|Loose in the Valley of the Wimmin|
The question came from Cornelius’ lips, but Ragtail was drawn to the deeper question in her searching eyes. The deep brown orbs he could get lost in.
“In the first place,” he said, “them two wimmin stood by you and took out the tapeworm. I only told ‘em stuff they could try.”
Cornelius agreed. “I have thanked Kettie and Rose. They stayed with me from start to finish. But we didn’t know what to do until you arrived.
You were necessary, Eb. They did the work, but you saved me. Was it worth it?”
Ragtail heard the desperate plea in the question even though her voice stayed conversational. But he was an honest man.
“I don’t reckon I know. It’s up to you, ain’t it? If’n you go to killin’ more people, I done wrong. If you go t’other way and treat on folks sweet-like, then anything to help you along was good.”
“I never intended to harm anyone, Eb, and I never want to again.” She pressed her palms together as if in prayer. “In fact, I was thinking that if you’d care to stay, you and I might find a way to … help each other. There were times when I liked being a wife and partner. We could have a life together in this valley.”
Her hand flew to her throat. “That was rather abrupt, Eb. Is there nothing about that idea that fetches you?”
Ragtail took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. “Fer a while there, I was thinking along those same lines,” he said. “A feller could sure git used to looking at you until he realizes what he’s seeing.”
“What do you see, Eb?” The question hung open on her face so honest that he wanted to cup her soft cheeks in his hands.
If he was going to do it, he’d better git with it. He put his hat on and stood.
“You ain’t nothing but a grave marker.”
# # #
Ragtail had Damn Donkey down at the wet for good grazing and all the water they could drink before he pulled out of the valley.
He’d talked mean to a woman that had asked him for justification of her soul.
Only the worst of the desert rats acted like that, and they were usually juiced up on alcohol. He deserved to spend his life alone, leaving his bones to bleach among the tumbleweeds.
“Why do you call me crazy?”
The nearness of Anna’s voice caused him to jump.
Not ten feet behind him sitting on his haunches was Yalla. Anna squatted beside her black dog at the edge of the cattails and tall reeds.
“What?” A squiggle of unease tickled Ragtail’s back.
“You call me ‘crazy’. Why?”
Ragtail lifted a shoulder and dropped it. “You’re different.”
“So are you.”
“You lived with goats.”
“You live with a burro.”
Ragtail wasn’t getting anywhere. He waved his hand in a wide arc. “You get in a huff and go stormin’ off yelling in a different language can’t nobody understand.”
“And nobody gets their feelings hurt. You throw rocks. Which one of us is safer to be around?”
Ragtail gritted his teeth. “Yer just crazy, and that’s all there is to it.”
Anna stood, Yalla came up on his feet with her, his feral gaze never leaving Ragtail.
She pointed at the prospector. If her finger had been a gun it would have been aimed between his eyes.
“If you turn down Cornelius, you couldn’t be crazier if you had bats stuck in your hair.”
She and Yalla vanished through the brush.
Who’s right, Ragtail or Crazy Anna? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September in the Archive list to the right and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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