Roberto’s ocotillo-thin legs stiffened and he slid to a breathless stop. “Doña Maria’s carriage comes. But she’s not in it.”
C.J. turned his glance from the wide-eyed boy to Brother Pablo. “I take it this isn’t normal?”
Pablo placed his palms on the crude table and leveraged himself to his feet. “Let’s find out.”
C.J. rose in the same manner, scooting his chair and kicking up dust. He swept his arm in an arc. “If you’re not gonna put straw down or poke a window in this beggars den, you might as well leave folks outside in the fresh air.”
Brother Pablo grinned. “But the beggars need a place to get out of the sun and wind. A dirt floor isn’t so bad.”
“And you don’t have to run to the outhouse for número uno,” Roberto said, holding up one finger.
“Yeah, the smell ain’t great neither.” C.J. wiped his nose with a sleeve as he walked out the door.
A Dusty Arrival
A black mare, as big as C.J.’s previous stud, halted and stood patiently as the following cloud of dust settled over the conveyance.
Brother Pablo made a flicking gesture to Roberto. “Fetch the olla.” Taking the water jug from the boy, the holy man greeted the driver. “Welcome, Ramón. Do you have enough dirt in your mouth to make adobe? Here. Wash it down.”
The Mexican driver sat stiff as unwashed pants. “No, thank you, Brother. I’m here to take the gringo to the hacienda.” His brows drew together and he moved his dark eyes to cover C.J. “Get on.”
C.J. dropped his hand to his pistol handle. “You ain’t taking me nowhere.”
Ridges formed on Ramón’s jaws. From the set of his chin, he was clamping his teeth hard. The lines stayed put even as he moved his lips. “I am to invite the friend of Esther May to the hacienda. Since he is too weak and unfit to ride, the Doña sends her buggy for him.”
Invitation and Insults
“Unfit to ride? Who says so? There ain’t no way I’m snuggling up to you on that tiny seat.” C.J. felt his neck grow warm and hoped it was from the sun. The idea of blushing in front of Ramón was unthinkable, and he wouldn’t back down now. “If you want me to visit your mama, or whoever she is, ask me nice.”
Ramón’s hand flew to his hip. He had no sidearm and his hand balled into a fist. His face flushed under his tanned, brown skin, and his words flung spittle. “Brother Pablo, if you wish to keep this chico blanco alive, tell him who he insults.”
“What did he call me?” C.J. gripped his pistol.
Brother Pablo patted the air in a “settle down” gesture. “He only said, ‘White boy,’ but it’s not bad. Now you two relax. A courteous invitation is offered, and I think you should accept it, Seegee.”
C.J. experienced the pleasure of holding the winning hand and wanted to make sure Ramón knew it. “I haven’t been invited. I’ve been told.” He stared straight at the Mexican.
Still flushing, Ramón said, “Doña Maria Esquerra invites the friend of Esther May to visit her hacienda. Her buggy is available for that purpose.”
C.J. puckered his lips, paused, scratched his behind, and spit. “I’ll saddle my horse.”
Ramón’s face blackened.
What’s going on with C.J. and Ramón? Leave a comment now.
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