Part 7 of the Stupid collection
With a sigh Josiah closed his bible. He didnt find peace in the Book this time. He didnt find peace in the silence of the small clinic room either.
That was mainly because this wasnt a peaceful silence at all. It was the silence of a fierce struggle.
He looked at the bed he was seated next to and at the person laying there. He had never seen Chris so pale and lifeless. Normally the man was brimming over with energy, now all the energy he still possessed seemed to be spent on taking the next breath.
It hurt Josiah to see how Chris was fighting for every lungful of air. The gunslingers lean body was burning up and covered in sweat, his eyes were closed and the ragged sound of his breathing filled the otherwise silent clinic room.
Nathan had been unable to fall asleep with the sound of that struggle in his ears, so Josiah had taken matters in his own hands and had forcefully closed the door between the clinic room and the small room where Nathan slept. He had ignored the protests and told Nathan in no uncertain terms that if something went wrong he and Vin would holler and could be trusted to holler on time!
Josiah looked from the man on the bed to the man in the chair on the other side of that bed. The young tracker held onto one of Chris hands as if it were a lifeline and seemed to fight right along the gunslinger for every breath. He kept changing the damp clothes on the wounded mans forehead and chest for new ones and frankly the only thing he allowed Josiah to do was get fresh cold water.
The sharpshooter was hovering over the blond in the bed constantly, softly whispering to him.
Suddenly the harsh breathing seemed to stop. Josiah froze.
Chris! Vin hissed, grabbing the gunslingers shoulders and turning the slack features towards him. He slightly shook the lean body. Chris!
A gasp and then the awful rasping sound was back.
Josiah stood up from the chair and bent over the bed. Chris? he asked. Can you hear us?
No reaction, only the labored breathing. Slowly Josiah straightened himself. The condition of his friend frightened him. He felt the need to do something, to contribute. Looking at the pale, unmoving body he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to share something of himself, of his beliefs with his friend.
Maybe that would help Chris to keep on fighting.
With a heavy heart he went to the stove and picked up a little fireproof pot. He took the small bottle of oil he had brought with him when he came to the clinic that morning and did it in the pot. Soon the oil was warming on the fire, bringing a soft, sweet aroma into the clinic room.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee. For my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me, he whispered. I am no priest, Chris, but I will do whatever I can to give you some peace of mind, some strength of spirit.
Josiah looked back towards the bed. Vin was looking at him.
What are ya doing? the young man asked, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. What is the oil for?
It is a sacred oil, blessed by a true priest, Josiah told him, taking the pot with the now warm oil off the stove. He walked back to the bed and put the oil on the nightstand. For a moment he held his hand over it, silently praying for strength, not for him but for the two men in the room with him. Then he put some on his fingers and drew the sign of the cross with it on Chris forehead.
Softly he said the words from the book of James, words he knew by heart like so many other words from the bible. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Whats that? Yer asking yer God ta raise him up?
Yes Vin, I am. I cant give him the real ritual, but thats what Im doing, asking God to save him. Nowadays the ritual itself is often used to help the dying move on, but in reality it was meant to ask God for help and healing.
Thats alright then, I guess. If ya think it helps. Chris dont covet much to yer God though.
Yes, well, you know I am struggling myself, Vin. But the words of the bible are the words I know and the words I speak to the higher Spirits. They are words that still give me comfort.
Suddenly Chris was gasping, gasping, fighting to get more air in.
Shit, Chris! Vin bolted forward, grasping Chris by the shoulders again. Jsiah, hes suffocating! Chris, dont ya dare, stay with me now! Come on!
Chris eyes opened for a moment, looking at the man holding him. They were filled with pain and confusion. His mouth opened and he tried to say something. Then the eyes rolled back and his body went limp.
CHRIS! Vin screamed. The door to Nathans sleeping room bolted open and the healer ran out, only half dressed.
Whats wrong! he hollered, while running towards the bed. Josiah was pushed aside like so much old luggage and then the healer saw what was going on.
Shit! he unknowingly echoed Vins sentiment. The next moment Josiah was pushed aside again when Jackson ran for his cabinet. A moment later he came back with a small vial.
Vin, stay back. Dont breathe this in!
Vin leaned back as far as he could without breaking his hold on Chris shoulders and without looking away. Nathan opened the little vial and held it under the gunslingers nose.
Josiah didnt dare to breath, but he still smelled the penetrating scent. The prayer for the sick and dying had become a litany in his mind. O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, who didst send Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who healeth every infirmity and delivereth from death: Heal also Thy servant. O holy Father, Physician of souls and bodies, who didst send Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who healeth every infirmity and delivereth from death: Heal also Thy servant.
Please Lord, heal him, he whispered.
Chris gasped and then started to cough violently. His eyes flew open. They looked at the healer in utter confusion.
Chris? Vin whispered. The blond slowly, with obvious pain, turned his head. His eyes found the young tracker and some of the fear seemed to leave them.
V...Vin? It was more a sigh than a word, but Josiah heard it nonetheless and so did Vin, he saw. At least, the trackers face lit up when Chris had said it.
Im right here, pard. Aint leaving ya, he told the gunslinger, gripping the blonds shoulders more firmly. Chris eyes closed again and once more he was unconscious. Nathan moved away from the bed, putting the little vial back on its shelf.
Nate? Vin asked concerned, still holding tight to the gunslingers shoulders. Nathan pushed a hand through his hair and heaved a deep sigh, before he turned around and came back to the bed.
I dont like it, something more than the fever seems ta be bothering his breathing now. I think we better git him in a sitting position.
Right, Vin murmured and before Nathan even had a chance to go and gather pillows Vin had slipped behind Chris on the bed, pulling the lean body up against his chest. Chris didnt open his eyes, but he shifted slightly, as if he tried to burrow himself into Vin.
It was a beautiful sight, Josiah thought, looking at the two. He felt an immense relief when he saw that Chris started to breath better almost instantly.
Nathan smiled at the two. Think that helps, Vin. Now all we gotta do is try and keep that damn fever down.
Ill get fresh water again, Josiah told them, resigned to his role in the medical part of things.
Just then the door to the clinic opened and the other three peace keepers walked in. Hey there, y old grizzly bear, Buck boomed at Josiah. Heres the changing of the guards! Hows he doing?
Still bout the same, Nathan said solemnly. Josiah just had to slap him heartily on the back after those somber words.
Come on Brother Nathan, have some faith! he told his friend. Nathan sometimes was too gloomy. He was just too insecure about his own abilities, even after having proven himself over and over again as a healer. It was a shame.
I observe that you have been reading the good Book while holding your vigil? Ezra asked, nodding at the bible on the night stand. So you still have faith in the good Lord? Enough faith to believe Mister Larabee will overcome his ordeal?
Josiah grinned at the gambler.
Nope Ez, Ive got faith in those two stubborn hardheads occupying that bed, he smiled, giving a nod to where Vin was leaning against the bed head and holding Chris in his arms.
Yep, that friendship, thats what Ive got faith in.
8. Holding On