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Allen Clarke Allen Clarke
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She had a friend.

Just another little foray onto the panorama of my mind. However, I do hope that you don`t mind if I take certain liberties, as I often do. By the way, don`t bother to look up these places on the map. You`ll only find them in my very fertile imagination.

Chapter One

     He sat on the hillside, waiting. Waiting for what? He wasn`t sure. All he knew was that the people were desperate. Everywhere he looked he saw death. Off in the distance he thought he saw the wispy form of what he thought was a thunderhead forming. Then, it vanished. The heat had been so insufferable during the day that he had taken to sleeping naked in the somewhat cooler hours of the evening. Of course, he had to be especially wary of those night creatures that slithered about on their nocturnal wanderings. Now and again, he would be suddenly stirred to life by a fly-by Jeep as it rumbled by down on the road leading to the town. His sleeping hours were fitful at best and often he would be tormented by dreams of torrential downpours. He would awaken to the sun streaming down on his unashamed nudity, and, the odd time he would nod his head in acknowledgement of a passerby ambling along on a tired old burro. Once a week, he would venture to the coastal city of Old Santiago, if only to go for a plunge in the sea to wash off the grease and built up grime from his body.

     It had been like this all summer. During the day he could hear the mournful lowing of the few bony cattle that remained on the high plains. The people walked about like ghosts on the land. Living specters rustling about here and there doing what needed to be done to prepare for their next skimpy meal of dried corn and what little meat they could muster.The Company Store was now running low on canned goods. It was not a good sign .If the store closed, that would mean having to travel to the next town which was over fifty miles away.

     They had sent for him via moccasin telegraph. He had expressly made his price of a thousand dollars known, even to those who seemed to be hard of hearing. They had said they couldn`t pay much. The fact was he wasn`t altogether sure if he could help them at all. The question was,``Just how bad did they want rain?``The request of Nature lingered in the empty skies like the capricious promise of rain. The last time somebody called him, they got snow instead. Nevertheless, he sat there in the shade of the sycamore tree, with his rawhide drum and began to chant. Now and again, he struck up a cheroot and savoured the smoke as it curled up and away into the dry, dusty air. The odd time, the smoke went down the wrong pipe and his body racked as he sat there coughing and hacking up a storm.

     But the kind of storm he was after, was literal. He wanted it so bad he could taste it. He snickered a bit, as he recalled facetiously about the time he conjured up a flash flood, down south of the Pecos, on a reservation where everything had dried up to the bone. At this point in time, it was all he could do but laugh about it. Still, somehow he felt that Whoever it was that makes these things happen was on the verge of making it happen one more time. A sudden gust of warm southerly wind told him of the distinct possibility that something was on the rise.

Chapter Two

     He fell asleep against the sycamore. Lately, he had gotten into the familiar habit of old men to doze off in the face of serious and pressing matters. Was it because he had seen so much of sorrow and hard times? There had been days of rage and days where he had forgotten the most important things in life. Having lived a hermitic, simple life, this business of calling rain from out of the sky was nothing short of spectacular.

     A drop of something fell on his leathery face and he bolted upright wildly expectant to see the dark clouds forming. Instead, he strained to focus on a lone buzzard perched on a branch directly above him. He cursed it in a strained voice, as it flew away with a piercing screech. And as it wildly flapped its` wings,it looked back, as if in regret of a missed meal.

     His straw hat was covered with desert dust. In Mexico, the old men would be having their afternoon siesta. Why can`t I? he thought to himself. That was the beauty of this rainmaking business, he was always his own boss. The problem was he didn`t get a blessed coin until the job was done. He dug into his jeans to see if he had enough for at least a cold sarsparilla at the Company Store. He retrieved two ten cent pieces, a wrinkled five dollar bill, two marbles and his faded red Mexican serape. Running a knarled hand into thick greasy hair, he wiped the residue of last week`s Brylcreem on his faded Levis. Evidently,he needed to visit the barbershop in town. A half ass barber snipped here and there with the dullest pair of scissors this side of the Rio Grande.

    Our hero wasn`t particularily homely, although he wasn`t what most women would consider handsome. He was just weathered, that`s all. Life had dealt him cards according to his choices. At times, he mourned pathetically at what life might have been like had he taken a different turn in the road.`Ah, useless to even think about it.``He chawed down the vain thought like a cold Thanksgiving dinner. Even though he didn`t have much to be thankful for lately, all he wanted was a sustained cloudburst for a few days.

      Again, he dozed off. In his dreams he was in a cantina just on the other side of the border. There was a Spanish lady there dancing the flamenco around his table. As he sat there on the slivery wooden bench, he dined on hot, spicy chili which burned going down. Everywhere he turned his head, he could hear the chink and glistle of dishes, knives and forks. The evening dining crowd whispered in dark and mysterious Spanish. A curious smile flickered across his ancient visage as he thought about the last downpour which he took to his credit.The wise old fox chuckled as he recalled listening to the weather report and the promise of a sudden downpour as of the week before. He remembered how the farmers of San Diablo danced wildly in their ragged sandals, with their poor peon heads lifted to the sky feverishly lapping up the rain with their tongues flickering in and out like a brood of crazed rattlers. It was indeed fiesta time that day on the dry flats. And on that particular day, he had become the self-appointed governor of the Feast!

     He felt surrounded by the conversation of an alien language indecipherable, yet somehow pleasing to his ear.  The chattering Spanish guitars played their feverish stacatto rythyms as if to orchestrate his evening meal. Tequila churned,ablaze deeply within his innards as he bit off the head of the worm. The sharp clacking of the women`s heels echoed throughout the dimmly lit cantina. The candle-light warmed his soul and enveloped his forgotten loneliness. Ah, this is the life, he exulted silently, relishing the thought. He luxuriated in the languid holiday atmosphere peculiar to sunnier climes.

      Feeling into his pocket he rustled the remaining bills of his usual fee, and motioned to the waitress for another bottle of the fiery liquid which drives saints to becoming sinners. He never drank to the extremes of outright debauchery as did the weakest of men. His drinking was more of necessity rather than for the kick, as they say. Iced water sold for fifty cents a glass. He figured that better for a man to kill the pain of life`s self-inflicted wounds as opposed to slaking the thirst momentarily. The fact was that the more he drank the handsomer he seemed to look and the happier he seemed to be. The bottle could be a lying mistress and no less treacherous than a poisonous snake. Cause, he knew he was downright ugly. Therefore,no one,(no matter how pretty) could lie to him.

     He awoke suddenly when an exhilarating gust of cool wind whipped into his face. His longish hair flew to either side of his straw hat. He stared off into the eternal sandcliffs. Scanning the fading twilight he found nary a puff of blue cloud to signal the promise of rain on the way. Still, there was no evidence of clouds coming his way. A dust devil whirled about him and as quickly as it had arrived it flew out of existence. He hacked out a stream of phlegm near missing a desert lizard scampering by on a baked stretch of rock. It sizzled like bacon as it hit the flat face of a gypsum shard.

Chapter Three

     Towards evening, he decided to pitch up his pup tent. Making sure he was a safe distance from the sycamore, he began to pound the tent pegs into the dry and parched ground. In the process, he kicked up a small cloud of dust as his wearied lone sillouette moved about starkly against the deepening blue curtain of the descending evening sky. He had such a profound fear of being lightning struck that he never camped under a tree in all his born days. Stranger things had happened to more fortunate men spoke the voice of unreasonable and superstitious fear. Within an hour, he had set up his shelter for the night. Supper was a can of beans and three strips of beef jerky. He also swigged on a tin flask of home brew. ``It `s strictly for medicinal purposes.``He had lied to himself. Funny how a man could all of a sudden start talking to himself out there in the forsaken land. Since he could not understand or speak the language of the coyotes, he resigned to mutter himself to sleep. Wild emerald waves of the aurora shimmied and swayed across the Northern expanse.  

     In the distance, a lone coyote sang to the stars with its`familiar eerie call. Twinkling lights from the town flickered to life just shortly after dusk. Somewhere down the valley, a clap of a gunshot rang out echoing up and down and through the walls of the red faced canyon. No doubt it was the rancher; at the bend of the alkalai river, shooting at some wolves as they attempted to plunder his already weakened herd. It was the survival of the fittest and had been that way since Time Immemorial. But, as always, it was nature which always had the final say.

      He had scrawled out his X on the contract earlier that day. It seemed these days that he had no name. He preferred it that way. Good ol`anonymity. There was nothin like it to keep the wolf away from the door. At, least..temporarily. He felt like a man always in the evasive mode against the ever closing in prescence of the posse. From  the sunny skies of Californ..I..A, down to the arid state of Arizona, he was a wanted man. He had promised them rain, and when it failed to transpire, he split town with a ragged suitcase and a trashy change of clothes and at least a pint of the home remedy. Some called him, Snake Oil Salesman, while others called him saint. Thirsting people came from miles around to wait for the stirring and eventual outpouring of waters from the sky. One would think that a man with such a gift would be always living the Life, but not so. He lived life with one eye on the open road, and one eye to his back. Mind you, it was a beautiful thing when the rains finally came. Unfortunately, at times, the cool blessing of rain showed up long after he had conveniently disappeared.

      ``Well, when can we expect the first drizzle?``

     He could hear the mock in their voices. That was alright. He knew the voice of cynicism all too well. He never said a word in return. They would get it, when they got it. Some remained set in stone even after their faces were soaked with cloudburst. It caused him immense pleasure when it did happen. Even moreso, he secretly enjoyed their reluctance to grace his palms with silver. His price was a thousand dollars, no matter how long and how light the soak. Of course he knew that it was impossible to give Mother Nature her share. A thankful nod to the sky and a whispered prayer was all he could think to offer Her.

Chapter Four

     He sat under the tree and thought of yesterday when he was a child. His gift had pursued him down through the years. At first, he tried to deny it. It wasn`t something that he had consciously wished for. It just was there. Anyone that questioned the source of his gift could not be answered. It was impossible to explain. It would have been like trying to explain the basic rudiments of quantum physics to a baby.

     As a child the dark cloud heavy with rain followed him all over the place. From a distance people could see the flash of lightnings and the roar of thunder as the cloud moved as he moved here and there. It seemed to him as strange that he didn`t hear the thunder as others obviously did and as others saw the flash of lightning while the heavy dark cloud followed after him. In winter, it was still there; although the rain did not fall for a few months.

     Once he got upset over the dark cloud. The older people could hear him yelling at the persistence of rain over his head. ``Quit! Just quit!``they heard him yell. And. eventually, the cloud would go away from him for a short time. His school mates could be espescially cruel with their snide comments. They would continually call him Rain-in-the-Face, or Hey you.

     The farmers liked him immensely. This was moreso evident during times of drought. They would pay him a few dollars just so they could drive him around, up and down and across their parched fields to save their wilting crops. After awhile, his unmitigated exploitation, by the unscrupulous adults seemed to strike a sour chord with whatever it was which kept the gift operative. An aura of celebrity followed him wherever he went on his tired little burro. Shucks, he often thought,a man of my obvious ability ought to be driving fancy cars and chomping on fine cigars.

````He mouthed out the words, but they wouldn`t form into the void of night. He thought he heard a distant peal of thunder. But the night sky had been completely clear only a few moments ago. Was it just a dream? He wanted to be sure of it, gave himself a sharp pinch; and immediately discovered it to be sufficiently and profoundly tangible. When was it going to arrive? Sooner or later it always did. Would today or tonight be the exception? It seemed somehow easier when he was a child when he could see the cloud and he was assured of its`imminence. Suddenly he saw the flash of light!
     Jumping out of the tent, he was fully prepared to throw his hat high in the air to celebrate arrival of the long- awaited soak. Instead, he groaned to see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the town. It was then that he remembered a rumour he had heard earlier about a secret wedding ceremony which supposedly took place as a result of an elopement. Young hearts had obviously won the day. And then, he thought about her. Yep, she had almost nailed him to the wall with respectibility. Instead, at the last possible moment, he had backed out. He left her crying at the altar in San Sebastian. He had taken one fatal look in the mirror of quiet introspection and decided, in a heartbeat ;that he was not the kind that settles down too easy. He was too much like the restless wind, carried here and there with every twist and turn of hurried time and listless importunity.

     Again, he heard the sound. This time it was unmistakeable. He could already feel the heavy coin and rustle of bills in his faded jeans. His form silhouetted in the distant flash of jagged lightning. Even in the faint blue-ish backdrop of the plains with no end, he could discern the mighty clouds of joy advancing in his direction. He panted with breathless anticipation, as he hurriedly gathered his scruffy provisions. He remembered a cave not two hundred yards away up the ways a bit on the old trail. He would move his camp into its` darkly cool recesses and wait out the storm until morning.

     The wind started to pick up from the east and it was cool. The cattle farther down the valley were lowing restlessly because he was certain they could sense the rain in the air. By tomorrow,the pools in the backwashes would be brimming with fresh, clean water. Children of the wasteland would, once again laugh and splash around in their secret swimming holes nestled in the recesses of the canyon. For it was a terrible thing to see the summer go to waste without some pleasure for young hearts to enjoy. Water was a luxury, and could not be used for anything other than to sustain life. The elders languished in the harshly arrid environment. During the day, they would bring out their rosaries and pray for the blessing which could only come from heaven. It seemed that even those who did not believe in God were having second thoughts about Him.

  Then, they would come to him half-smiling, however reluctant to hand him over the bag of silver. Then, he would pack up his gunny and pup tent, close out yet another sweet deal and sign his John Henry to the contract. He would then trump down the valley and buy a ticket to take the Greyhound into the city. While there, he would sit in The Cantina and smile at the sweet young senioritas as they swirled by in their bright festive dresses. The tequila would never taste any better than at that moment. They would serve him mounds of fiery chili garnished heavily with jalepenos and grated cheese and he would sit. He would sit under the stars and wait and enjoy Life. And he would sit and wait until once again, they would call him.

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