Originally published November 15, 2011 – Updated March 24, 2013
“I can’t believe you’re paying me for this,” he said, squinting into the harsh desert sun. Sal’s arms hung by his sides, the weight of the hammer pulling his right arm taught. The handle swayed back and forth, barely perceptible, pulsing with his racing heart.
“How else do we discover our true selves without pushing the limit a bit?” I said. Taking the hammer, I drove the last of the four posts deeply into the dry, shattered soil.
“All done. You ready?” I asked, as I laid down on my back – spread eagle as if to make a sand angel.
“Come on, I’ve already paid you.”
He shook his head, “Not enough.”
Lifting my head off the sand, I locked eyes with Sal, staring at him until he relented.
“Fine,” he said, sighing deeply. “Tell me again why you’re doing this?” he asked as he circled around to my feet, falling to his knees and picking up the ropes.
“I’m seeking a spiritual awakening. I’m convinced this is how. Let’s start with my right foot; bind it tightly,” I said, starting my path to enlightenment.
(sequel by 32 Squared – I had to include it to keep the flow going, plus it was well done.)
I watched Sal as he begrudgingly earned his pay. He dragged his bare feet, stirring up the playa dust with his torn and thready bell bottom hems.
“All done. You know, just because your bohemian hash smoking mother named you Angel, doesn’t mean you have to try and be one.”
” Take the rig back to camp and come back the day after tomorrow….I’ll be fine, I’ll stay here purifying under the Solstice Sun.”
“There’s buzzards out here, and scorpions and snakes. Here you are, completely naked covered in silver body glitter. You look like a piece of meat wrapped in foil.”
“Sal, get out of here, I paid you” I said.
I watched Sal climb into the land sail and release the break. I decided to try and ask him for one more thing. “Sal, wait!”
“What could you want now, you told me to leave.”
I took a deep breath and twisted in my ropes. “I need you to glue my eyelids open.”
Sal grinned at me through the sunlight, tsk-tsking; “You couldn’t pay me enough old friend, don’t push it”, and the wind swept him away.
My eyes lids slid open, painfully, exposing my eyes to the blazing sun. Something was crunching in the sand behind me.
Oh god, no more scorpions. Sal. Please let it be him.
“Sal? Is that you?”
“Oh! Thank sweet baby jesus, untie me. Now,” I stammered, my voice hoarse. “Water. Please tell me you brought water?”
“Yup. Untie you first, or do you want the water?”
Kneeling down beside me, Sal poured a thin stream of water into my mouth until it filled overflowing, streaking my sand covered face.
“So, did you see Jesus?” he asked, untying me.
“What? No; How could you leave me out here,” I screamed, looking over my badly burned chest.
“Hey, man, you dragged me out here and made me,” he said, incredulous. “You even paid me.”
“I did? How much?”
“20 bucks! That’s all it took to convince you it was a good idea to tie me down in the desert? Are you crazy? I can’t believe you left me out here for two days.”
“Oh come on, you big baby; it’s only been 4 hours,” he chided.
(sequel by 32 Squared)
“Sal, I’m never dropping acid with you again”.
“What ever Angel, it was junk, it just made me hungry. I went and got us some burritos, want yours?”
I rubbed my stiffness, the glitter falling off my skin and scattering in the breeze. The sun was setting and we sat next to each other, inhaling burritos.
“Where did you get these?” I asked, mouth full of rice and pork.
“Over there, at the Burrito Barn.”
I jerked my head around and looked disgustingly in the one direction I hadn’t looked in yet, behind me. We were all of 200 feet from the main highway. A vast expanse stretched out in front of us, to our right and to our left. But civilization, burrito stands and gift shops sneaked up behind me while I lay staked to the ground.
“Sal, I feel cheated. Are you telling me that we sailed so far from camp, we actually made it across the border?”
“I told you it was some bad acid. They got weak margaritas at The Barn…..want one?”
“Blended or on the rocks?”
“Sal, what’s this world coming too.”
We walked into The Barn, the inky darkness washing over us as the rich sounds of Santana blasted from the jukebox placed strategically two feet inside the front door.
“Where’s the bar?” I yelled at Sal.
“In the back,” he answered, pointing past a dozen empty tables to the back of the room. “Through the red door.”
“Strange place for a bar.”
“In the desert, or behind a door?” he asked, lighting a cigarette.
The few patrons in the bar were huddling in a corner opposite the front door. They endured the sight of an old ex-hippie and his badly sunburned, glitter-ball BFF negotiating the maze of tables only to pause at the red door.
“Are you sure?” I asked, my hand reaching for the door knob.
A cowboy in the corner – or, maybe he was an Indian – spoke up over the music, “Not a good idea, fellas.”
“Why? He needs a margarita,” Sal said, jabbing his thumb at me, his eyes locked on the door.
“Not seen a one come back in ten years,” he said – definitely an Indian.
Ah, what the hell.
(sequel by 32 Squared)
“Hey! You! You got glitter on my peanut shells. And you got no shoes! No Shoes, No Service, read the damn sign!”
Something hit me in the side of my head. I spun around on a floor covered in discarded shells, the remaining glitter orbiting outwards, like the rings of Saturn.
I looked down, hoping to find an unopened beer, but it was a shoe. “Put it on Angel, and we’ll hop to the bar.” Sal ordered. “I’m thirsty.”
What a spectacle, peg-legged left and peg-legged right hoping around rickety tables, knocking over chairs.
“I like your twos’ moxie.” the tender urged. “If you make it over here, I’ll mix you both a drink I’ll call a Mad Moxie. I guarantee you’ll both be wandering the desert chasing rainbows.”
Balancing each other as in a three-legged race, we grinned and wiggled forward. But Sal lost his balance, moving a table, the force lighting a matchbook used to level it out.
The fire spread rapidly, kindled by peanut shells adorned with glitter, followed by the repeated double sounds of clomp! and slap!
1 – Desert Angel: http://ficly.com/stories/27451
2 – Dust Devil: http://ficly.com/stories/27458
3 – Burnt: http://ficly.com/stories/27466
4 – Acid & Burritos: http://ficly.com/stories/27468
5 – Red Door: http://ficly.com/stories/34624
6 – Oh, Shells Bells!: http://ficly.com/stories/34627