“Liability? Liability!!?” Heath, red faced more from anger than embarrassment, lying naked face down on his bed, exploded at his brother Nick who was hovering over him brandishing a sharp Bowie knife in his hand.
“Yeah, that’s what I said. Liability,” Nick vociferously, responded.
“Well in case you haven’t noticed I’m the one lying here with buckshot in my butt.” Disbelieving what his brother was saying, Heath raged.
“Well that’s what I mean. You’re a liability.” Nick continued with his assertion.
“I reckon I must be seeing this from a different angle than you.” Heath could not understand his brother’s stance.
“Well unless your eyes are in the back of your head then you’d have difficulty in seeing it, let alone at the same angle as me and that’s for sure.” Nick was enjoying himself once he had recovered from shock and realized the contraption he had created had not killed his brother nor left him in a life threatening condition.
“Nick I don’t find this funny.” Sounding pathetic, Heath frowned, bringing his eyebrows down low threatening to partially obscure his eyes.
“No of course not Heath.” Hearing the pitiful reply, Nick tried hard to keep the smirk from his face.
“What if it had been Mother or Silas?” in all seriousness, Heath questioned the gravity of what might have happened.
“Mother and Audra aren’t due back ’til tomorrow and I told Silas about it so there were no worries there.” Nick confidently replied.
“Yeah well ya didn’t tell me,” Heath accused.
“Well that’s why you’re a liability. I was going to tell you when you got in. But you didn’t come in did you? You just went off snooping round by the hen coup.” Nick explained, excitedly insinuating that it was Heath’s own fault.
“I thought I heard a noise, I just went to see, was all. I didn’t expect my butt to be peppered full of holes. And you say I’m a liability. What do you think you were doing?” Heath’s anger was raised again.
“Making a trap to catch that dad-blamed fox. I thought I had it.” Nick said, raising an eyebrow and frowning.
“Do I look like a fox Nick?” asked Heath, still perplexed by his brother’s attitude.
“Not from this angle no, though the color is not dissimilar.” Mirth was still evident in Nick’s voice as he dug the tip of the weapon into one of his brother’s bloodied buttocks.
“Geez Nick! Go easy with that blade will ya? I do have feelings.” Heath winced and screeched out at his brother.
“Sorry. This is kind of tricky.” For the first time there was genuine remorse in Nick’s voice.
“Well it might be tricky for you, but it’s damned painful for me,” clutching on to the white sheets to help dispel the pain, Heath reiterated.
“Look I reckon I’ll ride out and get Doc. Merar. He’s used to this kinda thing and he’ll do a far better job than I can in getting them out.” Nick, not exactly enjoying himself, hoped he could get out of extracting any more buck shot from his brother’s buttocks.
“I reckon you’ve already done a mighty fine job with the buckshot. Seeing as you put it in you can get it out, Nick. You get that buckshot out of my hide now ’cause I don’t wanna lie around here any longer than I have to waiting for the Doc. to arrive. You understand?” Heath was exasperated.
“Heath I don’t want to disappoint you, but I reckon you’re going to be lying around for a good while yet. There is no way I can see you being able to sit down. Not for a while anyway.” With a knowledgeable shake of his head, Nick washed away some of the blood and gave his genuine opinion.
“How many pellets are there?” The whole of his rump may well have been a raging furnace as far as Heath was concerned.
“Not quite sure, but the most of them are stuck in the fatty parts which you sit on.” Nick tried to explain.
“So I guess starting the round up for me tomorrow is out of the question, so you’ve done me one favor there.” Heath’s voice was sardonically tinged.
Nick frowned with comprehension.
“If I can’t sit, there is no way I can ride a horse.” Heath enjoyed nothing better than working as a cowboy and with his disappointment he only hoped to annoy his brother.
“I guess not Heath, I have to concede on that one.” Nick knew he would miss having Heath with him, but he decided to look on the bright side. “Mind you luck was with you in another way?”
“How do you come by that?” Heath was surprised by his brother’s response, “I never considered being blasted with buckshot in the butt as lucky. It’s kinda like saying, “gee that’s lucky,” after some guy’s been struck hard on the head and knocked senseless by a cast horse shoe.”
“Well it was for you, ’cause it was lucky you was facing the way you was ’cause if you’d been looking the other way it would have blasted . . . Well let’s just say your child producing days would have been numbered.” Nick hoped Heath would be amused.
“Don’t even go there Nick. No thanks to you I’m intact. I survived years on my own taking care of myself and here in one short afternoon I could have been blasted off the reproduction stakes by my own brother.” Heath was not amused.
“I didn’t pull the trigger.” Nick pleaded innocence.
“No Nick, you just set the trap and loaded the scatter gun, which for some reason went off, but didn’t scatter. I just put one hand on the wire and the whole lot hit me in the butt.” Heath tried to understand what had happened.
After some silent meditation Heath voiced, “I guess I did you a favor.”
“How so?” Nick’s eyes became intense.
“Well, if the shot had have scattered then I reckon there’d have been precious few hens left and I don’t reckon Mother would be too happy with you. As it is, I figure they’ll be off laying for a while and any eggs that are laid are gonna be ready scrambled. I wasn’t the only one who got a shock when the thing went off ya know? I think the start of the round up is probably a good thing for you, ’cause it will keep you out of range of Mother’s wrath when she gets back and finds out what you’ve done.” This time Heath smirked.
At that moment there was a knock at the bedroom door and Silas entered carrying a jug of clean water, some fresh towels and a bottle of whiskey. He stood and surveyed the view before him. “Mr. Heath that sure don’t look pretty.”
“I don’t expect it does Silas, but I’m not sure it was meant to look pretty was it big brother?” Irritation was evident, but Heath remained agreeable, although his remark was laced with sarcasm.
Silas realized he had said enough and approached Nick. “I brought the whiskey you was asking for Mr. Nick.”
“Good, hand it over please.” Heath raised himself on an elbow and stretched out his right hand.
“This isn’t for drinking Mr. Heath.” Silas looked to the elder brother for guidance.
“The heck it ain’t. At the moment my need is greater than my butt’s.” Nick gave the servant an affirmative nod and the bottle was placed into Heath’s grasp.
“Thank you Silas a couple of glasses wouldn’t go a miss.” Nick politely requested.
With his teeth, Heath deftly removed the loosened cork from the bottle, then told the servant, “Don’t bother with the glasses Silas, the only one drinking this is me. The surgeon needs his senses for what he’s doing, something that has been sadly lacking today.”
Silas handed the towels and water jug to Nick and hastily made his way from the atmospheric room as straight from the bottle Heath started to swallow the fiery liquid.
“Go easy on that Heath.” Nick advised, once more digging the point of the blade into his brother.
Choking and spluttering came from the prone figure on the bed, followed by a curt response. “Did you go easy on the buckshot Nick? No. Then I’m not gonna go easy on the whiskey. I’m gonna drink what I can to deaden the pain and you can use what’s left on my butt when all the shot is out. Ouch! Damn it Nick, take it easy with that knife will ya, it ain’t some dead Jack-rabbit you’re skinning.”
“Don’t I know it. Now if you don’t keep still Heath there’s going be a nasty accident,” Nick warned.
“Nick, I thought we’d determined there’s already been a nasty accident.” Even the small amount of whiskey drunk was starting to affect Heath.
“Well . . . Yeah . . . but .” Nick sounded contrite.
“But nothing, it’s my butt you’ve already disfigured now go easy on it and try and patch it up will ya? This wasn’t the way I intended to spend the evening, lying flat on my belly while you dig lead shot out of me. Boy howdy who needs enemies when they have a brother like you. I had a date tonight and you’ve put paid to that.” The liquor was loosening Heath’s tongue, for this was the first Nick had heard about the date.
“Jasmine-Violet would that be? Sweet as mulberry wine.” A smile of cupidity lit up Nick’s face and he offered, “I’ll go in your stead if you like? ’ don’t like to disappoint the girl.”
“Like hell you will,” Heath growled. “Any more talk like that and I’m gonna think this was a deliberate ploy so as you could get your hands on her. After today my trust in you brother is played out. I’ll ask Silas to get one of the men to ride into town and explain what happened . . . well explain that you . . . well he can tell her that I’m indisposed . . . That should cover it.”
“Cover it? I think you’re going to need quite a large dressing to cover it.” Nick declared.
“What ya mean?” Drowsily Heath asked.
“Well the buckshot may not have spread out round the hens, but it sure spread out round your butt.” Nick gave a devilish smile and again washed away the blood. “I don’t think there are too many more to get out now. Another half hour and I should be through. Then I’ll need to bandage it.”
“Good.” Heath took another healthy gulp at the intoxicating fluid. “Yeah, well just go easy on it.” . . . gulp . . . “do wann some left fresh . . . fresh left.” . . . gulp . . . gulp . . . “wanna pound of yer fresh outta dish . . . bwuvver.” . . . gulp . . . “weckon ya owe me . . . a pant of pairs . . . pair of pants” . . . gulp . . . “not mine Wick . . . mean not wours. Y’understan?” . . . gulp . . . “To fink I wanned to bewong.” . . . gulp . . . gulp . . . ” Ve biggess mishwake I ever made.”
Having listened to his brother’s floundering words, pangs of guilt finally assailed him and Nick apologized to his fast becoming inebriated brother, “I’m sorry Heath. I never intended for you to get hurt. I didn’t think … ”
“Humph . . . Vats jush it Wick . . . ya never fink . . . ya jush weact.” . . . gulp . . . “ya go off half cocked.” . . . gulp . . . “ya cweated a contwaption in your own image . . . It jush wenn off half cocked . . . Nearly . . . bwew . . . me . . . to . . . ” On the white sheets, the bottle, still clasped in Heath’s hand, silently fell to rest, Heath’s head along side, his eyes closed.
“I am sorry Heath,” Nick thought. “At least you’re not feeling anything now,”
He dropped the last pellet of lead into the basin of water feeling pleased with the job he had done, “perhaps I missed my vocation.”
Heath had drunk himself into a stupor so taking advantage of his brother’s state Nick gave the injured area one final wash then gently wiped it dry. Then he moved to his brother’s head, which he lifted carefully and stuffing a pillow underneath, left it comfortable. For a few seconds he looked on contentedly at the smile on Heath’s face. “At least you’re a happy drunk,” he said aloud. “Make the most of it little brother because by tomorrow you’re going to have one hell of a head as well as one hell of a butt and sober you ain’t going to be too happy.” He stretched down and removed the almost empty bottle of whiskey from Heath’s grasp and moved to the injured area. Taking a couple of the clean towels Silas had brought, he placed them either side of his brother’s hips to catch any excess whiskey. Then holding the bottle over Heath’s buttocks, he slowly tipped it to pour the whiskey over the wounds. Heath groaned and Nick saw the buttocks instinctively stiffen and squeeze in response to the smarting caused by the amber spirit.
“Well Heath, that’s done, now all I have to do is bandage it.” Nick picked up a rolled strip of cotton sheeting, which Silas had provided for bandages and looked at his brother’s buck shot rump for the first time realizing he had no idea how to wrap it. A few times he started, but on each occasion was left dissatisfied. “Aw hell Heath. It’s no good, there must be a better way to do this. I can’t leave your butt without a dressing.” He looked down perplexed trying to work out a way of bandaging the injured rump. Eventually an idea came to him. “Silas,” he went to the door and yelled down the stairs. “Silas.”
Almost on cue Silas appeared. “Here Silas, keep your eyes on Heath for a moment, I need to find something.” Nick then disappeared down the hall. Ten minutes found him returning with a clean, white sheet tucked under his arm, a large safety pin clutched in his hand and a satisfied expression on his face. With the help of Silas he folded and double folded the sheet until he was pleased with the size and then folded it once more diagonally into a triangular shape. Then he intimated his intention and with the servant’s help applied the dressing. Finally he stood up straight, his arms folded, looking delighted with his handiwork.
“Mr. Nick, Mr. Heath sure is not going to like this, Mr. Heath is not going to like it at all.” Silas expressed, shaking his head and continually tutt-tutting as he too surveyed the handiwork.
“I dare say,” Nick responded with a mischievous grin on his face, “but he sure does look cute.” No longer could he contain himself and a raucous laugh of devilment rang out. He knew he would be well away by the time his brother woke in the morning.
“Well Silas will you stay here and keep an eye on Heath? I just have something I must do, I won’t be away too long.” With that, Nick bolted to his room and in a short while, clean and presentable, was seen exiting through the front doorway.