirt clung to him and seeped into the ridges in his shoes and skin to a place where warm water couldn’t wash it out.
The wind was now blowing softly yet consistently rustling the dried leaves that lay stranded under the shade of the tree stalk. The stalk itself was gnarled with deep cuts in the old wood. It twisted and bent up on its branches where the dried sticks shed their leaves and pointed sharply in all directions through the murk of the floating grime. The roots shot deep into the fractured soil and twisted deeper and deeper until they formed an amazing ball that kept the tree standing up right shooting out at an angle over the little watery stream. The dried leaves always rustled in the wind but never left the protection of the tree, always staying in the line of shade that the trunk produced. Mac noticed this and wondered what it was like to sit in that shade. He moved close to the tree and ran his hands over the bumps and deformities that protruded and cut deep in the tree. The tree supported him as he squatted on his hams and lowered his dried body to the film of red dust and ground. Mac put his back against the tree and relaxed on the knotted wood. He pulled out his cigarettes and carefully picked one from the pack. While looking for a lighter he rested it on his cracked lips bobbing up and down with slight movements of his tongue. He lit it and let it burn for a while and sat and closed his eyes in the stalks shade. The cigarette widdled down slowly and a little faster every time Mac inhaled and exhaled, watching the smoke clear the red haze and drift up to the blue sky and dissipate in the orange light. He fell asleep and woke up a few minutes later blinking his eyes in the harsh light that radiated the sky. He fell asleep again and snored loud, inhaling and exhaling dust through his nose, drying the moist inner mucous and hair.
When he awoke, the sun was still high in the sky but had descended above the white fluff of clouds that lingered vertical in the blue atmosphere. He looked at his watch and steadied himself to his feet with the gnarled tree. Red dust had collected on the creases on his lower knee and he wiped it off and spit on his hand to wash the dust clean. The bowl leading to the stream was large and full of chips of rocks that fell and shuffled around with the wind and Mac looked up at it and squinted. Sweat collected on his brow and he wiped it and began to head back to Otis.
A rabbit passed by him higher in the bowl and stopped to sniff the air. Its rounded tail shook with delight at the heat of the day and its rabbit teeth gnawed at the hair on it’s under lip with curiosity to the grease coating the fur. Mac saw the opportunity and brought out his tube shot. His hand found a smooth round stone lying among the sharp chiseled slabs lining the bank and picked it up cupping it to his stomach. He pushed it into the dirty leather of the sling and pulled back hard, closing one eye to scope the hare. The rock exploded on the bowl just feet from the rabbit’s stance. It took off hard and fast, hopping over dead shells and cracked stones until it moved over a hump in the bowl and disappeared down the other side into green. Mac watched it and didn’t bother to chase with another shot. He kept on up the bowl pushing rocks to the side with his boots and listening to them tumble over others until they stopped moving farther down. He picked a cigarette from the pack in his pocket and held it carefully while searching for a light. He found some matches from his local hardware store and lit one to the open end of the cigarette. He puffed and blew into the red dust lining the blue sky. The journey ahead could have been short or long for Mac couldn’t remember how long it had been to descend the crevasse. But all he knew is he would make it and that’s what kept him on his feet.
Every now and then, he would break at a high point in the bowl and watch out to the blue sky overlooking the range of bloated mountains that climbed along the horizon. He never thought to hard cause he had a headache and was out of breath and coughing hard at the back of his throat. Then he moved on up towards the ridge and camp and maybe the warm smell of food and drink.
By the time Mac stepped onto the camp crest, the sun had begun to drop behind the far horizon and the wind began to chill the temperature and the sweat that itched at the skin. The smell of fire wafted around the area and a thick grey smoke billowed from the indent in the mountain were they had slept the previous night. Mac turned the corner and watched as Otis gutted a rabbit, cutting its throat first and spilling black blood on the dirt by his feet. A fire roared in front of him spewing ash and grey dust into the air and mixing with the red that lingered there already.
“**** almighty! I thought you was dead Mac! You gone and scared the lights outta me. I though you was dead!” said Otis running up and putting his dirty hand on Mac.
“Yeah. Well I aint. I was just explorin that’s all. Exploring. Cant a man explore these parts without worrying his friend?”
“Why not I surpose. I jus been wonderin were u been at, that’s all.”
“Well I been explorin, looking for sumpin.”
“What you been searching for?”
“Now that’s too many damn questions ya know? I’m hungry and I’m tired ya know. That’s what a man is these days, hungry and tired. Hungry from that food that gone an passed his waterin mouth and tired from that damn religion and politic stuff.”
“I got some desert rabbit for ya to chew on and them bones are good to.” said Otis. He looked back at the rabbit still trickling black from its neck and chest.
“That’s what I need this evenin cause I been traveling all day up and down this canyon and I slept and smoked and drank but I aint ate none. Kinda like the pokey down in Gaston. You barely eat nothing.
“My cousin been caged up there once. He ate nothing cept gravy and biscuits all grey and such. Ate Christmas pork once a year and that was pink and all red with undercook.”
“Ill be dead before I get caged. Shoot myself before they lock me down behind bars. That’s unnatural, living like that and all. I’d rather live with the worms and get my brain ate. At least I become food for sumpin else ya know?”
They walked over to the crackling fire and the bled rabbit and squatted in the dust watching the rabbit’s legs make its last movement before death. Once its eyes dulled and its teeth ceased to gnaw at its lower lip, Otis skinned it slowly and precisely and gathered the skin and entrails and threw them over the edge of the bowl onto the chip rocks below. Night critter followed and gathered upon the guts and fresh skin once Otis had returned to camp.
Mac stuck a dry desert stick up through the mouth and mounted it over the fire which had now burned to a few flames and white and red coals lay scattered under them. They watched the flames rise and fall up on the carcass and the dripping meat and smelled the cooking flesh as it crackled in the evening silence.
“Smell her Otis, Smell that rabbit. God damn! We gonna eat real good tonight ill tell ya. Hear her crackle, hear that skin crisp .God damn!” Mac smiled through gritty teeth and watched Otis through the movement of the orange glare.
The night sky was speckled with faint stars that shined and dimmed with the passing of the wind. A plane went by overhead and green and red lights flashed into the dark night but no one saw the canyon below, the captain didn’t announce that the gorge lay below the feet of the passengers and no one took notice. It was only Mac and Otis in that place. Everything else was too busy.
The rabbit was a brownish black now and juice was rolling off the side of its back and dropping into the fire creating a hiss. Otis picked the rabbit off the mount and set it on a slab of granite. Steam was pouring off it, dissipating moments later. He took the stick out, set it aside, and plunged into the steaming meat with his army knife. The meat was undercooked but they ate anyway stuffing their mouths with dirty fingers of grease and blood.
Mac sat up and took a breath after swallowing his last piece. “I aint ate meat in days. Forgot how good it taste ya know? Well my stomach aint full but I surpose its better than nutin. I aint ate all day but drank some whiskey and smoked some tobacco and chewed one of them energy chocolates. Giving me the shivers after I ate one.”
Otis sat quiet and listened and gnawed on the rabbit bone, sucking the juice and flavor from its hard mass.
“I tell ya, this place got much land for explorin. I seen hawks and rabbits and old trees without no leaves. I napped under it’s stalk and got all dirty and such but that dirt gone help me out and clean me right off an now I feel all better bout my problems over back in town. I don’t see no reason to worry bout them when I spend my time in here cause I could go dying any day here and no one would know ya know? Ya see? Me and you Otis could go dying any day now and no one would search us down deep in here and we’d be gone so worrying bout stuff don’t help me think bout living through this trip and explorin these mountains. Ill leave my worrying for outside this place when I know ill be living for ages and not dying any moment. Its life or death ya know. We live and we die but ya gotta be aware and keep your mind all fresh and clean of crap. Its gonna take more than worries to keep me up on this dusty ol’ trail ya know?” Mac breathed deep and sat back against the rock wall patting and caressing his stomach with gentle patience. His eyes glazed with fire light and his skin was warm to the touch.
“Maybe ill be going exploring by mornin light tommora. Maybe ill head up towards them crags peakin at the top.” Said Otis
“Theres a mighty fine wind blowing up in them peaks. Gotta be careful. Its harsh up there. Dangerous maybe.”
“You says yourself we gotta not worry cause we might be dying tommora or another day.”
“Yeah but we gotta not worry bout problems in daily life in our homes and at our works and everything. We gotta try and survive this canyon ya see? Just not gotta let them worries kill us out here in nature. Natures good, but shes a harsh sona*****. That’s bout all to er. None a that metaphor stuff. Natures nature and that’s all we gotsta worry bout. And when we starts to worry bout all that smart stuff we gone an clog our brains and it gets all mucky and such up there.”
“Well ill be heading up to them crags tommora and ill not be worrying bout them smart things until I be resting my head here again.” Otis patted the ground next to his head and watched as a puff of dust shot up through his fingers
“Good thinkin, I might walk with ya. I been down there,” he pointed towards the bowls edge “might as well see them crags up there. Go everywhere I surpose. Ya! That’s real good idea. Ill be ur comp’ny, be ur shadow. Gets kinda lonely in this here place. All dry with dirt, no mass to it jus’ dirt and weeds.”
“Itll be good.”
“Yeah.”
“Yeah.”
The sun was below the range now and the only light left slipped through gaps in the mountains and spread wide through the valley. The dust in the air had settled back on the ground and now and then, a short gust of wind would gather it back into the air, twisting and turning it in the dimming light. The fire had burned to a few black coals which radiated no heat and a small amount of light against the rock face. The moon was rising and it was almost full. The stars were dim and bright and the light from the moon hit the face of the bowl, exposing the night snakes out on the prowl. The moon exposed every living creature in the canyon making it hard to hunt for the predators. Yet those who could live in the canyon and feed and drink and sleep would thrive. That’s how the system worked.
Mac lay back on the wall and puffed on a cigarette. He could feel the moist air begin to form drops on his skin but he sat their anyway and blew smoke through his nose. Otis did the same thing but took long drags and held them in and felt them irritate the lungs. Then he would exhale softly towards the moon and look down at his burning tobacco.
His full beard was stained a harsh grayish black. The tobacco had made the hair thin and stringy and coarse to the touch. The whiskey had dyed the hair a light brown color and made it smell like the west and the campfires made it turn black with soot. Otis was a gnarled man. He wore suspenders high up on his body and sported a pair of steeled boots with a leather finish that had worn down from the sparks and the dirt and the years. A V-neck shirt sat low on his shoulders and a tuft of grey hair shot out from his chest and over the brim of the V and the hair would wave slightly in the wind and dust. The creases in his hands were always filled with dirt and his finger nails were long and yellow and dirty and smelled rotten. His hands themselves were bulky. They were one feature that no one else had. They were hardened with calluses and scarred at the knuckles which shot out like roots of petrified wood. He had no finger prints as the tips were burned off and pink with soft young flesh. Now and then, the pink would turn black and would drip blood. But that was the only weakness in Otis, his fingertips. The stature of him was tall and lengthy. His hair was long and grey and slicked straight with grease. His eyebrows were bushy and his eyes brown. His lips were big and cracked with dry heat and spittle would form at the tip and shoot out at the surroundings. Otis never complained. He had the complexity that no one had seen because he didn’t take the time to stand under a shower. He was a scoundrel in the eye of society because his breath smelled of whiskey and meat and because his teeth were yellow and brown at the gums. Only Mac saw that complexity. Maybe the canyon saw it too.
Mac picked his teeth with a nearby stick and moved his tongue to the lose piece of tasteless meat pried loose by the stick.
“Damn. That rabbit tasted mighty good, don’t ya say?”
“Aint no meat like a Rabbits.” said Otis nodding his head.
“I say, how’d you done catch that fella? I’m jus’ wonderin.”
“Why I jus’ gone an chucked one a dem stones its way. Hit it right at the brain. Killed it less than a second. That thing gone an be so close ta me, I jus’ gotta try an get me some food fur the night.”
“I mighty fine throw you throw there. Killing rabbits with that throw gonna get you real far ya know?”
“Maybe I oughta play me some baseball. Maybe Ill be a playin on them televisions, throwing baseballs, makin me some cash. Ya know I could use it. Maybe I’m touched or sumpin. Maybe god gone an given me a gift to play some ball or sumpin I surpose.”
“Now we aint gonna get started on no religion t’night ya hear? No god praying or nutin. Not t’night. Im too tired fur that stuff t’night cause I been moving all day up an down an now I need to sleep me some. Ya understand?”
“I wasn’t gonna get on no topic of religion or nutin. I’m jus sayin I think I is touched by sumpin special. That’s all. No smarty stuff. See? Jus me sayin bout good ol’ baseball and me throwing sumpin.” Otis put his finger in the dust and began to draw the outline of a woman.
“Well good cause that’s smart talk that religious stuff, we been sitt’n in nature an there aint nothing fancy pantsy bout nature. Trees and some rocks, all here fur nature but none a that smart talk gon’ an muck up nature here.”
“I don’t see yur probl’m wit all that smart talk. It aint hurtin nobody aint it? You just don’ understand them words and things that smart talk says.”
“That aint it.” said Mac looking at the woman now forming in the dust.
“Yeah it is and ya know it real good. Ya jus’ don understand them smart words so ya feel bad and ya hurt them smart people. Ya feel sorry fa yaself but ya gotta wake up an respect them smart talks.”
“I said that aint it.”
“Sure is an ya know it Mac but you too ign’rant to see any differ’nt. You a good man but stop fell bad fa yaself. Ya know it dontcha.” Otis had finished his woman in the dirt and looked at it in the dim moonlight and smiled over his lip. It looked good.
“That still aint it. Now that’s enough haslin’ for a night ya think. We gots plenty to go tommora an we oughta sleep some. Its real dark now and quiet but not fa long so you be best ta get ta sleep now.”
Otis turned his head towards the wall “Well, I see yur point so I gonna rest over yonder.” He pointed to a dusty dip in the ground where a soft film of dirt lined the earth. Squatting on his muscles, he picked him self from the dust and wiped his pants with the ball of his palms and clapped his hands together, watching a small puff of dirt shoot out into the dark under the weak light.
Both men laid out their blankets and heavy wool down sheets and took of their boots, carefully rubbing the irritated blisters forming on the heels and balls. They took off their shirts and scratched the peeling skin on the dark V neck tan line. It was hard but they were able to relax in the canyon and look at the stars and watch them move and dim across the black firmament.
“Ya know, this is real nice aint it. We here and we don got no problems with us, on our backs, in our heads. Men got always sumpin on their brains but us we got nothin but that big sky and them crags and them meats and them waters and streams ya know. Everything jus calm in this place.”
Otis was already wheezing calmly through his nose and a small spit bubble had formed at the corner of his lip. Mac smiled and sat back loose against the softening rock. He put a fresh cigarette to his lips and lit it. The long stalks of grass shone dimly in the moonlight with dew covering the leaves and they swayed gently back and forth, rustling with each other and irritating their alignment. He smoked half and then flicked it into the moist dust clinging to the sun burnt earth. The fire had burnt to gray and red coals which popped and cracked in the night and flicked soot and ash into the air.
An owl fluttered overhead and its white feathers shone off the dusty moonlight which had opened up the bowl with dim luminosity. Its powerful wings thrust in the air pushing it forwards and then it would glide in the cool air and let the wind push off its face. Eventually it began to fall back down with gravity and began to strain its wings in a long powerful driving force. But within all this power and freedom, the owl was quiet to the world below. Its wings were soft in the wind and never made a harsh whipping or pushing sound. It never made a sound with its mouth. It was quite. But it was powerful and no one knew it was there. The owl kept its eyes on the passing ground and listened for the crackling of moving rocks. It swerved to sound but kept quite above the moving front. It was focused and knew what it wanted. It had more power than imaginable. It was natural and almost human. Passing over the heads of the sleepless bowls and crags and the ignorant winds and rocks, it found what it was looking for. Swerving to the left, it tucked its spotted wings into its warm underbelly and dove hard and fast against the rotten wind. Sharp talons shot from the tufts of feather at its bottom and grasped the snake at mid body, poking holes on the skin and carrying it up above the rock and dirt. The owl stayed silent the entire time and the whole way back to its nest but it refrained from gliding and worked those powerful muscles on its sides. It was hungry and ready to eat. The owl was silent while it ate.
Morning came but the sun did not. At night, clouds had crept in and closed the moon and the light out of the bowls and crags. The clouds brought moisture that dampened the water deprived earth but rain never fell. Just the humidity that lay at the finger tips of the cold desert fog. The wind blew hard at the crags and broke rock from the top. It carried snake guts and dead skin over the bowl and screeched throughout the cold day.
Otis woke with a cramp at his stomach and a dull pain in his hams. His arms were lined with white pustules from the chill that had overcome the day. The cold mist had surrounded him and he sat in the damp dirt and rubbed his ham with ferocity and winced when his stomach sharply cramped and pushed to get out from his skin. His eyelids were closed with a pasty mix of crust and dew and he couldn’t see well enough to notice whether Mac had risen nor could he check his watch.
“Damn its real cold aint it.” He said fingering the bumps that lined his forearm and bicep.
Otis wasted no time and hoisted himself up on the rock wall. He stretched long and hard and felt the hurt of his wet muscles. Then he began to search for dry sticks and logs to start a morning fire so he could cook rice and beans.
Otis watched Mac against the rock wall. The cavity of his chest went out and in, swelling deeply every minute or so. A cool wind chilled the freezing air that sifted down from the dark clouds above the canyon. Nothing was dry nor was anything drying and it would be hard to warm up, even with a fire.
These were the days in Read Canyon that scared the **** out of nature and out of humans. The days where sun never broke through the impenetrable fog that quieted the loud hearts and lungs. Nothing grew on these days. The flowers did not bloom into colorful blossoms of a special temperament. The grass did not sway and rustle and crackle with dust from the evening sun. Nothing moved. The canyon was still except the dead-chill wind that shot through the bowls and picked up the skeleton dust of soft mushy remains. A bird or two flew from its nest and pushed deep into the rolling fog. But it would die before it returned home from the panic of the nothingness of the fog, of the plain simplicity of its nature to the harsh surroundings. The birds would tire and die and wilt and thin to the black bone, crackled with drying flesh.
It took half of an hour to gather wood dry enough to start a fire in the fog. The flames started small, fighting each other for the piece of wood above them and dying and starting again on the other side of the wooden dome. In time they grew long and stringy, shooting up small pieces of crackling wood. There was hardly any heat but Otis cupped his hands and body around the high blaze anyway. He had opened a can of beans and a can of rice into the tin pot at his side, shoving it above the flames until his hand burned and then he would pull away and wince and curse at the sunless sky above.
By the time the mush of beans and rice was beginning to steam and bubble in the pot, thirty minutes of dead silence had passed in the decaying fog. Macs eyes were half opened and Otis could hear him moaning and aching.
“Mornin’ bud, howd ya sleep?” said Otis stirring the bubbling mix with his spoon.
“Coulda been better. Ya see I been restin my head on this rock all night, awful headache.” Mac rubbed his head and made a sour face and whimpered slightly.
“Well this day coulda been better too. Can’ see them crags a’ the top nor them rocks n’ the bowl.”
“We gonna get through it alrigh’. Jus’ a lil cold ya know? Its gonna get better soon you’ll see. For cryin out loud, it’s the desert, look aroun’ all rock and dust and dirt. It always gets all hot and sticky up in them deserts.” said Mac. He had now twisted his body into an odd deformity against the rock and popped his shoulders and muscles and fingers. “Damn that feels awful nice, getting all stretched out on them bones a mine.”
“Well I been cooking up some a them beans and rice, makin sumpin real good. Tastes midy fine, here gone an try some ‘for is all gone.” Otis handed Mac the pot with the mush sloshing around the burnt corners and cracked edges.
“Mother a pearl! That gotta be the best rice n’ beans I ever taste. All slop and hot in the center and all spicy and warm. I say you gone an made some real good food t’day.” Mac ate like a savage, filling his mouth and dipping the spoon back in the pot rapidly to carry up another steaming spoon of thick, brown mush. It ran down the sides of his mouth until a finger mopped it up and wiped it clean by tongue.
“Wonder ef is gonna rain t’day? Them clouds is all dark and heavy.”
“Nah, it never rains in these parts. Them clouds is just fog up over them crags high.” Mac scraped the sides of the tin pot with the spoon and breathed heavily.
“Well, we still gon head up to dem crags count a all the clouds an fog?”
“I know I gonna. There was sumpin special down in em bowls an der gonna be sumpin special up in dem crags.”
“If it get nice up there, all sunny an warm an clear, you’ll see Gaston under the h’rizon.”
“Yeah, I say we jus go an hope fur the bes’.” Mac was now on his feet and had placed his hands above the crackling flames.
The fog was settled down deep within the canyon now. The moisture stuck to the rock and it had become rather dangerous to climb or descend the canyon. Visibility was scarce in the bowls and even worse up high in the deeper fog near the peaks.
Both men took a can of noodles and an apple that they packed in a small day bag and began on the trail to find a safe path towards higher ground. They looked at each other through the dense fog and saw the fear in each others eyes. Fear that slowly crept through their spine shone in the glare of their pupils and protruded weakly into the thicket of rolling mist.
The path came to a turn off left to another cove similar to the ones Otis and Mac had spent the last nights in. The opening was covered by protruding rock that kept the fog out and the grass and dirt was dry and warm from trapped sun. It was a safety from the fog, a breaking point, a mid point.
Otis sat down against the rock face and took out a bag of Durham and began to roll a cigarette. Mac pulled out his own pack and had lit it by the time Otis was moistening the rolled cylinder with his tongue. They smoked hard, both finishing their cigarettes in a few minutes. Then they sat and looked at each other then out at the fog and their breathing slowed and the cavities in their chest swelled deep and slow. Otis squirmed in the fog and rolled to his side.
“Think were gonna make it? Cant see ****. All gray an wet an dark.”
“Well I sure as hell gonna try.” Mac sat up in the gray dirt and coughed.
The fog was dark as ash and soot and tasted dirty and filthy and stuck deep in the throat and stuck underneath finger tips irritating the soft pink skin. Navigating was impossible. It was useless and death called and panic set on the spine and chilled the body to a tomblike state of despair. Feet stopped, the body stood stiff, eyes sore and blood shot from the ashy vapor. It was endless rain. Endless panic. Who knows?
Both men squatted in the moist ashy dirt and spit flem to the ground. Then, they stood on their sore feet and creeped out into the mist. Their bodies slowly disappeared in the encasing of dark rain and nothing. Occasionally they called each others names in the fog to refute their fears of loneliness and always the other would call back with trembled vocals. But they were alone from everything else but nature and it was hard to comprehend.
The canyon wall ascended rapidly into the thicket as though it would never end and the red soft rock would always crumble under the boots. It was dangerous, deadly but both men pushed on and wiped the ever growing water drops from their face.
Light began to pour through at the top. The drops became transparent dots suspended in the canyon air as the light rays broke through the blinding fog.
Mac’s face burst through the last of the black fog and into the transparent light of the higher morning. He shivered hard and his teeth chattered and rattled to the point were it began to hurt. But the top was there and Mac sat on it and gazed upon the sun scorched earth beyond. The ground was cracked and ridden with black mushy cactus that rotted deep into the earth. But he was above that and the air was warm and dry and there was no black mush or cracks.
“Otis! Im up, I got up ya see. I knew we was gon’ make it.”
No answer
“Man Otis get ya *** up a top here. Ya slow as a snail.”
It was quiet. Mac heard his heart pump and his blood rush and bubble hot in his veins. He waited and listened, nothing.
Otis lay at the bottom of the wall, skull cracked. He didn’t make it
Mac waited for a good time and began to descend back to camp. He knew it before he saw Otis but when he saw him he broke.
It was dusk and the fog had lifted when Mac sat back at camp. The sun was low and shadowed the canyon. Mac put his pack on and left Otis’s behind.
He walked slowly and calmly down the trail, looking for another piece of flat ground. He wanted to sleep.


© Copyright 2017 noheroes13. All rights reserved.

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