The Stillness of Waiting

the mesaNothing moved between the sagebrush and ocotillo below him. Now and then a ripple of wind scattered across the brush but any animal venturing out in the heat of the day was too small at this distance for even his sharp eyes.

The sand was hot under his belly as he lay under a creosote bush at the edge of the mesa. Unarmed, because it was not his task to attack or defend, only to watch and report. Three small, smooth stones in his mouth kept his tongue moist with saliva. Should he have to signal his brothers farther north on the trail, his lips and tongue would have to be ready. A dry tongue made ineffective sounds.

He had lain in wait for three days, eating nothing but an occasional handful of pemmican, sipping frugally from a small water bottle. He needed water as much as the next person, but the stillness of waiting allowed him to control his desires until his task was complete.

There. To the south. A rider, out in the center of the valley between this mesa and the far away higher ground where his people were camped.

No. Not a rider.

Two riders.

This was not what his mother’s brother’s son had told them to expect. He had told them of one rider, not two.

This changed things. It was not his place to say how, but he knew his report would incite hurried discussion among his usually staid elders.

The two riders moved slowly. Slowly, but not cautiously.

He slid backward, then down into the narrow cut near the edge of the mesa. He scrambled silently north toward the place his signal would be heard by his brothers yet go unnoticed by the riders below.

The riders. Not one rider. Two.

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