Still Life
Adam C. Engst

When you go to the desert on a horse with no name, be sure to get out of the rain.

I was walking through the north end of town the other day and no one much was about but the tumbleweeds and the whores by Miller's place. I saw a white rock on the road so I picked it up since I've always done that and now I've got quite a collection. My grandfather always used to tell me that they were quartz rocks long after I knew that fact but I never got irritated enough with him to stop picking them up.

As I was bending back up, a shadow of a man whipped across my path, said his name was Jake Snake and that he was a desert rat searching for truth. I gave him a light before he burned himself on the mirror he flashed around, trying to catch the sun on the tip of his mangled cigarette.

"What are you really doing here, Jake?" I asked to find out why a sneak like him was braving the light of day.

"Well, I's just out for a breath of air before it becomes too hot to breathe," he said, nice and polite like. The thermometer was at a hundred and eight that day and breathing wasn't none too easy as it was, so I pressed him a bit.

"Jake, you're full of shit," I said, and slowly walked away, waiting for him to follow like he always done before. Well, he didn't follow me, but ambled off into the distance muttering about fireballs and salvation in the salt mines. That in itself wasn't too strange, but when I saw a whole line of people heading south in front of Jake it certainly seemed that something was up. They were already too far away for me to catch them and ask them, though I could see the fire engines being driven that way, too. That explained why no one much was about, since they all seemed to be heading south.

I figured that there had to be someone left in town who knew what was happening, so I looked around a bit for someone to talk to. I wasn't really the sort to just follow a mass of people for no real reason, and even if there is a reason I don't much like to do it just for the principles involved. I've found that it usually pays off to avoid the crowds, something I learned when I was visiting the city, where there were and probably still are a lot of crowds and not all that much else, except a few doormen who live outside the biggest buildings. I think the doormen were a kind of crowd parasite, since they always lived outside the largest buildings, and the biggest crowds come out of the biggest buildings.

I decided that the first place to ask was by Miller's, since the whores didn't ever leave town and usually knew more about current events than anyone else. I guess they were usually in a good position to find out about that sorta thing. The whores didn't know nothing, but told me to go talk to Miller.

Miller was the priest, and found living next to the whores fit his temperament just fine. He saved them and they him, though I think personally that they came out ahead in the deal--messing with a priest probably helped their case when they came before a judge that made Kenesaw Mountain Landis look like a two-bit DA with diarrhea. Miller lived what used to be the church. He wasn't real neat, and had taken to throwing his garbage downstairs rather than take it to the town dump. The garbage didn't smell since it dried out real quickly, our town being smack-dab in the middle of the desert.

Miller weren't of much comfort. He was moving around kinda nervous-like, but it wasn't because Canyon Carol was there. One of 'em was usually there. All he'd say was that something big was going down, far as he could tell, and he was going to get his living in while it were still much of a possibility.

"Thanks anyway," I said, and left. A few minutes later he and Carol disappeared in the direction that Jake Snake had gone.

Doc was out, and his sign said that he'd gone fishing. I hate it when he puts up that sign, because there ain't much running water within a hundred miles of here, let alone fish. That sign just means the Doc's over fishing for the Widow Fultin just like he been since her old man died having his appendix out. Mighty fishy, dying while having your appendix out. A few people complained that they didn't want no doctor who might blow a simple appendix operation, especially if he were interested in the patient's wife. They was all for true love and that stuff, but puncturing a man's appendix was certainly close to the belt and perhaps a little bit below it, despite what that saying says about everything being fair in love and war.

But Mayor Dreed said that not many towns our size were so blessed by having a sawbones, and even if he weren't too accurate, he's still better than letting Jones the crazy dentist at the sick people. No one wanted to be put under while he was around, just 'cause you never really knew what he would do with you, like sew your hands together. Through your fingers. Behind your back.

So Doc stayed on, and spent every day trying to get the Widow Fultin to marry him or, barring that, at least to sleep with him, since he knew what the prostitutes had and he was a little too wary of dosing up on the penicillin all the time like Miller had to.

The Doc wasn't real good about sticking to the rules about courting and all that. The Widow was an eyeful, to be sure, what with her long blond hair, and the old wives in the town said that she had been a loose woman in California before she met Fultin on some trip and they got married real quick like.

The saloon seemed like a good place to find out what in tarnation, what in hell that is, was going on around town. I strolled in and the regulars were clustered around the bar grumping about something, and when I went over to ask what was up they clammed right up. That was kind of funny since the barkeep, Little Richard, was giving his stuff out to them like there was no tomorrow.

Normally when those boys have had anywhere near that much in them they'll talk about anything, whether or not they know what they're saying. I remember once when Richard himself was so far gone he started telling us when everyone in his family had birthdays and what size clothes they all wore. This is from a man who can't normally remember what day it is and probably wouldn't tell you anyway, unless he was feeling in a good mood and happened to like you. But today no one was saying anything about anything at all.

The mayor is the type of person who ought to know what kind of things are happening in his town, so I went to visit him. Mayor Dreed was in his office, which was mighty nice seeing as everyone else had been out, worthless, or leaving when I got there. I began to think that perhaps I should've taken a bath last month like I'd planned before the boys in the saloon threw me in the barrel of old wash water outside the store and soaked me to the skin. But the mayor was downright hospitable and offered me some of them oyster crackers which he always had lying around whenever visitors showed up in his office. The crackers were pretty stale, since no one visited the Mayor very often, so he hadn't bought new oyster crackers for a few years or so.

When I asked him about why everyone was either drunker than a skunk or leaving town like a cowardly armadillo, he gave me the lecture for the fifth grade on the executive branch of government which he'd been practicing for weeks. He said the schoolmarm had canceled on him just today, which confused him since he had been working on this speech for so long that he didn't really know what needed to be done governing-wise. I said that I was sorry, but if he didn't find out what was happening he'd be mayor of a town of drunks and ghosts since everyone else was heading out towards the salt mines. He didn't hear me and moved right on to the legislative branch of government, so I left.

I went to look for the Widow Fultin. She lived a ways out of town, but it wasn't too bad of a walk since I had other things on my mind, trying to figure out where everyone was going and why. When I got out to her place, Doc's horse was there, tied to the fence with a piece of twine since Doc wasn't much for buying saddles and proper ropes and things. I knocked and went in when no one answered the door. It's a nice town like that, where no one much cares if you let yourself in when they're too busy to open the door for you. I did just that, figuring that the Widow Fultin was out back messing with the livestock or something.

She wasn't much with the animals, but she did try, and once every couple of days Doc paid a man to come over late at night and take care of them so they didn't die. The Widow Fultin had said a bunch of times that she was going to live on old man Fultin's farm as long as everything lived and Doc didn't want to lose his chance at her just because she couldn't keep weeds alive long enough to choke the flowers that Doc's man planted late at night. The Widow Fultin sure noticed that everything looked a lot better every few days. Guess she attributed it to cycles or something that she heard about in California.

I don't know too much about California, since the city I went to was in Kansas, but I hear that you have to have your head pretty far gone to get along there what with the men sleeping together and more rich people than you can count. Most towns get along fine with a single rich man around, but from what people have told me there's lots of them all over in California. Gotta be a weird place if you get too many rich people all running around all the time. One's healthy 'cause it gives little kids something to look up to, but what use could you possibly have for more'n that? Some places just aren't worth keeping these days, I tell you.

After I'd caught my breath and sat a while in the Widow's parlor, I started wondering where the Widow was at since it wasn't like her not to show up after a while. I went back out and looked in the barn and out back, but she wasn't anywhere to be seen. So I went back in and sat down again for a while. Then I decided to check upstairs. That's taking hospitality a tad far even in this town, but I really did want to talk to the Widow and I figured that she didn't have a live husband to want to put some lead in me for my cheek. I tiptoed upstairs, half expecting to see the Doc and the Widow deep in a feather bed, but I know that's got about as much chance as Hell melting. Hell froze over several years ago and it just ain't been the same since. Look at Miller: A perfectly good priest put out of a cushy job just because some damn fool said that something wouldn't happen until Hell froze over and Lucifer just couldn't resist.

I was part right when I thought that the Doc and the Widow might be enjoying themselves in a big feather bed since the Widow was certainly enjoying something in that feather bed. There was a low humming noise coming from the bed, so I coughed so as not to surprise her. I've heard it's bad luck to surprise a widow, sort of like walking under a falling ladder or having a panther cross your path.

The Widow was still a little surprised when I walked in on her like that but I'll give her credit 'cause she didn't so much as bat an eyelash but asked me in right polite like. I went over and sat on the bed next to her as she went on enjoying herself. It was a kinda hard to concentrate with the Widow tossing and turning in the bed the way she was, but I managed to say what I'd been planning on saying.

"Widow Fultin," I said, "something strange is happening in town. Most of the people seems to have up and left, mainly for the salt mines, and the rest are drowning their sorrows in the deepest bottle I've ever seen."

The Widow just moaned softly, so I went on after shifting my position to make it a little bit more comfortable and perhaps to improve the view too.

"Widow," I said, "I thought maybe Doc would know what's happening since he's generally a learned man. I saw his horse out front, I said, but I haven't seen him around."

Widow Fultin gasped. "Oh, he's been gone for a while. Went out walking, I think."

I had been sitting down for a while when I first got there, and then I waited for a while longer before coming up here, so Doc had been gone for at least two whiles, and that's a long time.

"Widow," I said, "Doc didn't take his horse so he doesn't have any water with him. Did he say which way he was going?"

"He said he was going to something to do with salt, towers or flowers or bowers, I can't remember."

I was getting pretty uncomfortable by now, because even in this town we have some conventions about what you can do to make yourself comfortable in someone else's house.

"Did he say why he was going there?" I asked, curious to find out what the deal was with Doc, who didn't normally leave the Widow's place until someone had a baby and the Mayor made him go. He slept in the barn since she wouldn't let him come past the entryway in the house unless he took his boots off and he always said that he was going to die with his boots on. I guess he was worried that he was gonna die in his sleep. Everyone in the saloon thought he'd die if he ever really made it with a woman and that was why he wouldn't take his boots off.

I sat and thought about all of this for a while while I was watching the Widow. Suddenly the humming noise stopped and the Widow threw something against the wall.

"Goddammit," she exclaimed. "That thing was supposed to last until the end of the world." I went over and picked it up, taking advantage of the opportunity to adjust my clothing to a looser position.

"No," I said, "it specifically says that it is only guaranteed for life where the life in question is that of the appliance." I put it down and wiped off my hands on my pants.

"Damn," she said. "Well then, will you replace it?"

I've never been much able to resist feminine wiles and let me tell you, she had a lot of them and they were right out there for me to see, every last one of them clamoring for attention. So I didn't resist. I sprang right out of my recently-adjusted pants and jumped into that feather bed and we rolled around for quite some time as I tried to fill the shoes of her broken appliance. After a while, when we were both tired out, I said that I was going to head back to town to see if I could find the sheriff and see if he knew what was going on. The Widow Fultin said she was coming so we rolled around a little more before I got up to go.

"Widow," I said as I got out of the bed and staggered over to where I was sure I'd left my pants, "Widow, let's get going."

"Stop calling me Widow," she said. "It's morbid. Call me Lil."

It didn't fit so I decided to call her Kari, since she was probably from California where they spelt things funny. She liked it and said that no one ever called her Lil anyway and asked what my name was, so I told her, and she said that it was a nice name but not to worry if she forgot it 'cause she forgot names all the time. While we were doing all this name calling, I still couldn't find my pants, so she lent me a pair of her dead husband's which he had never worn because they were too small for him. I could understand that since I weigh about a hundred and fifty pounds but old man Fultin had been pushing three hundred or so for the last ten years of his life. Borrowing some pants was alright by me since mine were a bit dirty anyway. The pants looked remarkably like my own and when I found a white stone in the pocket I knew something strange was going on, but since Kari was probably from California I decided to let it go for the moment.

We both managed to get dressed after some more rolling on the floor, which was pretty hard, although not too bad considering it wasn't carpeted. Kari put on a leather bodysuit thing and I asked her if she would be hot since she certainly looked hot. She said, "How could I be hot when I look so cool?"

She was definitely from California, I decided, but the logic was too much for me to handle after all that rolling around. We went downstairs and outside but it had gotten so hot out that we had to sit on the porch and help each other breathe for a while, after which we took Doc's horse and trotted back to town.

The sheriff's office was right on the edge of town, so we stopped in. The sheriff and the deputy were both sitting there playing rummy and the deputy was winning big from what I could tell.

"Afternoon, Sheriff," I said, trying to be friendly like, since our sheriff isn't known for his good humor and here he was losing at cards to our deputy who isn't known for his brains.

"Afternoon," he replied sourly.

"Cheer up, Sheriff," I said, hoping to get him to stop playing cards and talk to us. "It isn't the end of the world."

"Boy," he said, because our sheriff talked like that, "Boy, I've just gone and lost two thousand greenbacks to this nitwit here." I gasped because that was a lot of money in this town, especially since the sheriff wasn't our token rich man and also since he cheated at cards. No one had beaten him for more than two hands in a row since anyone could remember and only our deputy was stupid enough to keep playing, which was a good part of the reason he was the deputy 'cause he didn't know too much about being a deputy.

Our deputy grinned at us and offered to buy us new suits but we declined because Kari was still confused about whether she looked hot or cool and me because I'd just gotten a new pair of pants which fit perfectly and hadn't ever been worn by old man Fultin 'cause they were too small.

Finally the sheriff said that as far as he was concerned, it was the end of the world because that was the money that he'd been putting by for a rainy day.

"Sheriff," I said, not trying to make him look stupid, "we live in the desert and we haven't had a rainy day in a god awful long time and even when we do it's not such a big deal as far as money goes unless you've got a bet on with Crazy Cat." Crazy Cat was the local Indian, shopkeeper, and designated representative of the United States Postal Service.

"Git out and leave me alone with this nitwit until I get my money back," the sheriff said.

I said as we were leaving, "Sheriff, with the kind of luck you've been having you're gonna die before you win that money back."

He drew his gun and put a hole in the door next to us for my advice then he sat down and trained the gun on our deputy. "Deal 'em," he said to our deputy, who was busy trying to shuffle the cards without dropping them on the floor.

"Something's definitely wrong here," I said to Kari as we crossed the street to the store. "Everyone's acting weird and I don't know why but I'll bet that someone from California's got something to do with it, probably some damned politician."

"I'll put twenty bucks on that," said a voice from inside the store. Crazy Cat came out of the store looking like an Indian with feathers and leather and the whole getup.

"What're you all dressed up for?" I asked, since he was normally pretty mild as far as clothes go. He just stared at Kari and asked me what I was doing going around in old man Fultin's pants with the Widow Fultin on my arm looking like that.

"Recent Personal Secret," I replied mysteriously and squeezed Kari in a soft spot. "And besides," I said, "she's not the Widow Fultin. Her name's Kari now."

"Oh," he said, and went back inside. We followed him from lack of anything better to do and sat down on musty pickle barrels under a sign that had the Post Office motto on it, or at least as far as Crazy Cat could remember it, and as far as he had changed it to make it more appropriate for the desert because we didn't get much snow in these parts. It read something like: neither rain nor heat nor dark nights shall make me not deliver the mail. Kari muttered something that sounded like herodotus and appointed rounds, but I wrote it off as something you said if you were from California.

All of a sudden Crazy Cat started complaining in this loud voice that he was bored since no one had gotten a real letter since he'd been in charge of this branch of the United States Postal Service. I told him that that wasn't true, since I knew for a fact that the schoolmarm got letters regular-like. Crazy Cat said that she got 'em because she sent 'em to herself, it being in her contract that she had to prove her reading and writing skills to the rest of the town by sending and receiving mail and since she didn't know nobody out of town, like the rest of the people who live here, she had to send letters to herself. I didn't believe him, so he said to go look for myself since she just got a letter without no return address on it, just like hers always were.

I went back the mailboxes and found the one marked Schoolmarm in the S section, since Crazy Cat was pretty proud of the fact that he knew the entire alphabet and could usually get the letters in the right order so he put a lot of time into alphabetizing all the mailboxes one year. The only problem was that most of the people in the town were a bit like cows--they could always find their box, but once it moved they were completely confused and needed Crazy Cat's expert help and since he didn't know the alphabet quite as well on some days as he did on others he wasn't always much help.

He was right this time, and there was a letter in the schoolmarm's box. Kari put down whatever she'd been messing with and came back to look at the letter. It wasn't even in a envelope, but was just a folded sheet of paper, so when I picked it up it opened right up. We looked at it since no one much cares about things like that in our town anyway, and we were sure that if anyone had gotten a real letter they would've read it to the whole town at the town meeting which we had on the first Tuesday of March whether or not there was outstanding business to take care of.

It looked as though the letter had to do with messing around, but Kari said we should go and that she would explain everything in it to me later. She read faster than I do, though I'm one of the faster readers in this town, not that that says too much about me. We walked back up front where Crazy Cat was still complaining, so we told him to go pretend he was a real Indian and do a rain dance or something. He liked the idea, and disappeared behind the counter to look for something he needed for a good rain dance, or so he said. He didn't come out for a while, so we decided to head south for the salt mines and see what was happening out there.

We got on Doc's horse again and started out of town, leaving Crazy Cat whooping it up and jumping up and down in a circle. We hadn't gotten more than a mile or two out when Doc's horse just stopped. Plain and simple. Stopped dead in his tracks and refused to move.

"Horse," I said, "you got some mule in you?" Then I asked Kari if she knew what the horse's name was, 'cause horses don't respond to being called Horse too often. She said that Doc had never given it a name since he wasn't much into talking to animals anyhow.

"Great," I said. "We're stuck in the middle of the desert and this horse isn't going nowhere."

We got off the horse and started walking, since there didn't seem to be much else to do given the particular circumstances that we were in at the moment. The sand and dust was real hot and sorta mushy that far out in the desert and Kari started to look a little green, but she said that she was far too cool to possibly take off some of her clothes. Well, she only stayed that cool for about another ten minutes and then off came the top of that leather thingamabob and she perked right up when the wind hit her skin. I perked right up too, but managed to convince myself that the desert wasn't really a very good place to roll around for a while.

As we walked the sky started to cloud over which was mighty strange since the weather forecaster guy hadn't said nothing about no rain coming any time soon. We started up a pretty steep hill when the rain started. First there were these little drops which hurt when they hit your skin and which made little puffs of steam when they hit the red-hot sand. Kari pulled her top back on and I pushed myself down again as we reached the middle of the hill. Then the big drops started, and while I don't 'specially mind getting wet, I was already wetter than I'd been in a couple a years. It was that sorta rain that just soaks inside of you and keeps soaking in until you feel all juicy like the underside of a rotten tomato. The dust had turned into mud pretty quickly and it was hard going but we figured that we couldn't really go back, since the salt mines were closer than the town and weren't many people left back there anyway. That leather thing had turned out to be sorta waterproof or water resistant anyway, so mainly Kari's hair had gotten soaked by the rain. It musta reached a foot past her rear and mighta been stretching out even more but I couldn't see real well past all those big drops.

We was trudging along, moving slower and slower as the wet sand got worse, when all of a sudden we ran into a brick wall. It was a wall to a little house, and we stumbled inside pretty quickly since the salt mines were still a piece away and we figured we'd try to wait out the rain since it didn't never rain for real long in this part of the country. It was also starting to get a little dark and we thought that it was probably getting late.

The house was kinda cozy, actually, and had been set up real nice by someone, maybe Fred the Hermit. He was something of a tall tale that you heard about a lot around midnight on Friday nights down at the saloon when the boys had calmed down from the week and were starting the serious drinking. Someone always brought up Fred the Hermit and though no one really knew much of anything about the man, he sure did get a lot of air time. Some said he was a rich eccentric, down from the city 'cause his relatives were trying to gouge him outa his money. Relatives were always trying to do that in the stories in the saloon, so I never gave that theory much in the way of thought.

The one I liked was the one some guy who never showed up again told us. He was a sorry looking man, with long hair and a long beard who mighta been Fred the Hermit for all we knew. He said that Fred the Hermit was a normal guy who had been rejected by the gal he loved and it had broken his heart so completely that he decided to just go out into the desert and live out the rest of his days alone and miserable. He would have killed himself, this guy said, but he was a member of the Church of the Holy Lady of the Sorrows of the Second Coming of Christ or something like that so he just moved out in the middle of the desert to live alone for the rest of his life. I never could keep those churches straight and once Miller quit, I gave up even trying since he was the only one who ever knew the difference between them.

We all sat and listened to the guy and when he finished he paid his tab and just up and left without another word. It were pretty late by that time so I decided to head out and ask Miller about the Church of the Holy Lady of the Sorrows of the Second Coming of Christ, since it sounded a bit weird to me and I was in a questioning sort of mood anyway. I ambled on up to Miller's place and, knocking on the door, went right in 'cause it's that sorta town where we don't worry about it much.

There was some thumping coming from upstairs, so I set my hat down on a tall pile of garbage and sat for a while, figuring that Miller heard me and would come down any second now. A few little whimpers and final thumps came, which meant that Miller had Sexy Sally over for company since she always sounded like that at the end. And sure enough, a few seconds later Miller clumped down the stairs, sat down on a broken dresser and asked me what was happening.

I said that I wanted his expertise on a certain matter and he said that it was probably too late for me to convert and I replied that that was all right because all I wanted to know was what was the deal with the Church of the Holy Lady of the Sorrows of the Second Coming of Christ or something like that. He thought a minute and then said, "Oh yeah, them. They's crazy types who thinks that the world's gonna burn up soon but Christ is gonna come down from Heaven or somewhere in a spaceship and save all of them while everyone else burns to a crisp."

I said that they sounded pretty weird, but was there any reason that they couldn't kill themselves like everyone else who could get away from the law long enough since it's actually illegal to try to kill yourself 'round here and you can be arrested for trying it.

Miller said, "Yeah, 'cause if you kill yourself then you can't be around when Christ comes to save everyone and he"--Miller didn't much capitalize correctly late at night, especially after Hell froze over and there wasn't any reason to worry about it--"also might not be real pleased if his chosen ones were going and killing themselves over women."

Right about then Sally stuck her head downstairs and told Miller to get back to bed so he said goodnight and went back upstairs.

No matter whose house it were, they weren't there. I suppose that did kinda point the finger of suspicion at Fred the Hermit. Kari started to get out of her bodysuit 'cause she said that there wasn't much that was more uncomfortable than wet leather but since it was wet leather it was real hard to pull off so I tried to help and with a lot of pulling we finally got it off. Since it seemed like a better place than out in the desert we rolled around for a while and fell asleep from all the exercise we'd gotten during the day. It musta been pretty late when we fell asleep, because by the time we woke up and Kari explained some of the things in the schoolmarm's letter to me it was light again out even though it was still raining rats and frogs out there so we stayed in for the whole day and the rain never let up.

Sometime in the afternoon there was a knocking on the door and we went to open it, half expecting Fred the Hermit. But it was only the horse with no name who had decided that he wanted to come with us and stay dry rather than stand out in the middle of nowhere pretending to be an ass. We let him in and made him stand in the corner and behave himself. There was only one room in the little house, but it was big enough for the horse to stand on one side of the fireplace and for us to spread out some blankets we found on shelves on the other side. There were a lot of shelves with provisions on them, as if Fred the Hermit had been expecting something to prevent him from getting more food any time soon. I could see why he left when we had some of the food he'd canned and dried since it wasn't very tasty but Kari managed to make it into something funny sounding that was downright good. After we had explored everything inside we found a little door that led out back, where there was a lean-to with a buncha wood in it, which was surprising since there wasn't that much wood in these parts anytime, but I guess Fred the Hermit had found some somewhere around.

The rain went on for a long time, but we had plenty of food in that house and when we looked around some more we even found a bin of oats which the horse refused to eat at first but after a few days started to like. I was worried at first that the mud bricks in the walls would fall apart in all the rain, but Fred musta been better at building houses than he was at canning food since the walls were fine and there was only one leak in the roof. That leak worked out pretty well since we just put a pot under it and got clean water whenever we wanted it.

We didn't do too much since neither of us were real big on doing things all the time but we did spend a lot time rolling around that little house and after a while Kari said that she was probably expecting sometime. It made sense that she would be and I was pretty fond of her by now so we were both happy and she still wanted to roll around all day even if she was expecting so we didn't bother with much else. The rain was getting kind of boring, but there wasn't much we could do about it and Kari said that she had a sister who lived in Seattle where it was like this all the time but people there didn't even notice it but just put on waterproof clothes and just walked about as though there was nothing happening at all. I couldn't really see how anyone could not notice rain like this all the time but I figured that Kari ought to know since it was her sister and all.

One day we woke up and got out of bed, if you could call it that since all it really was was a pile of blankets we'd put on the floor on the other side of the house from the horse, who snorted in his sleep and would keep us awake if we were next to him. The sun was shining in real bright and since we hadn't seen that in a long time we immediately went outside to see what had changed. We hadn't been outside for quite a while 'cause there was an outhouse attached to the back of the house next to the lean-to and there just hadn't been any other reason to bother. But anyway it was sure a sight to see and smell 'cause there was water as far as we could see. Kari said that it smelled like the sea and then she tasted it and said that it tasted just like the sea and then I knew she had to be from California, but it didn't matter any more I guess our house was on about the highest point around and our town was pretty high too, so everything else around had filled up with water.

Kari muttered something that sounded like baucis and said that she thought it was salty 'cause of the salt mines nearby and she was glad we had stopped to check the mail 'cause otherwise we might have made it to the salt mines and drowned with the rest of 'em. I said it was probably the horse that had saved us by acting like a mule and that drowning in the desert had to be a bad way to go. She said that Fred the Hermit might've gotten picked up by Christ but he sure was wrong about the fire since there weren't too many fires that lasted through that kinda rain.

Then she threw off her clothes since she'd gotten better at getting the leather thing off and it had loosed up too and she jumped right in before I could grab her and started swimming around. She tried to get me in but I never did learn how to swim from lack of water and wasn't gonna just jump in without getting at least a couple of pointers. She came back out and we rolled around for a while until we were tired and then we just sat for a bit and looked out over the sea we'd suddenly gotten.

I said that I thought everything was gonna turn out just fine since we had each other and the horse and a hell of a lot of oats left over, and it probably wasn't salt water everywhere and everyone was being weird anyway, and Kari said that she always knew it was gonna be all right.

Adam C. Engst is the editor of TidBITS, a free weekly newsletter focusing on the Macintosh and electronic communications. He lives in Issaquah, Washington, with his wife Tonya. Not content to be mildy busy, he writes books about the Internet, including the bestselling Internet Starter Kit.

InterText stories written by Adam C. Engst: "Auto Plaza Rag" (v4n1), "Still Life" (v4n2).

InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 2 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Adam C. Engst.