Sunday, March 27, 2011

flashed fiction: the arroyos in march

Road-dusty stranger walked into the bar, parting smoke-clouds, wearing the scent of green grass in the miasma of the less than holy. Stepped to the bar, leaned fresh smiling face across to crumbling Bess behind her old mahogany fortress wall. For a quickflashing moment, she felt the emerald stir of the sixteen-year-old beauty she'd been all those years before, inspiring the dreams of boy and middling, pufferied man alike. But her dormant green to the stranger's green was another story altogether: he called out with nary a smidge of lust, and she felt no need nor desire to conquer. Brother to sister and back, if any context was called for at all.

"What'll it be," to the stranger. Feather-light breezy voice she hadn't heard from her lips in ages. With it the ache of days long thought dead.

"Water, my sweet."

"In this hole? Step to the well outside, if it's water you want, don't you think?"

He smiled the sweet green grass back again: new mown hay, full moon over a hayed field, saltcedar sweat on the skin, glistening. "Company's better in here."

"Is it now?" Just a touch of flirtation in the question, but playful, bird of prey flown the coop. "I don't know you from Adam."

Brotherman smiled at the reference. Lovely irony in the ear of that beholder.

"True that, sister."

sister plunked at some rusty heartstrings. "You know we ain't exactly the welcoming kind here, don't you?"

"I've been told. I don't take much to gossip."

"Knives and broken bottles ain't exactly gossip, fair man."

Fair man chuckled. Sweet Bess wondered if anything could get a rise out of him. With that thought a heartrending ache pierced palms and feet. She staggered for a moment behind her wall, kept her feet. Drew the glass of water, set it before the stranger.

"Another glass, if you please. Empty."

"Something to chase it?"

He smiled again, the sweetest fall aspens burning. A smile that could light centuries, she thought.

"Something for you," he said.

"My lucky day. I don't get many." She set the empty glass beside his.

"That's a shame. That sixteen-year-old heart was big as any full moon I've ever seen."

The words were meant as a gift, she knew it, but they pierced her side like the sharpened blade she kept behind the bar for the Saturday night ee-jits. That second babe she'd given up to the Fist of God, dark hair on olive face sleeping in death's hold from the ready, not even that pain had pierced as deep.

"Brother, I ain't never - "

"I get fuzzy feelings is all. Sometimes I'm off, more often, well, so many of us have been there."

"Your heart been to the grave already, too, brother?"

"Give it time. I ain't special. My travail's bound to come."

She had no idea what to do with all this talk, all this mirror in her face, all this sudden ache to live again. She glanced at the empty glass. "I don't see no canteen by your side there, strangerman. Snake oil, perhaps?"

"Drink up," he said.

"Mighty light, from what I can see. Can't shit a shitter. You oughta know that."

"Plenty more where that came from, girl. Drink your fill."

Crazy as it seemed, she half believed the man, half wanted to reach out and drink deep. She was damned tired of all the world she
could see: she'd long felt it was time for the blind man's reach.

"This miracle water got a name?"


Three quail fluttered in her chest. She wobbled as she reached. Tears mixed with the joy that wanted to do its dance.

Mama raised her better, but she let it slop all down her front, flashflooding creek running down the arroyo of her breasts.

Drank three, she did. Gulping through the rain of tears, she fingered the rough hand that lay on the bar.

"Like to take some home," she whispered.

"More than welcome. Got a whole truckload. But - "

Sour taste in her throat. "Oh, now we come to the scam. Samples is free, but now - "

"Easy, girl. No scam. Just one price, my sweet."

The green grass in his breath calmed her heart again.

She surprised herself with her answer: "Anything. Anything."

The stranger smiled a rainbowed sun her way, tipped an invisible hat and slid the glass across the dissolving mahogany.

"Exactly," he said, as he backed away, the rush of spring flooding all the precincts. "Exactly."



Blogger Dee Martin said...

the sound you heard was my jaw hitting the table. I think this is my favorite piece ever.

I would be honored if I could have your permission to read this next month at the Poet's Society meeting.

4:15 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Sweet Sister Dee: Thank you again for your always beauteous words. I have to say that I loved writing this; I felt it burbling while I listened to this morning's Gospel reading. It was crying out for a modern retell. I choke up when she whispers, "Like to take some home."

Read away, my sister. I am so touched and honored. Blessings to you.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Dee Martin said...

You did it up righteous - now it will be read in the town that boasts a statue of Jesus in cowboy boots in the local cemetery. They will be loving it :)
More of these would make an awesome devotional. The Cowboy churches that are springing up all around would adopt you as their own :)

She made me choke up as well - but then I always loved the original telling too. It ever surprises.

4:38 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Dee: The original is a beautiful story, and the sermonizer's take this morning stirred up a good roux, too.

We'll work out the details on your publicist's cut. (:-D)

4:56 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Wow!! That is more than cool. I love it. Didn't know they had a town called Samaria with a well called Sychar out in Texas... Or is it a county called Samaria with a town called Sychar and a well belonging to a gent named Jacob?

Great accompaniment with the devotional music there as well. It must have been a powerful Scripture reading or sermon this morning in Tres Leches, bro.

And I surely enjoyed the drink!

10:02 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

I've got a soft spot for those Samaritans, T. Love the story at the well, and the sermonizer had his own fun with it, too. This was less fun than my usual antics, closer to the heart. Glad you liked the Krauss as well.

Have a great week, Sister T.

10:58 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Gorgeous recasting of one of my favorites, and it's hard to imagine one better for the season: it was lovely to feel all that cool green, fresh water, beautiful music washing over my parched, tough hide. I think Dee's idea for a series of these might be worth considering...

9:19 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Thank you, Anno: This was quite a pleasure to write, after feeling its pulse during yesterday's service. I like the idea of a series, but I am far too wayward to focus in on such a thing. Maybe a collection of current and former Michiganders joining in? (After you grade them papers, of course.)

9:26 PM  

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