Pain. Not quite unbearable pain. It’s lancing straight to my spine and up into my chest. Restin’s been quite difficult over the last few days, but I’ll take it over the alternative. It’s almost as frightening as the thought of those disgusting insects. What’d the shaman call them…huskers? Thank the Almighty, whatever name you call him, I’m layin’ here in agony now, though. The thought of servin’ as a nest for that disgusting critter gives me the shivers. I may not yet know much about the widdah’ or Munroe, or hell, about the shaman, but I’ll tell ya one thing, they’re the only reason I’m a-layin’ here right now instead of havin’ a dirt nap. [Shudders] The journey from that cold, dark cave to Watertown is a blur. I do recall the slow small smile Mrs Chapman gave when the surgeon in Watertown pronounced her excise a sure job—I reckon she’s gotten herself outta more dire scrapes than that, by God! I’ll be glad when this mess heals up though. Doc gave me some laudanum since the muscle’s been a bit cut up and it weren’t just skin that bug removal damaged, but damned if I’m gonna start wantin’ laudanum all the time—that poppy juice has been the undoin’ of more’n one careless gal. The smell of that little brown bottle when the sawbones uncorked it was godawful but when it hit my nose I had the strangest memory of my papa—I’d forgotten about this completely.
I recall about three years ago Papa came back from one of his long absences with a healin’ slice on his back, right over one of the shoulder blades. He had a little brown bottle with him too and I remember that same scent as he went through his travelin’ sack and found it at the bottom and brought it out. He had this scowl on his face. Papa’s generally a gentle man, I mean, he’ll fight if there’s a need but he always talks it out first and usually doesn’t show much in the way of his feelins’ on his face, but that scowl! Lord ‘a’ mercy! He tramped right out to the back porch, opened that bottle and upended it over the dirt. Said he didn’t even want to pour it over a blade o’ grass, it was that nasty. Seems he’d met a lady on one of the reservations, half Tsalagi, and they’d developed a tendresse, so to speak. Well, one of the fellows who lived in her village took exception to my papa over near about everything he did there, according to my papa, and this was no different. They had a bit of an altercation and it ended with the fellow’s obsidian knife point broken off in Papa’s back—I can’t recall what Papa said happened to the other man, but it can’t have been anything too terrible or I’m sure I’d remember. The woman cleaned up my papa and the village wise man patched up the spirits but later on one of the white doctors had come through and pressed that stuff on him, insistin’ he’d be glad of it. Papa muttered somethin’ about the white man and a happy captive; he’s never taken a kind view of white people’s goals.
Anyway, I’ve seen a few things here and there in his travelin’ sack when he returns that tell me he must be gettin’ on just fine with the woman still. I can’t imagine what kind a’ situation she must have where she’s fine with his irregular visits, but they been carryin’ on since then—not that Papa tells me much about her. Come to think of it, I sure would like it if he’d bring her around, be nice to have another female around the place. Reckon she don’t wanna leave her kin—I can sympathize with that.
But, the look on his face as he dumped that poppy concoction, that left a lasting impression. He still wears that chipped-off point on a thong around his neck—that was when he gave me his necklace with the lumpy, shaped-gold nugget from his family that he’d always worn. Said the spirits didn’t like more than one rock around a man’s neck at one time, somethin’ about bein’ able to identify a soul in its body. Now that, that I have worn since the day he gave it; makes me feel connected to my Tsalagi grandparents. Papa’s told me so many stories from the old times, passed from them. You know, Papa actually mentioned those huskers, not by that name, to me when I was a little girl, but I thought he was teasin’ or that it was one of his tribe’s allegories—it never occurred to me a bug could look like that and damage a body in such a way. Whew, it really took the wind outta my sails for a few days. I’m not sure how I’m gonna repay those three, but no one better say ‘boo’ to any of ‘em or they’ll be lookin’ down the barrel of my Colt and that’s God’s honest truth.
Phew, I’m tuckered. I might catch a bit ‘a shut eye.