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I stagger down the middle of a hot, sticky road with
nothing but glassy mirages lining the horizon. The
soles of my shoes slip against the greasy pavement.
I'm fat, clinically obese, trying to make my way to a
gas station, or anything to find food and water. The
crash left my vehicle in utter disarray.
Arizona. Cactus to the left. Sand to the right.
Nothing in between.
The sun scorches my scalp with its fiery rays through
locks of curly hair. I'm starving. I've never been a
person to skip meals, seconds, thirds, dessert, or
ignore any of those late-night cravings.
Why isn't anyone traveling this road? It's been two
days and not one car. My feet drag with each heavy
step. I carry a black bag containing more than just
simple business documents. The contents of this bag is
life. Life sounds succulent right about now. I grip
the bag a little tighter.
I stop and turn, thinking I heard something but it was
only the dust whipping through miles and miles of
sandy terrain. It feels like I'm swallowing needles
down this parched throat of mine. I desperately need
The road twists into three long, odd angles. I'm
losing it. Losing it fast.
Before I started hoofing it, I ransacked everything
from my vehicle: a half-empty can of warm soda and a
handful of mints. The soda didn't last long, maybe an
hour. I hope I don't have to use the mints. I grunt
and squeeze the bag even tighter.
Large black birds circle high above. I check my
cellphone. The dim green screen reads 'NO SERVICE'.
The battery's almost dead. I wonder if I'll outlive
the phone. I never expected to die like this. Heart
disease, stroke, falling off a roof, those make sense.
I smell something like rotten, coppery chicken. I take
a break from walking and drop the bag to the pavement.
I reach inside my pocket and roll the mints between my
Last night, when I slept in the ditch on the side of
the road, my hand fell upon a bird. It was already
dead. For how long, I don't have a clue. I reluctantly
stuffed it inside my bag. At the time, I didn't know
why I took the half-decayed bird; survival instincts I
But now I know the answer to that question as my gaze
falls upon the bag. The sun beats against the black
velvet, cooking my Thanksgiving bird on the inside. I
shake the mints in my pocket and stare down the road
It's day three and the heat and hunger drive me beyond
reason as I slam the bag against the concrete. Upon
opening the bag, a stench rises so thick it feels as
if I've eaten a block of moldy cheese. A bloated,
maggot-infested crow gazes at me with cloudy, milky
eyes. I dry burp and cough, pulling a piece of ragged
meat from a broken wing. I hear the tiny bones and
sinew snap. A maggot is flung and lands on my cheek.
If it wasn't for the juicy fly larva, I'd never be
able to choke it down.
While chewing, I hear a rumbling noise. Could it be a
car? Or is it the grisly meat popping inside my mouth?
Then I see it, a semi-truck in the smeary distance. I
wipe my mouth, cough and toss the bag and what's left
of the bird into the ditch. I look up to heaven and
offer gratitudes as I pop all the mints from my pocket
into my mouth. I kept these mints, not for sustenance,
but for insurance, if help ever did arrive.
The red semi trimmed in blinding chrome pulls over to
the side of road and hits the air brakes, shooting a
plume of dust out from underneath the 53' trailer. I
pat my red clothing down preparing to greet the truck
The solid clack of cowboy boots that only the heels of
cowboys can make ring like a chorus of angels as the
driver walks in my direction. The world is as if it's
in slow motion. The Saguaro cacti that once resembled
morbid torture devices, now look as if they are
raising their hands in praise. The birds that were
circling me have disappeared. I'm saved and break a
smile with cracked lips.
"Yes, Juan. My sleigh broke... a couple days
ago... and I need help. The Reindeer perished in the
crash. Do you have any water?"
"In... in the truck." The driver stood there as if his
boots were melted to the pavement.
"Please, Juan, I need water," I croak, my throat
feeling lined with barbs.
"How do you know my name?"
"Juan, please, hurry. I don't have much time." I fall
to the pavement, a kneecap snaps from the burden of my
weight. The bright lights of the chrome gleaming off
the truck dance and fade. They are black now, dying
within the sound of clacking cowboy boots.
I feel the light shakes from Juan as if I'm being
slowly waken from a deep sleep that I can't escape
My pulse is but a trickle. My eyes are open but I can
only hear the sounds of rushing water and the
intermittent smatterings of voices. It's Juan making
Whhhhooooossshhh... "So how much do ya
think," ...Sshhhhhheeehhhh... "I could
get" ...Whhheeeerrrr... "for Santa's
clothes," ...Whhhhoooosshhh... "on eBay?"
I should have known, year after year, Juan's name was
always on the naughty list. As I fall deeper and
deeper into sleep, I feel tugging and twisting - my
coat, pants and boots being ripped from my body.
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