After a long period of not writing anything but the technical stuff that comes with a career in public relations, I’ve decided to flex my creative muscles again. I am rusty as a bike in the rain, but I’m posting the little bit I’ve been working on – more to come. I figure, even if I’m the only one who reads it, at least I can say I did it.
He saw the storm in his rear view mirror. Late-summer Arizona sunsets were gorgeous harbingers. Their bright red beauty dissolved into a solid wall of dust, rain, wind and hell that wound through Phoenix, leaving city dwellers wet, confused, and responsible for piles of filthy, forgotten patio furniture. The storm didn’t have the urgency of a tornado – but it did give him a thrill as he adjusted his seat and drove east. It would take some other act of God or a particularly bad traffic jam to prevent him from outrunning it. He rubbed his face and used a nail to clean the lingering dirt and sweat from his finger pads. He’d need a shower, a dousing in mouthwash and aftershave, a clean pair of clothes. He’d find a place – some roadside motel where the owner’s wife cleaned the toilets and made the beds, where they’d ask friendly questions but not bat an eye to the answers they received. He didn’t have much that needed safekeeping. He had four belongings that mattered to him, and they rarely left the warm places against his body – a multi-tool pocket knife, a tiny prayer card, a photograph, and a single piece of white paper worn soft and leathery from repeated folding and unfolding.
The El Ranchito in Mesa beckoned from its position flush off Main St. He knew that the blue in its lit sign was from the noble gas Argon, and that the red was from Neon. He didn’t know a lot of things like that, but he knew because she’d once told him. His car turned into a loose gravel lot, overlooked by a small kiosk that served as an office. An elderly man in large glasses glanced at the new arrival then quickly brought his gaze back to the Daily Race Form. A few pleasantries exchanged led to a comfortable room at the far end of the motel lot, near the street.
He fingered the key in his hand – a maroon keychain read “No One’s A Stranger Here” in faded gold lettering. He breathed in the room’s cold, dry air and let his body go loose and wild on the bed’s floral quilt, his limbs moving in whatever strange position was most comfortable. He’d closed his eyes for five minutes when a sharp crack of thunder brought him back to attention. The storm had found him, and now barreled down the street in a whipped fury. Wind chimes went mad and wound themselves into silence and dirt, leaves and branches danced in the air while drivers searched for easy shelter.
After a thin layer of dust had coated the world, the rain appeared and turned it all to a muddy, steamy mess. He stepped outside and lit a cigarette under the protection of an awning, humming a Native American rain song his mother had taught him. It would be another two hours before nightfall – just enough time to do all he’d planned, maybe buy a new shirt, and make the half hour drive to Phoenix. He finished his cigarette and then, suddenly as it had arrived, the storm vanished, pushing itself west until the desert would sap it of its energy and wring it dry. He unfolded the piece of paper again. In bold letters:
Arcadia Community Theater Presents: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Starring: Louis Baker, Gregory Morrison, Richard Hawkes, and Opal Richmond.
Doors open 6:15p.m., performance at 7:00p.m.
Clover Theater, 1366 W. 4th Street