When Guillermo is gifted a bag of gold coins from the 1800s by his grandmother, he is also regaled with stories of the old west and his five times Great-Uncle Gustavo.
Gustavo never thought his life would be anything but robbing, running, and fending off hateful comments about his heritage. Then he met the big blond wannabe cowboy with the beat-up hat and a sometimes too big smile. Guillermo and August’s relationship is rather new, too. As events unfold in eerily similar fashion some 150 years apart, both couples face prejudice, serious injury, insecurities, drug issues, and a brush with the law, all of which test their love.
Are the coins bad luck? Are they somehow magical? Does more money mean more problems? One pair is determined to survive several turns of the calendar page, while one man thinks it might be better to go their separate ways.
Alfie teetered, but Gustavo held him upright.
“We’re almost back to the bed.”
“We are back to the daggum bed.” Alfie fell down onto the edge of it. “And I sure don’t feel blessed right now.”
“You’s alive,” Gustavo said. “’At seems blessed ta me.” Alfie was a different kind of pale lately, gray instead of white like river sand, and always out of breath. That was quite worrisome. “Tell him, doc.”
Reed had entered without knocking.
“More he walks, the quicker he’ll be outta bed fer good, right?”
“I’d worry more about blood clots, infection, and fluid in the lungs from lying on his back all the time.” Reed put his stethoscope to Alfie’s chest barely a moment, and then his hand was on the doorknob. “One’ll kill him quick, the other two slow.”
“Don’t listen ta him, Al.”
“No point in me being here, then.” Then the good doctor wasn’t.
“You gotta work to git better.”
“I is working, fucker.” Alfie cringed.
“I hurt more than I ever thought possible. But I’m sorry for my words, too.”
“You ain’t gotta be.”
“Just as bad, I ain’t slept decent since I first woke up from almost bein’ dead.”
“I’ve been tryin’ ta sleep right next to ya.” Gustavo sat and put his head on Alfie’s shoulder. “So, you ain’t gotta tell me ‘bout restless nights.”
“I’m sorry about that, too.”
No position seemed comfortable, not standing, not sitting, not leaning partway back, not lying down. Alfie couldn’t even be still long enough for intimate contact.
“You wanna know the truth, Gus, I’m not sure being alive is better than being dead if this is what I’m going to feel like all the damned time.”
“Don’t say that.” Gustavo stood. “I’m gonna go ask Doc ‘bout giving you something better ‘an rock gut ta bring sleep ‘n help the pain.” He rushed from the room and caught up to the doctor still only partway down the creaky spiral stairs. “Al needs medicine.”
“My tending’s over, Mexican.” Reed kept going, but Gustavo ran to get in front of him to block off the last eight steps.
“I done gave you half a bag filled with gold coins.”
“And I did plenty to earn it.”
“Help him!” Gustavo begged.
“You got the other half a bag stowed away somewhere?”
“No. Done spent that a while ago.”
“On something vulgar, no doubt.”
Along with what they’d given to the church, Gustavo and Alfie had donated a large chunk to subsidize the building of a school in town, and smaller portions, anonymously to families Gustavo knew were in need. Widows with children, men with permanent injuries from the mines or the mills having a hard time putting food on the table for their families.
“I told ya at the start, ya shoulda let him die.”
The banister gave a little when Gustavo pushed Doc Reed against it. “Help him.” His plea was softer than his anger.
“Unhand me now, or neither one of ya will live to fuck another man again.”
Gustavo let go of the fancy fabric cloak. “I’ll git more gold. I’ll ... I’ll barter somethin’. Anythin’.”
The look in the old creep’s eyes dared Gustavo to say it again. “Yes.” For Alfie, he did.