Safety and Danger — Day 5

7 03 2007

 

Damascus plods along the Owl Creek Road with Pigeon on his back. I walk along side of him, sometimes skipping a bit, sometimes singing a few lines of a ditty. Although Damascus warns me my gallivanting will use energy I will be wanting later, I cannot not help but show my excitement traveling on Owl Creek Road. On my way to where, I cannot imagine, but I know there is a mine ahead and I’m sure it will provide adventure. Well, I’ve never been one to shirk from a little sport, and I am in the most pleasant of companies, so I am happy. But after we walk hour after hour, with no end in sight, I begin to question my donkey’s wisdom..

“Damascus, where is this creek? After all, this road is Owl Creek Road. Surely there’s a creek. My canteen is empty and I’m getting quite thirsty. Hungry, too.” After an afternoon of walking, I am uncomfortable and a little whiny. The road covers me with a heavy layer of dust, and I also swallow my share. My mouth is so dry, I can hardly force my words out.

“Be patient, Dear. I was warned you travelers are an impatient bunch, and that’s truly true. The creek is several miles yet. A sharp curve towards the mountains and then we will travel along the cooling water. Then you can drink until your body and spirit are quenched and I shall greedily join you. Do you not think beasts of burden thirst and become uncomfortable, yet I try not to complain? And have you noticed that Pigeon has been gone quite awhile? It would be wise for you to pay attention to your surroundings instead of dancing about. As for Pigeon, I daresay he has already partaken of his share of liquid refreshment.”

I become quiet. Damascus is right, of course. He is right most of the time, I discover. It is good that I try to pay more attention to his words. Words from Donkeys are surely of a magical nature.

“I am sorry, Damascus. I suppose my human-ness is showing.”

“Why, Dear, do not fret. Do you not yet know a Donkey’s patience is seldom tested? Now look up ahead and celebrate a bit if you must. Here is the curve in the road. See the stream; it is ahead.”

I must admit I half-run to the flowing waters. It races clear and cool, passing over small rocks and sandy flats. I pull off my shoes without further thought and wade into the sand. Scooping water with my hands, I assuage my thirst and splash my face and arms. Damascus joins me, stepping into a rocky portion of the creek, slurping water and spraying it upon my clothing.

“Stop. Stop. You are acting like a wild animal.” I laugh at his antics. I think he is laughing, too, but remember it is hard to read a donkey’s facial expressions. He is braying though, and that seems to indicate he is pleased. I spot Pigeon bathing in a shallow pool.

“Pigeon, where have you been? I have hardly seen you this entire day. You must stay with us for it is now dusk and our dinner can’t be far away.” I try not to let my worry show.

“Do you not know my job in this foreign land?” he cooed. “I am the look-out, watching the road for the least sign of danger. Do you think I am flying about on a lark?” Pigeon sounds indignant, as he may very well be. He is right. I do not notice what I should.

For the second time in as many hours, I find myself apologizing to one of my companions. I hang my head down; I want to cover my face and cry. “Sorry,” I say. Of course you are doing me a great service.”

“You better believe it, Dear. Now look ahead. Lights twinkling from a window. We have come to our place of rest. You rely on Damascus and me, we will care for you as if you were a helpless babe, crying in your cradle.”

Now chagrined at my lecture from Pigeon, I refuse to speak until we arrive at the house. Before I open the rose covered gate, the door to the cottage opens and an enormous man stands in its interior’s illumination. He steps forward, and I see an sparkling grin on his whiskered face. His frame fills the entire entrance.

“Welcome. Welcome. Damascus said we would have company tonight.” He waves a hand and belly-laughs.

I slip Damascus a surprised look. This donkey is worth more than I first figured. Here I thought I would be caring for him, and it is I who am being cared for. Just then Pigeon lands on my shoulder. I stroke his feathers and he ruffles himself. I am lucky to be in the company of my two friends.

I turn my attention to my host. “Why, thank you. I do admit we are tired and hungry. Damascus said we should stop at your home. I hope we are not causing trouble.”

“Trouble? Heavens no. We have dinner and a soft bed prepared for you and accommodations for Damascus and your bird friend. Rosa has a tub of steaming water for you to bathe in and dinner is nearly ready. I shall feed and bed down Damascus and I believe I have seed here for your bird. Go on in.”

“But I don’t even know who you are,” I say, hesitating at his invitation.

Damascus rolls his eyes and hummfs at me. Under his breathe he mumbles. “I never got a proper introduction from Dear until Pigeon stepped in, and now she questions my good friend! What manners do these travelers have?”

I hear Damascus and blush with embarassment. “I am Barbara, although my new friends call me Dear. I am pleased to stop at your home.”

“And I’m Tom Tubby. Pleased to meet you, Dear. Now up and in over the threshold. Rosa is most eager to have some woman-talk.”

Damascus whispers to Tom Tubby and Pigeon hovers over the two of them. I slow my walk so I can hear too. “Any trouble lately? You both doing okay?”

“No. It’s been quiet and I hope it stays that way while we have a guest. Our dogs are out and about. Jess and Jobie will set up a ruckus if they come anywhere near.” Pigeon looks over at me, hesitating on the stoop. “Big ears,” he says, so they break up their meeting and get to the evening chores.

I wash up and change into fresh clothes while Rosa takes my dusty shirt and pants and soaks them in a pan in the sink. I bring my sketchpad and pencils into the kitchen. “Can I help you do anything or would you mind if I sketch a bit and write a few words? I want to remember everything.” As if I would forget, I think to myself.

“Go right ahead, Dear. I gather we’ll hear your stories over supper, and a treat that will be. All these days passing, with only a man to talk to. Gets a frightful bit lonesome, though don’t take that as complaining. I love my Tom Tubby.”

She scrubs my clothing with lye in a pan of water. “I usually use the creek for washing, but it’s not always safest outside. The dark brings out all manner of creatures. You never mind though. Our home is cozy and safe. Now go ahead and do a bit of writing. Your clothes will be fresh in the morning.”

Quite awhile later, Tom Tubby squeezes himself through the door. “Let’s dish that stew up and pile that cornbread on the platter. Why, Rosa, it all smells so grand.” He rubbed his belly and turned to me with a big grin.

“My Rosa is the best cook along side the whole of Owl Creek,” he boasted. “And Rosa, Damascus says our traveler has had herself an exciting time since entering Lemuria. We’re sure to hear a good tale tonight.”

The couple and I exchange pleasantries over the hearty food, and then the real conversation begins. I tell them of the day’s happenings. They cluck and tsk over my story of the anchor and I feel embarrassed for a second. Then they say how fortunate I was to have the tiny anchor, and they think that everyone from the Old Place would be well to have one while in Lemuria. They do not know of le Enchanteur’s parting gifts.

After the hearty supper, Rosa scoots me off to bed. I lie awake in the comfort of the feather bed, piles of quilts covering me, and think over the day’s events. I am drifting into my dreams when I am yanked fully awake by a spooky howl. The howling is not in the distance; it is too nearby to feel comfortable. The dogs begin barking, and I hear shouts downstairs and a door slam.

“Rosa,” I call as I clatter down the steps. “What is happening?”

She is looking out the only window in the cottage which faces the barn, dressed in her nightgown with a quilt thrown over her shoulders. “Why not go up and climb back into bed, Dear? Tom Tubby can handle everything.” She turns away from me and peers closely out the glass. Again I hear the piercing howls. Again it is nearby. I find myself unable to leave Rosa; I look out the window, too.

“Ah-ooo! Ah-ooo!” I see dark shadows nearing the fence which surrounds the yard. It is only a picket fence and provides decoration, not safety. “Hee-haw! Hee-haw!” Now Damascus is braying from inside the barn. I see Pigeon no where in sight, but surely he is safe from whatever travels on the ground. His wings carry him far from danger.

“Not to worry, Dear. Tom Tubby has a gun. He protects us when the wolves attack.” My heart does a double beat as I hear a gun fire. Then several more shots ring through the air. Tom Tubby is yelling, but I can’t make out the words. Minutes seem like hours, but finally the door latch turns and Tom Tubby lumbers through the door.

“They’re gone, Rosa and Dear. Gone for now. I’m afraid they were after Damascus, but we fought them together. Your donkey is safe enough.”

“You both fought them? How is that possible?”

“Why, Damascus does a sort of kick-boxing. Didn’t you know? All the companions of travelers are trained in the arts of protection. You couldn’t ask for a braver donkey. Afraid he’s got a bit of a wound on his leg, though.”

“Damascus is hurt?” I start for the door, but he holds me back.

“Now worry does one no good, so let’s not think the worst,” Tom Tubby gently reprimanded. “Rosa, I’d like to bring Damascus into the cottage to care for him. He’s a gentle animal and will cause you no trouble. He’ll be safer in here if the wolves attack again. He can’t protect himself as he is.”

I held my breath, waiting for her reply. Would Rosa let a donkey inside their home?

“Of course Damascus is welcome. Let me get the spare blankets so he can lie down comfortably. Dear, help me move the table and chairs against the wall so there’ll be room.”

Tom Tubby and I went out and half-carried Damascus into the warm room. Damascus could barely put weight on his foreleg. We gently placed him on the pallet. My heart sank when I saw his injuries, but perhaps when the wound was cleaned, it would look better. My friend, Damascus, was hurt and I no longer had my donkey to accompany me on my journey. I burst into tears. Not only was I heart-broken, I was also terribly afraid.

 

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