Toast, parts I and II

by Simon Stratton

Part I

He crawled a little closer, not believing his luck. Out here, in the remotest of places, there was a man sitting quietly in a foldaway deckchair and enjoying a glass of iced lemonade. He was watching him approach, wearing bright Hawaiian shorts and a loose canvas shirt, only buttoned once.

‘Hello.’ He said tentatively.

The man didn’t reply, but watched him rise shakily from his knees and try to make himself presentable by brushing off sand and grit.

‘Can you help me? I’ve been out here for days.’

There was still no reply, but abruptly, the man in Hawaiian shorts took a long, hard swig at the lemonade that made the wanderer want to jump forward and grab it out of his hand. He held back, just.

‘Please, at least give me some of the drink, I have had no water out here, only a brackish pool earlier, and what I have managed to squeeze out of frogs and lizards. I need something to drink, please.’

He stumbled forward and would be crying with joy to find someone, but there was not enough moisture left in him. The man in the Hawaiian shorts jangled his glass, which now contained only ice cubes and a tint of yellow. How the wanderer longed to suck on one of those ice cubes. The man continued to stare at the sunburnt form in front of him and then suddenly stood up.

The wanderer was just saying ‘Plea…’ but that motion was enough to trigger him into making a dive forward for the glass. Like an experienced matador, the man in Hawaiian shorts stepped smoothly out of the way, holding the glass high, and simultaneously collapsing the deckchair with his other hand, whipping it around like a cloak. The wanderer collapsed into the dust, wheezing.

A truck full of Mexican farmers, out in the desert looking for a lost dog, pause in their search, when they noticed in the distance an emaciated white man alternate between beating the hell out of a large man-shaped acacia cactus and sucking thirstily on a pile of yellow dried gopher droppings.

Part II

The wanderer was surrounded by Mexicans, talking away furiously in Spanish and gesturing wildly, none of which he could understand. He raised his hand hesitantly.

‘Um, excuse me?’ He said. The talking slowly died down.

‘Would anyone like some dog?’ He queried, pulling a half eaten mongrel terrier out of his tattered rucksack.

Simon Stratton lives and works in Manchester, and enjoys his job as a professional strip-o-gram, specialising in wakes and barmitsvahs. You can also book him for hospital visits.

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