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Oasis Palms

"A desperate couple marries on the hottest day of summer."
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_OASIS PALMS_

San Bernadino, California, has forever been the home of mythic battles -- between ranchers, rustlers, gold-diggers, Spanish missionaries, and Native American Indians who discovered hot-and-cold freshwater springs, beneath a huge mysterious arrowhead-shape, carved into the mountainside.

Last summer was the hottest summer since temperatures were recorded in the area. But, the previous summer had also been the hottest: as was the summer before that.

"Let's get married in Las Vegas -- " Connie cooed, as Clark trudged wearilyinto their sweltering apartment, one suffocating night.

He tried to read the title of her book, as she lay there, hot, sweaty andnaked, across their old mattress.

"LIBERATING YOUR SHADOW SPIRIT" -- ?

"It's a spiritual mystery -- "

He grabbed the book from her hands, and studied it.

"First you got hooked on health and fitness; then astrology, and tai chi.

Now you want to get rich through reincarnation?"

"We need to liberate our shadow spirits!"

"What the hell is a shadow spirit?"

"Shadow spirits drift through time and space, meeting and disbanding indifferent lifetimes -- channeling us toward the next level of universal consciousness."

"The universe pays for itself. Ask the universe for a loan."

"My shadow spirit has finally made me realize that money never made anyone rich."

"The heat must be making your shadow spirit delirious -- "

"Fulfillment of the spirit cannot be measured in dollars and cents."

"What's wrong with good old-fashioned common sense?"

He sniffed an open package of herbal remedy tea from her night-table.

"Our apartment is becoming a New Age toxic waste dump."

"When will you make a commitment to our spiritual evolution?"

"When my business deal pays off -- "

He examined a small box with a large jagged colored crystal.

"Your dead-end business-deals have done nothing but burned through your entire inheritance -- "

"Sometimes it takes entrepreneurs a half-dozen attempts to build a lasting fortune -- "

"I think you're afraid of committing to our future."

" -- a future of getting nagged by your mother about what a failure I am, for not taking care of her daughter in the style to which they both imagine she deserves."

Clark had a knack for big-money deals, but somehow always ended up broke. Her mother constantly thwarted their plans, hoping she could find for her precious daughter: a man of more reliable means.

As Connie resumed reading: a wind-chime-set fell from the ceiling.

" -- ouch!" Clark pulled the silky strands from his neck and head.

"What goes around, comes around," Connie smirked.

Untangling himself, he clumsily knocked over her incense stand, mandala pillows, and shelf of spiritual books.

"I know you're stifled and bored -- and your mother annoys you to near-death -- but she still pays for nearly everything. So, why rock the boat?"

"I'm tired of waiting, waiting, waiting -- for a future that never comes!"

"If we get married with no money: you'll never see a penny from her."

"Do you want to be forever doomed in this dead-air, dead-end desert life?"

"I know all about your restless binges. Once we get to Vegas, you'll getdrunk and lose our meagre savings in some sleazy casino -- "

"There comes a time in everyone's spiritual evolution -- when you need to risk everything!"

He grabbed her book, and tossed it in the trash.

"You sound adventurous now -- but soon you'll be begging your mother to send money to get us home!"

Despite Connie's desperate lightning-bolts of hope: she was both dominated and spoiled by her mother -- condemning her to a perpetually-unsatisfying emotional uncertainty.

"This book made me realize that you can't escape an inescapable life -- if you don't act-out your dreams!"

"It's the hottest night, of the hottest summer on record! Is it really worth having a honeymoon in hell?"

"All the more reason she won't try to track us down."

"You realize this is just another of your dead-end fantasies -- "

"Do you want to live like a pair of go-nowhere losers, stuck forever in San Bernadino? Or do you want to take the first steps to liberate our shadow spirits?"

"Life isn't perfect for us -- but if we get married, it will enrage your mother, and we'll be broke and trapped in an even bigger city, in a hotter desert!"

"All you care about is money -- and you never hold on to it!"

"You can chant and meditate and party-down with all the shadow spirits you can find -- but we still have to breath and eat and pay rent in this lowly material plane."

"Just once, I'd like to see you become part of my destiny, and my dreams!"

She burst into tears.

"Fine -- we'll go get married. But don't whine if we end up nobodies going nowhere."

"We already are!"

She grabbed the keys to their pick-up truck, and sped out of town like a woman possessed, while he stared listlessly out the passenger window at the dark deserted highway.

"What about wedding rings?" He yawned.

"When we win enough money gambling: there are dozens of dirt-cheap wedding rings in the casino pawn-shop windows."

"Dirt-cheap because of other people's bad luck -- "

"How are we going to get enlightened, when you always bring bad vibes?"

The sprawling city-lights faded, and thousands of stars appeared, strewn across the velvet-black sky like anonymous glittering diamonds -- beckoning her to escape her inescapable life.

"Look!" She suddenly pointed.

The hot dull-orange dawn gleamed on a broken-down sign: OASIS PALMS WEDDING CHAPEL.

The dilapidated little shack sat in front of a modest over-grown cemetary with crooked tilted tombstones.

"Your idea of enlightenment, is to get married in a graveyard?"

After her repeated knocking, the door creaked open, and a half-sleepy, shapely, shaggy-haired woman, dressed in pastel orange-and-gold silks -- adjusted a faux-gold princess-headpiece, and greeted them warmly.

"Welcome to Oasis Palms Wedding Chapel. I'm Princess Komesa -- your spiritual guide to eternal matrimony." The princess squinted through blurry eyes.

"How much is this metaphysical journey going to deplete our travel funds?"

Clark spit into the dust.

"Shadow spirits welcome as much of a contribution as you can afford."

"You read that book on shadow spirits?!" Eve's eyes brightened.

"I wrote it -- " The princess winked.

Connie ran to the bookshelf, which was packed with only one book: LIBERATINGYOUR SHADOW SPIRIT.

"It must be our destiny to stumble in here!"

"Welcome to the next phase of your journey through the endless cycle of lifetimes."

The princess folded her arms placidly, as Connie grabbed one of the books and examined it, like she had found the handbook to the universe.

" -- mystical mumbo-jumbo -- " Clark rolled his eyes, in exasperation.

Connie hissed like he was ruining her kindergarten birthday party.

"Beats being broke in San Berdoo, Mr. Bankrupt-Big-Deal!"

"You shouldn't be messing around with spirits you don't understand."

"If we don't move forward: our shadow spirits will stagnate!"

"You're both crazy!"

The princess waited for them to finish arguing -- smoothly leading them into a candle-lit chapel draped with brown and purple Persian tapestries where she opened a drawer by the antique wedding altar, and carefully brought over a red velvet jewelry box.

"I now pronounce you, the current incarnations of Prince and Princess Pronexus, of ancient Somnoria -- "

The princess pulled out two curiously golden rings -- glittering with violet and aqua-marine stones.

" -- wedded in the journey to liberate your shadow spirits."

The princess slid their rings onto their wedding fingers.

"Will we be happily married?" Connie looked hopefully into her eyes.

Suddenly, the princess' eyes rolled back, and white foamy froth filled her mouth, as she went into a convulsive trance.

"What's wrong?" Connie touched her shoulder.

The princess trembled uncontrollably, knees buckling.

"She's having some kind of seizure!"

Clark clumsily knocked over glasses in the sink, and brought water, which Connie tried to pour into her mouth -- but it dribbled off her quivering chin.

"Wake up!" Clark shook the princess -- who slowly came back into consciousness, as water spilled onto the translucent silks -- and into her deep heaving cleavage.

Connie held tightly to the princess' cold clammy trembling hands. "What on earth happened?"

"Your spirit shadows are using my current incarnation, to channel their liberation from your mortal flesh."

The princess suddenly shrieked in some strange language -- vomiting on her silks, and frothing at the mouth.

"Call 911!" Connie screamed.

As Clark fumbled for his phone, the princess' swinging elbow knocked it out of his hand -- into a pitcher of herbal tea which spilled everywhere.

Clark dragged Connie toward the door.

"Let's get out of this creepy hell-hole!"

"I need to know if our shadow spirits don't want us married!"

"There's no such thing as goddamn shadow spirits!"

Suddenly, the mesmerized princess lunged at Clark's neck.

" -- aghkk -- "

Connie tried to pull the princess' strong muscular forearms from Clark's throat.

"Let -- him -- go!"

Connie tried to spin the princess, but was spun around, and tumbled backward -- her head hitting the wall. Clark's tongue turned purple as consciousness slowly drained from his pleading eyes until his wind-pipe finally cracked from the princess' vice-grip. Connie collapsed onto the floor, into a growing pool of blood from her skull.

Connie gasped: "Whhhhy -- "

"When you liberate your shadow spirit -- " The princess blankly repeated, in her trance --

" -- there is no more life and death..."

The princess opened the creaking door and clanged dust from a rusty shovel in the graveyard."...only your liberated shadow spirits, drifting through eternity."

Summer heat can cause fatal delusions: causing us to doubt unseen forces which suddenly make us desperate to move. Who can tell whether our decisions are free -- or if our flesh is just a vehicle for shadow spirits we can't control, awaiting their chance to take us to places we can't envision.

And even if we are free to decide our path: aren't our vain material and spiritual plans, merely the innocent maidens of our stubborn will, clothed in shadowy hopes that somewhere, somehow, some guiding spirit will help us escape our inescapable lives?

The entranced princess began digging two fresh graves, near the tombstones of forgotten ranchers, rustlers, gold-diggers, missionaries, Indians, widows, gamblers, lovers -- and any stray shadow spirits who were liberated at Oasis Palms -- passing through, and passing on.

THE END

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