Sep 6, 2006

Moses

Whatever he was hiding from was forgotten, by now, was hidden back lost back behind one night motel rentals and tank fulls of gas paid with cash. That was too many reinventions ago to remember, to many name changes to keep track of. What was his mother's maiden name? What was his social and D.O.B.? What was the original fall from grace? No idea, friend, no idea.

There is a redeemer, he said aloud, and his fountain is filled with blood stretching from here to the shining sea.

He carried a suitcase full of little green bibles, some posters and pamphlets and a sandwich board sign saying The End is Here painted green on white wash-plywood. When he came into Red Bluff Reservoir, down into the lowest point of New Mexico, he pulled into the desert dirt lot too fast and there was the sound of crunching throwing up gravel behind him. The dirt spun out into a cloud that hung into the evening and settled down over the cars all laid up in the lot.

Hallelujah, he said. The cloud of the Lord went before the people of God into the desert, he said, a cloud by day and a fire by night and Moses led the people through the desert and to-wards the promise land hallelujah.

No one heard him. The words waited in the air, hanging there waiting to settle down onto something and there was no one there to hear him so the words waited and then went sneaking out into the edges of the cacti. Hal-lah-lu-jah, he said and he said it loud but it came out in a whisper.

There are only two ways to go, in reservoir. There's the east road coming in over the red bluff and the west road going out along the side of the red river. Half of it's gone and the other half is coming. The sun was up in that middle hesitation, the zenith where the sun looks the smallest and the brightest. The people there have been there so long that they have to invent stories about how people managed to get there, since not even the oldest person remembering the oldest person can remember any stories about how it was it happened. There are two old churches there. There's a baptist church that doesn't have a pastor. The last one left some time ago and the old ladies never agreed on why so they never could say what to say in a letter to send for another one. There's a Catholic church too with a priest so old he's half blind and the people think he might be making up the mass as he says it.

He had posters, in his suitcase. He had handbills. He had a gospel and an announcement of a revival where he could guarantee you that the holy ghost was waiting and where he would come if you would. They were all printed up and ready but the street was so empty. He stood there for a minute, his car door open and the little beep beep beep coming out and he couldn't think what to say.

He hefted the suitcase. The fabric sewn around the handle was starting to tear. He hefted the suitcase and it ripped and he threw the handle away. He threw the handle away in a side arm toss off and it splattered off into the ground and bounced and landed on the side of the building with the cigarette butts and the broken bottles. He grabbed the suitcase with both arms and kneed it up to his chest. He pulled it around up to his shoulder and walked around the side along the back where the kitchen door was open between the back of the place and the dumpster. The kitchen door was open and empty with a rag wet and stained a tomato red hanging of the handle and the dumpster door was up.

He stepped between the one door and the other and he mis-stepped a little and went sideways in the twist of an ankle. But he caught himself, leaning his neck away from the suitcase on his shoulder he took a running two step and lunged and grunted and heaved and the whole thing flopped into the dumpster. There was a crash of garbage bags crunching and the sound of the tin sides inhaling and exhaling and it was, like that, all over.

He walked around to the front and ordered a room. He rang the little bell and the man said, sorry. What ya need? the man said. He said, a room. The man said, what's the name, got to put down a name here, and he said Moses. It was the first name he thought of. Man said, hot enough out there? Moses said, it's hot. Man said, yeah, sometimes it gets that way.