Falling into an Open Sky

I drop my sleeping bag at my feet.

A brief cloud of brown dust hovers above my shoes, falling gently on the laces.

I peer up through the canopy of treetops that sway in a wild wind. The sun beats the bark with golden light. A single cloud blazes against cobalt, searching for a friend or a lover (or both) before the sun burns away its guts.

I drag the sleeping bag to an opening in the firmament that shoulders its way through the dancing trees.

I walk back to my truck and drop the tailgate and sit, legs dangling just above dead pine needles and fallen pine cones. I light up a cigarette and breathe in fresh air and tobacco and I smile, facing the sun as it warms my skin.

I start swinging my legs, blowing smoke as the truck groans under the shifting weight. I pat the palm of my hand on the hot metal of the truck, saying quietly, “Thank you, my friend.”

My trusty metal steed with oil for blood.

A heart of explosive fire that carries me out of the frenzied city clamor with its cracked sidewalks and blacktop streets that almost melt the soles of your shoes.

My companion with its rusted-out muffler that growls and yells like some angry chimera climbing the steep mountain passes that serpentine into the deep jaws of saw-tooth mountains looming like titans in the open sky.

A breeze bounces off my bare arms. My long hair becomes airborne. I smoke a bowl, and the forest begins to sing to me—has been singing to me since I arrived.

I only just now notice the small birds with red-tipped wings jumping from branch to branch. Singing and fucking like the rest of us fools.

I smell the earth as it sticks to my teeth and tongue.

The sun slides beneath a single peak, a gargantuan tooth of the planet capped with snow. And the sky burns bright with clouds turning pink then purple then orange, then it all vanishes, swallowed up by the darkness beyond.

I smoke another bowl and crawl into my sleeping bag, wrapping myself against the growing night. On my back, the muted stars burn high above, silhouetted by the outlines of tress like obsidian stencils still dancing in the wind.

I stare into all that darkness without blinking.

And soon the gaping distance of that black dome looks back at me. I shake my head and pull my arms out of the sleeping bag and claw at the dirt, pine needles digging into my palms.

Then I let go and fall into that infinite sky painted black. I fall from this planet of too many people and too many cigarette butts and so much loss that the weight would crush mountains into powder.

I rub my eyes, pine needles still sticking to my hands then falling back to their dead friends. They, like me, like the pine cones, are forever bound to this ground.

I sit up and lean against a tree, smoke another bowl, and listen to the wind wrestle with the trees.

 

© Mike Yost

A Boy and His Horse

I bought the truck from some guy up in Greeley. Cash in hand. The owner wore a white cowboy hat and held a firm handshake. Mid-sized truck with a toolbox in the bed. Manual transmission. 4X4. Exactly what I wanted. I named the truck Cthulhu.

Cthulhu is a bit old. Over 200,000 miles. The air conditioner doesn’t work. His frame groans when driving over ditches, though he never complains about his aching bones.

Cthulhu is a bit beat up. Massive dents like the surface of the moon. A door handle that broke off long ago. Claw marks along the side from a massive tree on a narrow road that was more rocks than road.

But Cthulhu has heart, grit, and fortitude. He attacks each mountain pass with the loud growl from a rusting muffler. He jerks the steering wheel out of my hand, driving us off onto a dirt road—any dusty path that’s far away from hot asphalt.

I bounce around in the cab of the truck with a broad smile as we ricochet across washboard roads walled by trees and steep cliffs. The windows are cranked all the way down, and I can smell earth. Radio off. Wild wind whirling about the cabin with dust that swirls and burns bright in the sunlight.

We rest inside a thick nest of evergreens, split apart by a babbling stream that rolls down distant hills. Cthulhu sits covered in dust—and he smiles, having escaped the heat and chaos of crowded city streets. I lay down nearby in the shade of aspens that shake in the breeze.

I wonder if those vagabonds who wandered through the Rocky Mountains with only their horse felt the same way. A silly notion perhaps. The fondness of a steed with oil for blood. A steel horse with a heart of fire named Cthulhu.

I close my eyes, and we listen to the serpentine wind glide through the treetops.

© Mike Yost