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 still 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.
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.
This is not as far as I’d planned to get this morning, but the morning is rushing on a little faster than I’d expected. You’re getting this posted less than half done because I’m certain I’ll not return to it today. Be assured that I was going somewhere I hadn’t yet gotten, but will get gotten to eventually.
“Inside. ‘nside. ‘nside. ‘nside. Get. In. Side.” Johnka chased Tritti into the empty red tent. He stumbled to the ground trying not to overrun her with his bulk after she halted abruptly in the entrance. He just lay there in the sand rather than get up.
“What was that?” Tritti knelt to help him up but he invited her to just sit. She crossed her legs and rubbed the sand out of her eyes. The wind pulled loudly at the tent trying to drag it out of it’s moorings like a barking dog straining it’s tether.
“Raish. That was a raish wind. a little early in the season I’d say, but a raish for sure.” Johnka said it like he was trying to convince himself as well.
“I know what a raish is old man. I meant the woman. The woman with the gun.”
“You saw that?”
Tritti nodded tightly as if to ask, ‘How the hell could I not?’
Above the noise of the raish they could hear shopkeepers and patrons alike yelling to get in out of the wind. Curses at the sand for lost income and scattered products out weighed the wailing of a single woman who had just lost her daughter. All Tritti could hear was that woman.
“She was dressed like me. She had hair braided like mine. Anyone not knowing either of us would have thought us sisters–twins maybe.”
“Twins? Certainly not. You are much more beautiful…”
“Stop. Stop it. Just because I can’t figure out who you really are doesn’t make me stupid or blind,” Tritti seethed, “That woman…that woman was trying to kill me. And she would have had you not paused to admire that other girl’s scarf so obviously.” Tritti paused before saying the next thing. She wanted to hear it in her head first to make sure she wasn’t guessing. “You saved my life by helping that woman take that girl’s instead.”
Johnka opened his mouth to explain, but something else came out instead. “Hate me then, but you’re alive.”
“I will. Never doubt that old man. Never doubt that.”
Tritti flicked the line up of tellat seeds off the rail of Johnka’s sledge. A solo version of a game she played with her brother. She was supposed to care how far they flew, but each seed dropped over the edge and out of sight like the previous one. Maybe the really good ones were hitting the drag kab on the tail. She doubted it though.
Johnka slept with both feet on the dashboard. Snoring with no intent to hide that he no longer piloted his ship.
A light breeze from the south kept the cockpit fresh and comfortable. It even moved the canopies enough that Tritti didn’t feel like [she was in a painting]. Instead she felt alone. Not lonely [expand that].
It might be three more nights out before they reached Shanty. Johnka avoided specifics about his past, his present, his future, and his schedule. Otherwise he was effulgent[what word am I thinking here?].
Word count: 150