The Dry Years
Peter Schwartz & Barry Graham

Bagdad, CA. 767 days without rain. The longest dry spell on record in the U.S.. They'd still been laughing from the false threat of Y2K, the way the masses stocked up on plastic bottles and generic toilet paper. Now everyone was evaporating, throwing up dust, fingerpainting oceans with puke and gall. Clouds took the shape of lesser known Roman gods. Men with pointed beards and robes earned their bread by predicting the future from tea leaves. Fathers let their sons pass out on cheap whiskey then locked their daughters in rusty cages with trapdoors. Pregnant women were whipped for their milk. Children begged their sisters to tongue them; for mama to pour vinegar down their throats. They crinkled their foreheads and kicked their favorite puppies, sighs threatening heaven with unearthly, unwanted waste. Tornadoes would've been as welcome as a church dinner, a prophecy offering solace from the woes of Revelations. Shotguns fired well into night, formed a second layer of bedlam. A third. Three days of darkness. Candles were forbidden. Hope measured out like black tar heroin, in sticky teaspoons, thick and nasty with the sting of a thousand sunburned necks, smacked hard. People saved their piss in shot glasses; built tree houses on the borders of their property, slept shirtless outside, sweating away just what they needed. They played poker on decks, another night's gamble on the eternal lottery of rain. Then one day everyone dropped the word (rain); nobody could bear it. And that's when the devil started making deals. Men swapped their daughters' virginities for weak Kool-Aid. Women sliced their wrists to fill baby bottles. And when all was lost, when the word 'rain' wasn't merely taboo, but truly forgotten, when the whole town shared the vacant look that precedes imminent death, they all felt the drops.

Barry Graham and Peter Schwartz are two different people. Graham wrote The National Virginity Pledge. Schwartz wrote Old Men, Girls and Monsters.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Matthew Stewart.

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