A Helping Hand
Esther May gave C.J. a sip of water. “That’s all for now. We’re running a little low.” She corked the canteen. “Let’s see about wrapping you up. Can you get your shirt off?”
“Yeah, I think so. I’m a little stiff and sore … but yeah.”
He began with the top button while scrutinizing the woman he said he loved. She hadn’t offered to help him and left to tie the quiver to the gelding’s saddle straps.
He was doing what she asked, for Pete’s Sake. What was the burr under her blanket? He heard her anger when she thought he was passed out. He was only exhausted to the point of collapse, but still, he heard. Well, Miss Big Shot, who saved you from getting cut up? I did. And I did it with an arrow in me. I did it hand-to-hand without a weapon.
C.J. remembered. The memory hit his brain, his heart, and his stomach which expelled the water.
He had a gun the whole time.
Why Didn’t He Use It?
He may not have stopped the attack on Clyde, but he could have shot the Apache as soon as the Indian stepped into their circle.
He was going to be sick.
His hand searched for his pistol. Gone. No holster, no belt, it was all gone. C.J. scanned the dead man near his feet, then the spot where he had been when the arrow hit him.
Oh. Wait a minute. There it is on Esther May. He must have given it to her after finding the first warrior. She had it. Why didn’t she shoot?
Why Didn’t She Use It?
Doggone Esther May. She could have kept him from getting shot. C.J. groaned and pulled at his shirt. How could he make a fuss about it now? It was all over and done.
But he had a hole in his side. If Esther May brought up his lack of gumption again, she’d better be prepared to receive as good as she dished out.
Today was a bad day. The sooner they got to the mines the better.
He had the shirt unbuttoned and over his shoulders, but he couldn’t twist to clear his arms.
Esther May helped him get it off.
Wrapped And Tied
She stretched the sleeves out from the shoulders and rolled up the shirt from the bottom. The thick part of the roll she looped against C.J.’s side so that both the entry and exit wounds had extra padding. When the sleeves were tied together the rolled shirt made an adequate bandage sash.
Esther May wiped her hands. “You have a way of turning your shirts into coverings for wounds, don’t you?”
C.J. searched her face for sarcasm and found none. “Yeah. Foot first, now side. I hope they don’t keep working up.”
“We have to ride now. Ready?”
C.J. groaned and pressed his hand against the back wound. For some reason, it hurt worse than where the arrow went in. He stood. He rose to his feet without Esther May’s help. She hadn’t offered any, and she was standing right there.
He wasn’t dizzy at all. Now that his head was farther from the ground, the air seemed cleaner, more healthy. “I’m good.”
Esther May led C.J.’s mare to stand next to a log and held her reins. “Can you come over here?”
C.J. placed each step with care, like a cat. Gently. Stepping down on the ball of his foot, not the heel. It felt good to walk but strange at the same time.
He saw what Esther May intended and approached the horse from the opposite side of the log.
She held the mare’s head while C.J. leaned over and grabbed the saddle horn and cantle. He experienced a new connection with the little skewbald horse—a tenderness of companionship as the mare waited on him.
“Hold still, Skewy. This is a two-part operation.”
Braced with his handholds, C.J. stepped onto the log, placed a foot in the stirrup and swung his leg over.
Esther May handed him the reins, found his slouch hat and gave it to him. She tipped her head toward the downward slope. “I saw something shiny at the bottom of the canyon. I think it’s water.”
They’re still moving together, but has trust been damaged? Leave a comment now.
Is clear, moving stream water safe to drink? Check out this short interview.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
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