On The Road
by dustin sturges
Here we are once again. The endless miles of blacktop stretch into the distance, and the motor purrs like a castrated mountain lion as we creep slowly up the hill into the unknown. I’m still not really sure how we came to be here in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The details are kind of fuzzy. Every now and then as I glance into the rearview mirror visions come to me.
I’m sitting next to a lazy green river, under the shade of a cottonwood tree. There are kids playing somewhere nearby. The beer is cold and the sun is warm. I know I’ve come here for a reason. I think back to last year—yeah that’s it. The crazy guy with the Mohawk told me to come back. I’m here because he asked me to be. Or maybe it is because it snowed last night and I’m afraid to get into the narrows. Either way, here I am.
Whoa! Eyes back on the road. We’re passing Tehachapi now. We gas up and change drivers. Listening to the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the scorched pavement, I’m soon asleep.
My dreams are filled with people out in Dante’s Sunday finest. An insane river of people dressed in bright colors (or naked) flows by me, led by a blue-haired lunatic on a tractor. They whoop and holler as they beat their drums. The procession slowly winds its way passed a sea of tents that are much less colorful than the people, passed an old two-story playhouse, and back towards the red mountain Kinisava, always towering in the distance.
It disburses in front of a school bus, or at least what looks like a school bus. There are structures and tarps heading every which way off of it. The sun deck built on the top of it sports a fireman’s pole with a zip line attached. The sun deck is accessed by a series of climbing holds drilled into the side of the bug. Among the many banners that flap in the high desert breeze is one that reads, in a friendly yet somehow quite ominous way, “Welcome to the Circus.”
The master of this six-wheeled monstrosity breaks away from the throng of humanity gathered in its courtyard and climbs the fireman’s pole. As he stands above us, his dreadlocks swing in time with the drums. The sun glints off his nose ring and many piercings, and a smile appears behind his pan-like goatee as he welcomes us to Flyin’ Zion once again. Even the pack of children bouncing on the trampoline at the edge of the clearing stop to look. It is all too much, and I wander away.
Out passed the trees, there is a glass wall that houses a fire. In the fading afternoon, the light shines through the far side pouring a green light upon a freshly dug grave. The makeshift cross above it almost seems alive and blossoming in an unearthly glow. A man short of stature but wide of shoulders stands over the tomb with a mandolin. He sets it on the ground and asks me for a hand as he grabs a shovel. I stare wide-eyed as he begins to dig. When he gets a few feet into the newly turned earth, I notice steam escaping from the ground. I jump back in fear of the creature I’m sure will come bursting forth from the trench; then the smell hits me. It smells like roast pork. I realize that I haven’t eaten all day and begin to tear into the ground along with the strange man. Finally the pig emerges from the dirt like the savior in some passion play, except that it is roasted to perfection. It’s carried to the kitchen on poles like a headhunter’s feast, and a line forms.
After everyone has had their fill, chairs are gathered in front of the circus-bus thing. The blue-haired man from the tractor has his ringmaster’s coat on and bids us all be still. The fire throwers dance and the play begins. I’m not sure what the plot is—something about aliens trying to impregnate someone. The actors are brilliant and pull the whole thing off nicely. Afterward, the fire throwers return and brilliant lights fly around their heads. The moon begins to rise and I yawn—getting tired now.
I see a man begin to lurch from the shadows of the bus tarp. He moves stiffly like someone newly-raised from the grave—or someone about to find his grave. Something shiny is dripping from his heavy coat and pants, and a hood and dark glasses obscure his face. The figure sits in a chair in the center ring and all but one of the players draw back. The jester dances around the chair. The familiar dreadlocks spill out from under the multicolored hat and down the back of the rainbow coat as he spins around twirling flaming batons. As the song winds to a close, the jester spins nearer and nearer. The bare-breasted women and scantily clad men of the theater jump back in anticipation as the torches strike the dripping man. The clearing is suddenly awash in light as he bursts into flames. I can feel the terrible heat on my face as the man jumps to his feet and begins to run. He slams into the side of the bus setting one of the tapestries on fire and disappears into the night. A woman screams somewhere in the crowd and all is otherwise silent. The audience sits quietly, trying to digest what they just saw. Was that some pagan sacrifice or just part of a very well planned stunt? Everyone slowly wanders off to their stations of debauchery for the night bewildered. I wander down a dirt road until I find a nice spot in the trees with a truck, a bed, and a smiling wife.
Night fades into day. Children laugh as they hunt Easter eggs in the early morning light. There must be an Easter bunny because there is no way anyone got up early enough to hide those eggs. I find the ringmaster sitting next to a great silver Tylenol. He smiles while his hair does its best to match the blue sky and bids me back next year. I wake up confused as we bump into the driveway of a house. Oh yeah, California. It’s two in the morning. That was an incredible dream. I stand outside the truck listen to the crashing waves two blocks west, and try to separate fantasy from reality. These visions have been coming to me for almost ten years. Hopefully they will never stop. I go inside and go back to sleep. I need to rest up for the Kern River festival in a few days.