The Blessing

The Blessing

The sun knifed through the stained and bent venetian blinds. The sun couldn’t set soon enough. He twisted the auger to halt stilettos of beams that sliced through the blinds. He yanked the sun-worn olive curtains together. Glittering dust lifted from the tattered swags.

Outside, was still 110 degrees and it was only 4 p.m. The air was hot, still and the sun continued to beat against the dirt and concrete. It wouldn’t temper down enough for a sensible man to walk to the corner bar until around 9 or 10 p.m.

Motels across the line provide an hombre with a good measure of anonymity. It was a hidden curse. It was sticky inside the small filthy room. The ceiling fan, absent one of four blades, shook violently. It clicked in time with his beating pulse. Sweat beaded on his forehead. The moisture ring around his collar provided a small touch of coolness.

He gripped the neck of the Jimador Blanco tequila bottle. He said with firm conviction, “It’ll be quick.” He held the bottle at eye-level. He put the bottle to his lips and guzzled the remaining contents. With the skill of a professional softball player, he pitched the empty glass bottle directly into the corner of the room. It shattered with the loud crash of a wild party, absent the laughter. No one in the motel would be alarmed. Nor would they ever dare to be. Broken bottles, drunken screams and occasional gunfire were the usual.

He picked up his holster from the grey kitchen table. He unclipped the retention strap, slid the pistol from its black leather pouch and lifted the barrel to his lips. The smooth-bore muzzle tapped against his front teeth. He exhaled and salty gunpowder bit his pallet. He firmed his grip around the weighted handle. He slid his index finger around the curve of the trigger slowly.

The Mexican police would find him dead sprawled out on the hard packed dirt floor in this filthy three-peso motel room across the line. He murmured his mantra for the past three days, “It is all lost.” He gazed down the barrel and glanced at a cockroach that scurried up the chipped wall. He dropped his gaze, as if he were focusing his attention through his third eye. With another exhale, he tightened his stomach and felt the beveled pistol site angled against his upper lip. As if she were in the room, he stated, “This is all for you, my dear.” And, like the good Catholic alter boy that he once was, he lowered his eyes prayerfully and sighed a final breath of release. He squeezed the trigger tenderly while maintaining the authority that he had when pulling his wife close for a kiss when they first met. The cylinder rotated, ever — so — slowly. The hammer clapped against the firing pin. His head jetted backward. But there was no burst. Just the echo of the clap that snapped up against the walls. The pistol failed to eject and deadened silence seemed to fold into the center of the room.

He lowered to his knees and the pistol dropped to the floor. A tear traced from the corner of his eye down his right cheek and a lump swelled in his throat. She was gone. There was nothing he could do. He arrived at the end of his path. He lifted his eyes and fists to the air and cursed “Chinga! Chinga La Madre Maria!” But God did not hear him that day. He slowly crumpled into a ball on the floor and sobbed.

(c) 2017, Ron McFarland

Borderlands – Author Note

Author’s Note:

To my family and friends. I referred to him as ‘the old bastard.’ My contempt held strong when he walked this earth decades ago. But I loved him. I learned a lot from him, too. I was a twisted vine of emotions. His sudden death floored me.

I don’t use biting words as I did then. Mind you, they do come up from time to time. Imagination gets the best of me. The stiletto of sadistic pleasure. The pointed tongue, to tender heart. Each can draw blood back on you. The rent gained on a darkened thought can never make up for the amount of light lost, when you love someone.

I was a precocious pretentious young man. In some ways, I still am. Long ago, my father’s swift departure left me standing by the edge of his bed staring at his dresser stacked with dozens of colorful silk neckties, a few overused tobacco pipes that saluted in a pipe stand, and an brass urn heavy with questions. Life examined. That was some forty years ago.

His rapid exit may well have been intentional. His marriage was turbulent. The July thunderstorms in my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. My mother, a stunning beauty, was the stoic Queen of Hearts. Her initials, etched in his soul. It was his certain poison. And, he fought back. The clumsy dagger of a backhand remark and the poorly executed strike of the Eagle Claw of a Shaolin Kung Fu green belt, his moves always returned to him six-fold.

Bad blood settles. It will take it’s own path. With time, the bitter berry has an opportunity to sweeten, given influence. The miracle berry of West Africa will unfold the bitter lemon into a sweet delight. The slow path of time can sweeten a sulfurous fruit.

I’m lazy hiker. I’ve always been. You can’t convince me to change my pace. In this life, I haven’t used a map. Unlike my father, I’ve learned to listen to the trail. There are many paths that we each get to walk in life, given the time. The whisper of the wind and the scent of pine will direct you. Randomly followed paths may lead to a dead end. That’s okay. Other paths bring you to a new beginning. And, that’s okay too. Circular paths lead you to where you first started. And sometimes, that’s okay too. Some paths lack true heart, but most don’t. In every path, there is a story. Some hold onto you, some you hide from and a few, you share.

This is one of the few stories I’ll share. I’ve held tightly to this tale for decades. Like bitter blood, a miracle allowed it to sweeten with time. The overlooks on a hike can provide a rich horizon. Decades can ferment the sour berry. Sweetness can arise. And a thorn can reveal a flower.

I wrote this story for my children and grandchildren. It was also written for my friends and to those folks who I will someday meet.There is always hope beyond loss. The storm cannot last forever, and if the path leads you to a dead end, there is no shame in simply starting over.

In this book, I have mentioned people, places and things. Just so you are fully aware, all of these are real and the events are true, but many are lies. Dig and discover. This is my gift for you. Enjoy the hunt.

Ron McFarland

(c) 2017, Ron McFarland

Ch 6 – Lost

Chapter 6: Lost

She stared in the eye of a dream that slipped away. Mary stopped by the doorway of her art studio. She leaned the mop handle against the old floral papered hallway wall and placed the heavy pail of hot water laced with a solid dose of Pine Sol carefully down on the oak floor. The heavy aroma of pine oil lifted from the steaming aluminum pail against her face. She knew that what is now abhorrent can grow to be agreeable.

She paused and looked at the varnished door. As she prepared to step into her once sanctuary space, she wished to atone for her lustful dreams of being a painter. The challis of the pail and the host of the mop were to sanctify the studio space as her past licentious dreams would soon be washed away.  Her delicate fingers prodded, poked and slid her rebellious blond curls under the red scarf. She double-checked the tightness of the large knot that pressed firmly to her forehead. Like the Samurai who vigilantly prepares and then positions his helmet with care before the next great battle, she had wrapped the scarf around her head with a taut intention of victory. Her Rosie the Riveter look was now complete. And, she was now ready for the most certain of holy battles.

She gripped the door handle. The pitted brass knob was an old rock of certainty. Yet it wobbled against her firm grip. She rotated the knob and the door opened with a pop. Inside the room were monuments of oil paintings, stacked neatly in symmetric rows that leaned against two opposite walls. And, there was her easel. It was the alter, an unwrought stone enveloped by the incense. An apex of unrequited lust.

— Balance of chapter not posted. —

(c) 2017, Ron McFarland