Logline: A missing scene from "The Twenty Five Graves of Midas" incorporating a song ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me’

“Everybody's............ talkin'..... at me,”

“There ain’t anyone here. Only you and me Heath. Now calm down take it easy.” Nick tried to cajole his agitated brother. “The doc’s taken the bullet out but you’re goin’ to have to take it easy or you’ll be setting it off to bleeding again.”

It was in the early hours of the morning when Heath started getting restless. Nick had rescued his brother from the mine in the afternoon where he had been buried by timbers and falling debris. Fortunately other than bruising the cave in had not injured his brother further for which Nick was grateful. He had been able to get Heath in front of him on his buckskin horse and had taken him back to Midas to the doctor’s surgery by which time the bullet had been in his brother’s body for almost two days. Other than the lucidity when Nick had found him Heath had been unaware of everything that had been going on.

Heath’s clothes were removed, his body was washed and when the bullet wound was inspected it was found to be red and angry and hot to the touch, most definitely inflamed. The doctor had insisted on removing the bullet as quickly as possible to limit the infection which had set in. Not knowing the doctor, Nick would have preferred to get his brother home to Stockton for Doctor Merar to deal with it but when he saw the wound he knew that idea was out of the question. He realized his brother needed immediate surgery.

Worried Nick left the doctor to get on with removing the bullet and returned after a much needed but short restless nap at the hotel to find that the surgery had gone well the bullet having been removed without causing any complications. The doctor expected Heath to sleep through the night and unlike Nick was not too unduly worried about his patient. Since Heath’s arrival and acceptance into the Barkley family the older brother had been through too many times fighting the fevers and the inner demons which ensued after the younger man had been hurt or shot. Consequently Nick, much as the doctor thought it unnecessary, stayed with his injured brother throughout the night. As it was the doctor was called out to a difficult childbirth later in the evening and Nick felt justified in his insistence on staying.

The doctor’s kindly wife was in the house and she took care of any of Nick’s needs in the way of water, cloths, food, extra pillows and bedding and Nick made himself comfortable in a chair by the side of his brother’s bed for his night time vigil. It was a reasonably good sized room but Nick had opened the window to allow fresh air into the otherwise stuffy environment. He was glad he had, when about midnight he realized his brother was having difficulty breathing. Hearing the muck, the dust and fungal spores his brother had inhaled in the cave in at the dank mine rattling in his windpipe, Nick was thankful it had not yet settled on Heath’s chest.

Being careful not to wake his insentient brother Nick carefully pushed an arm beneath Heath’s broad shoulders and lifted him up to push some pillows behind to support him in an almost sitting position. The breathing became easier but during the manhandling Nick had felt the heat growing in his brother’s body and knew that the night was just beginning. Taking a cloth he plunged it into the cold water in the bowl and squeezing it out he placed it on Heath’s brow then sat down to watch and wait in the dim light given off by the night lamp.

Before the midnight hour was through Nick was drawn out of his semi doze by his brother’s effort to cough. Instantly Nick was up and out of his chair and supporting his brother’s head encouraging him to cough into one of the cloths he had at his disposal. The effort of coughing had reawakened the pain to his brother’s wound and had brought him round to consciousness. Nick looked into the glazed eyes seeing the pain and confusion as they followed his every move. Settling Heath back against the pillows Nick refreshed the cloth on his brother’s brow gently reassuring him. “You sleep Heath. You’re going to be alright.”

Heath closed his eyes comforted by the gentle voice but failed to find the haven he craved. There was no escape from the hurting in his side nor the aching created by the bruises or the voices which screamed in his head. His efforts to escape started gradually with small jerks which caused a knock on effect and during the small hours of the morning he was soon frantically wrestling for release from his own body and freedom from the specters which invariably haunted his dreams whether he was awake or asleep.

Nick was there with him, sitting on the edge of the bed holding him, supporting him gently trying to control his brother’s frantic movements and to allay the cries of torment.

“I don’t....... hear........... a word they’re....... sayin’”

Rocking Heath cradled in his arms Nick spoke. “It’s alright Heath. There’s no one else here just you and me. You listen to me. Just you listen to me ya here?” Without raising his voice he spoke sternly to his brother giving the sleek shoulders a slight squeeze to attract his brother’s attention. It had the desired effect and Heath quieted and cracked open his eyes to see who was holding him. The form was masked in a haze and he could not recognize the shaded shape looming over him but he could feel the care in the strong hands and arms and hear the tenderness in the gruff voice and was comforted.

“Only the......... echoes......... of......... my mind,”

“That’s it Heath. They’re only echoes in your mind. You believe it boy. There is no one else here. No one talking but us.” Again Nick tried to reassure his brother trying to get him to relax back against the pillows. Heath struggled against his brother his limp hands fearfully clasping on to Nick’s arms trying to draw his attention to the translucent figures their body’s frail and gaunt hovering around them.

“People stop............. and stare,”

“Heath there ain’t any people stopping or staring. Not any more. They wouldn’t dare.” Nick felt a sudden surge of protectiveness for his ailing brother and the way his past kept coming back to plague him. “I’m angry Heath. Angry with Father. Angry with your mother. Angry with these ghosts which keep coming back to haunt you. No Heath it ain’t right. You have to let go. There are no ghosts little brother only in your mind. They are all in your mind, in your past. You understand? That’s what you would say if you heard me.” Nick swallowed his anger knowing what Heath would say if he grasped what was being said. Keeping his voice quiet he gently pushed Heath back against the pillows feeling his brother’s weak clasp on his arms give way and slip down to lie on the bed, his body sinking into the pillows.

“I .........I can’t see.......... their........ faces.”

“That’s right Heath, that’s what I’m saying there are no faces to be seen. You look at me, look at my face boy. I’m here Heath; here for you.” Taking his brother’s face between his hands Nick turned the rugged features so the dazed eyes were trying to focus on him. “I’ll take care of you just let those faces go back into the past where they belong.” He said, not knowing whether his words were getting through, assuring Heath of his presence.

“Only the..... shadows..... of their eyes.”

“Heath you’re not seeing any shadows of any eyes. It’s all in your mind. You ain’t well and you’re mind is playing tricks on you.” Nick continued to doubt whether his brother understood what he was saying but he could tell that his voice was having a soothing effect and was helping Heath to relax and calm and so he continued to talk. “You’re in bed at the doc’s. You were coming to meet me at Midas to help look into the accidents in the mine which killed a good few miners. On the way here you were shot. That much I know but why and what’s going on I don’t know but I aim to find out. You had me driven witless worrying about you. I knew something must have happened to you when you failed to turn up. You had me riding all the way to Marinette over night looking for you. Eventually I found you hiding out in the mine. For some reason you’ve gotten yourself into a mess which you shouldn’t have gotten into. I’m sorry little brother,” deep inside Nick felt responsible. “You kept saying we oughtta check out the mines but we kept putting it off saying it wasn’t necessary. Well I guess we should have listened to you. You usually are right about things.”

Listening to Nick’s unusually quiet voice Heath was slowly lulled senseless, his weighty eyelids sank and his breathing became regular. Nick pleased, chuckled to himself thinking what his mother would say if she had witnessed it. “That’s it boy you sleep. The best thing for you. You’re still a mite hot.” He watched quietly as even in his stupor Heath’s face would screw up and his breath occasionally hitch the only sign of the painful twinges the bullet wound gave out.

The first crimson and mauve streaks of sunlight were stretching across the dawn sky when Nick was again roused by his brother. Heath groaned and moaned faintly while his head lolled intermittently from side to side and his legs jerked into spasm. Nick was there calming and soothing, refreshing the cloth and wiping it over the flushed face. A large hand raised from the bed, searched blindly through the air until it felt what it sort then clasped round Nick’s wrist and feebly started to pull. “Leave it be Heath. I’m trying to cool you. Make you feel better.” The heavy lids lifted and the glazed eyes looked pleadingly at Nick who felt the faint pressure on his arm. “You want something Heath? You need something? What is it?” The voice mumbled incoherently but Nick heard the huskiness and knew what Heath wanted. “Water? You want a drink.?”

Nick caught the slight twitch up at the corner of his brother’s mouth, “damn silly smile,” he smirked with a grin in response then stretched out his free hand to reach the glass jug on the bedside table and poured water into a tumbler. Lifting and supporting the burning head he placed the lip of the tumbler to his brother’s parched mouth. No coaxing was needed for Heath gulped greedily at the water and Nick pulled the glass away, “take it easy there. Small sips ya hear. I don’t want ya puking back up over me,” he chastised trying again successfully to give his brother a drink. Satiated Heath turned his head away causing some water to spill. “No dribbling either Heath.” Nick released the fevered head to sink back into the pillows, put the tumbler by the jug, wiped dry his younger brother’s mouth, mopped up the spillage and stayed sitting on the bed waiting. Waiting for what he was not sure but knew the fever had yet to peak and break.

“I'm goin’........ where the......... sun keeps shinin’”

“Atta boy. When you’re better I’m taking ya home, back to where the sun is always shining. Back to your family. You got it boy. Now you work at it. You keep thinking of that sun coming up in the morning sky and it won’t be long before you can be back up there on the ridge watching that dawning sun.” Barely had Nick finished speaking when the gentle pitter-patter of falling rain could be heard on the pane of the upper sash. Simultaneously both brothers turned their heads toward the sound to watch as the rhythm of the falling rain became faster and heavier until like a waterfall it was cascading from the wooden frame at the base of the sash. With the rain came the chill and Nick feeling the drop in temperature strode over to the window and pulled down the sash and stayed looking out on to the ground at the small rivulets, tinted by the rising sun, coursing their way along the main street of Midas. “Rivulets of blood,” Nick closed his eyes and thought of his wounded brother remembering why they had come to Midas.

“Through the....... pourin' rain,”

Pleased with the diversion to his gloomy thoughts Nick responded, “No boy. We ain’t going through no pouring rain. When we leave this godforsaken town it’s goin’ to be on a fine day. I don’t want you being laid up again when we get home. We’ve got work to do back home none of this lollygagging around in bed. It’s a working ranch. Ya hear me Heath?” Nick turned and looked into the sky blue eyes playing on him as he returned to the bed to sit back on the edge.

“Goin’ where........ the weather suits........ my clothes”

“You said it boy. While the doc. was removing the bullet I went down the mercantile to see if I could get you some new clothes to replace the one’s you ruined. You wouldn’t guess it boy but they had a shirt in one of those sissified colors that you’re so keen on ponsin’ around in. Pink it is, the same color as in this morning’s sky. The shop keeper was so pleased to sell it to me he only charged half the going rate. It seems his wife took a shine to the color and ordered it when getting stock. Of course there’s not much call for the color in these parts and he’d all but given up hope of ever selling it. He nearly gave me a kiss to go with it. I told him it wasn’t for me, said it was for my brother but I’m not too sure he believed me. When you’re better and we leave here you can wear it and you can make sure he damn well sees you wearing it too.” Nick stated, remembering the knowing looks he was getting when he bought the shirt, letting his thoughts wander from his brother.

Brusquely Nick’s wandering thoughts were brought to reality when suddenly without warning with speed which belied his condition Heath tore away the covers and spun his legs off the bed and sat staring at the door. Nick stood and in a shot was round the foot of the bed and looking imposingly down at him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Where do you think you are you going?”

“Bankin off of........ the Northeast winds.”

“Like hell you are. Any banking off of the Northeast wind you’re going to be doing is with me little brother, at the ranch when you’re better. For now ya ain’t going anywhere and I’ll tell you for why. For one thing you ain’t wearing a stitch and for another if you made it out on to the street the sheriff would have you locked up for displaying your wares.” He grinned devilishly and shook his head.

“Sailin...... on a summer....... breeze,”

Heath rarely told about his past. It was during times like this that Nick learnt most about his young brother’s turbulent life before coming to the Barkley Ranch. “I guess this is another one of your many jobs. Sounds like you’ve been doing a bit of sailing. You make it sound heavenly but if I know you little brother it will have been anything but. When you’re better I hope you’ll fill me in on the finer details.” He continued to stand, his hands on hips and looked at the drawn face before him with its determined set to the jaw. “Your move brother,” he had seen this look so many times and knew his brother was not finished and watched as the left eyebrow raised and the brow creased into a frown.

“And...... skippin over.......... the ocean like a stone.”

Nick remembered back to the first time he had seen Heath, on the bridge, sitting astride his pony, cocky and arrogant facing him down. “No knowing what the outcome would have been brother if the bridge hadn’t have broken when it did but I tell ya something, you didn’t go skipping over the river like a stone that day so don’t go getting any highfaluting ideas about skipping over the ocean now.” He smiled; he was proud of his brother.

Aware of the tall form looming over him and not comprehending what was being said Heath determined and being driven by his delirium and hallucinating stretched forward to grip the vacant chair and struggled to pull himself up. Nick just watched, set and ready to catch his stubborn brother when his strength gave out which it invariably did. Collapsing when his legs buckled and crumpled Nick was there catching his brother before he hit the floor, lifting him and shepherding him backward on to the bed. Nick lifted the legs and placed them on the ruffled sheet then endeavored to make his young brother comfortable. In his fevered confusion Heath struggled and fought and struck out trying to escape the fierce throbbing in his side. Talking firmly yet gently Nick seated himself back on the bed edge, grasped his brother’s arms and pushed him down. “Calm Heath. Shhhh. Calm down quiet. Breathe slow real slow. Take some deep breaths. That’s right that’s better. Ease up.” With the kindly voice Heath relaxed safe and trusting in the tone and strong arms which held him. His energy played out, exhaustion overcame him and he succumbed.

Nick relaxed his hold, “Ya won’t have done your wound any favors with those antics little brother and you’ve got yourself a good sweat going now.” A cursory inspection of the bandaging showed a fresh stain of blood. “Ya sure got your share of mule headedness.” With Nick’s interference to his bandaged wound Heath moaned and instinctively curled up on his side defensively trying to push the intrusive hands away. “It’s alright Heath. I don’t want to hurt you. Just let me put more wadding on your wound. It needs tending Heath. I can’t promise not to hurt you but I’ll take care.” Heath heard the sincerity and trusting uncoiled seeing the truth in the hazel eyes he held his breath biting against the savage pain as Nick applied the extra wadding. When the task was completed, tears, which had welled in the corners of Heath’s eyes, spilled out to be caught by Nick carefully dabbing with his own handkerchief. Not wanting to cause any more upset Nick pulled the covers over his young brother’s body sleek with sweat. “I’m sorry little brother. I tried not to hurt you.” A hand came out from beneath the covers and fumbling clasped hold of one of those pulling on the covers. Nick returned the clasp and caught the pained smile of thanks and read the forgiveness in the eyes the windows to his brother’s soul. With his free hand Nick brushed his fingers through his brother’s once blond hair feeling the sweat, worrying, knowing the fever had yet to reach its climax. “I’ll be here with you Heath taking care of you. Now you make sure you get rid of that infection, you sweat it out and get better. I won’t leave you. I’ll be here for you. Always.”

“I won’t let you leave my love behind
No I won’t let you leave
I won’t let you leave my love behind.”

A few fraught hours later Nick found himself looking into a pair of tired but clear eyes; he smiled. Heath, his body weary but cool, no longer supported by several pillows was lying level in a dry and clean bed. He recognized his brother and his face lit up, “You look tired,” in a weak voice he expressed his observation.

Nick nodded, bangs falling over his brow.

“You been here all the time?” Heath frowned in concern.

Nick nodded glad to have his brother back.

“How ya feeling little brother?” Nick smiled.

“Have felt better. Feel like I’ve been ridden a good few miles and put away wet. My side’s hurtin’ but I’ve known worse. I reckon I’ve had me a night?” Heath questioned.

“Yep we had us a night.”

“I gave you the run around?” Heath’s eyebrow cocked with understanding.

Nick nodded. “You remember any of it?”

“No. Only know I felt safe.”

“Good. I’m glad.” Nick smiled feeling thankful for small assurances.

“Thanks Nick. Thanks for being here for me.”

“You’re my brother.” As far as Nick was concerned that was all that needed saying and Heath gave one of his quirky crooked smiles.

“Well boy we’ve had folks talkin' at us, couldn’t tell a word they said, only the echoes of your mind. Folks stopping and staring and we couldn’t even see their faces only the shadows of their eyes. Then we were off where the sun keeps shinin' through the pourin' rain goin’ where the weather suits your clothes wearing them damn fancy colored shirts of yours. Then we were bankin’ off of the northeast winds sailin’ on a summer breeze but I drew the line at skippin’ over the ocean like a stone.” Nick expressed with hands open heaven bound. Heath chuckled and Nick relieved broke out into a laugh.

Everybody's talkin' at me
I don't hear a word they’re sayin'
Only the echoes of my mind
People stop and stare
I can't see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes
I'm goin' where the sun keeps shinin'
Through the pourin' rain
Goin where the weather suits my clothes
Bankin’ off of the northeast winds
Sailin’ on a summer breeze
And skippin’ over the ocean like a stone
I'm goin' where the sun keeps shinin'
Through the pourin' rain
Goin’ where the weather suits my clothes
Bankin’ off of the northeast winds
Sailin’ on a summer breeze
And skippin’ over the ocean like a stone
Everybody's talkin' at me
Can't hear a word their sayin'
Only the echoes of my mind
I won't let you leave my love behind
No I won't let you leave
I won't let you leave my love behind

by Harry Nilsson


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