Part 33 - The Other Man's Pants

“Sticks, twigs, logs - really anythin’ fuels a flame or holds a nail,” he said, and should have stopped there. “I just burned a bunch of hoity-toity canes this mornin’. Whew!” he laughed, “Y’all shoulda seen the flames off them!”


Edna feared momentarily that she and Iona would have to hold Highmond back over the bar, but he only sat, perfectly still and silent, for a moment that went on and on. He was Inglish, afterall, and how could they export all that rage if they hadn't first learned to bottle it up? Yes, his was a land where mastering your outbursts so they could slowly consume you from within was the national pastime.


“Well at least we know we can pay,” Iona said, not actually caring if they could pay, but trying to pick the subject out of the things the sodakeep / clothier / beacon for Highmond’s rage / apparent family man / cane arsonist had said. “Y'all got pockets full of sticks. Y’all got pockets made of sticks.”


But Highmond would not be put off this topic. He simmered, speaking in a voice so quiet it should have been impossible to hear, but also so well enunciated that each syllable pounded its way into their ears he said, “Why didn’t you use the canes to build?”


“Well they wouldn’t’ve matched the aesthetic,” said the other man, and he used the GSH to indicate again the grand shanties he had built so far.


Everyone looked, again, for such was the power of the GSH. Everyone, that is, but Highmond, whose gaze was attached to their host by the daggers he was staring into him. As they turned to look, the sign fell off the Civic House, scaring the horses.


Turning back around, Iona said, “Am I crazier than a tumbleweed what doesn’t tumble, or does that keep happenin’?”


“Oh yeah,” the sodakeep / clothier / beacon for Highmond’s rage / apparent family man / cane arsonist / shoddy builder said, “I guess it does, don’t it? Huh!”


“Localized time loop,” Edna suggested, unaffected. A sign that always fell when you looked at it was the sort of weird that had become so mundane in her life it barely registered. The others - except for Highmond - took her casual attitude for their own, shrugging it off as well.


Highmond meanwhile stood from his stool with a stream of grunts, walked over to the steamer trunks, and began to poke around.


Edna thought she had heard the words “trousers” and “Pythagoras” spring from somewhere within that stream, so she started, “Alright, Shelley. Let’s ta--.”


“--Oh I ain’t Shelley Green,” he interrupted. “I’m just buildin’ this here town on the behalf, as it were, of Shelley Green.”


Edna and Iona both gave each other a tired look that said, among ruder things, “Sure, why not.”


She continued anyway, “Let’s talk pants.”

And so they did, and in so doing encountered a new trick of time on Earth the Second: the shopping montage.


One moment, they were digging through trunks and bags, the next Highmond was modeling a new outfit for the others. Edna barely had time to react, it seemed, before the old badger was suddenly in another suit and Iona was clapping and calling for a spin. Then it was to be her turn, which she protested on the grounds that the clothes were already hers, but there is no stopping a montage.


Suddenly, it seemed, she was twirling and laughing as Highmond whistled and Iona shouted old-timey obscenities. Then she was in another outfit, but Iona was gone. Just as Edna realized her absence, the other woman returned, having traded in her guns at the dispensary for a huge pile of sticks.


Then Iona started trying on the other’s clothes. First Edna’s, next Highmond’s, and she even convinced the man who wasn’t called Shelley to let her have a go with his trousers. There was great laughter and applause and also a cheese plate for the watchers to snack on.


In the end, Edna and Highmond each bought two outfits of their own clothes. Highmond also found a surviving cane that had been separated from its fellows before - what he now called - the Great and Tragic Burning. Having, however, spent all of his sticks on clothes, he was left unable to buy it. He was going to go get more from the woods nearby, but Iona bought it first. Then she kept it, to annoy him, having - she argued - bought it fair and square.


She also bought the other man’s pants.


When the order was all set straight and the tab evened, the sodakeep / clothier / beacon for Highmond’s rage / apparent family man / cane arsonist / shoddy builder / generous salesman informed them of a sale he had going: buy three things, get a horse. Between each person’s outfits, the cane, and their waters, they had all - he said - qualified for this sale.


This sudden straight-forwardness filled Edna with suspicion, but she decided perhaps he was just trying to rid himself of the burden of horses now he knew he needed to feed them. Whatever the case, she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.


Highmond, meanwhile, was looking in their mouths.


“Highmond?” asked Edna.


“Is this you volunteerin’ to feed ‘em?” asked Iona.


From inside the third horse’s mouth, Highmond called (down its throat), “If you think I’m taking ownership of a steed with horse cavities, you’ve got another thing coming to you!”

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