It was the mother of all thermals. Greg lawson was happier than he had ever been, soaring higher than he ever had in his hang glider. The breeze caught him and took out over the Pebbled Sands desert. No problem, he thought, I’ll catch another thermal and make my way back. A desert is a good place for thermals. But he didn’t. Somehow he missed catching another thermal and landed in the desert instead.
It wasn’t a good landing. He didn’t break any bones but he was shaken up a bit. Again, no problem. The town of San Pablo wasn’t far away. A few hours walk and he would be there, sitting at the bar, having a cool one.
He sat down to catch his breath and think a bit. He would have to leave the hang glider here. He could come out later with the pickup and bring it back. Too bad he didn’t have a canteen with him. He could use a drink of water; it was hot out here. All he had to do was figure out which way San Pablo was and start hiking. He pulled up a picture of the map in his mind and looked at the Sun to get his bearings. No problem.
As he got up a lizard darted out from somewhere in the direction that he needed to go. It dashed across the sands and disappeared again. He smiled and thought of the Indians who always talked of Grandfather Earth and Grandfather Peyote. “All right,” he said to himself, “Lead on, Grandather Lizard,” and set off.
Greg Lawson was one of those people who get turned around on maps, who keep getting East and West mixed up. He knew this. If he hadn’t been shaken up he might have remembered this and made sure he was headed in the right direction. He didn’t. San Pablo lay a few miles to the East. Resolutely, he got up and set out at a brisk pace, walking due West into the Pebbled Sands desert.
It was hot. He hadn’t realized how hot it would. It wasn’t long before he started to get thirsty, really thirsty. He knew the trick for that. He picked up pebbles and sucked on them. He sweated. He walked. He looked at the Sun from time to time. An hour went by and then two. It was miserable. He was young; he was strong; he could take it.
The world narrowed down. Left foot, right foot, left foot. Don’t think about anything, just keep walking. Another lizard darted out in front of him and sped away. He stared at it with a glazed look and thought to himself that Grandfather Lizard was still leading the way.
The world got narrower. His lips cracked. Walking was an impossible task that he did anyway. Left foot, right foot, left foot. Hours went by and he didn’t notice. He didn’t think, “I should be there by now.” He didn’t think anything. He just walked.
Sundown came. He collapsed in a stupor. It was good to stop, good to rest. He didn’t think. He didn’t do anthing. He just collapsed. In the desert the nights are cold as the days are hot. The chill got him. He shivered and shook and burned as he slept.
Sunrise came. He stirred. He looked horrible. By will he forced his creaking body to move and set out again. He saw nothing. He did not see the buzzards circling overhead. He staggered for less than an hour and fell. He did not get up. He lay there in a coma.
The buzzards landed. Buzzards are shy. They like to make sure their meals are well dead before they begin to feed. They moved in on him and made tentative pecks. He twitched. They jumped back and then moved in again. This time he did not twitch; he was dead. This time the buzzards were rewarded and they feasted in a fury.
When the buzzards had finished stripping his carcass, when they had taken all they could get, the beetles moved in, dining on that which the buzzards had missed. Lizards and tarrantulas took their turn at catching the unwary well fed beetle. It didn’t take long before there was nothing left but bones. A hot wind blew, scattering the bones and leaving behind only the skull.
The lizard is an intelligent beast with an intelligence that comes from the body and not from the brain. It is a primitive intelligence but it works with the Sun and not against it. The lizard seeks shade when it is too hot and Sun when it is too cold. Greg Lawson had made his offering to Grandfather Lizard. His skull was a place of shade.
This page was last updated Sptermber 6, 1997.
Copyright © 1997 by Richard Harter