The midday sun was playing peek-a-boo with the remaining low hanging grey clouds, making the new layer of snow on the ground sparkle like diamond dust glitter. Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had ridden to the southwest to spend the winter, but a low weather trough had breezed through Arizona the previous night, putting a couple of inches of fluffy snow down. It was better than the probable couple of feet of snow, however, in the high rockies of Colorado or Wyoming.
The two ex-outlaws had just had to leave the town they were in that morning, much to the two’s dismay. Coming out of the general store, Curry had spotted a U.S. Marshal headed into the sheriff’s office that knew what he and his partner looked like from a mile away. He’d ducked back into the store to tell Heyes to hurry and pay for whatever it was he was waiting for the shopkeeper to retrieve so they could disappear. Despite that though, Kid Curry was somehow in a fairly decent mood. And since Heyes was being quiet for once on the ride, he decided he’d start the talking.
“Beautiful day today.”
No response from the dark-haired one.
“Not too awful cold, not snowin' no more, have some money in our pockets and nice scenery.”
Heyes finally looked over at him. “Aren't we just a little happy ray of sunshine today...”
Curry glanced at his cousin. “What's eatin' you? We got paid, had an easy on the back job, got to rest a few days in that last town, won good money at poker... I figure when we get to the next town we can have a couple more steak dinners!”
Heyes looked affronted. “Nothing's eating me! It's just usually ‘me’ saying those types of things. You drunk or something?”
Curry’s turn to appear insulted. “No! And I resent your remark. I can be in a good mood. I'M not the broody one. Well, guess you could call it broodin’. I think it’s more like poutin’.”
Heyes’ brow furrowed. “I do NOT pout!” He turned his head back to face forward.
Kid smiled. “You pout.” Then bending his body and head forward to see his partner’s face... “Yeah, just like that.”
Heyes audibly sighed. “I am not pouting NOW, NOR have I EVER.”
“You do. You also get proddy.”
“I get proddy?! ‘I’ do?! Who complains everytime he has to settle for jerky and hardtack for dinner?! Or gets a speck of dirt on his gun?! Not me! But anyway, why are you trying to pick an argument? It’s a GOOD thing you’re in a good mood! Not complaining about that at all. It’s a nice change.”
“A nice change? Heyes...” Kid took a few seconds to compose himself. “Look, I'm not tryin' t'start anythin'. I just made a comment. You're the one who made a ‘proddy’ comment. Guess we better hurry toward those steak dinners and salvage your mood.” The blond gunslinger grinned.
Heyes looked at his cousin, one eyebrow arched. “Besides, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Calling me all those names after I went and got you something for Christmas when I went in the general store before we left town... Maybe I'll just keep it.”
Kid lived up to his nickname at that moment as his face lit up and he actually looked like a young boy, excited to be getting a present. “You got me somethin' in the store?” Then, with a more adult look, said, “I got you somethin', too, which you would've known had you not made the ray of sunshine comment.”
Heyes sighed, annoyed. “OKAY! I am sorry!”
Kid’s excitement came back, both satisfied he’d actually gotten an apology from his partner, and anticipating what said partner may have bought him. “I know it’s a couple of days early, but, I'll show you yours if you show me mine.”
Heyes’ mouth crooked to one side. “Don't ever say that out loud again.”
Confusion set down over Curry’s features. “What?” Then thinking about it a minute brought a revelation. “Dang, Heyes, you have a dirty mind. I don’t think you even deserve what I got ya now.”
Heyes looked the picture of innocence. “No, I don't. I just know that people in general do.”
Kid was not convinced. “Uh huh...”
The older cousin was adamant however. “Hey, I can't help that that sounded like something you'd hear in a cathouse.”
“Well, I generally have more couth when I speak to the ladies.”
“I certainly hope so.”
“Not that ‘they’ all do... Anyway, dang it, I bought ya a book.“ Kid reached back into one of his saddlebags and brought out the gift, handing it over. “Here. It’s called ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. It's about this guy who's life is stolen from him and he goes on this long mission for revenge but he does it through lots of schemin’.”
Heyes’ eyes sparkled as he looked over his new reading material. “Thanks, Kid! This is perfect. Sounds like my type of story! And I haven’t read it before.” He flipped through the book, checking it out before he turned to open his own saddlebags, putting his new gift up for the moment and pulling out a bag. “Well, I got you something I know you’ll love too.”
His cousin happily took the bag and looked inside. “You got me some new gun cleanin’ stuff! Thanks, Heyes! I was almost out of gun oil completely.” He inspected the items a few more minutes before he put them away.
Heyes watched him before he spoke again. “I also got you something edible.”
Kid’s eyes lit up and, if he would admit it, his mouth watered just a bit at the thought. “You did?! What is it?”
“Remember last time we were on our way to Silky's place and we passed that candy shop there in San Francisco?”
“Yeah. Lots of stuff looked good in there.”
“I remember because I thought you were going to lick the window.” A mischievous grin appeared.
Blue eyes gave the ‘look’. “Anyway...”
“Anyway, remember that they'd took some apples and dipped them into toffee?”
“Yeah! I bet them were good. Always liked toffee. And apples.“
“Well, while I was in the store earlier, I made the remark that something smelled real good and the man at the counter said his wife was in the back making toffee to sell. So I asked them if they could make a little something special for me, they agreed, so here..." Heyes brought out a round object wrapped carefully and handed it to his salivating partner. “That’s why I was in the store so long.”
Curry took the proffered object eagerly. “Thanks, Heyes! Toffee will really hit the spot. I smelled that in the store too, but was too busy tryin’ to buy that book without you seein’ it.” He started unwrapping the delicacy to eat it.
“You’re welcome!” Heyes watched his partner, waiting for him to take a bite before he urged his horse into a gallop as he laughed and looked back because the toffee wasn’t covering an apple. It was covering...
Immediately after taking a bite, Kid’s face turned red and he spat out the offending nastiness while hacking and choking. Tears came to his eyes thanks to the onion. He charged after his devious cousin. “What kind of a rotten trick is that?! You do NOT mess with people's food!!! See if I ever buy you anythin’ again!!!”
Heyes could be heard to still be laughing, even over the galloping of hooves.
Kid was livid. “I AM GONNA FLATTEN YOU AND SHOVE THIS UP YOUR...”
After a little bit, Kid was still fuming.
“You going to stay mad at me the rest of the day?”
“You’re lucky if I don’t stay mad at you the rest of your life! I can’t believe you did that to me. And for a CHRISTMAS GIFT!”
Heyes smiled, trying to placate his poor partner. “ Aw, Kid. It was just a prank.”
“In case you forgot, it is CHRISTMAS, NOT APRIL FOOLS DAY.”
Heyes tried to hold in yet another laugh. “I sure wish I could have a picture of your face when you bit into that!”
“They’re gonna have a picture of you in the newspaper death notices if’n you don’t shut up.”
Heyes finally decided he’d better apologize, sincerely. “I’m sorry, Kid. Honest.”
Kid looked over to see the sincerity and his anger started to dissipate. “You know somethin’? Bein’ your cousin is a life long trial.”
“Trial huh? That how you think of me?” Heyes faked a hurt expression.
Curry finally grinned. “Well, sometimes you’re the trial, sometimes you’re the sentence.”
“And most of the time, YOU are both those things at once... Here. This is a REAL toffee apple. I promise.” He pulled another wrapped object from his saddlebags.
Kid looked wearily at it. “I can't trust you now. And after I gave you a book.” He shook his head. “ Ain’t never gonna get that taste out of my mouth...”
“Kid, this is an honest to God apple.” He unwrapped it, took his knife out, and cut a piece out to show the authenticity. “See?”
Curry still looked distrustful. “You eat that piece.”
“Fine.” Sighing, Heyes ate it. “Hey, that's really good. Maybe I'll just keep this for myself since you don't trust me...”
Kid reached over and snatched the toffee apple from the dark brown gloved hands. “You owe me a steak dinner.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Heyes”, between bites, “I bought you a book. And not a dime novel, a honest to God piece of 'fine literature' and you gave me a raw onion. Through trickery. So yeah, you DO.”
“It wasn't raw. I'm sure that hot toffee cooked it a little.”
“The inside was raw.”
“More nutritious that way. Don’t think of it as ‘raw. Think of it as...’rare’.”
Still munching on the delicious, REAL, toffee apple, Curry just gave his partner another ‘look’.
Heyes continued without missing a beat. “You eat steak with it pink on the inside...”
“A steak that YOU are buyin’.”
“I guess I could treat you after that onion.”
Another look was given. “Oh really... How considerate of you...”
“But I was just trying to teach you something. As in, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, an onion by its covering...”
“Heyes, just quit talkin'. I'm on my way to forgivin' you, if you just keep quiet.”
“Alright. Fine. Your choice not to cash in on all my wisdom.”
Kid just snorted in response to that craziness.
Still thinking of the pained expression on Kid’s face at biting the onion brought on another bit of poorly hidden laughter. “Wait’ll I tell Lom!”
“You tell somebody, you’re gonna get an onion crammed down your throat.” Immediately following the statement, an apple core was thrown, hitting Heyes squarely in the side of his face, which brought a grin to the blond gunslinger’s face. “Merry Christmas you dang idiot.”
Heyes gave him a crooked smile in return. “Merry Christmas, Kid.”