A Desert Incident can be found in

ISFDB.org Magazine Entry


JUNE 1959



Perhaps we wrong them when we call them dust-devils. Perhaps we are the devils....

AFTER Juanita had succeeded in getting the recalcitrant old rams across the highway, with a few nudges under their fat tails with the toe of her boot and much shouting of "hee-yah," the mindless, gentle ewes trotted after them almost without further persuasion, and the sound of all their hooves on the flat concrete made the girl laugh in spite of her weariness. Almost anything made her laugh these days.

"How fortunate I am!" she said to herself aloud, and with her long, brown hands she felt of her own girth. Juanita was in her eighth month and not all of her fine skirts could conceal the fact any longer—not the black woolen, not the calico certainly, not even the fine purple velvet one the Husband had brought from Yuma one good year when the sheep had fetched a more than usually generous price. Since then sheep had fallen off, and this unhappy fact was reflected now in the face of the Husband—even seemed to darken the sky above their hogan. But there were good years and bad; one had to live with it.

"Only, Mother of God," the girl beseeched the shimmering air, "...please, not another daughter! It is bad enough with the Husband brooding there in the house like a pile of manure, what with the too little money for last year's sheep. He needs a son to make him smile again; if his frown becomes deeper, his face will surely split open like a chestnut!"

Then and there, as Juanita stood on the edge of the concrete, the unborn lashed out petulantly with one tiny limb—not a painful, rib-cracking jab but merely a fitful nudge—and Juanita knew then and there that she bore a son.

"Ah-yeeee!" she cried, and she threw back her head and laughed. After all, there were no men and no old women within hearing to scold her for laughing, for singing, for any womanly foolishness she might wish to share with the unseen spirits of the desert. "Oh how fortunate! Ah-yeee!"

Na-ah-shee busied himself tormenting a Joshua tree. He tore up great gulps of sand from around its roots and hurled them among its anguished branches with all his strength.

"It is my ill fortune to be sibling to a fool!" he whined. "It is not enough that you allow yourself to ...

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