Last October I wrote about driving into a hurricane in New Mexico. The first nine months following that were typical and uneventful for Tucson. Then July rolled around. Our monsoon usually starts the first week of July but it tends to be spotty, with serious rain storms and thunder boomers hitting different parts of the valley each day. These storms can range from a few hundred to a few thousand acres to, more rarely, valley-wide storms. They all missed our little secluded part of town, leaving us with just a few drizzles.
A few days after the first gully washer, our Texas Ranger shrubs typically break out in a massive bloom – small light purple flowers that open within a few days of each other and nearly hide the leaves. Mother Nature apparently did not provide the trigger for the mass bloom this year so they bloomed through September. It was disappointing since only a few opened at the same time, although the bees appreciated it since they a had a source of nectar for several months instead of having to gorge over a week.
This year July and August registered slightly below normal although September was an inch above and we finished the monsoon one-half inch above normal. October is one of our dryer months but this year we are well over an inch above normal. Non-desert dwellers may be mumbling “so what” to themselves, but when an area only sees twelve inches of rain each year, it’s a big deal. With a strong El Nino changing weather patterns around the world we’re hoping for more rain to partially replenish our aquifer.
Here’s a story for you.
George’s Night Out
George Grant sat astraddle his regular stool at the end of the bar in Bucky’s Tavern, his back resting against the wall. He was nursing his ninth–or was it tenth–beer of the night as he chatted with Bucky, the owner and night bartender of the small neighborhood bar. The two men had been best friends since kindergarten and had developed a well-deserved reputation as hell raisers in the small country town.
Bucky mixed a drink for one of the bar flies and returned to the end of the bar. “How long’s Glenda been gone?”
“Nigh on five years. It weren’t supposed to be like this–I was supposed to go first.”
“Know what’y mean. When Doris died I was shook. Took a long time to get back’t normal.
“Don’t know if I’ll ever get back to normal. With the kids livin’ out’a state the old house gets lonely.”
Bucky left to pour another beer for a customer and announce last call.
George had fallen into the ritual of cleaning up his paperwork on the last day of the month and retiring to Bucky’s for a long night of reminiscing and serious drinking. He seldom drank at other times, instead putting in twelve-hour days at his farm. He drained his glass, waved to Bucky, and headed for the door. His normal swagger was now impeded by a slight stagger.
The night had turned cold and George snuggled a little deeper into his coat. Rain had drizzled down earlier and any standing water was now covered by a film of ice. He walked two blocks to Oak Street and turned right. Instead of walking the mile to his house along the road, he always cut through the cemetery to cut the route in half. He turned left after three blocks to the entrance to the cemetery.
Being alone in the burial ground had never bothered him; five generations of his father’s family and four of his mother’s family were buried there and he visited often to pay his respects and tend the graves. He figured he would be the last of the family buried there since his kids had moved to various cities and their families had roots in the new communities.
The lane was slippery and his feet slid along the frozen asphalt. He moved to the shoulder where the footing was better. Icy grass crunched with each footfall. He neared the main building and dodged around it to the maintenance shed at the rear.
Another set of footsteps almost but not quite mirrored his own.
He partially turned to look over his shoulder. An apparition was about six feet behind him. It was dressed in rags with a hood partially obscuring his head. Its face, or where a face should have been, was a white skull. It grasped a scythe in both hands. A muted moan escaped from its mouth.
George never changed his stride but continued to the shed. Two more apparitions stepped from the shadow of the shed. Both were moaning. George reached into the shed and grabbed a hoe from its hook near the door. He swung at the form behind him and connected with a solid blow to its knee causing the apparition to fall. He turned as the other two forms approached. He swung at the first, connecting with a blow to the side of its body. It didn’t go down but yelled what sounded like, “Holy shit, man,” and took off at a lope. George swung at the third form but it was able to lift its scythe enough to absorb some of the blow although the hoe handle connected with its head. It collapsed, apparently unconscious.
“What’s all the commotion here?”
George brought the hoe up to a batting stance as he turned.
Bubba Black, the town’s chief of police and only employee of the department, backed off a step and raised both hands in surrender. “Relax, George, I’m the good guy, remember.”
“Sorry, Bubba, but you scared me comin’ all quiet like that. These three ghosts or goblins or whatever they are attacked me. One of ‘em ran off over that way.”
“They’re ghouls. Let’s see what we got here.” He reached down and pulled the mask off one and then the other. “Bobby Hendricks and Carl Benson. Bobby’s brother’ll be ‘round here somewhere.” He raised his voice and yelled toward the woods. “Jimmy Hendricks, git over here.”
Carl moaned as he woke from his brief, unintentional nap. Jimmy limped into the fringe of the group, his mask off and a sheepish grin on his face.
“I saw you boys at the Dairy Queen and figured you were up to no good, so I been keepin’ an eye on y’all. Anyone have anything to say?”
Bobby struggled to stand, his leg not fully supporting his weight. “We weren’t aimin’ to hurt ‘im none. Just tryin’ to scare ‘im.”
Bubba tried to swallow his smile. “No harm done. Anyone want to press charges?”
“Well, git on home. And next Halloween, I’ll be watchin’.”