Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thirty Two

Curious as to why a stranger would offer her any favors, Diana followed the woman through the labyrinth of huts. Thin women in rags paused in open doorways and naked children stopped playing in the dust as she passed. Diana looked around uneasily. Was this some sort of trap? Did the old woman work for a gang of thieves or worse?

The baby kicked, bringing Diana back to reality. A pregnant traveler dressed plainly as she was, wasn’t an attractive target. Most likely the old woman was just what she appeared to be—a kind person who had seen more than her share of trouble.

When she arrived at the plywood and cardboard hovel the woman called home, there were bottles of clear water to be had, and Diana drank gratefully. “It’s sweet,” she said.

“That’s because it’s pure.”

After she had drank her fill, the woman asked if she would like to stay the night. “I don’t have much to offer, but you’ll be safe.”

“Thank you, but I’m with friends. I’m not worried about my safety.”

“How many friends? They would be welcome, too.”

Diana got Will, Macy and Coyote, and they helped the old woman with chores and repairs in return for a meal of cornmeal cakes and summer vegetables, and a place to sleep on the floor. In the morning the woman made an atole for them and filled their canteens with her sun-distilled water. As they left, she slipped something into Diana’s hand and closed her fingers over it so she wouldn’t look. “Be strong,” she told her. “The world is a mean place, but it’s especially cruel to the weak.”

Diana nodded and pretended to understand. Once they were on their way again, she looked at what the woman had given her. It was a polished piece of amber, and trapped inside was a tiny insect, wings splayed in frozen flight. It annoyed her, although she couldn't have said exactly why, and she made to throw it away. But remembering it might have value as something to trade for food and shelter, she slipped it into her pocket.

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

Interesting. Does the old lady see something we don't? She's not in a good place, but I don't see Diana as trapped or week.