Summary: Joe spends a moment in time in a special place.
Word Count: 505 words
I ease myself into position on the rocky precipice high above a silver ribbon of water. Despite the heavy cotton twill of my work pants, the heat radiating from the sun-baked granite sears my skin and I shift uncomfortably for a moment before settling into the familiar spot. My breathing is labored, hampered not only by the climb to this altitude, but also by an inexplicable tightness in my chest. Each breath catches but the boulder’s warmth and the pine-scented mountain air soon begin to work their magic. As the marrow in my bones softens, I feel my hold on consciousness slipping away. My eyes close involuntarily; the tension in my muscles dissolving until I melt into a puddle of goo. Like butter left too long near a warming oven, I am without form or substance.
This is our place—Hoss’s and mine—a place for dreaming. Akin to the trees growing out of solid granite, we are sons of a formidable man, destined for greatness, invulnerable and invincible! The everlasting beauty of our happy place assures us that—though sometimes daunted—we will emerge whole and undamaged, victorious once again, masters of our universe.
Little has changed since we were here last except . . . everything.
The space beside me is now empty; I am here alone. I trace the rock’s grain with trembling fingers. The movement sends a lizard skittering toward the edge where it lingers, casting a blame-laden glance in my direction.
Overhead a cloud passes throwing the ridge in shadow, sapping the rock of its warmth and I begin to shiver.
The guttural cawing of a murder of crows startles me until I realize it was the reverberation of my own primal scream that startled the birds into flight. The ever-present tightness in my chest explodes, extinguishing all light.
I awake spent, face down hugging the boulder, my tears absorbed into its surface with no trace. Only the salty taste on my lips betrays the shedding.
Through gravelly eyes I look once more at the vista before me and now see only devastation—a stand of beetle-blighted pines, a ridge of blackened fire-scarred trees, the rotten remnant of a long ago lightning strike. How could we ever think this place was beautiful?
Anxious to go but loathe to leave, I press my cheek against the stone altar one last time and whisper his name. Hoss.
When I open my eyes, I see it. There, in a minute crevice pushing up against impossible odds is a small shoot. On its tiny bud, a single drop.
Time passes. Eventually, a rising wind chases the clouds away and the rock once again reflects the sun’s rays. The breeze ruffles my hair in a familiar way and my neck feels warm—the kind of warmth generated by a protective arm. In the rustling of pine needles, I hear my name.
I am not alone. This is still our place—Hoss’s and mine—a place for dreaming.