C.J. kept his horse behind a juniper tree and used his vantage point on the hill to study the two oncoming riders.
It was Imala, with a man.
C.J. hated him. Gut-stabbing anger filled him at the thought of any male at Imala’s side. His hands trembled, and he wanted to wrap them around the fellow’s throat.
He might have to take bold action, but it wasn’t his fault. Preening vultures were going to circle a mouthwatering feast. If Imala wouldn’t shoo her admirers away, he’d have to eliminate them.
As Imala and her companion approached the slot canyon, they disappeared in the brush surrounding the base of the ridge.
C.J. nudged Skewy downhill to take up a location where he could cover the entrance in the cliff.
All sorts of scenarios played in C.J.’s mind. His imagination had him overcoming the man who dared spend time alone with Imala. He liked and replayed the daydreams that made him a hero while humiliating his adversary.
He was almost settled in when Imala spoke from behind. “Why didn’t you stay where I left you?”
“What?” C.J. spun the mare around, and there was Imala and a stiff-backed, gray-haired Apache.
Imala and the old man rode mustangs. The horses were brownish, with differing splashes of white on their faces and fetlocks. Standing still, the animals blended in with the background of junipers and oak brush.
C.J. scanned the surroundings even though Imala was now in front of him.
“How did you get in back of me?”
“You left tracks. Did you remain naked in the sacred place?”
Not Falling For That Again
“No, I certainly didn’t. I don’t know how I let you talk me into stripping in the first place.”
A stubborn satisfaction filled C.J. at the look on Imala’s face. “I’m not your little play toy, you know.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing, much. I got dressed, saddled Skewy, and rode all over the place.”
Imala sharply inhaled and swallowed. She turned to her companion and spoke in Apache.
His eyes widened, and he made a short reply.
“What did he say?” C.J. asked.
“He said the níłchʼi will be gone now.”
“The spirit. There was a purifying níłchʼi there that blessed those who asked his favor.”
Twisting The Knife
“Oh. That explains the screaming I heard,” C.J. said. “Me and Skewy were kicking him out of his place.”
He couldn’t help grinning at Imala’s serious face. She couldn’t really believe a spirit lived by the water in the canyon.
Imala translated to the old Apache. He rocked from side-to-side in the saddle and chanted in a monotone.
Change Of Plans
C.J. sat in the shade of a pine tree and watched Imala and the Apache build a wickiup. Imala said the man’s name was Taklishim, the Grey One. He was the medicine man from Cibecue.
“Taklishim will cry here and pray. He must clean himself before he goes into the holy place.”
“Why him?” C.J. said. “We were dirty when you took us in there.”
“He goes to ask the níłchʼi to come back. Taklishim must be pure.” Imala stopped poking branches onto the Apache shelter. “I was going to do a purification before we went to The People.”
“Sounds a little far-fetched to me, Imala. What did all that have to do with me getting into my birthday suit?”
“You are the only white man to enter the place, and you were supposed to stay unspoiled—not wearing stinky rags. I went to bring Taklishim to bless you and give you Apache clothes.”
She turned and stuffed the branches into place. “I made a mistake.”
Read a short article about Apache Tears here.
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