Fort Davis Rocks
King looked at the approaching fire with a look of disbelief, if not panic, on his face. An impossibly tall wall of bright yellow flames and grey smoke raced towards him, while air rushed past him to be consumed by the fiery demon. The fire jumped the road just south of him. There were fences on both sides of the road. He turned and ran north down the center of Highway 17, away from the approaching flames, towards Fort Davis.
A white pickup truck with Texas Parks and Wildlife on the side slid to a stop in front of King. The lights on top were flashing urgently, and the horn was blowing. He could see the driver motioning to him, so he went around to the side and climbed in the passenger seat.
The driver put the transmission into reverse and turned the truck around in a U on the highway. “You’re fixing to be a crispy critter there, King.” He put the transmission back in drive and floored the accelerator as the flames reached them.
“I guess I owe you one, Delbert.”
King turned around in time to see his classic 911T Porsche, parked on the dry grass of the highway right of way behind them, begin to burn. After just a half mile, Delbert stopped the pickup on the right side of the road and put the transmission in park. “Be right back.” He grabbed a pair of fencing pliers off the seat beside him and jumped out, leaving the door open. Beside them on the land next to the highway, a herd of Hereford cows, maybe fifteen of them, pressed against the fence, bawling. Delbert cut the six strands of barbed wire, starting with the bottom strand. As he got back into the pickup truck the cows poured through the gap and onto the highway.
“That son-of-a-bitch E W don’t give a God damn about anybody ‘cept hisself.”
King looked at him, not understanding. “That’s Earl Wayne Haas’s place. He’d just leave those cows here to burn to death. Nothing deserves that, especially not a cow.” Delbert looked at King. “Not even you. Where you want me to drop you off? I’ve got to get to the park. What the hell you doing back there?”
“Ran out of gas. Coming back from Marfa.”
“Well, that’s a God damned stupid thing to do.”
King shrugged. “Gas station was closed.” They came into Fort Davis. He pointed to the right, to the Limpia Hotel. “This’ll do. Appreciate the lift.”
King stood on the sidewalk as Delbert’s pickup went out of sight up the road to the north. He looked back to the south, where he could see a wall of smoke, but no flames. He shrugged, and walked across the small courtyard and went inside the bar, where he had agreed to meet Maria.
The only people in the bar were the bartender and a busboy. “Maria here?”
The bartender shook his head. “She was here, mebbe half hour ago. Said to tell you to get the fuck outta here.” King grunted. “You want a drink? I’m closing up. Boss told me to go home. The fire, you know.”
“Can you make an old fashioned?”
King pulled a ten dollar bill from his wallet and took a seat on a barstool. He played with the bill, folding it in half lengthwise, then in half again, and unfolding it, then folding it again.
“Boss said the fire looks like it’s coming right through town.” He slid the cocktail glass across the bar. King handed him the ten. The bartender held his hand up. “On the house. I closed the register just afore you got here.”
King put the ten down on the bar. “Tip, then. Take it.” The bartender took the bill and stuffed it in his shirt pocket, nodded to him, and left. The busboy went with him.
The bartender turned around in the doorway. “Turn the lights off on your way out.”
King walked out of the bar to the parlor so he could look out the window. The tall grey wall of smoke menaced to the south. A rural fire truck went by on the street outside, lights flashing. He took a sip of the drink, then another, grimaced, then finished the drink in one long swallow. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, pushed the button, put in his passcode, and stared at the screen. The status on the top left said “Searching . . .” He stood up and put the phone back in his left pants pocket.