"That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace."
-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
"The Hunted"

Since I'm in the mood for sharing.

This was supposed to turn into a short short about hunting chupacabra. I intended on doing actual research into the so-called mythos, but then, amazingly, I stopped caring. I am the awesome like that.

Jenkins rests the barrel of his shotgun on his shoulder and reaches up to push the brim of his hat back. His face is red with the heat, sweat pouring off into his eyes. He squints at me, tapping the trigger guard of the gun with his finger, nervous.

"Something on your mind, Max?" I drawl, knowing how my accent grates on his nerves.

He sniffs, spits, glares around the valley. "Reckon we should have seen some spoor by now." The desert soil soaks up the moisture, leaving only a very slight discoloration in the sand.

My own shotgun is resting comfortably in both hands, aimed mostly towards the ground, but not so much I couldn't raise it at a moments notice. That's the difference between Max Jenkins and me. That and about ten years of college. Of course, there isn't much schooling that'll do you any good out here, under the Sonora sun, baking like bread.

We've been out here for three days now, and yeah, I reckon old Jenkins' college education might just be serving him well this once. We haven't seen hide nor hair of any real game, and that's mighty odd this time of year. Usually they'd be crawling all over the damn place, relatively speaking.

"You may be right, Max. I say we give her another day before chalking it up to a learning experience and heaving to." It had been his idea to come out here, anyway, all hot and ready to bag himself a big critter he could brag to his mates about, back in his big city penthouse in Los Angeles.

Me, now, I live on the edge of a little town halfway between nowhere and Phoenix, and don't nobody bother me too much as long as I keep to myself. Every now and then I'll get a little too deep into my drink and have to sleep it off at the county jail, but the sheriff and I go way back, so he cuts me some slack as long as I don't break anything I can't replace.

Max, though, Max I know through my sister who has always had aspirations beyond and past what you'd call small town life. She was not one to spend the balance of her days haggling with old Miss Diana at the dress shop or sitting on her porch, whiling the days away listening to the radio or watching one of those reality TV shows. No, she pulled up her stakes as soon as our parents died and headed out to Phoenix, worked her way through a marketing degree and eventually went to work as a agent in Hollywood.

"Are you sure you aren't just pulling my leg about this whole thing?" He sounds annoyed, angry, like I'm the one who flew an hour in first-class and stepped off the plane in full-blown Texan hunter-ware. The man looked more like John Wayne in one of those old westerns than anybody real.

I swallow my spit, because moisture in the desert is a blessing. To spit on the earth without thought is an insult, showing you to be arrogant. Disrespectful. Spitting in humility, it's a gift. Old Max, now, he's got little respect for the power of the desert in him. Maybe that's why our game is so scarce. Everyone else, they eventually get kind of awed by the endless expanses of baked earth and shifting dunes. Eventually it gets through their head just how different this place is from anything else they've seen.

Especially this place, about fifty miles through hardpan, trailing mountains and slogging through dunes. This place is special, for some reason. Myself, I don't know why exactly, but I can feel it. Like misted blood in the air, electric and powerful.

Yes, indeed, old Max, he just might be a little too hard-headed for this place to affect him. I may have to give him a little nudge or two.

---

Base camp is a tent next to a large rock outcropping. We'd left the pickup about ten miles back, carrying a weeks worth of supplies with us. There's ways of surviving out here without water, but even I prefer to have a steady supply of the good stuff instead of resorting to them.

My sister, I have no idea where she finds these people. For all I know, they're ex-lovers who have fallen completely out of her graces, or won't leave her alone. Or they're business rivals. It doesn't really matter too much to me, and it won't matter a wick to Max's prey they ever come out of hiding.

And oh, they're so good at hiding you can't imagine it. They can sneak up you like the wind; nothing but their eyes give them away. They melt into the desert like a clear glass bottle sinking into clean water. If you know how to look, and you already know its there, you might be able to see it, but probably not. You'll just have the sensation that something is there, something which causes a minor crease in the state of things.

Watching them is like poetry in motion to me. There's little else that keeps me going these days, I must admit.

Max leaves his shotgun butt-first against a support line, stretching and fanning his face with his hat. The sun is burning him, turning him a bright pink when he isn't flushed red. I take a slow walk around the camp, noting that the fire has been tampered with. The ashes have been shuffled around, faint glyphs drawn into them.

This was also me trying to figure out what the people of Gila Bend did all goddamn day long, seeing as how there is nothing there. Nothing. It's a mile of stores catering to people driving through on their way to Phoenix, L.A., or Tucson. Prefab houses and trailers edging back into the desert and nothing else. I never understood it.

The funny thing is, I don't have too many scraps of stuff saved any more. Most of it gets wadded up and tossed, or gets its inodes zeroed.

Apparently, I am full of the 13-year old girl drama.

September 13, 2004 6:48 PM