The saguaro is a crucifix with no Jesus pinned to it, a great, green, gummy thing with arms wide open. ‘Come unto me.’ Like how the actual Jesus might actually say it. Do I dare wrap my arms around a cactus though, even one that looks like God at His ever-loving best? I’m counting on whatever quick-magic it is that will force me to say yes.

Back at the trailhead, not three hours ago, I was an atheist. Now I can’t stop—the cactus is the cross, the jack rabbit an acolyte. The bloated javelina carcass keeps making incense. Hail sand, full of rattlesnake bones, pray for me now and at the hour of my death. Which is upon me. Death from exposure in the desert. That is to say, way, way more light than the human brain can handle.


About the Author: Paul Luikart is the author of Animal Heart (Hyperborea, 2016), a collection of short fiction, and a chapbook, Brief Instructions (Ghostbird Press, 2017). He and his family live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Story Song: "Trouble in Mind" by Nina Simone