“Why do the natives keep muttering those words, los osos?” Sal said.
“Los osos, they fear the bears,” Brother David said. “Many dangers lurk here after dark. The bears come out each night. They claw big holes to gorge on the tule roots.” Sal listened as he helped Salina’s boys gather pine needles to cushion the sleeping mats. Determined to get her attention, he entertained her sons and pretended to be a lumbering bear. The three of them acted out a hunt. Everyone laughed except their father, Paciano.
Salina stayed busy passing lengths of rope to the men who strung bows, while others sharpened arrowheads. Sal tried to keep his eyes off her fine young body. He couldn’t allow himself to get distracted by a good looking female, especially one who belonged to such a big man.
Paciano spoke to his men in their native language. He handed Sal the first bow and arrow ready to use. The arrowhead felt sharp but too small for a big bear. For the first time Salina spoke to Sal, her words sounded soft and urgent, “Los osos,” she said. The men made a small circle around Sal and Brother David. Paciano stepped forward and grabbed Sal by his shirt.
“Does he want to fight?” Sal said. Were his desires for Paciano’s wife so obvious? He turned to Brother David, ready to make an apology.
“Just take off your shirt, Sal,” Brother David said. He seemed amused, and surprising Sal, pulled his own robe off his shoulders. “This is their preparation for hunting, the bay leaf ceremony.” Women stepped toward them, holding bay leaves. They brushed the leaves over Sal and David’s bodies. Salina herself, brushed Sal.
“Do we smell so bad?” Sal said. He felt embarrassed and thrilled by her hands so close to his skin.
“Without the leaves, we smell delicious to the bears. During the hunt, these bay leaves cover our scent.
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