Morning came to soon, with a gentle wake from Gof. “Kisha, it is time to wake.” She rose stiffly from their bed. She reached over for her clothes, particularly the strap she wore around her chest and found a new, clean one resting on top of her box. She hesitated a moment before she began putting it on. This time Gof helped her get it in place. As he helped, he explained that Grandma Kira had given one to Jasmine who brought it in last night. Kisha’s eyes watered at her sister-in-law and neighbor’s generosity as she finished dressing. A shout from Grandma Seilee sounded from outside.
Kisha left their tent and resumed her duties making breakfast under the scolding eye of Grandma Seilee. This morning the old woman would not lift a finger to help make breakfast or prepare the lunches. Jasmine and Maia came for breakfast, a quiet affair. No one spoke, although Kisha longed to thank Jasmine for helping her with the chores and for the clean wrap. She feared if she spoke to her sister-in-law, Maia and Grandma Seilee would hold it against the young woman and make her long day in the dark cabin even more difficult.
She did whisper thanks with a meaningful look as they packed up the last of their belongings. Jasmine gave a sad smile and touched Kisha lightly on the arm. It was enough.
The camp readied itself for a day on the road and in no time the call went out and the procession began moving back to the road. Again, Kisha tried to keep up with her husband’s wagon, but could not. The first half hour was the worst. Her legs felt like lead and screamed at every movement. Still, she forced herself to run, but today she ran slower than the day before. After an hour, it was just her, Old Herbert, his three camels, and the numerous goats on the road. A cloud of dust on the horizon showed the caravan ahead. Kisha’s heart sank deeper as the string of carriages and wagons traveled farther from her. She didn’t think she would be able to run as far as she did the day before.
And yet, as she thought she placed one foot in front of another. She was thoroughly engrossed in her pitiful situation when something in the herd caught her eye. An old buck had got his horn stuck under the leather collar of a rather large ewe. The poor beast loped along sideways in the herd. Each time he tried to pull back, he yanked the female with him and she protested loudly.
Kisha skipped between the animals and released the long, curved horn from the ewe’s collar. The sheep sprinted, free of her tormentor, but the buck just trotted along as if nothing unusual had happened.
“That’s Old Chester, he gets caught from time to time.” Hollered Old Herbert.
Kisha nodded and went back to her track along side. From there, Herbert began telling her of the ewe, the only sheep in the herd and how he got her. “She thinks she’s a goat!” He said to her at one point. Kisha found the old man’s stories amusing and they helped pass the time. She wasn’t sure if the day passed quicker than the day before or if the old man decided to stop earlier, but stop they did. This time she ate the lunch she and Jasmine packed for her and she shared some of it with Old Herbert. After rest they resumed their travel. Her legs still complained with the motion but after a half hour, they either stopped aching or she stopped paying attention to them.
Now, Kisha watched the old ewe and a pair of pregnant goats trotting along side her. Herbert had said that the Ewe nurtured the kids as if they were her own and preferred these two females most of the time. She matched her gait with the goats and ewe. The animals were slow and at times it felt as though they were running in place; making little or no progress.
In the late afternoon Herbert suddenly started talking about the goats again. “Do you know what kind of goats these are, little Kisha?” He called down to her from his high saddle.
“Aren’t they Bringham’s Desert Goats?” She answered. He nodded.
“True, but they have another name. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before! They are called The Running Goats!” She heard his cackle ring over the herd and smiled. Perhaps she could learn from these “Running Goats” maybe that was what the ewe liked about them. She watched the shaggy animal trot next to her friends. The ewe’s legs were shorter than the tall, lean goats, and yet she kept pace.
Night fell quickly yet again. This time, Kisha had saved some of her lunch to eat and nibbled on it as she jogged down a long slope. She still searched for monsters in the dark, but this night the sky was clear and the moon glowed from the horizon. Her legs trembled with exhaustion and her head longed for its pillow, but she would not stop or walk. In a strange way she felt that if it was dark, it was only a matter of time before they would come across the camp again.
This time, they saw the campfires long before they reached them. Like beacons they glowed on the other side of a long, shallow valley. It tormented Kisha; each step took too much effort and yet did not bring her any closer to the flickering lights. She pushed on, letting the ewe and two pregnant goats set the pace. Eventually, they reached the dry river bed running along the bottom and started up the hill. Still the fires burned in the far distance. After what seemed like hours, the animals picked up speed and she did too. Her legs protested and her breath burned as they neared the camp until she saw Gof’s familiar form waiting for her. A smile broke out on her face and she ran to him and hugged him.
“I’m okay Gof. Where’s supper?” She asked and he laughed. There was more relief than amusement his expression. And again they walked together to the firelight. Dinner waited in the pot and Jasmine held their bread. She stood as Kisha and Gof entered the camp and held Kisha’s full plate in her hands.
Grandma Seilee and Maia stayed seated on their stools by the fire.
“You’re late again! Jasmine did all the work! She had to make the bread and the dinner!” Complained Grandma Seilee. Maia said nothing.
Jasmine’s eyes told Kisha she didn’t mind. Kisha inhaled the food again, savoring each bite and nibble. Gof brought her a cup of hot coffee and she sipped the hot drink with great pleasure. So engrossed in her meal that she became only dimly aware that Grandma Seilee still rambled on about the injustices she had to endure because Kisha had take the Doe’s Place. Kisha finished her meal and Jasmine jumped up to take her plate. Kisha looked into her sister-in-law’s eyes and said just one word. “No.” Her eyes she said so much more. Then the young runner gathered up her dishes, and those left around the camp and began the washing up. Maia joined her and they prepared the site ready for the next morning. Only then, did she return to the tent to find her husband waiting for her with a basin of warm water and a rag.
Story Continues with The Runner: The Third Day</strong