I guess I should’ve anticipated disaster when Marisa’s cousin brought the donkey cart early this morning and then decided to stay and “help” us. We didn’t want him knowing our true plans, so Marisa had to quickly make up my face and put me to bed so Emilio would believe our story that I was still very sick and needed to be taken to my imaginary relatives near Cobre.
Since I was stuck in bed pretending to be dying, that left Marisa on her own to pack in the wagon. The busybody cousin wanted to help, and as a result not everything we needed for the execution of our plan got packed, and a lot of stuff we don’t need, did.
Then Emilio got suspicious when he helped the doctor put me in the cart and noticed I wasn’t running a fever. Dr. Ruston gave a very scientific-sounding explanation, but I don’t think Emilio believed it. He went with us as far as the outer ring of burnt-over suburbs and we feared he was going to insist on going with us the rest of the way to Cobre, but thankfully he had other commitments and finally left us to continue in peace.
Now that I didn’t have to pretend to be at death’s door, I could sit up and look at the surrounding countryside. I checked our map, scanned the roads for signs of other travelers, and tried to get a sense of what kind of hazards we might encounter as we continued into the mountains.
We didn’t have long to wait because one of the donkeys threw a shoe. Luckily Marisa’s cousin was a practical sort and had packed everything we needed to re-shoe him, but it meant a delay while the doctor and I struggled with that ornery animal in the freezing mud.
Then just as we were getting back on the road, it started snowing again. The wind whipped up and drove powder and fine crystals into our hair, faces, and the folds of our clothes. I wanted to sit up on the wagon seat with Marisa, but the doctor ordered me into the cart, under the blankets, and pulled the tarp over me. I was now safe from the elements, but that left Marisa and the doctor to figure things out on their own. Visibility dropped, they missed our turn in the bad weather, we had to backtrack and were further delayed.
The wind grew worse, the snow coming down harder. The tarp began sagging under the weight of the accumulated snow, and John and Marisa’s clothes crusted over with ice. Marisa grew careless, or maybe she just couldn’t see, but the wagon bumped and bounced horribly, knocking my head into the baseboards and tipping supplies onto to me. Finally the donkeys stopped altogether, too cold and too sensible to continue on.
I pushed back the tarp and found Flecha at the side of the wagon, her head drooping. The doctor was talking to Marisa as they both shivered in their frozen clothes. I got out of the wagon and looked around. Although the snow was letting up, the sun was starting to go down and we were still miles from where we needed to be.
“I guess you didn’t see any place we could take shelter?” I asked.
I took their shivering as a no. They needed to get warmed up before hypothermia set in. We couldn’t build a fire in the snow and after several minutes of rummaging in the wagon, we realized that Marisa and her cousin had somehow overlooked packing a shovel.
Dr. Ruston decided that Marisa was worse off than he was, so while she huddled in the wagon under the tarp, trying to get warm, the doctor and I made a place for a fire by kicking snow away and scraping at the ground with spoons and cooking utensils. Then we went looking for firewood, most of which was too damp to do anything more than smolder, but at last we managed to get a fire going. I set the grate over it so we could heat water for tea and food, and then I collected rocks to warm and put in the wagon, which would have to shelter all three of us for the night.
“What about the animals?” the doctor asked.
Flecha and the two donkeys stood close together, heads hanging low. “If we have all our tarps, we can build them a shelter,” I said.
We were short on tarps.
Marisa huddled close to the fire. “This is all my fault. I shouldn’t have let Emilio help pack. He confused me and got so suspicious.”
The doctor and I reassured her that everything would be okay, and not to worry. We would make do. But I wasn’t confident in my words and my only consolation was that if the weather was causing us problems, it was causing trouble for everyone else going to Cobre.
Once we warmed up and had a little to eat, I brought out the maps and looked them over. The doctor and Marisa tried to determine our location, since I had no idea after riding most of the day under the tarp. When they finally pointed to the spot where we were, I thought I would cry. There was no way we were going to intercept Robert. We were too far away, the donkeys were too slow, and with all the snow on the ground and the worst stretch of road still ahead of us. . .
I excused myself and went into the bushes to be sick. If this plot was real, I didn't see how we could save Robert now.
When I returned to the campfire, Dr. Ruston and Marisa wanted to talk some more, but I didn’t have the heart for it. “It’s late, we’re tired, and we’re running low on dry wood. We should get some rest.”
We settled into the wagon bed with our hot stones and blankets, the tarp pulled loosely over us. It was cozy, but crowded. As soon as they had fallen asleep, I slipped out and brought one of my blankets to drape over Flecha. I stood with her for a long time patting her neck and leaning against her, thinking. I couldn’t just give up. One bad day didn’t mean a plan was ruined, only that the plan had to change. But unless those stupid donkeys could grow wings and fly. . .
I sat down by the dying embers of the fire, stirred them up and added a couple small branches. I’ve lived my whole life by either taking orders or gambling on my luck. I need to get better at using my head, and I need to do it fast.
◄ Previous Entry
Next Entry ►