Signs

Heaven or Hell

If she were dead, Esther May thought she shouldn’t be bothered by dust entering her nostrils when she breathed.

Or was this the other place? She lay in the dirt, and her leg burned. Was it really possible to have one foot in hell?

She should move, but her body wanted to stay put. Black oblivion of deep sleep seemed enticing too, but damn, her leg cooked. She had to roll away from the fire.

“Easy, senorita,” Alejandro said. “I’m going to have to cut the bullet out of your leg.”

Still Here

Esther May cracked open her eyes to daylight and a pounding headache. She sat up even though every movement sent waves of pain from her leg to her head.

Her head—something was wrong there.

She explored with her fingertips and discovered a wrapping around her hair.

A Little Confused

Abuela squatted beside Esther May and held out a tin plate with biscuits soaking up bacon grease. “You are ready to eat, Riding Woman?”

Esther May licked her lips. “Water first.”

Abuela nodded to a leather flash with a strap on it. Esther May didn’t recognize it as one of hers. As she reached for it, she noticed her cut pants and the bandage around her leg.

About Last Night

The memory of last evening’s activities came rushing back. Esther May scanned the area, clawing at her hip where her gun would be. Sparks filled her vision, even when she closed her eyes against the pulsing throb of white-hot ache.

Abuela had a hand on Esther May’s shoulder and offered the leather canteen with the other. “It’s safe. Drink agua now.”

“Where are we, Abuela?”

“You’re at my camp.” Alejandro stood nearby. “And I’m glad you came.”

The Chuck Wagon Driver

Esther May squinted at him. The round, gray-haired Mexican had purple bruises and red scabs on his face. A cut on his bottom lip continued upward into his mustache.

“Not glad you were shot, of course,” he said. “Glad you are here, so I can apologize for telling Emilio about you.”

“Looks like he beat it out of you,” Esther May said. Talking made her throat feel raw as chap leather. She grabbed the canteen and gulped a swig. Taking another, she rinsed the surprisingly cold water around her mouth. “Oh, that’s better.”

Laying the water aside, she touched her wrapped head. “I thought he only shot my hat off. How deep a crease have I got?”

Alejandro half chuckled, half tsk-tsked. “Only a little one, senorita. You can pull your hair over it.”

Esther May took a slice of bacon. How could anything taste so good? “Why didn’t he kill me? I heard more shots.”

A New Gunhand

“Ah, that was me, senorita. The vaqueros didn’t think I was able to move after they beat me.” Alejandro hooked his thumbs under his belt. “It was good I put the first bullet in him, but he jumped around like a jackrabbit. It took two more to finish him.”

“So, I wasn’t shot again.” Esther May sighed and took another slice of bacon. “Thank you, Alejandro. You saved me.”

Coming For Revenge

He laughed at that. “It almost cost me,” he said. “Grandmother came riding into camp ready to kill anyone standing when she saw you stretched out on the ground.”

A warm sense of love poured over Esther May as she stretched a hand to Abuela. “Why did you come? You were going to wait for me.”

“Too many gunshots.” The Apache woman handed Esther May the plate with the remaining bacon and biscuits. “But we should go; I saw the coyote leave.”

What’s Abuela’s concern? Drop off your thoughts now.

The coyote is a complex spirit animal. Check out this article.

To read the series, click here for the first post. This will be Tales Old Roy Told. Tap the down arrow in the Archive box to open the list. After Tales Old Roy Told, work upward.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

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