(Paiute for “water from the rock”)
by Sally Stratford
After another day hiking the desert, I lock the door of my car and turn towards the hot springs in the cool night. On the gravel trail I'm wrapped by stars, rehearsing the legend of the woman kept from cancer by the water. Hard to believe that the Virgin River shaped this jagged canyon. Terraced pools seep down to the river, I slide in and the sulfur water holds my body, hot, sandy. I see Pete, the naked regular through the rising steam. My first time he asked, "Why are you here?" He comes after a day of drinking then returns to his flickering trailer healed. I want to soak naked the whole time too, not just alone in the cold river, to wash sand out of my bathing suit, but I'm not a regular yet. Under the waterfall I rinse caked mud from my hair and off my white arms. I return to the pool and find Pete leaning against the rock, asleep like a little boy exhausted from crying in the dark.