Oh Thank Heaven ©
By William B. Lightfoot
Montana Mike, yeah that’s what some folk in these here parts call him. To others he was known as Mad Dog and then there were still a handful of people who just plain called him Mike. Today though, the best words to describe him were “Hot and Thirsty”.
Well, Mad Dog, who just for the record, had never been as close as five hundred miles to the Montana state line, found himself baking in the blistering sun. It seemed like he’d been walking for days, trudging through the heat, endlessly plodding along in the vast nomadic expanse that surrounded him.
Mike knew what it was that he wanted and on the same hand he knew the path he had chosen was a treacherous one. Through it although he knew it was worth the risk. To take on a seemingly insurmountable excursion, risking life and limb, traveling through the unknown and walking tall. Taking fear itself by the reins and riding it hard toward destiny and the ultimate pinnacle of life.
Yeah, Mike thought, it’s worth the trip.
The playing field here was hard packed and solid black, radiating back the heat, undulating the rays in a suffering echo-like effect. Somehow, if possible, the heat felt twice as menacing on its reverberated trip, cooking Mike from the bottom up.
Mad Dog’s feet were literally blistering now. His leather shoes, that had actually been nice at one time, in fact they had been somewhat expensive, were not much help. The rich, burgundy leather had been polished and buffed to a mirrored shine all the way up to the fancy wing-tipped pattern on the smooth rounded toe.
Now, the skin of those shoes, old and worn like Mike, felt rough and gritty. The lush texture had dried out now, losing all its essence and luster. What had once been soft and pliable was now hard and brittle, having long worn free of their protective sheen.
The Montana Man took shelter where ever he could find it along the way. Even the least bit of shade was regarded as savory soil in this unarguably ambient heat.
Looking up he saw a large object up ahead, keeping his wits about him, he approached with an air of caution. Mad Mike had been caught by surprise before in situations such as this. But the promise of shade was an overwhelming motivator. He never knew what might be lurking, hiding and waiting, to pounce around every hidden corner. He sidled up to the object and stood in the soothing comfort of its shade. Cooling his feet, soaking in the dark shadows, happy to be alee of the broiling sun for a spell.
His feet refreshed, Mike took a deep breath, peered secretly side to side, then set out upon his mission once again. He knew the route well, having traveled it many times before.
Today was no different. In the summer it was a burning inferno, hotter than hell itself and in the winter, the Icelandic winds turned this battleground into an arctic wasteland of ice and snow. He had braved them both and proudly wore the scars to prove it.
Mike put a hand to his forehead, shielding his eyes from the insistent orb of fire that loomed above. His hands were worn and cracked, his fingertips red where they had split and bled. Off in the distance Mad Mike thought he saw a string of trees and the outline of a shimmering pool of blue.
He knew better though, he had seen similar mirages before. “Funny how the mind can be tricked so easily”, he mused.
The heat flickered off the desolate surface, blurring what lay beyond. The yellow markings that decorated his landscape...“Must surely have been laid out by the ancient ones,” he thought. “The uniformed lines had no doubt been choreographed in splendid harmony, lying down sequentially across the barren dance floor as a sign from the Incas or Aztecs, Mike assumed, beckoning the companionship of their Gods.”
Mike had tried counting the lines before as he trod across their endless legion, but there were too many and his memory was not what it used to be. The merciless sun had visibly taken its toll on Mike over the years. He knew things would probably never be like they were, but he kept on coming just the same.
As he stood, motionless, in more of a state of delirium than anything else, he noticed an army of ants crossing his path. There were thousands of them, marching in single file, relentlessly pushing on in their prosaic pursuits. Tiny pieces of god knows what, clutched feverishly in their powerful jaws. You could see the urgency and commitment in their actions. They had purpose and meaning in their convocation, they strived to live.
Mad Dog could imagine that their quest was much like his. Only his was a constant battle, where visibly there was no end, no consolation, no victory, only infinite struggling. But just as he himself did not complain, it looked to him as though they didn’t either.
A flying object broke Mike’s hallucinatory daze and caused him to duck reflexively. Sometimes you just didn’t know where the danger would come from; you had to be consciously on guard always.
Mike pushed on.
A flock of flying white creatures swooped low and landed up ahead. He observed them curiously. They all strutted around with their heads down, ambling aimlessly about in circles, as if in search for some important talisman. They came in great numbers and in force, looking for that special something that gave meaning and substance to their lives.
As Mike slowly approached, they goggled at him questionably, but only for a fleeting moment. As one took flight, returning to the heavens, the remainder followed in a blustering flurry of noise and commotion. Together as a cloud they rose high, circling overhead, searching the land below, gazing earnestly in hope of spying that treasured thing that completes their circle of life.
Again, Mike plodded on.
The trail beneath his feet was hard and abrasive. It yielded no mercy when contact with the flesh was made. Mike knew of this all too well, he had fallen many times in his travels. Lately, he had noticed that with each new time he had fallen, it had been increasingly harder to get back up. Focus on the primary target had become obscured, and it was more difficult to locate his true sense of direction.
Mike had hoped and prayed that he would not be predestined to walk this path for eternity, as the ants and flying creatures seemed bound to do.
When Mad Dog came to the climb, he knew that he was close. Preparing to make the ascent, he reached up, grabbing the top of the barricade, the warm gray sediment was sharp and jagged on his withered hands. It took all the strength that he could muster, but he pulled even harder as his body crested the summit. Mike could almost taste the sweetness of surviving yet another journey, grasping still another golden ring.
Rolling to his side, he gained his feet and stood somewhat unsteadily. The large structure before him cast a much welcomed blanket of shade. Mad Mike was very close now.
Mike was trembling, ever so slightly, with the anticipation of his reward. He felt his way along until he found the door. As he opened it, a rush of frigid air hit him like a cold, wet slap in the face.
The surroundings here were familiar to him; he had been here many times before. Today seemed sort of special now somehow. Today seemed sort of special somehow. He walked straight ahead eleven paces, turned ninety degrees to the left and continued on for six more. There, he stopped and turned to his immediate right.
Montana Mike was visibly shaking now as his reward stood right there before him. He could feel the cold air emanating from it as he laid his hands upon its cover.
His mouth was watering now; he reached up with his right hand and dislodged a vessel from its convenient location. He grasped the black ball on the end of the metal arm with his left hand and pulled it down, but not for too long, no, it must be handled properly.
Next, Mike pulled the arm to the right for an equal amount of time. Now the contents had crested the rim of the vessel, threatening its boundaries. He opened his mouth wide and bit the top portion of the mounded substance completely off.
Mad Dog Montana Mike savored the taste, letting a smooth satisfying smile spread across his weathered face. He knew that there was nothing in the whole wide world, quite like the refreshing feeling you got when you took that first taste of your very own – Pineapple/Strawberry, Lemon/Lim Twist, 7-11 Slurpee in the new 64 oz. cup, with the spill-proof lid.