Tom shook his head.
“Stubborn fool.” He said, then added to his father. “I’ll grab some clean rags and go help him get patched up.”
Tom went back to the jail. He opened the wooden crate out from the corner that held clean rags for bandaging wounds and took out a good handful.
When he got to West’s shack, he knocked twice then walked in.
(Since this will be the first time we as readers get to see the inside of the place, describe it, and describe what Tom was expecting. I think it’s more civilized than Tom was expecting. And I think Tom might be disappointed.)
West stood at the bed with his back to Tom. He’d shucked his coat and shirt and undershirt and was trying to dab at the bleeding gouge over his shoulder with a scrap of towel. His eyes grew wide when he saw Tom, but not as wide as Tom’s eyes grew. West’s back was checkered with scars – long and thin, thick and puckered, twisted and angry, his back and shoulders and arms were filled with them.
Tom finally looked up from the scars into West’s face. West looked scared. (the ubiquitous DESCRIBE)
“Get out,” West said, but it was a plea, not a command.
It took several moments as Tom tried to think how to handle this but he finally found his breath. He tossed the rags he carried onto the bed.
“Well, unless you’re thinking of growing third arm outta your spine, there’s no way you’re gonna clean and bind that wound all by your lonesome. Have a seat, you got water? Soap?”
“Ain’t nothing I ain’t took care of myself before,” West said, but he gestured to the bowl of water and hunk of soap on the bureau. (WHY DOES HE GIVE IN SO FAST?)
Tom took the scrap of towel from West, dipped it in the water and scrubbed a bit of soap on it. When he turned, West was still standing.
“You gonna sit, or you got a second wound needs looking at?”
West scowled but sat himself on the corner of the bed, slow and stiff like his body ached. He turned just enough that Tom could reach the wound to wash it out.
“This is gonna sting.” Tom said as he started to wash it. The wound was about three inches long and gaped an inch wide.
West didn’t say anything.
“I never been in your room before.” Tom said, for want of something to say.
“Y’think maybe that’s ‘cause y’never been invited?”
Tom let that pass.
“This probably needs stitches.” He said. “Doctor Bill’s over at the saloon as usual, full as a tick. But I wouldn’t go to him, drunk or sober, even if I was dying. Pa’s a hand at stitching.”
West didn’t answer again, and when he did, it was like he only just realized Tom had been waiting for an answer.
“Don’t need stitches. Bandage’ll do me. Sooner I talk to your Pa, sooner I get it done with.”
“You can talk to Pa while he stitches you.”
“Don’t need anybody else seeing these weathermarks.”
“All right. I’ll get you bandaged up.”
Tom washed the wound and rinsed and dried it. He ripped the rags into strips and did his best to wrap the wound and tie the strips so that the bandages would stay put on West’s shoulder. He couldn’t help staring at the scars that covered West, trying to figure out what might have caused them.
“Y’got a question, mise well ask it.” West said. He sounded tired.
“What the hell happened to you?” Tom immediately asked. He tied off the last strip and walked around West to be facing him.
West reached for his shirt and pulled it on as he stood up. He grimaced when he pulled the shirt on over his right arm but that was the only reaction he showed. He took the scrap of towel and dipped it into the bowl of water and tried scrubbing at the blood on the back of his jacket.
“Bounty huntin’ ain’t a job to be done with a lick and promise,” he said.
That was all the answer Tom got and he didn’t like it. He knew he was risking West getting his back up, but he took the risk.
“I know scars – a lot of what you got are a dozen years old. So unless you were bounty hunting in short pants, that’s not where you got them.”
West buttoned his shirt and tucked it in and pulled his suspenders up. He pulled his jacket on and his hat and checked his gun in his holster, all without answering Tom, or even looking like he was thinking of answering him.
He opened the door and waited for Tom to leave first. As Tom walk out and West closed and locked the door, West added, “Buy you a drink for helping me, when we’re done at the jail, if you’re of a mind to.”
“Count me in.”