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Tears were tracking down Webster’s hot, sweaty face. He gritted his teeth and tried not to groan, but the pain was excruciating. Liebgott was crouched beside the cot, holding Web’s hand and quietly coaching him through the worst of it:
“Shh, shh, it’ll be okay, Dave, just breathe, c’mon, it’s not so bad—”
Webster had refused pain killers. He wanted to remember the experience so he could write about it later, he’d told the doctor. (He’d done crazier things in the name of literature—like joining the army.)
“Almost there,” the doctor announced, his hands streaked with blood. “Keep breathing!”
Webster squeezed Lieb’s hand until the bones were grinding together. “AUUGHHHH!” he wailed. “OH MY GOD, IT HURTS!”
Liebgott squeezed back. “Hang in there, Davey, you’re doing great, Liebchen!”
Webster howled pitifully.
“It’s almost out, just hold on a little bit—”
“Here she comes!” shouted the doctor.
Webster threw his head back and cut loose a final shriek, then sank back onto the cot with an exhausted gasp.
The doctor dropped the rest of the bullet fragment he’d excavated from Webster’s leg into the pan, then wiped his hands on his apron. “Congratulations, Private,” he smiled proudly. “It’s a .38.”