Heath Barkley pushed his plate to the side and looked his brother square in the eye. As expected his eyebrow went up a notch. "You've got to be kidding?"
"Nope, not a word of it. I tell ya, Heath that's what those gals at the saloon said. All of them, in fact. As God is my judge." Nick said with a sudden seriousness appropriate to invoking the Lord's name.
"I don't believe ya." Heath continued, throwing his brother an unbelieving look and dabbing his mouth with the napkin. Throwing the napkin down, he retrieved his hat and then threw a few dollars on the table to cover his and Nick's check. Then he walked out of the Cattleman's restaurant knowing his brother would follow to chew off his ear some more.
"Ya see, that's it!" Nick's voice followed from a few paces behind. "That's what they were talking about. I haven't noticed it before, but since they mentioned it... yeah, I see it now."
"See what?" Heath answered, his voice full of irritation as he placed his hat on, glad to hit the cool night air after the stuffiness inside.
"I see what they were talking about. You know the way your hips roll and your butt sits a top of 'em and rolls with them all neat and cute."
"Neat and cute, huh? Look Nick, if you've got something to tell me. Ya know, like something you've been hiding from me?"
Understanding just exactly what Heath was driving at, Nick shot back: "Look I'm just repeating what they said. I mean... Well look, you don't think I care to be told how cute my brother's butt is whilst Molly and I were in the middle of.. well, ya know. And then if that wasn't enough to have all the girls run into the room we were using so they could get the best vantage point to see you loading the wagon with supplies - that cute butt of yours working overtime and getting them all in a lather. And me just lying there.. on my own.... painfully on my own. I tell ya, Heath, it ain't fun having the girl you're with scoot out from right under ya just as ...... "
At this Heath let out a full belly laugh that kept him creased for several minutes. "Oh brother, Nick! Molly, too?"
"Yeah, seems she's thinking of yours' even when she has her hands on mine," Nick was still more than a little put out at how events and a few other things had been rudely interrupted that day.
Continuing down the sidewalk, not quite letting Nick catch up and enjoying seeing him sweat a little, Heath took a second look as he caught his reflection in the window of the barbers' and concentrated with some exaggerated swaying of the hips on the subject of their discussion so far.
Seeing his brother's rare moment of vanity reflected in the window, Nick intervened: "Personally, I think you get a little help wearing those tight pants of yours. Let's face it, they don't exactly leave anything to the imagination. How the hell you work in them beats me."
"Reckon I just have what it takes to fill 'em right, Nick," Heath joked, casting an eye downward before concentrating on safer ground and swatting his older brother on the merest suggestion of a paunch brought on by the rich meal they'd just eaten. Immediately, Nick pulled in his stomach and adopted the trim figure maintained easily by the hard work he did on the ranch.
"I'll have you know I weigh just the same as I did when I was twenty-five."
"Yea, but it don't work if you keep one foot on the floor, Nick. You're suppose to put your full weight on those scales of the docs"
"Oh you're so smart, aren't you little brother?"
"Nope, but apparently I'm cute. C'mon Nick I'll race you home and give you a chance to ride off those extra pounds you're carrying. Then if you're real good I might just lend you a pair of my pants to impress Molly by! The rest, as they say, is up to you!"
The next day, Heath was as good as his word. He lent Nick a pair of pants. Nick tried every which way to put them on and was just at the point of lying down on the floor to do so when Jarrod walked in.
For the briefest of moments Jarrod's face registered surprise but then he quickly recovered, "I know I should ask, but something tells me not to, so I'll just ignore the fact that my younger brother is lying prostrate on the floor with his pants at half mast."
Heath nodded. "Very wise, Jarrod, but point of order if I may?"
"You may," Jarrod replied with a twinkle in his eye. He suspected he and Heath were going to enjoy a joke at Nick's expense and he was going to enjoy this.
"They're not his pants exactly. They're mine."
Jarrod looked closer ignoring the gyrating form of his brother who was still trying to press himself into his pants. "So they are, Heath. Now if it was Nick alone who was here with your pants I'd be worried, but your presence here tells me there must be a logical reason for what's going on."
"Why thank you Jarrod," Heath acknowledged, mirroring the dry humor of Jarrod. Just at that moment both brothers became acutely aware that Nick had stopped groaning and gyrating and was now looking at them both, a sheen of sweat beading his brow and running down his face and neck in fast forming rivers.
"You done?" Heath asked, ignoring the "put out" expression on Nick's face.
"I am, I just need help standing up. That's if you've both finished talking about me like I wasn't here!"
Jarrod feigned a look of innocence and Heath joined him. Then both brothers smiled at each other and each took up an arm, pulling Nick up into a standing position. Only half way up it became obvious that Nick couldn't bend at the knees and the tightness of the material around the crotch was becoming serious to his health.
"It's no good Nick... " Heath sighed. "You just ain't got the same build as me. But don't give up. We can go into town and I'm sure we can get a larger size for you."
"A larger size?" Nick said indignantly. He attempted to move forward and only made his position worse, causing him to yelp in pain.
Resisting the need to laugh, Jarrod intervened. "Heath, I feel I must ask a question now, though I trust your judgment implicitly."
"No problem, Jarrod. What is it you want to know?"
"Well why is Nick trying to wear your pants?"
"Because all the saloon girls told him I have a cute butt in them and Nick felt a little under appreciated when Molly forsook holding his to go look at mine."
Jarrod rubbed his chin in a gesture used with particular effect in the courtroom. "I can see how that could upset him. Do you mind if I take a look?"
"Not at all," replied Heath.
Jarrod came round the back of Heath and looked for himself. "Well it is as they say, a cute butt. And yes I have noticed how it it kind of rolls with the sway of your hips."
"Thank you Jarrod, that's what I've been told," Heath acknowledged, continuing the dry tone, the conversation between the oldest and youngest brothers deliberately intended to needle the one in between.
"And just what about mine, now I finally got into these damned pants?" Nick's bellowing impatience with his two brothers was at its most acute.
Jarrod duly went around the back of Nick who stood precariously on his own legs which still refused to bend.
"Honest," Nick replied.
"Front and back you look like a squashed prune in certain quarters and a definite health hazard to yourself in others."
"Oh come off it," Nick protested. "It can't be that bad!"
Jarrod continued. "Nick, I strongly suggest that if you want to father children in future years, you take those pants off. You just have to accept my dear brother that Heath fits them better. C'mon, like Heath suggests, let's go down to the store and see if we can find you a larger size."
"There you go again. A larger size! Jarrod, are you telling me my bum looks big in this?" He said turning his back to the mirror to take a closer look before gravity took over and toppled him in the process.
"Yes!" both brothers chorused as together they swept him up.
"Oh for Pete's sake I've had enough of this!" Nick protested shaking them off. "Will someone please go and get me my own pants! At least I'll be able to walk again."