The Cowboy.A Western Vignette, to awaken.
He awoke slowly but he might have preferred not waking at all.
His eyelids spit an audible click as his vision jarred to light. A blink like a ratchet half-stripping a bolt.
The desert was halfway into her cruel morning.
His head pounded with a bone-bleached dryness, an echo of the desert into which he was now swallowed. A torso fell from his body like a man hung by ragged jute sac. The body refused any initial movement. He swiveled his head and his saddle answered back. Hand fingered through the thin waves of his brown hair and he felt its grime. Scalp was matted and oiled with days of being lost, days of wandering, days of hunger. He pushed his top leg, the left leg, felt the bloody grind of foot into side of boot. The head felt like a foreign thing atop someone else’s body and his hand felt a altogether separate animal.
The smell of the sunwarm leather, his horseless saddle, where rested his head, took full hold of his olfactory awareness. Next, the smell of minerals in dry dirt and broken trees. A faint metallic mud, somewhere. The smell of his tired body lifted from his denim blue shirt.
The saddle yawned beneath his turning head as he began to lift himself. A horseless saddle. The heaviest damned pillow, the most worthless damned pillow. The one thing left in this journey gone awry. No cattle bayed, no chickens squawked, no pigs rustled thrush with grunts and snorts. Home was a helluva long ways away, somewhere behind that sun. The fat-sided biscuits of those mornings were four lives away. Butter and percolated coffee. A cut of bacon smearing her grease against a heavy flour biscuit.
A horseless saddle is a ridiculous thing.
Four lives away.
Well, Shit. That horse always was a fearful thing.
II. Horseless saddle.
His eyes focused, tightened against the frame of space. A tumble of dust knotted a spiral of hay, shot it into a vastness of empty, unpopulated distance. The space was monochromatic at glance, mosaic and busy on study. Such emptiness carried a full acoustic sense, a music of its own sphere, untranslatable elsewhere, a secret language whispering a primal history. A subsonic howl that tilted his senses.
He half wished he could bind himself into that wheel of hay, go to where it went, arriving with such ease and effortlessness. However, a field of decision stared back at him, and it stared damn hard.
His head ached with the the full measure of noise that an empty desert could produce. He could barely pull up his body into the delirium of sound that was his hunger, his thirst, his fatigue. But he tried, mustered movement. Legs ground into sand rubble, a shocking loudness, an upheaval. The wheel of hay kept spinning, kept getting pushed to horizon. He lifted with the need of drink and food, he lifted because the desert was alive and he felt the thrust of survival in his gut. He lifted and he sat, a slump in his shoulders, ache in belly.
All that space he now melted into, now surrendered his body as a thing within the theater. Slumped against it.
Nothing lives here long and neither will I if I don’t get going.
He arched his body into an upright state. The gut punished by movement. He pushed blood into his arms, legs, hands, feet. Slowly he claimed his separateness from the desert, withdrew his own thirst from that of the desert, collected a tiny bit of spit from his cheek.
A pulse skipped a distant gallop, thunder skipping across a field of dust, the heart was a steady overworked thing. The ribs rebelled against the muscles of the diaphragm, the exertion of breath and the unsteadiness of it. A tongue moved against the side of the mouth like a muskrat crawling into a morsel of scrap gristle. It was all too fucking much to bear, and the idea of it being a permanent state seemed inevitable.
He was stuck in the desert and the sweet rot of the ancient land seemed to already recognize him as one of its possessions.
III. To crawl from the hole where one has fallen.
Waking chilly in an open desert startled him with the great fold of space in it's infinitesimal business. A cool ground scurried with insects and rodents. More heard than seen. A sense of sublime movement stirring the landscape.
The small grey bag was soon exhausted of its meager rations, the leftovers of some broken Confederate body. Tack and some coffee powder. He bit the hard crust of salt porc, let it grip his teeth and slowly release. He swallowed hard the nutrients.
He noticed a slope in the land about 50 yards east. He hoped. He collected his saddle and stood and stumbled with tack still working his jaw. Sure enough. Deux en machina. A small creek cleaved the land, the grand meltoff of winter.
There ain’t no Spring without Winter, no work without want. Let’s get there.