“Silver Sand” a short story
It is the early 1870’s. In the desert of the Arizona Territory where a silver mining boomtown is growing. It is early morning like three thirty am. It is still dark but there is a near full moon. A little girl is kneeling in the sand. She walked about three quarters of a mile from her home in town to get to this place. There is sand for miles, the desert stretches for miles and giant ancient cactuses called Saguaros are growing there. She is kneeling at a circular place. It is just a circle of sand, nothing is growing there just smooth whitish yellowish sand. The round shape of it is delineated because Saguaros are growing near it, in fact all around it, forming a very large ring. And they are much bigger than the others some distance away. These Saguaros look like redwoods. In the center of the circle a pale glittering silver blue light is shining out of the sand. It looks like a spotlight they will be shining in the night skies during movie premieres in a few short decades from then. It is a vivid silvery blue color and inside the light it looks like it is alive. The little girl is about eight and she is kneeling quietly beside it.
A few days later a freakshow came to town. Two horses pulled a small covered wagon with lurid red letters emblazoned across the canvas : “See The Snake Boy! Hisssssss…………”
The girl was so excited and asked her brother if she could go. The girl lived with her brother in the center of town above the sheriff’s office. They lived up there because her brother was the newly appointed sheriff of their burgeoning town and he was busy. Recent arrestable transgressions included the raping and beating of a whore, the theft of three horses, murder in the course of an attempted theft of a miner’s recent gains, attempted murder of four cowboy brothers who were transporting a small cattle herd to the newly constructed train depot along with subsequent attempted theft of said cattle, and drunken disorderly conduct with an attempt to disrupt a card game.
Her brother had assumed responsibility of the girl when their parents both succumbed to influenza three winter’s previous. Well his mom had already died much earlier when he was still a teenager. Then his father remarried and that wife bore the little girl. A few years later the father and new wife were both dead as well. Her brother was a good sheriff but he was a little bitter about these turn of events and sometimes found his job to be a heavy one. For example, he had previously bedded the whore who was raped and liked her a lot. He had shot her attacker dead when the transgressor drew on him and the sheriff was deep down very glad he had. He was also under pressure because the drought had killed some of the cattle herds and folks were coming to him with their problems. He was well liked because he gave some of his own cattle inherited from his father’s ranch to these desperate people and that had engendered reverence from them.
Anyway, when the little girl asked her brother if she could see the snake boy he only half heard her and said yes but be back for lunch which will be in a half hour. The little girl pulled on her eyelit boots with some of the laces not tied properly and waggling in the dust and went down to see the snake boy. A small crowd had already gathered and paid the nickel to take a look at whatever hapless being was seated behind the iron bars. For under the canvas was actually a small cage and inside it was a boy about the girl’s age, maybe a year older. The fingers on each hand were fused together, forming a flipper or crude snake-like appendage. The toes of his feet were also sort of melted together but it was harder to see those because the legs were misshapen and curved inward like he was permanently in the attitude of a yogi saint. There were some women and small children and a few men staring at him. He didn’t make eye contact with any of them or move in any way until a creepy man with a brilliantined mustache who was standing on the buckboard of the wagon hit the bars with a walking stick he was leaning on and said “Wake up boy!” The boy scowled at the man and a feeble hiss came from his mouth. The man said that’s better and commenced to continue hollering “Step right up folks step right up and see the Snake Boy Hisss!”
After a little while the crowd thinned out and the little girl stayed in front of the boy’s cage. It was very hot and she noticed perspiration beginning to drip down the boy’s temples. She dug in the pockets of her trousers; her brother thought dresses were impractical in this climate and could not afford to repair the ones the girl had accidentally torn while out conducting various important business. She produced a handkerchief out of her pocket; the little girl always carried clean handkerchiefs. She shyly offered it to the boy. “It’s real hot” she said. The boy’s eyes rolled over to meet hers and they looked pretty dark and angry. “Here you can have it” she said again and tried to push the hankie through the bars. The boy started like she’d just stuck a firepoker in his bottom. He then let fly out a stream of the filthiest language the girl had ever heard, and she’d heard a lot since the jail cells were directly downstairs. But his had them beat, it continued to issue forth like a river of the foulest most flowery cusswords until the man noticed what was happening and kranged the bars with his stick again. “Move along missy” he barked.
The little girl quickly stuck her face up close to the bars and said “I’ll come back” and then the man pushed her away from the cage.
That night again at around three in the morning the girl snuck out. There was a very convenient piece of roofing under her window that dipped close to the wooden staircase extending up the building. The big wooden false front concealed her activities from anyone on the street below and she was able to monkey down the house in five seconds. She took with her some beef jerky and some hard candies in a sock and a crowbar she stole from her brother’s tools he kept in a small barn out back. She snuck down the main alley and arrived at the boy’s wagon cage. He was awake and trying to pretend he wasn’t waiting for her. She stood outside for a little while looking at the cage. The padlock on its door was enormous and fastened with big chains. “Is there another way for you to get out?” she asked the boy. He surprised himself and nodded, pointing at a small trap door in the floor of the wagon. “For when he empties mah toilet bucket” he said. She handed him the crowbar and he grasped it with both of his little stuck together hands and managed to pry open the trapdoor within a few minutes. No lights went on in the boarding house just five feet away where his jailer was sleeping and the boy dropped out of the bottom of the wagon and into the dust. The girl grabbed his hand and they started off into the desert. He waddled next to her like a surprisingly fast little crab.
He was very tired when they finally got there as he was too big to carry and had had to scuttle the whole way but when the little boy saw the bluesilver light shining out of the sand his eyes got huge and he tried to run away. The girl said No! and made him sit down next to her in the sand. In only a few moments the light began to widen and swivel until it enveloped the boy and girl. He felt a heat and a tightening in his hands and legs and watched as the fingers split apart into separate digits and his legs unfurled into straight healthy boys legs with knobby kneecaps. He sat there looking at them.
A few minutes later the little girl and the boy felt a purring under the earth like a great machine was humming away down there. The sands began to part as a circular silver disk rose up and out from under the desert. The sands spilled off its rounded dome like sands spilling out of an hourglass. The silver disk made no noise once it was in the air and hovered silently over the boy and girl, it seemed to be regarding them. One last shot of silver light squirted out at the boy and then the disk was gone. It was then completely quiet except for what the boy and girl heard as a tiny howl. It was one of the small carnivorous mice that live in the region and are known to actually sit on their haunches and throw their heads back and howl at the moon when they are out hunting or have seen something that blows their mind.
And the girl took the boy back to town to her house.
There was later an altercation in front of the sheriff’s office whereby the boy’s keeper was seen hollering at the sheriff and gesticulating wildly at the boy who the little girl stood in front of protectively. From windows across the street people could just make out snatches of “That’s my property………That girl…. It’s Witchcraft!!… Goddamn IT Step Aside…”
The sheriff deftly produced his pistol and instructed the man to put up his. There was a split second stand off and then the man did as he was told. The girl’s brother told the man that he would not be getting no boys back, not this one or any other. The man’s mustache wasn’t brilliantined anymore it stuck out like the ass of a porcupine because he had been pulling at it with agitation. The sheriff informed him if he wanted to remain in town there was much construction work available to him and his team. Otherwise he was free to leave their town and the sheriff expected him to have accomplished that task by sundown tonight. The man stood there beadily eyeing the boy and then resentment and then bemusement and then craftiness sprang into his eyes. He asked the sheriff if he would buy his wagon and team as he would like to purchase a train ticket and the sheriff agreed. He set the girl and boy to make the barn ready and comfortable for the man’s skinny horses and gave the man some silver. The man did what he was told and took a train out of town that night.
The boy and girl lived happily together and became husband and wife when they got older. The sheriff later married the lady of ill repute and began to enjoy life. One night they took the sheriff and his new bride out to the desert to show them where the silver disk had risen to the sky and they were filled with wonderment because a fair amount of the good vibes still remained there. And in the distance they heard the tiny carnivorous mouse who was still howling at the moon and it’s memory of the spaceship it saw.
Copyright © 2013 by Kim Campion
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