Wednesday

Belize Survivor, part 40

Two hours later, Alexis returned from grocery shopping. Max came in from the barn and flew into a temper over the unwashed clothes.

“But it was a matter of priorities. I did the shopping, baked some bread, and cleaned the house. Besides, you still had two sets of work clothes before you really needed those overalls. So I didn't do the laundry yet. I just didn't have time."

"Priorities again. Just what we discussed the other day. You know I like to wear those brown insulated overalls when it's this cold outside. They're the only ones that are big enough to fit over my long underwear and my shirt and jeans. Just because that washing machine isn't brand new, you go out of your way to do everything else first – just to avoid a little water slopping on the floor."

Alexis rolled her eyes, exasperated. "It's not just a little water,” she protested, as she put away the groceries. “The washing machine is faulty; you know the automatic water shut-off is broken. It keeps filling up until it overflows. Do you really think it’s a good use of my time to literally stand there and watch it the whole way through both cycles? It means that I can’t really do anything else; it’s wasting my time."

"Stop arguing with me. My mother raised five kids and still ran a smooth household. The house was always clean, the meals on time, and the clothes washed. You can't even seem to do that with no kids."

This time Alexis couldn't stifle her reply. "Well, it sounds like you already had the perfect woman then, didn't you? Why did you ever leave Africa if you had your mother?"

He roared and backhanded her. "You fucking bitch. Get the hell out of my house."

This time Alexis ran out the door and up the hill to the barn. Max got in the truck and spun out the driveway. Good, she thought. I hope he stays away. Then the tears came as the enormity hit her all at once. Alexis felt trapped. It was the second time he'd struck her this month. What am I going to do? This whole marriage thing isn't what it's supposed to be. I don't know how I can go on like this. It seems that the longer I stay, the more I have to lose. I've already invested a year. Do I want to make it work? Confused and hurt, she went over to Storm's stall. The horse whickered softly as she heard Alexis' voice.

"Hey there, baby. How're you doing? How 'bout a little snack?" She wiped away her tears and got some grain from the barrel. But as she tried to go into the horse's stall to put the grain in her feeding trough, the filly was so anxious she wouldn't let Alexis pass. Still frustrated by Max's behavior, she slapped the horse sharply on the flank.

"C'mon Storm, let me through," she snapped, angrily. "Get over, you cow."

Quickly, the horse whipped around and fired a double kick at Alexis. One shod hoof landed squarely on the thick quad muscle of her right leg. Her world exploded as she reeled from the blow and scrambled out of the stall door, collapsing on the cement floor. The walls spun, but even in her disoriented state, Alexis sensed that Storm had already forgotten the incident and was munching the spilled grain. Alexis tried to scream but no sound came out. Surely her leg was broken. She could feel it swelling inside her pants. Fighting to remain conscious, she knew she needed help. But who? Max was gone and the workmen – that's it, she thought. She forced her voice to shout, "Help! Somebody please help me! I've been kicked!"

The men came running when they heard her cry but by the time they reach her, she was unconscious. The next thing Alexis remembered was being on the couch in the living room. Dana stood over her with a pair of scissors. A look of deep concern was in his eyes. The other men were gone.

"What are you going to do to me?" Alexis said. In her pain and confusion, the scissors didn't make sense. She felt threatened and helpless, her mind muddled between fear and trust.

"Honey, I'm gonna have to cut those jeans off of you. That leg's fixin' to bust the seams. I got to look at your leg." Delayed shock had set in and powerful chills racked her body. Dana wrapped some heavy blankets around her, then began cutting.

"Be careful," she whimpered softly.

By the time he reached her knee there wasn't enough room for the blade to slip between her skin and the fabric of her pants. The sweat beaded up on his forehead like a surgeon in an operating room as he tore the jeans the rest of the way. The leg was a mass of bloated purple flesh; it looked more like a war wound than a horse kick. The muscle was crushed and pulpy, the skin lacerated from the sharp edges of the iron shoe.

The doctor came out of the emergency room and walked toward Max. "Well, believe it or not, it's not as bad as it looks," he said. "Your wife was lucky. That's the strongest part of her leg and she was fortunate that's where the hoof landed. If it had been anywhere else on the front of her body: stomach, chest, knee, or head, the result could have been grave, or even deadly. As it is, the muscle has been badly traumatized, but the femur fracture is only a greenstick. I've immobilized the leg. Your wife will wear a cast, but not for too long. She'll be on crutches for a month and walk with a cane for several more after that. But she's young and strong. She ought to mend well, given the time."

Max and Alexis rode in silence on the way home. She stole a sideways glance, but saw he was looking straight ahead showing no expression at all. The pain was dulled only slightly from medication, and every little bounce and sway still caused her to cringe. The doctor told her to expect a fever caused by the intramuscular toxins released into the bloodstream. Already Alexis could feel her temperature rising, and it was accompanied by a sense of unreality.

"Well, I guess you'll have to take it easy for a while," said Max, in measured tones. "It's going to be tougher on me if you can't do anything around the house."

"I probably won't have much choice," Alexis replied cautiously. "Look, I'm sorry it happened. It was an accident."

"Owen wants to shoot the horse."

"No!” she practically shouted. “No, absolutely not! He can't do that."

"He can do anything he wants. It's his horse."

"I'll convince him not to. Storm's just high-spirited," Alexis said emphatically. "Besides, it wasn’t really her fault."

"Are you saying it was yours?" Now his tone had a perceptible edge.

"No, not exactly. I...was...I was still mad at you. I slapped her to move over, that's all."

"Oh, so you brought this on yourself, and me, because you lost your temper?"

"You're turning it all around. You're the one who hit me, remember?"

"Oh, so it's all my fault then?"
"Yes...no...I don't know. Look, can we please just not do this. I feel horrible as it is. I'm sorry for my part. Could you please just be nice to me? Please? I'm feeling so bad."

"Apology accepted," he said, triumphantly. Max thought quietly for a minute and then added, "Maybe you could make that tea cozy I mentioned to you the other day. After all, we've got to find some way for you to be useful."

Alexis discovered the meaning of being handicapped over the next few weeks. In the beginning she could do practically nothing. The pain was intense as she lay in the grip of a high fever. She felt thirsty and didn't have the strength to get up for a glass of water. When she used her crutches to reach the sink, the water had to be drunk standing right there because she couldn't carry the glass back to the couch and use the crutches at the same time. Alexis didn't get much help from Max, but, under the circumstances, it was difficult to blame him. He was having a hard enough time just handling the outside work on the farm and making his own meals.

She knew he considered her a burden, a liability, useless.

Finally, Alexis called her mother, and Liz came and spent a few days helping out. Max put on a great performance for his mother-in-law, letting none of his anger and resentment show. Being an intuitive person, Liz still felt the undercurrent of animosity, but it was simply not her place to interfere.



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