Sometimes I look out at the desert and think that it's really an ocean. Since I was little, I’d find things out there: a handful of marble chess pieces, a tarnished silver hand mirror, a rusty phone booth that still worked even though it wasn’t plugged into anything. Strange things turn up after the wind blows and blows for days. Just like the ocean after a storm.
Yesterday, I found a message in a bottle.
I was supposed to be collecting prickly pears for Grandma Eddie’s prickly pear wine. (I hate prickly pears.) And there it was, right under a creosote bush, half buried in sand. I scooped it up and put it into my back pocket, making sure that the back of my shirt covered the bulge it made.
The thing is I can’t tell anyone about the stuff I find in the desert. People in Renaissance have been real superstitious since the disaster, especially the real old timers. You never know what is going to set the sky a-fall'n. It’s gotten so that the only things that I’m brave enough to talk about are the weather and plans for the next church social. If anyone knew about the things I’ve kept hidden under the floorboards of my bedroom, they’d probably call an exorcist.
But I can’t let them go. All my life I’ve only known the dead, dry wind, the coating of dust sticking to the back of my eyelids and lists and lists of useless saying and cock-and-bull rituals. Finding treasure in the desert is the only bright spot in my life, the only magic I can call my own.
So when I got home, I dumped the baskets of prickly pears into their wash barrels as usual, changed out of my clothes—conveniently kicking my pants under the bed so that Grandma Eddie wouldn’t try to do anything silly like wash them—and took a shower. Then I squeezed the marinade out of the strips of raw rattlesnake and laid them out on the screens to dry in the sun. Pure disgusting. But old time rattlesnake jerky is the sort of thing that the amusement park people love and apparently, even the biggest Chicken Littles among us know that becoming a tourist trap is the only thing that will save this town. Then I transferred the prickly pears to the wine press, strained the juice into half a dozen carboys, adding some half-way gone pomegranate juice. I put the mesquite beans in the flour grinder for Grandma Eddie’s gluten-free mesquite cinnamon rolls (another gross tourist thing) and headed off to the one-room school house that serves as everyone in town from age three to eighteen.
In short, yesterday was a normal day. Perhaps the last one I’ll ever have.
Because when I finished my homework last night and read the note, this is what it said:
My darling Logan, please answer the phone.
The Sand Witch is a four-part story I'm writing for The Rule of Three Blogfest. If you enjoyed this first part, please check back next Wednesday or Thursday for the second part in this series.
The prompt I chose this week was "There is fear of an impending misfortune."