Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

the child, sixty-two


It was Stone.

'Oh!' said Starr. 'How's Forest?'

'Chafing.'

'Excuse me?'

Stone chuckled. 'I mean that Forest is ready to take off hopping on one leg all the way to the dungeons, and leave the rest of us behind in his dust. And the boy can't understand why James is having us make camp so early in the day. You know,' he added seriously, 'we're going to be here for a long time, until Forest's leg heals up.'

Starr nodded soberly. She had been upset at having to go around the mountain once again. But now she wondered which was worse - going nowhere by circling the mountain again and again, or going nowhere by, well, going nowhere?

'About to make supper already?' Stone asked, nodding at the cooking pot she was just picking up.

'No,' she replied, and explained briefly about how much water Malachi had said they would need to cleanse Joy's many wounds.

'You can have mine then,' Stone volunteered, unslinging his canteen and passing it over. 'In fact,' he added, and he emptied the water into the pot, 'let me take the canteens and go look for a stream, while you go back and help Mal take care of Joy.'

'Will you?' Starr beamed. 'It's not that I didn't want to go look for more water. I just want to get back to Joy."

Emptying more canteens from the pile into the cooking pot, Stone gathered up the empties and said, 'No problem. Be back soon.' And he set off, heading deeper into this small valley, his long legs carrying him over the ground in an easy, distance-eating pace.

Quickly Starr returned with the water to the women's tent - to find an argument in full boil within.

Lucy and Linda, of course. It wasn't enough that they had squabbled over who got to spread the blanket for Joy to lie on; now that they had finally arrived in the tent to find the injured girl already lying on a blanket, they had begun to fling accusations at one another over who had snuck the other blanket in here.

Hugging the pot of water protectively, Starr sidled past the angry women and passed the pot to Malachi. A glance at Joy showed just how badly the noise of the fight was affecting the wounded girl. 'Do you want me to get them out of the tent?' Starr asked.

'Do you think you can get them out?' Malachi asked in reply.

'Umm - I don't know. I could try, I guess.'

'Here.' The angel pressed a cool cloth into Starr's hand, and stood and went to the arguers. To Starr's amazement, he spoke but a few words, and the two quieted, then left the tent entirely. Once they were outside, though, the sound of fighting started up again. But then quickly moved away.

Starr dabbed at a long ugly scrape down Joy's arm. 'How did you do that?' she asked Malachi admiringly.

'I asked them to find me a certain small plant that has medicinal qualities.'

'And if they find it, it will soothe Joy's wounds?'

'Whether they find it or not, the time they spend searching for it will soothe Joy's ears. And ours.'

Starr gaped at the angel. 'You sent them on a wild goose chase?'

'Not exactly. I sent them on a wild geranium hunt. And if they find the plant, I will be pleased. And if they do not - at least we will have had some peace and quiet in their absence.'

'I'm so tired of their arguing,' said Joy as both Malachi and Starr gently bathed the wounds on her arms. 'Isn't there any way to get them to stop?'

'There is,' Malachi replied, looking at Starr's face. 'But the question is, will either of them ever open her heart to hear it?'

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