Friday, July 22, 2011


As the man rode away, his mind arace with the thoughts of a job undone, it began to rain with the fury of the end of the world. Torrents of water fell from the opened sky, muddying the sand and giving the wind a biting chill. The way ahead was blurred out from reality, woold pulled over the man's eyes as he trotted back to Galveston through the storm. A heavy thundering and a ligthing bolt struck a nearby tree, sending it up in flames. The man stopped for a moment and watched as the tree burned and slowly died, the fire consumed by the rain from the storm that bore it. From the bough of it the man could see a man hanging, blowing in the wind, his body charred now, wet and useless.
The man rode over to the tree, smoking and steaming now from the dead fire, and looked up at the hanging man. His face was bloated and strange, unearthly in the storm's haze, part burned off by the fire. It struck the man that he had not noticed this corpse before as he rode in and wondered from whence this man had come. He looked around and saw now horse meandering across the desert openness by itself, though to say so was foolishness as the man could hardly see ten feet in front of him now for the rain.
Droplets hung fast and soon fell from the brim of his hat, mingling with the water and endless sands of the desert. Looking up at the hanged man once more, the man moved forward and took out his bowie knife. Supporting himself from the trunk of the tree and hanging onto the hanged man's bough, the man set about cutting him down. It did not take long, though longer than normal for the wet rope, and the hanged man fell to the ground with a sucking, wet thud. The man climbed down from the lightning-struck tree and stood over the corpse. He got on his knees and dug feverishly in the wet sand like a mad man.
Grime stuck to his nails, coarse sand scraping at the layers of his skin. Water pooled in the hole and around him. He could feel the wind's chill in his bones and his skin was like brittle ice. For hours he dug, there, on his hands on knees until he had himself a large enough hole for a body. None too deep to be sure as a result of the poor conditions and lack of tools, but still a grave. Taking the hanged man by under his armpits, the man dragged the body into the grave and covered him over again with the muddy sand. He stood, then, and stared at the new grave, the final resting place of this hanged man without a name. Sand stuck to his hands, his kness, his clothes. His breathing was heavy and his eyes deranged. His heart beat heavily in his chest.
"We all die sometime," the man said and as he did he realized he said it not only for the hanged man but for himself and the American and the Mexicans he'd killed and the rabbi and the preacher and all the other people in this world he continued about with no semblence of meaning in their lives other than the loss of it all.
Reaching up, the man snapped off a large enough branch from the hanged man's bough and stuck it at the head of the grave. He hoped someone would come along and mayhaps see it and dig it up and bury the man in a proper place with a proper grave and stone, even without his proper name.
After standing there for some minutes in the soaking rain under the tree, the man remounted his horse and left again for the horizon and on towards Galveston.
The rain did not let up for the days, weeks, it took the man to traverse the open plains again, back the way he'd come. Going back was slower than leaving because now he was in no hurry. Time faded in and out and the man barely noticed. The world barely noticed at all. When finally he reached the city limits, or what he knew to be the city limits, there was nothing at all beyond them. Piles of wood and nails and bodies lay across the way where Galveston had been, empty and flat where one a town had thrived and stood tall. Wiped clean was the slate of this place, free to start again anew, better.
The man smiled and let out a gruff, low chuckle. He did not bother to look around for signs of his employer or anyone he knew, in his mind he knew the sea and wind had taken them all from this place and the earth was cleaner without them. So, with nothing else to do, he got back on his horse and, this time, moved north.

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