Three days of rough riding on a sometimes barely visible wagon trail were happy ones for Esther May. Her wagon driver, Blas, pointed to objects: rocks, trees, horses, anything that caught his eye and gave their Spanish names.
From time-to-time, Abuela would repeat the word in her native Apache dialect.
Esther May tried the words of both languages, often to the laughter of Blas.
Even Abuela smiled as the young woman butchered the rolling r’s.
Another source of contentment for Esther May was seeing the old Indian woman becoming comfortable in their presence. After the Apache boy stuck an arrow in Blas’ leg, Esther May had concerns about Abuela’s intentions.
Was she planning on leading the Indian children in another attack to gain the wagon, or was Abuela merely helping them out of pity?
It had to be pity. At every evening camp, Abuela would leave bread or salted meat tied to a low limb or on the top of a bush.
Blas explained that the old woman thought the two kids were still following, and the little bit of food would help them survive another day.
Feeling The Pain
The next morning, Blas moved in a stiff, one-legged step. He kept his tongue and offered no Spanish lessons. Mid-morning he drew the wagon to a halt.
The trail widened and flattened and the mountain opened to show a valley in front.
There It Is
“Arizona,” Blas said. A sheen of sweat glistened on his face.
Abuela looked behind. “They will follow no more.”
Esther May felt her pulse thrill to a quickened beat. “Arizona! Now all we have to do is find the right place. Why are you two so sad?”
“Senorita,” Blas said, “I need to stop to rest the mula.”
“What? That mule’s still good, and the land is downhill and easy.” Esther May wanted to set the spurs to her gelding. “Let’s keep going.”
Blas’ left leg seemed immobile as he stumbled off the wagon and dragged it to the creek where he collapsed. Using his hand as a ladle, he scooped water over his head and neck.
Abuela followed him and spoke in rapid Spanish. [You are sick.]
Blas had the ruddy heat of fever glowing on his tan skin. [Something I ate.]
[Only if your stomach is in your leg. Let me see the arrow mark.]
Esther May saw and heard enough to understand the general situation. “Blas, you’ve been riding on that wound. Is it infected?”
Abuela squatted beside the prone driver. [I’ve seen many behinds. Apache men barely cover them.]
[I’m not an Apache.]
[If the evil spirit is not cut out, you’ll be a dead Mexican.]
“Un momento, senorita,” Blas said. “Let me cool off a little, and then I’ll be fine.”
The Clock Winds Down
An hour later, Blas was in and out of delirium.
The next day, Esther May and Abuela kept a wet cloth on the fevered Blas’ forehead as he jerked and tossed on his blanket.
That night, he settled into a long, quiet sleep.
Goodbye Old Friend
Esther May handed Abuela the reins and with clicking noises and sign language showed the Apache woman how to drive the mule.
Mounting her gelding, Esther May squinted at the mound of freshly turned earth. “Did we bury him in New Mexico or Arizona Territory?”
What will Esther May and Abuela do now? Leave your thoughts here.
What happened to Blas? Sepsis. Read about it here.
Here’s a little more about what sepsis does.
To read the series, click on the down arrow in the Archive list, start with Tales Old Roy Told and work up.
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