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August 30, 1868
"Land sakes, Pride! I'm not cut out to be all dressed up in a suit like this here. I feel like I'm fixing to get hitched--or buried," Bear complained, tugging at the starched collar of the brand-new brown wool suit Pride had insisted he buy.
As big as he was, Bear found few choices in the ready-made garments available for purchase at the mercantile. He'd bought the largest size they had, and yet the coat was still tight across his shoulders, the sleeves showed his wrist bones, and the pants cut him at the crotch. It also itched like the dickens, and Bear was ready to tear off the suit and the narrow necktie that strangled his throat and grind them under the heel of his boots.
He was a little partial to his new hat, though, he admitted. Made by a fella named Stetson, or so the man that ran the Denver General Mercantile had told them. It was black and broad-brimmed, and as stiff as a board. It wasn't as warm as the coonskin cap he had stuffed into his saddlebag, but the wide brim kept the sun out of his eyes. It was made sturdy, and should last Bear a good, long time, he reckoned. It was worth every penny of the five dollars he'd paid for it--unlike the suit, which he thought was a waste since he did not intend to wear it again in his lifetime.
"Oh, quit your bellyaching! You only have to wear it until the man finishes taking the daguerreotype," Pride said. Bear noticed that Pride had a finger stuck down inside the collar of his shirt, digging it around a bit as if trying to loosen the death grip of his collar, same as Bear. It gave Bear a small feeling of satisfaction to know that Pride was as least as uncomfortable ashim, considering that this had been all Pride's idea in the first place.
They'd taken baths at the hotel, both paying an extra nickel for clean water, and had been to the barber, too. Got haircuts and shaves, and splashed with cologne that burned like the fires of Hades and smelled like wet hay.
All because Pride wanted a new-fangled daguerreotype taken of the two of them. A remembrance, he'd called it. They were family, Pride insisted, and families had daguerreotypes on their mantels. He wanted to put it in a fancy silver frame and hang it over the fireplace back in the cabin when they returned to the foothills over St. Elmo.
Bear was disinclined to say no to Pride. Besides, he'd learned that going against Pride when he got an idea stuck in his head was a little like trying to stand against a twister. You were going to get sucked up and carried along or you were going to get plowed under, but either way you were going to lose.
"Messieurs, kindly compose yourselves. I am ready to begin." The man who stood behind the camera contraption stuck his head out from under the cloth that covered it, glaring at them. He had a thick black walrus mustache that had been carefully oiled into two tightly curling, pointy ends, a pair of wire-frame spectacles perched on the bridge of his nose, and a thick French accent.
Clearing his throat, Bear stood straight, his face sober and unsmiling as he stared at the black box that was pointed in their direction with no less enthusiasm than if he were staring down the double barrel of a shotgun. Pride sat on a chair directly in front of him, his back as stiff as a poker, his hands cupping his knees. Bear's left hand rested on Pride's right shoulder, the other hung self-consciously at his side.
"On ze count of three, messieurs!" the photographer called. "Un, deux, trois!"
"What did he say?" Bear asked Pride, looking down at the top of his blond head. "What in the blue hell is a 'twah?'?"
Posted January 23, 2010
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