Flash fiction by R Alexander, a relatively new author on Shunya's Notes; see his bio line at the end of this piece.
Conscious of the dust his shuffling feet raised, a man moved slowly up the rutted incline of the arroyo. His brown hand clutched a gnarled knob of a walking stick. A shadow moved beside the road. The old man looked around to see who might be watching him, but his cataracts hazed the light which stabbed at the back of his eyes. It may have been that he had learned to tilt and angle his head like this to gain the purchase of sound as much as for the sake of the light. In any case, his head tilting, his arms pulling roughly, and his head turning and shifting gave him the look of someone intently focused and supernally aware of his surroundings, as though he commanded the physical landscape but chose, out of wisdom, to allow it its recalcitrance.
A boy, six or eight judging by his thin frame, curious about the old man's serape, tugged his sway-backed grey towards the old man. The boy's knees stuck out beneath blue shorts, and his shoeless feet felt warmth and comfort in the dust.
“Your burro has more sense than you,” the old man muttered without humor.
“He’s in no hurry, old man.” The boy's burro pulled away, its worn hooves scraping the dirt.
The old man snorted. "What makes you think I'm old?" He wanted to keep walking but the effort of talking had stopped him. “I'm younger than you,” he said, his voice coughing the last few syllables. Dust and dry air scraped the back of the man's throat, so between his toothless gums he formed up enough spittle to spit without dribbling on himself. From between his lips passed a spray of slime and grit.
The boy stopped tugging the rope and watched as the old man wiped his chin, to assure himself that it was dry.
The old man looked at the boy and frowned. “You'll never convince him to do what you want,” he said. “You may force him, but he'll never believe a word you tell him.” The old man spoke with some foreign-sounding accent, using the same word for belief as the boy's grandmother had.
High overhead wisps of cirrus stitched the fontanelle of the sky. The boy raised a finger and pointed past the huddle of village huts. “The cemetery is that way.”
The man brushed the accumulated dust off the image of the Calavera Catrina embroidered into his serape in gold and crimson and blue, the color of the sky. "Go away, pest," he said. “I have no sugar for you.”
“Do you know where you are headed?” The boy's palms ached from rope burns.