C.J. awoke, his feverish brow finally cool—free of fever. His side was sore and the bedding he lay on smelled of sweat and body odor, but he was alert, refreshed, and hungry. He swung his legs over the side of the cot and sat up, a movement that set his head spinning.
“It is best to move slow until your feet remember how to walk,” a nearby voice said.
In the middle of a rotating room stood a man in a brown robe. C.J. squinted one eye to stop his circling vision. “It’s not my feet, it’s my head that’s dizzy. Where am I? Who’re you?”
“I’m Brother Pablo, this is Our Lady of Charity mission. Roberto will be here soon with food. He left to fetch it when he saw you waking.”
Turning his head in the opposite direction to the way the world seemed to spin helped C.J. focus. He noticed a crumpled figure snoring in the corner.
Keeping his hands on the cot for stability, he raised a finger to point. “So you take care of drunks too?”
Brother Pablo chuckled. “Yes, we do, but as a matter of fact, that’s your doctor.”
Doctor’s In – Esther May’s Out
C.J. checked his side. There was a scab with redness and swelling around it, but the wound looked like it was healing. Either the whiskey-reeking lump had his hands on C.J., or the priest made fun with his comment.
Neither idea was appealing. “Where’s Esther May? Do you know who I’m talking about?”
“Indeed I do. The whole town knows of her. She is an honored guest at the Hacienda Esquerra.”
“What do you mean? We were in the mountains …” He remembered scenes of Apaches, Mexican cowboys, and riding for his life but couldn’t put it in context. Where was Esther May in all that?
“Here is Roberto with your carne guisada—a delicious meat stew. While you eat, I’ll tell you what has taken place in our little town.”
Filling up on Food and Information
C.J. pushed the empty bowl away and wished he hadn’t eaten so much. His stomach sent signals of protest. He straightened his posture to ease the pressure of overindulgence and continued the conversation.
“Uh, sorry. I’ll get it right. The robe and all, you know—. Anyway, you’re saying Esther May shot a man in the leg and the sheriff had to hang him? And the sheriff’s a kinfolk?”
“Yes. That’s what happened.”
C.J. glanced at the man of medicine who added a drawn-out wheeze to his snoring symphony.
The thought of that derelict saving him was ridiculous to C.J. He meant to say something derogatory, but an uncomplimentary belch was all that escaped his lips. Embarrassed, he went back to the subject of Esther May.
“Okay, so that’s why she isn’t here. You, being a mission-keeper and all, I bet you don’t want anyone around with that kind of business stuck to ‘em.”
Brother Pablo’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “There are certain acts of the Church, Seegee, that give me great pleasure. Baptism and pronouncing last rites for those who ride with the devil are two.”
C.J. grinned at his host. “I understand. But I reckon if Esther May’s welcome here, I’d better go fetch her.”
“There’s no need to be in a rush. She’s much more comfortable there, I’m sure. Ramón seemed most eager to take care of her.”
Who is Ramón and what does he mean for Esther May? Leave a comment now.
Here is a short article about the practice of medicine in the old west.
This is a longer, more informative article. It’s quite interesting about how inroads (pun intended) to the digestive system were discovered.
To read the series click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.
Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.
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