Monday, May 16, 2005

 

the child, sixty-one


It looked, strangely, like a game of tug-of-war, with Forest's leg for the rope. Stone was anchoring the boy, holding him under his armpits, while James was wrenching on the boy's leg with all his might.

'What are they doing?' Starr exclaimed.

'They are setting Forest's leg,' Malachi replied calmly from behind her.

'That's what setting a leg looks like?' she asked. 'But why are they pulling him like that?'

Malachi brought both hands up in front of himself, his hands rolled loosely into fists, the knuckles end to end. 'When Forest leg broke,' he said, 'the two sides of the break did this,' and he pressed the knuckles together till one fist slipped off and landed side-by-side with the other. 'So that his leg does not heal like that, healing weak and short, they must pull,' and he strained his arms, as if they were being pulled like the boy's leg, 'until the two ends lie together properly again.' And suddenly his fists popped over, knuckle to knuckle again.

'Why is it so hard to pull the bones back right again?' she asked.

'Because the muscles surrounding the bone are strong, and are pulling the other way.'

The awful choked screaming cut off suddenly, and Starr saw all three of them - James, Stone, and Forest - relax. James set to work splinting the boy's leg with the poles then, and Starr and Malachi turned away to see about Joy.

Poor girl - she really was a mess. Starr had such tremendous sympathy for Joy! Stone had been right; the scraping her own leg had taken had been nothing compared to what could have happened - and what could have happened is what had now in fact happened to Joy.

'What do we do?' Starr asked Malachi.

He had knelt and brought out some cloth and was now wetting the cloth with water from his canteen. 'All her wounds will need to be washed. And this much water,' he shook the canteen, 'will not be nearly enough.'

'You can have mine,' Starr said immediately.

'Thank you,' Malachi responded, 'but that will not be enough either. We will need four or five canteens of water, at least.'

'All right,' Starr said, thinking rapidly. 'I know. I'll go get the cooking pot, and collect all the canteens I can. Then we can pour the water into the pot for you, and I'll go find a stream to refill the canteens.'

'I would rather have you to help me with Joy,' said Malachi. 'But go and bring the pot and the water. We can ask someone else to find the stream.'

She nodded and went out. As she hurried to the place in the middle of the camp where most of the group had piled their backpacks and canteens while they got the tents up, she noticed Stone and James supporting Forest as they walked the boy to the men's tent that was now ready for them. Two tents up, and how would they set up the angels' tent with one pole missing? she wondered. But then she was busy finding the cooking pot among the backpacks, and forgot everything else.

'What are you doing, Starr?'

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