Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd
“Brightman, I hear it was you, you and Peterson and the kid ... you three saved me.” Purdy lay propped on a pillow wedged against the elevated head of his hospital bed. He seemed shrunken, withered, lost among the bandages and glaring-white sling that supported his left arm.
“Not entirely, Purdy. Patch did a lot to keep you from bleeding out. You know he was hurt pretty badly himself. His face, his hands...”
“Yeh, durned ol’ fool. He coulda bled out, too. How’s he doin’?”
“Fine, just fine. We got him some help from a ranch family up-river. Their kids come down mornings and evenings to milk and feed and help him with chores. Truth be told, I think he’s loving it.”
“Has a soft spot fer kids, he does. He healin’ up okay?”
“Yes. Doc Jameson’s gal, Nurse Emily, sews a real neat stitch. Doc joked that Patch could star in a horror film, but I don’t agree. She sewed him up so neat that when the swelling goes down, he’ll show hardly any scars at all,” Jim said.
“Won’t help his looks any, will it?” Purdy started to laugh but a weak cough choked him off. His sunken chest heaved once, jerked, and he gasped in pain. “Damn ... it sure as hell does hurt when I laugh, don’t it?” he wheezed.
“There was a sheriff’s deputy here yesterday,” he added. “T’was a strange thing, he told me. He said that Doc Jameson claimed it was a near miracle that your Vi called him before you found us, to have him get ready for somebody near to dyin’. That if she hadn’t, and he hadn’t got stuff ready, I might’uv died. And I don’t remember too much after I got shot, but I do mind that it seemed like only minutes later you got to us and Peterson slapped that big handful of bandages on me. How’d that come to happen, Brightman?”
“Truth be told, Purdy, it was Graydon. Him, and then Mike.”
“Yeh, Mike ... I always called him Peterson. So’s I wouldn’t mess up and call him ... well, anyway. So how’d the kid know?”
“Mike said he had a vision. He took it so damned hard, feeling you being shot and hurting, that I thought he was dying himself.”
“Truth? How’d it happen?”
“It was like a fit. He fell. His eyes rolled back, his legs kicked, and then he screamed. Damn near scared poor Vi to death. Nearly gave me a heart stoppage! Mike brought him around; he barked something at him in some language and dropped some herb powder in his mouth. Then Mike said he felt it too and knew you and Patch were hurt. So we came running.”
Purdy lay back and closed his eyes for a time. Jim thought the old man was dozing, but he wasn’t. Purdy grunted. His glittering black eyes popped open and he grabbed Jim’s hand with a fierce grip.
“Thanks, neighbor! When I sold you and Vi that dryland ranch, you said that you’d always owe me a favor for the favor I did you two. Now I’m gonna call it in. I’ve got to talk to Pete ... Mike, fer a few minutes. Then I’m gonna ask the kid, Graydon, to take on somethin’ that I think’s gonna make you men think I’m crazy. I’m not. I been layin’ here, thinkin’ hard about where I’ve been and where I’m goin’ and you tellin’ me about that vision the kid had. It’s decided me. So I’m gonna ask you, Brightman, to go along with me. I’m gonna lay a big burden on the kid, and I want you to promise that you’ll help him. Don’t fuss me over it. Just go along and help the kid anyway you can. Can you do it?”
“You’re not going to tell me what it is, are you?”
“Nope. Not until after I lay it on the kid. You gotta take this on faith, neighbor.”
“Alright, Purdy. I do owe you. You know how Vi and I love that place.” Jim took Purdy’s hand. “My word on it.”
“Good enough. Now git. Go tell Mike I gotta talk to him. Keep the kid away. Go get coffee or somethin’. I’ll talk to the kid after I get somethin’ straight with Mike.”
Mike leaned over Purdy’s weak body to touch his pale forehead. The fragrance of pine pitch and crushed kinnikinnick rose from the pale oil that Mike anointed there with his finger. Purdy smiled and inhaled the scent.
“I didn’t think it possible for you to shrink any smaller, old man,” Mike teased. “If you fall into a wrinkle in that bed sheet, the nurse will have to call out the searchers to find you!”
“Let’s hope she’s the cute one. I’d let her find me!” Purdy replied.
“You have a big spirit, little man. She’d benefit if she could see you as I do,” Mike responded.
“Git. No more blowin’ smoke up my nose, Shaman. Or should I say Pete ... Pasayten Pete. Local legend, big boogeyman, Injun myth ... Michael Peterson. I kept yer secret all these years. Gonna keep on keepin’ it, too. But I got a big question for yuh, Pete. Brightman said the kid had a fit. He said you called it a vision. That right?”
“They’d be putting you in a pine box if he hadn’t had a vision, old man.”
“So it’s true. He’s one, like you. He’s followin’ you, learnin’ your ways?”