512 Words


M. Stanley Bubien

The waves crashed in, clapping cobbles each upon the other, and scattering even the largest upward against the shoreline. The vast sea, spread beyond the reaches of vision, caressed my exposed shoulders with a cloud of mist.

"But my spirit feels dry," I told my companion.

"How?" he asked.

I pointed. Rocks rested, salt-crusted, yet outside the whitewater's reach. "As dry as stone," I answered.

With two hands, he lifted a grey, elliptical form. He winked, as was his wont, before slamming its center upon a protruding spike. The cobble cracked asunder, and he presented a single half to me, indicating the freshly-exposed moisture within.

"Rocks are always wet," he mugged, "I should know."

My head shook, my lips down-turned, I gazed eastward into the barren desert sands.

"As dry as dust," I replied.


We soon found ourselves parched, ankle-deep, and blasted by the Scirocco, leaning upon a pair of shovels. My companion stabbed the ground. He leveled his burden, and discarded the pile of sand over his shoulder.

"But your hands."

"Wrists," he corrected, presenting the wounds. "Been a while now. They've healed up quite nicely."

I joined the labor. Knee-deep, waist-deep, chest-deep. When his shovel slurped mud, he laughed and dumped the sopping soil over my head like a baptism.

"Wet yet again," he guffawed.

The caked earth covered my locks, but I resisted the temptation of sipping at the dripping liquid.

"Dry as bone, then," I shook the muck off.

Casually, he shrugged, and presented a torch. The red tongues licked the catacomb walls, scoring them with carbon, a contrast to the ivory of lost loves decaying at his scarred feet. Even through the odor-masking smoke, the place reeked of death.



"That's what you smell," my companion hefted a jawbone. "It's the spore of fungus, sucking life from the dampness sealed inside this desiccation."

I held my nose. Before it turned upward with disdain, we witnessed the fall of night; a silver orb rising to drift the starfield.

"Dry as a moon!" I burst exultantly.

My companion offered the open-palm of invitation, gesturing skyward. But at my ever widening eyes, he relented.

"A citation instead, then, my friend. Scientists. Take their word for it, they've discovered water."

"Harumph," I frowned, a well-read and well-schooled man.

"Forget Mars too."

"Jupiter," I baited. "All gas."

"Oh, and mist isn't moist?" He touched my exposed shoulder for emphasis.


"Ice planet."

I collapsed upon my haunches, though still focusing upon the heavens. If only I could explain, to speak without metaphor upon metaphor failing me in my empty misery.

I sat up.

"Dry as vacuum!"

Beside me, he rested palms quietly upon my skin. "Space is not a perfect vacuum. Out there drift the tiniest of molecules. Some are even water."

At that I buried my head into my hands. "But my spirit," I said, voice muffled in return, "feels dry."

My companion's fingers squeezed, and as he whispered toward my ear, I felt the moist warmth of his breath. "I hear you. And I know exactly what you mean."

Copyright ©2000 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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September, 2000
Issue #53

512 Words