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 The Waiting Room

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CD Roberts

Posts : 114
Join date : 2013-09-23

PostThe Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

Kid Curry slumped over his whiskey in yet another shabby saloon, in yet another small town, in the middle of nowhere much.

A saloon gal wandered over to try her luck at getting a little business on a dreary midweek afternoon. One look at the hostility born of utter misery in those blue eyes, scowling out from under a rain-splattered brown brim changed her mind. This was a man who didn't want to talk. Not yet anyhow. Maybe not for a long time.

Kid tapped his glass to order a refill of the whiskey so far removed from being the 'good stuff' he reckoned they oughta pay him to drink it. He didn't care. He just wanted to get drunk and do it quick. He wanted to forget. Forget about what had happened. Forget about Heyes. Forget about their years together. Forget he'd ever had a partner. Forget he was alone. Alone forever. Heyes was the past. Gone. Done with.

A  week earlier:

“Remind me why we took these jobs.”

“Fifty-three cents. Twenty-eight cents. Made the total between us eighty-one cents. Any other questions, Thaddeus?”

Curry replied with a grunt. He swung his pickaxe and it hit the progressing tunnel with a thud. It was work, and hard work at that. He could not remember ever working so hard in all his life for so little reward. This was not the same as mining for gold with a few other fellas, no matter how Heyes had tried to present it. This was real work. And, it was suffocating.

Sweat dripped down his face, and he wiped it with his soiled bandana before continuing.

Digging for gold was one thing, working as an employee of a Silver Mine for a few dollars a week was another matter entirely. On top of that, the town was a company town, so everything was overpriced. They barely saved anything out of what they earned.

The walls of the tunnel groaned and work suddenly ceased. The men remained frozen in their respective positions and listened for any sounds that would indicate a cave-in. After a period of silence, one of the old-timers spoke up.

“It’s OK. She’s just speakin’ to us a little today.”

“You sure about that?” asked Curry. “It sounded different to me.”

“Sonny, you ain’t been at this long enough. That was just a squeak. Nothin’ to worry ‘bout.”

The Kid looked at Heyes for reassurance. Heyes grinned at him. “You heard Jim, sonny. You’re a greenhorn at this.”

The Kid gave his partner a glare in response.

The bartender slowly wiped the glass he was holding. He held it up and inspected it for dirt and smudges. He continued wiping it.

He looked at Curry and then at the saloon girl. She watched the Kid, obviously unsure of herself. The bartender jerked his chin in a movement that indicated ‘come here.’ She scurried to him.

“Look, I know you’re new here, but you’ve got to jump in sometime.”

“I know Pete, but he frightens me. He looks so angry.”

“He is angry, isn’t he?”

“You may be angry, Kid but don’t take it out on me. You agreed to this.”

“Yep but it was another one of your ideas Heyes, wasn’t it? Working ten hours a day and we can’t even afford a bath yet. And even if we could, I’m too tired to take one.”

“If you’re that tired why don’t you go to sleep?

“Because I’m too mad to go to sleep.”

“Look, it’s only temporary, Kid. We’ll get a stake and move on.”

“A stake? You said you’d double our money in poker, Heyes. When’s that gonna happen.”

“I’m tired too, you know.” Heyes plopped down on the bed. “I don’t see why you’re this angry anyway. I know its hard work, but it won’t be forever. It’s only been three days.”

The Kid paced angrily around the small room.

“What?” asked Heyes quietly.

Curry did not respond.

“What—is—eating—you?” Heyes enunciated each word slowly and clearly.

The Kid faced the wall and spoke to it. “I don’t like working down there.”

“Kid, you’re not saying you’re afraid to work down there, are you?”

“No. Well, not exactly. Look Heyes there’s something about being underground like that. It’s not natural.” He sat on the bed next to Heyes.

“Well I suppose it wasn’t natural robbing banks either. Look Kid, if that’s all it is, let’s just finish out the week.  Saturday night I’ll double, no I’ll triple our earnings and we’ll leave this town.” He grinned at the Kid. “You know I can do it Kid. You watched the other miners play when we got into town. There’s no way I can lose.”

“Yeah, I know you can do it,” the Kid grudgingly admitted. Curry’s face began to relax. Finally, he smiled at his partner. “OK Heyes. I’ll stick it out until Saturday.”

Heyes slapped him on the shoulder. “There ya go, Kid.”

“But no longer than Saturday.”

“No longer than Saturday.”

The Kid waved his gloved hand at the bartender for a refill. The bartender put down the glass he was polishing and got it. Curry sipped it. The bartender resumed wiping the glass.

Heyes had talked him into it again. His partner. His friend. He closed his eyes. He hated working down there. He had known better.

He hit the bar with his fist. He should have held his ground. He’d heard the creaking noise. It didn’t sound right no matter what the old timers said.

The girl came up next to him. She looked at the bartender timidly who nodded back at her to give her encouragement.

“Can I join you?”

“You want to join me?”

She swallowed. “Yes, I do. And I’d like you to come with me to the back room.”

He stared at her.

“I’m sorry. I spoke too soon.” She glanced over at the bartender. “I’m new at this and I’m not really too sure what to say. I may get into trouble if you don’t come with me. I think I may that is.”

The Kid waved at the bartender for a drink for the girl. The bartender raised his eyebrows, and put down the glass he was polishing once more to pour her a whiskey.
“Here’s your drink.”

“Thanks, Pete.” She drank it gingerly and coughed. “I’m not used to drinking hard liquor.”

The Kid put his half-empty glass down.

“Are you done? Are you ready?”

“Why, is there some hurry? I’m only half-done with my drink and you barely started yours.”

“I suppose there’s no hurry, but…” She looked at Pete for assistance.

“We should have rode on to another town!”

“What? Oh you mean…”

“I mean my friend and me. We didn’t have to stay there. We didn’t have much money but we could have gone on to the next town. Skipped a meal or two maybe.” He raised his glass and drank from it.

“But you didn’t?” questioned the bartender.

“No, we didn’t.” He slammed the shot glass down on the bar’s copper surface. The girl jumped.

Saturday they were in the mine. It happened again. The walls groaned. The men stopped to listen.

“OK, sonny,” said the old timer, “before you go and say anything, I want you to know I agree with you this time. Fellas, I think our greenhorn may be right. You,” he pointed in the direction of Heyes and the Kid, “Go on up and tell the foreman we need to shore up these walls. We’re gonna need more wood than we’ve got here. Have him send it down.”

The Kid sighed and put down his pickaxe.

“Not you, sonny. Your friend. I need you down here to help with the shoring. You’re a better worker than he is.”

Heyes grinned and winked at the Kid. “I’ll be right back,” he said.

“You’d better be,” Curry answered.

He watched Heyes walk towards the mine entrance.

He and the other miners began the work of shoring up the walls. They worked for a while, and then it happened again. The walls groaned, only this time it was louder. Then everything crashed, and he heard another loud sound burst in his head like a bone snapping.

That was it.

Then there was the saloon.

The bartender got a new towel and began to wipe the glass all over again. “You can’t stay here, you know.”

The Kid glared at the man, his blue eyes reflecting his anger and misery.

“Why not?”

“Everyone has to meet The Boss eventually. You really want to stay here forever and drink bad whiskey?”

“I’m angry. I want to see Heyes again. I want to tell him… When will he get here?”

The bartender shook his head.

“He will get here, won’t he?”

“There are no guarantees in life, or in death for that matter.”

The Kid looked up from his shot glass. “You’re Peter?”

“That all depends how you see things, doesn’t it?” The bartender waived his hand at the saloon, its occupants and its furniture. “This is your waiting room.” He rubbed the glass with his cloth. “However, you will have to move on.”

The girl touched his hand timorously. “Please. Come with me.” Her eyes pleaded with him. She turned and walked to the back door. She opened it and looked back at him.

Curry drank the remainder of the whiskey and put down his glass. He got up and followed the saloon girl to meet his Boss.
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