The Man and the Desert

by Emma Sohan
Short Stories
This story was rewritten in the style of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. That book incessantly uses what I call the Hemingway and – connecting two independent clauses with an "and". It gives a feel of . . . well, hard to describe, but I tried to capture the feeling and more generally the feel from that book.

I freely admit this is not a particularly interesting story. Imagine say a 1960 Mexico.

Richie Castino's goons were driving him and a hooded man into the desert. Ricardo thought, "I owe Mr. Castino a thousand dollars and that is more money than I ever owed anyone. These goons may rough me up or break my arm. But my beating will be just business because Mr. Castino knows dead men do not pay their debts. That is what I hope."

Ricardo stayed quiet as they drove and he caused no trouble. The goons focused on the hooded man and this also gave Ricardo some comfort.

When the Mercedes stopped at the side of the road, there was nothing around them but the desert at night. "We are here, now," Ricardo thought. "This is where it will happen. I will find out my fate now."

The goons pulled Ricardo from his seat and he did not struggle as they threw him to the ground. They took the hooded man from the car and sat him next to Ricardo. One man took out his gun, the barrel glinting in the moonlight. There was a loud explosion and some of the hooded man's brains and skull landed on Ricardo's shirt.

"I do not yet have anything to complain about," Ricardo told himself. "But I soon will." The gunman leaned over him and Ricardo heard words he did not understand. The weight of a gun came down on his head and he felt much pain. Then there was nothing.

He woke up with his ears ringing and his throat dry and his head pounding with pain. It was dark and the desert's cold ground took the heat from his body. He swallowed gritty saliva and shivered with the cold. "I have something to complain about now. But it could be worse."

The dead body was next to him in the sand. Ricardo spoke out loud, "What has this man done to deserve this? It is much more than just owing money." The sun began to rise and the desert became orange. By noon the sun would blind him and the desert would try to slowly kill him with heat and dehydration.

Ricardo rifled through the dead man's pockets, hoping to find money to pay Castino or something useful but all he found was a small square of paper. This paper said, Your sister will be next.

"Why did they leave a dead man a message?" he asked himself. "Dead men do not read." Then he realized, "Those stupid goons have killed the wrong man. I should be the dead man. I was to be the example for him. Their mistake is good for me. But it is very bad luck for his sister."

He struggled to pull the hood off the dead man. When it came off he saw the dead man's face, which made him vomit onto the ground. The man lying on the ground was his younger brother, a federal prosecutor. His brother had refused to see Ricardo for many years because of Ricardo's gambling. "You should have been more careful, brother. This is not how I wanted to see you again."

His sister was in danger. He looked up to the sky. "You have cursed me again, God. This is a very bad hand you have dealt me. I hope one day you will treat me with some good fortune."

He did not want his sister to die, but he did not want to fight God and Richie Castino. He stood up. "Ricardo, you have much time to think about what you should do," and began the long walk back to the city.

Short Stories