Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the sixty-sixth piece in this series. This week’s is a 754-worder by poet, novelist and short story author Ron Chavez.
A Time in the Trees
Back then, living in the middle of a horse pasture in Arroyo Hondo, I lie on the top bunk of my RV and look out my front top window. In the far distance, a threatening heat haze swirls below the timberline of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west. The sun climbs high with uncommon relentless heat. The birds perched on pine fence posts sing in what seems like wails of unrelenting woe…
Patches of piñion trees stand dead and dried in a dusky brown ugliness in the sloping foothills, contrasting sharply with the heavy parched green of the tall pines in the mountain peaks above. Already a mirage-like heat haze is shimmering down along the ridges, in and out of the trees. What few clouds the magnetic pull deep inside the bowels of the mountains is able to muster, the raging hot winds scatter. Below, the land lays cracked and sun-baked, sucked dry of any hint of moisture. The wild grass withers and yellows in the far-running western llano. Crops wilt to short stubble in the fields. The Taos News reports how two men throw blows over disputed rights to acequia water. One old man is slammed on the side of the head with a shovel when he stands firm and tall in defense of his share of water. Tempers flare. Life long friends fight and argue. The people of the land are at the sharp edge of civil intolerance
The relentless drought is also taking its toll on the fauna. Brown bears, gaunt and stark-eyed slide down from the mountains in a weak, tail dragging gait, scrounging for human garbage, needing to avert the horror of slow starvation.
At Taos Pueblo, the Tewa tribe solemnly dances the corn dance, pleading for rain in rhythmic chants, keeping step to the hypnotic beat of the drums. On their knees, rosary beads in hand, the Spanish gente pray for rain to all the saints, to the Virgin Mary, to Jesús Cristo. White folks dig into Job of the bible to try and understand why God’s wrath is upon them. Surely, they dread, God has not turned the devil loose to punish their unwary transgressions. All sought God’s intervention.
Unresponsive, God stands still, in thundering silence. The spirit of Taos Mountain weeps.
With nostalgic longing, I recall my time in the trees when I ran away from my old world. There, I lived in a tent and cooked by campfire. There, I once shook with fright and trembled with terror one black night as I lay alone curled up inside my thin-skinned tent high on a ridge in the eye of a storm. Flashing lightning bolts stung my eyes and thunderclaps split my eardrums in that long, lonely ordeal.
But by morning, the sight of gently rising ground fog lifted by the slow warming heat of the new sun coupled with the scent of rain coming off the thick pine needle floor calmed my fears. It was the rain-drenched forest that now freshened and renewed my spirit. It was the best of times. It was a time of cleansing for my troubled soul. But it was the trees that lifted my hopes the most.
My camp stood between two giant blue spruce out of the sun, surrounded by Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and white-skinned aspen, their tiny heart-shaped leaves quaking in the morning breeze, their communal root system determined to dominate its place in the forest. Beneath the high pine canopy grew maple, willows, birch, and locust. Down on the lower slopes, stands of piñon and juniper graced and scented the sloping hills. Along the streams and arroyos that snaked down towards the Taos Valley, narrow-leaf cottonwoods dropped a dark, cool shade along their earthen banks.
My mind slowly returns to the present reality. Outside the hot winds howl in all their fury. Two stallions and a mare huddle against the big blow beside a barbed-wire fence, rumps to the wind. The stench from their droppings, commingled with the windblown dust, blasts in through open windows. There are no trees. There is no shade. The day grows hotter. My bones feel dry and brittle.
Oh! How I yearn to return to the trees. But fate always seems to find a way to disrupt and tangle one’s life according to its own plan. It was not to be. I write a poem.
When the devil comes
Your soul to steal
Why… don’t we get it?”
I asked Ron what the inspiration behind this was and he said…
My inspiration for the short story was first conceived as a chapter in my novel in progress. When my guest readers told me it would make a great short story, I thought I would give it a try. The poem came to me after having seen what I describe with my own eyes I set out to form my horror in a poem.
Thank you, Ron.
Ron Chávez was the owner of the famous Route 66 Club Café in Santa Rosa, New Mexico during that epic Route 66 nostalgic times after it officially closed. Ron and his café enjoyed fame in world wide major media where he spun stories about how he shined shoes in front of the Club Café as a little boy and about the intriguing brilliance of people he met over the years in his cafe. In time he was known as the Route 66 storyteller.
Ron was born in the village of Puerto de Luna on the banks of the Pecos River in New Mexico, USA. Ron’s website is http://www.timeoftriumph.net.
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