Monday, November 22, 2010
The City of Lovely Brothers by Anel Viz is a family saga, the history of Caladelphia Ranch, jointly owned by four brothers, Calvin, Caleb, Calhoun and Caliban Caldwell – how it grew and prospered, and how rivalry between the brothers led to its breaking up and decline. As the story evolves, it focuses on the love affair between the youngest brother, Caliban, who is lame, and Nick, one of their ranch hands, and how their relationship set the stage for the already open feud to explode and ultimately caused the demise of the ranch.
The City of Lovely Brothers
Silver Publishing (November 13, 2010)
Excerpt from Part I, Chapter 9: [Context: Callie, who lives with her husband in Wyoming, returns to the ranch when she learns her 13-year-old brother has broken his hip. Appalled at his condition, she insists on taking him to Billings, where he can be treated by a “city doctor”.]
Sister and brother set out for Billings the first thing in the morning. Darcie and Julia had stayed up all night preparing food for their journey, which they expected would take five days or more, for she would have to drive slowly. Had Caliban had his accident a few years later, they could have gone by train, but the railroad was still under construction. They slid the mattress with him on it onto the swing seat, and his brothers lifted it into the wagon.
Callie fretted the entire way to Billings. If they happened to come to a ranch or a camp for the men building the rail line in late afternoon or early evening, they would spend the night there, but Callie insisted on sleeping beside her brother in the wagon under a tarp. If there was no ranch or railroad camp, they passed the night on the open range on the side of the road. The nights were chilly, but they had taken plenty of blankets, and she slept pressed close to the boy to keep him warm, on his left side because of the brace on the right. Calvin had given her a rifle to protect them against Indians, which she thought ridiculous, but she was glad she had it because one night a wolf came after the horses.
The evening of the fifth day found them about twenty miles from Billings, so she pressed on and they arrived after midnight. Only the saloon was open. She stopped outside it and asked some drunks who were whooping it up in the street if there was a hospital, but she could not get an answer out of them, so she went inside and asked the saloonkeeper.
“The only hospital we got here’s the docs’ houses. We got two o’ them in town” he told her.
“Do any o’ them let patients stay there?”
“Doc Brewster might, and ’e got a surgery, too.”
“How do I get there?”
“He won’t like you waking him up this time o’ night.”
“My kid brother’s outside in the wagon, dying.”
If Doctor Brewster was put out, he did not let on. He had his sons carry Caliban into the surgery at the back of the house on the ground floor. “Let’s have a look,” he said, and removed the blankets. “What in tarnation is that?” he asked, pointing to the brace.
“A brace. Our doctor rigged it up for ’im.”
“That ain’t no brace, Ma’am; it’s a frame. Where’d he get his license, anyway? James, get me the saw, so I can get that damned thing off the boy and examine him properly.”
Doctor Brewster seemed to know what he was doing. “Broken hip, is it?” he said. “Looks bad, too. It’s a damn shame. Such a well-built, fine-looking lad. Is the pain bad?”
“I been giving him these,” Callie said, showing him the pills. “He took one just outside o’ town.”
“Well, at least that doctor of yours knows something.”
Caliban felt he would die of embarrassment lying naked on the table in front of a batch of strangers—Doctor Brewster, his wife, his two sons, and even his daughter, a girl a year or two older than Caliban whom the doctor was training to become a nurse. They talked about him as though he wasn’t there or couldn’t hear them. Except for Caleb, who shared a room with him, no one had seen him naked since he had learned to dress himself, and since his accident just about everyone had. That boys of thirteen tend to be very, if not excessively, modest had not occurred to Callie, and she had shown him off to the people who owned the ranches where they had stopped on their way to Billings, and also to some two dozen men building the railroad.
“Another day and he would’ve lost that leg,” Doctor Brewster said, “but I think I can save it. I can’t promise I will, but I can try. He won’t ever walk again, though, not unless I do more.”
“What more?” Callie asked.
“I’ll have to break the hip again and reset it. What do you say, boy? Shall I do it? It’s your leg. Are you up to it?”
That the doctor had acknowledged his presence and even asked his permission made Caliban feel like a human being again, though one who had been on display. He asked, “Will I be able to walk again?”
“There’s no way of telling, but unless I do, you won’t.”
“Then do it.”
“It’ll hurt, worse than it hurt the first time you broke it. A lot worse.”
“Do it. I don’t wanna be no cripple.”
“I didn’t say you wouldn’t be a cripple. I said you might be able to walk.”
Caliban could not imagine the kind of pain the doctor described, and it terrified him. He was not sure walking again was all that important to him, but he considered it his duty to assert his manhood after having been stared at by all and sundry, so he said, “Do it.”
“You should leave now,” the doctor told Callie. “This isn’t going to be a pretty sight, and it will take a few hours. Don’t worry, boy,” he said to Caliban. “You won’t be awake for all of it. You’ll probably faint dead away when I break it.”
“Can I stay here for the night?” Callie asked. “We just got into town.”
“There’s the hospital room. It has five beds in it, but there are sick men in three of them. Nothing contagious—railroad injuries—but one of them has gangrene. I was thinking I’d have to amputate it in the morning. I hope I can save yours, boy. It’s an awful thing, cutting off a man’s leg.”
“They have rooms over the saloon,” Mrs. Brewster said.
“If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to sit up in your parlor tonight. I won’t be able to sleep anyways.”
Mrs. Brewster showed Callie to the parlor. The daughter stayed to assist, and the sons to hold Caliban down. “I’m going to work on saving the leg first,” Callie heard the doctor say as she left the room. “That’s also going to hurt like hell, but nothing like when I get to work on that hip. I’d give you more of those pills if they would do any good, but they take at least an hour to work, and I don’t have any ether. I should have ordered more, what with all the accidents they have working on the new railroad. I just didn’t think of it.”
When he heard the women reach the foot of the stairs, Doctor Brewster turned to his sons and said, “James, get the whisky. A small bottle ought to do it.” He put his hand on Caliban’s hair and stroked it lovingly. “Have you ever tasted whisky, boy? I don’t imagine you have.”
“Well, you’re not going to like how it tastes. Men seldom do the first time they try it. They cough and sputter a lot, and everybody laughs, so they think it isn’t manly to say they don’t. My boys and I don’t drink the stuff ourselves—or they had better not—except as an anesthetic. But it’s a good thing you haven’t tried it. It’ll make you drunk quicker.”
Mrs. Brewster left Callie in the parlor and went to boil water. Then she returned to keep her company. For a while they heard nothing. Then Caliban started screaming.
“I know how hard this is on you,” Mrs. Brewster said. “I couldn’t stand it in the beginning, when I first married Jacob, and the people screaming weren’t even family. It’s something you get used to. Jacob hates it too, but it’s got to be done. You’ll see. Once it’s all over, he’ll treat your brother very gently.”
“I know. I heard what he said about the pills. How long will this go on?”
“I’d tell you if I knew, but I don’t know what he has to do. Maybe an hour or more.”
“Oh, my God. But I’m glad I found a physician as good as your husband.”
“Oh, Jacob’s the best. When he says he’ll try, like he did about saving the leg, he generally does it. But it’s going to be an ordeal. Are you sure you don’t want to get a room at the saloon? This isn’t the worst of it. Those screams will be bloodcurdling once he starts on the hip, and they’ll go on until the poor boy passes out. That could take as long as five minutes, maybe ten.”
“I’d rather be here.”
After half an hour, Callie could take no more, and she went to the saloon. Exhausted, she fell asleep almost immediately, despite her anxiety
To purchase, click here