Home Remedies

Prisoner’s Valley

There’s A Cure For That

Anna lifted the satchels from Damn Donkey’s pack saddle, unhitched the frame and dropped it on the pile that Yalla was sniffing.

“Ragtail’s not gonna like that,” Lark said. “He’s a real private person.”

The happy woman quit grinning. “Can you speak Spanish, mister?”

“My name’s Reathway Williams, madam. I surely didn’t catch yours, but I’m happy to make all of your acquaintances. Of course, I can speak the language of the Conquistadors. How will that help you?”

“Maybe with Anna there, Reamed-Away. She’s as American as any of us but rattles off in Spanish whenever she’s upset—which is all the time. Nobody knows how she learned it or even if she’s saying anything right, but it may calm her down to hear it.”

“Um, that’s ‘Reathway’ but Ragtail calls me ‘Lark’ if that would help you.”

The woman waved his words away and raised her voice, “What are you doing, Anna? Did Kettie tell you to do this?”

“Don’t nobody got to tell me nothing, Rose. This here sorry critter is the next thing to a plow mule we’re gonna git. Soon’s I git him into a harness, he’s gonna turn up sod for the garden. You just watch this hombre.” She pointed her chin at Lark. “You’re good at that.”

Rose turned to Lark and in a hurried whisper urged him, “Say something to her.”

Lark cleared his throat, hitched up his pants and strode to Anna in an upright, square-shouldered posture of authority. “Ortega! We’re having a quatro day. It is very Aguilar.” He smiled and nodded in agreement with his apparent success when Anna stopped.

¡Dios Mio! Está loco,” she said and led the bare-backed animal away.

Anna tied Damn Donkey near the gate to an overgrown pasture and fetched a harness from the barn.

Lark was still taking it all in, it happened so fast. Damn Donkey bit Anna and kicked Yalla. Then having scattered his tormentors, the shaggy little animal ambled to the shade of an oak.

Rose closed her gaping mouth and said, “I’ve never seen Anna back down from nothing.”

“Ragtail’s burro just claimed the yard,” Lark agreed.

#  #  #

Ragtail looked at the gaunt face on a gunny sack pillow. “Ought to have his hair scissored down. He looks like a woman.”

Kettie jabbed him with the gun, “Cornelius is a woman, and before you ask, No.She ain’t gonna have a baby.”

Ragtail rubbed his ribs, “Go easy with that proddin’, will you? I’m gitting sore and a little out of sorts. If’n you want help, you’d best be polite in the askin’.”

“All right,” Kettie said, “here it is. It seems Cornelius was always on the frail side, but then she took to losing her bowels and throwing up. I can’t figure out how such a small woman that can’t keep food down can still grow a nice round belly without it being bad enough to have killed her already.”

Ragtail studied the patient’s outline under the dirty bedcover. Her emaciated form was indeed bulging in the middle like a birthing mother would expect. Her sunken eyes circled with worry or pain lines—he couldn’t tell which—were nonetheless bright and fixed on him. Her gaze made him uncomfortable with a sensation he couldn’t name.

Ragtail mentally pinched himself, a trick he’d learned in the desert to bring his attention back from drifting.
“I reckon it’s a tapeworm,” he told Kettie. Fetch a medium-sized pumpkin. You’ll need seventy to seventy-five seeds.”

How will Ragtail cure Cornelius? Leave a comment and click a box below.

To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays

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