After several hours of barren desert-driving, and dispersing innumerable water mirages that traversed the blazing-hot interstate, Alonzo saw the strangest of oases emerging up ahead. Despite slapping his face and rubbing his eyes, he was unable to rid his vision of a woman with radiant, strawberry-blonde hair, in a red-and-yellow summer dress like a striped sunrise, sitting at a lone lemonade stand. A large parasol loomed over the card-table on which sat a thermos, a stack of cups, and an empty coffee can with a label reading 25¢. No vehicles, or much of anything else for that matter, could be seen anywhere on the horizon. The woman sat reading on a folding chair, beneath which was a picnic basket. Having pulled up beside the oasis, Alonzo stepped out of a battered Cherokee and placed an order.
“Alonzo,” he offered.
“How do you do? I’m Octavia,” she replied. “But most people call me O.”
“Nice to meet you, O.”
O’s magnanimous white smile only furthered Alonzo’s suspicion that he was having an American dream. But even if it were just a dream, he was determined to enjoy every moment of it. Alonzo glanced at the book O set on the table as she filled a cup.
“Bloodhoney. So you like scary books too.”
“Sometimes,” O handed him the cup. “But that’s actually about a red honey that comes from a local species of sand bees. Care to see some?”
“Sure,” replied Alonzo after draining his cup.
O pulled the picnic basket from under her chair and opened it on the table. After removing a couple of paperbacks, she withdrew a small jar filled with the red, viscous substance. Alonzo picked up one of the books, Blood-pudding.
“I see you’re into food with the word ‘blood’ in it.”
“Oh, that’s not a food book.”
Alonzo read the back cover. It was a horror novel that appeared to be basically a spin-off from The Blob. O caught his sneer as he set the book back down.
“You look as though you don’t believe in Blood-pudding.”
“Oh, I believe in it alright,” he said. “I’m just not sure it can do all the things your book seems to suggest.”
O filled another cup then removed the lid from the jar. “Would you care to try it with a little of the honey?”
Alonzo became a bit hesitant as she scooped out some of the red honey with a teaspoon and held it over his cup. “Why, what will happen?”
Some of the honey dripped into the cup, creating a series of red stripes on the surface like those of her dress. He looked up at O as her rouge deepened then bled across her face in a steady westward expansion, softening and blurring her features until they lost all distinction.
Alonzo picked up a different cup and filled it with fresh lemonade. He splashed it into his whitened face with a sudden interest in waking up.
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