So this one is a stand alone story I had inspired by a weird conversation with Hanna Heyes. Silly me thought this had to be under 2000 words and cut a bunch of great scenes. Sadly I hadn't saved the longer version, buuuut I did rewrite the favorite bits I remembered and now I am at 3330 words just in time for the deadline. Thanks Remuda!
"Ire and Ipecac"
Kid Curry was carrying his partner and he practically kicked the door to the doctor's office open.
“I need a doc, now!” He wasn't trying for angry gunslinger, but he had a tendency to snap when he was worried, and he'd just carried his sick partner several blocks.
“Kid,” Heyes mumbled, chiding him with one word. His dark hair was plastered with sweat, his skin was clammy and he was shaking with chills. He'd vomited once, but although extremely nauseous, he hadn't been able to repeat the performance.
“I need the doctor now, please
.” Kid reiterated.
The nurse came over and took one look at the two of them--angry and worried blonde gunslinger holding a green-tinted, dark haired man--and ushered them through the waiting area into a private room.
“Here, put him down in this bed.” She got a pan presumably for Heyes to puke in and put a few pillows behind him. “I'll make certain the doc is right in,” she soothed the brown eyed man. She eyed Kid, standing over the bed. “You shouldn't have moved him! We would have come to wherever you’re staying.”
Most days Kid would have replied with a more moderated tone, but he had about had it. He didn't yell, but his irritation was evident. “Well, ma'am, I would bear that in mind for next time, except not only did they refuse to call the doctor, they KICKED US OUT of the hotel. They threw our bags out, too, and I'm gonna guess they got stolen because I left them to lie there so I could find your office and get some help for my friend. So could you please
get some help for him now?”
Instead of looking affronted or upset, the nurse's eyes softened. “Of course. I'll be right back. There's a pitcher on the side board if he needs water.”
She left and the two were left in the small room, which seemed like a bedroom instead of a room in a clinic. This was probably because the doctor’s office was in a house.
Heyes doubled over with cramping and made that horrible retching sound. Kid readied the pan for him, but again nothing came out.
“Did you... really...leave our stuff...in the street?” Heyes asked his partner who was watching him with worried blue eyes. He felt awful but knew how worried Kid was, and decided the best distraction for them both would be for him to pick at Kid a little.
“Yes, Heyes, I did.”
“What'd ya do...that for?”
Kid gave him an incredulous look. “I was a little preoccupied with carryin’ you
at the time.”
“But our clothes and everything...will be gone,” Heyes replied.
“Tell ya what, next time I'll leave you in the street and just carry our stuff off, if that'll make you feel better.”
“At least you lost...that pink shirt…”
Kid gave him the Look. “Too bad your hat wasn't in there.”
Heyes laughed, then had to groan. “You're...just jealous.”
“Lie to yourself, then, if it makes ya feel better.”
“Don't think... anything will…”
Kid frowned at him, and stood to get a cloth from the side table and wet it down. He took off Heyes’ infamous hat and put the damp cloth on his partner's forehead. “You're burnin’ up.”
“Hadn't...noticed…” Heyes replied, shivering.
Kid gave a long suffering sigh. “Next time, just eat when I tell ya.”
Heyes let out a breath; the cool washcloth felt good against his burning brow. “How...would that...have helped?”
“Then you wouldn't have eaten a corned beef sandwich after it had cooked in your saddlebags all day!” It would've been a yell except that Heyes was sick, so it was more of a loud whisper. The finger pointing was only a little
threatening, given the circumstances.
“Your fault,” Heyes replied, curling up in the fetal position on the bed.
Kid pulled off his boots. “How you figure that?”
“Y’ate too big…a breakfast.” Heyes muttered.
“What?” Kid dropped his partner’s boots next to the washstand.
“You were still full…so I took lunch…to go.” Heyes sat up and grabbed the vomit-pan.
Curry’s eyes widened. “You refused to eat breakfast. I TOLD you to eat.”
“No one besides you eats without a cup of decent coffee,” Heyes grumbled. He hovered over the pan but nothing happened.
“Like you’d know what a decent cup of coffee tastes like!” Kid retorted.
Despite the sick cast to his skin tone, Heyes sat up and narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you start
on my coffee!”
The doctor walked in followed by the lady nurse. “Hello, I'm Dr. Sampson. I've heard you’ve had a rough day.”
“That’s for sure,” Kid Curry muttered.
“He meant me
, Thaddeus. The one that’s actually sick.”
“I’m sick of dealin’ with ya,” his friend replied, but he made room for the doctor and watched his friend.
“This won’t fix everything, but don't worry about where you'll stay,” Dr. Sampson said. “This is my house as well as my office. You can stay here as long as necessary. The bottom floor has a couple of patient rooms.”
“Thanks,” Heyes said. “I'm Joshua Smith and my grumpy friend is Thaddeus Jones.”
“He's been real sick,” the 'grumpy friend’ said in a concerned tone. “Retchin’ but not gettin’ anythin’ up most of the time, fever, chills, bad cramps. The attitude’s just normal.”
“Ha ha,” Heyes said.
“Have you been able to drink anything?” Dr Sampson asked Heyes.
“Were the symptoms sudden? Did you eat something that seemed bad?”
“He had a spoiled sandwich,” Kid replied.
The doctor took out his stethoscope and a thermometer, and did an examination. “Well, Mr. Smith, I am going to give you syrup of ipecac. You need to get the poison out of your system so we’ll force your body to cooperate. The nurse will set you up with a bedside commode as well, so you won't have far to go.”
“So y'think it's food poisoning?” Heyes asked.
“Yes, I don’t think it’s anything else. You should be fine in a day or possibly two. The nurse will give you the ipecac.” The doctor made to leave as the nurse went to Heyes.
“Be right back,” Kid told his friend, following the doctor into the hallway. “Sir, I have $15.00 and my partner has about the same. If that ain't enough, I can work-”
“That's more than enough. I would say the whole thing will be less than $5.00, unless there are complications.”
“But the room-”
“Don't worry about it for now. I don’t charge for that. The room is his and I can find you another-”
“I'll just stay with him,” Kid replied gratefully. “The armchair’s fine.”
“I’ll get you a cot to sleep on in there, but, Mr. Jones, it isn't going to be pleasant…”
“I know, but someone's got to keep him in line. He is the world's worst invalid, believe me,” Kid replied. “So you said he'll be alright?”
Dr. Sampson smiled at the man. “Yes, he’ll get better soon.”
“You said somethin’ about complications,” Kid said, not quite accusingly but definitely mistrusting.
“I can't imagine there will be any, son but I'm naturally cautious. Have you eaten anything?”
“Not since breakfast, but I'm fine.” Although it pained him to turn down food, Kid was too worried about Heyes to let it bother him much. Also, he really had gorged himself that morning and hadn’t needed lunch…but it wasn’t his fault Heyes refused to eat at normal times.
“I'll see if Miss Reed can find something.”
“Thanks Doc.” Kid went back inside and the nurse handed him the 'sick pan’ and said if he needed her, to call anytime. He was worried enough he barely noticed how pretty she was, and figured he could handle it, now that Heyes was at a doctor's office and getting taken care of and he knew it wasn't some terrible illness like the hotel staff had thought. It was better if he did because Heyes was feverish and liable to start telling everyone in listening distance about their past robberies.
“Where'd you go?” Heyes asked when the nurse left the room.
“Not far enough if I'm back just in time for your pukin’,” Kid said jokingly, pulling his chair next to the bed and readying the pan.
“We got enough money for this?”
“I got it covered, Heyes.”
“We can afford it. I asked the doc,” Kid said, trying not to sound exasperated.
“Oh right, doctors never add last minute charges,” Heyes said sarcastically.
Kid sighed and kept his annoyance in check. “Heyes, I have it covered.”
Kid bit his tongue and sat down, managing not to throw the puke pan at his partner. This was going to be a long convalescence.
When the nurse came back in, Kid looked up gratefully. “Need a new pan, this one’s full!”
The nurse—Miss Reed, she said—hurried back out and traded pans. “Here, Mr. Smith, drink some water.”
She bathed the patient’s forehead and made sure he drank. She also looked at his partner who looked tired. “Mr. Jones, I have your friend for a minute. If you look behind the front desk, you’ll find a surprise.”
Thaddeus Jones looked at her in surprise and, at her flirtatious smile, smiled back, but stayed by the bed. Mr. Smith waved a hand to shoo his friend away. Miss Reed watched the blonde saunter toward the front office, enjoying the view—and thus when Mr. Smith vomited, she didn’t move the pan in time and it ended up all over her shoes.
“So they didn’t take anything but our supplies?” Hannibal Heyes asked in rough voice. His throat was unhappy after all of the vomiting despite the tea he’d forced down.
Kid, looking haggard himself as he’d been up all night with Heyes, nodded. “Nope. They didn’t take nothin’ else, so you can get off my case about it.”
“Your clothes scared ‘em away,” Heyes said.
“I was thinking the same thing about yours,” Kid replied.
Miss Reed had sent an errand boy to check on their bags in front of the hotel and had peeked inside them curiously. She was unsurprised those two ugly suits hadn’t been stolen. She doubted even rag-pickers would want them.
“Time for some more medicine,” she said in a cheerful voice. She had to bite her lip not to smile at the look both cowboys leveled at her.
“Great,” Heyes replied. He and the nurse had not warmed to one another, although it could have been partially embarrassment on his part.
It was on the third day that Kid approached the nurse. “So the doc said there were a couple of rooms—“
“Oh, we’re full now.”
“Ah,” Kid said, trying not to look disappointed.
“It’s the smell, huh?” Miss Red asked sympathetically. There was nothing like the smell of food poisoning coming out of a body from all ends.
The blonde waved a hand. “It’s more that I think we might…benefit from some time apart.” Or
, he thought to himself. “But since I’m here, can I get some more water?”
“Of course,” the nurse said. “And can I get anything for you? You’ve been such a dedicated friend.”
Kid glanced at her due to the tone and smiled at her. “I’m all right, ma’am, but-“
“Thaddeus!” Heyes’ voice called.
Kid counted to ten and walked back in the room. Ever since his friend had felt good enough to boss him around, Kid had been fighting annoyance. He walked inside. “Yes, Joshua? What was so urgent that I had to come right off? Need your pillow fluffed again?”
Heyes gave him his wounded expression. He’d been forbidden by the doctor to leave the bed and so when arguing to go hadn’t worked, he’d done a reversal and started ordering his partner around. “Kid, I’ve been horribly sick. Have I ever not helped you
, when you
Kid rolled his eyes. “And how did a book, playing cards, and the newspaper help you recover?”
“I’m not like you, Kid. I can’t go without mental stimulation. My brain needs activity.”
“Heyes,” Kid said in the voice of someone who’d had enough bed pans, puke pans, directions, and insults to last him a lifetime. “You keep this up and I will GIVE you some stimulation.”
“Here, you can keep the ipecac just in case, and I've also included a packet of stomach powder.”
“Thank you, Miss Reed,” Heyes said with a dimpled smile. “I only hope never to use either again.”
The dark-haired ex outlaw sounded as though he was back to his usual self, but to Kid's eye he was too thin in the face and still pale. They'd ride just an hour or so and then Kid would think of an excuse to stop. He hadn't been able to convince Heyes to take a train or a stagecoach or, heaven forbid, stay in town. He got the rap for being obstinate, but he wasn’t the only one.
“And here, Mr. Jones,” Miss Reed said shyly. “I got you some candy for the ride. You were an excellent help to me, thank you. If you ever decide to become a nurse, come back and I'll train you myself!”
Kid smiled at her broadly and she smiled back, blushing. “If you were training me, ma'am, I might take you up on that offer.”
She opened her mouth to speak.
“Well thanks, nurse,” Joshua interjected. “For everything.” He turned and headed outside.
Curry followed him, catching up in several strides. “Hey, what's the rush?”
“We already paid the doc. Why linger?”
“I was sayin’ goodbye-- oh I get it,” Kid said knowingly as he caught up with him. “You're jealous.”
Heyes snorted. “I am not. Just think it's unusual my
nurse preferred to give you
the sweet goodbye. Women are supposed to enjoy taking care of invalids. She should've been doting on me.”
“Well, Heyes, maybe she was...until you puked all over her shoes. Twice. And once on her frock. And then all over the curtains. Oh and the bedspread. Plus after cleanin’ your—”
“I get it, Kid,” Heyes said, striding off. “Let's just get our horses.”
Kid followed and after they'd mounted, he glanced at his friend. “You sure you're up to this?”
Heyes gave him a Look. “You worry about staying on your horse and I'll--”
“Worry about stayin’ on your horse, I know. Still.” Kid frowned at him.
“I’m fine. Quit mother-henning me.”
The two rode out of town together, keeping a slow pace.
An hour later and Kid wished he was back in the clinic’s tiny room with Heyes alternately puking and bossing him. The two were surrounded by four bounty hunters who appeared to have about 5 teeth between all of them and possibly one full set of brains. Getting caught by the toothless trackers was embarrassing. Although they didn’t seem to want to kill them, Kid felt he might die of embarrassment. The duo exchanged a glance.
“Hambull Hames,” the leader of the bunch said. “Git off da horsh an’ drop y’ gums.”
“I can say in all honesty I’m not sure who you are referring to,” Heyes said. “My name is Josh—“
The toothless rider clicked the hammer back on his gun. Kid edged his horse closer to Heyes’ and the man pointed the weapon at him instead.
Another man—he actually had teeth, although they were black colored, smiled widely at Heyes. “He said to get down and drop your gun, Heyes.”
“All right,” Heyes said as he slowly got off his horse and tossed his gun aside. “But my name is Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones. I know he has a common face-“
Kid shot him a look. “But he can’t help it, he was born that way. I reckon he just looks troublesome so people figure we must be a pair of outlaws.”
“Shurrup,” another member of the hygiene-free league of bounty hunters spoke up, shooting a glob of tobacco juice right onto Heyes’ boot.
Heyes quieted. Kid glared, waiting for his turn.
“Okay Mr. Curry, off your horse slow like.”
Kid complied since one of the men had his gun directly pointed at Heyes’ temple.
“Now toss your gun in Jim’s direction,” Blackteeth directed, nodding at the tobacco mouthed man. “Usin’ your left hand.”
“Want me to send a couple of bullets in his direction, too?” Kid asked innocently, hands up. This wasn’t the kind of rest stop he’d had in mind. How had they managed to get bushwhacked by bounty hunters not 45 minutes into the ride?
Jim replied by hitting Curry with the butt of his rifle and Kid went down to his knees, world spinning.
“Hey! You didn't have to do that!” Heyes, already unarmed, yelled.
Kid felt his gun get grabbed and himself be tied up. He was shoved over next to Heyes, who had struggled upright and was bending over him as best as possible while he was trussed up.
“You okay?” Heyes asked.
“Never better,” Kid mumbled.
The one with the black teeth and silver spurs picked up Kid’s gun. “This sure is a pretty piece. Don’t see no notches on it though.”
He walked over and shoved Kid hard so that he fell back. The gunslinger merely narrowed his eyes and the man above him looked unnerved.
“You think you’re somethin’ special huh? Some kind of tough guy?”
Heyes knew where that was headed and decided to speak up. “Excuse me sir. I hate to tell you, but you’re mistaken on who we are. You won’t be able to afford the work after all.”
“I assumed you wanted a bounty to take care of those teeth.”
Blackteeth scowled at Heyes and moved over toward him. “You think you’re funny?”
“Well, no. That wasn’t a joke. A joke would be if I asked, what time’s the best time to schedule a dentist visit?” Heyes said. “Give up?”
The man stared at Heyes, confused.
For a minute there was a staring contest and finally the man walked over to his compatriots, keeping his gun on the duo.
The pair watched as the bounty hunters ransacked their saddlebags.
“I don’t think he got the joke,” Kid said.
“No, but our being captured by these guys is a joke. How’d it happen?”
“I blame you,” Kid said affably as he worked on the ropes around his wrists.
“Hey boys, looks like they're holdin’ out on us.” One of the hunters held up the bottle of ipecac.
“Whash it say?”
“Sometfin’ ‘bout eternal use only.”
“Internal,” Heyes muttered.
“Eternal use? Like one of them cure-alls?”
“Hey them things’re mostly booze.”
“In that case, let's have some. It ain’t every day we catch Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes!”
“I wouldn't, if I were you,” Heyes warned.
“Nobody asked you, Heyes.”
Heyes exchanged a look with the Kid. They couldn't say he didn't try to warn them.
Twenty minutes later, Kid and Heyes were free, leaving the gunslingers trussed up and vomiting everywhere. Out of the kindness of his heart, Heyes left them the stomach powder.
The partners rode quickly in the opposite direction.
“You still doin’ okay?” Kid called over.
“I’m doing great!” Heyes replied. “Better than them. So tell me, was one of them named Ralph
“Oh ha ha, Heyes. Another pun.” There was a pause and then Kid grinned over at his friend. “I just can’t stomach
that kind of humor.”
Heyes laughed as the two of them galloped off into the distance.