Follows Help

“I ain’t helpless.”

“I can see that.” Chris watched with no small amount of impatience as Vin attempted to dress himself one-handed. It’d 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 he’d 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 he’s cold. But then Vin set his hat on his head and picked up his mare’s leg.

“Vin, you’re only going to privy. You’re outfitting yourself like you’re hitting the trail.”

“Never know when something might happen.” Vin said it straightforward. “Got to be ready.”

“You’re walking twenty feet behind the house and I’m 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, you’re half blind and one-armed.”

“I ain’t helpless.”

“I’d believe ya a lot quicker Vin if ya weren’t 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 didn’t say anything and Chris pressed him. “Maybe you’ll want to answer that one?”

After some consideration, Vin allowed “Might be a couple of my ribs ain’t so sound as they were this morning.”

“So, you’re half blind, one-armed, and ya got broken ribs.”

“I’m standing on my own two feet, ain’t I?”

“You’re so unsteady Vin, Nettie could knock you down.”

But this didn’t 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 didn’t 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 ain’t helpless,” Vin said.

“And neither am I,” Chris told him. “Let me get ya some more whiskey, it must’ve wore off by now.”

“Nah, I don’t want any more of that. I’m okay without it.”

“It’ll dull the pain.”

“It’ll dull my wits more’s the point,” Vin said. “Can’t 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?”

“Don’t ya?” Vin seemed confused. “We weren’t planning on staying here the night ‘fore this happened.”

“Plans change. I’m 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. “Don’t even –.

“I ain’t -.”

– say it.

“ – helpless.”

Chris gave him a glare of exasperation. “Ya don’t need to be helpless to need help Vin.” He thought for a minute that Vin was going to dispute him. “Sometimes ya don’t even need to need to help to take help.”

Vin watched him a bit, like he was taking the measure of Larabee’s words. “Maybe in your world.” There was that gulf of difference again, between them. Chris could feel it.

“Look around ya Vin, you’re 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 didn’t 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 Vin’s say-so, and he set it in front of Vin without saying anything.

At first, Vin didn’t touch the cup, he let it sit there and Chris wondered if he’d 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 who’s been lost out in the desert with no water, even if he’s dying of thirst, ya only give him a little water at a time or else it makes him sick?”

“Yeah, I know.” Chris didn’t have to have a lot of brains to figure out where this was headed.

“Even if he ain’t had water in so long he can’t remember the taste of it, ya can’t give him too much at once.”

“Vin – ya ain’t dying of thirst.”

“Maybe not, but you’re trying to give me too much of something I can’t remember the taste of Chris. I ain’t been coddled since I don’t when.”

“Coddled?” Chris would’ve laughed, if he didn’t know Vin was so serious. “I don’t call setting your own arm, and ignoring broken ribs coddling. I don’t even call giving ya some whiskey and letting ya sleep coddling.”

“Ya washed my foot for me,” Vin said. He sounded awed.

“You’re hurt,” Chris pointed out.

“I been hurt before. I don’t think even Nathan ever washed my foot for me.”

“And that probably isn’t because he didn’t 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 ain’t afraid to offer him some. But if he takes the canteen and drinks all your water and doesn’t leave you any and he only wants more, ya ain’t ever going to offer him water again. Ya see? Ya know what I mean Chris? Even if I was dying of thirst, ya shouldn’t offer me any water.” Vin was still very serious.

“This is water I won’t run out of Vin,” Chris answered him just as seriously.

“Ya got no idea how much I need.”

“And you’ve got no idea how much I’ve got.” Chris waited, giving Vin another chance to argue with him. Another chance that Vin didn’t take. “I’ve been that man dying of thirst Vin. I know enough to offer ya as much ‘water’ as you’ll take. And I know that it won’t 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 might’ve even been getting choked up.

“Do whatever ya want then,” he said to Chris. “Don’t 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. Vin’s 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 ain’t -.”

Don’t say it.

“ - helpless.”

The End

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