Sheik Europa was waiting for me, one day, sitting in a topless Hummer parked at the edge of the desert, where the sand began to trickle into Mags’ patch of green lawn. I was going out to pick roses from the bushes along the path to put in the vase in the front hall. Mags was asleep in the big bed on the second floor, a clean white sheet draped over one perfect thigh. I was going to fill the vase and then make a picnic for us to eat together in the garden.

The Sheik was kicked back in the driver’s seat of the Hummer, bright noontime sun flashing off the lenses of his aviator shades, twinkling off the zippers and snaps and studs of his leather jacket. He slowly aimed the sunglasses towards me, turned on his million-watt grin.

“Hey, Davey. What’s up?”

I squinted down to see him better past all the pinpoint light coming off him. “Not much. What’s up with you?”

“Not much.” He stretched out an arm and crooked a finger at me. “C’mon, man. I’m here to give you a ride.”

I stayed on the path. “A ride where?”

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, back into the wasteland. “Into town.” The grin cranked up a couple of notches. “You’ve got a package to deliver, right?”

I shook my head. “Nah. I gave up that shit.”

The Sheik sat up and shrugged. “All right, man. Catch you around.” He threw the Hummer in reverse, whipped it around and barreled off into the desert in a plume of sand. I ran back inside and woke up Mags.

“Baby? There was this guy just here, all dressed up in leather and shit.”

She yawned and arced her arms over her head and I watched her breasts rise up, smooth and perfect and pale in the endless dusk of the bedroom. I slid my hands around them, leaned in and kissed her. Her arms came down around me, pulled me close. I fell into her and we were together until the moon came up and I forgot about the Sheik.

It rained that night, a brutal thunderstorm that rattled the windows and shook the floorboards. We woke up together and sat up against the headboard and watched distant lightning strikes that lit up the room like daylight. The cat bolted through the open door and leapt into the bed with us and threw itself against my chest. I wrapped my arms around it and held it close, feeling its heart stuttering away.

“Jesus, baby. Do you get storms like this a lot?”

She leaned into my shoulder, kissed the side of my neck. “Sometimes. When there’s things going on.”

“Like what?”

She nuzzled my ear. “I don’t know. Things. Stuff happening in town. Things I don’t care about.” She took my earlobe between her sharp little teeth, bit down and pulled. Lighting flashed in the sky.

I smiled. “Horny girl.”

Her breath tickling my ear. “For you? Always.” Her hand slid across my thigh, fingers trailing down the length of me. She ran her tongue down my neck, across my shoulder. Her fingers curled around me, softly stroked. I peeled the cat off my chest, set it on the floor. Mags leaned in, kissed my throat, my chest, flicked her tongue against my nipple. I pulled her on top of me and thunder raged across the desert.

The Sheik was waiting the next morning, when I went to pick fresh roses for the vase in the front hall.

The storm had pummeled the garden, flattened the flowers and washed away the beds. The neat brick borders had been pushed askew by tiny mudslides. The trellises of grapes and tomatoes were in tangled heaps on the ground, broken vines already drying out, going gray in the morning sun. I went around front to see how the rose bushes had fared, and saw the Sheik sitting in his Hummer, basking in the sun, one gloved hand draped over the steering wheel.

“Hey man.” He grinned at me. “Ready to go?”

I smiled back. “Toldja, man. I gave up the messenger gig.” I walked down the path and stood at the edge of the edge of the desert. “If you want, I’ll give you the package and you can give it to whoever.”

He shook his head, still grinning. “Nah, I’m just the driver. It’s your package.”

“Seriously, I’ll sign off on it. I really don’t care.”

“S’okay. Not a big deal.” He started up the Hummer. “Don’t worry about it.” He threw it into reverse, pulled a wheel-spinning u-turn, and drove off into the desert, a cloud of dust following him across the dunes.

That night it snowed. A blizzard as bad as I’d ever seen, sheets of wet snow sleeting down past the windows. Arctic winds, killingly cold, whipped across the eaves, found their way into the house, chilled us to the bone, forced us into sweaters and socks, Mags raiding the linen closet for a down quilt she’d never had to use before.

We huddled in the bed, Mags and me and the cat, shivering and cuddling close, trying to drum up a little warmth. We didn’t sleep, just sat with the quilt pulled up to our chins, watching the snow come down. Around midnight I went to the kitchen to make tea and saw that the snow had drifted halfway up the windows, and watched, spellbound, as another inch of glass was covered. Back upstairs, mugs of tea rapidly cooling in the freezing room, I asked Mags if it had ever snowed that badly before.

“It’s never snowed at all, honey.” She stared through the window, eyes wide. The snow whipped and circled and blew. “Never.” I pulled her close, and we watched the snow while the cat squirmed between us.

The Sheik might have been waiting the next day, but I couldn’t get out to see. The drifts had climbed above even the second floor windows. We stayed in bed all day, huddling, watching our breath. We didn’t fuck, we didn’t talk. We just held each other and watched the blank windows and listened to the drip-drip-drip of the melting snow. By sunset the drifts had melted enough to allow a hands breadth of clear glass in the bedroom window. I got up and scraped away the frost with my fingernail and peered out.

Snow everywhere. At least six feet on the ground. The path, rose bushes, all buried. It petered out at the edge of the lawn, where the desert took over. Out there, I couldn’t see anything but hot dry sand. And, I could swear, a plume of dust just disappearing over the horizon. I went back to bed and curled up with Mags and the cat and the three of us fell asleep.

The creaking woke me up. It was that loud. It woke up Mags and the cat, too.


That creaking. Old wood that’s taken too much, that’s bowed and sagging, cracking at the weak points in the grain. Getting ready to let go. Shit. I jumped out of bed.

“C’mon. Out. Let’s go.”

We ran down to the living room, me dragging the quilt and Mags carrying the cat, and curled up on the loveseat. The creaking went on and on, sounding like every bad ship-in-a-storm movie sound effect you ever heard. It had just about gotten boring when the whole thing let go with a shriek of nails pulling loose and the flat snap of broken bones. The floor shook as God only knows how many tons of shingles and roofbeams and wet snow collapsed into the bedroom. A moment of silence, and then the drip-drip-drip of snowmelt trickling down the stairs.

Mags leaned against me and cried small, quiet tears. I wrapped my arm around her and held her until the tears stopped and she fell asleep. I leaned my head back and looked at the ceiling, wondering if it would hold. Eventually, I fell asleep too.

It took me from dawn till noon to dig a path from the front door to the edge of the lawn, where snowmelt trickled into the desert and formed a ring sandy red mud that circled the house. I used one of Mags cookie sheets for the digging, and the path I made crooked around buried, dead rose bushes and the tumbled cobblestones of the walkway. The edges of it were easily seven feet tall. I waited at the edge of the desert in a sweater and my $20 shoes, the package in my hands. I waited, and waited, and prayed that the Sheik would show.

The Sheik pulled up at dusk, his Hummer announced a mile away by the drone of the big turbodiesel and the blue pinpoints of off-road driving lights. He skidded up to the edge of my path, throwing up a spray of sand the way skaters throw up a spray of ice, and grinned at me from the driver’s seat.

“Ready to go, Davey?”

I tossed the package onto the sand next to the driver’s door. “Just fucking take it, all right? You can have the fucking thing. I’m done with this.”

The grin turned into a smirk. “Davey, brother, I told you,” he pulled a lit cigarette out of the air and took a drag off it, “I’m just the driver.” He blew smoke into the fading light. “You’re the delivery boy.”

I turned and headed back up the path to the house. The door was open, Mags watching me. I smiled at her, some attempt at reassurance, I’m all over this, baby…don’t you worry. Her face wrinkled, she dropped my bag on the front stoop, and slammed the door. I heard locks that I hadn’t even realized were there clicking into place.

“Baby?” I ran up to the door, tried the knob. My fingers slid around it. I knocked, lightly. “Honey?” Harder. “Honey, what’s going on?” Hammering with the edge of a fist. “Honey? Mags, open the door.” Beating at the door with both hands, screaming, godammit, Mags, OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR.

The Sheik’s voice, lilting across the snow. “Davey, I think maybe she wants you to come with me…”

(There’s more, but Jesus fuck, I’m tired. I’ll pick it up when I get back from Vegas.)