I aint helpless.
I can see that. Chris watched with no small amount of impatience as Vin attempted to dress himself one-handed. Itd only been a few hours since Chris found Vin, broken, battered, and bleeding here at his shack. After sleeping just those few hours, Tanner was getting himself dressed to go outside and use the privy. He was actually doing pretty well. Better than Chris wanted to admit to anyway.
Ya act like I never dressed myself before.
Have ya dressed yourself with a broken arm before?
No, Vin said with some contempt. Last time I broke my arm, I had the good sense to stay dressed. He managed to get his trousers pulled on, and buttoned. He even got his socks and boots on without much fussing. Chris figured hed stop there and go out in his undershirt and his arm in the makeshift sling. But Vin slid his good arm into the sleeve of his jacket and pulled it around behind his neck until it was over his right shoulder. Okay, Chris thought, so maybe hes cold. But then Vin set his hat on his head and picked up his mares leg.
Vin, youre only going to privy. Youre outfitting yourself like youre hitting the trail.
Never know when something might happen. Vin said it straightforward. Got to be ready.
Youre walking twenty feet behind the house and Im right here. What could happen? Chris asked.
Ya never know what might happen, Vin said again. His left eye had hardly begun to open on its own.
And if something does happen, youre half blind and one-armed.
I aint helpless.
Id believe ya a lot quicker Vin if ya werent all over violet and swelled up, Chris said. Leastways we can figure ya got no broken ribs the way ya pulled your jacket on. Vin didnt say anything and Chris pressed him. Maybe youll want to answer that one?
After some consideration, Vin allowed Might be a couple of my ribs aint so sound as they were this morning.
So, youre half blind, one-armed, and ya got broken ribs.
Im standing on my own two feet, aint I?
Youre so unsteady Vin, Nettie could knock you down.
But this didnt impress Vin. I reckon if ya rile her enough, Nettie could knock anybody down.
Damn ornery cuss, Chris growled.
Damn ornery cuss standing on my own two feet, Vin said. Now ya getting out of my way or am I going to have to move ya?
For a brief moment Chris thought about making Vin push past him, but he didnt figure it was worth any extra hurt it might cause Vin. With another growl, he stepped aside and watched Vin walk to the doorway, then across the porch and around back to the privy. He moved stiffly, guarding his ribs and his arm, probably needing to correct for having only the one good eye. Chris thought about following him, or at least standing where he could keep watch, but instead he decided to get some food together and at least make sure that Tanner had enough to eat.
After a little while, Vin came back into the shack. He set his gun down and took off his hat. Chris was about to tell him to pull up a chair and have some supper when Vin sat down on the bed. He ran his hand through his hair and then rested his head in his hand.
Ya feel all right? Chris asked.
Hunh? Vin looked up at him.
Ya feeling all right?
Yeah. Tired. Ya making supper? Something smells good. Vin pushed his jacket off his shoulder and tried to shrug it off his good arm. Chris stepped forward and pulled it off. I aint helpless, Vin said.
And neither am I, Chris told him. Let me get ya some more whiskey, it mustve wore off by now.
Nah, I dont want any more of that. Im okay without it.
Itll dull the pain.
Itll dull my wits mores the point, Vin said. Cant have that. Just let me eat something and get set for the night. I know ya got to get back to town.
Chris was surprised. I do?
Dont ya? Vin seemed confused. We werent planning on staying here the night fore this happened.
Plans change. Im not leaving ya here one-eyed, one-armed, and with broken ribs. He saw Vin start to say something and he tried to cut him off. Dont even .
I aint -.
Chris gave him a glare of exasperation. Ya dont need to be helpless to need help Vin. He thought for a minute that Vin was going to dispute him. Sometimes ya dont even need to need to help to take help.
Vin watched him a bit, like he was taking the measure of Larabees words. Maybe in your world. There was that gulf of difference again, between them. Chris could feel it.
Look around ya Vin, youre in my world now. He waited a few seconds, giving Vin a chance to argue, but no argument came. So, do ya think ya can sit at the table to eat?
The answer was a very softly spoken Yeah, and Vin pushed himself to his feet. Chris stood by but didnt offer the help he desperately wanted to give. Halfway to the table, Vin put his hand out as though having to feel his way, and he sat himself in the chair a little heavily. Chris figured that had to hurt, and he poured another cup of whiskey without asking Vins say-so, and he set it in front of Vin without saying anything.
At first, Vin didnt touch the cup, he let it sit there and Chris wondered if hed have to force the issue with him. Finally though, Vin began to drink it, and Chris turned back to getting supper served up.
They were both quiet as Chris set the plates on the table, and poured himself some whiskey. He watched as Vin set his cup down, and picked up his fork in the wrong hand. He gripped it awkwardly in his fist and began to eat.
Ya know how if ya find somebody whos been lost out in the desert with no water, even if hes dying of thirst, ya only give him a little water at a time or else it makes him sick?
Yeah, I know. Chris didnt have to have a lot of brains to figure out where this was headed.
Even if he aint had water in so long he cant remember the taste of it, ya cant give him too much at once.
Vin ya aint dying of thirst.
Maybe not, but youre trying to give me too much of something I cant remember the taste of Chris. I aint been coddled since I dont when.
Coddled? Chris wouldve laughed, if he didnt know Vin was so serious. I dont call setting your own arm, and ignoring broken ribs coddling. I dont even call giving ya some whiskey and letting ya sleep coddling.
Ya washed my foot for me, Vin said. He sounded awed.
Youre hurt, Chris pointed out.
I been hurt before. I dont think even Nathan ever washed my foot for me.
And that probably isnt because he didnt try Vin.
I just mean if you meet a fella whose got no water and ya offer him a sip from your canteen well, if all he takes is a sip and he hands it back to ya, then if he ever needs water again, ya aint afraid to offer him some. But if he takes the canteen and drinks all your water and doesnt leave you any and he only wants more, ya aint ever going to offer him water again. Ya see? Ya know what I mean Chris? Even if I was dying of thirst, ya shouldnt offer me any water. Vin was still very serious.
This is water I wont run out of Vin, Chris answered him just as seriously.
Ya got no idea how much I need.
And youve got no idea how much Ive got. Chris waited, giving Vin another chance to argue with him. Another chance that Vin didnt take. Ive been that man dying of thirst Vin. I know enough to offer ya as much water as youll take. And I know that it wont hurt ya to take a little more than ya think ya want.
Vin stared at Chris, almost glared at him. It was hard to tell with all the bruises and his one eye still barely open, but Chris thought Vin mightve even been getting choked up.
Do whatever ya want then, he said to Chris. Dont blame me if ya run out.
Chris took that for the surrender he wanted it to be. All right then.
They went back to eating their supper. Vins left hand shook, not used to holding a fork, and after taking a bite of food, he dropped it and it clattered onto the floor. Chris was on his feet in a second, reaching down for the fork at the same time Vin was. Tanner growled.
I aint -.
Dont say it.
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