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Allen Clarke Allen Clarke
Recommendations: 18

The Swelter


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She had a friend.

Chapter One - Once Upon a Sizzling Summer


   It was in the dead of August. You could hear the sweat trickling down your backside. Nothing moved, nothing dared to move, if it didn`t have to. Such was the terrible heat. Death Valley at 2 in the aft, was as close to ``you know where``on that desperate summer of 62`. Iffen you were bald, you could fry an egg on your head,I suppose. The wind chimes whistled in the shimmering waves of the Devil`s breath. It was just the metal. Heavy Metal, so to speak. Even the elements complained, in their own inimitable way of the relentless scorch.


   A pin dropped inside the saloon. The overhead fans creaked wearily, but only served to displace the suffocating dust that blew in from the sprawling desert. There hung in the air,little pops of static, crackling lightly, like a bowl of popcorn; left too long on a glowing element. In the distance, a trick of the eyes rose up. It was a lie, full of the hope of rain. The thunderhead, only appeared for a few moments; and then vanished like an unfaithful lover. It was a mirage, a cruel deception of nature.


Outside, could be heard, the rumble of six, tired.. cylinders. A door slammed. The sound of an exploding tire pulled out a loud,``guffaw,``out of the locals, sitting at the tables, basting in their own perspire. After all, there wasn`t much humour; in this parched State, these days. Clothes,clung, like a second skin. Most everyone; in these here parts, was too prim and proper, to lounge in Tees and shorts, or so, it seemed.


   The sound of a cowboy boot, with loose spurs; jangled in the dread embrace of mid-summer. Ka-shink..ka-shink, ka-shunk.. came the sound, closer with each step. Klok-tish..klok-tish; came the echo, as the boots hit the wood of the board-walk. There was not a whisper of breeze; when the stranger turned the corner and stuck his beet-red face into the doorway of the saloon. A great wide-brimmed Stetson covered a pair of beady blue eyes in shadow. For a moment, he stood there in all of his brazen glory. White wool sweater, pink bow-tie and a pair of cream ivory khaki shorts, slung low, about ready to drop to his knees.


``Mawnin``he whispered, revealing a silver toothed grin.


``What is your pleasure?``quizzed the balding barkeep.
``I`d rather not say, pardner. However, I could stand a bottomless sarspirilla, and a pound of ice,``came the asthmatic wheeze.
With that, he whipped off his Texan Stetson and promptly put a fly out of its`misery. The buzzer had made the fatal mistake of using his blonde toupee as a landing strip.


``So, tell me, bud. Where`s the nearest place where a weary soul might be so blessed as to cool off?
  The barkeep was losing his usual amount of cool; especially,with the air conditioner, lately on the fritz.
``I`d say about 150 miles back from where you come from.``
``You can`t possibly imagine how far I`ve come to get here,``his voice trailed off in what sounded like the air being let out of a tire.


Chapter Two - The Cold Cometh



The flambouyant Cowboy, slumped down, at a table, near the only window in the place, nervously squinting off into the distance of the baking flats. With one quicksilver gesture, he pulled off his stump...a sad reminder of his government-financed vacation in the jungles of the Korean Fiasco. The sound of his a-guzzling echoed; in the boxed-in confines, of the oven called-The Cantina. A lone fly droned in and out of the spotted beer glasses, leaving a tiny trail of shit-spots. Most days, the local patrons were willing to drink out of anything.


Stink of sulphur followed a flicker of flame as Cowboy lit up a cheroot.``I really ought to quit these icky shitters``, he thought, and then; dismissed his sense of Catholic propriety, in a moment of suppressed conscience. Without a moment of reflection, Pinky pulls out an ancient hourglass and sets it on the table in front of him. The barkeep looks at him for a moment, on the skyline of eternity, and quietly shakes his head, while wiping the desert dust from the glasses. In a moment of comic relief, a small tumbleweed comes rolling in and across the liquor-stained hardwood floor.


It seems like eons since the stranger with the bright pink bow-tie walked in to their lives, but somehow ;one sensed, that they thought of him, as being highly peculiar. At that silent stirring of soulish ponderance, Pinky begins to sing softly a Gregorian chant, audibly, but softly enough to disguise the odd, exaggerated inflection of a misplaced high note here and there. The valley`s cathedrals of sand; somehow seemed to bask in the wafting ,broken song.


Self-sated Pinky whistles through his singularily-gapped silver tooth. Outside, the scorpions; leaped about, in their inimitable dance of death, as though the plaintive notes; bought them some undiscernable sense of joy; as insects might percieved it to be, as such. Moment by moment, tiny grains of sand, shifted down; through the funneled cosmic hourglass. All the while, the captive patrons; in the Cantina, continued their sloppy slide, down the slippery slope, a.k.a.- the downward spiral to oblivion.


Of a sudden, the air-conditioning kicked in. The Cowboy, a.k.a, Pinky; in some dangerous parts of the country,flashed a smile as wide as Texas, as he luxuriated; in the rapidly cooling air, brushing into his golden locks. Deep down inside, he was glad that he had wore the wool sweater today! Everyone,in the room, had commenced to breathing again. Someone hollered;`to close the door`, so the cool air couldn`t escape. All, but the ladies had achieved wood, in a manner of speaking.


It seemed that, the ambient atmosphere; in that barroom, slowly began to assume a disturbing aspect of the surreal. The only one, who seemed to be having the time of his life, was Pinky. His laughter, though, seemed to echo throughout The Cantina. In the folds of his right cowboy boot, there was hidden a derringer. Somehow, he didn`t think he`d be needing it today. She was a strikingly beautiful weapon, though; with mother-of-pearl handle and; most deadly accurate at close quarters.


By scintillating degrees, the scene in that little bar began to unfold into a macabre mix of The Old West and a decidely, Norman Rockwellish, existential tableau. Someone over in the corner whispered something about hearing a distant peal of ...thunder? Some other trembling mouse of a voice hoarsely uttered a plea `to turn up the heat!`No, doubt, the fool was  arthritic or was severely into S and M..in a very,big way.

Since Time Immemorial, it had never rained here in these parts. The Indians who lived in this forsaken land, had learned long ago; how to strike a balance between living and dying for as long as the sun had risen and crept over their beloved canyons.


The piano player, slowly began to tickle; the ivories to the tune of,``CampTown Races.``No one gave particular shit, at first, but the green mist started to seep onto the wood floor, as the Grandfather clock, behind the counter, struck 7 bells. As the green mist spread across the room...flatulence was suspected. Where had the time gone? It couldn`t possibly be. A time-warp, perhaps? It was unthinkable! Here, in this God-forsaken land, the essence of time, was a secondary consideration.


A soul trembled... just off to the right of Pinky. The weary soul, got up, to leave; but he couldn`t depart. The big, oaken door had been inexplicably sealed! By then, some were just swoonin`in the deep freeze, and that`s what it had transpired into....a deep Frickin`freeze!!


Pinky, set down his sarsparilla; and the sody-pop, flowed to his lips! Small, sharp icicles formed after the trail of liquid! No L.S.D. trip could compare to what was transpiring!! This was the stuff of Stephen King, Clive Barker and George Romero all rolled into one. Big Belly Barkeep, had fainted dead away by then, because, try, as he might; he just couldn`t turn down the A.C.


A frost began to issue from the mouths of all seven people sitting petrified in that lonesome little saloon. Each patron, seemed to personify; one of the Seven Deadlies. Had someone walked in at that very moment, they would swear that they were standing in the midst of a wax museum. A morbidly obese man sat on three chairs, near the lunch buffet. He was in the act of reaching for a huge slab of blueberry pie; when the stink of burning sweetgrass, rose up, into his hairy nostrils.


Chapter Three - Pride, Greed and Eating Far Too Much


Joe Two Feathers began to burn his sweetgrass, sensing that he was in deep. However, in moments, it was if the frost had deliberate notions of it`s own. He had barely started his chant when he realized that all was lost! The frost had snuffed out his smoldering sweetgrass! Joe was the walking, talking personification of pride. Dirty...stinkin`pride. Indian Pride! Some say, that`s where all the bitter grief and heartache of the human race had originated from. For a flicker of a moment, Joe saw in a vision, a beautiful winged creature fall from a great height, plunging earthward like a bolt of lightning. Joe prayed, as never before, to his gods; that could never answer, because they were too earthly and weak in their vulnerable state. And so, Joe, resigned, with an unmanly whimper, that the humans, sitting in The Cantina; were categorically undone! So, now; not even the White Buffalo could save them. The BIG QUESTION hung in the air.... Save them from what?


Joe, reached for his rawhide tom-tom. He began to beat on the stretched rawhide, just as he had beat on the heads of his people, during his reign, as councillor. Thousands upon thousands of dollars had gone missing. Everyone questioned as to why he had suddenly become a thousandaire. When questioned, he couldn`t explain the brand-new Cadillac that had just seemed to fall out of the sky onto his drive-way! Shiny, gleamy status symbols of rich bitches seemed strangely foreign amidst the extreme squalor on his reserve. The trips to Vegas...well, need anyone say anymore? Today, he was unfortunate enough, to be sitting in the Cantina; when Pinky walked in, seemingly out of nowhere. All the Ky-yi-ing and smudging in the world wasn`t about to make a bit of difference. Pinky was about to judge the dubious life of ex- Band councillor Joe Two Feathers.


Joe wished he had bought his buffalo robe to this little soiree`. Not since the winter of 59, did he recall such a bitter bite than this inexplicable chill. And that was when he was on a band-funded vacation in Alaska. The frost-bite on his prominent cheek-bones; only served to underscore, his growing desire, to split this groovy scene.


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