The sun sinking, and with it the dust, brought relief to the valley. On the edge of the town, in one of the smaller shacks, a bent shadow wavered across the single ray left on the horizon. Back and forth it weaved, now crouching, now rising (slightly) carrying small twigs from nearby tumbleweed stuck in a sand drift.
As the last ray of sunlight disappeared, a spark lit up just a few feet from the shack, near enough to illuminate the broken step to the front door. The figure, now brightened by the flames, shifted slowly onto his heels while reaching into the back pocket of his jeans. His other hand reached back groping for the ground to catch his backside before it fell.
In the gnarled fingers of his left hand, he held the object that had been waiting in his pocket through the day. A small box, dirty, like everything else about the man, but with a glimpse of lettering in a striking red, white and blue pattern diagonally laid out across the top. Perhaps if the dust had not lain so thick, the letters would be recognizable as a brand proclaimed, or a description. But only the man would be able to say what it meant now. He set the box in fold of his lap and reached the boney hills of his hand to the flames now leaping from dry branch to branch. He rubbed his palms together, though the night was not yet cold. The sun kept the valley at a decent baking temperature for several hours after night fall. The cold wouldn’t descend until just an hour or so before daybreak started the baking process again.
Once the knuckles were flexed and cracked for his comfort he finally reached into his lap as if remembering what he’d left there suddenly. He looked down at the box as if he had been looking for just the thing and it had appeared by serendipitous fortune.
Carefully, he lifted the lid, one side creeping open smoother than the other and increasing the tension of the moment. The lid he settled down in his lap once again as he held the lower half of the box up, almost under his nose. He was very near sighted, but he knew what the box contained anyway. Why did he hold it so?
All at once he flipped the box upside down and out fell a flash of silver. The thing made a satisfying clap in his hand and he smiled. Then he turned it around in his fingers, held it to his lips and out came the melancholy sound of a mockingbird, soft and sweet, extinct except for in this small instrument.
He whispered into the thing again and another note flew from the silver casing. This time a low moan of creaking oak tree in the wind flew free. That too had no mate left in the world. The man continued to blow and whisper and inhale, letting free all the lost notes of the world and in the distance a rabbit heard it all and poked its head out of its deep hole to listen for a minute to the sweet sounds it somehow remembered but couldn’t place. A shriek shook the air in the not so distant sky and reminded the rabbit why it had built such a lovely deep hole in the ground before it tucked in its lengthy ears and burrowed once more into the sand