Toby is feeling tired. He plods behind Kalapati. His head droops down and his eyes follow the bottom of her skirt with its fringe dancing with each step. His right hand grips the top of the bag with his possessions draped over his shoulder.
He follows her over a rise. As his eyes move past the top of the rise, they take in the hilly terrain before.
"That is better!" He croaks. The green is an overwhelming covering to the hills on all sides. "I'm glad we are out of the desert!"
"Yes." She hands him the flask with water. His lips suck greedily at the moisture. "We will be able to find more water."
"How much farther do we have to go?"
"A few more days." She glances back with a smile. She is old, like twenty years old, but Toby thinks she seems to be in good shape.
Toby regrets that his mother sent the letter for him to come join her. He is surprised that his father agreed for Toby to leave school in mid-semester and go with Kalapati. Whatever he read in the letter caused him to send Toby away.
"Are you happy to go visit your mother?" He thinks about her question.
"I guess so..." Toby tries to remember what his mother looks like. "I can't really remember her very well."
"How long has it been since you saw her last," Kalapati slows down to match his speed.
"I don't know, it is a long time ago." he looks at her sadly.
"How old were you when she lived with you?" Kalapati has a smile on her face. "What is the last birthday she celebrated with you?"
"My fifth birthday, I guess," Toby tries to smile.
"Wow, that has been a long time ago," Kalapati keeps smiling brightly.
"Do you know the phases of the moon?" She points up toward it.
"I think so." He examines it. "It is a gibbous moon."
"Yes, almost summer in this central mountain range." "do you know what summer means."
"The sun is closest to being directly overhead at noontime?"
"Exactly" Her smile beams at him. "What can we eat here in this part of California?"
"Carob, Elderflower and Blue Elderberry , Fennel, Hollyleaf Cherry, Lamb's Quarters, Mallow, Milk Thistle, Olives, hedge Cactus, Pineapple Weed, Prickly Pear, Rocket, Black Sage, White Sage, Desert Chia Sage, Seaweed, Stinging Nettle, Stork's Bill, Wild Lettuce, Wild Mustard, Wild Radish, Wild Rose, Wood Sorrel, and Yucca." School always drilled us in these lists.
Toby's feet are getting sore. He forces himself to keep moving. He doesn't want to disappoint Kalapati. She seems to respect him as a partner in this long walk. His patience is strained. He looks at her.
A huff of air escapes him as he sees a huge tawny shape to his left. His head moves slow and looks into the face of a mountain lion on a mound of dirt. The two meters separating Toby from the lion is nothing, he knows. He has seen them jump twice as far in one leap. He is frozen with fear and blinks his eyes. After one blink there are three arrows stuck in the dirt directly in front of the lion. With one more blink there are three more arrows standing up between Toby and lion. It gives a grumpy growl and turns to the left and lopes away.
"We can take a short break here." She pulls out a map and looks at the height of the sun and a positions on the paper.
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