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 A Fair Day's Work

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Posts : 9
Join date : 2015-10-18
Location : England

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PostA Fair Day's Work

A Fair Day’s Work


Heyes was behind the counter in The Hardware Store reading the newspaper. Lom had found jobs for both of them after the amnesty – the Kid in the livery and Heyes here in The Hardware Store. He had settled into this job real well and he was enjoying it. He had never thought he would. Holding a regular job, doing the same thing day after day had never appealed. Here he was five months later not bored at all. Today it was late in the day; there were no customers and all the chores done.

On the other side of the store, Seth was pouring over paperwork. He was muttering angrily to himself. There was a lot of furious scratching out, peering at items in the catalogue and writing things down. The muttering was getting louder, more exasperated and expletive ridden as time went on.

Heyes folded the newspaper and put it away with a frown.

“What y’doing Seth?” There was no answer except another growl of exasperation. Heyes grinned at his elderly boss. “Seth?” he said louder.

The time Seth heard and looked over. He grunted. “This damm new ordering system! Used to jus’ list what I needed. Now they want me to fill in all these little numbers.”

Heyes nodded, understanding. “Stock numbers.”

“Yeah if’n you say so. Whatever they’re called they’re darn small.”

“Can I help?”

“Nope.” Seth tore off the carbon copies from the pad and shuffled them into a pile. “Reckon I’s done.” He turned and spiked them onto a nail outside the back door. Then he took the top copies and stuffed them into an envelope, which he addressed. “You’d best get this down to the post office young Joshua. My ole legs won’t catch the post but I reckon yours will.”

He gave Heyes a toothless grin.

Heyes nodded resigned. He had been expecting that as soon as he knew what Seth was doing. “Sure.” He reached for his hat and picked up the envelope. With a quick glance at the address, he nodded. It was the address of the wholesaler.

“Might as well call it a day when you’ve done that. See you in the morning.”

Heyes tapped his hat in thanks.



A week later, Heyes was taking delivery of the order. Mmmm but it wasn’t quite what Seth had ordered. Heyes watched in astonishment as items he had never seen in a hardware store arrive. Bolts of cloth, tins of beans, and a large bag of animal feed for sheep were among the highlights.

“Er hold up boys. I don’t think …,” he started. “I don’t think that’s for us.”

The supervisor leant on the counter and looked at his clipboard. “If it’s on this here docket you ordered it and we’re delivering it.” He tapped his finger on the board. “You order, you get it. Right?” He scowled at Heyes hard, thrusting his chin out.

“Right,” Heyes agreed, doubtfully. The supervisor was twice his size and looking at him menacingly. The three-man crew stopped and listened to the conversation. Heyes swallowed nervously. “Right,” he said more firmly and smiled weakly.

Where was Seth? Trust that ole man to pull a disappearing act when there was work doing. These men delivered the goods. There was no splitting of boxes and putting away. They just delivered. More precisely, dumped. In the middle of the store and in the small warehouse out back. Piled up any which way. It was up to the customer to check it, sort it and put it away. In other words – him!

Heyes licked his lips nervously as more strange items arrived. This was definitely not the usual order. Somethings he recognized. Some even needed restocking. Skillets, coffee pots, enamel plates – yes. But that many? What was Seth planning on doing? Outfitting the army?

Heyes spied a small pile of what looked like folded cloths. He picked up the top one and unfolded it. Holding it up he realized what they were. Four pairs of ladies unmentionables - large! Heyes quickly bundled them away under the counter and blushed slightly. He cleared his throat and leant on the counter nonchalantly, hoping nobody had seen.

It was no good starting to unpack things until the delivery was finished. However, he should be checking that everything on the order was arriving and he moved to unspike the copy. He looked at it with pursed lips and went out back to find the catalogue. It took him a while to find it, buried under a stack of bills. Seth’s bookkeeping left a lot to be desired and Heyes was itching to get his hands on it. The obvious mess offended his sense of order. Unfortunately, Seth was reluctant to let him tackle the paperwork. Ah but Heyes could understand that. A man’s business accounts were personal.

When Heyes returned to the store, he stood and stared, open-mouthed. He had only been gone a few minutes. Now everywhere he looked, there was a wooden clotheshorse. Neatly stacked against the walls, the counter, boxes delivered earlier. Everywhere. He scratched his head.

“Er excuse me …”

The supervisor appeared on the other side of the counter. “We’re nearly finished. Just bringing the last in.”

As he spoke, two of the crew struggled in with yet more clotheshorses.

“Are you sure we ordered …” Heyes swallowed under the intense stare. “So many?”

The supervisor sighed deeply and looked at his clipboard. He studied it for a moment. “Yep. Right here. Two hundred clotheshorses.” He spun the board round and tapped the item.

“Two … ? Two hundred?” Heyes was wide eyed.

“That’s what it says. That’s what you got.” The supervisor put the clipboard down on the counter and made a great show of cracking his knuckles.

“No! No! There’s summat wrong here!” Heyes cried, grabbing up the clipboard and looking for himself.

The supervisor shrugged and leant casually on the counter.

“That’s all Jake,” one of the men called.

“Right o,” Jake acknowledged with a mock salute and turned to Heyes. “All done then. Sign there.”

“Sign?” Heyes knew he sounded dim.

“Yeah. Then we can get outta your hair and you can …” He grinned now. It wasn’t a pretty sight. “Round up all these horses.” He tapped the board more urgently. “Just there.”

Heyes felt sick. If he didn’t sign, Jake looked handy with his fists. If he did sign what was he committing Seth to?

“I ain’t authorized,” Heyes spluttered.

“I don’t care whether you’re authorized or not. I just need a signature. You can sign it George Washington, Davy Crocket or Hannibal Heyes for all I care. I just need a signature!” He thrust the board and the stubby pencil forcefully at Heyes.

Heyes looked at him sharply at the mention of his name. He rolled his eyes. Now there was a thought.

Heyes took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He scribbled something he hoped would be unreadable and quickly handed the board back.

Jake left leaving Heyes to look round the store in despair. Had he really heard right? They had delivered two hundred clotheshorses. He doubted that there were two hundred clotheshorses in the entire town. He stood hands on hips and surveyed the mess. Where to start? What was he going to do with two hundred clotheshorses? Give ‘em away free with a shovel or hammer or summat?

He was still deciding where to start when Seth came in.

“Delivery all done, Joshua? Hee Hee. Got talking to Cole Garcia. That man can talk the … What the … blue blazes!” Seth was speechless, as he looked round. “Joshua?”

“I’ll make some coffee Seth. Think we’re gonna need it.”

Heyes scooted out back as Seth sat down heavily on a crate by the door.



Heyes painstakingly matched the order to the catalogue stock numbers. Some numbers Seth had right, most he had not. The stock numbers were nine characters long, a mixture of letters and numbers. Seth had transposed some numbers, misread 5s for Ss and vice versa, left out a number or a letter or added some. Of the fifty lines on the order, Heyes calculated that about thirty were wrong. The two hundred clotheshorses should have been two hundred metal brackets for fencing.

“Jeez,” Heyes said, using the Kid’s favorite expression.

“What are these?” Seth asked, holding up a pair of ladies unmentionables – large. “I didn’t order these!” he cried.

“Er yeah Seth ‘fraid you did,” Heyes winced. They should have been four drain covers.

“I sure didn’t!” Seth was indignant.

Heyes nodded. “You sure did. Let me show you.”

Seth came to look over his shoulder as Heyes explained.

“I’m ruined!” Seth exclaimed, pulling out an unsavory looking handkerchief to mop his brow. He sat down heavily. “Broke! Laughing stock!” He shook his head in dismay.

Heyes felt some sympathy for the old man. “Oh now Seth don’t take on. We’ll get this sorted out. Some of it we can keep ‘cos you did order it an’ we do need it.”

Seth shook his head sadly. “I’m washed up, Joshua. Beaten! Ruined!”

Heyes rolled his eyes at the dramatic tone.

“Seth we can straighten this.”

“How?” Seth demanded. He looked like he needed a drink. So did Heyes. Badly.

“Well … first off … we’ve gotta see what exactly we’ve got. Then … we’ll tell the wholesale company …”

“You sign for this?”

Heyes puffed and looked guilty. “Well … not exactly,” he said, slowly.

“What d’you mean? Either you did or you didn’t?” Seth looked suspicious.

“Well I … scratched a signature!” Heyes forced out and shuffled the order copies into a neat pile. “But I doubt if they could prove it was me.”

Seth looked doubtful. “If you signed, Joshua, they won’t take it back. Signing accepts it. I tried that once before so I knows.”

That had been what Heyes was afraid of. He grunted and then he gave Seth his best smile.

“Seth … think of this as an opportunity to diversify.” He looked at Seth in wide-eyed eagerness.

“Diversify!” Seth stomped round the counter. “With these?” He held up the ladies unmentionables – large.

“Yeah. Well …” Heyes puffed. “Those er …” He puffed again. “Let’s jus’ put ‘em down to experience so to speak. And put ‘em away! The shades are up.”

Seth bundled them away quickly.

“Let’s just see what we’ve got. Alright?” Heyes made a calming down motion with his hand. “Take it from there. Alright?”

Seth wasn’t entirely convinced but he did know that his new assistant was turning out to be a handy fella to have around. Joshua may know little about hardware but he had proved one thing in the short time he had worked for Seth. He could think on his feet.

Heyes was thinking something similar. Right now, what he really needed was a plan. A Hannibal Heyes plan, he thought ruefully. For that, he needed time to think. First, though he needed to know exactly how big the problem was.

“Seth. Let’s tidy up and see what we’ve got. Anything that’s not strictly in our line of business we put in the middle of the warehouse out back. Anything that is, we put it where it belongs. How’s that?”

Seth nodded and picked up a small box from the top of an unstable pile. Heyes took a deep breath and nodded, smacking his lips. By the look of it, he was in for a lot of heavy lifting.



It was a good while later before the store was tidy. All the spare space out back now contained clotheshorses but even so, a considerable number still leaned against the store walls. Heyes had made a list of things that the hardware store didn’t usually carry.

“Okay Seth, it’s not so bad. These are things that I reckon other store owners in town will take off our hands.”

“Hee Hee. Who’d you think we can get to take these off our hands, Joshua? Hee Hee.”

Heyes frowned over to where Seth was holding up the ladies unmentionables – large. Heyes spluttered. “Quit waving ‘em around. Anyone coming in will think we’re running a disreputable establishment here!” He returned to look at his list, with an irritated shudder. He muttered under his breath about the childishness of old men.

“Can ask the wida Hennessey if she’ll take ‘em off our hands,” Seth mused. “Hee hee.”

Heyes looked up slowly. “If’n you want your face slapped,” he told Seth firmly.

“Hee Hee.” Then Seth sobered and deciding Heyes was right, put them away. He came to stand by his assistant as he explained where all the extraneous stock might go.

“Hinds, I reckon would take the beans. Ain’t never seen a general store that don’t need beans to sell. Maybe even take the bolts of cloth as well. Frazer’s, the feed merchant may take the animal feed.”

“This is cow country boy. What we’ve got there is for sheep.” Seth almost spat the last word in contempt. There was no love lost between cattle ranchers and sheep farmers here even if there was no hostility.

“I know. I know.” Suddenly Heyes grinned as a thought struck him. “Sheep ain’t so different from goats, Seth. Least not anatomically.”

“Ana what?”

“’Tomically. It means they only look different on the outside. Underneath they’re the same. A few folks round here keep goats. They need feeding right?”

Seth looked doubtful. “If you say so,” he mumbled.

“’Sides its only one sack.”

“It cost me twenny dollars!”

“Let’s just see what Frazer says alright? We’re trying to salvage something here. Anything is worth a shot.”

Heyes said meaning the Chinese laundry. He continued to run down the list, suggesting possibilities for all the extra items, including all those clotheshorses. “Wong must be able to take ‘em. It’s his business.”

Seth smiled and slapped him on the shoulder.

“Sounds good boy. You’d best set about it.”

“What?” Heyes was incredulous.

Seth nodded. “I’ll be here minding the store.”

“Oh now just a minute …” Heyes protested but knowing it would be useless.

“You smile that smile of your’n Joshua. The one that has Mary Fletcher all of a quiver and most other young ladies in this town. ‘Sides I’ve heard you boy. You’ve got a right ole silver tongue there.” Seth patted him on the shoulder again. “Reckon you could charm the birds outta the sky if’n you put your back into it.”

Heyes sucked in a deep breath through his teeth and snatched up the list. He plonked his hat on his head and gave Seth a disgusted look as he went out.

“Hee hee,” Seth chuckled, as the door shut none too gently.



It took Heyes several hours to get round the town. Considering the range of things on offer, he thought he had done rather well in getting rid of as much as he had.

He had managed to strike bargains in the general store and the feed merchants. Hind, the general store owner had sent him to see Mrs. Pickering, who ran the haberdashers, about the bolts of cloth. She had proved more difficult.

She had hummed and haa’d over the bolts of cloth. They weren’t her usual merchandise, nor was the quality up to her standards. However, sighing deeply and letting Heyes know directly that she was doing him a favor by agreeing to take it.

“I’m asking six dollars, ma’am.”

“Six dollars!” She sniffed. “I’ll give you two.”

The conman in Heyes didn’t miss the steely glint in her eyes. She smelt a bargain.

“Each?” There were three bolts.

“Five the lot.”

“Done.” They shook hands. The price was better than nothing and less clutter in the store.

Heyes had managed to dispose of most of the extraneous stock but at a loss. There had been nothing for it. From now on Seth might let him handle the paperwork. It would do them both a favor.

Heyes walked back to the hardware store puzzling over what to do with a hundred and fifty clotheshorses. Wong at the Chinese laundry had agreed to take fifty but wouldn’t take any more no matter how hard Heyes had tried.

As he passed the school, the children were running out at the end of their day. With a grin, he turned towards it and sought out the schoolteacher.

Ten minutes later he was back out, the dimpled smile had worked its magic and he had lost another thirty of his wild horses. He had been able to persuade the schoolteacher of their use for teaching. He had several ideas how to do that, mainly to do with mathematics and geometry. Failing that the schoolyard had just acquired equipment for jumping games. He would deliver them himself later. Only a hundred and twenty to go. 

More thoughts came to him as he trudged back. The store might have a special promotion. Painting them in bright colors would appeal to the fairer sex. And thinking of the fairer sex … With a grin he crossed the street to The Hat Shop and Mary.

“Josh,” Mary smiled in surprise to see him.

“Hi Mary,” he smiled back, crossing to her. There were no customers and he took the opportunity to kiss her quickly. Then he stood hands on hips and looked at her window display thoughtfully. Turning, he glanced around the rest of the shop looking at how Mary had her hats displayed.

She was looking at him questioningly. “Josh?”

“How to display your hats to their full attractiveness Mary. That’s why I’m here.” He smiled his best smile at her. The one that had won over the schoolteacher.

Mary raised an eyebrow doubtfully, folding her arms.

“You don’t think I do?” she asked, witheringly.

“Yeah … Yeah ‘course,” he spluttered. This wasn’t going to be quite so easy. “I … er jus’ might have … something that … might do it a bit easier that’s all.” He tried a grin.

Mary worked her tongue round her teeth in a way that demanded further explanation.

“I can do you a special deal,” the grin continued.

“A special deal?”

“Yep. And I’ll even throw in dinner at that new French restaurant in Cheyenne,” the grin now nodded, with its eyes wide, eagerly.

Mary looked amused. “Oh? And what do I have to do for dinner at the new French restaurant in Cheyenne? Nothing inappropriate Joshua I hope?”

“No ma’am,” Heyes squeaked in shock at the suggestion she would think that of him. “Just take a few clotheshorses off my hands.” There was silence. “Please,” he added, swallowing hard.


“Yes ma’am.” He sighed and explained. However, he was fast beginning to realize he wouldn’t have a sale. He had only known Mary a short time but his famous silver tongue had little effect on her. She saw right through him. Perhaps that was why he was falling in love with her. Mary nodded and started to move towards the door.

“Awh! Mary!” Heyes protested, when she opened it and silently motioned for him to leave.

Head down he trooped away.

“You can still owe me dinner Joshua Smith,” she called after him, an amused smile on her face.

He looked back and grinned. “Real soon Mary. You can bet on it.” He gave her a wave and set off across the street to The Hardware Store. 

He was just stepping up onto the sidewalk when another idea popped into his head. He turned right and headed for the Town Hall.

Fifteen minutes later, he was walking down the steps of the Town Hall, another smile of satisfaction on his face. Another sixty off his hands. The Chief Clerk’s office had agreed to use them for temporary fencing at the upcoming August Fair. Sixty to go.

On the way back to The Hardware Store, he passed a small garden where planting was in progress. It commemorated the town’s thirty-year anniversary. He stopped and stood hands on hips watching the planting of saplings and small shrubs. Rubbing his chin, he walked in and up to the man who looked like he was in charge.


The man looked up from where he was bending.

“The er trees you’re planting, guess they need time to get established, huh?”

“Yeah, they’re vulnerable for a few months. Why?”

“Well I was just wondering if you could use something to put round ‘em. Just to stop kids and animals from getting too close.”

The man straightened up now and nodded, pursing his lips.

“Yeah. Act as a deterrent y’mean?”

“There you go! I think I’ve got the very thing. How many would you need?”

Together they looked round the garden.

“’Bout twenty I guess.”

Heyes grinned. He could use two clotheshorses per tree. Another twenty off his hands.

Now there was just forty to go. Well thirty-five really. Painted up he reckoned they could keep and sell five.

He was pondering on the remaining thirty-five when he happened to glance at the railroad depot platform. He stopped and looked at it, head on one side. There was no barrier on the town side. Surely, that was an accident waiting to happen? There was quite a big drop to the ground. Mentally he was measuring the length of the platform.

“Hmmm.” Thirty-five clotheshorse widths perhaps? Would at least cover the exposed parts of the platform away from the buildings.

Heyes quickened his step in that direction and sought out the manager’s office.


“I talked Wong into taking fifty of the clotheshorses,” Heyes said, later. It was near closing time and he was informing Seth how he had got on.

“Only fifty?” Seth sounded disappointed.

“Yeah. Talked him up from thirty though,” Heyes sounded pleased. “He’s sending a boy to collect.”

“How much?”

“Seven dollars.” Heyes cleared his throat.

“Seven dollars! They cost me ten!”

Seth stomped off muttering about sending a boy to do a man’s job. Heyes smiled after him.

“Seth. I got rid of the rest of ‘em.”

Seth turned on the spot. “You did?” He was astonished.

“Well most of ‘em. All but five but I’ve got plans for those.”

Seth did a little jig. “Joshua, it was a right good day the day you came to work for me. You did a fair day’s work today Joshua. I’m mighty pleased.”




“Heyes, you in?” The Kid called as he came through the door of the little house he shared with Heyes. He frowned behind him at the paint-splattered porch. Several bright paint pots stood to one side. He shrugged.

There was no answer but he knew Heyes was in as his hat was on the back of a chair.


This time there was a grunt. It came from the bunkroom.

Taking off his own hat, the Kid spun it onto the chair and went to the bunkroom. He found Heyes lying on his bunk, a wet towel over his forehead, eyes closed and a hand shielding them. The Kid recognized what was up.

“Head?” He smacked his lips in sympathy.

“Yeah.” Heyes sounded irritated that the Kid couldn’t resist asking even though it was obvious that was what was wrong. He sighed, disinclined to take it further.

“Do anything?” The Kid was already turning away. He knew he should leave Heyes alone.


The Kid went back into the main room and frowned. Something was wrong. No, not wrong. Different. Something new had appeared. The Kid blinked and pursed his lips, thoughtfully.

“Ooh Kay.” It would come in handy he supposed. But, why did they need two? He grinned briefly. His and his perhaps? Then he lost his grin. Three? No four!


He stomped back into the bunkroom. “Why do we have four clothes horses all of a sudden?”

“Five,” Heyes sighed.

A quick check back and the Kid located the fifth.

“Okay. Five. Why’d we got five?”

“Makes a change from books don’t it?” Heyes chuckled, and then wished he hadn’t. That hurt his head and he winced. With a sigh, he brought his hand down and removed the towel from his forehead. His eyes, when they opened, were dull and full of pain.

“I’ve had a helluva day, Kid. I’ll tell you about it later but be grateful you only have to deal with real horses!” He flopped the wet towel back on his forehead with a moan.

The Kid turned away shaking his head. Why did Heyes have to be so dramatic? He doubted that Heyes’ day could be anywhere near as hard as his days in the livery.
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A Fair Day's Work :: Comments

Re: A Fair Day's Work
Post on Tue 01 Mar 2016, 4:14 pm by Penski
Oh, the extended version makes much more sense! So Heyes is hoping for a little romance with Mary. Makes me wonder if the Kid found a gal - maybe Miss Porter? I love the backdrop of them getting amnesty but staying in Porterville where Lom can keep an eye on them and they are not in as much danger until the news spreads. Very good!

A Fair Day's Work

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