mortar-and-pestle.jpgAmos' eyes snapped open with a hiss of pain. One of these days he would cut that damn leg off once and for all. Throwing off his covers, he shuffled himself to the side of the bed. Sitting upright, an improvement over yesterday's endeavors to say the least. Amos reached for his cane, pulling it to his side, heaving himself to his feet, even as that the familiar pain ripped through his leg again. He hobbled over to his desk, sifting through papers. No surprise, a fifteen percent drop in profits since last month, despite 5th Street being frequented now more than ever. No doubt his associates had not been entirely truthful in their sales reports. And what could he do? It took him enough effort to make it five feet from bed to desk, to 5th street? Not even on his best day. Unfortunately for Amos, wealth wasn't useful when there was nothing to buy. A month's worth of painkillers already put a significant dent in his finances and with his own operation unable to fire on all four cylinders, piratable drugs were well out of reach. And Hwa refused to even look at him since a year before when he accidentally knocked some of her needles off of her rug, he didn't even think twice about it back then, now he would kill for her acupuncture. Unfortunately for him, hydroplague took precedence over a broken knee, and any meds that weren't Hydravir didn't have the importance necessary to earn a spot on the cargo barges. Not that he needed such medicine. Living in the Centaurus Neighborhood had its perks, one of them being that water was strictly checked and re-checked for any signs of the plague, some of the purest water in Columbus not in the hands of the government found its way into his taps. All of this was no good for his current condition. Despite his status, Amos felt helpless, his only cohorts able to help were probably squandering him out of his sales, no painkillers to let him experience even an hour of restful sleep. It was at this moment during his prolonged moment of self-pity that he realized that as afflicted by ill fortune as he was, doing nothing all day but wallowing would be as about as useful to him as his sludge making operation was to the lower class. The lower class! Certainly they had to have something he hadn't thought about! If Hwa could sell her acupuncture on the streets of the Centaurus neighborhood, who knows what sort of operations could be found in the poorer district? Perhaps today would be the day he could find something to finally ease the pain, for his leg, for his failing shop, for his business so keen to be wrested from his hands, who knows?
"I have no idea," huffed Mama Sousa, scrutinizing the bones upon the simple wooden table. "What does that one mean again? Help? Hurt?" She picked up the etched bone, turning it over again in soft fingers. "Oh well, can't worry about that now," she mused, turning to her living room, up to the ceiling in poor souls. If there was ever a crowd of more wretched individuals, one would be hard pressed to find it. All there for her, her miracle cures, and she had a job to do. Reflexively, she turned to her counter and began to work. Mortar, pestle, leaves, cream of this, extract of that, take a spoonful of this to keep the ache down, rub this on the rash every morning and evening. Though her face was calm, almost serene, her hands flew at a speed that would make a concert pianist gasp. Time began to slip away from her, lost in her passion for generosity. The horde of afflicted began to thin, revealing a dimming sky. Was it late afternoon already? Her living room much emptier and her table with a taller stack of empty bowls and pots, she turned to begin cleaning them, get them ready for the next day. An unexpected knock at the door snapped her away from the table. Who would be coming in the late afternoon? Making her way through the clutter of pots and resting bodies, she opened her door and almost immediately, her caller staggered into the door, nearly throwing his cane across the living room. "My goodness, what is the matter with you?" The young man at her feet had a hardened look about him, too clean-cut to be one of the local folks. In good health, it would be easy to imagine his face being one of commanding demeanor, but as of now, it was a pitiful and pleading face, obviously in need of aid, Mama Sousa's instincts once again roused themselves as her confusion quickly broke into a warm and concerned smile, a face that made Amos the most hopeful he had been in quite some time.
"My leg, ma'am, please. I can barely walk," he gasped. Immediately she took a knee and deftly prodded about the injured limb.
"Mmhm, yes, yes indeed boy, you got yourself busted knee that should've gotten looked at a long time ago. You're lucky it set properly at least, how you managed to walk all the way here, poor thing. Where did you even come from?"
"Centaurus neighborhood," croaked Amos.
"Centaurus neighborhood? Is that so?" said Mama Sousa, raising an eyebrow? "Rich folks doctor taking a sabbatical or something?" she chuckled. "Don't worry, it don't matter to me." Even as she pryed, her hands flew to a nearby pot, grabbing jars and plants from the shelves and mashing them together vigorously. In minutes, she had a viscous, green poultice already being massaged into the leg. Amos winced in momentary pain, but a sigh of surprised relief escaped his lips shortly after.
"There you are sir, that should get things going right in good order," Mama Sousa announced. Scribbling on a piece of wrinkled paper she handed it to him. "These are ingredients in that stuff on your leg. I'm a little low, but I'll bet the flea market isn't. Bring it to me and I'll make you a month's worth. Sound good?"
"Yes!" spluttered Amos. He pushed himself to his feet, gingerly testing his injured leg. When he found it not to be in considerable pain, he broke into an amazed smile and hurried out the door with the list, barely able to squeeze out a "Thank you!"
The next afternoon in the market crowd on 5th street, Amos stood proudly, even if bewildered. He had no cane. Looking once more at the list, he then looked up, staring off. Today would be the day, the day he finally found something to ease the pain, maybe he would even get back into the old business. Then again, perhaps there were some ideas he hadn't even considered, perhaps a few things he had overlooked the value of.