Latest Flash

Drought

So if you live in California, you know about the drought. (And if you dont live in California, what the fuck is wrong with you?) Lately weve been blessed with rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Not saying this has to do with that. Then again, Im not saying it didn’t. I mean, sometimes it takes a little unconventionality to solve a problem. Or, in the words of Kevin Spacey, You can't win a marathon without putting some Band Aids on your nipples.

Drought by Joe Buck Williams




“It’s official now, chief. Worst drought in history.

The governor rubbed his temples and looked down at the report. Rationing. Farms seized, plowed under. Riot police guarding shipments from the Pacific Northwest.  Forced relocations. Prison camps. The end.

“Six months?”

“Assuming current weather patterns hold.”

The governor slapped the table. “I am not going down as the last governor of California. There’s got to be another way. Can’t we come up with something?”

Usually when Hector spoke, it was about the latest casino application, or maybe some protest over a new development on a sacred burial ground. What did he know about water?

“There’s one thing we could try,” he said.  

The group turned to him, expectantly.

“The only problem is, it’s a little . . . traditional. Not very scientific.”

“What’s the cost?” asked the governor.

“Nothing. Maybe twenty grand,” said Hector. “We’ve done it before. Back in 1977. And 1958. Plus, many times before you people got here.”

“How come I’ve never heard of this?” said the governor.

A pause. “This would be . . . off the books.”

The governor held up his hand. “I don’t want to know the details. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

A moment of brief discussion. A quick vote. Handshakes all around.  

*

Marty Dennison was uncomfortable. It was the kind of place his parents went—recessed lighting, expensive blonde wood, minimalist paintings that could’ve funded his company for a year.

He turned to his oldest friend, Preston. Brothers looked out for each other, sure, but there were also pranks. This had the smell of a prank.

“Looks kind of stuffy.”

“Bro!” said Preston, clapping him on the back. “You said you were in an epic drought, am I right?”

“Six months,” admitted Marty. “Since Gina left.” 

“Thursday night at the Geraldine Hotel, it’s fucking legendary! No founder leaves alone. Trust me.”

Marty had only been out a handful of times since starting ElasticDemand a year ago. Most nights he worked until tree. The app wasn’t taking off yet, but he had enough funding to get through the end of next year, and one of the reporters at VentureWire promised she was going to write about him when they expanded the beta. It was only a matter of time. Failure was not an option.

“Oh,” added Preston, as they walked through the swinging French doors into the bar. “I might’ve forgotten to mention. It’s Cougar night.”

Expensive designer dresses, cut just right. Tiny gold watches. Over-tanned skin. Fake tits. Facelifts. Every woman in the bar was at least 10 years older than them.

“You’re kidding.”

“Hey, Gina was older than you.”

“Only two years—she’s twenty-six!  I don’t want some wrinkly old hag.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” said Preston, pushing him toward the tuxedoed bartender. “Plus, these ladies have money. It’s a win-win.”

They began circulating. The conversations were all the same: Oh, a company, that must be hard. Who funded you? Where’d you go to school? Stanford—local boy, then? Eventually, a hand on the back of his arm. A casual brush against his thigh. A lowered voice, mention of a huge empty house up in the hills, a new S-Class in the back parking lot. They were good, these ladies. Subtle. Practiced. 

The first one was too blonde, expensive bleach job hiding a nest of grey. The second one was too skinny, freckled skin pulled tight over bony clavicles.

The third lady was different. She seemed more genuine somehow, with wide brown eyes and a sly smile. She was dressed more casually than the others, skirt a little shorter, flowery blouse cut a little lower. Not a day over thirty-five. Her skin was a little darker, too—maybe part Mexican?

“I date all kinds of women,” he boasted. “I went out with a black girl once.”

“Is that so?” the lady cooed. She dropped her voice. “Most of these kids can’t keep up. My last husband, he was from Argentina, made a fortune in silver. Sometimes after a night like this, he’d take me right in the parking lot, before we even got on the road. I miss that kind of . . . action?” She put her hand into his pocket. “Call me Solange.”

“Beautiful name. Is that Mexican?” he asked. 

He never thought to ask what she did for a living. He assumed she spent her days with charity luncheons and tennis games, so was surprised to see the sparse black and white license plate on the back of the SUV.

“What are those, government plates?” he asked.

She pressed the key and the doors slid open. The dome light flickered on, briefly, and he caught a glimpse of what looked like a flat bed in place of the rear bench, draped with a clean white sheet. 

She grabbed him by the forearm and pushed him up the step into the dark space. He fell back onto the hard flat surface and she was on top of him in an instant.

Marty reached for the three-pack of condoms folded in his wallet. He was fastidious about his personal health and safety, and had never once forgotten to use protection. Not even with Gina. She had been with other men before him, so he couldn’t take the risk.

He supposed, in some primal sense, that made him a virgin. 

He chuckled at the thought as he slid into Solange, remembering that feeling of anticipation and completeness, like he was truly at the center of the universe as he longed to be, as was his birthright, his destiny.  He was coming home.

It was over much too fast. She pulled herself off of his lap and reached down to the floor of the SUV for her purse. Ugh, a smoker? Just his luck to end the night breathing secondhand smoke. 

“Drought’s over,” he said, not caring what she thought.

“It sure is,” she replied, jabbing the hypo into his triceps.

The men in white coats worked fast, opening his chest cavity as the SUV sped down the interstate to the Water Temple by the reservoir. A couple of electric shocks made sure the shiny red organ was still moving as they lowered it gently into the shallow hole by the edge of the water. The elders said the necessary words, sprinkled the herbs and extracts onto the heart as it beat its last, then filled the hole with dirt. 

Three days later, the rains began.

Joe Buck Williams is a writer in San Francisco. Like most writers on this site, he failed at rock and roll first. His debut novel, The Triangle: The True Inside Story of the World’s First Terrorist Rock and Roll Band, comes out with Gutter Books in 2015.