Desert Bones

As we came down from the San Bernardino Mountains the silver convertible sped faster and faster into the Mojave Desert. The beautiful driver squeezed me knee and smiled as we sang along to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” barely audible over the roar of the air rushing past us. Our destination was Barstow, a small town located, conveniently, halfway between L.A. and Las Vegas. Our trip was intended for us to take in the airplane graveyards that had built up since 9/11 and the subsequent drop in the air travel industry. We also wanted to check out the ghost towns that had seen their boom and bust a hundred years previously following the California gold rush.
Pulling into the local travel and information bureau, our first stop since setting off that morning the heat of the desert became almost solid. The Bureau was situated just outside of town and was closed, as was the local museum located next door. We took to the road again and busied ourselves with finding somewhere to sleep that night. After driving through town twice we finally settled on the Stardust Motel. It was a car park with little shade and rooms on either side. At one end there was a miniature pool facing directly onto the main drag through town and at the other a view of the railroad tracks where the sounds of movements would be heard all night.
After a few hours shopping where I was mistaken for German by one of the Native American store-holders and a “Sandy D” pizza in one of only a few restaurants in town we headed over to “Hooze on First. Hooze was a dive sports bar located on first street that played country karaoke that went on well into the night. This was to be a significant night, significant as it was to be here we first met Bones.
Bones was a man of about 50 years, all of them hard. his stated intention in life was to wake up each morning and therefore “Piss off the rest of town”. He was a Vietnam veteran who’d broken his back a number of times leaving him with a pronounced limp and a bad attitude characteristic of many desert dwellers. These days he made his living by, among other things, searching for crystals in the desert which he’d either sell himself or through the local gift shop.
After finishing his second jug of beer and a few tequilas he took to the mic to entertain the assembled drifters and loners. For these people who chose to spend their days in this drive-thru town he sang a rendition of “I Love a Mercury” more ably than any-one would have expected from this rough, almost broken but too proud to ever admit defeat desert jetsam.
After a few more beers we arranged to meet at six the next morning, this being June an early start was vital at this latitude in order to avoid the cruel effects of the sun that would surely do their worst later on in the day.
We awoke at dawn, my body clock not yet having adjusted to Pacific Time and headed out further east, deeper into the desert. Our directions were to drive out a few miles and look for a military radio mast. We found the mast and parked up next to the only other vehicle we had seen that day. Obviously Bones’. A snake skin hood and silver skull hubcaps outside, the signs of this vehicle being his primary place of dwelling on the inside. We mooched around a few moments as there was no sign of Bones to begin with. We followed the tracks of coyotes under the bridges of storm gullies and cursed Bones for having wandered off before meeting up with us when a train 140 carriages long blew it’s whistle attracting our attention to the north. As we stood and counted the trucks 4 dots halfway between us and it waved, it was Bones, his girlfriend and their two sons. We grabbed some sun screen, some water from the car and set off to meet them. As we drew nearer the dots became the rectangles of human figures then became identifiable as man, woman and teenagers. Nearer yet and it became apparent that all of the males of their party were armed…

Desert Bones

Dan Cash

Brighton, United Kingdom

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