I rode hard into the desert until I found the hermit. He was holed up in a cave, skinny and poorly, but not unhappy. His beard looked like a spiderweb and he had developed a hunch, diminishing his once tall and wiry cowboy look.
Why’d you come out here? I asked him.
The city was makin me weak, he said. He poked his fire with a gnarled twig too spindly for such an initiative. Somehow, he made it work.
You been here months, I said. This wont do you no good. Youre sick.
I’m dying, he said. Above the fire was a lizard on a spit. I’da been dead weeks ago if I stayed.
Youre dead now, I said, kneeling next to the fire. The sun had fallen and the temperature dropped. The desert is death, I said. It’s a graveyard.
The hermit shook his head, removing the spit and chewing the flesh off the blackened lizard. It made me gag.
This is true life, he said, with scales crumbling from his lips and getting caught in his webbed beard. This is freedom. Back in the city you rely on a system, on banks and rich men and federal governments. Freedom has been stamped out. Not out here.
If you dont come with me, consider this my last goodbye.
He was always stubborn. Too ornery to die. He’d outlive the desert. Me, I belonged in the city. He always hated that. I always hated him.
Goodbye, pa, I said. The light of the cave flickered like the devil’s eyes and I walked back to my horse.
Day 326’s three random writing prompt categories were, “In the wild west,” “Strength,” and, “The hermit.”