Easterly Commits to Hund
Hund raised his head and slowly licked Easterly’s hand. The dog’s ribs were a picket fence. He needed a meal. A stump where his left hind leg had been was wrapped with a hodgepodge mixture of flour sacks, unbleached muslin, and kerchiefs.
Easterly cupped Hund’s head in both hands, rubbed his ears, scratched under his chin, and massaged his front quarters. Careful to support Hund so his rear-end wouldn’t flex, he carried the dog outside to the shade of a tree.
It may have been what Hund was waiting for. Before Easterly could lay him down, Hund emptied his bladder. Amazed at how much a skinny dog could evacuate, Easterly stayed bent, supporting the dog he now claimed as his. “Hund’s gonna need water and food. Would you get the pot and sack of jerky from the pack, Atá Halné?”
What’s in a Name?
Esther May had remained near her patient and Easterly. She leaned in closer. “What did you call him?”
Easterly turned his back moving Hund away from the wet spot, settling him on the grass. The girl irritated him. His partner indicated that Easterly should be beholden to her for some reason. All he knew was that when he woke up, she was here and Hund was bad hurt.
Not only that, she couldn’t pick up on a hint. She was still poking around.
Atá Halné dipped water from the barrel. He took that and the jerky to Easterly.
“Here. Let me help,” Esther May said. She took the pot of water from Atá Halné. “He called you something else. Didn’t you say your name was ‘Arthur’?”
“I believe I said that’s what white people call me.”
“Oh.” Esther May knelt with the water and asked Easterly, “You said something different. Are you an Indian, too?”
He grabbed the water pot from her hand. “I can do this. We don’t need you. Why don’t you go back to what you were doing?”
Esther May stiffened, red-faced.
Words to Unsettle Harmony
Atá Halné’s voice broke brittle, like a cold icicle down the back of Easterly’s shirt. “You have embarrassed me.” He gestured stop to Esther May as she rose. “Wait a minute, please.”
Atá Halné drew a breath and faced Easterly. “Yesterday you wanted to be here with the men from the wagon. Later, from my camp downriver, I heard Hund barking and came back. When I arrived, the two men were dead. One had your muzzleloader next to him. Hund’s leg was mangled, barely attached. I cut it off and Esther May doctored him.” He tilted his head to Esther May. “She’s been tracking those men. They fed her daddy the same doped peaches they used on you, then they killed him for his poke. I believe that’s what they planned to do to you.”
Easterly’s head pounded and his vision blurred in a dizzy spin. “I didn’t know—”
The Navajo wasn’t through. “What did you see when you came on them, Esther May?”
She clasped her hands tight enough that Easterly could see her knuckles turn white. “The mean one was trying to reach this boy,” she pointed at Easterly without looking at him, “but your dog put up a fight.” She pointed where Skewy and the stud had been tethered. “The man grabbed that old rifle and shot the dog. He saw me and was trying to reload. He didn’t make it.” Tears spilled out of her eyes and ran down her cheeks. “The cook died smiling at me.”
Atá Halné faced Easterly full-square. “Your dog is hurt and that is bad. She helped the animal and she saved you. She had to settle her own blood debt for the loss of her father.” He took a step back.
“Your behavior shamed me. Now, what will you do?”
Will Easterly man-up or continue to his childish ways? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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