Desert Oasis

By Kaitlynn McShea

March, 1955

The small town was tucked away into the rolling desert landscape. Dirt storms were more common than rain showers, and water was a more valued possession than gold. That’s what the three hundred residents had been told for generations, at least. The gold rush had come to their doorstep and promptly left quicker than it came, and only the remaining families were stupid enough to contend with nature.

Nancy counted the hard years on the back of her hands. They appeared as liver spots and lines etched deeper than the cracked dirt outside her house. She had wished for a rainstorm every year on her birthday and every time a shooting star blessed her with its presence. Still, the rain clouds never floated over their small town, evaporating before coming within a hundred feet of the place. 

Today, though, was different. The minute she woke, she could smell the rain in the air. When she opened her shutters, she saw it: a rain cloud hung over the town. She dressed and talked with her neighbors, who were also outside, looking at the sky. Within five minutes, it was decided: it was the first time in waking memory that a cloud had settled upon their town. 

“Strange things afoot,” her neighbor, Jim, said. 

“I’ve been saying it for years,” her other neighbor, Delores, replied. 

Nancy just shook her head. “This is what we’ve been waiting on for centuries. It’s a blessing.”

The neighbors simply frowned at her, and Nancy sighed, saying she would retire to her porch. 

There, in her rocking chair, she watched as the clouds conglomerated. She watched as they hung heavier and heavier, darker and darker. And she watched as the first rain drop fell, marking the ground with a spot darker than her brownest freckle. 

Nancy whooped. Forgetting her years, she climbed out of her rocker and ran into the falling rain. The drops were big, and they covered her eyelashes and slicked her skin. She stayed in front of her porch until the cracks in the dirt disappeared and were replaced by inches of rain. 

“Get inside!”

She looked up to see Jim standing on his porch, hands on his hips. 

“What’s that?” she asked. Didn’t he understand this was the greatest thing to happen to them?

“Flash flood!” His eyes were huge with fear. 

Nancy only rolled her own eyes before climbing back onto her porch. When she realized she would catch a cold if she stayed in her wet clothes to watch the rain, she went inside and changed. By then, night had fallen. She retired to bed with her shutters open and was lulled to sleep by the falling rain. 

In the morning, the rain had stopped, but a rainbow was left on the horizon. Without thinking, she wished for more rain. It was an embedded wish at this point—Nancy didn’t know what she would have wished for otherwise. Following the horizon with her eyes, she guessed that the rainbow was right above the first and last gold mine in their town. With her morning tea, she went to sit on her rocker. However, she stopped short, seeing a folded note on it. 

With her shaky hands, she set down her cup of tea and opened it. In scrawling letters it read: “We apologize for being late, and we apologize for the over abundance. This land doesn’t accept rain like ours does. We’ll stay for a while.” A four leaf clover was pressed perfectly in between the folded note. 

Nancy sat roughly in her rocking chair. It must’ve been Delores playing a mean joke. However, when she peaked back at it, she could tell that it wasn’t her handwriting. Nancy slipped it into her pocket and drank her tea while watching the rainbow fade back into the clouds. 

A few hours later, a few of the men stopped in front of her porch. They wore hiking boots and held shovels and guns.  “Nancy, we advise you to stay inside today.”

“And why is that?”

Jim spoke for the rest of them. “There’s been a disturbance at the old mine. Hooligans or invaders, we can’t tell. We don’t know what they want, other than they’re out there. Be careful.”

Nancy thought of her note. “Don’t be shooting at things just because they move, now.”

The men huffed and rolled their eyes before walking away. Nancy prayed that they left the creatures–whatever they were–alone.

Shortly thereafter, another vicious downpour fell upon their town. The man returned sopping wet and their quest unsuccessful. The next day, the entire town awoke to a folded note and a freshly-pressed four leaf clover. The note red:

May you always have work for your hands to do.
May your pockets hold always a coin or two.
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
And may we creatures fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

The men were in an uproar. Delores refused to leave her house. Nancy, however, was curious. If the creatures were what she thought they were–leprechauns–then they were bound to have plenty of both good tidings and mischief. She couldn’t think of a better way to spend the remaining years of her long life.

Over the course of the day, she could hear rumbles from the mountains. When Jim stopped by and told her that the carts were moving again fires lit the darkest depths of the mine, she nodded. “It sounded like it,” she told him. When he looked at her with surprised eyes, she simply responded that they liked gold and to leave them alone.

For the next week, the townspeople awoke to a note with a shamrock included. The blessings devolved into sayings about good times and good drink, and on the seventh day, the note read: “The man with the boots does not mind where he places his foot.”

The men took this as a taunt. Jim, at the last minute, decided to not go. “I think you’d be disappointed in my decision, Nancy,” he said.

She nodded. “You’re a wise and good man, Jim. Let the others receive their fate.”

Jim brought his own rocking chair to her porch. Together, they watched the mountain pass. Sprinkles turned into a sheet of rain, and by nightfall, the men didn’t return.

The next note read: “If you do not sow in the spring, you will not reap in the autumn.”

Droves of townspeople came to Nancy’s porch that morning. They remained despite the shocking amounts of rain that fell from the sky, drenching their clothes. When the crowd in front of her house was thicker than a stew, Nancy translated it for them. She supposed she was the most knowledgeable on this new matter. “They have gotten their comeuppance, and we shouldn’t get in the creatures’ way,” she said. 

When the words left her mouth, the rain stopped, and a rainbow appeared. This time, Nancy knew better than to wish for more rain, especially since it seemed like it would be there for the foreseeable future. Instead, she wished for prosperity and happiness.

The next morning, the note came with a gold count in lieu of the four leaf clover:

May the leprechauns be near you,
To spread luck along your way.
And may all the Irish angels,
Smile upon you St. Patrick’s Day.

Neither Nancy nor the rest of the town had heard of or celebrated such a holiday. However, the town decided that having a drink was probably the best and only way to celebrate both gold and rainwater. So they raised their glasses, promised a peaceful union with the mine dwellers, and celebrated living in their desert oasis on that date for as long as time could tell.

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