VI. The Departure 

The Sodom mornings and Gomorrah nights; sky fire frames a town trapped in the enclosure of primitive mountains which have seen stranger things in the dust of their eyes. They look on casting long shadows and swaying reflections under their god the white desert sun.

A drunk cannot see them it is to dark but he does choir and shatter bottles on the brothel porch. He is not alone and a passer-by vindicates himself by shooting him down. Smoke is all that remains and joins together with the drunk’s spirit where in peace they venture to the hereafter unseen.

Disapprovingly these ancient, distant mountains merely frown.

The rider feels all this but he does not see it; trapped within the haze of prosperity. But richness, he knows, is fickle and fleeting to a man who lives harshly. So for a breath he is rested and like a breath soon exhaled.

He watches fingers, not his own but soft and slender, trace over storied scars and design new ones yet unwritten. He taps the cheroot ash into the whiskey as he can abide wastefulness.

How much to see you? He whispers and his eyes survey the naked whore on his chest. She is tan and black haired, which falls in curtains down the seductive lines of her back, and as beautiful in sweat as she is in paint. Red lips curve into a secret smile as she breathes her words against the rider, uno dolar.

How much to kiss you?

Cinco dolares.

How much to touch you?

Mm. Diez dolares.

How much to lie with you?

She laughs; a girlish, sweet sound. Veinte dolares.

I owe you quite a bit of money. The rider reaches to the gun-belt which drapes from the bedpost. The money is unfurled and he hands it to her between calloused fingers. She accepts and stretches across him to place it on the night stand. He feels her naked body glide across his chest soft and supple.

The whore eases to rest her chin on his shoulder and kisses his throat. He asks, How much to love you? She laughs again, Es demasiado caro. He laughs as well, the sound low and pleasant though unfamiliar. His fingers capture hers and draw them to his heart. Usted es un hombre guapo, she sings.

What does that mean to you?

Nada.

He nods with a smile. Through the open window there is creeping daylight; the sky is blue, the sun pale and the hour is so that the drunks are sleeping and the groans of the dying have passed. It is silent in the town and the mountains rest well. Quédate aquí. She rests her leg over his.

I cannot afford it. He finishes his cigar and drops it into the whiskey glass.

Me da igua.

The rider gets up from the bed quickly and his naked body is rough and mean; the scars white and numerous. He draws up his trousers and begins to button his shirt. The whore watches him, concealing her frame under the thin sheets though sits straight backed. Her lip is captured by teeth and her dark eyes calculate him.

Tiene miedo, she accuses.

He buckles his gun-belt and abandons the room the door slams shut.

She darts to the window and the cool morning air touches her skin like the rider and her misty breath fearfully regards the empty street until he appears. Though the incline of a hat obscures those rugged features she knows it to be him by the carriage of his shoulders and the appaloosa which he confessed was named after his mother.

She did not know him, however spent a lifetime in his arms.

The rider does not look up and passes by in a slow trot.

The whore weeps.

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