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High Winds

Sagebrush and succulents. Rounded bushes scattered like clumps of hair. High winds; it hasn’t rained in months. The tumbleweeds are balls of fire waiting to happen.

Dirt roads in Los Angeles County. Now and still. An hour’s drive outside the nation’s second largest city. Avenue P. Avenue R. Avenue T-4. Avenue T-10. Like they have run out of names. Flat barren stretches. Dirt dividing dirt. Waiting again: waiting for rain, waiting for subdivisions. Short days and long nights.

It was 17 degrees this morning in Los Angeles. High desert. The Mojave—28 miles from Edwards Air Force Base, the some-time landing strip of the Space Shuttle. Creosote in clusters. Trucks full of peaches pass me on Pearblossom Highway. The small, dry, tan-colored hills undulate off the roadside—naked bodies reclining, languishing on the landscape.

With little purpose, I have been here in the Mojave for days now, perhaps weeks. But, just as I wanted, things are blending together now, blurring.

Her nails are painted black. The sun is scarlet. When it drops, there will be no light. At midnight, the sand is black but it glitters. I drink coffee at Carol’s Coffee Shop. The bar next door is called The Trap. Soon I will go there to drink. I will order straight whiskey. Nothing fancy. Bourbon. Probably Wild Turkey. When I do, the girl on the next bar stool will be weathered, but beautiful. Her nails will be painted black.

I am trying to limit my world. I think I am succeeding.

The motel is small, about a dozen rooms. I am the only occupant. She comes with me. There is nothing around the place for miles. The radio said the winds would gust tonight, up to 60 miles an hour. Sand whips against the tin-covered door. The room is furnished sparely, sparsely—a bed, a dresser, a chair. The television is bolted to the wall. We have brought in a bottle of liquor in a brown paper bag. We have already been drinking for hours. Now we drink straight from the bottle, and then from the plastic cups we find in the bathroom. A touch of class. She rubs the back of my hands with her fingertips. Her nail polish is chipped. When she takes off her shirt, her breasts are firm and round. She takes off her boots and her jeans. She lays down, clothesless, on the cheap mattress. She looks every bit like the rolling hills punctuating the landscape just outside our doorstep.

The blankets are cheap and thin. The heat barely works. We are cold and we sleep cuddling close, clumped together. The wind is loud. The gusts are likely as high as the radio said they would be.

With the wind barking and with a beautiful stranger sleeping beside me, and knowing no one else for miles, I sleep better than I have in years.

Contributor

Larry Foundation

Larry Foundation is an American novelist and short story writer, concentrating largely on the dark underbelly of Los Angeles, where he has lived for fifteen years. His works include the novel Angry Nights and the short story collection Common Criminals. A third novel, Fish, Soap and Bonds, was released in 2007 by Raw Dog Screaming Press, and another short story collection in collaboration with London-based artist Kate Ruth is forthcoming. His fiction and non-fiction has appeared in publications such as Flaunt (where he is Special Correspondent), Fiction International, Quarterly West, the Los Angeles Times and the Harvard Business Review.

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