Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Perils of the Heart (Fiction Excerpt )

Chapter One: The Hitch Hiker

Since you asked me what I was doing out here hitching a ride in the cold, I’ll tell you. Just turn up the heat, please. And thanks for the ride. Funny how I don’t feel so cold when there is no hope of warming up. Put me in a car though, or in somebody’s living room, and right away I feel cold. Outside I just get used to it, or numb. 

It’s a long drive to Albuquerque, and if you’re going that far, I’ll take the lift.

So yeah, I'm going a long way in this weather, and my reasons for being out here are ... complicated... I guess you could say. It's a long story. If you want to hear about it, I’d be glad to tell it, but you will need some time. It looks like the day is still young, and the drive will take a while. 

Now, I’m going to lay it out for you, not editing so much. You seem like a pretty smart guy, so I won’t spare you the edges. 

Back then, before all this started, I had gotten through school, I had a pretty good job, was married, stable. Not exactly happy, but getting along if you know what I mean. The bills got paid and I was responsible. I lived in a big city, not like this place. I mean here there is nothing but sky, lava flows, red sandstone, and wind. The winds just never stops blowing. But it’s where tumbleweeds like me end up.

You can be as sad as you want here, but everyone is so busy trying to survive they don’t encourage your staying that way. Thanks for the heat by the way. That feels good. I forget how cold I am.

You need to understand something: there is a wild way of being that runs counter to sensibility. Because it cannot be tamed, living like this leads to trouble. I guess that’s where I went wrong, as some people would see it, or right, as my heart tells me. But following something as tenuous and insubstantial as the heart has led to my standing here, by this road, alone, unforgiven by almost everyone who knows me. It is cold and I have nothing left, nothing, that is except memories and a certainty that I had no choice, that I would do it all again if I had it to do over.

It was a dream, of course, and its effect on me was no less that being struck by a truck or lightning, only you couldn't see it. It was like the solar flares that no one can see until they show up as shimmering curtains of light in the atmosphere. You can't see or touch them, but they are there, as real as rocks, nonetheless. This dream took hold of me in a stranglehold. Either I would follow it or I would die. Simple as that.

Pardon me. I just need to blow some warm air into my hands here. Whew. I get the shivers sometimes. OK, where was I?  Like most things, though, dreams can grow cold after a while if you don't care for them. When it was still alive, on fire, I felt good. 

And dreams often lead to people. One of these was a woman, and we met as a blue moon rose red over the rocks on a high plateau New Mexico. I had a flask of tequila, and she sang a song about tequila making a woman's clothes come off. She meant it to be funny, but all of a sudden I felt that stranglehold again. The body has its own language sometimes and it rises up to lay down the law, deliver that old ultimatum. All that mattered was that moment and the rushing rivers of chemicals and electricity. I felt like I would die from the thrill of it or perish from the denial of it. It wasn't going to go well either way, as far as things staying the same.No matter what happened, the thought of her was there, in the background. It would not leave me alone.

To Be Continued...

[From here, the story switches to the driver's (a straight-laced college teacher) perspective. He is taking the long way home and has no idea how this story, told by a hitch-hiking transient, will affect him.]

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