Perspectives on Paternity (or, True Lies)
Pair-o-dice Ranch – April 1903
Eight steps north. Eight steps south. Eight steps north. Eight steps south. A sigh. A nervous twist of the neck. A glance to the west, then at his watch.
The pattern was repeated.
The pattern was repeated again.
“Son, all your fidgeting won’t make this any easier.” Wisdom, born of experience, gave credence to Grandfather Newman’s words.
“Sit down, before I shove you off this porch.” These words of wisdom were mumbled from beneath a black hat.
Caution, also born of experience, caused Jed Curry to sit, if only momentarily. He immediately popped back up. “I can’t help it. I gotta move. I gotta do…somethin’! What are they doin’ in there, anyway?”
“Look, why don’t you go check the kids? It’ll take your mind off…”
A moan from inside the cabin interrupted Heyes’ suggestion.
“They’re with Lily. I’m sure they’re fine,” Jed answered, anxiously rubbing a sweaty right palm against his pant leg.
“I’ll check the kids.” Alexander pushed himself up from a rocking chair. “Sit,” he ordered. When Jed sat down again, Alexander placed a comforting hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “It will all be over soon. Trust me! Nora’s fine. So is that baby!” He winked, before carefully stepping from the porch of the Curry cabin and slowly making his way across the yard, to the Heyes homestead.
A whimper floated from indoors.
Jed’s head dropped to his hands. “I can’t take this waitin’! I’m goin’ in there and…”
“No, you’re not. Doc Walker’s in there. So is Christina. You’d only be in the way and make Nora even more nervous than she is already.”
“Heyes, how did you manage it? I mean, you done this before. What if somethin’ goes wrong? What if I’m not cut out for this fatherhood thing? What if…”
“Hey! Nothing is going to go wrong and you’re gonna make a fine father. Like I told you before — Faith,” Heyes winked. “You just gotta have a little faith.”
Jed flopped back into the chair, willing his mind to focus on something, anything but the labored sighs of his wife, coming from inside their small cabin.
Faith. What was that Bible verse Nora read this morning? Something about temperance, long-suffering and faith. Jed sure hoped Nora could muster enough faith for the both of them right now because at the moment he had the ill-tempered, suffering parts more than covered.
“…But then, I’m sure you remember,” Heyes continued, never suspecting that Curry hadn’t been following his one-sided conversation for quite some time. “You were there with me when every one of my kids were born. Well, every time except the first. Lillian.”
Heyes’ silver tongue droned on and his eyes carried the glow of nostalgia. His voice took on a cadence that seemed to have a calming effect on his nervous partner. “Yeah, that day was warmer than this one, being late summer.” …
Pair-o-dice – Summer 1890
The cry came from the second floor of the newly constructed Heyes home. The voice was loud enough to reach the rafters, which was a good thing, since that’s where Hannibal Heyes was, kneeling on the roof, enthusiastically pounding shingles into place.
“Christina’s calling again, Jed. I really think you should ride for the doctor. I need to get in there and stay with her until the two of you get back.”
“Look, Heyes, I want this house done! Today! ‘Fore this baby’s born!” Curry hoisted another bundle of shingles onto the roof.
“The house is close enough to done.”
“I want it all done! Complete! Is that so hard to understand? I’m sick’a livin’ in that bunkhouse!”
“It would have been done, if we’d have been shingling last week, as I suggested, instead of you traipsing to town for a visit to Delilah’s.”
“I was looking for somethin’. ”
“I’ll bet you were.” Sarcasm dripped from the muttered phrase.
“I was lookin’ for a baby gift and I found it.”
“Yeah, Broderie Anglaise. Where’d you find that, off one of Alona’s petticoats?”
“Christina liked it. And she made that frilly baby thing out of it. That trip to town was well worth it, far as I’m concerned.”
“I’ll bet it was.” Heyes glared.
Christina called again.
“Dang it! Fine!” Curry dropped the shingles and huffed to the ladder. “I’m goin’ for the doc. You best get in there and sit with your wife, before she flattens ya.”
“Birthing children is no small feat, Jed. Christina really needs me in there. Have a little respect for motherhood, would you?”
“I got plenty of respect for mothers. They been poppin’ kids out left and right for generations without help from husbands. And if it was MY wife havin’ that kid, wild horses couldn’t drag me into that room.” Jed climbed down the ladder and went for his horse. “I’ll be back later. Much later.”
“Mrs. Hamlin? What are you doing here?” Heyes asked, opening the front door. “I was expecting Doctor Walker.”
“I was asked me to come by and help Christina while the doctor takes care of an emergency. He’ll be here as soon as he can.”
“An emergency? Jed? Was Jed hurt?”
“There was an emergency at that Delilah’s Place. Mr. Curry is there. And if you ask me, he spends far too much time associating with those women of ill repute.” The lady shook her head and made a clicking noise with her tongue. “That place is a disgrace, it is, and a poor reflection on our fine town. Why, the town council ought to…”
“Mrs. Hamlin, why don’t you go on upstairs. I believe Christina needs you.”
“Do you really believe that load of malarkey?” Curry stared incredulously at his partner.
“It’s the truth.”
“No it ain’t, Heyes. In fact, it’s about as far from the truth as you can get.” …
Pair-o-dice – Summer 1890
The cry came from the second floor of the newly constructed Heyes home. The voice was loud enough to reach the rafters, which was a good thing, since that’s where Jed Curry was, kneeling on the roof, frantically pounding shingles into place.
“Christina’s callin’ you again,” Jed Curry reminded. “I really think I should ride for the doctor. You should be sittin’ in there with her until the two of us get back.”
“Look, Jed, I want this house done! Today! Before my child’s born without a roof over his head!” Heyes hoisted another bundle of shingles onto the roof. “Not close to done. Complete! Finished! Is that so hard to understand?”
“The house would’a been done, if we’d been up here shinglin’ last week, like I suggested, ‘stead of you sendin’ me traipsin’ to town, lookin’ for… What was I lookin’ for again?”
“Broderie Anglaise. Lace, for the Christening outfit Christina is making for the baby.”
“An’ like I told you, the general store in Sheridan don’t carry Broder… that fancy stuff, so Christina’s got no lace, the baby’s got no outfit and now you, you ain’t got no roof.”
Christina called again.
“Dang it, Heyes, I’m goin’ for the doc! Now, would you get in there and sit with your wife, PLEASE, or am I gonna hafta flatten ya?”
“Birthing children is something women have been doing on their own for generations, popping them out, left and right without any help from husbands. Christina doesn’t need me in there. Have a little respect for motherhood, would you?”
“I got plenty of respect for mothers. And if it was MY wife havin’ that kid, wild horses couldn’t keep me out of that room.” Jed climbed down the ladder and went for his horse. “I’ll be back later with the doc. Let’s just hope I’m not too late.”
Jed Curry pulled his horse to a stop at the alley along-side Delilah’s Place and strained his eyes through the falling darkness. A robust woman, probably in her mid-fifties, was perched atop a wobbly stack of wooden crates, peering through a small, dirty window.
The woman startled. The stack of crates on which she stood began swaying. There was a loud crack and the woman came crashing to the ground.
“Mrs. Hamlin, are you alright?” Jed rushed to the woman’s side, an arm of assistance around her as she brushed the dust from her skirts.
“Good heavens, I’ve torn my petticoat!” The older woman seemed flustered and shoved a long swath of white lace into Curry’s gloved hand. “I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Curry. I was just… You see…” She fumbled to a halt, then began again. “Let me assure you, this situation is NOT what you might think.”
“I wasn’t thinkin’ nothin’, ma’am. Just lookin’ for the Doc. You haven’t seen him, have ya?”
“Well,” a guilty flush rose in her cheeks, “since you ask, yes. He’s…” Instead of speaking, Mrs. Hamlin pointed toward the upper portion of Delilah’s establishment. “But you did NOT hear that from me! Is that understood?”
“‘Course, ma’am. Look, Mrs. Hamlin, my partner’s wife is havin’ a baby and I was hopin’ to get the doc. You don’t s’pose maybe you could…”
“You were hoping that I could serve as a mid-wife until Dr. Walker is…available?”
“That man is a disgrace, he is, and a poor reflection on our fine town.” The woman shook her head and made a clicking noise with her tongue.
“Ma’am, seein’ as how I ain’t gonna be thinkin’ nothin’ about you peekin’ in the window here at Miz Delilah’s Place, maybe it’d be best if you an’ me put the best construction on the doc’s visit upstairs. After all, you and me don’t know what his business here is. He could be treatin’ some patient who’s sick or hurt or…somethin’.”
“Something. Yes, you are right of course, Mr. Curry. Now, if we had more men like yourself, men of impeccable reputation,” she spread the complements thick and heavy, hoping her mild indiscretion might be forgotten, “serving on the town council…” She patted Curry’s arm. “Don’t you worry yourself. I’m on my way now.”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be right along, soon as the doc’s uh…done here.”
“Jed, THAT is the most ridiculous …”
“THAT is the truth, Heyes. Unlike the fairy tale you were tellin’.”
At that moment, the door of the Curry cabin opened and Dr. Walker stepped outside, stretching his shoulders and lower back.
“Well?” two voices chimed in unison as both men jumped to their feet.
“Well, what?” His eyes met two expectant gazes, one more anxious than the other. “Oh, you mean the baby!” he exclaimed, chuckling. “I’m afraid you gentlemen will need to sit tight a bit longer.”
“I’m sick of people tellin’ me to sit!” Curry insisted, moving toward the door.
Dr. Walker stepped into Jed’s path.
“Get outta my way, Doc. Nora needs me in there.”
“Needs you to do what?” the doctor asked, calmly.
Shaky fingers ran through wavy hair. A growl of frustration preceded a sigh of resignation and then, again, Jed Curry sat.
“I have something for you.” Christina extended a small package toward Nora.
“What pretty lace!” Nora exclaimed, fingering the edge of a delicate baby gown.
“It’s called Broderie Anglaise. Jed was the one who found it, though locating it here in Sheridan must have proved difficult. Anyway, Hannibal and I would love to see your child wear it too.”
Nora smiled her thanks, then closed her eyes, blowing out a long breath and squeezing Christina’s hand until the contraction subsided.
“Dr. Walker says you’re doing fine,” Christina assured, wiping a cool cloth across Nora’s sweat-covered brow.
“Where is he?” Nora wondered, nervously glancing around the cabin.
“He just stepped outside for a breath of air. Don’t worry. I’m sure he won’t go far.”
“Good,” Nora mumbled, dropping her head back onto the pillow. “I wonder how Jed’s holding up.”
“He’s sitting on the porch with Hannibal. Fretting, from the looks of it.”
“Fretting,” she giggled, then met Christina’s eyes. “I’m really glad you’re here.”
“That’s what sisters are for,” Christina smiled. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else!”
“Wish I could have done the same for you when your children were born.”
“Dr. Walker was here,” Christina remembered. “Except for the first time. Mrs. Hamlin, you met her at the Oktoberfest last fall, she helped with Lillian’s delivery.”
“I thought Dr. Walker had already set up practice here before you arrived in Sheridan.”
“Oh, he had. Only there was some sort of emergency that kept him from getting here in time for Lily’s birth. But thankfully, he got here in time to bind up Hannibal’s ribs.”
“Bind up his ribs?”
“Mmm-hmm,” Christina responded, matter-of-factly. …
Pair-o-dice – Summer 1890
The cry came from a window on the second floor of the newly constructed Heyes home. The voice was loud enough to reach the rafters, which was where Hannibal Heyes had been until his hasty descent resulted in a sudden meeting with the earth two stories below.
“Jed!” Christina scrambled down the steps and out the front door of her new, almost finished home. “Oh, Jed, you’ll need to ride for the doctor! Hannibal’s been hurt!”
“Stay with him until I get back,” Curry ordered, already jumping down the last few rungs of the ladder.
“You just had to get that roof done today, didn’t you, Heyes?” Jed muttered as he saddled his horse. “Don’t want my child born without a roof over his head!” Curry mimicked, tightening the cinch.
The mare snorted her protest.
“That roof would’a been done already, if we’d been up there shinglin’ last week, like I suggested. Dang it, Heyes! If that fall didn’t flatten ya, I ought’a!” He swung onto his mount and left for town at a gallop.
Heyes, feeling foolish, attempted to sit up, in hopes of drawing Christina’s attention from his severely injured pride. “Ow!” His hand moved quickly to his side.
“Oh!” Christina’s hand moved quickly to her abdomen.
“Nothing!” Christina insisted, much too emphatically. “Just a twinge.”
Heyes studied her face. “Uh-huh. How long have you been experiencing these, twinges?”
“Just since…” she shrugged. “Well, they only started coming strong and steady these last couple of hours or so.”
“A couple of hours? When were you planning to let me know?”
“I didn’t see the need, Hannibal. It’s only been these last few hours that… Oh!”
Christina blew out a long breath and nodded before continuing. “As I said, they’ve only been strong for a few hours. All last night, they were extremely mild.”
“All last night?!”
“Women have been birthing babies for generations, Hannibal.”
He noted the shaking of her hands as Christina smoothed her hair. “With all due respect to motherhood, Christina, we’re getting you into the house and into bed. It’s a good thing Jed’s already gone for the Doc.”
“Mrs. Hamlin! I’m so glad to find you!”
“You were looking for me, Mr. Curry?”
“Actually, I was lookin’ for Doc Walker, but I hear he’s kinda tied up with some kinda emergency. See, Heyes, well, he took a fall and…”
“And you were hoping that I could serve as a stand-in until Dr. Walker is available.”
“It’s a disgrace, it is, and a poor reflection on our fine town that the council hasn’t been able to persuade another doctor to take up practice here.” The woman shook her head and made a clicking noise with her tongue. “Now, if we had more men like yourself and Mr. Heyes, men of impeccable reputation, serving on the town council…” She patted Curry’s arm. “Don’t you worry yourself. I’m on my way now.”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be right along, soon as the Doc’s ready.”
An infant’s cry stole the attention of everyone both inside and outside the Curry cabin.
Jed was immediately on his feet, pushing past Christina who was just opening the door.
“So, everybody fine?” Heyes asked, hugging his wife close and stepping inside the cabin.
Christina smiled and nodded to the Curry family, bonding across the room. “Remember how happy we were the day Lily was born?”
Heyes grinned. “Like it was yesterday!”
“Ya did good, Nora. Real good!” Jed praised, swallowing hard, placing a kiss on his wife’s lips and rubbing a calloused hand over his baby’s soft head. “How you feelin’?”
“Happy,” Nora smiled. “Tired,” she amended, “but happy!”
Just then, the baby began to wail, loudly, attracting a host of family members, Alexander, Lillian, Sam and Rosalyn.
“Is it okay if I…”
Without waiting for Jed to finish his question, Nora nodded.
Carefully, Jed lifted the newborn into his arms. A tiny mouth sought out the tip of Jed’s finger and magically, the crying stopped.
Heyes winked. “A little faith, Jed! Just like I told ya.”
Jed briefly met his partner’s eyes, then turned to Nora. “You wanna go with the name we talked about?” he asked, eyes shining.
Another nod from Nora confirmed it.
“Heyes family, I want you to meet Nathan. Nathan Curry.”
“Nathan, after your father,” Heyes remarked out loud, then moved closer to Curry and son lowering his voice to a whisper. “Your Pa would be proud, Kid. And Nathan’s gonna grow up to be one heck of a man! Just like his father!”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.