The Way Home: Desert Song
By Carol Holland March
The Way Home, a collection of visionary stories about finding your true home.
Whether a place or a relationship, all the characters in The Way Home are seeking what they’ve lost, and the clues they follow are just beyond the veil. A metaphysical treat for those who like their stories off the beaten path, their fantasy balanced on the edge of reality.
In Desert Song, a young woman embarks reluctantly on a road trip, where she is chased by a ghostly skeleton, and faces buried memories so she can open to herself to love.
This is an excerpt from Desert Song, one of the stories in my collection of fantasy stories, The Way Home. Franny has agreed to go on a road trip with Ray, from San Francisco through the Mojave desert even though she hates the desert and has bad memories of her childhood in Los Angeles. This is not a true story, but the road trip that inspired it did happen. It was my first visit to the Mojave, and after driving well past dark, I ended up in the desert near Palm Springs. When I got up the next morning, the stark beauty of the desert─the sand, the mountains, the light─entranced me. I will never forget that feeling of being somewhere sacred, a place empty of human life, but infused with spirit. I wanted Franny to feel some of that to ease her way into the trip that was going to change her life.
“It won’t be so bad, being in the desert, Franny. It’s a big place, you know. We’ll camp under a palm tree.”
I thought he was joking, but just before we reached Palm Springs, Ray turned off the interstate, then onto a dirt road that took us past a row of tall date palms. He parked the truck. We dragged our sleeping bags onto a patch of soft sand and zipped them together. Lying beside him with only our hands touching, I thought about my mother and all the places I had lived since LA. I thought of the men I've been with, good and bad, and how Ray had lasted longer than any of them. Through the swaying branches of the trees, starlight pierced the utter darkness. Ray’s hand was warm and solid in mine.
"I love you," Ray said.
I was afraid I'd start crying if I said anything, so I pretended to be asleep. He rolled over and curled his arm around my waist.
In the morning, everything was colored gold, lit by the rising sun. We were in a valley of sand dotted with cactus and scrub bushes with the ungainly palms soaring above us and nothing of civilization in sight. In the distance, desert mountains towered silent and proud; their nakedness held me still for more than a minute as I took them in. As I walked away from the protection of the trees, the sun seeped into my pores. I felt light and dry as if I could run all the way to those mountains and all the way back again.
Ray emerged from the camper carrying a coffeepot and two cups. It was a familiar ritual. I sat on a rock and took the cup he offered.
“How you doin’?” he asked.
The lines of worry around his mouth had already softened; sunlight works miracles with Ray. I shook my head. So many words crowded my throat, none came out.
“Did you sleep okay?”
“Fine. The desert is warming me up.”
Something of what I meant must have shown on my face. His eyes crinkled. I placed my untouched coffee on a flat rock. Ray stood, took my shoulders, and drew me up. I buried my face in his neck and bit the tip of his ear lobe. I wanted to lie down on that warming sand with the sun in my face and the naked mountains watching over us, and I wanted to feel him reaching for me, all the way inside, as far as anyone has ever got, so my body would beat in time to the vibrations of that place. After I conveyed this to him with that one hard bite, he muttered into my hair that getting an early start was not always the best plan for the first day of your vacation, and so it was close to ten o’clock before we started east again.
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