Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Mountains (Conclusion)

Here's the final part of my short story, "The Mountains."

It took him the better part of a day and a half to find what he was looking for. It was as he expected…gold and lots of it. All day long he labored under the relentless sun, swinging his pick at the quartz ledge, marveling at the samples he gathered. Lord God A’mighty, never seen so much gold in rock! The heavily iron-stained chunks of quartz he broke away from the ledge were shot through and through with free-milling gold, the kind of ore that drove men to insanity and even murder. He took a small sip of water from his canteen. Yessiree, done hit the big one this time! He filled a gunny sack with ore and then laid out the boundaries of his claim with small piles of rocks. With the nub of a pencil he scribbled the claim’s particulars on a piece of the newsprint he always carried in a back pocket for use when nature called. Then he placed the notice in an empty tobacco can and buried it within a taller mound of rocks meant to act as a claim post. 

He gathered up his gear and the sample sack and headed downslope. Might go back to the home state after this. Buy me a nice piece of pastureland, build a cabin, and set to on the front porch all day long starin’ at the greenness of it all. A grin spread across his leathery face. He forgot the intense heat of the desert and his own hunger and thirst. All he could think of were lush green pastures and the leaves of shade trees rustling in the breeze. He heard a buzzing sound in his head and realized dimly he was having problems keeping his eyes focused on the path ahead. The heat was unbearable and his tongue felt thick and swollen. He drained the last bit of water from his canteen. Need to find me some shade. Wait till early morn so’s I can get back to camp and whatever bit of water’s left in those tins. 

He found an alcove of small boulders just big enough to squeeze into, dragging the gunny sack of ore in behind him. Ain’t much but at least I’m out of that pestilential sun. He felt dizzy and confused and his leg muscles were starting to cramp. Lordy what have I done? Old Jake would’ve torn me a new one for such foolishness. He closed his eyes. Just need to rest some. That’s all. 

#

The mountains watched as the man staggered and stumbled his way down their flanks, eventually crawling into a nest of boulders for shade. They’d seen such erratic behavior before as dehydration and heat exhaustion set in. 

            It was always this way. They had seen it time and time again. Those who tarried too long on the mountains’ flanks or within their labyrinth of canyons and washes were doomed, especially in the season of greatest heat. Those were the truly crazy ones, the madmen who found the yellow metal more precious than life-giving water itself, always failing to realize their critical error until it was too late. The mountains sighed. They had thought this man was different, smarter…more cunning. Yet here he was, the heat and the thirst taking hold of his mind, his senses dulled and his body beginning to fail him. In a way the mountains were disappointed that this man had not presented them with the challenge they thought he was capable of. But they were not surprised.

            Just like the others thought the mountains. Driven by greed or some strange mental aberration that forced them forward through intense heat, torrential rains, and icy blasts of wind to peer intently at chunks of rock as if those rocks held the answer to life itself. Didn’t this man and the others realize that the answers they so desperately sought were immutable? That what they could grasp in their roughened palms was only transitory, a tiny glimmer of light in a universe so vast that this man and the others were only tiny grains of sand being driven through the inky darkness of time and space?

            The mountains had eons of experience and wisdom. This man a few decades. What could he ever hope to achieve laboring under that sort of imbalance here? Or anywhere for that matter? Nothing, thought the mountains. Within days he'd be gone and forgotten but they would remain. Forever. Just as it had always been. 

As it always would be…
           
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(c) Jim Rocha 2017 

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com

4 comments:

  1. j.r. .... once again = most excellent

    i would sub-title this conclusion ..... "REDEMPTION"

    regards .... d.

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  2. BRAVO! Good story JR! Makes me wonder how many times this has played out in real life. More than a few would be my guess. It would be easy to get excited over a find like that and over work yourself. If you were ever found, nobody would know what happened either. Just died from heat and thirst they would think, never knowing the gold wasn't far off.
    The desert or any wild place really, won't tolerate disrespect!

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    1. Thanks Gary. I always appreciate your input.

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