Eye of the Beholder
By Maz McCoy
Hannibal Heyes sat on a barrel behind the livery stable reading. The sun warmed his body as he leaned back against the building, hat tilted to shade his eyes. Reaching the end of the chapter he licked his right index finger and used it to turn the page. As he did so he glanced across at his partner. Kid stood, feet apart, right hand hanging loosely at his side as he faced the corral fence, currently lined with six empty cans. It was a pose he’d seen his friend assume many times, a practice session he’d witnessed on more occasions than he could remember and a task he knew helped keep them both alive. Any moment now Kid would reach for his gun, draw it swiftly from the holster and…
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Heyes smiled, his eyes moving to the cans lying…
“WHAT THE HECK?”
The cans stood where they had been placed, still on the fence rail. Heyes dropped his book, pushed back his hat and…gapped at his partner.
“Did you do that deliberately?”
“What?” Kid asked as he reloaded.
“What? THAT!” Heyes pointed at the fence.
Kid looked, or rather he squinted, at the fence.
“The cans!” Heyes pushed himself off the barrel and walked towards Kid. Blue eyes squinted once more.
“What about ‘em?”
“You didn’t hit a single damn one!”
“WHAT?” Kid walked to the fence shaking his head in dismay. Heyes was right. Every can was still in place. “Sheesh!”
“Sheesh? That’s all you can say? KID CURRY JUST MISSED EVERY SINGLE CAN!”
“Why don’t you yell a bit louder, Heyes, I don’t think the sheriff heard ya!”
Heyes tried hard to compose himself.
“Have another go.”
“I was about to.”
“Then do it. And this time hit something.”
“Don’t tempt me, Heyes.”
The dark-haired man walked with Kid to his firing point and stood to one side. Kid assumed the stance. His fingers flexed, breathing steadied, his hand moved and…
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Heyes smiled as the gun smoke cleared and…
“WHAT THE HECK?”
“You keep saying that.” Kid squinted. “Did I miss again?”
Heyes stared at his partner. Kid seemed remarkably unaffected by the fact that the man who could hit almost anything with unbelievable speed and accuracy hadn’t hit a single can, again!
“Kid, this is serious.”
“Just having an off day I guess.” He squinted in the direction of the fence and…Heyes realised. Oh no.
“Kid, can you see the fence?”
“Well of course I can see the fence!”
“Can you see the cans?”
“It’d be stupid to aim at something I couldn’t see, wouldn’t it?”
Heyes walked to the fence and removed two cans, hiding them behind his back.
“So d’you reckon you got enough bullets for another go?” he asked casually.
“How many cans are there?”
“I set up six, Heyes.”
“Yep and there are still six here.” Heyes pointed to the four cans remaining.
“So get out of the way and let me hit ‘em.”
Heyes sighed. How was he going to break the news to his friend? Slowly he walked back to where Kid reloaded his gun.
“Kid, there are only four cans on the fence.” He held out the two he removed. “You can’t see them can you? Your eyesight’s going.”
The blond man looked at the ground, taking his time before he answered.
“I didn’t know how to tell you.”
“That you couldn’t see?”
“No, that I went to get my eyes tested.”
“This morning. There’s an op…optic…optha-maltic…There’s an eye doctor in town and I went to get a test on my eyes but the receptionist said they didn’t have any appointments so…”
“They wouldn’t let you see the doctor?” Heyes’ chest puffed out with righteous indignation.
“It don’t matter I can…”
“Kid, it matters! You need your eyes checked and for us that’s a matter of life or death! You may not be able to do what Kid Curry normally does but Hannibal Heyes still has his silver tongue. Let’s go see this eye doctor!”
“I was hoping you’d say that, Heyes.”
Heyes headed determinedly towards the main street. Kid smiled and followed.
“Ma’am, you don’t seem to understand that for my partner this is a matter of life and death.” Heyes stood in the doctor’s waiting room, facing a small, plump woman in her late forties. She was Doctor Kandee’s receptionist, assistant and…mother! The eye doctor was occupying the town doctor’s office while she ran her temporary clinic.
“And you don’t seem to understand, young man, that the doctor cannot see everyone. Iris has a very busy schedule. There are only so many people she can see in a day and we are only here until Tuesday. However, if you leave me your friend’s name we can make an appointment for him when we return to town next month.”
Kid stepped forward at Heyes’ exclamation.
“Joshua, I can’t wait another month. I gotta see this doctor.”
Heyes nodded and turned back to the woman.
“Ma’am, I appeal to you as a mother. My friend’s getting married next week to a beautiful girl, daughter of the mayor, in fact. He’s too shy to tell you but he’s in real distress at the fact that he won’t be able to see how beautiful she looks on their wedding day. Why if you could see them together it would fill you up at how happy they are. Ma’am, can’t you find it in your heart to help him? Look at him.” Heyes stood beside Kid, placed a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. “This is a desperate man.”
“I sure am, ma’am. Desperate to see her.”
“Hmmm.” The woman seemed unconvinced but then…she smiled. “All right. Give me a minute to talk to Iris and we’ll see what we can do.”
“You’re an angel, ma’am.”
“I’m a sucker for a sob story, is what I am.” The woman opened the door that led into the doctor’s surgery, closing it again as she slipped inside.
Heyes patted Kid on the shoulder.
“Piece of cake.”
After a few moments the surgery door opened and the doctor’s mother stepped out, followed by a young woman. She was slight of build with long blond hair tied neatly away from her face. She was possibly the most beautiful woman Heyes had ever seen. He turned to Kid and…his partner was focussed on the doctor. He didn’t seem to have any trouble seeing her.
“Mr Jones?” she enquired, somewhat distantly, looking at the notes she held.
Kid stepped forward, hat in his hands. Still the doctor didn’t turn her full attention to him.
“I understand you need to see me urgently.” Doctor Kandee scribbled on a file.
“I sure do. Desperate to see you is what I am.”
“Then you’d better come in.” Finally she looked up from her files and…Oh. Their blue eyes met. “I’m…Doc…Doctor…I’m Doctor Kandee.”
“Thaddeus. Thaddeus Jones.”
They stood staring at each other, silly smiles on their faces.
Sheesh! Heyes shook his head.
“I tried to see you earlier but they wouldn’t let me. Fortunately my friend here has a silver tongue and I knew he’d be able to persuade your mother.”
Oh, he did, did he?
“You’d best come inside so I can look at you. I mean take a look, a look at your eyes.”
“I’d like that, doctor.”
“Please call me Iris.”
“I will if you’ll call me Thaddeus.”
“Come this way, Thaddeus.”
Kid turned to Heyes, his squint had apparently disappeared. Kid smiled.
“Thanks, partner. I owe you one.”
You bet you do. Heyes could only as gape as the door closed.
“The daughter of the mayor you say?”
Heyes turned to the doctor’s mother.
“If I was the mayor, I’d keep an eye on that one.”
“Couldn’t agree with you more, ma’am. Couldn’t agree with you more.”