Devil’s Blood Hot Springs
Canon City, CO
I felt my head fall forward, my eyes scrape open. My underpants lay lifeless around my ankles. My feet were buffered from the earth by cheap teal flip-flops with pink polka-dots, several sizes too small. It was then that I remembered my female accomplice and looked at my penis, basking in the January sun.
“What are you doing Bill?”
I raised my gaze.
“Thinking of you, my dear.”
Her eyes were hidden behind mirrored lenses. I saw myself in them. My shirt read “come on funny feeling.” Some people say they hate shirts like this one.
I am not one of those people.
“How’s the water today?” I ventured.
“Hot and soft.” She smiled and sunk deeper into the bottomless pool. The water obscured her breasts from my appreciative stare. “Come on in.”
My hooves shook free of their miniscule flops and my stumpy arms struggled to peel the shirt off my chest. Success came slowly.
Weeks (years?) earlier, I sat in my 11th-story office in Houston, an employee of Conoco-Phillips. The job before me entailed sifting through records of abandoned oil or gas well sites. Recent innovations in horizontal/directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing had led my corporate overlords to take an interest in re-examining the potential productivity of holes that they’d previously condemned as barren. I hated myself. Yet I found salvation, or rather a map to a veritable fountain of youth, in the least expected spot.
In 1924 Herkimer Schmid bore a tunnel to a depth of 2000 feet beneath land that local Coloradan beef barons knew as “Mud Gulch.” His pulse increased. He wiped grime and grit from his brow with a rag. He squinted, trying to identify the contours of his incessantly approaching future. He knelt. “Lord, let me tap the Devil’s blood, give me that black gold, and I will spread your Word over the prairie and through the mountains. I will not rest. Amen.” He rose and nodded to his foreman. “Ok, Jeb.” Jeb pulled a lever.
The ground groaned and became flatulent.
“A gusher,” Jeb yelled.
“Run,” Herkimer commanded.
As they sprinted, high-stepping sage and splattering cowpats, Jeb looked over his shoulder. “Not oil!”
Herkimer stopped and turned. “We’re fucked.”
“Looks like water.”
“Write the report, I’m going for a drink.”
The report was the map. Apparently the hapless Herkimer and Jeb had penetrated a virgin artesian well, sprung a hot spring. They documented its temperature at a steady 103 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s more, they noted a thriving community of Panaeolus olivaceus, a fungi I know for its desirable and disorienting effects. Not one to miss an opportunity when it knocks, I quit. I quit. I quit.
No, I didn’t. I asked for vacation time.
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.