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 Nov 14 - Hard on the Back

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Calico

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PostSubject: Nov 14 - Hard on the Back   Sat Nov 01, 2014 1:32 am

From the lack of appearances by this grumpy puss and the general moaning and groaning when I do click the board cat flap, you may have gathered I'm being expected to work for a living recently!
Dang bosses! Dang clients! Unreasonable to a man! Or even to a cat!

SO...

This months challenge is another one from 'the list' - but also feels apt to me.

Dust the candy crumbs from your keyboards and let your agile minds sympathise with our boys as they protest:



"Hard on the Back..."


[PS: I am off to a halloween cum bonfire party later and will be dressed as a
spider spider spider - scuttle, scuttle]


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ty pender

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PostSubject: Freedom of the Press, Part Four - Hard On the Back   Sun Nov 02, 2014 7:54 pm

Author's Note.  We continue with Freedom of the Press, which was continued in last month's 'The Best Laid Plans' challenge.


Hard On The Back

SCENE ONE - Sunday Dinner at Anne Mayfield’s

Anne walked into her kitchen with Marjory and the pastor’s wife and started to put on her apron.

The pastor’s wife looked around, “Tell us what we can do Anne.”

Anne opened the fire box and started shaking the coals.  “Marjory dear, get that chuck and fixin’s we roasted yesterday.”



Marjory started down the cellar steps, “Yes, Mrs. Mayfield, I’ll bring the milk too for the gravy.”

Anne turned to the pastor’s wife, “Marjory is a gem; she brought in the coal and wood yesterday – that hasn’t been done since Frank died. I can’t do it because it’s hard on my back." She added some coals and closed the fire box.



"She's helping me go through Frank's things too. Now would you pump out some water for tea – here, use this pot dear.



I do miss Frank so, he loved to pump that thing for me.”



The pastor’s wife primed the pump, “I’m so sorry Anne.  Frank was the gentlest, sweetest man. All the ladies loved him.”

Anne wiped a tear with her apron. “When we get heat I'll set out tea for the men; they’ll be grumpy enough by the time dinner’s ready.”

“Poor Marjory, she must have been miserable traveling with that monster DeVore – do you think they . . .”

“No dear, she’s as pure as new snow, and smart as a whip.  She’s legal secretary for Remington, and has a law degree from a school in Washington.  She loves the West.”

“My goodness.”

Marjory closed the door to the cellar and put an iron pot on the stove.



“What can I do now Mrs. Mayfield. Oh, I’m so sorry, I interrupted…”      

“No, not really,” said the pastor’s wife. “Anne was telling me how you love the West, and about your legal training.”

“Yes. I do admire Wyoming for granting women suffrage. Things are a bit more progressive out here; Belva Lockwood would be pleased – she’s my inspiration.”

“Dear. Miss Spielman, do you think women are able to handle that responsibility?”

“Of course; the Fifteenth Amendment granted slaves suffrage, and they weren’t as prepared as women are today.”

“In these parts the ladies would be better voters than most men,” Anne added. “Marjory, take these cookies out to the men before they bite each other’s heads off.”

Marjory set the tray down on a side table between the pastor and Sheriff Brainard. “There you are gentlemen; the tea is coming.  Mrs. Mayfield hopes that will hold you until your dinners are ready.  Pastor,” Marjory asked with a twinkle in her eye, “what do you think of our two new deacons?”



The sheriff popped a cookie in his mouth and grumbled. “Any coffee baf fere?”

"Oh, I can ask..."

The pastor glanced apologetically at Marjory, “John, you know Anne and Frank are against coffee.  Miss Speilman, don’t pay any mind to most of the young men you meet out here; most are drifters or are running away from a troubled past.”

“Unfortunately,” the sheriff added. “And Smith and Jones aren’t much different young lady.  They’re on a special mission for the governor, and won’t be in town much longer.”

“Special mission? They're the handsomest, most courageous men I've ever met; and that makes them even more interesting,” Marjory said as she turned to go back into the kitchen.

The pastor took a cookie. "We'll have to keep an eye on that girl; she's man crazy."

"Hmm," the sheriff responded.

“You are right about the young men," the pastor went on.  "Things got worse after the war.”

“Now the Irish gangs have moved into Omaha,” the sheriff replied, as he brushed cookie crumbs off his jacket and onto the floor. “I hope it doesn’t get as bad as New York.  Lloyd is getting pressured from the Omaha gang to open his place up to gambling machines.  We can’t let that happen.”

SCENE TWO – Heyes’ and Curry’s Room at Lloyd’s
The Kid sat on the bed with a Montgomery Ward catalog. He mumbled under his breath at a knock on the door.  “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, Smith; got our drinks.”

Heyes entered and relocked the door and set the fancy liquour caddy on the dresser.



Then he grabbed his Montgomery Ward catalog and sat on the chair.  He looked at Curry. “What ya’ reading?”

“I’m lookin’ for a shirt; I ain’t seein’ anythin’ I like.  They’re all dark colors.”

“Hey, where did you find that Montgomery Ward catalog?”

“Jeesh, it was in my saddlebag, why?”

Heyes’ made a guttural ‘huh’; then a faint smile crossed his face. “Nothing Kid; I’m glad you’ve got your own.”

Curry got out of bed and walked over to Heyes.  “Here’s somethin’ I like; I aint seen these before.”

“What are you going to wear that for? That’s ridiculous.”

“No it aint, it’d be cool in the saddle; comfortable too.”

“Well, I don’t wear any underwear and I’m fine, except when it’s cold.  Then I wear long johns.”

“Yea, but I need somethin’ like this.  This is what those cyclists wear in Boston ‘cause of the cobblestone streets.”

Heyes looked for a moment. “I see what you mean, but you can’t ask Andrews to order that for you; he’d think you’re being funny!”

"Well, I'm gonna get me one-a my own."  Curry paused, then turned to another page. “OK, here’s somethin’ I need.  Says here it’s good for a ‘weak or sprained back.’”



"That looks good.  We could use that; riding's hard on my back too, and kidneys.”

Kid was about to reply when there was a knock on the door.  “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, Lloyd.  Those two from Omaha are here, and they’ve got a wagonload of gambling machines sitting in front of the place.”

“We can’t do anything about that until Sheriff Brainard gets back from Anne Mayfield’s and gives us permission to arrest them.”

“C’mon fellas; we’re trying to get a card game started. If you take care of this we’ll cut you in without a stake.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other and grabbed their guns. Heyes opened the door. “Well, I guess that can be arranged.  How many are playing?”

“Four, plus me,” Lloyd replied.

“What’s the stake?”

“Twenty.”

“OK.  You tell the players that when we get these two corralled, when I signal, I want them all to stand up with their guns drawn and back us up.  Nice and calm, understand?”

Lloyd nodded, nervously.

“And another thing, I want you to get them at a clear space in front of the bar rail, understand?”

Lloyd nodded, “so you can get ‘em like you got DeVore.”

“Right.  Lure them over with your best liqueur – whatever they want.  Get them real loose.  Get friendly too, like you’re going to go for the Omaha deal. Act like it’s all in a days work, OK?

Lloyd nodded.

“Now stay calm, everyone has to stay calm. We’ll take care of this; nobody will get hurt if you all stay calm. Can you do that?”

Lloyd nodded.

“OK.  We'll be down in a few minutes so you can get everything set up. Get 'em lush.”  Heyes closed the door as Curry stuffed the three-way handcuffs in his pocket, “these sure have come in handy." Then he held up a set of two-way handcuffs, "and these too" he said with a wink.

 

Heyes looked at the two-way handcuffs, "How did you get those?"

"Dunno, they've been in my saddlebag for a while; never used 'em. Anyway, Brainard will have to give us these three-ways if he wants us to stay on this job."  They both laughed.

As they left the room Curry turned to Heyes. “You know Heyes, this amnesty thing is getting to be too much like work; dang bosses too.”

“At least it's not hard on the back,” Heyes kidded, "we could be poking cows.”


SCENE THREE - At The Bar
Lloyd and his bartender were busy regaling the two fine representatives of the Omaha Irish gang at the bar.

“Ay, gentlemen, meet our two deputies, Smith and Jones,” Lloyd said as Heyes and Curry came to the bar and tipped their hats.

The two looked at Heyes and Curry from head to toe with big grins. “This is Mike,” Lloyd said as he gestured with a whiskey bottle, “and this is Danny.”

“It’s set then, Lor-di? Ay?” said Mike.

“Did Mr. DeVore tell you the proposition then?” Danny asked Heyes and Curry.

Curry and Heyes looked at each other.  “Ah, no,” Heyes answered.  “DeVore? What does he have to do with this?”

“DeVore set up the deal,” Lloyd said. “They take forty-percent.”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other, then at Lloyd.  “It’s fair,” said Mike.  “We usually take sixty. Every month we unlock the machines.  You get five percent of what’s inside, and you make sure no one steals the machines or the money.” Mike put on a big grin.  “Ur doin’ ur job – keepin’ everyone law-abiding.”

“Sounds like easy work," said Curry. "But you two will break your backs lifting all that coin.” That brought a good laugh from the two gangsters.

“So how do we seal this deal?” the Kid continued.

“Ay, let’s raise a round of Lloyd’s fine whiskey here then,” said Danny.  “You two‘re decent men – we’ll sing a’ Irish song in ‘ur honor!”

Lloyd poured out whiskey for the all the men, including the bartender. Mike held up his glass and everyone downed their pour.

“This song, Garryowen, is the official song of the Seventh Calvary Regiment,” said Danny. “Did you know they had a’ Irish song?”

“Ah, I see,” Heyes said with a laugh “we’re in the company of Custer!”

“That’s exactly right Mr. Smith!” Mike and Danny returned the laugh and started singing.

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:

Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.

The two men stopped.  “This next verse is for you, our fine deputies” Mike said, with a twinkle in his eye.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.

The two men stopped and looked closely at Heyes and the Kid. “You understand what we said then?” asked Danny.

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other. “Yea, we get it,” Curry said.

“So, do you need some volunteers to unload those machines?” asked Heyes.

“Ay, liftin’ those is hard on the back.”

“OK, turn around and I’ll introduce you to our volunteers.  They’re as eager to get these machines in here as Lloyd is.”

Mike and Danny turned around with their backs to the bar, and almost stumbled from their alcohol. The Kid moved over closer to them. Heyes stepped out and signaled to the men at the card table. When they stood up with their guns drawn, the Kid quickly slipped the handcuffs on the wrists of Mike and Danny, and locked the third cuff on the bar rail.  



Heyes and Curry went behind the bar. They grabbed the remaining arms of the two men and locked them together in the two way handcuff with their arms on top of the bar behind them.  "That's gotta hurt," the Kid said.

Mike and Danny winced in pain.  “What goin’ on – I thought this was settled,” growled Mike.  

One of the card players spoke up. “Yea, it’s settled alright. We don’t want your kind around here." A chorus of scoffs came out of the crowd.  "Go back to Omaha and tell your friends that," another man said, "this is a straight bar with honest gambling and we want to keep it that way.”

All eyes were riveted on the two thugs struggling with their handcuffs and swearing in their finest Irish vocabulary.

The Kid turned to Lloyd. “We’re goin’ to get Brainard; it may be a while though since he's having lunch at Anne Mayfield’s.”  A man in the front called out "Take your time, we want to see these chislers squirm." Applause broke out as Curry and Heyes left.

SCENE FOUR – At the Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff Brainard still had his Sunday duds on when he walked into his office. He went over to the stove and shook the coals. “You gents want some coffee?” he asked as he shook the coals again.

Lom, Curry and Heyes looked at each other and smiled.

“No thanks sheriff,” replied the Kid. “How was lunch at Anne’s?”

“Food was good; the conversation was boring."  Then he put the coffee pot up on the stove and mumbled under his breath "and her coffee is not that great” and "this thing gets harder on my back every day."



Brainard sat down and started inspecting his pistol. “The pastor was so taken by the response to his sermon today he wants to make you deacons.”

Heyes laughed. “You mean Anne does. If he does that we won’t be much good to you as deputies.”

“Leastwise,” the Kid added, “we won’t be playin’ cards at the saloon; and you might be back to security detail for Lloyd.” Heyes and Curry exchanged smiles.

“You’re right,” the sheriff went on. “You two are getting popular around here, 'specially with the ladies.  One of you will get elected sheriff and I’ll be lucky to have that job at Lloyd’s.”

“Darned lucky,” Heyes added. The four men laughed – dryly.

“Speaking of preaching,” Lom spoke up, “DeVore spilled the beans on Circle Z while you three were off playing hooky at lunch.  I found him counting a big wad of cash.  He said it was part of the cash Zeider’s sons pay for girls some Shoshone braves loaned them.  He said they usually exchange most of the cash for the hooch the sons make.”

“What the…” Brainard exclaimed.

Heyes and Curry went slack-jawed and looked at each other. “Woo-wee! That’s rough!” the Kid shook his head. “Those four must be pretty stupid. How did he convince them to fork that over?”

"He sold them the route for the next delivery through Wyoming; he told them there'd be guns."  

Heyes looked surprised. "But he'll be on that wagon!"

“No; he said he’d had it with the type-writer business.  He wasn’t making enough money at it. He said he was planning on resigning when he got back to Bridgeport."  Lom leaned forward and a stern looked crossed his face. "Fellas, it looks like we might meet some braves on our way back to Porterville with that Remington wagon.  And next year, you're on your own with that Wyoming delivery."

Brainard walked over to the stove and poured himself a cup of coffee. “I figured he’s some kind of big time Eastern grifter; maybe with a record.  Now it looks like he took that Remington job to make a few bucks until things cooled down.”

Lom leaned back in his chair. “The way he's preaching, he must figure he's better off putting in Wyoming jail time. Anyway, both governors’ offices are in touch back East to see if he’s wanted. Something will turn up.”

“When it does, he'll be out of our hair within a month – right?” Heyes asked.

Brainard sat down and took a sip of coffee. “That’s right Mr. Smith, I see you’re getting the hang of this.  Now we’ve got a problem at Circle Z that needs to be resolved or some innocent people may die, in an unpleasant way too.”

“I see where this is headin’,” said the Kid.  “It’s a two man job, and one of you has to stay here with the prisoner.”

Brainard smiled, then took another sip. “You two are sharp.  Those kinds of brains will get you in trouble every time." He glanced at Lom, then continued. "Of course, you can be dull and get in trouble too.”

“We’ve done it both ways;” said Heyes “and both ways are equally effective.” Lom took a long look at Heyes and rolled his eyes.

“Hey, speak for your self!” objected the Kid.

Brainard thought for awhile. “The sons are Theron, Jack, Millard, and Jesse; they’re stupid too, sorry to say. So, four Shoshone braves are leasing them girls and selling hooch the sons make; two felonies.  DeVore talked them into gun running with the Indians. That’s a felony and, if anyone gets killed, a capital offense, accessory to homicide. Zeider is a good man, so they've kept the whole thing hidden.”

“So what’s your plan?” the Kid asked.

“Good question,” Brainard answered. “Tell Zeider you’re just investigating. Show him the money, tell him what DeVore claimed, tell him there are rumors in town about girls and hooch.  Zeider knows what will happen if those braves feel they’ve been cheated; which they will sooner or later.”

"So if we give Zeider the money he'll handle the situation on his own," suggested Heyes.

"You want folks to be law-abidin’ on their own; is that’s what you’re sayin’?” the Kid asked.

"Right, we don’t want to fill up the jail, that’s not our goal.”

“We respect that,” said Heyes.

“We sure do,” agreed the Kid.

Lom rolled his eyes. “By the way, Mr. Brainard, our deputies say there are two men at Lloyd’s who are eager to meet you.”

“That so?” replied Brainard.

“Yep,” added Heyes. “The posture they’re in is hard on the back.”

*******
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InsideOutlaw

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PostSubject: Re: Nov 14 - Hard on the Back   Sat Nov 15, 2014 11:49 am

“I’ll see you and raise you two bits,” said Hannibal Heyes, reaching across the scarred, wooden table and tossing a few coins into the paltry ante.  The clatter of glasses sounded in the background cutting through the smoky atmosphere of the crowded saloon.

“Fold,” said Kid Curry, sitting to Heyes’ right.  He put his cards down and leaned back in his chair to watch the hand play out.

“I’m done,” said the red-haired man in the worn dark suit.  “I’ve got customers to see.”  This last caused a soft, uncomfortable chuckle from the fourth player, a young cowboy.  The red-haired man was the town’s undertaker; he stood up, tipped his hat, and drifted out of the building.

“I’ll see that two bits and raise a dollar,” said the cowboy clutching his cards as though they were his only lifeline.  He was scowling at Heyes and ignoring Curry’s benign stare.

“Call,” said Heyes.  He kicked his partner’s foot under the table and nodded surreptitiously towards the swinging saloon doors where a big, gray-haired, grizzled man had just entered as the undertaker left.  Pinned to the man’s chest was a tarnished gold star.  Heyes watched as the man crossed to the bar and started a conversation with another man standing there.  Relieved, his attention returned to the game.  

“I got me a straight,” said the youngster, grinning from ear to ear and laying his cards on the table.  He’d just doubled a month’s pay and he was already dreaming of spending it upstairs with one of the calico queens.

Heyes smiled blandly at the boy.  “Full house, jacks and eights.”  He put his cards down knowing what was likely to come next.  Cowboys were mostly bad poker players and sore losers.

“$#&!!” roared the young man, jumping to his feet and upsetting the table.  Curry rose at the same time, his right hand suspended next to his holster; his cold, blue eyes locked on the cowboy.  The boy glared at Heyes with undisguised anger and reached for his gun, but a hand snaked out and clamped down on his wrist, wrenching his arm behind his back.  With practiced ease, the big sheriff deftly handcuffed the boy.

Curry settled his Colt back into its holster and dropped his hand to his side.  No one, except for Heyes’, had seen him start to draw.  All eyes were on the sheriff.

“Eddie, I told you ‘bout startin’ another fight in my town,” said the sheriff.  “Walt, come take Eddie to the lockup.  We’re gonna give ‘im a coupla days to cool his heels.”  

The man at the bar came over and seized Eddie by his arm.  "Sure thing, Cord," he said, dragging the young cowboy from the saloon.  Warm blue eyes and a tin star turned to the two ex-outlaws.

Heyes and the Kid gave each other a quick glance and then smiled ingratiatingly at the bigger man before them.   “Cord?  You wouldn’t be Cord Gifford by any chance?” asked Heyes, keeping his voice friendly while his heart froze in his chest.  

“I am and who would you two be?”

“I’m Joshua Smith and this here’s my partner, Thaddeus.”  Heyes deliberately left off the last part of the Kid’s alias.  Smith and Jones in one sentence was a tip off to any lawman with a few brain cells and Cord Gifford was known to have more than a few.  He was also known as the former sheriff of Bradford Junction, Colorado, where the Devil’s Hole gang had robbed the local bank back in ’77.  

Fortunately, the two ex-outlaws had never laid eyes on this particular lawman as it had been an extremely successful night job.  Heyes had manipulated the safe in record time and the gang had been in and out of town before anyone had known they were there.

“So, Joshua and Thaddeus, what brings you to Rustic?”  Gifford pulled out a chair and settled himself in it, eyeing the tied-down gun on the Kid’s hip.

Heyes was all smiles and congeniality.  Curry less so.   He tried to force a smile on his face, but settled for a neutral expression.  It was the best he could do.  He reluctantly sat back down at the table.

“We’re just passing through, Sheriff,” said Heyes.  “We ran some cattle down here for Jim Beck up in Tie Siding and now we’re just resting a spell before looking for work.”

“You two don’t look like cowboys,” said Gifford, pointedly.  

“We don’t cowboy much if we can help it,” admitted Curry.

Gifford leaned back in his chair and smiled at them.  “So what is it you usually do to put grub on the table?”

“Anything that’s not too hard on the back.”  Heyes laughed, and beckoned the bar girl over.  “Whiskey, Sheriff?”  He’d noticed the finely broken blood vessels decorating the man’s nose, a sure sign of a long familiarity with cheap tongue oil.

Taking off his hat and hooking it on the ladder-backed chair, Gifford smiled and licked his lips, “Sure, if’n you’re buyin’, I’m drinkin’.”

A couple of drinks later, the tension had bled out of all three men and they were now on a first name basis.  Heyes found himself enjoying the sheriff’s company.  The man was smart, friendly, and told some wild yarns.  Swapping tall tales was Heyes’ specialty and he’d warmed to the task an hour ago, thoroughly charming his new-found friend.   Even the Kid was grinning by now.  If the sheriff had recognized them, they would already be in jail.  But the man’s next question put the fear back in Heyes’ soul.

“So, how’d you boys know who I was?  Hell, Bradford Junction was just a wide speck in the road in those days,” asked Cord.

“We passed there once on the stage,” said Heyes.

“When?”  The smile fled Cord’s face and he scowled, taking a big slug of his third whiskey.

“I think it was ’78, might’ve been earlier or later.  Why?” Heyes sipped his drink.  He was still nursing his second, being careful not to cloud his own judgment.

“If’n you was through there in ’78, I guess you’d know why,” growled Cord.

“Cord, if I said something to offend you, I’m real sorry.”  Heyes reached out and put a reassuring hand on the man’s shoulder.  He had no idea what had irritated the man.  

The sheriff looked at him speculatively but saw only earnestness in the brown eyes that stared back at him.  He relaxed.  “Aw, hell, you might as well know, half the folks in these parts do.  I was fired in ’77 right after the Devil’s Hole gang wiped out the bank.  Townfolks blamed me for not stoppin’ them.”

“That don’t seem fair.  From the way I hear it, those boys could steal the bible from a preacher’s hand on a Sunday morning.” Heyes tossed back the remainder of his drink and signaled the barmaid to bring another round; he was going to need it.  The Kid nearly choked on his own drink, but hid it well.  

“It weren’t fair, but that didn’t matter none to them,” said Cord bitterly. “You see, my wife was havin’ a baby at the time and I was pacin’ the floor when those varmints pulled that job.”  

“So how come you got the boot?” asked the Kid.

“The deputy I picked fell asleep on the job; didn’t make his rounds that night.  Guess I was lucky in hindsight; he got tarred for his part in it.”

The barmaid set three more whiskeys on the table and tucked the bill Heyes handed her into her bodice.  She took the empties and smiled seductively at the Kid as she left.  Heyes handed around the filled glasses.  “Nice town.”  

“It was a nice town, but losin’ everythin’ don’t set well with hardworkin’ folks and they needed someone to blame.  They chose me.”  Cord lapped his whiskey and smiled ruefully.  “Slick as grease it was.  No one even knew we’d been robbed ‘til day broke, but then it was plain who’d done it.  Only Heyes could’ve opened that safe without blowin’ it.  Anyway, by the time I knew who to look for those longriders were across the border and headed for home.  They sure threw a spoke in my wheel, though.  Lost my job and our home the same day I became a daddy.  Had trouble findin’ work after that,” he shrugged.  “Weren’t long before the wife left me and took the baby.  Can’t say as I blame her; I weren’t much company back then. See, I was obsessed with running those owl hoots, Heyes and Curry, to ground.  It was all I could talk or think about.  I dragged my family from town to town on the promise of lookin’ for work, but I was really lookin’ for them.  I couldn’t let it go, not even for her, and she knew it.  We used to fight something terrible.  I took to the drink ‘round then and that was the final nail in my coffin.  Came home one evening and they was gone with nary a fare-thee-well.  Now it’s bottled courage that keeps me warm at night.”  

Heyes cleared his throat.  Years ago, he wouldn’t have given a thought to the consequences of his actions, but now he understood what it meant to scrape out a living and to go hungry when you didn’t have two thin dimes to rub together.  How could they have been so stupid as to think they’d never harmed anyone?  Just because they didn’t resort to violence didn’t mean no one was hurt.  

While Heyes felt a momentary flush of shame for the havoc he’d wrought in this man’s life, at the same time he needed to steer the conversation onto safer soil.  “I heard those two gave up outlawing a while back.  No one’s seen nor heard from them in a long time.  That true?”

“Don’t know.  I quit lookin’.  Doggin’ those two took every damned thing worth livin’ for from me.”

“You gave up?”  Heyes ignored the poke in the ribs his partner gave him.

“Had to; but it was for the best, I never did have much to go on.  The wanted posters on those two weren’t worth the paper they was printed on.  Word is, Heyes and Curry quit the gang and dropped out of sight; probably moved onto greener pastures is all.  Maybe changed their names.  Wouldn’t be too hard to disappear in these parts.”

Curry squirmed in his chair, uncomfortable with how close to home Cord was coming.  

“I can tell you one thing, if I run across those two there’s gonna be hell to pay.”  

“I believe you,” said Heyes softly.

“Joshua, shouldn’t we be goin’?  If we’re gonna make it to Fort Collins tomorrow, we’ll have to hit the trail early.”  The Kid wanted out of there: now.

“Right,” said Heyes, standing up and holding out his hand to the sheriff.  “Good luck to you, Cord.”  

The sheriff took the ex-outlaw leader’s smaller paw, shaking it enthusiastically.  “Pleasure meetin’ you boys; stop by the next time you’re in town.”  He’d enjoyed their company and was sorry to see the evening end.  His drinking companions left and he finished his drink slowly, savoring every burning sip for the pain it obscured in his heart.  

OOOOOOOOOO

“Heyes?”

“Hmmm?”  The partners had hurried out of town as quickly as possible without speaking a word; both of them lost in their own thoughts.

“How many more folks do you think we hurt outlawin’?”

Heyes didn’t know how to reply to that.  He knew damned well they’d hurt a lot. He rode along silently for several minutes before saying, “I can’t tell you how many; too many to count.”

“We don’t really deserve amnesty, do we?  Maybe that’s why we ain’t got it yet.”

“Maybe we’ll never get it, but we’re not going to give up.”

“Maybe we should.  Maybe we oughta disappear like Cord said.  Nobody’d miss us.”

Heyes pulled his horse up, turning toward his best friend.  “No, we ain't gonna up and leave.  We’re seeing this through.”

“Why?”

“Because we can't change what we’ve done; we can only change what we’re gonna do from here on out.  The amnesty will give us a chance to be better men.”

“And if we don’t get it?”

“Then Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones keep on helping folks as best they can.  It’s the least we can do.”

The Kid nodded his agreement and the two riders resumed their journey.

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Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Sun Nov 30, 2014 4:21 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Nov 14 - Hard on the Back   Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:00 pm

Hard on the Back

Kid Curry glared at his opponent with glacial blue eyes. Most would have backed down and withdrawn, but not this one. Black eyes stared back, daring him to make a move. Nostrils flared with anger, insulted that one would dare come near him. It was a contest of the wills and neither was willing to back down.

Curry resolutely stepped closer. The challenger backed up, bit by bit, with his ears lay back until he touched the fence. The Kid slowly raised his hands and grabbed onto the mane, pulling himself up into the saddle in a fluid motion.

The stallion squealed in anger and began bucking, trying to unseat the man on his back.

The Kid hung on tight to the saddle horn with one hand and raised his other arm for balance as he rode through the bucking.

The horse twisted and bucked.

A minute later, Kid Curry flew off the saddle, hitting his shoulder on a fence rail before crumbling into a ball.

The stallion snorted in victory and pranced to the other side of the corral.

Heyes walked over to where his partner lay and gently booted him underneath the railing. “You okay, Thaddeus?”

Curry rolled onto his back and squinted as he looked up at the dimpled smile of Heyes. “Yeah, I’m all right. Just got the wind knocked outta me.” He held up his hand.

Heyes grabbed the hand and helped pull the Kid up. “You stayed on longer this time.”

Kid Curry gently rolled his shoulder a few times and then put his hands on his hips and stretched out his back. “Ow… What happened to our rule about not doin’ a job too hard on the back?”

Heyes grinned. “That rule don’t apply when there ain’t any other work, our pockets are empty and our stomachs are growling.”

The Kid closed his eyes and put his head back, continuing to stretch sore muscles. “Tell me again why I’m doin’ all the hard work and you’re just watchin’?”

Heyes reached down and picked up the brown hat. He hit it against his leg a few times, causing a dust cloud, before placing it on Curry’s head. “’Cause I won the coin toss!”

The Kid pushed his hat down over his eyes as he resolutely walked toward the stallion. “Dang coin tosses,” he muttered.

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PostSubject: Re: Nov 14 - Hard on the Back   Mon Nov 24, 2014 7:10 pm

A missing scene from "Smiler with a Gun," inspired by the November and October challenges. How did Heyes and Curry get from the watering hole in the desert to a hotel in town?

-----

Heyes and Curry collapsed together at the base of a rock formation. Heyes’ heart was pounding, and he gasped for breath. Beside him, Curry wasn’t in much better shape. He’d been stumbling more and more on their long trek through the wasteland. Only his iron constitution had kept him going, putting one foot in front of the other mindlessly. But in his exhaustion, Curry became aware of – something. There was something different around them. Something new.

“What’s that?” Curry asked, more to himself than to Heyes.

“What’s what?” Heyes barely had enough breath to speak.

“I hear something.”

“You’re hearing things.”

Curry set off on a wild scramble over the rocks. Heyes knew he should follow, make sure Curry didn’t get in trouble, but it was hard to breathe. He heard Curry shout “Heyes!!” The urgency in that cry pulled Heyes to his feet, and he pushed himself up and over the rocks. Now he heard something else, something unbelievable. He scrambled faster, almost tripping. As he topped the rocks, he saw Curry below, diving into a pool of water. All rational thought flew out of him.

He ran headlong for the pool, laughing and crying hysterically. Throwing himself on the ground, he lapped up the precious liquid like a desperate animal. He rolled over and screamed “thank you!” to the skies. They would live.

00000

Nightfall brought cold temperatures. Heyes and Curry huddled next to each other at the base of the rock formation that surrounded the shallow waterhole.

“Getting’ cooler,” Curry said. Above them, the broad expanse of the Milky Way glowed a pale light.

“Yep,” Heyes agreed. He folded his hands over his growling stomach, willing it to forget how empty it was. Even laying down, he could tell how loose his pants were. He needed to tighten his belt. It seemed like too much trouble to do just now. Maybe he’d do that later.

“Wish we had our blankets.”

“If you’re wishing for something, Kid, wish for horses. Then we could get out of here.”

“Don’t pick on me, Heyes. I’m just thinkin’ out loud.”

“Well, don’t. I want to sleep.” Closing his eyes, he rolled over on his side, trying to find a comfortable position and failing.

“Heyes.”

“What.”

“We’re still in trouble.”

Heyes rolled over to face Curry. “You woke me to tell me that?”

“You weren’t asleep.”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“I been thinkin’, Heyes.” The old joke flashed across Heyes’ mind, but he was too tired to mention it.

“I been thinkin’,” Curry went on. “We got water, but no canteens, so we got to stay here.”

“I know.”

“We got no food. No blankets. If some animal comes after us, or somebody tries to rob us, we only got the bullets in our gunbelts.”

“Rob us!” Heyes sat up straight. “Kid, who in his right mind would rob us? Do we look like we got anything worth stealin’?”

“No,” Curry said, thoughtfully. “I guess not. Don’t have to worry about robbers, then.”

“Not about robbers anyway.”

“Heyes, what’re we gonna do?”

Heyes rubbed his eyes with his fists. “I don’t know. Maybe if I can sleep, I’ll think of somethin’.”

“Sleep sounds good. Think I’ll turn in, too.” The two men lay close together, back to back, trying to conserve body heat. It was only a few minutes later that Heyes heard Curry’s breathing slow and deepen. The man really could fall asleep anywhere, anytime.

Heyes’ sleep was filled with strange dreams. He’d woken up a couple times with a start, looking around wildly for something that frightened him. He lay down again, snuggling against Curry’s warmth. He felt like a speck of dust in this damn wilderness where nothing lived but him and Jed, and that, probably not for long. You could do without food for some time, but they were both half-starved already. How much longer could they last?

These dark thoughts kept turning over and over in his mind. Giving up on sleep, he pushed himself up on his elbows and took a look around. Curry was gone. He remembered what happened to Seth and was filled with fear.

“Kid!” he shouted. “Kid!” His voice caught in his dry throat, and he coughed. He needed water. He got up, staggering as if he were drunk, and stumbled slowly towards the pool. He got down on his knees and cupped water in his hands, drinking his fill. Satisfied, he sat back on his heels and looked around. Still no sign of Curry.

“Kid!” This time, his voice was louder. “Kid! Where are you?”

“Just a minute!” Curry answered. He sounded far away.

Calmer now, Heyes waited. Only a few seconds later, he saw Curry circle around the rocks.

“Sheesh, Heyes! Can’t a man answer a call of nature in peace?”

“Are you alright?”

Curry came over to Heyes and squatted down next to him. “Aside from no food, no horses, no shelter, I’m fine.” He looked closely at Heyes’ face. “How you doing? You get any sleep?”

“Aside from no food, no horses, and no shelter, I’m fine, too. I didn’t sleep much, though. Trying to work on a plan.”

“I got us a plan.”  

“You do?” Heyes sounded doubtful.

“Yeah. We wait here for someone to come by and pick us up. They take us to the next town. We borrow or beg for money. We find Danny.”

“That’s a fine plan, Kid, real fine. You know what Robert Louis Stevenson said about plans?”

“You know I don’t.”

“He said, ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

“Did he? Well, I guess Danny’s gonna find that out real soon.”

“Sure he will” Heyes bent down again to take a few more handfuls of water. When he’d drunk enough, he splashed water on his face.

“I admire your perfect faith, Kid, but there’s one basic problem with your plan.”

“What? That you didn’t think of it first?”

“Now don’t be like that, Kid. It’s just, you’re countin’ on some mysterious stranger to show up here. A poker player like you should know the odds on that.”

“Heyes, you ain’t thinkin’ clear. How much water is there in the Sangre de Christo besides here? It’s got to be on maps. Somebody’s sure to be stoppin’ here for water.”

“Huh.” Heyes stood up, running his fingers through his long hair. “You may be right, Kid. If anybody’s fool enough to be out here in the first place.”

“They will,” Curry said stubbornly. “If we came out here, somebody else will. All we got to do is wait.”

Curry stood up next to Heyes and put an arm around his shoulders. He tried not to show how worried he was. Slender at the best of times, Heyes looked like a strong wind could carry him off.

“Why don’t you get back in the shade and take it easy? Try and get some sleep. We might need your silver tongue when the wagon gets here.”

“Maybe I will. Ain’t too hard on the back anyways.” He flashed a pale imitation of his old smile. He didn’t want to admit just how weak and tired he felt. The two men walked together to the dubious shelter of the harsh rocks. Heyes settled down again, adjusting his body till he found a smooth place. Curry stood over him, watching and frowning.

“I’m alright, Mother. Why don’t you go look out for that wagon you’re expectin’?”

“I will. Get some rest, Heyes. You look like hell.”

There was no good answer to that. Heyes closed his eyes. Maybe he could actually get some sleep, have some happy dreams about steak dinners with potatoes and gravy. But sleep proved elusive again. In dreams, he ran out to the desert, towards a motionless body. When he rolled the body over, it wasn’t Seth; it was Curry. He woke from his nightmare shouting something he didn’t understand. Panting hard, he tried to catch his breath. The nightmare faded away slowly.

“Jed? Where are you?” There was no answer. He tried again, louder. “Jed!”

“Heyes! Get over here!” He jumped to his feet so quickly, he got dizzy again and had to put one hand on the rocks to steady himself. He ran towards the sound of Curry’s voice, crawling up to the high point on the rock formation where Curry stood, one hand shading his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Heyes asked breathlessly.

“Nothing’s wrong. Look out there!” Heyes squinted in the direction Curry pointed. His jaw dropped open in shock. Curry slapped his back, almost knocking him off his feet.

“Didn’t I say? I told you somebody’d be comin’ real soon, and look!” In the distance, they saw the outline of a wagon, its canvas sides shimmering in the heat. The late afternoon sunlight glinted off the metal on the horses’ harnesses. To their amazement, the sound of tinkling bells echoed through the still air.

“Is it real? I mean, really real?” Heyes asked. “Not one of them mirage things?”

“Does a mirage make noise? He’s heading this way.”

Both men stared at the wagon as it slowly moved closer to them. When it arrived at the rocks, they saw a man jump down from the high seat and move over to help a woman descend. The man went to unhitch the two horses while the woman stood and stretched.

“Let’s go down and say hello,” Heyes said.

“No, not yet.” Heyes looked at Curry curiously. “They get a look at us now, we’ll scare them off,” Curry explained. “Wait until they get the horses unhitched and let them drink. They can't run off fast then.”

“Another good plan, Kid. Keep it up, and we’ll have to switch jobs.”

“Never gonna happen, Heyes. Not so long as you do that twisty thing when you shoot.”

“I do not do a twisty thing!” Heyes protested. Curry ignored him and started carefully climbing down from their high perch. After one last look at the wagon, Heyes followed him, more slowly. They could hear the new arrivals talking, their voices unnaturally loud in the silence of the desert. Opposite the water hole, they stood quietly in the shadows, waiting to speak until both people and horses were drinking.

“Hello there!” Heyes called out. Startled, the couple looked around wildly for the source of the unexpected voice. The horses kept drinking, unconcerned.

“Who’s out there?” the man called. “Show yourself!” To Heyes’ immense relief, neither newcomer pulled out a gun.

“Boy are we glad to see you!” Curry said. The couple stood with gaping mouths, stunned at the sight of the two bedraggled men approaching them.

“Where’d you two come from?” the man asked.

“Back there,” Heyes said, pointing vaguely in the direction they’d wandered. “We’re miners. Got lost trying to get back to town. We just barely made it here.”

“Land’s sakes!” the woman said. “Where are your horses?”

“Dead,” Curry told her. “We lost ‘em days ago. We lost everything, trying to walk out of here. We got nothin’ but what we’re wearin’.”

“You mean you don’t even have any food?” she asked.

“Nothing, ma’am,” Heyes said. “We just barely made it here, where we found water. We been prayin’ hard as we could that somebody would come by and help us.”

“And so it is,” the man said. “The Lord always answers prayers. Maybe not the way we expect, but He always answers. Martha,” he went on, “looks like we have guests for supper. I don’t suppose you boys would care to join us for a hot meal?”

“When was the last time you boys ate?” Martha asked. Heyes and Curry looked at each other, trying to count the days.

“Never you mind,” she said. “You’re having dinner tonight. And breakfast tomorrow.”

“And a ride to town,” the man said.

“You’d do that?” Curry asked. The man nodded.

“The Lord moves in mysterious ways, son. Martha and me, we’re honored to be the instruments of His will. I’m John Barnes, by the way, and this is my wife Martha.”

“Joshua Smith, and this here is my partner, Thaddeus.” Nobody but Curry noticed the omission of the surname. He guessed that Heyes didn’t want to arouse any suspicion with the Smith and Jones aliases.

“We’re very grateful, Mr. Barnes,” Curry said. “More than you’ll ever know.”

“We’re only following God’s law, Thaddeus. Matthew 25: 35 I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

“You boys sit down before you fall down while I go get the dinner fixin’s,” Martha said.

“Let me help you, Mrs. Barnes.”

“No, Thaddeus, you’ve been through the mill. I hope don’t mind me saying so, but you don’t look too good.”

“I believe it, Mr. Barnes, but my mother raised me to always help a lady. I’m too old to change now.”

“Well, in that case, Thaddeus, you can walk with me and keep me company, but that’s all!”

“Yes ma’am.” Curry followed her as she strode back towards the wagon. Heyes and John watched them go.

“Joshua, you just sit and rest. Your troubles are all over now. We’ll take you two with us, and you’ll stay at our mission in town till you’re ready to travel again.”

“John, I’m beginning to think I’m imagining you. Are you real?”

Barnes laughed. “Yes, Joshua, I’m real.”

“What are you doing out here anyway?”

“Looking for you, of course.” For a moment, Heyes feared that this gentle man might be a bounty hunter. But John only smiled benignly at him.

“I mean it,” John went on. “We minister to the forgotten who wander the wastelands. People like you and your friend, who are in need of Christ’s love.”

“You mentioned your mission? What’s that?”

“Martha and I are Missionaries of the Living Christ. Our group runs a shelter in town where we take in unfortunate men.” He winked at Heyes. “Does that sound like a place you’ve been looking for?” Heyes could only shake his head in amazement.

“Maybe more than you know, John.” He watched John move to tether the horses.

“John,” Heyes said, seriously. “We’ll pay you back for everything. Right now, I don’t know how, but we will. I mean it.”

John nodded, equally serious. “I believe you, Joshua. No hurry, though. Like I said, God moves in mysterious ways. We’re just his instruments.”

Heyes had no answer for that, so he sat quietly until Curry returned, carrying some firewood, while Martha brought a pot.

“Just beans and ham, but I think you’ll like it,” she said.

“It’s like manna from heaven to us, ma’am.” Curry told her.

“Now you boys sit while Martha and me get things organized.” Heyes was only too happy to oblige.

“I still can’t believe you two came out here by your lonesomes,” Martha said, fanning the flames that John had started.

“We didn’t,” Curry said. All three looked at him in surprise.

“We came out with a friend, but he left our campsite a couple days before us.”

“Well, I’ll be,” Martha said. “You mean he upped and left you?”

“Why’d he leave you two behind?” John asked. Heyes heard suspicion in his voice for the first time.

“It’s not what you think,” Heyes said.  "He said mining was just too hard on the back and he wanted to leave. Too much work for too little reward. The way things went, I guess he was right. Thing is, he was the one who’d travelled through the desert before. He gave us directions, but we went wrong somewhere.”

“Maybe you saw him?” Curry asked. “Tall, thin, sandy-haired? Smiles a lot?”

Martha and John didn’t look happy.

“His name wouldn’t happen to be Danny, would it?” John asked.

Heyes and Curry sat up straight and looked at each other, stunned. Heyes found his voice first.

“Speak of the devil. Yeah, it would. But how . . . ”

John sat down heavily. “How, in all this emptiness? Strangers search out each other in this wasteland, boys. Yes, we saw him. Just in passing. We talked and went our separate ways.”

“And this Danny, he was your friend?” Now even Martha sounded suspicious.

“I don’t know if I’d say friend so much,” Heyes said. “We only met him a short time before we decided to work a claim.”

“Why do you ask, ma’am?” Curry wanted to know. “Did something happen?”

“No, boys,” John answered, sighing. “It’s just . . .I suppose it’s not Christian of me to say so, but there was something about him made us feel uneasy. Not like with you two. We feel right comfortable with you.”

“The Lord tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it,” Martha said. “But after this Danny went his way, I remembered something my grandfather used to tell me. He said, ‘be careful of somebody who smiles too much.’”

“Do you remember where he said he was going, ma’am?”

“Same place as us.” John frowned at his guests. “This was a few days ago, boys. He’ll be gone by the time we get there for sure. What are you thinkin’?”

“I’d sure like to catch up with him,” Curry said. “He probably wonders if we got out alright. I’d like to let him know we’re still around, even if it’s only due to you kind folks.”

“Well. I knew you two were good men right off. Even if you did startle us some! I sure wasn’t expectin’ to find nobody out here.”

“Like you said, John, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I guess he had other plans for us.“

“Must be something he wants you boys to do. Do you have any special plans?”

“Yes,” Curry said. “There is something I want to do. Guess now I can. Right, Joshua?”

Heyes only smiled weakly. He knew what Curry planned for Danny Bilson. There'd be no stopping him now.

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PostSubject: Re: Nov 14 - Hard on the Back   Sun Nov 30, 2014 2:19 am

Kid Curry, with a groan, swung down from the saddle. After checking both animal products and leather were on the council’s ‘items for recycling’ list, he hitched his horse to a handy wheelie bin. With another groan…

[The writer is being specific here, just in case any easily confused readers thought it was a single very long groan.]

With another groan, he rubbed his lumber region.

[Meanwhile, with a swipe of the backspace key the writer beat off a determined Curryette reader keen to add a wholly inappropriate – though strictly PG – suggestion that she’d be happy to rub any and all parts of the Kid’s lumbar region.]

[There followed second tapping of the backspace to erase the tetchy snit of another writer, whose identity will remain anonymous, that since this piece of nonsense was not VS there was no need to call Kid, THE Kid.]


Curry, still rubbing that delightfully dimpled area of his lower back, waited patiently for the parentheses to close, then spoke:
“Ridin’ between Bromley an’ – er…” He glanced around at the surrounding drizzle-dewed suburban semis. “This place…”

“Hall Green,” supplied Heyes.

“Where the Sam Hill is the green part?”

“Stick to the dialogue, Kid, you gotta say it right or this don’t count.”

With a sigh Curry started again. “Anyhow, ridin’ between ‘em twice a day sure is…” Deep breath. “Hard on the back.”

Heyes ticked off the requisite box on a much creased check list and returned both it and the stub of a pencil to his vest pocket. He then removed a sheaf of typed paper from his saddle bag. Clearing his throat he delivered his own dialogue – well a version of it - in dramatic tones.

“Be of good cheer my worthy companion. What matters our discomfort if we can render assistance to the two fairest ladies in this green and pleasant land? What matters…”

[The writer silenced Heyes with a flick of the shift bar.
‘@**@!’ she admonished the scene-hogging ex-outlaw. ‘You’re not Ivanhoe! If you’re not going to take this seriously I’ll edit you out and use Wheat.’
After reconstructing the fourth wall – and a dang shaky piece of daub and plaster it was even before receiving this knock – she gave Heyes a second chance.]


“Well you know, Kid,” expositioned Heyes, “Since Maz and Calico agreed to co-operate on a VS, the least we can do is ferry the story between them so they can take turns.” He slapped the pages drafted so far – such as they were – with gloved fingers.

“If you ask me,” growled Curry, still massaging the kinks from his spine, “that story’s...”

“Did you hear me ask you?”

Kid Curry glowered at his partner.

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t end in tears,” sighed Heyes.

“If Maz has anythin’ to do with it, it will,” grumbled Curry. “Mine! Manly tears, while I writhe in agony havin’ another bullet dug out.”

“Nah,” dismissed Heyes. “This is a light-hearted comedy VS.”

“Is it funny?”

“Erm…” Heyes cast a glance at the waiting writer and maintained a diplomatic silence on that one. “Besides, I meant tears from the gals. Y’know collaborating on a story can cause…” He paused. Maybe diplomatically. Maybe wisely.

“Hissy fits?” supplies the not so diplomatic – and possibly not so wise – Kid Curry.

“Yeah. For instance, just now – when you got described as possibly not so wise as me – I heard Maz’s sniff of disapproval even though we’re more’n ninety miles away.”

“Disapproval? Really? But, gosh Heyes, surely Maz knows Calico is merely using the established fanon that you are the silver-tongued genius and take care of the thinking, whilst I… Sheesh!!” Curry wheeled around and stared in a south-easterly direction. “I didn’t just hear her sniff that time, I felt it!”

“That’s ‘cos you’d just been given an out of character line of dialogue to make me look good, Kid. Maz don’t like that.”

“That’s my gal!” beams Curry.

“And she thinks you always ought to get injured.”

“That’s my gal,” sighs Curry.

“Of course, Calico can get proddy too.”

[Heyes was of course wrong about this, but the deadline loomed so his errant line survived. There were, however, no examples given of Calico’s alleged proddiness, since none existed!]

“At least both gals agreed to slip in plenty of innuendo,” said the dimpled one.

“They’re not gonna slip nothin’ in my end-oh, Heyes!”

“When it comes to double entendre, they sure are the gals to give us one!”

Kid Curry rolled his eyes. “So this…” He gestured at the virtual typing above his head. “This ain’t part of the VS, huh?”

“Nah, this is a challenge.”

Kid Curry scanned the text and shakes his head. “It ain’t gonna win her a bandanny.”

“No. But it’ll make her feel a tad better about never joining in.”

Curry pushed back his hat. “Heyes, there ain’t nothing up there…” He points to the nonsense still unfurling. “To make anyone feel better. If Calico wants my advice…”

“That’s a big IF, Kid.”

“She’ll stop now, before she milks the joke to death.”

[She did. Whaddya mean –‘too dang late’?!]
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PostSubject: Re: Nov 14 - Hard on the Back   Sun Nov 30, 2014 9:19 am

A small offering which has been hurriedly done but the bunny hopped and I couldn't resist. Very Happy

Hard on the back - and easy on the eye!


Kid Curry shifted uneasily in his seat.   His back ached but every time he moved those eyes flared and glared. He drew a deep breath and willed the muscles in his shoulders to relax. His arms ached from the awkward position they had been forced into but he dared not complain.  The sharp pricking sensation, due to lack of circulation, began to course up through his arms and spread down his back.  But he could not move to alleviate the sensation.

His mind wandered to what his partner was doing.  At the time, it had seemed he had got the better deal, when he had accepted the job.  Heyes was to spend the week delivering a wagonload of furniture to a wealthy rancher.  There were some heavy wooden items to unload and the Kid had thought that for once he had the job, which would be easier on the back – that was until several hours ago. Now he wasn’t quite so sure.

When he and Heyes had ridden into the town of Devonia they had been down to their last few dollars.  They had spent the previous week keeping a low profile after having been spotted by a sheriff who knew very well who they were, leaving the last town before even booking a room at the hotel.

Devonia appeared to be a quiet haven.  There were enough people bustling about the town to be a distraction but not too many to raise the odds to their being recognised.  Their good fortune improved further when they saw the local sheriff’s office was boarded up. The town offered all the necessary amenities and the local folk seemed friendly enough.

Their luck seemed to improve even further when Heyes saw the notice in the local paper advertising a delivery job.  The Kid, in the meantime, had taken a stroll down the sidewalk and had spotted a card in the town store: 'Strong, handyman required for painting work.’

The next morning Heyes went off to meet a Mr. Sanders about the delivery job and, having enquired within the store, Kid was directed to a house on the outskirts of the town.

As Kid rode up he ran an appraising eye over the property.  It was a well built house but somewhat tattered, with peeling paint on the fence and window frames.  Nothing too difficult he thought, as he swung down from the saddle.  He knocked on the door and waited.  There was no response for a minute or two but then he heard footsteps and the door opened a crack.

“Can I help you?” a female voice enquired.

“It’s more a case of me helping you, ma’am,” came the charming retort.  “I saw your card in the store about needin’ some paintin’ work done.”

The door opened a little further, revealing a fair-haired woman, dressed in pants and a smock, with a smear of dark paint down her cheek.   Stepping out onto the porch she looked the Kid up and down.  “Oh, you’ll do just fine!” she said, her full lips spreading into a wide smile.

“Ma’am?”  The Kid was a little taken aback by the certainty in her voice.  He was even more taken aback when she took hold of his hand and pulled him into the house.

That had been five hours ago.  He shifted again in the chair.  “Just a little longer, Mr Jones and then you can take a break,” she instructed, as she disappeared again, behind the stretched fabric.

“That’d be good ma’am.  My shoulders are beginning to ache something fierce and my back ain’t feelin’ too good neither.”

The sun had got lower and there was a chill in the room and he gave an involuntary shiver.  “Ma’am, any chance I could put my shirt back on?  It’s gettin’ kinda chilly in here.”

Tousled fair hair appeared over the top of the canvas once more.  “Certainly not, Mr Jones.  You have wonderful definition and I intend to capture every bit of it.  I’ll light the fire shortly just as soon as I’ve ….”  Her words trailed off as she disappeared from view again and the scratch of bristle on rough cotton was heard once more.

“Yes, Ma’am,” the Kid responded compliantly.

**********

Another three hours later, Kid Curry pulled himself stiffly up into the saddle.  Who would have ever thought sitting still could be so hard on the back?  As he began to wheel his horse around, to head back to town and a hot, relaxing bath, he tipped his hat politely to the lady with whom he had spent the whole day, in a state of undress.

“I’ll see you in the morning, Mr Jones,” she called out, with a faint smile, wiping the last of the paint from her hands with a cloth.  “When the light’s at it’s best.”

“Yes ma’am,” he answered wearily.

At least didn’t have to worry about the finished painting being used to identifying him.  Miss Frankie didn’t seem to be concentrating on his face! Shocked

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Nov 14 - Hard on the Back
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