Winter arrived early in southern Arizona this year. Tucson had nearly two inches of steady drizzle over three days and temperatures dropped about 20 to 30 degrees. There was even a layer of snow on the front range of the Catalinas, although that was gone the day after the storm passed. A warming spell (back to normal) has brought temps back to nearly normal.
Coming that slow, the rain soaked in and has beaten down the dust. Our native wildflowers require a good soaking fall rain so we should have a spectacular bloom in the spring.
A writer friend submitted a flash fiction piece to the Society of Southwestern Authors and was awarded an Honorable Mention with one judge calling the story “gripping.” He allowed me to share it with you.
By Dan Baldwin
Flat busted. Hah! Never again. Redlich dragged the body of his partner into the darkness at the ass end of their narrow mine. He kicked a spray of red dust on the body. Some of it fell and clotted on the fresh bullet wound in Ford’s head. He kicked the body, spit on it and scrambled out.
A light rain had blown up, typical for the Superstition Mountains in summer. The gray sheet above was rapidly giving way to darker, swirling black billows from the south. Damn. I’ll have to wait this one out. The mules were excellent on most trails, but one slip on a rain-slick path could cost him half the gold and maybe his life. After months of rip-gut labor the mine had produced a fair amount of color–decent earnings for two men, but a small fortune for one. That simple equation had determined his future and Ford’s untimely death.
He settled in at the front of the mine beneath a large boulder wedged into the hard-packed earth. He hated that boulder and had bruised his forehead black and blue bumping into it, but the damn thing was too big to waste the effort of hacking it out. As the rainwater worked its way through the soil above the mine, the huge rock offered one benefit. It would serve as a decent roof to keep the water from dripping on his head. Redlich built a small fire, cooked a can of beans and prepared to ride out the storm. When finished, he threw the can back into the darkness.
Night came, bringing a hard steady rain. It rolled off the hill above him, pooled at the entrance and flowed rapidly down and away. Redlich finally wrapped himself in the shreds of his blanket and fell asleep to the hard, stead rhythm of falling water on rock and sand. A faint rasping noise woke him. He started to roll over and curl up, but was brought fully awake by his blanket. It was soaking wet. He sat up and tried to light a candle with a Lucifer pulled from his pocket. It, too was soaking wet. He felt around. The floor of the mine was covered with about a quarter inch of water. The walls were slick with wetness and the smell of the earth was strong. Ford was beginning to smell, too.
He crawled on hands and knees toward the entrance. He heard that rasping sound again. Awareness can mean life or death in the Superstitions. For Redlich it meant sudden and painful death. Rain, constant, patient, hard-working rain has loosened the earth around that damn boulder.
Before Redlich could scramble out of the death trap he had helped construct, the earth let go of its prisoner and the boulder crashed with a deadly finality. Redlich – miner, partner and murderer was killed instantly.
Dan has several published novels but my favorites are the westerns. He develops strong characters and interesting plots, combined with great writing skills. Check out his website:
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