Faith / Fe. The Ink Well Prompt #26: Winding road

in The Ink Welllast year

Imagen de Free-Photos en Pixabay

On any other day I would be delighted to appreciate how immensely blue the sky was, but the absence of clouds made the sun's fervor all the more inclement. Tracts of barren land stretched out everywhere I looked. The gusts of wind came not only with grit but also with the sultry heat that swarmed from farther afield.

Large drops ran down my forehead sliding down my neck making my shirt stickier. Perhaps it was the famous global warming to blame. My hands were still gripping the steering wheel and my eyes kept glancing at the Fairmont's fuel gauge. As dry as the ground I was treading on.

A sigh escaped my lips. Was this a sign? I glanced at the neon green digits above the glove box and was alerted that it had been 30 minutes since Erika had left. It was the best we could do, I would never dare leave her alone in the middle of this desert.

Her words echoed in my head: This is just a small hiccup in the beginning of our lives, everything will be fine. It wasn't sarcasm, she really meant it.

Fortunately, some elders offered to drive her to the nearest town.

Maybe it was my imagination, but her presence made any situation more bearable. But now I was alone with my thoughts. I glanced in the rearview mirror and back at our pile of boxes, our only belongings, crammed as best we could into the back seat.

Were we right to run away? My shirt collar felt tighter than ever. My breathing hitched along with my heartbeat. Suddenly, the interior of the vehicle became smaller, the sweltering heat making it difficult to breathe. My hand unconsciously found the handle and the door opened with a crack that brought me back to my senses. My breathing calmed.

A small warm gust came through the door opening and my legs decided to leave the small prison our Fairmont had become.

The embracing sun soon scorched my scalp and all that was exposed before it. A lonely road, barely two carcasses long, stretched out on either side of the road offering an uncertain destination. A small swirl of wind whirled up a few feet from me, kicking up a cloud of dust. In the distance, the sunlight formed a mirage on the road, reflecting a small puddle of water as fictitious as my hopes of finding fuel nearby.

Suddenly, my cell phone received a message: I found a fuel pump, but there is a very long line of people waiting to be served, most of them to fill up their boat tanks.

My joy vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Surprisingly, though, we had signal on our cell phones. Instinctively my cell phone showed me the contacts menu. A thought crossed my mind: Should we regret what we did? My fingers hesitated at the list of contacts, however, something else caught my attention....

An exciting phosphorescent green lizard crossed both channels of the track, raising its body on its 4 little legs. It was hilarious to watch it scurry across the boiling asphalt; it passed between my legs and hid under the shadow of the vehicle. Intrigued by its festive colors, I bent down to see it again, this one paid no attention to me, jumped on an insect and gobbled it up so fast it didn't even chew it.

It was fascinating to see this little creature survive in this vast desert, without worrying about tomorrow, without doubts, without regrets. Simply living...

And we are the superior species?

Here I am regretting having stepped out of my comfort zone. It's hard to have confidence (faith?) when the going gets tough. Where the hell did Erika get hope? Maybe that was what attracted me to her the most.

I took shelter inside the Fairmont, no longer able to stand the intense heat outside. Inside, the seats were cooking fried eggs. They would surely fry if I threw them on.

The contact list kept showing up on my cell phone screen. I leaned my head on the steering wheel and closed my eyes. My fingers caressed the buttons on the phone. My lips pursed and I grabbed the cell phone decisively, however, I heard footsteps shuffling towards me.

I opened my eyes quickly. I had never thought about the possibility of being mugged. I had always heard the tales of the roads and how vulnerable many drivers were when they got stuck on the road. I held my breath and glanced in the direction of where the footsteps were coming from.

I noticed a man with brown skin, perhaps burned by the ravages of the sun. He was not very tall, but of firm and defined musculature, perhaps he was a fisherman; although he was not old, his complexion was wrinkled. He wore a straw hat, a faded flannel promoting some ruler of the last century, worn-out jeans and rubber sandals. For some reason he didn't strike me as a threat.

Did you have an accident, sir, he asked.

I ran out of gas, I replied with a shrug.

Well, it's your lucky day, sir; he drew a row of yellowed teeth. I can sell you 20 liters for $10

Surprised, I was speechless, where the hell had this fellow come from?

My house is about 50 meters from here, he pointed his finger toward a hill that had gone unnoticed. Sure enough, there was a small cabin where he pointed.

I nodded wordlessly. The man went back the way he came as patiently as he had come.

Soon he reappeared with a jerry can full of fuel. I showed him the $10 bill and he nodded. We poured most of the contents into the tank, but left a little to pour into the carburetor port. He had warned me that my vehicle model would possibly require one more boost to activate the ignition. Indeed it did.

Our Fairmont purred like a grateful kitten. I smiled and thanked the stranger for his help. He wished me a safe trip and I never heard from him again.

Honey I'm coming for you, you won't believe what happened to me, I exclaimed through the cell phone.

I told you things would be okay, she replied.

Hope to see you next time, space cowboy.

Cualquier otro día estaría encantado de apreciar lo inmensamente azul que estaba el cielo, pero la ausencia de nubes hacía más inclemente el fervor del sol. Extensiones de tierra árida se esparcían hacia cualquier lugar que mirara. Las ráfagas de viento no solo venían con arenisca sino también con el bochornoso calor que pululaba desde las zonas más lejanas.

Grandes gotas corrían por mi frente deslizándose por mi cuello haciendo más pegajosa mi camisa. Quizás era el famoso calentamiento global el culpable. Mis manos seguían sujetando el volante y mis ojos no paraban de observar el indicador de combustible del Fairmont. Tan seco como la tierra que pisaba.

Un suspiro se escapó de mis labios. ¿Acaso esto era una señal? Le eché una mirada a los dígitos verde neón sobre la guantera y me avisaron que ya habían pasado 30 minutos desde que Erika se había marchado. Era lo mejor que podíamos hacer, jamás me atrevería a dejarla sola en medio de este desierto.

Sus palabras resonaron en mi cabeza: Esto es solo un pequeño traspié en el comienzo de nuestras vidas, todo saldrá bien. No era sarcasmo, ella realmente lo sentía.

Afortunadamente, unos ancianos se ofrecieron a llevarla hasta el pueblo más cercano.

Quizás era mi imaginación, pero su presencia hacía más llevadera cualquier situación. Pero ahora me encontraba solo con mis pensamientos. Mire el espejo retrovisor y me devolvió nuestro montón de cajas, nuestras únicas pertenencias, arrumadas lo mejor posible para que entraran en el asiento trasero.

¿Hicimos bien en huir? El cuello de mi camisa se sentía más apretado que nunca. Mi respiración se agitó junto con los latidos de mi corazón. De pronto, el interior del vehículo se hizo más pequeño, el calor sofocante hacía difícil el poder respirar. Mi mano, inconscientemente, encontró la manecilla y la puerta se abrió con un crack que me hizo volver en sí. Mi respiración se apaciguó.

Una pequeña ráfaga caliente entró por la abertura de la puerta y mis piernas decidieron salir de la pequeña prisión en la que se había convertido nuestro Fairmont.

El abrazador sol no tardó en chamuscar mi cuero cabelludo y todo lo que estaba expuesto ante él. Una carretera solitaria, de apenas dos canales, se extendía a ambos lados del camino brindando un destino incierto. Un pequeño remolino de viento se irguió a unos metros de mí, levantando una nube de polvo. A lo lejos, la luz del sol formaba un espejismo sobre la vía, reflejando un pequeño charco de agua tan ficticio como mis esperanzas de encontrar combustible cerca.

De pronto, mi celular recibió un mensaje: Encontré un surtidor de combustible, pero hay una fila muy larga de personas esperando a ser atendidos, la mayoría son para llenar los tanques de sus botes.

Mi alegría se esfumó tan rápido como había aparecido. Aunque, sorpresivamente teníamos señal en nuestros celulares. Instintivamente mi celular me mostró el menú de contactos. Un pensamiento cruzó por mi mente: ¿Deberíamos arrepentirnos por lo que hicimos? Mis dedos titubeaban ante la lista de contactos, sin embargo, algo más llamó mi atención…

Una excitante lagartija verde fosforescente cruzó ambos canales de la vía, levantando su cuerpo sobre sus 4 patitas. Era muy hilarante vera correr apresuradamente sobre el hirviente asfalto; pasó por entre mis piernas y se ocultó bajo la sombra del vehículo. Intrigado por sus festivos colores, me agaché para verla de nuevo, ésta no me prestó atención, salto sobre un insecto y lo engulló tan rápido que ni siquiera lo masticó.

Era fascinante ver esta pequeña criatura sobrevivir ante este vasto desierto, sin preocuparse por el mañana, sin dudas, sin remordimientos. Simplemente, viviendo…

¿Y nosotros somos la especie superior?

Heme aquí lamentándome de haber salido de mi zona de confort. Es difícil tener confianza (¿Fe?) cuando las cosas se ponen difíciles. ¿De dónde demonios sacaba esperanza Erika? Quizás era lo que más me atraía de ella.

Me guarecí dentro del Fairmont, ya no aguantaba el intenso calor del exterior. Adentro, los asientos estaban para cocinar huevos fritos. De seguro se freirían si los echara sobre ellos.

La lista de contactos seguía mostrándose en la pantalla de mi celular. Apoyé mi cabeza sobre volante y cerré mis ojos. Mis dedos acariciaban los botones del teléfono. Mis labios se fruncieron y tomé el celular con decisión, sin embargo, escuché pasos arrastrándose así mí.

Abrí mis ojos con rapidez. Jamás pensé en la posibilidad de ser asaltado. Siempre había oído los cuentos de caminos y lo vulnerable que muchos conductores eran al quedar accidentados en el camino. Contuve mi respiración y eché un vistazo hacia dónde venían los pasos.

Observé a un hombre de piel morena, quizás quemada por los estragos del sol. No era muy alto, pero de musculatura firme y definida, quizás era pescador; aunque no era anciano, su tez era arrugada. Llevaba un sombrero de paja, una franela desteñida promocionando algún gobernante del siglo pasado, unos jeans desgastados y sandalias de goma. Por alguna razón no me pareció una amenaza.

¿Se accidentó, señor?, preguntó

Me quedé sin gasolina, respondí encogiéndome de hombros

Pues es su día de suerte, señor; dibujó una hilera de dientes amarillentos. Puedo venderle 20 litros en $10

Sorprendido, me quedé sin habla. ¿De dónde demonios había salido este personaje?

Mi casa queda a unos 50 metros de aquí, señaló con su dedo hacía una colina que había pasado desapercibida. Efectivamente, había una pequeña cabaña hacia donde indicaba.

Asentí sin decir palabras. El hombre se devolvió por donde vino tan pacientemente como había llegado.

Pronto volvió a aparecer con un bidón lleno de combustible. Le mostré el billete de $10 y asintió con su cabeza. Vertimos casi todo el contenido en el tanque, pero dejó un poco para echar dentro de la boca del carburador. Me había advertido que el modelo de mi vehículo posiblemente requeriría de un impulso más para activar el encendido. Efectivamente fue así.

Nuestro Fairmont ronroneó como un gatito agradecido. Sonreí y agradecí la ayuda del extraño. Me deseó un feliz viaje y jamás supe de él.

Cariño voy por ti, no vas a creer lo que me sucedió, exclamé a través del celular.

Te dije que las cosas saldrían bien, respondió ella.

Hasta la próxima, vaquero del espacio.


I would like to say first of all, as a fellow writer, I appreciate the care you took with your word choices. It is a pleasure to read phrases that capture a scene perfectly, as these do:

The gusts of wind came not only with grit but also with the sultry heat that swarmed from farther afield.

It's not just that the words paint a picture, it's that they also convey a mood. Very good writing here.

The story has a great arc, but I almost regret the happy ending. This could have gone on, I suspect, in another place, at another time.

Thank you for sharing this most enjoyable story.

Thank you very much for your comment. The story is based on real events, obviously, it was not an elopement, but it was a proof of faith. Whoever that stranger was I am thankful he was in the perfect place at the perfect time.

This is a really enjoyable story and responds to the week's prompt with great imagination. Thank you for posting the story in the Ink Well community. Have you read and commented on the work of at least two other writers this week? (See The Ink Well community rules on our home page.) This helps our community thrive, and also makes you eligible to be chosen for a spotlight in our weekly highlights magazine. Thank you!

I appreciate your words ^_^. I will try to comment other writers

So good to see you in The Ink Well, @jadams2k18! This is an expertly-told story, full of intriguing imagery, great tension, and great descriptions.

It was fascinating to see this little creature survive in this vast desert, without worrying about tomorrow, without doubts, without regrets. Simply living...

I love this narrator's moments of observation and contemplation in this piece. He is a reluctant wanderer, caught in a situation that finds him evaluating life, purpose and relationships. I was mesmermized! I also love the image you chose — showing that straight, flat desert road just before it winds back and forth for miles. Great symbolism there.

I read your comment that this was based on real life. Wow!

Heeeelloooo, there! Thanks! The road presents a choice between turning back or moving forward with his companion. I Luuuuv your comments! Sadly, I have had problems with my internet so I don't have the availability to respond as before. I hope you're being fine

I felt the realness in this ... so often in doing the right thing, we cannot see the path, but many are sent to help us and we walk through, by faith, in our calling ... well written!

That's right, my dear fellow. Thanks for passing by. Sorry for being late in replying

Your story paints a scenery of a weary traveler who's stuck in the middle of nowhere but hangs on to faith that he would make it out of it.
It also teaches that we should extend help to people when we can.

Yes, you are right. The character relies on the faith of his companion. Thanks for coming by, I appreciate it 😊

 last year  

Hello @jadams2k18. What striking imagery accompanied my reading of your story. Although your characters were important to relay what happened and why they were caught in that situation, it was the the vivid descriptions of the desert and surrounding environment that captured my attention.

I found myself waiting for other animals or insects to cross his path. I could visualize the area because I traveled through West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona on a road trip to California.

The decision the couple made for her to go on without him was a good one. He wouldn't have been able to leave her alone in the desert. When left alone in precarious situations, you can't help but have misgivings about your decisions. You replay in your mind alternate conclusions if things don't work out as planned.

I was hoping the stranger who appeared would do no harm. So happy it turned out well.

I thoroughly enjoyed your story. The crisp adjectives made the scene blossom for me.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Hello there! I'm glad you enjoyed the story, it wasn't just the heat that bothered the character, maybe he didn't even feel it, it was the fact that he was in a dilemma of moving on with his partner or going back to his old life.

 last year  

Yes, I can see that now. Trying to make clear decisions when conditions are not right can add to frustration.

Thanks for your response. Take care.

I didn't feel like I was reading fiction but you did it to near perfection. Being a mechanical engineer I know your car's carburetor needs petrol for getting an instant start or this could cause damage to the battery. Nicely done job!

I'm glad you liked it. I don't know if the same thing happens in new cars, but it was a tip I got when I ran out of gas.

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