Easterly pushed away from the little one-branch mesquite tree. It had done its best to stand against the flash flood but didn’t have the roots. Into the dirty water it went and sped away downstream.
It came to his mind how stupid it was in the last minutes of his life to mourn a mesquite tree. But it was all he could think of as his world spun, tumbled, and whirled through the gagging, suffocating, water.
In This World Or The Next?
Barely conscious, Easterly couldn’t hear or see and was afraid to take a breath for fear that he was under water. Something heavy held him face down, but he was able to move his arms. His body capitulated to life-sustaining needs, and he sucked in air.
Easterly’s hands explored his head. His hair was packed in mud. Eyes plastered shut, ears filled and plugged.
Digging with his fingers and rubbing his face against his upper arm removed enough paste to allow his lids to rise. His eyes were sore, but he could see. He was on the bank, his lower legs buried.
Easterly got an elbow underneath himself and twisted, trying to roll over. The pain of cracked ribs stabbed his chest. He threw up brown water, the vomit propelled grit to the back of his nose.
Used Like A Rag On A Washboard
Easterly lay gasping. Having pulled himself out of the sludge, he surveyed where the flood left him. The wash that had been a conduit for the furious torrent now held scattered puddles, leaving a high water mark visible near the top of the banks.
He cleaned his ears but still heard no sound. Wherever he was, he was alone with no possessions. No hat, no boots, no socks. His shirt was missing all the buttons. It was almost stripped off, hanging on his elbows. Easterly threw it away. He feared his long johns would never be clean again. He felt the cold slime underneath them, next to his skin.
He was a mess, but alive. What now?
The way the debris lay and how the surviving brush bent showed the direction the flood took. All he had to do was go back uphill.
But first, rest.
Esther May Saw The Wet Wreck
Esther May heard the rumble of the oncoming flood. She had seen them in Texas where she grew up and understood them. She had tried to warn Easterly to stay away, but he waved to her and drove the team into the trickling wash.
Then came the full channel. At first, nothing too spectacular. Dirty water spread out to cover the ancient stream bed. The level rose like it was being pushed up from below.
She gritted her teeth and wiped her eyes at the memory.
Easterly had managed to untie the horses, but the wagon tipped and rolled, dragging the mules off their feet.
She lost sight of Easterly immediately.
The horses leaped and fell as they disappeared downstream.
The flood dismantled the wagon: ripping the canvas top away, snapping wheels off.
Finally, the mules broke free of their load. Their harness, however, still bound them together. The smaller one went under dragging his companion with him.
The rushing nightmare lasted long enough to wash away Easterly and everything with him. The gully washer shrank and disappeared like a train going around a curve. Now, as if to say, “I was only joking,” Nature resumed her normal day leaving behind a pleasant moisture-filled scent of fresh earth.
Esther May sat and cried.
Is this where Easterly and Esther May go separate ways? Should they? What do you think? 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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