Is Help Coming?

Harsh Country

In Shock

The shock of realizing that he had severely injured himself numbed Easterly. There was no pain at first when he sliced the bottom of his foot. He felt it, though, as nausea tried to evacuate his already empty stomach. He took a deep breath and hopped to a gravelly spot in the wash bed, blood falling on the rocks as he passed.

Air burst from his lungs when Easterly plopped down. He held his injured foot in the air. Blood running in a stream made his vision pale and lose focus. His scalp tingled like the buzzing vibration of bees. He lost his peripheral vision. Closing his eyes and sliding into dark denial called him like a feather bed.

A voice in his head said, “You’ve seen worse. Just because it’s you this time is no reason to act like a schoolmarm. Pass out and you bleed to death.”

Deal With It

Breathing in then exhaling through puckered lips, Easterly grabbed his foot and drew it over his other leg toward his lap. Blood oozing between his fingers colored his hands and wrists red.

The injury didn’t look as he expected. From the amount of blood splashed around, Easterly thought the bottom of his foot was carved off. The gash was almost a straight line down the middle, but it had to be deep. His full weight was on that foot when it came down on the knife-edge quartz.

He squeezed his foot hard, pressing the raw edges of the wound together. The sole burned like it was in the campfire and pain went up his leg. Easterly’s mouth erupted a string of vulgar words.

Easterly forced himself to keep still even though his leg cramped. He only moved his fingers individually so they wouldn’t be stuck to his foot by the coagulating, coppery-iron smelling blood.

He heard of soldiers in the War Between the States surviving terrible wounds. In some cases, they had pressed on with their mission. But they were part of an army. He had no help, and he needed things: food, water, bandages, and a walking stick.

Having necessities in reach was so much easier with animals to pull a wagon and all his supplies. Life had been simple even when all he had was his chestnut stud. The horse, the canteen, the saddlebags stuffed with provisions kept him mobile with options. Now, with his needs greater, Easterly had nothing. It wasn’t fair.

The bleeding was slowing, but he was afraid if he released his grip it would start again.

What could he do?

A Hint From The Past

Arthur, the Anglo name of his Navajo friend, once told him that if you had a knife, you could survive. Easterly, with a folding blade knife in his pocket that he had carried since leaving Pennsylvania, had laughed at the statement. The Indian had shrugged at Easterly’s response and let the matter drop.

Did he still have it? Easterly used his elbow to feel outside his pants pocket. The knife was in there, but what use was it?

Maybe something after all.

Please, Lord. Let this work.

Adapt

Easterly slid his bottom hand from under his foot, still pressing on it with the other. With his free hand, he unbuttoned the top of his long johns. He worked the underwear off his shoulders and one arm. Changing hands on his foot, he freed the other arm.

Naked to the waist, he recovered his knife, managed to open it and set it within easy reach. He grabbed a sleeve of his long johns, brought it to his mouth and bit down somewhere about the elbow. Almost going cross-eyed, he cut the sleeve from the shoulder at the stitching.

He laid the knife back down. Holding one end of the sleeve in his teeth, he inched the other end over his wounded foot. He pulled it to his ankle and folded the extra underneath for padding. He grabbed his foot and panted as if he ran a mile.

Most of the blood on the sleeve came from his hands, a sign the pressure was working.

He cut off the next sleeve.

Pushing his foot against his leg to free his other hand, Easterly worked the second arm of the long john between his leg and foot. He pulled the ends of the sleeve up and crossed them over his instep, around to cross behind his ankle, and back to the front to tie the ends, Roman sandal style.

He had been holding his breath again and exhaled in a gust. His foot looked like a pile of dirty laundry, but it was bandaged.

He stretched out to ease the cramps.

Tiny raindrops, like flies, landed on his face and speckled the ground.

Is it raining in the mountains again? Where’s Esther May? Will Easterly get out of the wash and find her? Leave a comment.

In the desert or in a crowd, loneliness has sinister effects. Read about them here.

To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran. The time to do so is precious.

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