An old man’s smile

The dust storm hit my desert camp before I could finish pounding in the last tent stakes, sending the loose tent flaps flapping madly while minute particles of dust began irritating my eyes, and blocking out the setting sun. The wind blew hard for several hours at the start of night, while I alternated resting and walking about the dark camp. It was too hot to remain in the tent. Too windy to cook a meal or relax. Too soon for sleep.

The wind eventually stopped. The dust passed or settled into the dark. The stars came out. Still too hot to sleep well, I bound the tent flaps open, to invite in the night breeze, as well as scorpions, tarantula, and snakes. I lay naked upon the floor of the tent. Nothing to sleep on or covered by; just the soft, hot sand below, and the dehydrating hot wind above, blowing heat all about and over every inch of my body.

I slept then. Not well. Not deep. Night thoughts rose in my mind between dream and consciousness. I tended these like a small, fragile flame when I could; when my mind rose far enough from sleep to realize I was thinking. I let all those quiet night thoughts go. I can't remember a one now. They were ghosts in the night.

I'm awake now. It's another hour before dawn. The morning wind woke me with a long and sudden blast of hot anger. I expect this is how the desert anticipates the summer day to come. An anxiety of mindless natural force.

The desert around me is so dark and empty. Only the wind my companion. And the stars a distant, mute audience. This night I'll remember always. A fitting candidate for the one day smile on an old man's face. My grandchildren wondering–why does granddad smile that way?

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