Down the red rock road at the Big Sage the huge and hot sun cooked our skin and pulled the spit out of our mouths until we were dry and desperate for the soupy, swampy water down in the reservoir. We built a fire and drank boiled, still-hot water and white lightning and watched the sun set through big dust kicked up on the distant road by the cattle that passed on the reservoir's other side.
We kept the fire low and huddled close for warmth against the beating wind that ripped across the plateau and watched for the headlights of any approaching cars in case we needed to douse things with a bucket full of sand. Although the last signs of life passed us by nearly a week ago.
I added another juniper branch and a handful of twigs and needles to the fire and it roared back from coals.
"Careful now," Josiah said.
"Careful nothing," I said and drank a big pull of the clear whiskey from my metal cup and felt a powerful tingling shoot from my throat to my stomach and out to my fingertips. "I'm fucking freezing."
"Ain't no one coming tonight, are they?" Josiah pondered the whiskey that sloshed around in his cup.
The old Taurus struggled and wheezed mightily out of Alturas, up the steep grades from the valley floor to the Big Sage when we first came. But we made it, and we set up on the sloping banks near the reservoir, tents and fishing gear and a little steel picnic table where we played cards and drank.
"What about Kristy and the girls?" Josiah asked. We'd waited just as said in the note we left for them on the doors of each of our trailers, hoping they'd return from Kristy's folks' place in Lakeview on time and join us at the Big Sage.
I didn't respond, instead drinking my cup dry and refilling it from the bottle that sat between us. Josiah wore a sour and uncertain frown.
"I don't know man. I wish I did. Just don't."