Halfbreed

I sit with the heels of my boots dug into the gravel of the ridge and sweep the mesa below me with a pair of high power binoculars. My elbows propped on my knees. My slipcloth hat wrinkles against the folds of my forehead. My rifle, strapped with bullsling against the crack of my back, is a heavybarreled .300 with sight to match my binoculars. I’m flanked by trails leading down. Switchgrass and caltrop lay flat along them. The rabbit should be about a mile as the crow flies, where raw rock mountains drape late sun shadow over shimmering mesa. Sky hangs raincurtains dark as soot. Somewhere out there was my reflection. I lower my binoculars to study the land. The day, the hunt, had died under mountain shadow. Far in front of me, where the mesa breaks into terracotta hills, the city where I grew up. I spit nothing and reach to wipe my mouth on my cotton workshirt. I case my rifle and latch it and stand and choke up binocular straps around my neck and set out north for the city down the bloodweed trail.

Narcoleptic wind carries nothing but a low hum across the telephone wires. I’ll come back tomorrow. Tomorrow, as in tomorrow. I didn’t leave anything behind and I didn’t go back. A southpac snake bite out here at night would mean joining the other long dead rabbits, with the contents of and on my body passing on to some other owner. Where the trail drops out, I scale the warm ridges to cross more of the flat country between. It was the city that seemed to shift and bend with the squirrel-like dots darting into every brick-colored building and emerging with their plastic bag mouths stuffed for the fall fashion season. The crowds looked like pulsing purple bruises. It made my chest hurt. My hands. My feet. The emptier buildings that face me droop open in hunger for Arts degrees. Mine. They beg for you to find the rhyme schemes that’ll sell their fall line, and leave you to find the meaning in a slipskirt where there is none. I don’t know if the city will ever stop but I thought I could stop a car down there, just for a few seconds.

At a bench near the rim of the canyon I laid on my back in the bloodweeds with my boots off. Thin, whistling hawks set off from the part of the mesa that had dropped below the rise of the trail behind me. Coyotes and their mates sing the sun down. Insects click in their caltrop blankets while rabbits pass below me. I wasn’t even really thinking about the rabbits. Across the canyon, buildings vomited squirrel after squirrel echoed by the tap-tap, tap-tap of canes on concrete. Diesel engine buzz. Laughter of a lone man submerged in toe-height liquor, ready to hit a doorbell with his chin. I took my lighter out of my shirt pocket and found a thick-enough limb and wrapped it with slipcloth and lit it. The last stretch of country before the corner that led east and down off the mesa lay dead flat. Red dirt took on the gravel. Nothing at the bottom. Heatshimmer from pick-ups and compacts and hatchbacks and hardtops. I dig a bootheel into red dirt and one into gravel and snap the plastic off the lenses and glass the city below me with the binoculars. Gaping yawn from my stomach. Diner below me lit in shaky lantern light.

I stop in there at the foot of the trail for a Bourbon coffee. The wind dies. Men grunt at their squirrely wives in what I think is either Farsi or Greek or Spanish about whether or not their sons’ chins should be dusted with sandpaper fuzz or Brad Pitt rye grass. I unbuckle my binoculars and set them away and stir the coffee, even though there was nothing to stir because milk and sugar sit untouched a finger’s length away. I think about my life, and how it could end if I stayed in this city. Prolonged hum from my stomach. I’ve been told there’s a liter of blood in me from a doctor in Caracas. Maybe that makes me a halfbreed. Not meant to sit in one world for too long lest I come up empty-handed in both.

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