Zion by Jesse Sensibar

This is how it is now. Right at this little point, right at the tip of this particular little bloody pin-prick in time. Baca is standing there, right in the middle of the little vista view pull-off on the scenic highway. He’s leaning on the sloped sign shaped like a giant podium which tells you what you’re looking at, and he’s looking at it. His hands are outstretched on the sign. Holding onto the top corners, like a preacher at the pulpit, screaming at the sinners, and maybe he is a sinner, maybe we all are.

But Baca isn’t screaming. He doesn’t see any sinners out there, all he sees is beauty. Deep red beauty, three-dimensional beauty. The kind you couldn’t ever reproduce. The kind you can only see once. The kind of beauty that will remain only in his soul because he’ll never be able to capture it. In fact, he’ll never tell anyone about it. It’s that kind of beauty, deep-down and personal. Some things you just have to leave unsaid, because you’ll never get it right if you try to explain.

And just then, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Peach from Liberal, Kansas, roll into that little turn-off with Baca. But they don’t get out of their Estate Wagon because right as they pull in they see him, and Baca is an impressive sight.

Now just at this moment, Baca begins to cry. He isn’t crying out of any sort of sadness or pain or loss or anything like that. No, he’s crying at the sheer beauty of what he sees spread out before him in the late-afternoon, red-setting sunlight. This has never happened to him. Baca has never seen this kind of beauty before. He is discovering something, being reborn if you will. Not in the sense that anything that came before was dead or is dying, but like something he never knew existed is being opened up inside him.

But of course Mr. and Mrs. Peach don’t know any of this. All they know is what they can see. Which isn’t much, and they don’t like it. In the foreground is this dirty, black motorcycle. Not just any dirty, black motorcycle, but to their minds a low, mean, aggressive looking, dirty, black motorcycle. The kind that Mr. Peach sees in his rear view mirror coming up fast on the left and it makes his hands tighten involuntarily on the wheel and his thought go to tales of motorized gangs of Huns attacking carloads of decent, god-fearing Americans at high speeds with clubs and chain whips. Fade to Peter Fonda, you know the story.

Past that they see a person, dusty-looking and dressed to match the bike. He is this kind of Mexican-Indian looking person to their way of thinking, or at least he would be if he wasn’t so tall. All Mexican-Indian looking people back in Liberal, Kansas are short and squat, don’t you know? So they don’t quite know which inferior race he’s from. But it doesn’t really matter because he is obviously up to no good. Hanging onto the sign like that with both hands. Most likely drunk and wearing filthy clothes.

This is what Mr. and Mrs. Peach see as they drive up so they don’t get out of the Estate Wagon. In fact, they don’t even completely stop. They just kind of coast through the pull-off, and Mr. Peach does an imitation rolling stop and Mrs. Peach just kind of waves her video camera around like a magic wand without even looking through the viewfinder. They quietly turn back onto the main road, Mr. Peach looking in his rear view the whole time, and continue towards La Jolla to visit the grandchildren. And Baca, he never even realizes they were ever there.

No, he never even notices them. Baca is busy, busy being reborn and loving every minute of it. The thought that someone else might be witnessing it never enters his mind. Everything behind him has, in fact, ceased to exist right now. Right at this little point in time when his life is changing once again. All he can see through his tears are the canyons, towers, and mountains spread out before him. Even the sound of another Harley-Davidson rumbling by, a sound as familiar as his own heartbeat, goes unheard in the face of the unspeakable beauty spread out before him.

 

When Baca gets back on his bike in about twenty minutes and the sun begins to disappear behind the mountains, he is going to head west. About two miles down the road he is going to pass a set of skid marks which will disappear off the road and over a small cliff. Baca won’t notice the marks, he’ll never know they were there. He’ll keep riding, feeling as happy and as full of blood-red earth and light as he has ever felt in his life. But I’ll tell you about those skid marks. When that other Harley went past Baca (the one he didn’t notice when he was busy being reborn), it was moving at a pretty good clip. It soon caught up to Mr. and Mrs. Peach from Liberal, Kansas who were on their way to La Jolla. Mr. Peach saw it in his rearview and was sure it was Baca come to kill and rob them. At that moment they went around a sharp curve and out of view of the motorcyclist (whoever he was) behind them. Mr. Peach’s hands tightened around the wheel and they went sailing off the road and over the cliff. The Estate Wagon tumbled through the air and went into a hundred foot free-fall. It landed upside down in the scree field at the bottom of the cliff. The roof was instantly crushed level with the hood. Mr. and Mrs. Peach from Liberal, Kansas were killed deader than dead, right there on the spot, and not discovered until both the vultures and the coyotes had had their way with them.

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About the Author:

Jesse Sensibar loves small furry animals and assault rifles with equal abandon and still has a soft spot in his heart for innocent strippers and jaded children.  He retired in 2010.  He is currently trying to make sense of his past while working on his MFA in creative writing and teaching Freshman Composition at a large southwestern state university in the mountain town where he has lived since the late 1980s.