Of course my GPS is failing, I thought.
“But I’m sure the border patrol checkpoint on 80 will stand out,” I murmured aloud. “Hopefully hanging a sharp left for Huachuca City won’t alarm anyone at midnight on a Saturday.”
Mobile off. Northwest out of Tombstone. Head toward Huachuca from State Route 82. Clip south to barrel along Sierra Vista.
Three hours prior, SR82 rocketed me to Tombstone. Her yellow lines were deserted. I floated past but one car for 18 miles when I grabbed the throughway in Whetstone. “Dark Side of the Moon” was blaring over the thunderous wind that poured over my crested windows. The striking starlight conjured a memory of Sammie. Loneliness eventually hijacked my thoughts, pulse. He died 15 months ago — what a journey it’s been.
The constellations glowed bright enough to appear within arm’s length. A swarm of insects bounced my headlight beams back at me like nighttime snowflakes.
I thought I heard the stars laughing at me.
My angst lingered until I stepped out onto North Fourth Street. Then, I welcomed myself back to the “Town Too Tough to Die” with a deep draw of breath. Tombstone’s silent blocks jolted me steady. With each step my tennis shoes rattled the shuttered rows with a crunching of loose gravel, or played the eerie tune of rickety board planks.
Four tourists approached, drawing a checkered pup that coughed a lazy bark my way.
I began to stroll.
My eyes pinched tight as I scouted for images that could communicate the message these desolate boulevards whispered.
Frame the shot, post tripod, repeat; adjust your cloth mask—infrequently.
“You on a ghost tour,” asked a couple who sauntered along Allen.
“Nope, just a photographer.”
I forgot that people talk to one another in sleepy towns. I welcomed the anomaly.
I’d occasionally hear a gunshot, or some mutt shout a disapproving salute. All were miles off.
A handful of markets along Allen had signs that explained how to continue making purchases, while others poked fun at COVID-19.
“We have a pick-up window on the side!”
“Corona sucks,” was scrawled on a box of beer that holds the same name, replacing the brew’s “Extra” portrayal. That particular sign held an accurately crude depiction of the current pandemic. The makeshift, backlit display swamped the watering hole’s gloomy, lifeless air. But who will get the last gasp, I asked through the pane.
My eyes began to sag, so I packed my gear. At the corner of Fourth, I swiveled in place to send healing wishes East. It’s the closest I get to prayer. I hope Tombstone recovers gracefully; I can’t hardly wait to embrace my family littered along the Atlantic seaboard. Because my love of “home,” both past and present, is also too rugged to tarnish.
David J. Del Grande is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tucson, Arizona. His creative work has been recognized throughout the United States and published internationally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.