Behold: a piece of meat headed for the discard folder. Not because it isn’t well written, but because it doesn’t have a home within the beats of the larger story. The context you’ll have to make up for yourself.
There was a window you had to work around with Jonesy. Too early into his drinking and he was surly—as competent as he got, but also ruthlessly efficient, if you could talk him into helping you. Push him too hard and he’d try to make it painful. Too late and he was too drunk to be of use. But if you hit that sweet spot right in between, where Jonesy was still basically capable but loose enough to be easy about it, you could talk yourself in and out with a slam, bam, thank you ma’am. Brutus had developed a keen knack for the timing over the years.
“Jonesy,” he said, standing as close to the vet’s shoulder as he dared, “my arm?”
He knew immediately that he had waited too long. Jonesy wasn’t swaying where he sat, but as he turned the gesture was just slightly too large.
“My arm, my arm,” the vet mimicked. “You need something?”
Blast it, Kliner had gotten him riled with his expansive jokes about his skills – or lack thereof – in animal medicine. Brutus wasn’t sure there had been a sweet spot today. Unfortunately, he needed a working arm if he wanted to get his equipment packed up while the rest of them were still here to help.
“It’s dislocated,” he explained.
“I know that,” Jonesy snapped, though Brutus couldn’t tell if he actually did or not. “Let me see.”
He stood up as he spoke, nearly tripped over the picnic table bench, and Brutus abruptly changed his mind about how badly he needed his arm working right at this moment. He could probably get a lot done even with it tucked up inside his suit. “Never mind, I can catch you later.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Jonesy snarled. “Kliner, grab him.”
Kliner, not often drunk but cheerful when he was, enthusiastically grabbed a loop of Brutus’s tool belt, still seated as he was at the table and too far away to grab anything else. Brutus should’ve shoved him off immediately but, trained not to touch anyone for any reason, put his hands – or his one hand, anyways (the other tried to twitch upwards and he remembered what had brought him over here to Jonesy in the first place) – up and out of the way, like he might scald the farmer.
“Hold him,” Jonesy ordered as Kliner – nearly pulling off the belt – clambered heavily to his feet.
Realizing that this was happening whether he wanted it to or not, Brutus snapped, “No one needs to hold me. I can take it.”
“You can take it because I can make you take it,” Jonesy answered, eyes bright with anger at what he undoubtedly took as Brutus’s doubt in his skills. Brutus cursed his own temper; he could never keep it in check when he most needed to.
Still, they were starting to attract attention and Brutus’s self-respect was on the line, so he turned to Kliner, now gripping both arms – and yeah, it hurt, if he’d bothered to ask – and insisted, “I’m fine. We’ve done this before, I can stand on my own.”
“Hold him still,” Jonesy said.
Kliner did as he was told – Jonesy snapped at him to remove his hand from Brutus’s right shoulder, so at least he’d spotted which one it actually was – and Brutus braced himself, deeply embarrassed. Randy’s table had turned to watch the proceedings, and it hurt his pride to think they thought he needed someone to hold him in place, like he was cattle getting branded.
Jonesy grabbed his shoulder and oh yeah had he missed the window by about a mile today.
Muffing the insertion on the first try, the veterinarian tried to grind his arm into its socket like it was an engine part just one size too big. Everything dropped away – Randy’s table, the gnawing hunger in his stomach, the dizzying exhaustion that had been crowding in on his forehead – except for the howling agony. A second later he realized he was depending solely on Kliner’s grip to stay upright, and that brought back Brutus’ pride, which was infinitely more powerful than any pain. He hung onto that, bracing himself again to stand his ground, though he couldn’t remember at the moment why that was so important.
“—get off him! Can’t—”
“—watch it you sonna—”
“—take another swing at my face I’ll—”
The grip on his arm was suddenly ripped away, but it was immediately replaced, almost like Kliner had switched positions. A voice spoke right in his face. “Brutus? Brutus, c’mon, you with me?”
“Sit him down,” someone else ordered, farther away. “I don’t know how he’s still standing. I’d swear he passed out thirty seconds ago.”
“I’m fine,” Brutus thought he said, but the person right in front of him replied with, “I think those might have been words. You want to try that again, buddy?” so apparently he hadn’t.
He realized he was sitting. Someone started to take off his mask, but this was so deeply wrong that Brutus’s vision abruptly cleared and he grabbed the wrist – Randy’s wrist, he recognized suddenly – before he could finish the job.
“Right,” Randy said, tone surprised. “Better not.”
“Is my arm in?” Brutus asked, still too muzzy – and in too much pain – to tell.
“I don’t think so,” Randy said. “We pulled Dr. Mengele off you before he could finish the job.”
“Okay,” Brutus said, not entirely taking in the answer, though he was pretty sure he’d gotten the gist of it. No, he was almost certain. “Okay,” he repeated, dropping Randy’s wrist – which he’d just realized he was still holding – to gingerly take hold of his own dislocated arm. His face tightened. “Okay, I can do this.”
Randy grabbed his wrist this time. “What in the world do you think you’re doing?”
And that, too, is all she wrote. As to today’s writing report, I did not forget Pine&Meyer Ch.6 at home. I put it on my flash drive and decided to ignore it. Poked at the Florists for about five minutes instead and then spent the next hour on The Sister’s favorite story of all time: Nelson Hoag and the Cursed Young Adult Novel.
We all float down here.