“We are going to die here.”
I didn’t consider it a prophecy as much as a statement of fact. Here was the Utah Salt Flats. We were alone. Vastly alone. The 64 Chevelle, which had until an hour and twenty two minutes ago been our transportation, had already expired. Detouring from our trek to riches and paparazzi that is Los Angeles seemed a brilliant decision. We would take a day to test the upper limits of the Chevelle. Decision is too strong a word, since it implies thought was involved. Also measuring. Apparently we can’t read maps. It took three days to reach the flats, three days we didn’t budget for, not to mention the three days to get back. We were broke, hungry and parched. Like the Chevelle.
In our first and only lame attempt, we had reached 110 miles per hour before a pothole ripped the front suspension from its usable location. “They were supposed to be flat,” groused Mike. The Chevelle responded by promptly retching its radiator fluid all over the desert floor. The shame of it was, I was at the point of drinking that radiator fluid. “Probably didn’t even have coolant.” Since Mike was already in a lousy mood, I considered it poor sportsmanship to point out maintenance was his responsibility.
The parched feeling had been present in the back of my throat since the Chevelle died. At first I thought it was psychological. Now I realized, I really was thirsty. Staring at the detritus of various fast food restaurants that lay littered around us didn’t help. We had emptied the contents of the Chevelle into the desert in the vain hope that a bottle of water had somehow snuck it’s way in amongst all the Coke containers. No such luck.
“At least we had breakfast.” Mike was trying to be cheerful. It was the last time we’d had something to drink.
“What’d you have?” I asked.
Me too. Bad choice. Suddenly I had to pee. I thought briefly of capturing the stream, distilling it, and drinking the condensation, but realized that we had crushed every coke can on our foreheads. It seemed juvenile at the time, too. There had to be a container of some sort in the Chevelle, at least something we could improvise. Even though it was only a quarter to ten, the radiation from the flats was oppressive, and I was too removed from immediate death to be anything but fatalistic.
I looked over at Mike. His shirt was wrapped around his head, he had the beginnings of a sunburn, and he was sweating profusely. “Yeah?”
“You’re a Christian, right?” I nodded. “Me too.” The surprise must have registered on my face. “Just now,” answered Mike.
“Well, isn’t that convenient,” said the church lady voice in my head. Outwardly, I merely grunted.
“I want to be baptized,” Mike continued. I looked around. Fine place, fine time.
“I’m not ordained.”
“I’m not a pastor. I haven’t been called by a church.”
“I’m asking you.”
“It’s not the same,” I sighed. A theological lesson before dying. It’s not the way I had intended to go.
“Where’s it say you have to be ordained?” asked Mike.
“Church constitution, section 5, paragraph 3, ‘Duties of a Pastor.’”
“Really? That’s in there?”
“I have no idea,” I confessed. “I never read it.”
“You’d lie to a dying man?”
“Well, the chances of being found out are pretty slim… Why do you want to get baptized anyway? It’s not like something magical is going to happen.”
“Jesus said to,” answered Mike
“How do you know?” I asked.
Mike pulled a slim New Testament out of his back pocket. Funny how I’d never noticed it before. It seemed pretty well read. “It’s in here,” he said. He had me there.
“Why don’t you wait until we get to Los Angeles,” I asked.
Formidable thoughts took several minutes to process before I interrupted the now faintly hissing Chevelle. “What’s the big deal, then?”
“You don’t wait for convenient times to be obedient.” Quiet, but with conviction. The parching of my throat reached a new level.
“We don’t have any water,” I croaked. My urge to pee returned. No, that would be sacrilegious.
“We could use spit,” offered Mike. I weighed the options. “Jesus rubbed spit in the blind man’s eyes,” Mike continued. I didn’t see that coming.
“We’ll never have enough to immerse you,” I protested.
“Some people sprinkle.”
Yes, they do.
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