APOLOGIES TO ANYONE offended by the use of the term, “Indian,” which of course refers to a people we know in this age as Native Americans. Similar frictional situations are public knowledge. The story depicts known friction between races, it's outlet in one case, and a reflection of what I will term western "justice." I hope the reader will see something else within the story, too, that I will not describe, but look for it.
THE MERCILESS SUN beat down. Jennifer and I lay on our sides at the bottom of a dune. I could feel sweat trickling down my arms and legs under my clothing. Tied hand and foot, duct tape across our mouths, I knew we would quickly dry out and dehydrate. If I couldn’t do something, we were going to die.
Probably high up on peyote, the desert raiders who tied us up left laughing and drove away in our Jeep. Dumped on the ground like sacks of potatoes, we would have given a lot to be anywhere but on blazing hot sand. Obviously, the rebel reservation Indians left us to die. Scream for help? You kidding? Besides the gag, nothing could be alive for miles around. Cruelty knows no bounds. They wanted us to suffer.
Why us? I would like to corner any one of them and ask that question, but right now we had get out of this fix. We couldn’t talk but we could move, squirm and get closer.
Although Jenn’s wrists were tied, her hands and fingers could move. I got an idea. Jenn’s a pretty savvy woman. Why I liked her. Get out of this and I might even marry her. I struggled my way around behind her and got my face up against her tight bound hands.
Making “Mmm…mmm” sounds, she responded by grabbing unsuccessfully for the edge of the tape several times. Finally she got it. When I saw her fingers go tight with the effort of holding on, I twisted my head violently and the tape tore part of the way. “Oww!”
Jenn pulled away slightly, but I said, “No, do it again.”
It came out “Ro, rue it ahen,” but she understood. I waited until she could feel the tape, grab it and hold on tighter. I ripped my head up.
“Oww!” The tape came fully off my mouth but lay attached to the side of my cheek. Now I could talk.
“Jenn, I’m going to work on your ropes. They look tight, but I think I can worry them loose with my teeth.”
I’m twenty-eight and real strong, high school wrestling team and all that, but not enough to overcome the three black-haired men with long braids who’d done this. I could, for a fact, bite hard on the half-inch hemp that held her wrists and I went to work on it. The knots were tighter than I thought. I took considerable time on the king strand, the one I thought would begin to unravel the knot. Jerking my head back and forth until I thought my teeth would come out of my head, I finally felt it loosen a little.
Jenn’s a real trooper. She never complained during the entire time I had to look at her butt while I worked. Pity I couldn’t appreciate it just then. I grabbed a few breaths and let my teeth settle down. They hurt. After a minute, I gripped the rope again, tugging and pulling. Almost free! I sighed when it flopped loose.
“Don’t move yet,” I said, “there’s another one. You could still tighten it on me.”
She made a sound; could have been, “Sorry.”
Looser still, I worked the next strand carefully, thoroughly. Five minutes later I said, “Okay, I think you can worm out of them.”
Jenn tested her bonds and worked one hand out. How fortunate her hands were small and thin boned. Once free, she used a hand to remove the dangling rope. The first thing she did was to rip the tape off her mouth. Her victim status changed; she breathed fire.
Venting done, she worked her feet free and then went to work on my hands and feet. We took five to get circulation back.
As a final thing, I tore the loose tape from my cheek and kicked sand over it. “Thanks honey. Let’s move. We’re still a long way from safe.”
“What’s your plan, Josh?”
“First I’m going to crawl to the top of the dune and make sure they went away.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Get behind me. If they’re gone I’ll try to figure a direction. Cover any exposed part as much as you can. We’ve got to keep our water in.”
“Okay.” She busied herself for a few seconds and said, “Ready.”
I nodded and began climbing. The sand kept slipping under my feet. It nearly exhausted me to reach the top. Jenn noted my trouble and picked a place a few feet to the side so she wouldn’t get into my wash. She climbed slowly, crablike. Like I said, she’s a smart cookie.
Finally we made it to the top and I had to say I would rather have empty desert to cross than to try and deal with those stinking Indians. Which way? I placed the sun without looking directly at it. Like I needed to blind myself, too, right? It had slid considerably off to one side. I did the celestial math, time, season of the year, you know. We had driven out from Yuma after deflating the tires to eight pounds for the sand trek. With the sun over my left shoulder when we left at eight this morning, I knew we’d headed pretty much west. I turned my body and pointed. Dips and turns, civilization must be that way.
How many miles? Who knew? Maybe somebody would be driving out our way and pick us up. I couldn’t wait to report this incident to the Yuma authorities. And the Indian Bureau, for that matter. They still fighting us? What did we do to them? Being white enough? Wasn’t that over a hundred years ago? What’re they, sore losers?
I railed for a time until I realized if we didn’t start moving, our day would get a whole lot sorrier.
Jenn steps flagged. I stumbled, my feet like lead. No help for it. I recognized the symptoms. Night came on. I stayed wary. Fool me once, not again. We walked into the night. Our rest stops got more frequent. Jenn got quiet early.
“You all right?” I asked her.
“Saving my breath.” I gave her thumbs up.
Got cold. Too hot and then too cold. No cougars anyway. I figured they’d be up in the mountains.
We’re both at about our limit when I see lights coming across the desert. Three vehicles. Couldn’t be the renegades. I find energy somewhere inside. I climb out of my shirt and wave it for all I'm worth. The headlights cut across us a pretty long way out. I yell. My voice cracks. They’re not going to see us. Jenn drops to the ground, dejected.
They start to go in another direction, but then they cut back and head our way. Sweet rescue. It’s a posse and they’re looking for us. The sheriff gets out and in that southwestern drawl I like says, “You folks look dried out. Have some water.”
I take the two liter plastic bottle, open it and hand it to Jennifer.
“Take a drink and pass the bottle,” I say. Ladies before gents, after all.
Well, we get the story from the Sheriff. “Seems there’s a maverick bunch jumped the reservation and showed up in town with a new Jeep it was clear didn’t belong to them. We pieced it together, went to see the Chief and since he didn’t want any trouble, he identified the varmints and we collared them. They were drunk as skunks by then. We got them to talk and then provided Yuma hospitality for the three of them in our air-conditioned quarters. They’ll sit there for a time and then we’ll send them back and the Chief will take up where we left off. Your Jeep needs gas, but it’s fine otherwise. Sorry for your trouble. Let’s get you in and have you checked out.”
“Disorderly. Theft of vehicle. You got more if you want it.”
I thought about it. We’re alive. We wanted adventure. We got it.
“You’re call, Josh.”
“No chance I could meet up with them one at a time, is there, Sheriff?” I asked.
He looked me over and said, “I reckon you’d do well for yourself, but I think you’d better just chalk it up to the old Wild West.”
“The Chief will make them understand?”
“You bet he will!”
I look over at Jenn, who had recovered considerably and looked pretty again.
“Well, guess I’ll just write about it, then.”
Believe I will marry this gal.