Stars and Stipes
By Maz McCoy
“Is this it?” Kid asked as he faced the faded wooden panels.
“Yep,” Heyes confirmed.
“It’s too hot to be paintin’,” the blond Adonis grumbled as he prized the lid off the paint pot with a screwdriver.
“Just be glad we got a job.”
“Oh, I’m glad we got a job, Heyes. I was just hoping it would be a payin’ one!”
“Remember what they say, you have to speculate to accumulate.” The dark haired man studied the paint brush he had been given.
Kid gave Heyes a questioning look.
“What?” Heyes asked.
“What the heck did that mean?”
“It means we do this job for free in the hope that it leads to other paying jobs.”
“And if it doesn’t we’ve painted this man’s fence for nothin’!”
“Then we shall paint it well, in the hope that others will see what good work we do and offer us employment.” Heyes gave his friend a cheery smile as he bent to remove the lid from his own pot of paint.
“What kinda colours are these for a fence anyway? I got red, what have you got?”
Heyes took the lid off the pot. “Blue,” he announced.
“Who paints a fence red and blue?”
“You do,” came the reply.
The two ex-outlaws turned to see their ‘employer’, Samuel Adams, walking towards them. “I’m glad you got the paint, boys. Folks here in Dartmouth will be real pleased to see that ol’ fence painted at last.”
“About this job Mister Adams…” Heyes stepped away from the fence.
“Oh, it’s going to look real fancy, real fancy,” Adams gushed.
“We were wondering if…”
“You got the red and blue but where’s the white?” Adams looked about, clearly searching for something.
“White?” Kid queried.
“White paint. You boys can’t paint the flag on the fence without the white for the stars now can you?”
“Flag?” Kid’s mouth dropped open.
Adams smiled. “That’s right. You’re painting the stars and stripes on the fence.”
Kid looked at Heyes. Heyes looked at Adams.
“The stars and stripes?” Kid confirmed. He pointed a thumb at the fence. “On this?”
“That’ll take a while to do.”
“It sure will and the whole town are going to be real grateful to you for volunteering a week of your time to do it for us.”
“Volunteering?” Kid looked at Heyes. Heyes looked at his paint brush. “A week?”
“Yes. Mister Smith was kind enough to offer your services when I mentioned we needed the fence painted for the Fourth of July celebrations.” Adams smiled happily. “Well, I best leave you boys to it. If you haven’t got the white paint just ask Hancock down at the general store. John’ll supply you with anything else you need. Won’t even ask you to sign for it.”
With a wave Adams headed back along Main Street. Heyes watched him go all too aware of Kid glaring at him.
“Don’t! You said the man needed his fence painting, you did not tell me he wanted the darn flag on it!”
“Is that anyway to talk about the flag of our nation?” Heyes chastised.
“Do you know how many stars are on that thing?”
“As a matter of fact…”
“That was one of them rhetorical questions!”
“All right. I know I may have…”
Kid took a step closer to his friend. “And stripes! Do you know how many stripes there are?”
Heyes simply met his partner’s gaze, realising it was probably best to keep quiet.
The blond man took another step. “Do you have any idea how long it’s gonna take us to paint the flag on a fence this size?” Kid waved his arms dramatically at the long-very long-fence.
“Well, about a we…”
Another step. Kid was now within poking distance. Kid poked Heyes in the chest with a finger. “A long time, that’s how long! And how do you suppose…” Poke… “In all that time…” Poke. “We will afford the hotel room?” Poke. “Or the food we’re gonna need?”
“I’ve thought about that and…”
Kid held up a hand. “You know by the time we’ve finished it, they’ll probably add another darn star to the flag and we’ll have to repaint the whole darn thing!”
Heyes waited for another outburst but Kid had clearly finished. “But think of it Kid, we’ll leave a lasting legacy here in Dartmouth. A flag painted by Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, untouched by any other hand. Thirteen stripes and thirty-eight stars, for all to see.”
Kid pondered this great achievement. “I guess it would be nice.”
Heyes placed a conciliatory arm around his partner’s shoulder. “It sure would.”
“But how we gonna pay for food?”
“You let me worry about that.”
Kid’s eyes narrowed. “I let you worry about a job and look where it got us.”
Heyes smiled. “So, do you want to paint the red parts or the blue?”