"Bus Station"
by Marc Carlson
Copyright 2004 by Marc Carlson
This page last modified 23 December 2004
 
 

           The day was shaping up to be another long, hot one, and that was even before the stupid Gringa lady fell out of the sky.  To be fair, she really just rolled down the hill from the trail on top of the ravine, but the end was pretty much the same; after bouncing off some big rocks and small trees, scraping through the scrawny brush, sliding down in an avalanche of pebbles, gravel and dust.  Pepe sat on his haunches by the big rock at the base of the ravine, about 15 feet away from her, watching as she slid to a stop, lumped there in there in a big gray mound, a cloud of dust billowing around her.

           Pepe shifted his head a little, so that the shadow cast by the wide brim of his sombrero better shaded his eyes, and then pulled his serape more around him, then looked at the woman lying moaning in the dirt.  She looked to be a bit on the tall side, long brown hair tied back, flannel shirt, blue canvas pants, laced boots. A compass, a large folding-knife in a case and a tin canteen in a green canvas cover rode on her wide canvas belt.  A broken metal-framed rucksack lay several feet to one side.

           The woman lay there for a while, the sun beating down on her, Pepe watching her.  Eventually she groaned, and tried to roll over, stopping halfway, gasping in apparent pain.

           "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit...."  She was saying rapidly with hastened breathing as she forced herself over.  Pepe leaned forward, peering intently.  The woman slowly resettled herself back with her legs splayed in front of her.  Her hands and face were scraped, bloody and dirty, but her right leg had what looked like two knee joints, one where it should be, and the other about halfway up from there.  Her thigh was caked in bloody mud and dust.

           Pepe shook his head slowly.  That didn't look good at all.  If the bone cut the big vein she would die, if bone fragments for into the blood she would die, if any of the marrow fat from bone got into the blood she could die.  He could see that some of the same thoughts had occurred to her, from the way her face paled and she started moaning and crying, rocking back and forth, hugging her arms.  Pepe felt bad for her, but there wasn't anything he could do for her.

           Finally, after a while, she stopped crying and began to pull herself together.  Taking out her folding knife she carefully cut the bloody leg of her pants open to examine the wound. Pepe couldn't see it from where he sat, but her face brightened a little - it must have not been as bad as it could have been.  She unbuckled her canvas belt, then carefully unbuckled the belt from her pants and slipped it from around her waist.  She carefully wrapped it around her thigh and cinched it tight, then took it back off and carefully cut a hole in the belt with her knife, then re-cinched it on her leg and buckled it, making a sort of tourniquet.  Pepe nodded silently in approval.

           She then unhooked the various pouches from the canvas belt, and then re-adjusted it to make it longer.  Then with a flip of her wrist she tossed the hook end of the belt over to the rucksack.  After the fourth try, she managed to get the hook to catch on the frame, and started to slowly pull the sack over to her.  She opened the rucksack, and started pulling the broken frame apart.  After measuring a couple of metal sticks against her good leg, she began to cut apart the straps of the sack.

           All afternoon Pepe sat there and watched her do all sorts of odd things.  First there was a map that didn't please her - Pepe could understand that.  This ravine was many miles from the nearest peasant's village - even if they knew she as up here in the mountains, he doubted very much if they'd come for her.  After all who cared about a crazy gringa - people disappeared in the mountains all the time. There were medicines and bandages in a blue box, kitchen wares in a green metal box, a blanket and a tarpaulin that she used to make a bit of shelter from, enough to keep the sun off of her.  Setting all these aside, she poured some powder on to leg and then wrapped it up tight.  Then with an abrupt movement threw all her weight to one side, pivoting the injured leg.  Pepe heard a loud crack and the woman started yelling words that Pepe had never heard coming out of a woman before. Working quickly and swearing, she tied the metal sticks to the leg to hold it more or less in place.  When she finished she fell backwards and just lay there.

           It was night before she moved again.  The moon was sitting high in the sky when she struggled to sit up and check her leg.  Pepe watched in the moonlight as she did this, then ate some nuts and dried meat from a small pouch, and drank water from her canteen.  Shadows moved across the moon, and Pepe heard her moving around.  A few minutes later there was a bit of a clatter and a lighter flared up and she lit a hand-rolled cigarette.  After a long while she started and began looking around.  In a few moments she looked intently in Pepe’s direction.

           "Is there anyone out there?" she asked, a little too loudly.  Nothing but silence came back to her.  "Please, if you are out there, I need help."  Pepe remained silent.  She settled back after a long silent while and pulled her blanket around her and went back to sleep.

           The next morning, as light poured over the rim into the ravine, Pepe was startled to see that there was someone else there.  A Soldato, the young Americano del Norte soldier in his brown woolen uniform, campaign hat and puttees, was standing by the woman, smoking a cigarette.  Noticing Pepe, he nodded to him, and stepped over the woman and walked over to a large rock beyond her.  Pepe nodded back.

           The woman finally woke and looked around her groggily, looking miserable and alone.  After she ate some more dried food, she tried to stand, but couldn't.

            By rolling and stretching and dragging herself, she eventually managed to drag the dry brush and debris around here to improve her shelter.  Pepe saw the Soldato smile and nod approvingly as the woman worked on building up a camp site.

 

            The next morning's light brought even more folk into the ravine: a few grim looking Yaquis had joined Pepe and the Soldato to watch the woman drain the water that had collected on her tarpaulin into her canteen.  The dew didn't provide much water, but it might be enough to help keep her alive.

 

            Day after day slowly passed -- the woman and her silent, growing collection of watchers.

 

            After the third day, she was out of food.  After the fourth she had finished her stash of cigarette makings.

 

            On the eighth morning, the woman awoke and stared around her in shock.

            "Who are you people?  Can you help me?  I've been stuck here for a week."

            They did not answer.

            "Please, help me!" her voice cracked with pleading desperation. Pepe looked at her and shrugged silently.  "My name is ____ ____ .  I was up here hiking, scouting paths for my University's mountaineering program, and I fell.

            "I have friends down in Las Peritas - I'm sure they are looking for me by now.  I f you could just tell them where to find me.

            "Who Are You People - why won't you say anything?  Why are you watching me?"

            "Are you all ... are you dead?, Los Muertos?'' Pepe, the Soldato, the Old Gringo and the Priest nodded.  The rest just continued to watch, her, staring.

 

            It took two more days, surrounded by the her silently watching Dead before she began to gather her things, and, as best as she could, drag herself down the ravine, following the Old Man in the Black suit..

            After she was gone, Pepe watched as the others began to wander away in silence, leaving him alone again.  Looking up he knew it was going to be another long hot day.