Resting And Recollecting
C.J. sat in the boundary between two worlds and watched the speck of a far-away rider.
Uphill and behind him was the high country—pine trees and cool nights. Ahead, down below, was a maze of canyon land where vegetation was thorny and spikey if it grew at all.
He tried to remember the last time he ate an ear of corn fresh out of the garden or rode the big stallion that carried him from Pennsylvania.
It’s Coming Back
Ah, yes. The stud was stolen by Indians.
C.J. had gone after the raiders—wanted to kill them, and now, here he was with two Apaches.
Taklishim, the aging medicine man, was already in a brush hut chanting and burning sacred smoke to entice the canyon spirit’s return.
The other, an Indian maiden, had C.J.’s heart. Imala moved like water flowing over rocks without leaving a ripple: smooth undulations. She was the reason C.J. was here.
Imala’s grandmother had saved him from the fever, and Imala had protected him from being hanged as a rustler.
Owing His LIfe
A twice-salvaged life debt was enough to lock him into his promise to deliver Imala to Cibecue. But along the way, she became his burning, single desire. And he’d messed up.
He’d like to apologize to Imala, but she gave him the cold shoulder as she built a second wickiup.
Coming This Way
The rider was coming. He’d be here in another hour at the most.
C.J. swatted the air by his ear when an insect buzzed past. His meandering mind wondered where a fly could have come from in this country. There was nothing to feed a parasite.
The Arizona Territory C.J. had traveled wasn’t a desert with sand dunes, but high plateaus with beautiful peaks. Down below was a range of jumbled mountains, each one aligned in a different direction.
They seemed to be solid rock, giving way from brown to charcoal black that looked too hot to touch.
If there was a continuous path across that land, C.J. couldn’t see it. They’d have to travel up and over each range before going down the other side to do it over again on the next one.
The dirt there was sterile, dry, and littered with stones. Except for unpredictable whims of nature, the only greenery was at the bottom of the crevices between the iron-hard mountains.
Wondering And A Shock
C.J. could see no beauty in the place. Why would Esther May want to come to Arizona for her ranch?
Esther May! The memory jolted C.J. as hard as a calf hitting the end of a rope.
He never held Esther May in an intimate hug, yet he said he loved her. He meant it, too, with tender puppy love.
But he was captivated by Imala. She was an attractive woman, and a part of him ever since that night in the cave.
Not that Esther May wasn’t eye-catching—she was. C.J. recalled specific features: the color of Esther May’s eyes, the shape of her lips, and as he dwelled on the subject, a dull ache settled in his chest.
Back To The Present
The man on horseback was closer. He followed the trail of Taklishim and Imala. C.J. figured the stranger came from Cibecue since that’s where Taklishim lived.
C.J. roused himself and joined Imala. “A rider’s coming. Probably looking for your witch doctor to fix a broken toenail.”
Imala stopped with an armful of brush and glared at C.J. “If you don’t—” She clipped her words, shook her head, and put the branches in place on the wickiup frame.
“Don’t what?” C.J. needed her to keep talking. He’d rather hear her scolding than endure her silence.
An Apache, perhaps a year or two older than C.J., rode into camp. He swung a leg forward over the horse’s neck and jumped down.
“Itza-chu,” Imala whispered.
“Who?” This man wasn’t the messenger boy C.J. expected.
“Great Hawk,” Imala said and took a step back.
C.J. had heard of Apaches who were six feet tall, but he thought the stories were made up. Great Hawk confirmed the rumors.
The chanting from Taklishim’s wickiup continued uninterrupted as Great Hawk grabbed Imala’s arm and jerked her forward.
What did Imala do to get Great Hawk’s attention? What will she do now? Leave your thoughts here.
Here’s an interesting article about Apache life, although I believe it may be a little biased in spots.
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.
Please thank a veteran. The time to do so is precious.
Want the story to ride into your inbox? Click on the picture or here.