Friday, June 3, 2011

Traildust PART FIVE

The sun was beginning to set and the winds were blowing in cold from the East. Coyotes barked and howled at the dustcloud-covered moon. Specks of fires burned on the horizon, but riders couldn't be seen for miles. The two riders stopped. Bennet looked off into the distance and then behind him and scratched his nose.
"We ought make camp here for tonight," he said, dismounting. "We'll continue on tomorrow."
"How far you goin', Bennet?" Jake said, climbing off his horse and lashing it to a nearby cactus.
"Far 'nuff. 'Bout another day's ride. If'n we're lucky it'll be a little less."
"What was it you said you had to do out there?"
"Didn't," Bennet tied his horse to a leafless shrub. "You don't gotta come along."
"I don't mind."
Bennet sat in the sand and carved himself a hole in the sand. The top was warm but just two handfuls down and it was cold. He pulled down his rucksack, dug into it and pull out some beans, sun-dried burro meat and some tortillas and put them down next to him. After a few tries he stoked up a fire and got it going so that the gods could see them clean and clear. Putting the food on a flat rock he pushed it towards the fire and smelled the food as it cooked.
"Is that all you got to eat?" Jake asked, moving closer to the fire. "Just that Mexican stuff?"
"Yeah, what of it?"
"Just don't seem good enough is all. I always keep m'self goin' with whiskey and American-style chilli. Maybe some cornbread if'n I got it."
"Well, guess each to his own."
Jake pulled some cornbread and whiskey out of his saddlebag and started eating.
"You already had whiskey," Bennet said.
"I did."
"Then why'd you take some a mine?"
"'Coz I asked and you gave."
Jake laughed at his own cleverness and Bennet ignored him, turning the strips of meat over to cook them evenly. Silence passed between the men, filled only by the sounds of a desert night. The specks on the horizon surrounded them on all sides. Fires lit by men like them, travelling, covered in desert dust and sweating in the sun, freezing under the moonlit night.
Smoke spiralled off of burnt edges and the food was ready. Bennet wrapped some beans and meat in a tortilla and ate, washing down every other mouthful with whiskey. When he was done he took some cigarettes out of his jacket pocket and lit one up, leaning it into the fire and pulling it in for a drag. Spirals of tobacco smoke lingered in the air like dust devils, mixing and mingling with the ember-laden fire smoke.
"Pass me one a them?"
"Y'got yer own."
Laughing, Jake reached into his vest pocket and pulled out some short cigars.
"Wouldja look at that?"
Putting the cigar in his mouth, he leaned his face in towards the fire to light it up. Smirking, he sat back up. The smell of burnt hair lingered. Bennet nodded at the man's beard and Jake shrieked as he patted the singed and glowing ends. Bennet growled a low laugh.

When Jake had finally fallen asleep, Bennet stared up into the sky. Star stretched across it like a blanket, small pockets of light in the never-ending darkness. He put his fingers into a gun and aimed up at the stars, one by one.
"Bang," he said.
He did this for a while until he felt weary and the world turned dark with sleep. He dreamt of nothing but walking to the market and buying bread. Eating cereal from his favourite bowl. Gold falling from over-stuffed coffers.

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