Summary: Don’t ask . . .
Word Count: 6077
Uncharacteristically, Adam was the last one down to breakfast but he didn’t take his usual seat at the table to eat. Instead, he shuffled over to the liquor cabinet and took out the decanter of brandy. With his father and brothers looking on quizzically, Adam methodically poured a shot and threw it down his throat. He poured himself another, picked up the decanter and meandered to the dining room to join his family. He took a seat without a word and sucked back another massive gulp. But, this time he held it in his cheek giving him the appearance of a chipmunk with a nut.
“A little early in the day for brandy, isn’t it, son?” Ben stated blandly.
Adam did not move his head to acknowledge his father’s inquiry, but rather shifted his eyes to connect. He swallowed with a grimace.
“Something the matter?” Ben asked with mild trepidation.
“My tooth.” Adam replied simply after a deliberate pause.
“Your tooth? What’s the matter with it?”
“Oh? When did this start?”
“Last night, after eating Amy’s peach cobbler. I know she has a crush on Joe, and it seems to have hampered her concentration.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh, just that she added an ingredient.” Adam responded with ire as he glanced across the table at his little brother. Joe looked back with a scowl.
“And, what might that be?” Ben probed.
Adam’s revelation sent both of his brother’s into fits of laughter. But, the elder brother was not at all amused. He truly was in pain. To add to his suffering he’d not slept a wink due to a thunderstorm that ragged throughout the night. Every clap reverberated through Adam’s bedroom window and ricocheted off his lower jab like a slap inflicted by an insulted woman. With distain at Hoss’ and Joe’s lack of empathy, Adam took another swig of brandy and swished it around his mouth.
“We kin fix that right up for you if you like, Adam,” Hoss offered with a wicked smirk.
“That’s right, older brother,” Little Joe added. “We’d be glad to help you out.”
“And, just how would you do that?” Adam posed with dread.
“We’d just find a piece of string and tie it around that rotten tooth of yours…”
“Yeah,” Joe interjected, “then we’d just hook the other end of the string to the front door knob and give it a good slam. Don’t worry. Hoss will hold you down so we can get it the first time. It’ll pop right out.”
“How considerate of you,” Adam responded dryly.
“Don’t mention it. No trouble t’all,” Hoss chuckled.
“The day I allow you two to perform oral surgery on me is the day pigs fly.”
“Stranger things have happened, Adam. Look there goes one of them pigs now,” Hoss said pointing to the rafters.
Ben couldn’t help be enjoy his younger boys’ unsympathetic banter, even if it was at Adam’s woeful expense. He let them have their fun before exercising some semblance of compassion.
“Now, boys, leave him be. There is nothing funny about a toothache. It’s a miserable thing to have,” Ben said with mock sternness then turned his attention back to his oldest son. “You better get into town and see Doc Martin about it, Adam. The sooner you tend to it, the easier it will be. Dousing yourself in liquor is only delaying the inevitable.”
“I can’t,” Adam grunted.
“You can’t? You can’t what?”
“I can’t go into town, Pa.”
“Don’t be silly. Why not?”
“Susanne will have my head. She’s still mad at me.”
“Ah yes. Susanne,” said Ben with pursed lips.
“That’s right, Pa. She was none too happy when Adam broke up with her,” Hoss said trying to stifle his enjoyment of his brother’s predicaments. “I hear tell, next time she sees ‘im, he’ll experience more pain than that little biddy tooth is givin’ ‘im.”
“That’s the rumor, Adam,” Joe expounded. “You know what they say about a woman scorned.”
“Do tell, Mr. Shakespeare.”
“Well, you know. Hell hath no fury and all that.”
“Thank you, Little Joe. How do I ever get by without your words of wisdom and your undying support?”
“That’s a good question, Adam. I truly don’t know how you get through life without my consultation. Which, by the way, I offer free of charge.”
Again, his family took great pleasure in the repartee. But, Ben was starting to feel guilty and once again brought the conversation back to the matter at hand – Adam’s tooth.
“I’m afraid you have no choice but to see the doctor. The dentist won’t be around for another month or so. Surely, you can’t wait that long. You’ll just have to take your chances and hope that you don’t cross paths with Susanne.”
“I’ll ride in with you if you like, Adam,” Joe said. “I’ll protect you.”
“You are too kind. But, I don’t need protection from anything. I’m quite capable of handling Susanne and my tooth all by myself.”
“If you say so,” Joe replied with a shrug.
“Well, don’t say that to her, Adam,” Hoss cut in, “or you’ll find yourself hitched!”
Trying their damnedest to hold back their hilarity, Ben, Hoss and Joe watched Adam laboriously rise from his chair and walk to the front door. With muffled snickers, they waited for him to put on his holster and hat and leave the house. Only then did the threesome let the guffaws fly.
“Ah… poor Adam,” Ben said shaking his head. “A toothache is bad enough. But, I’d take it over what may lay in store if he meets up with Susanne. She is a feisty one.”
“Serves him right for being so mean to her,” Joe replied.
“He wasn’t mean, Joseph,” Ben corrected. “Sometimes these things just don’t work out. Heaven knows you’ve broken more hearts than all of us put together.”
“That’s true enough, Joe. You’ve broken more hearts than Hop Sing has dishes.”
“I guess you’re right,” Joe agreed with a wink. “I should go into town with him, though. The last thing he needs is more trouble.”
“Nah… let him be, Joe,” Ben advised. “He’ll be fine. He’s a big boy. He can handle it. Besides, he’s not in any mood for company.”
“Ain’t nothin’ worse than Adam in a bad mood, that’s for darned sure.” Hoss said with a cluck of his cheek. “He can get ornery at times.”
“Well a toothache will make even the sweetest child ornery. So, I suppose Adam is entitled. I can recall several incidents with you two boys, when a scraped knee or bloody nose pushed you to the cranky side. It wasn’t easy raising you. Thank God Adam was around to help me. I don’t know what I would have done without him. He’s had to grow up so fast. Which is a lot more that I can say about you boys.”
“I suppose you’re right Pa.”
“Well, enough talk about your brother and his difficulties. Let’s get to work.”
Adam and Sport started out toward Virginia City at a lively gait, but Adam pulled up, reducing his horse to a slow walk. The shockwaves of hoof against ground was excruciating. The slower pace was much better. But the dull ache wasn’t the only thing eating at Adam. He truly was afraid he might see Susanne in town where she worked at the dress shop. The thought of a confrontation made his stomach churn and his heart pound with anxiety. He felt sick.
Adam had ended their relationship only two weeks ago and had been hiding out at the ranch ever since, much to the amusement of his brothers who took great delight in reporting bogus sightings. Adam was tiring of the ribbing but preferred it to a one-on-one with Susanne.
Adam hadn’t wanted to hurt her. That was the last thing he wanted. She had just become too possessive of him. If there was one thing Adam loathed, it was a jealous woman. It was a shame too because he genuinely liked her but, in the end, Susanne was just too young and immature for Adam’s liking. Besides being domineered, altercation with the opposite sex was right up at the top of his list of things he disliked. He rubbed the hurting side of his face, took a deep breath and rode on.
The storm from the previous night had made the roads muddy. It freshened things up though. It had been awhile since a good rain had fallen and it was welcome. The leaves glistened with moister and the scent of grass was sweet. The rain also helped to cool the steamy air of mid-August. Despite Adam’s tooth and his feelings of dismay where his former girlfriend was concerned, it was a pleasant day for a ride. That, Adam soon realized, was about to change.
Up ahead he could see that the bridge over Pine Creek had been washed out. The tiny brook could swell to five times its size when a storm passed over and this time was no different. The picturesque creek marked the halfway point between home and town. When Adam came right up to the edge of it, he was faced with a twelve-foot wide mud pit. It was too wide to jump and too long to go around.
“Why me? Why today?” Adam scoffed aloud. He leaned on the horn of his saddle and looked to the heavens before making his decision to go ahead. “Well. Come on boy. Let’s get through this.”
It took some effort to convince Sport to go but he finally placed one foot into the mire. Then another. Plop, squish… suck. Plop, squish… suck. As the pair moved in they were getting deeper and deeper instead of closer and closer to the other side. Just when Adam thought they were gaining ground, Sport stopped right in the middle of the muck and looked back at Adam defeated.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Walk on!”
Adam kicked and snapped the reins over Sport’s shoulders but his encouragement did little to get Sport to move.
“Don’t make me get off. Please. Don’t make me get off you… you… stubborn…MULE!”
His raised voice made his bad tooth pulse causing even more discomfort. Adam tried again to get his steed to take another step but Sport was having none of it. He knew when he’d reached the point of no return.
“I can’t believe this!” Adam ranted still in the saddle. “GIT! HA! Walk ON!”
Sport stood like a statue. He wasn’t going anywhere. With great irritation, Adam dismounted into mud as deep as his thighs. Still grumbling, he struggled to pull his legs up and out of the stuff. Plop, squish… suck. Plop, squish… suck. Using Sport’s neck as support, Adam ploughed his way up to his horse’s head and looked him squarely in the eye with threatening intent. Adam’s obvious ire was lost on the horse that seemed blissful despite the circumstance. His attitude just made Adam angrier. He grabbed the reins and started to tug.
“Come on. Walk on! WALK ON! GIT UP!”
No go. It was blatantly obvious that pulling wasn’t the answer so Adam moved to Sport’s rear. He placed both hands on the horse’s rump and pushed. Nothing doing. Finally, Adam grabbed a convenient switch and gave Sport a smart rap on the behind. That was the ticket. Sport leaped forward, lunging with all fours until he freed himself and made it to the other side of the creek bed. The horse’s struggle sent chucks of mud flying covering Adam like a soggy blanket. He was left behind in the middle of it all and was starting to sink. Sport looked back at his rider with a mischievous gleam in his eye and Adam saw it right away.
“Don’t you go anywhere.” Adam ordered. “Do you hear me? Sport? You stay right where you are.”
But, the horse paid no mind. He turned nonchalantly and cantered toward a field to graze, leaving Adam to fend for himself.
“WHEN I CATCH UP TO YOU!” Adam shouted, “YOU’RE GOING STRAIGHT TO THE GLUE FACTORY! DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU UNGRATEFUL PLUG!!”
But, Adam’s rage wasn’t doing him any good. The only thing it was doing was taking his mind off his toothache and Susanne. It appeared the only way out of this situation was to lean forward onto his chest and drag himself out of it. Adam growled at the thought, but he had no choice. He plopped forward and crawled toward the other side. It took him about forty minutes to free himself loosing his left boot in the process. A happy man, he wasn’t. By the time he reached hard ground, he was exhausted and covered from head to toe with black slime.
Out of breath, and with the pain in his jaw accelerating, Adam spotted Sport and began the trek in catching him. It wouldn’t be easy. It was difficult enough to get him out of the corral, let alone a tasty field full of fresh grass. Luckily, Adam had a few lumps of sugar to tempt his horse with and, to Adam’s surprise, Sport allowed his rider to walk right up to him. The horse gladly gobbled up the treats and crunched them loudly. He didn’t seem scathed by Adam’s noisy threats. It had all been forgotten. The animal knew how important he was, no matter how badly he behaved. He often took advantage of it at the most inopportune times. It was a vice Adam had yet to train out of him.
“Some friend you turned out to be,” Adam said as he prepared to mount. “Loyal steed – my foot. They’ll be no oats for you tonight.”
Trying desperately to calm his nerves, Adam raised himself into the saddle once again. He debated whether to return home and change or carry on to town. But, the thought of crossing through the mud once more or the alternative of riding several miles around was unthinkable. At that moment, a sharp pain shot through his jaw as a small reminder of why he was taking the trip in the first place. It felt like someone was chipping away at his tooth with an ice pick. He didn’t care how disheveled he looked, he had to get to the doctor and have his tooth fixed or he feared he might go mad. He reined Sport toward town.
Several miles down the road, Adam had to stop. Beneath him, to his irritated disbelief, Sport had come up lame. He must have pulled something while fighting his way out of the mud, Adam reckoned. Again, he dismounted and crouched to check on his horse’s leg. Sport’s rear left hawk was swollen all right. What to do? What to do? Adam mulled. He looked back and then up ahead. He was closer to town than home now.
“Of all the luck. Can anything else go wrong today?” Adam murmured. “What have I done to deserve this?”
Sport looked innocently at his owner but could do nothing to appease him. With one foot booted and the other covered by a muck filled sock, Adam led Sport on. It was difficult going as each step collected innumerable pebbles and stones. But, there was worse to come.
Adam heard the buzzing before he felt the strike. When a bee decided to attack it was swift and burned like a red-hot punk. It got him on the side of the nose. After recovering from the initial shock, and doing a little dance to shoo the bee away, Adam agonizingly pulled out the stinger. It smarted like frostbite and he let out a sharp yelp. The bite immediately began to balloon.
“No, NO… NO!” Adam fumed. “This isn’t happening!”
He thought about giving up and going home. Enough was enough. He couldn’t take anymore. He never should have gotten out of bed that morning. Why didn’t he just stay in bed? At least he’d only have a bad tooth to deal with instead of a lame horse, a disgruntled female, a mud bath, the loss of one boot, and a bee sting. Surely, there couldn’t be anything more in store for him. Surely, he could manage to get through the rest of the day unscathed. He collected himself as best he could and went onward.
Adam and Sport limped into town but took the back allies to avoid being seen. Adam looked like he’d just fought a medieval battle and barely survived. He walked to the Barber Shop back door, hitched his horse and went inside.
“Harry!” Adam called. “HARRY?”
The barber left a customer in the chair to go to the back room to answer whoever was hollering. When he pulled the curtain open, Adam stood before him in all his muck-covered glory but Adam uttered nary a sound. What he needed was obvious.
“What the heck happened to you?” The barber quarried.
“I’ll say. From something tall, looks like. I’ll run you a bath right away. Just sit over there and get them clothes off and I’ll give you some of mine to wear until we get you cleaned up. I’ve seen lots of dirty cowboys in my time, but I ain’t never seen anyone needin’ a bath more than you Adam. Just give me a jiffy and I’ll get you all set,” the barber rambled.
Weary, frustrated and feeling more pain than a man should, Adam disrobed and silently waited to be summoned for his bath. When he finally was, it was difficult to scrounge up the energy to slip into the tub. But, once he did – it was sheer pleasure. The hot suds felt heavenly and even tamed his enflamed tooth a bit. Henry, a short stocky bald fellow, appeared at the door to check on Adam.
“I found a shirt, socks and pants for you. I’ll wash your other dudes.”
“Thanks, Harry. I appreciate it.”
“But where’s your other boot? I can’t find it anywhere’s. Cain’t be walking around with just one boot.”
“It’s stuck back in Pine Creek along with my dignity.”
“Oh. Zat so,” Harry replied slightly puzzled. “I’ve got an old pair you can borrow but they might be too small.”
“They’ll have to do.”
Adam was left to soak, and he was enjoying every second of it. But, even though it was a men’s only shop, he found himself looking over his shoulder fearful Susanne may ambush him. After several moments he decided he was being silly. Even if Susanne knew he was in town, she’d never come in here. This was no place for a lady. Adam closed his eyes and exhaled a relaxed, nasally sigh.
Adam’s eyes popped open and he shifted them from side to side. He knew who stood behind him. It was her… Susanne. It shocked him to think Harry would let her past the threshold let alone to the back rooms. Not to mention her gumption in barging in on a man taking a bath. Was nothing sacred anymore?
“You certainly have nerve showing your face in town after what you did to me! Do you have any idea how humiliated I am? I’ll have you know, I can get any man I want. Even that little scoundrel of brother of yours for that matter. It seems roguishness runs in the family. I’ll not be toyed with and I’ll certainly not allow you to make a fool of me! So, just so you know. I’M BREAKING UP WITH YOU!”
Still in shock from the sudden intrusion, Adam pulled the suds toward his chest to cover his body as much as possible before glancing over his shoulder and making sheepish eye contact with Susanne.
“How did you get in here?” he finally asked. “I’m taking a bath you know.”
“I saw that mangy copper horse of yours when I was hanging out some dresses and came in the back door.”
“Well, if you don’t mind,” Adam said calmly but somewhat bashfully, “I’d like to finish cleaning up and getting to the doctor. I’ve had a heck of a day so far and having you invade my privacy is just about the last straw.”
“Doctor?” She momentarily sounded concerned. “What do you need to see the doctor for? Are you sick?”
“Well, not that it’s any of your business, but I have a toothache.” Adam sounded childlike.
“A toothache? You’re lucky that’s all you’ve got.”
Adam was loosing patience now. His modesty was quickly evaporating with the steam that rose from the tub. He just wanted to washed and be tended to so he could go home to bed.
“If you don’t leave, right now,” Adam warned, “I’m going to get out of this tub and chase you out.”
“Yoooou… woooouldn’t… daaaaare.” Susanne said holding her chest. The thought of seeing a naked man was, well… unthinkable.
“I’m going to count to three and if you’re not gone, you’ll certainly get an eyeful.”
“You’d never do that, Adam Cartwright. You’re a gentleman. Or at least I thought you were.”
“I used to be, but today I’m simply not in the mood for chivalry. Now, I’m warning you Susanne, you have one more chance to leave on your own accord or up and out I shall come!”
“My mother warned me about men like you.” Susanne’s boldness was waning.
Adam was starting to enjoy this now. He placed his hands on the edge of the tub and began to raise himself out of the water. When he exposed his knees, Susanne gasped.
“I hope I never see you again, you… you brute!”
With that statement, she scampered away faster than a hunted jackrabbit. Her frantic escape made Adam laugh heartily. He sat back down in the bathtub and continued to scrub with sublime satisfaction. One problem down… one to go.
Putting on fresh clothes felt good even though they were miles too small in spots and acres to big in others. Adam struggled to button the faded blue shirt Harry had provided. To add to its unique fashion statement, it was also accessorized with a rip in the shoulder. Not to mention an assortment of stains and frayed edges. The pants, beige in color, were several inches too big in the waist but barely long enough to cover Adam’s calves. The belt too was so huge it ran out of holes when Adam tried to buckle it. He had no choice but to tie it in a knot like he’d cinch a bathrobe. When he tried to pull on Harry’s old boots, he had to force his foot into the leather. His toes were jammed to a crumpled mass of digits that impeded any hope of movement. His heels rubbed harshly against the backs of the boots making his feet feel like they were wrapped in wet sand paper. He stood unsteadily and checked himself in the mirror and was rightfully appalled at his appearance.
“Too bad the circus isn’t in town,” he sighed, “I’d have no problem getting a job.”
Adam sucked in a large chest full of air to muster up an iota of decorum, then limped into the front of the Barber Shop. He drew stares from Harry and several customers as he passed through the place. He thanked Harry and said he owed him. Adam headed for the doctor’s office.
The pain was getting worse. But not just in his mouth, in his feet as well. He tried to stay as composed as possible, but he was stopping traffic as he went. None of the town’s people had ever seen Adam in such an atypical state. He had accomplished the status of a demure even debonair man. Now he was reduced to this display of lackluster style. His reputation as the suave and sophisticated Adam Cartwright was swiftly fading with each excruciating step. He arrived at the office not a moment too soon. He couldn’t stand it anymore – neither physically nor emotionally. He rapped on the door and went inside.
“Well, what can I do for you today Adam?” Doc Martin asked from behind his desk. He took a second look at Adam’s bizarre attire but was far too polite to mention it. “Just dropping by for a visit, I hope.”
“I wish I was, Paul,” Adam slurred.
“You’ve been stung by a bee.” The doctor recognized as he stood and drew closer. “That looks nasty. Does it hurt?”
“Actually yes, but that’s not why I’m here.”
“Well, then. Why are you here, Adam?”
“It’s my tooth. I broke it last night on Amy Gamble’s peach cobbler.”
“How does one break a tooth while eating peach cobbler?” The doctor said as he guided Adam into his examination room and stretched him out on the table.
“It’s not easy. Can you do something? It’s pretty bad.”
“Amy is still trying to woo Joe with her baking, eh? Well, open up and let’s take a look.”
Adam did as instructed and looked down his nose to watch the doc rummage around in his mouth. He found the problem right way and tapped the offending tooth.
“Is that the one?”
“YES!” Adam bellowed. His eyes began to water.
“You’ve got quite an abscess brewing in there.”
“Can you fix it?” Adam said warily, still reeling from the inspection.
“I’m sorry, Adam. I can give you something to help with the pain, but I think it’s best if you wait for the dentist to make his rounds. He’s due…” The doctor glanced up at his wall calendar, “…a week Thursday.”
“A week Thursday? That’s nine days away.”
“I know, Adam, but I just don’t have the proper instruments to do what needs to be done.”
“Well, what exactly needs to be done?” Adam asked guardedly while still lying flat on his back.
“It may have to be drained, or drilled or pulled. I’m not exactly sure which if not all.”
“Sit up now and I’ll get you some powders. A few shots of whiskey will help too. And, soft food too. Try to avoid chomping down on any peach pits,” Paul advised as he started to rummage through his medicine cabinet.
“I’ll do my best.” Adam answered wryly. “Ah, doc?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have a pair of extra boots I could borrow, would you?”
“Well, know I don’t Adam. I have some slippers you can have. Would that help?” Paul didn’t ask why.
“Slippers huh?” he sniffed, “Can’t be any worse than what I’ve got on.”
“Well, what have you got on Adam?”
“I lost my boot in Pine Creek so Harry lent me an extra pair of his.”
“They would be way too small for you Adam. He’s half you size.”
The first dose of medicine did dull his toothache somewhat. It was now tolerable. His feet, now clad in Doc Martin’s slippers, were much more comfortable as well. At least he could walk up right even though his ensemble made him look silly. It was not a state Adam found himself in very often.
Adam returned to Sport and set him up at the livery stable to recover. Adam rented another horse to ride home. But, all that was left to lease was a tired old nag. Adam wondered if it was capable to get him out of town, let alone all the way back to the Ponderosa. He would owe Jake the stable man too. But, before returning home, Adam thought the doctor’s prescription of whiskey was quite a good one and stopped at the Bucket of Blood for a few shots before hitting the road. Lord knew, he could use a belt or two. Adam assumed it would be of booze as apposed to fists.
When he entered the saloon, the patrons burst into a rousing round of laughter. Adam took it in stride. He’d been stripped of all his self-esteem by that point anyway. There was no use fighting it anymore. He took a bow and sauntered to the bar with as much poise as humanly possible for a man in his situation.
“What the heck happened to you, Adam?” said Bruno the bartender.
“It’s a long story. Whiskey and leave the bottle.”
“Sure thing, Adam. You sure one bottle will be enough?”
“It should suffice for the moment. Oh, and put it on my tab.”
Adam stood and drank his liquor. All he wanted was to enjoy it in peace. But, that was not meant to be. It seemed a table of drifters decided that rousing Adam would be fun. After all, it wasn’t often they were treated to a man entering a saloon in ill-fitting clothes and slippers. He was a walking target for ridicule, especially in a town as rough as Virginia City.
“HEY!” One of the cowboys shouted over the throng.
Adam ignored it. He knew the call was directed at him.
“I said… HEY!”
When the young man got no response, he rose and walked up behind Adam. “I’m talkin’ to you, mister,” he said giving Adam a slight shove to insight provocation.
Again, Adam took no notice.
“We don’t allow little girls in the place. Especially ones as ugly as you.”
Adam did his best to stay calm. But, with all that had happened that day, the last thing he needed was a tussle with a moron.
“Why don’t you git. I think you’re mama’s callin ya.”
That was all it took. Adam turned and threw a punch so powerful the man was on the floor before he could react. He sprang to his feet quickly though and caught Adam in the gut with a right upper cut. Adam folded in half but stayed standing as the man’s left knee hit him squarely on the chin. With that, an out-and-out brew-ha-ha began. The place exploded with testosterone. Glasses were shattered, tables were busted and bodies flew. That last thing Adam remembered was being flung over the staircase railing, across the billiards table and crashing against the far wall. He came too moments later. Just in time to witness Bruno throwing the cowboy and his friends through the saloon doors. They almost swung off their hinges. With that chore done, Bruno returned to Adam’s side and crouched down to give aid. “You alright, Adam?”
“I…I think so.”
“Just my pride.” Adam muttered. “Help me up, wouldja.”
Bruno grabbed Adam under the arms and raised him to standing. He held him there for a moment to make sure he wouldn’t collapse. Adam steadied himself and shook his head to try and clear it. The taste of blood seeped into his mouth and Adam probed his bad tooth with his tongue. It was then he realized it had been knocked loose. Adam stuck his fingers as far back into his mouth as he could and pulled. Out came the offending tooth. Adam held it in front of his face and stared at it with gratification.
“Do you have any idea how much trouble this tooth has caused me?” Adam asked the bartender.
“Well, no Adam.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Will you be alright, Adam?”
“It can’t get any worse.”
Just as the sun set, Adam walked through the front door of the Ponderosa ranch house. His family was sitting exactly where he’d left them that morning. It was as if they’d not moved the entire day. They all looked up with anticipation when Adam entered.
“Well. You’re home,” Ben stated the obvious.
Adam rounded the corner to take a seat. Only then did his father and brother notice his swollen nose, strange clothes and bloodied lip.
“What happened to you?” Joe asked.
“Nothin’? What do you mean nothin’?” Hoss interjected. “You look like were caught in a stampede or somethin’.”
“Listen,” Adam began with blatant fatigue. “I’ve had a one bad day and I’d really like to forget it. I don’t want to talk about it. I really don’t. Can we just have supper? I haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
“Well, did you get your tooth fixed?” Ben inquired.
“So to speak.”
“And, your nose? What happened to your nose?” his father continued the inquisition.
“Did Susanne do that to ya, Adam?” Hoss chuckled.
“No. She didn’t. Can we please have supper?”
“Well, how come you’re wearing them clothes? You look kinda funny.” Hoss insisted on continuing the interrogation totally ignoring his brother’s attempts at diversion.
Adam was now at his wits end. He rested his forearms on the table and breathed deeply. “Okay. Alright. If you all must know, I’ll tell you. If it is so fascinating, I’ll tell you exactly how my day went. Do you really want to know? Do you? Really?” Adam seethed with raised eyebrows.
“Well… yeah,” Joe countered with a snappy nod.
“Alright then. Here it goes. This is what has happened to me in the last eight hours. First of all, the storm last night turned Pine Creek into a mudslide and we got stuck. I did everything I could to get that horse of mine to move, but ooooh no. So, I had to get off, in thigh high mud, and pull and then push him out. In the process I lost one of my boots. Sport got away from me and after an hour of trying to free myself from the mire, I had to chase him down. Then, a few miles down the road he came up lame. So, I walked the rest of the way to town with only one boot. ONE BOOT! As if that wasn’t enough, I was then stung by a bee. A BIG one. When I got to town I went to Harry’s to get a bath where, Susanne decided it was the appropriate time and place to berate me. I had to scare her off by threatening to chase her out of there wearing nothing more than what I was born with. After that, Harry lent me some of his old clothes that obviously didn’t fit. His boots just about tore my already swollen feet to shreds. Then, in this ridiculous outfit, I had to walk through town to the doctor’s office where Paul informed me that he could do nothing about my tooth and that I’d have to wait nine days for the dentist. Oh, he did advise me to have a whiskey, which I did, at the Bucket of Blood. While there, I was accosted verbally and physically by three Neanderthal thugs who had nothing better to do than start a fight that almost wiped out every piece of glass and furniture in the place. Not to mention every bone in my body. When the fight was over, my tooth was knocked loose so I pulled it out myself. Which, to tell you the truth, caused a significant amount of pain. Then, I rode home on an ancient mule whose gait rivaled that of a camel. And, now here I sit. Home at last with my loving family here to greet me. Oh, how sweet it is. I’m so glad I’m home so I can share my day’s experiences with you. I hope you are all happy to hear it. Can – we – eat? Please? I’m starving.”
Adam’s dissertation left Ben, Joe and Hoss speechless. They sat with their mouths agape, trying to take it all in. Not a smirk or a chuckle passed over their lips. It was awe that fell over their complexions. It took several moments for Ben to comprehend it all and finally respond to his number one son’s discourse.
“Well, ah, I’m… I’m sorry, son. That is a sad tale,” the elder Cartwright said still a bit taken aback. “But, we just finished eating supper. Hoss ate the rest of the meat and potatoes. There is no more food to eat.”
“What a surprise,” Adam responded with a sneer.
“We are just about to have dessert, though. Would you like some dessert?”
“Sure. Why not.” Adam sounded perturbed. “What’s for dessert?”
Ben looked at Joe. Joe looked at Hoss and Hoss returned the glance back to his father. Ben took a breath of trepidation before he answered Adam.
“Well, son. We’re having peach cobbler.”