The desert was dead, but when it’s your birthday, your close friends are willing to indulge your strange whims, unlike any other time of the year. I wanted this road trip. Maybe it was my need to believe in things—the birthday wish to make all wishes come true. Last Chance was something I had to find before I was a year older. It was impossible to locate on a map. It used to be the center of civilization, and now it was lost for good. Only the old-timers thought they knew where it was, but the sands kept shifting, and the town kept moving in the imagination, like a nomadic estate that never remains in the same place twice.

If you spend time in the desert, the sun drinks your skin, through your pours, and your blood starts to thicken. Pretty soon all you can think about is water, and finding a lost town is the last thing on your mind. We did find the gas station though.

“How do you pump with these analogues?” I asked.

“Hold it! I’ll do that.” The attendant wore a red trucking hat and bib-overalls. His skin was wrinkled by the sun and darker than the sand so that his teeth shined pearly white.

“Where are you boys from?” He asked.

“The peninsula.”

“Oh, long ways away. Typically, I only see truckers out here, trying to take the short-cut. Otherwise, the drive is unpleasant, and if you break-down, forget it. You’ll be dead within 24 hours. There’s no traffic and no reception—nobody to call for help. This isn’t a touristy spot, so why are you here?”

“It’s my birthday,” I said.

“And?”

“Well, I want to make a wish in Last Chance. I heard they come true, there.”

“Good luck finding the place.”

“Do you know where it is?”

“Heavens no. You boys be careful. You don’t want to break-down or get lost. Several idiots like yourselves have tried to find the lost town, and most of them stay lost. Too bad you can’t wait for the wishing rains.”

“What?”

“You mean to say you don’t know the legend of Last Chance?”

“No; just that wishes come true, there.”

“It’s not just the town, it’s the well. It dried up, along with the entire valley. It doesn’t rain anymore, but about every five years, and when it does, only for a moment. There ain’t a living soul that lives out here, but me, and a few sheep ranchers. If you make a wish in the rain, your wish will come true.”

“Does it work?” David asked.

“Sure, it works. That’s my Hummer parked out back.” He pointed to a bright yellow H2. “A guy just showed up and asked me to sign the papers. I always wanted one.”

“You didn’t ask for a million dollars?” Joel suggested.

“Strange thing about wishing; it has to be specific, and it has to be something you really want. Cash is difficult to visualize or understand. When you wish, you want to be sure you know what you’re wishing for; otherwise, it won’t show up.”

We thanked him for the gas and the story, and drove up the road. It twisted into a canyon and then opened out again.

“We don’t have much gas for looking around. If we do, we’re liable to run out.”

It was getting dark, and the stars popped out like diamonds against black velvet.

To be continued…

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