The days seemed to melt into each other as John learned the intricacies of his new plane. He enjoyed the privilege of flying the only yellow airplane in the nation; the main reason he named her Buttercup. Even people deep in the forest who had no affiliation with missionaries felt a sense of ownership when they saw the plane fly over.
“I’ve come to know the sound of your plane,” Marta said.
“That’s what the Johnsons said at my last stop. It’s really nice to be wanted.” John beamed.
“Are you so sure it’s you everyone wants to see?” Marta teased.
“All right, so everyone wants to know what I have in my cargo bin. I feel like Santa Claus year round.”
“I guess it’s good to see you too. I need to use my English now and again so I don’t forget,” said Marta.
“That’s so nice of you to say so.”
John enjoyed the game they often played with each other. The lines around her eyes when she smiled told him of the joy he had brought to her. It was such an easy smile, and he didn’t have to try hard to give it to her.
“I’m just kidding, I hope you know that,” Marta said.
John nodded, still smiling. He noticed Marta staring into the distance as if interrupted by a thought. “Anything wrong?”
“No, I’m just…sometimes I’m just homesick.”
“And you miss your husband?” John immediately regretted being so abrupt.
Marta nodded quickly in agreement.
“Don’t worry about it.” She blinked tears away. “This scenery just reminds me of his death, the pain, and the reality of hoping I can continue.” Marta walked around the yellow plane, feeling the rounded edges of the high mounted wings and stepping over the large tires. “At the same time, these people are my friends. I have translated some of the Bible for them and taught them English, and God has changed a lot of lives.”
“I agree,” John said.
“I know this is the place for me, but it’s hard when I get homesick. I do love it when you come to visit.”
John was happy to see her smile, though a little apprehensive. I hope she doesn’t expect me to stay forever.
Tucker suddenly ran up, panting under the sudden exertion. John put his hand on the breathless boy’s shoulder. Tucker’s eyes darted wildly as he tried to regain composure.
John looked at Marta for reassurance, but she shook her head, offering no clue.
“What’s up, Tucker?” Marta asked.
Tucker still couldn’t reply. John sat the shocked young boy down and helped him put his head between his knees. Soon, his breathing deepened and slowed.
“You will help?” Tucker suddenly exploded to his feet spouting something only Marta could understand.
“Let’s follow him. Someone was bitten by a snake,” Marta said over her shoulder.
“All three were out of breath by the time they reached the other side of the village. Rising smoke from smoldering cooking pits did little to help them breathe, and scurrying piglets tripped them up as they became tangled under foot. They continued trotting a hundred yards down a well worn jungle path to a crowd gathered around Mewpa, the medicine man.
John saw that they were restless and Marta had a pained expression on her face. She rested her chin in her hand as she looked from Mewpa to a man clutching his right forearm.
“It’s a good sign if he is bleeding,” said John. “If he’s lucky, the venom will bleed out. It must’ve been a big snake.” A bloody knife on the ground proved his assumption wrong.
“It may not be well for him,” said Marta.
“It looks like they have him wrapped up nicely. The medicine man probably has it all figured out,” said John.
“There’s not much he can do to treat it, except wait it out. If we are lucky, the poison drained out. If not, it could be a long night. We lost someone last year to a snake bite,” said Marta.
The stricken man yelled in protest as Mewpa tried to get him to his feet. John felt sorry for the man, yet alert to the jungle’s hidden dangers. A woman rushed to the man’s aid and helped walk him toward their dwelling.
A few feet later, the man fell hard as his muscles seized. His body lay shaking but rigid and sweat dripped from his pores. Even above the shouts of frustration and sadness, John could hear the man’s teeth grinding powerfully together.
“I’ll be back.” John heard Marta yell before running back to the village.
He didn’t respond, but jerked his sleeve from his shirt in one adrenaline powered pull. A button flew from his cuff as he ripped it from his wrist. He forced the man’s mouth open before balling the material and jamming it between his teeth. They waited.
Wave after wave of spasms jerked the man’s body. John and the medicine man held him down. Up close, John smelled their sour body odor.
The wait was long as John had nothing to say, nor any way to say it. He had never been alone with the Tarampurans, and he doubted conversation was possible. “Anyone know where Marta went?” he asked in quiet desperation.
“She went to hut,” someone replied, surprising him.
“I can’t find it. I can’t find it.” Marta fell by John a moment later.
“Find what?” asked John.
“My antidote. I’ve looked everywhere.”
“Call Tiom, maybe they can fly some out.”
“I tried. No one is answering,” said Marta.
“I’ll go,” John heard himself say before running toward the plane. He outran Tucker, who trailed after him.
Remember, 100% of all royalties will be applied to Jeff's mission trip to Asia. Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing. Jeff is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. He also owns Red bike Publishing. Published books include: "Get Rich in a Niche-Insider's Guide to Self Publishing in a Specialized Industry" and "Commitment-A Novel". Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook". See Red Bike Publishing for print copies of: Army Leadership The Ranger Handbook The Army Physical Readiness Manual Drill and Ceremonies The ITAR The NISPOM