The Metal Bowl
It was the voice of the untreated sickness in her head that had us convinced she was the midwife, the prophet.
She was our salvation in a world conspiring to take our children away. She was the woman with multiple names and a dozen more roles. This day, as the tiny blood-soaked rocks hit the metal bowl, she was the doctor. I felt her needle nose pliers dig deep into the gnarled folds of skin and hair, the hot extraction of rock and infection from my partially scalped head.
Through the slits of my swollen eyelids, I saw a glint of my brother’s long hair fly past the window and disappear in a mischievous blur. I didn’t need to see where he went to know what he was doing. His rapid movements and wicked laugh painted the rest of the scene outside the walls.
I knew the pack of javelinas would be resting under the apple tree in their usual gluttonous fashion, getting drunk off rotten fruit scattered in the yard. I saw my brother’s tiny body contorted in a bush just out of the pigs’ sight, waiting for the right moment to assault the enemy beasts with the stray apples. He never got more than two hits in when the pack would come rushing at him with murderous intent.
I would be out there too, screaming and dodging death if not for my wounds. It had been a week, but I still couldn’t walk. My knees and face had taken most of the impact on the dirt road. When I’d flown out of the truck bed and onto the gravel road, it had felt like my body had rubbed across a giant cheese grater, stripping my flesh with unforgiving ease.
It was nobody’s fault.
Just a case of poor circumstance.
We’d chosen the wrong day to hitchhike. The old truck they picked us up in hid the secret of its faulty brakes until it reached the top of the most treacherous of winding mountain roads. When the dust settled and bodies were accounted for, it was the fear in my mother’s voice that convinced us to make a getaway before the ambulance could come.
Her sickness painted stories of evil-doers disguised as government workers. Her hushed warnings to muffle my groans were far louder than the sirens approaching and leaving. She cradled my crumpled body in her arms as we hid in a steep ravine in the thick California brush.
Seven days of hot ‘healing’ baths and prayers failed to heal my wounds.
Cool comfrey cloths and home remedies on my raw flesh had no power against the deep infection brewing in the dermal folds of my forehead.
The pliers dug deeper as I gripped the chair seat hard. Another ping resounded as a pebble dropped into the metal bowl. The pain brought me outside of my body and delivered me back to the dripping summer days of chasing wild pigs and shooting pretend bows at majestic peacocks. I soared above my own body, shaking and weak. Away from the pain and into a summer breeze winding through the Chiricahua Mountains, smelling of honey and blooming chamomile.
* * *