Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RELATIVES (02/15/18)
- TITLE: Desert of the Mind
By Dennis Gallemore
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Exhausted, he slumped to the sandy ground and leaned back against a boulder, its surface nearly as hot as the air around it. He longed for just a sip of water; desperately, he looked around for his canteen, but it was no where to be found. He distinctly remembered pulling the canteen filled with mineral water from the wreck of his crashed plane. Frowning, he tried to clear his troubled mind, but to no avail.
A scorpion, as big as his hand, scuttled by within arm's reach. Recoiling, he watched it with fevered eyes as it receded in the distance. Suddenly, he laughed at the absurdity of it all, but the laugh emerged from his parched throat as a coarse, guttural growl. Years as a hard-driven Wall Street investment banker had left him with millions in the bank, but he would trade it all for a bottle of water.
Struggling to order his thoughts, he focused on a hawk soaring above him. “What day is it?” Choosing not to reply, the bird sailed away on a sudden gust of desert wind. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes. “Sunday? Yes, it's Sunday.” Sarah, his wife, accompanied by her sister, would be in church, their hands lifted in worship as they joined the congregation in song after song. In three years, he had went four times and, each time, he had hated it. Now, he would give anything to be there singing along.
Gathering the last shreds of his courage, he stood, his strength waning. “I've got to get out of this desert; I've got to find help.” Trudging through the shifting sands, the merciless sun beat down upon him. “I need water, cool water. I need to find something...someone.”
He spied a coyote, weaving back and forth among the tumbleweeds rolling across the baked desert floor. Alone, the coyote was, just as he had been. He had been careful to cultivate relationships, not friendships, that could have benefited him materially; a lone wolf among sheep to be sheared. Even his marriage to Sarah had been more to gain access to her wealthy and powerful relatives than for love. With a start, he realized that he did love her, and he would give anything, do anything, to hold her one more time.
Images of his parents flashed into his fragmented mind. His father, sitting in a wheelchair, his body weakened by the ravages of time, but his mind still as sharp as the blade of a knife. His mother standing beside, one hand on her beloved husband's shoulder, the ever-present smile upon her face. His parents, his closest relatives, hadn't seen their only child in over two years.
Unaccustomed feelings of grief and remorse welling up within him, he slumped to his knees, his breath coming in ragged gasps. “Who am I? A lone wolf?” He sneered at the man he thought he was. “A man of power, of wealth?” Scooping a handful of sand, he held it high. “I'm nothing, I'm less than nothing! Money, power, position. They mean nothing here in this wasteland! Grains of sand, nothing more!” Tossing the sand into the wind, he watched as it was carried away, the last remnants of his sanity threatening to go with it. Raising his sunburned arms into the air, he cried out, “Relative! It's all relative! My wife, my relatives; no value I placed upon them! Now, oh God, if you're there, please hear me! Please let me see them one more time...please...”
Pitching over onto the sand, he squeezed his eyes shut, and lay still, the hot desert wind blowing across his face. “Relative...relatives...Sarah...” A sound drifted in upon the wind, low and rhythmic. Forcing his eyes open, he stared in disbelief as a red and white helicopter slowly chopped its way through the air toward him. All strength gone, he watched as his rescuers landed and made their way to him, Sarah in the lead. Managing a smile through cracked lips, his eyes turned upward. “Thank you...Father.”
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