Ragtail and Cornelius

Cornelius Photo by Meireles Neto on Unsplash

New Friendships

Kettie came up on Ragtail as he was digging around in his packs and set right to talking.

“Yer cure worked.”

He straightened and took in her tired face and untucked hair.

“Where’s the water?”

“That tapeworm was thirty feet long if it was an inch.”

“I need to take Damn Donkey fer a drink.”

“There was even some white clusters of little worms.” Kettie shuddered and hugged herself. “It stretched almost all the way to the outhouse.”

“Don’t need to know that. I need to know where I can git this critter a drink.”

“Down at the wet.” Kettie’s point followed the slope downhill. “Cornelius would like you to come by so she can thank you.”

“Not necessary.”

“It’d mean a lot to her.”

Ragtail wanted to get shy of Kettie before Lark reached them, but she wouldn’t let it go ‘til he agreed to visit.
He didn’t get gone in time.

Lark was on him. “Why’d you hit me with a rock last night? Your mangy mule wasn’t yelling.”

“Did it hurt?”

“Right in the middle of my back. Knocked the wind outta me. Almost couldn’t draw a deep breath.” Lark lifted his shoulders and turned them one way, then the other. “Thank goodness it didn’t hurt my voice. Cecilia says I’m a very-tone. She says it’s a manly deep voice that comes from my chest.”

“It probably echoes around where yer brain should be,” Ragtail muttered as he haltered Damn Donkey and went to find water.

#  #  #

Ragtail stopped inside the door. “I’m here.”

“Please come in,” said the woman propped up in the bed.

Kettie arose from the chair next to Cornelius’ bed and motioned for Ragtail to take it. She left the room.

Ragtail kept the chair between him and the bed.

Cornelius seemed not at all unattractive and years younger than he remembered.

“You saved my life.” Her voice was soft and somehow disturbing to him.

“Most likely.”

“Kettie tells me you answer to ‘Ragtail,’ but that won’t do for my thanks. What’s your given name?”

“What’s this?” Ragtail expected to hear a weeping, hysterical woman pledging her undying gratitude. Instead, this composed female was guiding the conversation and her voice was a halter leading him along.

“Your given name, please.”

“Uh … you can call me Eb.”

“I see. Is that short for Ebenezer?”

She was sure easy to talk to. “No ma’am.” Ragtail heaved in a deep breath. “It’s Ebstanshul.”

“Now that’s right unusual. Fitting for an unusual man.”

“Well, my Ma never had no schooling, but she tried to keep up with her letters when she could. She kept telling how I was a big baby, and I reckon she meant that I was substantial.”

“Eb is a wonderful name. I formally thank you, Ebstanshul, for saving my life. At one time I thought it wouldn’t matter whether I lived or died. Turns out, I very much want to live.”
She smoothed the bedcover in easy, gracious strokes before continuing. “I imagine you’re curious about my name. Probably more than that, you have a question that’s pressing you even harder about me, so I’ll get that out of the way.

“Yes, I killed my husband.”

What’s going on with Cornelius? Leave a comment.

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.

Thank a veteran.

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