Johnka’s loose schedule and plodding pace left Tritti unconvinced hitching a ride with him saved her any more time than traveling alone, on foot, with no provisions. He rose each morning at the hour when late sleeping early risers woke. He heated a brass basin of water and shaved his whole round face vigorously, but without incident. Then he asked—to no one in particular Tritti eventually realized—”Let us see what we have for breakfast this morning, yes?”. At which point the same rasher of bacon appeared from the cool-cupboard and was relieved of half a dozen strips with the razor lately employed on Johnka’s double chin and rotund cheeks. Next he would say, “I’ve rinsed that of course, of course.”
This morning he surprised her by waking early. So early, in fact, it was still night time. “The desert is cold tonight. Bring your blanket up to the cockpit after you get dressed.”
“What’s the hour?”
“Not sure dear Tritti. It’s one of the ones neither of us sees very often…anymore.” Johnka answered and left.
Tritti wanted to be angry. After all she’d been woken not long after retiring to her bunk. But he didn’t sound like he was being purposefully mysterious, just uncertain about the hour.
She stretched and groaned awake as best she could in the short bunk. When her exertions dangled her legs over the edge more than on she slipped the rest of her weight over the rail and stood naked on the floor. Immediately curiosity fueled her speedy dressing. Panties, tank, socks. Tritti reached for her pants but thought better of it. She’d worn them for five days in a run so far. She wrapped the blanket around her body and shuffled out the door.
The earthy smell of roasted coffee greeted her for the first time since coming aboard. She continued shuffling to the bow of the sledge and the cockpit. At the end of the hallway the three-step ladder posed a brief problem because she didn’t want to loose her arms from the warm blanket. Instead of climbing, she sat backwards on the upper part of the ladder and maneuvered around in a half circle with her feet. Eventually she stood back up.
She flopped in her usual perch—the co-pilot’s chair—but said nothing.
The outside air drifted in cooling the cockpit. After a while her body adjusted to the difference. She wriggled an arm out to pick up the warm mug Johnka placed on the dash for her. She acknowledged his thoughtfulness with a still wordless toast. He didn’t speak either. The starry night provided all the conversation necessary.
Tritti set the empty mug back down after drinking all the hot liquid and siphoning off the last dregs of warmth from the mug. She retrieved her arm to the warmth of the blanket like a rabbit going to ground. Johnka pointed to the empty mug and raised his head as a question. Tritti silently shook her head. Johnka broke their silence, “I know it’s bitter. I don’t make it much any more.”
“Good that way.” Tritti rubbed a drop of it from her lips with the blanket. “I just can’t drink it much.”
Did a tiny bit of cleanup in the quoted stuff from yesterday. You may or may not notice.