9 Feb


The vehicle lost speed, brakes protesting as large rubber tires ground to a rolling halt. The truck stood at a four way crossing, nothing unusual about that except this time the stop was empty. 

Fuel injected heat created a made-in-American mirage above the hood – faux flashing blues beguiling the casual observer. Burning desert sun glanced off paintwork, dazzling the driver, momentarily blinding as it danced on glass and sparkled on chrome. The driver squinted, adjusted the shade to block the glare and tugged his battered cap down over his eyes.

Prudence prevailing, he peered in all directions before gunning the engine and pulling away. The pride of hand-polished ownership vanished from view – the dust pall and exhausted-flatulence the only reminder it was ever there; that and a couple of air-sticking notes from some long forgotten country legend. Summer sunned wires hummed metallically, creeping grass whispered, black-top baked; nothing exceptional, except this time the stop was empty. 

 The dirt brown flats that passed for fields and margined the road were deserted, the cotton harvest gathered, the migrant workers presumably idle. Stop signs swayed, creaking in the gentle breeze – air whistling through the shotted holes the local farm boys had blasted into them. A couple of birds sat on telegraph poles serenading what passed for traffic; a jackrabbit, the only other witness, disappeared into the undergrowth as quickly as it had appeared. A regular four way stop, except this time it was empty. 

Behind the tangled wire, next to the generic debris of Cola cans and discarded industrial packaging stood a white cross, a horseshoe at each of its stations, an ironic gesture considering the luck of the recipient. The arms welded together, its white paint peeling, the rust blisters erupting in iron red flakes as dry air ate it alive.

 Desert heat devoured everything eventually, including memorials to eternity and everlasting life.

Cobbled together by some grieving relative or well-meaning friend, the memorial stood in testimony to the once living, breathing corpse which now resided at ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ on the far side of town. The marker, half buried in long straw grass, memorialized the lives of previous visitors to the cross roads, belying the serenity of the scene – recalling a time when the crossing had been much busier than it was today. 

Gone were the blue probing lights, the wailing sirens and uniformed authority. No longer was the air rent with the cries and screams of departmental urgency; the crunch of regulation footwear on broken glass. The ashes of traffic flares used to illuminate the car wreck long since dispersed on dry desert breezes; gone  the smell of spilt gasoline, burning rubber, the curious faces of nighttime-passers pressed against darkened windows. All now just distant memories, imprinted on a time which no longer existed – the stains bearing witness to life–sapping-death all but vanished.

The only trace of the alcohol fueled birthday – celebrating the onset of manhood and the impossible prospect of youthful immortality- the colored glinting jewels of  gutter-strewn glass. Reminiscent of wreaths floating on distant oceans – memorializing the bodies of drowned sailors- the  fragments reflected emotions past; mute to opinion, deaf to argument, screaming of a time when the crossroads hadn’t been quite so pastoral. 

Brown tumble weed, paying no attention to the hazards of oncoming traffic and ignoring the protocol of motoring niceties, bustled through the four-way stop. Disappearing down the road, it raced towards some predestined rendezvous, leaving nothing but twigs and dust in its wake. 

The sun began to wane, the wires twanged, the grass sighed, the heat of the day radiating as the earth gave up its warmth; just another day, nothing to write home about.

Except today, the stop was empty.  



  1. L'Aussie February 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Colin this is great descriptive writing. Reminds me of the poem Beleagued Cities. Feel the isolation.


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