Beyond the flat desert floor rose a tumble of giant rocks as high and wide as a mountain, and Paulie liked to think that god just dumped them there one day, and had forgotten about them. He could see a black dot walking toward the base of the mountain; it was Samson. Paulie figured he was just about twenty minutes away, and he knew that he had to open the pack. Find out more about Samson. See if he had anything of value in it.
He held his hands over the brown canvas pack and waited to see if he could feel anything different in the air around it. Living in the desert so long, away from everyone except Sue, he had learned that he could sense the essence of people through their belongings. Like the empty plastic purse he found alongside the road. He had felt sadness when he touched it, he told Sue. But she had laughed at him, calling him crazy full of bullshit because of course a lady would be sad to have her purse ripped off and thrown away somewhere.
His fingers quivered right before he touched the pack. He knew that when he pulled the leather strap away he would see Samson for what he really was: some kind of larger than life animal. He couldn’t figure out if he was a real man. Samson and his thick muscular arms and legs, and his barrel torso reminded Paulie of the stories he’d read in grade school about otherworld creatures.
He untied the leather belt. It had a broken buckle and Samson had needed to tie it with a square knot, and Paulie made a point to remember the exact pattern of the knot so when he closed the pack Samson wouldn’t know it had been disturbed. He lifted the flap and opened the pack. The first thing he saw was a folded brown sweater tucked around the edges, so he felt with his hand down along the side of the bag until he touched something. It was made of metal, and thick, cold and rough. It made him draw his hand away and stand up, backing away from the bag. In the center of his forehead, inside his brain, he saw a bright flash of light that turned dark red, like the blood of a bull he’d seen once, dead in the rodeo rind.
Sue’s voice interrupted his vision. She was calling something from the other room. He didn’t want her to know he had opened the pack so he closed the top and tied the leather belt just the way it was. He put the pack back in the same position that he had first encountered it, and went to see what it was that Sue was babbling about.