Heaven and Hail
~A Texas Tale~
During the scorching summer of 1885, Blaze Two-Feathers emerged from the hills of the Great American Desert and trekked down the dried-up riverbed of the Rio Concho. He landed smack dab in the middle of Scoville. Most folks figured the incredible heat had forced him out of the blistering caprock, but Blaze Two-Feathers had a much hotter reason for coming to town: Miss Jolene Paducah.
That Texas gal could make men cry with one taste of her chili pepper pie. When beaus came calling to sample her sweet, spicy dish, tears would gush from their eyeballs, and snot would stream past their lips. And though each fellow felt like a furnace of fire, nothing could quench his burning desire for the flavory, savory concoction and cook. The fact remains that all of Miss Jolene’s suitors and flames would sizzle, fizzle, and then skedaddle right out of town, having failed her valid and reliable, true-love test. Hence, she remained cold-hearted, haughty, and tough, ‘cause no man was ever good enough.
Blaze Two-Feathers was here to change all that.
Through the drought-stricken town and with its citizens in tow, Blaze smelt his way right to Miss Jolene’s door and clanged her dinner bell.
She greeted him with an icy glare and waved her barbed-wired whisk. “You here to give us a go?”
Blaze Two-Feathers grinned.
“Well mister, around here courtships are short – all done in a day. I fill that belly with some nice tasting fire; you fill that riverbed with my fondest desire – cold, flowing water. You fail – you hit the trail. You succeed – it’s you and me, indeed. Agreed?”
Blaze Two-Feathers nodded.
She turned to the crowd. “Y’all head on ‘round back for this little test, ‘cause I’ve just brewed a batch of my bubbly best.”
Blaze Two-Feathers yanked a sheet off the clothesline and tied it around his neck as he took a seat in the heat.
Miss Jolene offered him a plate and spoon, but he grabbed the skillet and ladle.
He eyed the combustible pie, shoveled it up, shoved it in, and swallowed it down – whole.
He made motions for more as he glowed from yellow to orange to firecracker red.
But Miss Jolene poured him some tabasco tea with jalapeño honey instead.
Between slurps and burps, his breath shot out purple, blue, and finally bright white.
His forehead flowed with precipitation, his mouth dripped with condensation, and his ears steamed with evaporation. He was in heaven.
He took a look at the cook. A chill shot up his spine. Blaze Two-Feathers gave Miss Jolene Paducah a smile that she knew was for her and for her alone.
He then jumped up, flapped his arms, tapped his toes, and danced to his heart’s content.
Soon up in the hills a raincloud began to form. It grew larger, darker, and nearer the harder Blaze danced.
The people cheered.
Miss Jolene started to shiver and shake. How could this shabby stranger waltz in like a whirlwind and win her hand so easily? Was he truly the one? She had to be sure. She hurried to toss together a fresh and fiery, potent and powerful, searing and scalding, chili pepper pie – deluxe.
She stirred as fast as she could, causing fumes to rise and a swirling wind to begin. The harder she stirred, the stronger the fumes - the stronger the fumes, the gustier the wind - the gustier the wind the dustier the air, until finally a genuine west Texas storm sprung up and spun straight toward the oncoming cloud.
The crowd gasped as the storm and cloud collided. The sky flashed with sheets and streaks of lightning then exploded into claps and crashes of thunder.
Neither the cloud nor the storm would budge.
The test had turned into a contest.
Blaze Two-Feathers danced feverishly.
Miss Jolene Paducah stirred peevishly.
For two hours hail plummeted the hills.
It became clear it was a standoff, with the storm prevailing by preventing the cloud from coming to town.
Blaze Two-Feathers stopped dancing. The dark cloud disappeared.
Miss Jolene Paducah stopped stirring. The strong wind ceased.
For the next few hours an inferno steeped with intense heat and crushed hopes. No one moved, until Blaze Two-Feathers made his way back to the table and dipped in the ladle.
As he munched, crunched, and scrunched, Blaze gazed upon Miss Jolene.
This warmed her heart. Miss Jolene Paducah gave Blaze Two-Feathers a smile that he knew was for him and for him alone.
He tipped his hat.
Their eyes spoke silent words of what-might-have-been, but both knew he was obliged to return to the desert, defeated.
As he strolled out of sight, a shimmer, like a teardrop, rolled out of the hills.
People whispered, “A mirage?” But soon icy water gushed forth, filling the riverbed.
Miss Jolene Paducah bent down, plucked out a fish and then another. She called to the crowd, “This water’s freezing, with fish for the taking. It’s time for celebrating.”
Everyone jumped in to catch fish for a feast – for engagements are even shorter than courtships in west Texas.
Miss Jolene set out to retrieve her groom.
The townspeople prepared for a wing-ding of a wedding.
Since they figured the sweltering heat had melted all that hail in the hills and caused the Rio Concho to flood and spill over to Scoville, they made Blaze Two-Feathers the town hero.
However, he and Miss Jolene were never-again seen.
. . .
To this day, Texans tell the torrid tale of the true-love test, and how Miss Jolene Paducah still wanders the wilderness in search of her beloved, Blaze Two-Feathers. Where at sunset, orange, pink, and red fumes can be seen wafting from her chili pepper pies into the west Texas skies.
Charles Trevino works as an Interpreting professor (ASL/English) and as a community interpreter. He has previous published both short stories and poems.