Summary: Two brother searching for forgiveness.
Word Count: 5038
“Next time Little Joe chops down a tree…” Doc Martin commented as he exited Adam’s bedroom. “…make sure he yells timber.” He closed the door softly after taking one last peek at his patient.
“How is he?” Ben asked anxiously.
“He’s banged up. Broken arm, broken ankle, broken ribs. He took a nasty crack on the noggin as well. Luckily, his head is harder than an oak beam.”
“Well, will he be alright?” Ben asked ignoring the doctor’s attempt at humor.
“Eventually,” the doctor surmised casually.
The two men conversed quietly in the upper hall of the Ponderosa ranch house.
“Oh, thank God,” Ben sighed.
“A prayer or two wouldn’t hurt.”
Ben took the doctor’s advice with a solemn nod. He paused a moment – his thoughts noticeably changing gears.
“Don’t say anything to Joe. He’s feeling pretty sheepish right about now.”
“And, so he should be. Adam could have been killed.”
“I know. I know,” the elder Cartwright acknowledged then crossed his arms to make his point. “He’s young and inexperienced. You know Joseph. When he’s done something wrong, he’s harder on himself than any of us possibly could be. Right now he’s inconsolable.”
“He doesn’t handle guilt well, does he?”
“I’m afraid none of us do, Paul.”
“Alright then. He’ll get no scolding from me… this time.”
Ben checked on Adam before he escorted Doc Martin down the hall. Hoss and Joe waited at the base of the staircase with widened and nervous eyes.
“He’ll be fine, boys,” the doctor announced as he descended. “He’ll need quite a bit of care for the next few weeks. I’ve given him some laudanum to help with the pain. I’ll be back early tomorrow to check on him. Try and get him to eat something when he wakes up. A bowl of Hop Sing’s chicken soup would do the trick. Good night, gentlemen.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Hoss said with obvious relief.
Joe could not muster a word. Ben passed Paul his hat and opened the front door for him. He stood at its threshold and waited for him to board his carriage and then waved a thankful farewell. With solace, Ben returned to the living room and sank wearily into his favorite leather chair. The stress of the day was etched on his face.
“I’m so sorry, Pa,” Joe murmured with his chin firmly pressed against his chest. He picked at a hangnail to avoid eye contact. “I didn’t see Adam there. I… I just didn’t know he was there.”
“Accidents happen, son. Let’s just be glad he’s alright.”
“But Pa, I…”
“Joseph,” Ben said squarely. “Let’s just learn from this experience, shall we. You can’t take back what has happened. We were lucky this time. Adam will be fine. I’m not mad at you. Just be more careful from now on. That’s all I ask.”
“It’s late. You two boys go up to bed,” Ben said with blatant fatigue. “I’ll sit with Adam.”
“No Pa. I’ll tend to him,” Joe offered still reeling with remorse.
“Well, I must admit I am a little tired. It’s been a trying day.”
Hoss stood directly behind his little brother. He placed his hand firmly on Joe’s collarbone to console him. He knew he was feeling awful about that morning’s mishap and was sensitive to his frame of mind.
“You go ahead and get some sleep, Pa,” Hoss said with reserved cheerfulness. “We’ll call you if we need you. Me and Joe will take care of Adam.”
“Alright then, son,” Ben replied resignedly. “I can hardly keep my eyes open.”
“Good night, Pa.”
“Good night, boys.”
Ben rose and plodded across the hardwood to the stairs. He ascended them laboriously as Joe and Hoss watched. When their father was out of sight, Joe shuffled to the hearth and sat on the warmed stone – the fire at his back was fighting to stay alive. He placed his elbows on his knees and rested his upper lip on his interlocked knuckles. His face was so strained he looked like he was about to cry.
“Ah come on, Joe,” Hoss encouraged. “Adam’s gonna be okay. You didn’t do nothin’ on purpose. It was an accident. You know that working a ranch is dangerous. All of us have gotten hurt at one time or another. That’s just a way of life out here.”
“How could I be so stupid?” Joes scolded himself. “I know better than that.”
“You ain’t stupid Joe. It’s just…”
“Its just inexperience is all. Me and Adam and Pa, well, we’ve just been at it longer than you is all.”
“I’m sick of being the youngest. I hate it,” Joe seethed.
“Well, there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it so you might as well learn to live with it. We all got our parts to play.”
Little Joe finally raised his head and looked up at his brother who hovered over him. He’d taken the poker iron from its stand and stoked the fire as he conversed. The flames rose. The logs cracked and sparked. The heat was immediate.
“Parts? What do you mean parts?”
“You know, our place in the family.”
“I’m not sure what you mean, Hoss.”
“See, Adam’s the oldest.”
“Yeah?” Joe replied quizzically.
“Well, he’s got to lead us. He’s got to set the example – set the trend. He’s always done that. He didn’t ask to be born first, but he takes on his role without any never mind about it. It’s been hard on Adam you know. He’s been through a lot. He’s had to be… I don’t know… stronger then you and me – more serious. But, that’s his place. He was born to it.”
“And, what about you?” Joe seemed fascinated with Hoss’ theories.
“Me? Well, I’m the stabilizer.”
“Yep. I’m the one in the middle between you two mules. My role is to keep the peace – make everyone happy. Heck, I’m playin’ my role right now,” he said brightly.
“Yeah. I guess you are,” Joe chortled.
“See the way I look at it is this,” Hoss continued thoughtfully. “The four of us are not just a family. We’re much, much more than that. We’re like… well, I don’t know, we’re like one person. Pa is the heart, Adam is the brain…”
“You’ve got that right,” Little Joe agreed with raised eyebrows.
“Me… well, I’m kinda the soul of the Cartwright’s.” Hoss divulged with a smidgen of embarrassment even though he knew it was true.
“And me?” Joe probed. “What’s my part?”
“You, little brother? You’re the spirit. You’re really the one that keeps us all going.”
“Yep. Without a spirit, a person, well, he just dies is all.”
“Sure do,” Hoss confirmed.
Joe’s posture had straightened. He grinned at his sibling realizing Hoss’ speech was his way of cheering him up. It worked.
“Let’s go upstairs and see how Adam’s doin’,” Hoss suggested.
“Okay and thanks.”
“Thanks? For what, Little Joe?”
“For always being there for me.”
“I ain’t goin’ nowhere’s, big shorty. I’ll always be here for ya.”
The sweet smell of pine wafted into Adam’s nostrils. He felt puffs of warm breath on his forehead. The sensation was pleasant, but it was one he certainly couldn’t recall feeling before. A stroke of velvet nicked his cheek and he finally opened his eyes.
His entire frame of vision was filled with the head of his horse that peered down at him with a sense of concern. Sport towered over Adam as he lay face up in a lush green thicket. The steed licked his partner’s chin noisily.
“Hey… stop that,” Adam advised playfully.
He gently pushed Sport’s nose to the side and, with great effort, sat up. He had trouble orienting himself. He felt like he’d been asleep for months. He shook his head to try and erase the fuzz that seemed to have settled in his brain.
Adam scanned the scenery trying to figure out where the heck he was. The sun hung brazenly in the middle of the sky and it warmed his face. He looked across a yellow field that had just been cut. Who had harvested the hay, he hadn’t a clue. The grassy scent of bails still lingered. Beyond the flat land was a majestic stand of trees and hiding behind it was Lake Tahoe shining like a pale sapphire – the glint of its cool waters was almost blinding. At least he was home.
The landscape was beautiful but Adam was momentarily distracted from its serenity. Birds chirped noisily to the point of annoyance. They made Adam look upward to see just how many there were to scold. It sounded like thousands. They only added to his confusion.
After several moments of dizziness, he finally came to his senses. He was starting to remember now. The night before he and his family along with a throng of friends and neighbors had celebrated his twenty-first birthday. He was officially a man. The occasion called for a bottle of Ben’s finest champagne. That, along with several glasses of wine and after-dinner liqueurs, was responsible for Adam’s queasiness. He was simply hung over. It was a new experience – one he would be sure never to repeat.
But, there was more than one reason to celebrate. Ten-year-old Joseph had successfully raised his first calf. Adam’s birthday marked its readiness for the Carson City Fair. He would escort his baby brother to the competition. It would be the first time Adam had total charge over him. Ben and Hoss wanted to join them for the festivities but they had business to attend to in Virginia City. It couldn’t be postponed so, Adam was it.
That morning, bright and early, Adam and Joe set out. The calf was placed on a lead shank that Joe held onto tightly. He’d put a lot of effort into raising it and was especially proud. He refused help from his older siblings this time. He was too old for their advice he told them precociously. Joe’s confidence made his brother’s laugh. He was an entertaining little boy.
Adam took the usual way to Carson City – it was Joseph’s first time to any city other than his hometown. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except for Adam’s headache.
But now, as he sat bewildered and barely cognizant, he found himself alone. What had happened? Had he fallen off his horse? Where was Joe? He struggled to stand and once he’d gotten upright, he spun three hundred and sixty-five degrees. His heart raced. He eyed the fields carefully, squinting against the afternoon sun.
“JOE?” he yelled, scaring the birds from the treetops.
The flock exploded from the branches like gun power from a canon. What was calm seconds before was now chaotic. Adam’s sudden shout and the wild flapping of the wings spooked his horse.
“Whoa boy,” he comforted softly. “Easy.” He grabbed Sport’s reins before he called after his brother again.
“LITTLE JOE! HEY… JOE!!”
There was no response. Joe’s new horse Cochise was nowhere to be found either. Adam’s throat dried up as panic set in. His father had pulled him aside the night of the party and told him to keep a special eye on his little brother during their trip. He was to get Joe and his prize steer to the fair and return safely. Adam didn’t need to be told this. After all, there was no one Ben trusted more than his oldest boy. Adam was simply mature beyond his years. But after the death of Joe’s mother, Ben had become overly protective of his young one. Adam eased his father’s mind but now he was anything but cool. If anything happened to Little Joe, if he’d been lost… or worse, well, Adam might as well not return home at all.
“Where could that little imp be?” Adam asked himself aloud trying desperately to stay levelheaded.
Fighting the pounding in his head, Adam mounted Sport and loped to the nearest stream. Maybe Joseph was fishing or swimming or… something he thought. When he got there, there was no sign of Joe, Cochise or the calf. There were no tracks anywhere. It seemed that his brother had vanished.
“LITTLE JOE!” Adam tried again with a touch of angst. “WHERE ARE YOU? COME ON… WE GOTTA GO. THERE’S A BLUE RIBBON WAITING FOR YOU IN CARSON CITY. JOE! HEY JOE!”
“Of all the…” Adam scoffed – he consciously fought his ire and his angst.
Again he mounted up and patrolled the surrounding area. Joe was simply not in the vicinity. Frustrated and riddled with worry, Adam decided to ride the rest of the way to Carson City. He figured Joe was anxious to get to the fair and went on ahead. Adam didn’t remember giving him permission to do so, but maybe he had. The way he was feeling, it was entirely possible. But, Joe was only ten. He’d never taken such a trip on his own. What was going on? What was happening? Whatever it was, Adam had the sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong.
“JOE! HEY LITTLE JOE! WHERE ARE YOU?”
“Take it easy Adam. Joe’s right here,” Hoss said to his bedridden brother.
“That’s right, Adam. I’m here beside you.”
“Sounds like our older brother’s havin’ nightmares. Seems he cain’t find you Little Joe.”
“He’s hotter than a blacksmith’s furnace,” Hoss muttered after placing his hand on Adam’s damp forehead. “Git me some fresh water, wouldja Joe?”
“Sure thing. I’ll be right back.”
“Try not to wake up, Pa.”
“I won’t,” Joe whispered as he crept across the hardwood to Adam’s bedroom door. “Do you need anything else while I’m downstairs?”
“Well, I am kinda hungry.”
“What else is new,” Joe sniffed. “I’m hungry too. I’ll make a sandwich. How many do you want?”
“Oh, four or five should do it.”
Joe rolled his eyes at Hoss’ request. He was sorry he asked.
“I’ll be back in a jiff.”
“Oh and Joe?”
“A glass of milk would be nice.”
“A glass of milk,” Joe reiterated from the doorway. “Anything else?”
“I think there’s some of that cake left?”
“And, some cake. Is that it?”
“I think so, Joe. Make sure you don’t wake Hop Sing either. He’ll have our hide for stealing food.”
“STEALING? We’re not stealing!”
“Shhhhh.” Hoss scolded as Joe’s raised voice made Adam stir uncomfortably.
Joe slinked down hoping his lower position would restore silence. He scrunched his face and placed his fingertips against his lips.
“Just be quiet,” Hoss ordered stealthily.
“Okay…alright,” he hissed. “Take care of Adam while I’m gone. I could be a while,” Joe joshed.
“Don’t you worry, he’s in good hands,” Hoss replied missing his brother’s sarcasm.
Adam cantered purposefully down the dirt road that led to Carson City. He eyed the scenery along the way, carefully combing it for any sign of Joe. As the miles passed under his horse’s hooves it was becoming obvious that no one, let alone a young boy, had been on this path for weeks. The farther Adam went the longer the road seemed to get. It was as if he couldn’t progress – like Sport was running in place.
All along the way he called his brother’s name. But, with each call came deeper and deeper silence. It scared him. Fear of losing Joe engulfed his entire being. Horrible scenarios haunted him. He pictured the boy trapped in a well and crying for Adam to help him. Then he saw Joe surrounded by growling wolves. Had his little brother been kidnapped? The ominous ride was filled with wild imaginings of his baby brother in harm’s way.
After what seemed like an eternity, Adam finally reached the town. Expecting crowds of people gathered for the fun and games, he was surprised to see that there was no sign of a carnival at all. No one paraded their prized livestock. There was no scent of freshly baked pies or any sign of jarred pickles or overgrown pumpkins. Citizens roamed Carson City like any other day. It was all so businesslike. Adam found it odd as he rode through the main street still on alert for Joe. He pulled Sport up to the Sheriff’s office dismounted and went inside. A deputy greeted him.
“What can I do for you mister?” The young man asked from behind the smaller of two desks.
“I’m looking for my little brother. We got separated half way between here and Virginia City.”
“Oh? How old is your brother?”
“Can’t say as I’ve seen any ten year olds running loose. At least not one I ain’t seen before.”
“Well, he was riding a black and white paint horse,” Adam added with slight desperation.
“I would’a noticed any new paint horse, mister. I got one myself.”
Adam sighed and seemed to drift away – deep in thought. He was vexed.
“Isn’t there supposed to be a county fair going on?”
“Yes, my brother and I were bringing his prize steer here for the livestock competition.”
“Well, it’s only June, ahhhh…” The deputy probed Adam’s name before continuing his explanation.
“I’m Adam Cartwright.”
“Well, it’s only June, Mr. Cartwright. Our Fair ain’t till the middle of July.”
“I’m gonna kill that kid,” Adam growled silently.
“Excuse me?” The deputy asked with concern.
“Oh nothing. My little brother’s gotten his dates mixed up. I should have checked it before we left. I should know better than to listen to a ten-year-old.”
“Yeah. Kids today huh?” The deputy chuckled with a gently shaken head.
“Well, if he shows up or you hear of anything, let me know will ya?”
“Sure thing, Mr. Cartwright. Where kin I find ya?”
“I think I’ll take a look around here for a while. He’s got to be here somewhere. If not, I’ll work my way back home.”
“Good luck. Hope nothin’s happened to the boy.”
“I’m sure he’s fine. He is a mischievous little guy. Keeps us on our toes.”
“Yes, my father and other brother.”
“Thanks, deputy. I appreciate your help.”
“Sorry I couldn’t do more.”
Adam tipped his hat at the fellow before leaving the office.
With his concerns now percolating like a pot of boiling coffee, Adam stood on the boardwalk. He looked the street up and down, trying to decide which way to go first. He went left to search for Joseph.
“Those sandwiches sure hit the spot,” Hoss said with gratification. “Thanks Joe.”
“Ah huh,” Joe replied. His mouth was full of cake.
The two men held vigil at their brother’s side. It was the wee hours of the morning. The sunrise had yet to show any sign of its brilliant rays.
“I think Adam’s looking better, don’t you?” Hoss mentioned.
“Hmmm,” Joe mumbled.
“Boy, he sure was lucky.”
“Lucky? He had a tree fall on him, Hoss. What’s lucky about that?”
“Well, he ain’t dead, Joe.”
“You know I just can’t figure it.”
“I was sure no one was around. Next thing you know Adam’s screaming in pain. I just, well, it’s like you said… I’m still new at logging.”
“I remember one time,” Hoss began, as memories began to invade his brain. “You was just a little gaffer. Me and Pa and Adam were workin’ on building the paddocks, just out front here. We each had sledgehammers. The three of us would get into a rhythm. First I’d pound on the pole, then Pa and Adam.”
“Adam missed one time. We was all tired. We’d been out there too long.”
“And…” Joe sounded anxious to hear the story.
“He hit my hand so hard. He mashed it good.”
“Yep. Broke every bone.”
“Every last one?” Joe stated with widened eyes.
“Sure did. He felt so bad about that. He did my chores for a month.”
“Well, I have a feeling when Adam comes to, and finds out what happened I’m going to be doing more than just his chores. He’s gonna be madder than a wounded badger.”
“Ah heck, Joe. Adam knows you didn’t mean nothin’. It’s like me and Pa keep telling ya, it was an accident.”
“Accident or not, you know how Adam feels about me.”
“Feels about you? What do you mean, Joe?”
“Ah come on, Hoss,” Joe scoffed. “It’s no secret that Adam doesn’t like me. He never has.”
“Doesn’t like you? Of course he likes you.”
“Nah. He’s never cared about me. He hates me. He wishes I was never born. And, when he finds out how careless I was out there bringing down that tree, he’s never going to forgive me. I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“Joe, Adam loves you. Just like he loves me and Pa. It’s just that you two, well…”
“Well what.” Joe said deflated.
“You and Adam are two fellers that just don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes is all. That don’t mean he don’t love ya. You don’t hate Adam, do ya?”
“Then stop this crazy talk about him not wanting you around. He does. We all do.”
Joe stared at his hands. His relationship with Adam had always been a rocky one. Sometimes it was hard to know where he stood. He looked up to Adam. He always had. It was like he was always trying to prove himself to him. He’d desperately sought Adam’s attention his whole life. Now, after the incident in the forest, he wasn’t sure how his oldest brother would react. He feared their bond would irreparably be broken – unsalvageable.
Hoss was slightly shocked at Joe’s confession. He’d been witness to many disagreements between his brothers over the years, but he never questioned the respect and fondness each had for one another. He glanced across the bed over Adam’s chest at Joe. “Listen here.”
“What?” Joe brooded.
“Remember that time Adam took you to the Carson City Fair?”
“What about it.”
“Well, don’t you remember Joe? You got lost.”
“Oh yeah. I’d forgotten all about that.”
“Adam spent days lookin’ for you. If he didn’t care about you, he wouldn’t have done that.”
“He only cared that Pa would kill him if anything happened to me.”
“You’re wrong, Joe. Adam told me how scared he was that somethin’ had happened to you. He said he’d never forgive himself if you got hurt or… worse. I remember when he got home, how relived he was to see you. It was only when he knew you were alright that he got mad because you got the dates all mixed up and didn’t have to be at the Fair ’til the next month.”
“He was pretty mad,” Joe chortled. “June, July… it’s all the same to a ten year old.”
“Adam’s always done his best to take care of you, Joe. He’s always tried to protect you and me from any harm. Don’t you know that?”
“No,” Joe dismissed hopelessly. “Adam’s never liked me. I’ve learned to accept it. Adam and I maybe brother’s but we were never meant to be friends. He only puts up with me. I know it. And you and Pa know it too.”
“Now quit that, Joe,” Hoss ordered as quietly had he could. “Stop this nonsense. Adam cares about you and there ain’t no two ways about it.”
“No. I know he doesn’t. I wish he did though. I truly do.”
Adam poked his nose in every nook and cranny of Carson City. He asked every person he came across if they’d seen a little, green-eyed boy with curly, squirrel-colored hair. All he got were shrugs and the wagging of heads. No one had seen Little Joe.
As he made his way back to Sport to mount up and head for home, he noticed a small boy standing in the shadows of an alleyway.
“Joe?” Adam quarried. “JOE!”
Just as Adam began to approach the boy, the kid turned and ran down away. Adam gave chance. He continued to call his brother’s name. He couldn’t understand why Joe was running away from him. Didn’t he know how worried he was? Did he think Adam was angry with him? He had no answer. Adam just kept running and running through a maze of back streets and timber-lined corridors.
Occasionally he’d loose sight of the boy only to turn around and spot him again. The pursuit continued – endlessly. Finally, after hours upon hours Adam caught up to him. He panted heavily and sweat streamed down his face from his hatband. He placed his hand on the back of the boy’s shoulder and spun him around. He was taken aback when the child had no face. It made him yelp with horror. The boy tore away from Adam’s grasp and seemed to melt into the shaded pathways. Adam looked to the heavens in frustrated panic.
“There he goes again,” Hoss reported. “See, Joe. He’s havin’ a dream about you.”
Little Joe barely acknowledged his big brother. He’d fallen into a well of self-pity and morning. His admission had been bottled up inside him for so long. After he’d stated it out loud, it was destined to be true – that his eldest sibling simply wished that he didn’t exist.
“Why don’t you go get some sleep, Hoss,” Joe finally offered. “I’ll take care of Adam.”
“Yes. I’m sure,” Joe replied woefully.
“Pa’ll be awake in an hour or so. He can spot you then.”
Joe nodded with deliberate melancholy.
“Call me if you need me,” Hoss offered as he rose to leave Adam’s room.
When Joe and Adam were finally alone, Joe rested his elbows on the side of the bed. He clasped his hands together tightly and began to pray. But, he wasn’t sure what he was praying for. Was it for God to spare his brother pain? Was he asking forgiveness for his carelessness? Or was it simply to ask for Adam’s acceptance and love. Whatever it was, Joe was certain his life was about to change. He was on the cusp of discovering who he was. It would be a defining moment.
Searching for Joseph was exhausting. Adam had never experienced such utter terror before. He hoped he’d never have to again. It was draining. He felt ill. He thought he’d never see Little Joe again and the very thought sent waves of fear through his body.
He was now on the road back to the Ponderosa. He spied every tree and bush along the way hoping that some clue would surface as to Joe’s whereabouts. His only hope was that the boy had, by some miracle, returned home. How could he explain this to his family? How could he face his father? How could he have been so careless? Adam prayed for Joseph’s safety.
“Adam?” Joe murmured. “Adam? You okay?”
“What… what happened?” Adam said, finally awakening from his nightmare. “Where am I?”
“You’re home. There was an accident,” Joe professed sheepishly. “In the forest. It was my fault. I cut down a tree without seeing if it was clear. It fell on you Adam.”
“I was having a dream about the time I took you to the fair in Carson City.” Adam didn’t seem to hear or care about Joe’s explanation of the mishap.
“I remember,” Joe said quietly.
“I lost you.”
“Yes. You did.”
“I’m so sorry, Joe.”
“It’s okay, Adam. I got home alright.”
“But, I was supposed to take care of you.”
“You did. It was my fault too. I wondered off. I should have stayed with you. Then when I couldn’t find you, I just let Cochise take me home. He knew the way.”
Adam stared at the ceiling, visibly trying to overcome his guilt. It had long lingered inside him. He winced as shooting pains surged from his ribcage. He grasped his broken arm, trying to rub away the ache.
“I’m so sorry, Adam. I didn’t know you were there. I wouldn’t have finished the cut if I’d only seen you.”
“I know better than to walk in the path of a timber. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was my mistake Joe, not yours.”
“I said it’s my fault I got hurt.”
“That nightmare was horrible.” Adam seemed to dismiss his brother’s apology. “I get that one a lot. It terrifies me every time.”
“It does?” Joe seemed unsure.
“Yes. It does.”
“Well, how come, Adam?”
“How come? What do you mean how come? You’re my little brother. I care about what happens to you.”
“Joe?” Adam focused in on Little Joe’s jade-green eyes. They were flooded with tears. “Are you under the impression that I don’t care about you?”
“Yes,” Joe sniffed.
“How could you think that?” With great effort and significant pain, Adam shifted his body as best he could to face his brother.
“We’ve always fought. We’ve always been on opposite sides. I just thought that…”
“Joe. Just because we don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you. You’re my baby brother. You’re very, very important to me.”
“I am?” Joe didn’t sound convinced.
“Yes. You are,” Adam replied with slight annoyance.
He let his head fall back onto his pillow. He sighed with exhaustion. His entire body hurt.
Joe felt like a load had been lifted off his shoulders. He’d finally received acceptance after years of self-induced torment. Why had he questioned his brother’s love? He guessed, he’d never know. Joe straightened Adam’s bed linens.
“Can I get you anything?” Joe asked brightly. Everything was going to be alright.
“No. I don’t think so.”
“You should have some water. And, the doc said you should try and eat something too.”
“I am a little thirsty but I’ll pass on the food for now. Thanks.”
“If I hadn’t dropped that tree on you, I’d probably always think that you hated me.”
“Well, I’m glad I could accommodate you, Little Joe.” Adam squinted, still finding it difficult to get comfortable. “But, next time, instead of dropping a tree on me?”
“Just ask me.”