He burst into the medico’s clinic, totally disregarding the few other people in the reception area. He peered through the door to the second room, his voice fully of anxiety and worry, “Medico! Medico! You must come with me. Now. Right now!”
With the calmness associated with the medical professions, My Medico Veterinario Mexicano looked up at him. He asked himself what was so important for Antonio to burst in like this. His entire career with this man had begun over the phone, asking for advice about his livestock, insisting that the Medico tell him what to do. It was Antonio’s way of obtaining advice without paying for it. Spending money was not in his dialogue of life. Every centavo was felt and appreciated for itself, kept in the hidden recesses of his land.
Word was that Antonio was a wealthy man, primarily because he rarely spent his money. His clothing was in tatters, revealing his tanned, toughened skin as it blew in the wind. His cowboy hat had lost all resemblance of its former shape, and its colour had changed to a band of sweat around his head. What remained of his shirt sleeves revealed a button on its cuff.
Talk of his farm neighbours were that his wife and children wore the same clothes for months if not years at a time. It was rumoured that he had no electricity on his ranch, and washing clothes was not allowed. His vehicle was old and rust ridden with its bald tires wobbling over the stones, and tracks on the dusty road that led to his farm.
“Come, Medico. Come with me.”
His neighbours, for had no friends, admired his one enduring quality: absolute honesty and trustworthiness in whatever he undertook. He had no debts and no unfulfilled promises.
“I cannot simply get up and leave my clinic. I am alone here, and, people are waiting to see me.”
Antonio’s facial expression altered itself to reveal a man, on bended knee with hands held in supplication, begging for his request to be acceded to. He glanced furtively at the others in the reception area. He bit his lower lip, attempting to stop himself from uttering the impossible. Whatever it was that was his need, he was about to fracture his composure.
“Medico, I will pay you whatever you say, you must come, now, before it is too late.” The urgent request was accompanied by his glaring at the other inhabitants of the room. He choked on his words as he added, “I will even pay these people who are waiting for you. I will pay their fees to you, if they will let you go.”
The four or five people in the room closed him about him. They were no longer simply witnesses to his words. Antonio had involved them.
“Antonio, this is the first time you have come into my office. This is the first time that money is not important. What is it that I must come at any price with you.”
Tears flooded the man’s harsh, weathered features, sliding down his cheeks to the edges of his colourless lips. “My dog, Trona, he is ill. This morning he did not get up with me. He lay there on the floor. His eyes no longer had life. He looked like he wanted to die.”
“But, Antonio, your dog is old. Perhaps it is his time. Why did you not bring him with you?”
“I could not. He is too ill. You must come.” He looked at those around him, asking each one with his eyes for the permission that would free the Medico from his duties to them.
“You are prepared to pay whatever it . . ..”
“Anything. You do not understand, Medico, about my Trona. He is not like my wife, or my children. Trona asks for nothing. Demands nothing. Trona is there, always. Always, Trona is with me.” Antonio’s voice stressed the words as he looked from one to the other of the inhabitants of the clinic. “Through the whole day. He is there when I am on horseback, he is there sitting beside me in my truck. He is at my feet when I sit down in the evening outside the door to my house. Wherever I go, whatever I do, he shares himself totally with me. He never commands me to do things, never argues with me, never turns his back to me. It is like he agrees with everything I decide, everything I do everything I think. He accepts me for who I am. He listens attentively to everything I have to say, even, I think, understands my thoughts. Without his eyes understanding me,” he interrupted himself with the emptiest howl of a cry which embarrassed him. “I cannot live without Trona.” The deluge of tears flooded the creases of his cheeks. “He is the truest friend I have. Nothing, no person, nothing can replace him in my life. If it takes every centavo I have ever earned, his life is worth it.” He choked on the words. “He has saved my life several times Medico, and now I must” his voice dropped to a whisper, “Medico please come. My dearest friend needs you. I know you can save him.”
Two of the clinic’s clientes shuffled loudly, wiping away their tears with the back of their hands, muttering, “You go with him, Medico. You save Trona.”
Another suggested, “I will stay and tend to your clinic while you are with Antonio.”
The passenger door of the old truck was tethered to something on the inside to keep it shut, before the whine and sputter of the motor shook the entire vehicle. The old truck barked as it rolled unsteadily forward. Peering through his tears and the filthy windshield, Antonio drove off with the Medico.
Four years, seven months and thirteen days later, the day after Antonio’s funeral, his widow, wishing to pay homage to her husband and wondering where Trona was, made her way to the graveyard. The single flower wreath she had placed on the side of the mound had wilted. On top of the mound, with eyes peaceably shut, head laying between his front paws, was his faithful friend, Trona, who had joined his master in eternal peace.