The second character is David Grundman, a 25-year-old man wearing a dark-blue t-shirt, dusty jeans and scruffy leather boots, last seen “slipping a shotgun shell into his 16-gauge and preparing to blow two empty beer cans into smithereens”.
Twenty minutes before our protagonists meet for the first and last time, Grundman finishes loading his rifle, takes aim and confidently pulls the trigger.
The noise alone would have knocked over the beer cans had the red-hot stream of buckshot not found its mark. Before the large spray of dust and gravel settles, every tiny creature within a one-mile radius of the blast has skittered off to find safe refuge.
Grundman spits toward the middle of the dirt road, opens his third beer, lights a cigarette, turns and walks into the desert. And as he hikes unknowingly but unerringly toward Ha:san he passes several wolfberry shrubs and squat mesquite trees but shoots not a one, intent on shooting saguaros only. They make easy, immobile targets, almost humanlike with their arms in the air.
He starts with smaller saguaros and works up to bigger ones, each time shooting at their ribs, so that without support, the cactus falls over dead. In the silent desert the final fall of each cactus makes an abrupt noise, and as Grundman’s sixth victim, a statuesque 18-footer, crumbles before our eyes, we hear Johnny Cash singing the chorus of a gritty funeral dirge, as follows;
“And you could have it all, my empire of dirt.
I will let you down. I will make you hurt.”
(Hurt, American IV: The Man Comes Around)
Sixteen gauge shells, beer cans, cigarette butts and dead saguaros create a meandering and filthy trail across the desert abutting a dirt road northeast of Phoenix. A few feet beneath them, in burrows and dry, dusty shelters, hide various desert critters from our loud, careless, chain-smoking menace.
Finally, around the last bend so to speak, David Grundman encounters Ha:san.
Photos by GH
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