“Linwood? That you, Linwood?”
Linwood turned slowly. No, it wasn’t Father, and the accent – not an accent that belonged to the Canyon, but one he’d heard, and knew. He tried to dredge up a memory, but his mind stubbornly twisted everything, back to the Canyon, and his young wife, waiting at home – waiting for him …
“Linwood? Are you all right? Come and see the new foal Pequita dropped, just yesterday.”
The words were as half-familiar to him as the air, or the sound of the water. As Water Whispers sleeping – but how could she be sleeping, when her chest neither rose nor fell?
Linwood shook his head, to clear it, or to deny the shadowy memory, or maybe both.
He looked at the small, dark, wiry man, wizened with great age. He seemed somehow familiar, and yet not. Everything was half-known; nothing was as it should be.
He walked on – or shuffled. He could not make his legs and feet move – but was he not the finest dancer in all the Southwest, leaping higher and spinning faster than any other? Was that not how he had first wooed Water Whispers, and then, while the afternoon ripened, hadn’t he taken her to a hidden side canyon, behind a sheltering wall of tumbled boulders? Had they not lain together upon a huge, sun-warmed rock until the stars looked down on them from above?
He was looking for flowers – or the water. He wasn’t sure which.
Why wasn’t her chest moving, when he’d left her? Why was her hair silver, and not the deep blue black, smelling of sunshine and desert air, that he loved to bury his face in each night?
Linwood decided not to think about it. No. He would gather flowers for Water Whispers, and visit the pools. And, when he went home, he would give her them to her, and she would put them in a clay jar on the sandstone table. They would walk together to bathe and splash in the turquoise pools, and her hair would be gleaming in the sun, and he would leap and spin and dance for her, before they walked to the side canyon, and the sun-warmed rock.
Linwood walked on, losing himself in the dream, but, beneath it, was the vision of his wife lying in their bed, still as the rock cliffs, chill as the night air.
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