Please enjoy an excerpt from PROOF: A 30th Street Fiction Anthology.
By Kate Jonuska
The Blue Moon RV Park slides into view around a bend of the shallow canyon, looking like the least likely place on Earth to find a prince. An ill-timed blink and I would have missed it. The campground’s sign, faded in the New Mexico sun, is flaking off in strips, and behind it a widening of the canyon holds a grove of lucky desert trees, the first non-tumbleweed vegetation I’ve seen in miles. I cross the creek that carved this canyon long ago on a rickety bridge as I turn toward the campground.
It’s late afternoon, and the artificial energy and attention of my last fix are wearing off. I’ve been riding for hours, drying out my eyes on the sun-cracked yellow center lines of back roads, where the no-passing zones don’t matter because there’s no one to pass. Tourists on their way to nearby Taos usually stick to the highway routes recommended by the polite voices of their GPS systems, driving along like schools of fish. Like stupid guppies, but I haven’t been doing anything as recommended lately. Swimming against the stream becomes easier with practice.
When I cut my bike’s motor in the empty parking lot, I try to let the shade and rustle of the campground’s trees refresh me, but I am no longer that easy to soothe. No, I have been ruined for all small pleasures—ruined by a prince just like the one who is supposedly hiding out at this blip of nowhere called the Blue Moon. Even if this prince has a different name, a different pretty face, only royalty has what I desire, and only this one desire drives me.
Still straddling my motorcycle, I remove my helmet and feel the sweat on my ears and neck dry as I look around. The desolation of the scene is unexpected, despite the remote location.
Before me stands a row of mostly empty RV pull-throughs, each little more than a set of crushed-gravel tire lines being reclaimed by weeds and a wooden post offering electrical and water hookups. Some hook-ups tilt at angles, sprouting useless wires. I count as occupied only three of the dozen sites and see no fences. No security.
I’d been picturing a party. Perhaps some hidden royal Coachella, or a posh compound similar to that of Prince Torin’s. My first prince, now out of reach of vengeance, had lived among gates and guards, suede and silk, music and wine. No clocks on the walls, but locks on all the doors. My memories of that time are blurry and outraged. But even before Torin, I’d watched the rare royal bypass the lines of Immigration Control passport agents like me at a distance, escorted by IC brass. They looked glamorous as rockstars and were known as the mobile nucleus of a permanent party when- and wherever they traveled. I’d never have thought this dusty knock-off KOA, or KOKOA, would be a prince’s style.
Of the three recreational vehicles present, none seem to have actually recreated in a long time. The nearest has no tires, instead supported only by its leveling jacks. Another RV is docked permanently, surrounded with a wraparound deck of mismatched wood. In that unit’s yard, I count three pointy red hats that I assume belong to garden gnomes drowning in the weeds.
I lift an eyebrow, uneasy, but the Immigration Control file about this other, lesser known prince led me here. Or rather, its information had gotten me close. A lead from an Earth Mother-dressed drug dealer named Flora out of Albuquerque had given me the necessary specifics.
“Like, a mythic high,” she’d said, eyes heavy-lidded after I’d lit up with her. “No higher proof in the universe, they say. Just bullshit rumors, though.”
But I know a description of royal Blessing when I hear one. Mythic high, indeed. Unmatchable, even by the high grade black-tar and crystal Flora sold—the first purchase already gone, my stash of the latter waning, so this other prince needs to be here, because I want so badly.
“Hello?” I shout into the rustle of leaves and creek. “Hello?”
Want to read more? Purchase PROOF: A 30th Street Fiction anthology to read the rest of “Prince Charming.”