Sal thought of the story all day.
At night they camped at the river. They worked their way along the riverbank for a second week: their goal, the Pacific coast. But Jimenez walked slower each day. He coughed between every word he spoke, and his storytelling slowed down. Near the port city of Mazatlán, Jimenez’s skin began to look grey and splotchy. He choked on most of what he ate. Too tired to stay on his feet, he slept more than half the day. At night he rolled on his blanket, fighting a fever.
“We’d better lay off the pulque,” Sal said. He needed to complete this trip with Jimenez as a partner. Chances were better of reconnecting with Blas and Father Serra if they worked together.
Just outside Mazatlán they met other travelers who looked like a bunch of cutthroats. Sal worried about their safety. “Do you think some of these men are banditos?” Sal said. “What if they attack us for the church goods?” Jimenez, who had been silent for days, gave no response. Sal, the healthy strong one, felt pressure to protect the remaining goods, tend to Jimenez and keep an eye out for Blas.
“Descansa Jimenez, lay here awhile.” Sal found a hillside space protected by a few shade trees. Breaking off low hanging branches from a scrawny pine, he camouflaged the cart.
“Do you know the Nuestro Padre, the Our Father?” Jimenez said. His faint request surprised Sal. Did he ask Sal to say the Lord’s Prayer as his last rites?
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