The Doctor’s Visit
Doctor Kroker held a candle in front of Liluye’s face and peered into her eyes. He made the soft toneless sound that doctors do during an examination and that Esther May hated.
“Hmm. Ask this renegade to follow the light without moving her head.”
Esther May translated, and Doctor Kroker slowly waved the candle back and forth.
“Mm-hmm. Ask her if she sees double.”
“She says, ‘Yes.’”
The doctor blew out the candle and returned it to his bag. “She has a concussion.” He stood and brushed off his pants.
“That’s it?” Esther May asked. “Aren’t you going to stitch up the cut on her head or put some medicine on it?”
“I’m not touching a wild Indian’s head,” the doctor said. “It’s nothing but a lice-infested mess.” He pulled out a bottle of iodine. “Here’s an anti-infection. If you want to apply it, help yourself.”
Esther May took the bottle and glared at Kroker. “If you’d have looked at your patient, you’d see cleaner hair than yours.”
The doctor shrugged and headed for his buggy.
“Wait a minute,” Esther May said. “How long should she stay down?”
Kroker turned around. “I don’t care. What’s more, if you come back to town, I’ll have the Sheriff arrest you for kidnapping me.”
Esther May and Abuela cleaned up Liluye’s wound. Once the blood was washed away, so the cut was exposed, it didn’t look bad.
Esther May uncapped the iodine bottle and soaked a spot into a rag. “This is going to sting, Liluye, but it’s good medicine.”
The Apache woman jerked when Esther May dabbed the cut, but she made no outcry. When Esther May finished, Liluye simply said, “Thank you, Riding Woman. I ask your forgiveness.”
It took Esther May a moment to consider the statement. “Forgiveness for what, Liluye?”
“I was supposed to protect you. Instead, you saved me.”
Esther May sat next to Liluye and put an arm around her shoulders. “We saved each other, and Abuela saved us all. Isn’t it better we all fight for each other?”
Esther May tightened the cinch on her gelding in the early dawn when Abuela approached with an appeal. “Don’t go to town, Riding Woman.”
“I have to. Karl and Cricket need beef for their dining hall, and we need the money. I shook hands on the deal.”
The older woman locked eyes with Esther May. “If your honor tells you to go, then go. But the whites mustn’t think you’ve betrayed them.” Abuela tipped her head to Liluye’s sleeping form. “Tell them we’re your slaves, and you must care for us like you would a sick goat.”
Esther May hugged the older woman. “Oh, Abuela! Don’t make me cry. All I’m going to do is drive four head to town and get supplies. Maybe I’ll bring back burritos or crullers. How about another pie?”
“Pah! No pie.”
Cricket Koch closed the gate after Esther May drove the four steers into the corral. Cricket reached into her apron pocket and pulled out the money. “Here’s your eighty bucks,” she said and held out the bills.
Esther May grinned. “Thanks. I may spend some of it right back to you for a good meal before heading out.”
Cricket dropped her chin. “It’d be better if you kept on going.”
A chill foreign to Arizona’s heat settled on Esther May. “Why’s that?”
The Real Payoff
“Folk’s are talking. Saying you’re an Apache lover.”
Esther May had started to dismount. She leaned over and took the money from Cricket’s outstretched hand. “How about the store? Am I welcome there?”
Cricket shook her head. “I don’t think so. The Doc—he’s been talking ….”
Esther May straightened in the saddle and gazed into the sky as if watching the scene play out again. “I guess I was a little rough on him.”
He Had A Gripe
Cricket giggled. “From what I heard, you were a demon.” She dragged a toe in the dirt. “The Doc lost a lot of respect telling the tale like he did, but folks just don’t like Apaches. You understand?”
“Yes.” Esther May sighed and puckered up her lips. “Cricket, how about I give you ten dollars for your trouble if you get the supplies for me?”
“I could do that. Tell me what you need.”
After Esther May recited the list and handed over some money, Cricket said, “Give me a half-hour—longer if the store’s busy. Then come to the back door of my place.”
“That’s fine. I need to go pay the doctor’s bill anyway.”
What will Esther May say to Doctor Kroker? Don’t forget to leave your comment.
Were Apaches friends with Whites? Seldom, but it did happen. Here’s an example of one of the most famous friendships.
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