Propping McIntosh up against the outside wall of the house, Joseph Fay stood back and admired his handy work. Seeing as McIntosh’s right elbow was gone the left paw was cupped slightly to enable him to drink from it. The right paw was slightly curved to allowed him to hook things with it. Being attached to a rod that ran straight to his shoulder there was no other need for it to be cupped. Neither were sharp so that he couldn’t use them as weapons but both were sturdy. As for his new feet, both were simple wedges of hardwood and little more that triangles with the tops cut flat.
The first tentative steps were sluggish. Unable to remember that last time that he stood upright under his own power, McIntosh. Almost forgot how to walk. But with Fay watching him he didn’t fail his host.
“I can do it, Joe. Watch me!”
“Just go slowly, Eli. Put your hand on the wall to steady yourself.”
“Okay, Joe. Watch. I… ”
With that McIntosh tripped and lands face down in the dirt, cutting his forehead open.
“Get up, Eli.”
“I’m trying, Joe. I… I… okay, Joe. I… ”
“I’m trying, Joe…. nearly… there. Okay.”
“I didn’t go through all that to watch you stumble about, Eli. Figure it out.”
“Oh. I’m so sorry, Joe. I’ll get it. Watch m… ”
Again the wood and metal man clattered into the ground. But this time as he tried to right himself a thudding kicking swung down and then up as it found his ribs. The shock winded him and the force of it threw him into the wall beside him.
“Joe, I’m sorr… ”
A stomp met McIntosh’s face and burst open the cut on his forehead.
“Joe, pleas… ”
Another boot lifted McIntosh and as it did a fist came down to follow the blow with another strike to the face.
“You’re fucking bleeding on me! Get up.”
Another kick, to the chest, thrust McIntosh against the wall where he grabbed the window sill and pulled himself up to a haggard stance. Trembling, he waited for the next blow, but it didn’t come.
“Stand up straight! Look at you! You’re a wreck! And so ungrateful! Look what I’ve done for you and you bleed on me!”
“Joe, I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean to. It was an accident. I swear, Joe!”
“You swear?! On what do you swear!?”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP! Walk to that tree right now or I’ll take back what I just gave you!”
McIntosh looked at Fay, traumatised that he had made his host sad and angry. In himself he cursed his own stupidity and swore to reach the tree without falling. He felt his heart thunder into a galloping rage and felt his skin slicken with the sweat of determination. He knew that Fay was watching and he wasn’t going to let him down again. He couldn’t. Fay had been too good to him. He couldn’t fail him. He wouldn’t. Not then or ever again. Fay needed him to reach the tree and reach the tree he would. Once step. Wobble. Shove of arms to balance. Second step. Teeter. Hop to count. Third. Stagger forward onto fourth step. Lean back to slow. Fifth-sixth. Flop right. Seventh. Swing left arm out to equal out momentum. Eighth. Don’t fall. Ninth. Fall forward into tree. Breathe. Breathe.
“Well done, Eli. Now walk back.”
“I… Okay… Joe.”
Scattered thoughts flooded McIntosh’s mind as he staggered back to the house. He was glad to have his new hands and feet. It felt incredible to have mobility again. Even if each step hurt all the muscles in his body. The crease of flesh between his legs was still raw from the year exposed over the bucket. Fay’s expression assured a disastrous punishment if another fall came. Disappointing Fay was worse. He couldn’t disappoint him. All he wanted to do was be given his orders and see them out. He could do it. He had to do it. He was doing it. He was nearly there. Nearly. Nearly. And there. He’d made it.
“Yes, Joe. Thank you, Joe. I’ll do better this time. I promise, Joe! Watch me, joe. Watch me!”
Joseph Fay watched as McIntosh stumbled back and forth from tree to house and back again all that afternoon. It wasn’t long before his guest learned to walk without falling and there was a measure of pride in Fay’s heart that he had rebuilt McIntosh. He had built him back up and now he could break him again. The only concern was the jabbering. He needed him to know the pain he was inflicting on him. He needed him to fear and dread the punishment he was doling out onto his body and his mind. If he was unaware of it or wasn’t participating in it then it wasn’t punishment.
“I’m going inside, Eli. Don’t stop.”
“Excellent, Joe! Thank you, Joe. I’ll be right hear when you want to come back to me.”
And with that, McIntosh waved his left paw and smiled a simple quivering of his lips while his eyes poured out a drained confusion. Fay turned and walked into the lounge without looking back and seeing the gesture. But McIntosh continued waving until Fay was out of sight. Turning then, he pressed on with task and walked back and forth into the night. When darkness fell the glow of light from inside the house was all he had to light his path and it’s dim share of illumination wasn’t much. Come morning, when Fay walked outside to check on McIntosh he found him propped against the tree, snoring.
Instead of waking him he Studied him and realised that there was a large portion of McIntosh’s body that he hadn’t scared yet. The though brought a song to his heart and he marched to the basement where he took a length of rope and then fastened McIntosh’s arms around the tree. His guest was so exhausted that he didn’t wake as he was being bound. Fay ran the another length of rope through his hands over and over, getting a feel for the weight of it. Into one end of the rope he had inserted a shard of blunt metal.
“Eli. Can you hear me, Eli? No? Good.”
Swinging up the rope, using the weight of the metal to gain a sturdy momentum, Fay unleashed a bolt of pain onto McIntosh’s back that woke him into a world of torture. He had never been whipped before, and as he could see behind himself he couldn’t tell what it was or when the next blow would come.
“JOE! HELP, JOE! WHAT’S HAPPENING? HELP! JOE! HELP, JOE!”
The air drew breath behind McIntosh and a second later it exhaled a blast of agony that snapped Fay’s guest’s mutilated face skyward. Screams for help stopped as a gasp of air drowned McIntosh’s voice, then erupted again in an even more fearful tone. Another lash halted the reel of begging and a forth silenced McIntosh altogether. He didn’t want to interrupt his host’s pleasure. He wanted him to be happy. Even at his own expense. The rough clump of metal cracked his ribs and his spine in several areas and as the pain grew McIntosh eventually slumped against the tree with all of his weight on the rope that bound his wooden wrists.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey