Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings

Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings by Jodi Taylor Read Free Book Online

Book: Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings by Jodi Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jodi Taylor
thief who followed it down there – and we left the market before anything else could go wrong.
    Once out of the crowded streets, the air was a little fresher. I dropped the beads in the dust and we each took one of Markham’s elbows and piloted him along the path back to the pod. Now that we had the bloody gun back, I just wanted to get him back to the pod as quickly as possible.
    â€˜I can see a rainbow,’ he said at one point.
    â€˜Jolly good,’ said Peterson.
    He turned to look at me. ‘So beautiful.’
    â€˜Thank you,’ I said, touched.
    â€˜No, not you.’
    I’m not sure why I didn’t drop him there and then and just leave him to fester by the path.
    â€˜What’s the matter with him?’ said Peterson, trying to shoulder more of his uncoordinated weight.
    â€˜Not sure, but I think one or more of his stings may have become infected. He’s certainly running a temperature. I can feel the heat coming off him.’
    Our burden began to sing a song about throwing snowballs at the moon.
    â€˜I’m not so sure,’ said Peterson. ‘Put him down a minute.’
    We dropped him in the dust and bent over him for a quick examination. The only thing more inflamed than his eyes were his nostrils. In addition to his fading insect bites, none of which looked particularly infected, his skin was red and raw. In some places, it appeared to be splitting open.
    Peterson stared at him thoughtfully. ‘If I didn’t know better I’d say he’d been poisoned.’
    â€˜How? You and I are fine.’
    â€˜No idea. Maybe he’s allergic to papyrus or something.’
    â€˜How likely is that?’
    â€˜Well, not very, but I can’t think of anything else. Everything we’ve done, he’s done. And vice versa.’
    â€˜It must be a sting gone bad. He was covered in them. Maybe it’s the cumulative effect. Maybe I should have sprayed him twice a day but the can was only half full so I had to be careful with it.’
    â€˜What spray?’
    â€˜The insect repellent. In the blue and yellow can in the locker by the door.’
    He sat back on his heels and stared at me. ‘Blue and yellow can?’
    â€˜That’s the one.’
    â€˜The insect repellent is in the orange and white can. Max, you’re not colour blind, are you?’
    â€˜No. Definitely not. Not according to my eye test last year.’
    I try to keep quiet about eye tests. Sometimes, I can’t always quite make out the small print. I usually nip into Sick Bay a couple of days beforehand and memorise the chart. It’s not that I can’t see – my eyesight is fine – it’s just that they make the print on these stupid cans so small these days.
    He stared thoughtfully at me for a moment and then said, ‘Max, I think you might have been spraying him with WD40 by mistake.’
    I stared at him. ‘Is that a problem? Leon swears by the stuff. That and duct tape are always his tools du jour. ’
    â€˜I daresay, but not in this context. Did you spray him all over?’
    I nodded.
    â€˜Help me get his clothes off. And for God’s sake hang on to that bloody gun. There’s no way I’m ever doing this again.’
    We stripped off Markham and lugged him down to the river. The mud felt warm and squishy between my toes. We sat him down up to his neck in the water and gently washed his face and hair. I know, leptospirosis, leeches and all that, to say nothing of the Nile crocodiles, but as Peterson remarked, he smelled like an old engine and they probably weren’t that desperate for a meal.
    I left him with Peterson, went back for his bed sheet and rinsed that thoroughly as well, wondering how much it was going to cost me to keep Peterson quiet about his. I suspected his price would be high.
    Still, we had the gun. Focus on the positive.
    Markham lay happily on his back in the Nile, hands laced behind his head, feet

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