Natural Optimism

This is what I remember from my week, if that’s what it was, in Rock Springs, Wyoming. First, I was not at my best. What I mean by that is I did not behave well, although I don’t think all the blame was mine. I might do things differently if I had the chance, but honestly, there’s nothing wrong with looking out for yourself. If I learned anything in Rock Springs it’s that dignity isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be, and sometimes a little luck and fast feet count for more that virtue or courage. If I sound conflicted, or even a bit guilty, well, maybe so, but it’s OK because I’m doing just fine these days. 

     On my first day in town I met a man who lived in a trailer while I hiked out near the White Mountain Petroglyphs. He saw me picking for fossils and told me they weren’t for the taking, that I was disturbing his family’s gravesite. He believed he lived in geologic time and said he could recall seeing dinosaurs, although he couldn’t identify which ones. He said he missed them, but if you live life as granite, or shale, or quartz then everything is about loss and nostalgia. He invited me to sit and we drank a couple lukewarm beers while he described colors that don’t exist anymore and the sound the earth makes when it births mountains. I asked how he managed to survive and he said,“women”. He described his many wives throughout the eons, but they all sounded like versions of the same woman. I pointed out that they all seemed to have large breasts. I should have been more gracious and let it go, but then I pointed out other similarities and he got teary eyed. Maybe I shouldn't have teased him, but I didn’t expect him to reach for his shotgun. He was a frail little guy and I knocked him over and he collapsed into a ball and began crying in earnest. I think he may have broken something and I felt a bit guilty, but he had no right to involve a gun in all this so I left him lying there and hiked back to town. I recall thinking that if he’d lived as long as he said he had, and seen the things he’d seen, then this wasn’t really much in the larger scheme of things and he’d get over it.             

     I also met a woman working as a narc who said she was not long for this world. She said she didn’t fret about it too much since she already done just about everything there was to do. She was also a small time drug dealer, but didn’t feel this was a contradiction since the sheriff’s department was more corrupt than she was. I slept with the woman once, mainly on her initiative. Afterward she told me it was the easiest way to determine if I was a dealer or had any drugs, no offense. I really didn’t have enough pride to take offense, but I didn’t think much of her etiquette.

     On my third day in town I suffered heat stroke after hiking to the Boar’s Tusk without enough water and spent the next two days hallucinating in a bed at the Gold Pan Motel, which makes much of my recollection of that trip suspect. In fact, I not really even certain about the man in the trailer. Much of my time in bed I thought I was going to die, and I startled myself each time I dozed because I heard gasps which I thought might be my last. The TV was on the entire time, mainly because I didn’t have the energy or will to get up and turn it off. Some of my fever dreams may have just been the nightly news, or quiz shows, or westerns. The only one that stuck with me went something like this; a man with a repeating rifle came into a locked cage where I was being held captive. He wanted to kill me but another man in a suit arrived and said if I answered his questions he would pardon me. Then he switched to a language I couldn’t understand and I began blubbering, begging for my life. The rifleman morphed into a black man with a pistol who said I owed him much more than just money and the suit started to deliver a political speech which the black man seemed to listen to attentively. I never said a word and eventually both men said they were disappointed and disgusted with me and left the door to my cell open, which really wasn’t a cell after all but a gas station restroom. It sounded like there was a war going on outside and the condom machine on the wall had a speaker that delivered moment by moment reports on the carnage. That was it. No revelations. At least nothing that provided any insight I could use, but somehow it stuck with me. 

     Eventually I started to feel better. I realized it stank in the room, which was frightening because I thought the smell was coming from me, but afterward the manager said he found a dead coyote in the crawl space. He apologized but just chuckled when I suggested a discount. I walked into town to get some coffee and the streets were strewn with beer cans, broken glass, and assorted items of clothes. The waitress told me the debris was from the Lazy Days, or Hazy Daze, or Dazy Rage or whatever celebration the day before. She said it was good but didn’t hold a candle to last year’s blowout where an Indian got beat real bad and one of the town’s saloons burned to the ground. She said she didn’t care for Indians and didn’t frequent that particular saloon, so it was no loss to her. 

     Actually I slept with the narc twice. The second time was at my suggestion and I remarked on a star-shaped scar on her right buttock. It looked like something a bullet had made but she said it was a birthmark which was good enough for me. We sat on a ridge overlooking town and drank tequila and smoked weed. Post heat stroke the world looked crystal clear and the stars were as fresh as I’d ever seen. I felt some of my natural optimism returning.  Early in the morning I took two dime bags and one hundred forty dollars from her purse and left town. I didn’t feel guilty because, like she said, she wasn’t long for this world, and of course, I had big plans. 

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