Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England
|Subject: Settling Wheat – Part Twenty Two (Hardware Store) Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:00 am|| |
Settling Wheat – Part Twenty Two (Hardware Store)“How does that feel?” Ben asked.He had spent the afternoon attending to Heyes’ plastering. First, he had trimmed the plaster on Heyes’ arm so he could move his elbow and fingers more easily, leaving just the plaster covering his forearm. Heyes was looking a lot happier and became even more so when Ben removed the plaster entirely from Heyes’ foot.
“Light. Like my foot will float away,” he chuckled.
“It looks fine. Any pain? Can you wriggle your toes for me?”
Toes wriggled. “Feels stiff.”
“To be expected.”
Ben had gently pushed on Heyes’ toes, without warning.
“Your foot will feel stiff for a few days. Shall we try putting your weight on it?”
“Yes please,” said Heyes, eagerly. This was a significant day in his recovery and he wanted to get on with it.
“Okay, get your crutch and put your arm round my shoulders.” Ben paused. “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t want you to rush this. We’ll take it slowly.”
Heyes rolled his eyes, took a deep breath and nodded. “Okay. Whatever you say Doc.”
“Now I don’t want you put your weight on it straight away. Just put your heel on the floor like you were doing.”
Crutch under one arm and the other around Ben, Heyes slowly stood up from the bed.
“Good. Now I want you to slowly, lower your foot. SLOWLY! Yes, it will hurt a bit. Your foot was held in one position for weeks. That’s why we’re doing this SLOWLY.”
“Okay?” Ben was looking with concern at his patient.
“Yep,” Heyes gasped.
“Now keep your foot on the floor and tell me how it feels.”
Heyes screwed up his face. “Um, it hurts but it’s not too bad.”
“Okay. Now put your weight on it.”
Heyes took a deep breath as he did so. This was hurting more than he thought. He supposed it had been wishful thinking that once the plaster was off he would be able to walk normally straight away.
“Now take a step as you would normally, rolling the foot onto the toes and lift up.”
“Sheesh, Ben, you don’t want much do you?” Heyes gasped. He hissed as he did it, lifting hisfoot quickly clear on the floor.
Ben gave him a few moments. “Want to try again?”
“Yeah.” Heyes knew he had to get through this. He swallowed hard and repeated the manoeuvre, letting out a grunt as he did so.
“Think you can make it to the chair?” Ben nodded at a chair a few steps away.
Heyes nodded. “Yeah.”
Several minutes later Heyes sank gratefully into it. He rubbed his forehead, looking a little sick.
“Is it supposed to hurt that much?”
Ben knelt and picked up the foot. He ran his hands over the instep, causing Heyes to jerk and hiss.
“It’s mended Joshua. It’s just lack of use. Did it feel easier the more you walked?”
Heyes considered. “Yeah it did.” He nodded. “I think you’re right.” He took a deep breath. “I’ll just need to battle through.”
“Yes but you’re not to overdo it. Walking on this foot for too long can be counterproductive.Do you hear me, Joshua?”
Ben knows me far too well, glowered Heyes.
“Yes,” he said, irritably.
“Good I’ll tell Mary.”
“There’s no need to go THAT far!” Heyes spluttered.
Ben chuckled. “Think you can get back over there?” He nodded to the bed.
Heyes nodded but with some trepidation.
ASJASJASJASJ“Josh, Ben said you were to take it easy! Not go gallivanting about!”
The next day Heyes was sitting on the pouffe in his study. Mary was standing over him, hands on hips. He’d just told her his plans to go to his new store at Salt River and he and the Kid were about to go.
“Mary I won’t be walking far. The Kid is coming with me. I’m going to walk … ten steps to the buggy. He’s gonna DRIVE me into town where I’ll walk another ten steps … .” He caught her raised eyebrow. “Okay twelve steps.” The eyebrow was still raised. “Fifteen maybe.” He winced in irritation. “I dunno a few but I’ll be on the train most of the time.”
“It’s quite a walk from the other end.”
“No it’s not!”
“It is for a man in your condition.”
“Then … then … we’ll hire a buggy!” he spat. “Give up Mary. I’m going. I need to see how the store is. It’s killing me not knowing.”
“I told ya, Wheat hasn’t burnt it down,” the Kid offered, helpfully. “Yet,” he added, less than helpfully.
Mary turned round and gave him a hard look.
“Oops! Think I’ll er … .” The Kid made for the study door.
“Kid!” Heyes was struggling off the pouffe and scrabbling for the walking stick he was using instead of a crutch.
The Kid looked back in resignation. Heyes was determined and if he didn’t help him, he would probably end up hurting himself.
“Mary I promise I’ll look after him. See that he doesn’t walk too much.”
Mary looked from one to the other. Then finally, she harrumphed, muttered something about stubborn men, threw her hands into the air and stomped out of the room. Heyes was tight-lipped. He didn’t like Mary being out of sorts with him. There would be some making up to do later. Mmmm, that might not be TOO bad.
“Thanks Kid,” he muttered, as he limped over.
“Sure ‘bout this?”
Outside, John had brought the buggy up to the steps. Heyes negotiated them with relative ease but getting into the buggy presented a different problem. He couldn’t stand on his good foot and bring his bad foot up onto the bed of the buggy. He knew that foot couldn’t take the weight from that angle. Nor could he stand on his bad foot alone and put his good foot up. He had to resort to a rather undignified crawl into the buggy and then pull himself up onto the seat, landing with an embarrassed thump.
“Are ya gonna be able to get out?” the Kid asked, climbing in and taking the reins from a smirking John.
“I can get out!” came the crisp answer.
“Okay then.” The Kid gave the reins a shake. “Hupp!”
ASJASJASJASJIt was a ten-minute walk, a slow hobble in Heyes’ case, to The Hardware Store from the Salt River railroad depot. He was pleased he had managed as well as he had. The Kid only had to steady him once, when a child had careered out of an alley and nearly knocked into him.
Wheat knew they were coming and he was standing nervously behind the counter when they arrived.
Heyes barely greeted him. He was everywhere, inspecting, lifting lids, pulling out drawers, moving things. Wheat wisely left him to it, hopping out of the way when needed. The Kid stood just inside the door, his arms folded and a rueful smile on his face. They swopped resigned glances as Heyes poked and prodded in every crevice and asked many questions, often fired out at speed and not waiting for an answer before the next. It was a good thirty minutes before the hobbling one ran out of steam.
“Well Heyes what’s your verdict? Have we done a good job?” the Kid asked, when Heyes eventually came to light on a stool.
The Kid, Wheat and Russ from the Porterville store had spent several long days stocking the store and getting things ready. Russ had stayed on to show Wheat the ropes for a few more days. Although the Kid had visited once a week to see how things were doing, Wheat had been on his own for the last three weeks. Heyes had wanted the Kid to go more often but he refused after the first week.
“The store hasn’t fallen down Heyes. Leave Wheat be. You trusted him enough to make him manager. Now let him get on.”
“But … .”
“No buts Heyes. If you constantly check up on him he’ll be a bundle of nerves and then he’llbe no use to you.”
“But … .”
“Kid … .”
At that point, Heyes had resorted to pleading. “Pleeease!”
Heyes thrust out his bottom lip, and then ground his teeth. He wasn’t going to win this one. He harrumphed and folded his arms, as well as he could, giving a passable impression of his daughter at her most determined. All to no avail. The Kid had refused to visit more than once a week and that was that. Nothing he could do, except fume and worry.
FINALLY, with the plaster off his foot, he was here. The Kid was right. The store hadn’t fallen down round Wheat’s ears. It looked good, better than expected. Neat and tidy. Just like if he’d been here. Which was suspicious. Had there been ANY trade? Had Wheat SOLD anything? Had ANY customers been in?
“How are the books, Wheat?” Heyes asked, harder than necessary.
“S’okay. Ya man from Porterville showed me how they worked. I’s reckon I’ve done ‘em right.” Wheat swallowed, hard. This would be the big one. THE test. He knew from past experience how meticulous, Heyes was about keeping records.
Heyes looked doubtful and rose from the stool, staggering a little. Both Wheat and the Kid reached to steady him.
“I’m fine,” he snapped. He took a deep breath. “Okay, show me the books.”
“Well they’re out back, Heyes,” said Wheat, jerking a thumb over his shoulder to the small office.
“Yep,” Heyes nodded and set off in that direction.
“Well I don’t need to be here for this,” the Kid said. “I’m gonna take myself over to the saloon. See if I can't get into a friendly poker game.”
The other two men looked round. Heyes with a look that said, you will come back won’t you? Don’t reckon I can get home on my own. Wheat’s look said, you ain’t leaving me here on ma own with him are ya?
The Kid smiled ruefully, reading both faces correctly. “I’ll be back. Couple of hours. That enough time?” He opened the door, not waiting for an answer. “Have fun.” Then he was gone. It would be interesting being a fly on the wall in that place for the next little while. He’d been caught between Heyes and Wheat enough times to know he would be better off out of it.
Heyes and Wheat looked at each other.
ASJASJASJASJ“What does that say?” Heyes stabbed his finger on the page of the ledger. That wasn’t the first time he’d said that this afternoon. Wheat’s writing was appalling, difficult to decipher even when the spelling was correct. In most cases, it wasn’t and this particular entry was the worst yet.
Wheat frowned at the entry in the ledger. “Er … well … it er says … ,” he puffed. “It er … .”
“You don’t know do you?” Heyes sighed, pinching the top of his nose in barely disguisedpatience.
“’Course I do!” Wheat was indignant. “It’s … well it’s y’know … that.”
“What?” Heyes dropped his hand, wearily. This was taking forever. His foot and arm werehurting and his patience had just about run out. “I dunno what it says. I didn’t write it!” He crept forward and gave a deep sigh. “Okay where are the invoices? Let’s see if we can match it by amount. At least I can read that!”
Wheat moved the full letter spike over towards Heyes, who smacked his lips and rolled his eyes. He waved his hand at Wheat to unspike them.
“Are they in any particular order?” he asked, dryly, as Wheat made a pile of invoices in front of him.
“Sure,” said Wheat, looking furtive.
“And that is?” Sheesh, it was like drawing teeth.
“This … ,” Wheat began. “This order,” he added, triumphantly.
Heyes bit off the retort he was thinking and licked his lips. Slapping his hand on the pile, he drew them towards him and started to go through the invoices looking for the amount on the ledger. Someway down the pile, he appeared to find it, looking from the invoice to ledger and back again in horror.
“WHEAT, this isn’t even PHONETIC!”
“Yeah it is Heyes. There’s an invoice for nets further down.” Wheat made to take the pile back.
Heyes sat back in his chair, closed his eyes and shook his head.
“Well how d’ya know?”
“Believe me Wheat I know,” he sighed. “We don’t STOCK phonetics ‘cos it’s not a THING!”
Wheat sniffed and shrugged his neck back and forth. “Well … ,” he started, and then thought better of it. Heyes was right and he knew it. Much as it stuck in his craw to admit it. “Ya alright Heyes? You look a little green.”
Heyes sighed. “I’m just a little tired.” He smiled weakly. “Think I’ve overdone it coming here today. Let’s do this another time, huh?”
“Sure Heyes,” Wheat said, starting to gather up the paperwork and not believing his luck that Heyes hadn’t chewed him out. Or worse, fired him. “Whatever ya say.”
Heyes got up and fumbled for his stick. “Think I’ll take myself off to the café and have some coffee.”
“Can make you one here?” Wheat said, hoping to claw back a little goodwill.
Heyes shook his head. “I’ll let you get on.” Then, hearing the bell tinkling in the shop added.“You’ve got a customer.”
Heyes limped slowly and painfully down the street to the café. He sat in the window and sipped his coffee, wondering firstly where had his brains been when he’d offered Wheat this job. In practical areas, Wheat had proved better than expected. If he could just master the books, perhaps things wouldn’t turn out so bad. Writing legibly would sure help though. Secondly, what was he going to do about it and thirdly how could he fix it without Wheat getting all bent out of shape. Heyes knew he wasn’t up to butting heads again right now. He sighed. Nothing sprung immediately to mind.
He sighed again and looked out of the window. Across the street from the café, the little school had just let out. Children were running away, delighted to have finished for the day. In fact, it was the end of the school year. At home, Susan was finishing for the summer as well today.
Heyes smiled as he thought on his precocious daughter. He was going to have to do something about her for next academic year. Porterville’s schoolmistress had already told him that she was struggling to teach her anything new. Susan soaked up knowledge like water on a sponge. The lack of new things was making her bored and disruptive. Options then. There was sending her away to school. No, he didn’t want that and she was too young anyway. Home school her. Perhaps that was a solution. Heyes shook his head. Nope. Susan liked going to school and playing with her friends. It was good for her to socialise with children of her own age. If she spent all day at home, she would get lonely and isolated. Especially when the boys went to school. Which Harry would in the Fall.
Oh and that was another hurdle to overcome. He and Mary had waited eagerly for Harry to become old enough to go to school. He’d be off their hands most of the day and someone else’s responsibility. Unfortunately, Harry was the sort of boy that disaster followed around. Not as academically minded as his sister, Harry was more practical. He like to know how things worked and had the unfortunate habit of taking things apart to see. Heyes had spent many evenings trying to put things back together again. Mary spent time with both boys teaching them to read. Billy had picked it up easily and was soon reading books on his own. Harry learnt quickly but soon lost interest. He didn’t want to read for pleasure like Billy seemed to. No Heyes doubted that school and Harry would get on at all. He could foresee a whole heap of trouble coming. Not something he was looking forward to and he had already warned the schoolmistress about his unruly son. Rather optimistically, he felt, she had said she had dealt with boys like Harry before. Time would tell.
Ah! He frowned at the school, an idea starting to form. Now here was a school with a teacher but no one to teach. Perhaps?
Heyes downed his coffee, threw a few coins on the table and took himself across the street.The teacher was cleaning the board as he entered and he cleared his throat to get her attention. She looked round. A middle aged, rather plain, spinster by the look of her. But she didn’t look unfriendly. This might work.
“Can I help you?”
“Hope so,” he smiled. He limped forward. “Name’s Joshua Smith. I er own The HardwareStore across the way there.”
“Oh yes I noticed it was open now. Salt River needs more businesses starting up.”
“Yes I agree. It’ll come I think in time. Mind if I sit down?” He indicated the front bench.
Her eyes washed over the plastered arm and the walking stick. “By all means. My name is Miss Burton. Elisabeth Burton." She looked doubtful. "You’re not a parent are you Mr Smith?”
Heyes laughed. “Yes but not of one of your students, Miss Burton. I live over at Porterville. My daughter goes to school there.”
“Of course. So … how can I help?”
“Well I’ve taken on a manager for the store here to run things for me.” He smacked his lips.“He’s a friend and he needed a job but I didn’t realise just how bad his writing was. It's er … well it’s a problem.” He paused. “So I was wondering … as school is out for the summer … and if … you didn’t have other plans … would you look over his spelling and hand writing? I’d pay you of course.”
Elisabeth Burton smiled. It wasn’t the first time in this town she had been asked to teach adults. It wasn’t the sort of community that attracted educated folks. With their children at school, some adults had sought her out to help improve their own skills. With a few, she had to start at the beginning. Overall, her adult students were hardworking and appreciative of her time. She hadn't decided on it for monetary gain, and indeed, there hadn't been any. The odd bunch of flowers, home cooked pie, that sort of thing. Miss Burton also knew there were more adults in Salt River that would benefit from her help but were too embarrassed to ask.
“No I don’t have any specific plans for the summer, Mr Smith. However, I have been toying with the idea of running a few classes for adults in the evenings, perhaps on Sunday. Would that be of interest?”
Heyes beamed. “Yes that would be ideal Miss Burton. If we can persuade Walter to come along, I’m sure he’d appreciate it. He’s um quite a proud man.”
Miss Burton looked thoughtful. “I thought I might have a few posters printed and put up in various parts of the town.” She rolled her eyes with a rueful smile. “May I put one up in your hardware store, Mr Smith?”
Heyes laughed. “Yes Miss Burton. In fact, when you see my manager you can tell him I said so. His name is Walter. Walter Brown.”
“I’ll do that.”
Heyes got to his feet with a groan.
“Are you alright, Mr Smith?” Miss Burton asked in concern. “Would you like to rest awhile?”
“Thanks. I’m okay. I’d best get back.”
Back in the store, Heyes sat quietly on the stool and watched Wheat go about his business. The two customers he saw were dealt with helpfully and efficiently. Wheat was actually polite, chatted friendly-like but not for too long, and both customers departed satisfied and smiling. Heyes was impressed. He had the surprising feeling that Wheat wasn’t just behaving like that because he was there. Wheat really was trying.
“Well done, Wheat,” Heyes said, quietly.
Wheat nodded, feeling embarrassed. He knew what he had to do and why he had to do it. The tinkling of the bell saved him from further conversation.
“Ah he’s the Kid now.”
Heyes got up from the stool with difficulty. Holding onto the counter, he tested his weight on his foot. By the expression on his face, he was obviously uncomfortable.
“Ya gonna make it to the depot?” Wheat asked, in concern.
Heyes swallowed. “Dunno,” he forced out.
The Kid grinned and folded his arms. “Well that’s okay Heyes, ‘cos ya don’t have to. Figured the walk back might be too much for ya, so I hired a buggy. It’s right outside.”
For a moment, a wide smile of relief spread over Heyes’ face. Then he sobered and nodded.
“Thanks Kid.” He turned back to Wheat. “I’ll come out next week and see how you’re doing. If there are any problems … . And I mean ANY problems send me or Russ a telegram. Okay Wheat?”
“Walter. That’s m’name. Ya can’t call me Wheat no more. I’s gotta maintain my new identity. Can’t do that if ya keep callin’ me Wheat now can I? You should know how important that is Heyes.”
Heyes rolled his eyes. “Joshua,” he said, through gritted teeth.
“What? Oh yeah yeah Joshua.”
Heyes got to the door then remembered the conversation he’d had with the Kid on the way over, about man management. He turned back to the counter, facing Wheat. He tapped his fingers thoughtfully as he thought carefully.
“You’re doing fine er Walter.” He nodded. “Keep up the good work. I’ll see you next week.”
Wheat watched them go, feeling pleased with himself. Things were shaping up. He was getting the hang of this job. He was learning and he was enjoying it. Above all, Heyes was pleased.
Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname