Pyote, fiction by Shannon Hardwick

Imag­ine I am a body on the side of the road, maybe a girl in a skirt and a shirt that’s torn, or a boy with a brief­case and mud­dy boots. Imag­ine I am you. You’ve tak­en too long to get here, the mid­dle of nowhere. Pyote. City of Pyote sign ahead but only dirt roads and maybe a farmer some­where way off in the back beyond where you can see mesquite and that’s all lit­tered around like for­got­ten seeds of some­thing half-grown but with roots strong and long enough to reach any water-table no mat­ter how deep. That’s the desert. It eats what it can. Imag­ine I am a man fix­ing a radi­a­tor because it’s too god­damn hot to run away. It’s too hot to feel your legs let alone your heart which is break­ing, and always has been. Imag­ine the three of them broke down in the same place out­side the city of Pyote. Which exists. I’ve seen it, dri­ving into noth­ing because it’s too god­damn hot to do any­thing else. The girl with her skirt
and the boy with the boots. He’s think­ing, Take her to Red Sands Inn. He’s think­ing, Take out the pain I’m in. He’s think­ing the old man with the radi­a­tor might make it halfway to Brown­field and the girl is think­ing, Where am I going? She’s think­ing, I’ve got a body, I should use it. So she walked out and kept going and had the thought of eat­ing snake but didn’t. When she was a girl she wasn’t afraid. More afraid of not being poi­soned. She want­ed the hal­lu­ci­na­tion like a light. Like a feel­ing of being some­where high­er than here. Imag­ine I’m you. Every­thing you’ve lost in that boy’s brief­case which he kept because it locked and he planned on throw­ing it out once he decid­ed, This is it. I’m a goner. I’m gone. The old man with the radi­a­tor want­ed water and a coast­line but he mar­ried for mon­ey and a tight ass. Noth­ing lasts. The girl’s got some legs, that’s for sure. The boy, a gun, prob­a­bly. Noth­ing more dan­ger­ous than a young bro­ken boy look­ing for some­thing to ground him. The mesquite can live in the heat for years because it has the patience to stay still. To stay long enough to reach a water-table, no mat­ter how far down. The man once reached Kansas and told him­self he’d kill him­self before he got any far­ther. Instead he went back to Pyote by way of a bro­ken down blue­bird of a car that kept things inter­est­ing. The girl thought the same of snakes but was nev­er brave enough to pick one up. Shoot it, maybe, but then you can’t get stung. So she told the boy to take her to the Red Sands. Why not? It was too god­damn hot. And the old man said, All right, get in. I think I have enough for the three of us, and hand­ed them a round.

 

Shan­non Eliz­a­beth Hard­wick received her Mas­ters in Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence Col­lege in 2010. She recent­ly com­plet­ed her first full-length man­u­script of essays and poet­ry and has a chap­book in print and one forth­com­ing with Mouth­feel Press. She is the res­i­dent poet for Port Yon­der Press' online mag­a­zine Beyon­daries and her work has been fea­tured or is upcom­ing in 3:AM Mag­a­zine, Night Train, Ver­sal, Sug­ar House Review, among oth­ers. She writes in the deserts of West Texas.

 

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