Arizona

Passing by a shooting range, along with miscellaneous signs to lost desert highways, I was abruptly startled when Pam, the driver of my shuttle, said,
“Don’t nobody live round these parts except havelinas and black beetles.”
“What are havelinas?”
“They look like a cross between a pig and hienna.  No relations to the pig though honey.  None whatsoever.”
“They just look like pigs?”
“Well, like a boar pig.”
“Oh.  Cool.”
I was experiencing an overwhelming sense of doom.  I was headed to a cattle ranch that had been converted into a bed and breakfast.  I had expected cowboy boots and other cliché desert things like cactus and coyotes.  Havelinas and this odd rain even though it was over a hundred degrees outside were not what I expected.  I expected resorts on the side of the road, quaint bed and breakfasts, I expected to feel relaxed.  A loud boom struck outside.  Thunder, but no rain.  An incoming storm.  Perfect.
A fat balding man was sitting in front of me, I think his name was Robert, and he couldn’t stop talking about his nurse girlfriend that he’d be meeting in a little town called Jerome.  They hadn’t seen each other in months he said.  “I’m a lucky dog,” he said.  After discussing his girlfriend for a long half hour, he mentioned how McDonalds would hit the spot.
“Mind if we stop somewhere along the road here?” Robert asked Pam.
“Well we’ve got some other people in the van, mister.  Does anyone else want to stop?”
The man sitting next to me was asleep.  All I knew was that his name was Sven.  He was Swedish, headed to Sedona. Pam’s dad, an old man whose face was covered with coarse gray whiskers, was sitting in the passenger seat saying, “Shoot the trigger,” and other unintelligible phrases as we drove past Anther, a town that Robert said might have a McDonalds.  Pam asked if we wanted waters.  It began to rain.  The booms outside were getting louder and jagged streaks of electric blue lit up the sky every few minutes.
Everyone was ignoring Pam.  She tried to ask again.
“Cool and fresh waters,” she said.  “It’s been as high as 119 degrees out here.”
Sven had started to snore loudly.  He had a cold too, you could tell, because a green iridescent bubble grew out of his nose each time he exhaled.  Pam pulled the van off the road to stretch out her neck.  The rain had temporarily subsided, but not the lightning or thunder.  I got out too and rotated my feet in mini circles until I heard each one crack.
There were black beetles crawling everywhere.  It was a task not to step on one.  I felt a couple crawl up the side of my leg and in order to get them off, I kicked my leg out spastically.  The land looked like a black river, there were so many of them.  They didn’t bite, but they were everywhere.  I wanted to get back in the van.  I was exhausted and alone.  There was only me and the shrubbery and heat and beetles outside the van.  The earth’s soil had that rain smell—fresh sage, mixed with red Sedona rock.  Every smell attached to your skin, dug deep in your pores, so that you were a rock and plant and a beetle.
As I sat back inside the van, I could feel the itch of shrubbery that had rubbed up against my ankles.  Everything was pulling me down, making me level and flat, as though the landscape were trying to pin me to earth.
Without warning, as if it were pulled right from my brain bank and whirled into space, a very large, in fact human-sized black beetle knocked on our window with its right antenna.
“Hello.  I’m lost and don’t feel well,” she said rubbing her enormous belly.
“Oh hey Ella, how are you?” Pam asked the beetle.
“I think it’s time.  The babies are coming.”
All of a sudden, the van was very dark.  The windows were coated with wet, sticky black goo, and swarming baby beetles the size of human hands crawled all over the windows.

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