"EVERYTHING IN THIS WORLD PASSES, but Love will last forever." If this is true, then where is my Gigi this morning? I am naked, half-embalmed, like a worm at the bottom of a brown bottle, a certain Black-eyed Susan curled around my leg, only the sound of my palomino weeping in the prairie grass. My battery is dead, my cactus has growing pains . . . We were searching for the Old Dutchman's mine, our guide Buck a consummate rough rider in every kind of saddle. Joe the Bad and Jim the Ugly brought up the rear. "Call me Blue or Coyote," I drawled, which made Gigi laugh. Or was it my Styrofoam pith helmet with the smiley-face decal on front? "We'll be breaking virgin territory," Buck grunted, but all I saw was a huge pyramid of cast-off microwave ovens. The day wore on, the sun dragging it westward like a withered foot. We shot a few elk and wild pigs, milked some rattlesnakes. At the hoedown at Apache Jack's, we shared campfire stories. "I had a cheesy childhood," I began, "one with many holes in it, and a heavy Thing, a Thing like the last tree left standing so you can build a house around it." "When you're done, Stretch," Buck said, opening a large, brown bottle of mescal, "can you pass the beans?" And what do I remember? The raw outline of a covered wagon branded on Buck's forearm, his red hair bristling like porcupine quills, then bushwhacked I was by a certain Black-eyed Susan, whose snoring now seems as cruel as hunger--the price to pay for going home with the wrong Gigi.
by Peter Johnson