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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 7 - Aloe


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 7


I was awakened the next morning by the sound of the dog's growl. There was Sheba with our breakfast in her mouth. "Hello, Sheba," I sat up, wincing with pain. I did not know what hurt worse, my leg or my sunburn. I looked at the red bodies of my family, and I knew that they, too, would wake up in pain, but I was helpless. I managed to get to my feet and out to the patio where the dog stood, still holding a freshly killed animal. "C'mere, Sheba. Bring it to me." She cocked her head, as though she were remembering something from her distant past, but did not move or drop her kill. "Aren't you going to let me have it, this morning, Sheba?" I asked. "C'mon over here and let's get acquainted. Come, Sheba. C'mon. You didn't have to bring us meat this morning. We still have plenty from last night, and you didn't even stay around long enough for me to thank you." I took a step toward her with my hand stretched out to her, but a low growl stopped me. "I guess you're not ready, yet. I'll wait until you are. I'm sure glad you're here. I wouldn't be able to feed the family without you." I moved away to the fire rock, and began laying the kindling for a fire. The sun was still behind the jungle in the eastern sky. It was too early to start the fire with the glass, but I found some coals in the cave. Sheba continued to watch me until I returned to the patio; then she gave a low bark, dropped the meat, and trotted into the cave wagging her white tipped tail.

I lay down in the cold water for a few minutes. It felt good to my burning body. I wanted to stay there all day, but I had an animal to dress. I was really sorry she had brought it, but if I did not take care of it, she might not bring any more.

After I dressed the meat, I awoke the others. "Get up now. You can take a nap later, if you want too. We'll have to stay in the cave most of the day."

"Why," Jamie asked.

"Look at yourself. Aren't you sore?" Sarah touched his shoulder lightly. "I am."

"We can go out in the early mornings, but during the middle of the day we all have to stay in the cave," I informed them.

"We need to put the meat out to dry, and somebody will have to keep the birds and animals away," Sarah remembered.

"We'll take turns." I hung breakfast over the fire on the spit. "Whoever is out in the sun will have to wear the tee shirt. C'mon. Get up, and I'll slice the meat so it will dry."

There was a lot of whining and crying about sunburn. The bruises and scrapes were still there, but they were getting better, and we were used to them. The sunburn was something new.

By the time I began feeling the heat of the sun on my burn, we had finished breakfast; the meat sliced and laying on the rocks and ledge; and birds were already beginning their raids. It would take constant attention if we were to have any for ourselves.

I put the tee shirt on, planning to take the first watch, and was about to tell the others to go into the cave when Julie said, "Sarah, I need some of that stuff Momma put on me when I got sunburned last summer."

“What stuff?" Sarah asked.

"You know--that leaf from her plant. It made me feel better."

"She means that Aloe something plant," Debbie reminded her.

"You know we don't have any of that." Sarah remembered her mother's Aloe Vera plant at home.

"Yes, we do! Out there." Julie pointed toward the ledge. "I saw it when we comed up here the first time. It's just like Mommy's; only it's a lot bigger."

"She's right; I saw it too. I remember thinking about Momma's plants when I saw it," Debbie agreed. "I know it's the same kind only bigger, a lot bigger."

"Let's go look." Sarah moved toward the ledge. "That's good stuff if it's the same."

"I don't know if I can get over that wall; my leg hurts so bad."

"That's okay. You and Julie stay and watch the meat. Jamie and Debbie can go with me."

"But I wanna go too." It was Julie's idea, and she did not want to be left out.

"But, I need you to help me. None of us are ever supposed to be alone. What if a pack of wild dogs come up wanting to get this meat."

"I ain't gonna stay here, if wild dogs are coming!"

Obviously, I had said the wrong thing, so we relented and let her go. They were hardly out of sight when Jamie reappeared over the ledge. "We need that big long knife! Those leaves are bigger'n we are!"

"It's in the cave," I said, swinging a long stick at some birds. "Be careful with it; I've got it pretty sharp."

In a moment he had the machete, and was out of sight again. I wished I had gone with them. I worried they might get hurt, but it was a senseless worry. Within a few minutes they appeared over the ledge. Sarah, Debbie, and Jamie were carrying a long pointed leaf about six or seven feet long. It was so fat, it looked like it was round. "They couldn't have got it without me." Julie was carrying the machete. "They wouldn'ta had anybody to carry the knife."

"You be careful with that knife, or you'll cut yourself."

"It's the same kind of plant. I already got some juice and put it on my shoulder. It helps," Julie announced.

I helped them off the ledge and into the cave with it, as I watched a couple pieces of our meat disappear. "You'll have to stay in the cave anyway. The sun will still burn you, even if it doesn't hurt."

I got back to the patio just in time to whack a big bird as it picked up a long strip of meat. "I'll eat you too!" He fell to the ground, but before I could get to him, he was up and gone without my meat. "I'll bet that'll teach you."

"Gimmie the tee shirt. Sarah wants you inside. That stuff is good. I feel better already." Jamie was covered from head to foot with the slimy sap.

Sarah was rubbing a piece of the leaf on Debbie when I entered the cave. "Cut off a piece, and rub it on yourself. I'll put some on your back when I finish with the girls."

I sliced off a piece and began rubbing my shoulders and chest. It felt cool and soothing. I worked my way down the front of my body carefully avoiding the cut on my leg. "Don't forget to put some on your face too," Debbie reminded me

I did not know whether I wanted it on my face, but I complied with her demands. Then I felt the soothing ointment on my back. Sarah was through with the girls.

I felt like a different person when she finished. "Now if you could work that kind of magic on my sore leg, I'd be all right. My leg is getting worse. It had a lot of pus in it when I soaked it this morning."

"I am going to try, but first put some of this on my back."

"Sit down," she said, when I had finished.

I sat down. A moment later she brought a fresh piece of the leaf, two or three inches longer than the wound, and laid it directly against the cut. "Hold this, while I get something to tie it on."

"That feels good. I was afraid to put it on the cut."

"Momma put some on a bad sore I had one time. She told me there aren't any germs on the inside of the leaf. My sore got better right away."

"Maybe you won't have to cut my leg off after all."

"Oh, Timmy! I couldn't do that! I'd just have to let you die." She was teasing, but I knew she was right.

"I'd rather cut his leg off," Julie piped in. "I don't want Timmy to die."

"Timmy is not going to die, and nobody's going to cut his leg off, either. It's going to get all better now." Sarah patted me on the shoulder. "We've got it all fixed up."

"I was only kidding with Sarah, Julie," I took Julie's slime covered hand and kissed it. "Ooh! That stuff is bitter."

"I wasn't. I couldn't do it, not even to save your life." Then she laughed, "Besides, what good would you be around here with only one leg. I'd have to do all the work, and you would probably even make me feed you too."

"I could tell you what to do."

"Yeah, but you couldn't catch me to make me do it."

"I'd figure out a way." I took a playful swing at her.

She dodged it. "Just like you can't catch me now. Nanna nanna, nah, nah."

"I'll getcha for that. Just wait. You'll forget about it, and I'll getcha."

"Oh, no, you won't." She stood just beyond my reach. "Nanna, nanna, nah, nah."

"If you didn't have my leg tied up so I can't bend it," I tried to get up. "I'd get you now."

"We'll help you, Timmy." Debbie started toward her sister. Sarah took off running, and the chase was on.

It was the first time since we left Manila; there had been any playing. I thought it was a good sign, and prayed, "Dear Lord, please don't let it be the last." I finally got to my feet, stiff legged, and joined in the chase, but my leg hurt too badly to catch her. Soon things settled down. I had made up my mind to wait for the opportunity and tickle her.

"Isn't it about time somebody else came out here," Jamie called. "These birds are working me to death."

"I'll do it for a while," Sarah offered. "Give me the shirt."

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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