Category: The Big Valley
Word Count: 1766
Hello? Anybody home? Ma? Jarrod? Nick? Where is everybody?”
Eugene Barkley closed the massive oak door behind him as he stepped into the foyer of his boyhood home.
“Well, isn’t this a fine thing,” he grumbled to himself. “Nobody bothered to meet me at the depot and now nobody’s here to say, ‘Glad you’re home, Gene. Did you have a pleasant trip, Gene?’ A fine how do you do. Makes me think that this family has plumb forgotten all about me. Just because I’ve been away at college for what now, ten years or has it been eleven? That’s no excuse for them to wipe me from their memories. After all, I’m a Barkley son too.”
Setting his traveling valise down by the curving grand staircase, Gene set off to find his missing family. Maybe someone’s in the kitchen. At least I’ll see my old friend Silas, he thought to himself. Eugene poked his head into the entrance of the kitchen, calling the old servant’s name.
“Silas! Are you in here? It’s me, Eugene. I’ve come home from college.”
The sound of the familiar humming that he knew as a boy ceased as the older than he remembered and cherished servant stepped into the doorway of the kitchen. He stood there wiping his floured hands on his apron as he looked quizzically at the rather short, well-dressed brown-haired man in front of him.
“Yes sir. Whats can I do for you, sir?” Silas didn’t have the foggiest idea who this stranger was that had just barged into his employer’s large home, but quickly ascertained that he’d better treat the man kindly so as not to invite further trouble or cause the man to become unduly agitated, perhaps causing him to do something rash.
“Silas! It’s me, Gene. Remember?” Gene knew that old Silas was ten, or was it eleven years older than when he’d left, but surely the old man couldn’t have gone senile while he was gone, or could he?
“Gene?” Silas was completely at a loss. “Gene who?”
“Why, Gene! Eugene Barkley! Tom Barkley’s youngest son. Dontcha remember me?”
Hoping to keep the situation under control, Silas did some quick thinking.
“If’ns ya says so, Mr., uh, Barkley. Why don’t you, uh, make yourself comfortable in the front room. I’ll get the Missus, er, I mean your mama.” Silas quickly backed away from the dapper young man, wondering to himself if this fellow was rabid and if these were the indications. He quickly moved up the grand staircase. He would find Miz Barkley and get this all straightened out before it got out of hand. He was halfway up the stairs when Nick’s door slammed and the dark-haired, leather-clad cowboy with spurs a jangling, started down the same staircase.
“Mr. Nick! Mr. Nick! Wait! Oh my, I is glad to see you, I shorely is.”
“Silas, what’s the matter? I thought I heard voices down here. D’we have company?”
“That’s what I’z wanted to talk to ya about. A young gentleman just came in the door. He didn’t knock or anything. He’s actin’ real funny too. He claims he’s a Barkley son.”
Nick’s right palm shot up and smacked his own forehead in pure annoyance. “Oh no! Not another one!”
“Never mind, Silas. I was just thinking that we went through that mess about 10 years ago with Heath. Surely Father couldn’t have dropped another wandering seed, could he?”
“I’z don’t think so, Mr. Nick. This, er, gentleman claims to KNOW all of youze and he even knowed my name. Funny fellow. Maybe you oughta come and have a look see at him. He’s in the front room.”
“I’ll take care of this once and for all. I tell ya there aren’t any more of us hidin’ out there and that’s a fact! I’ll just tell this hooligan where he can get off. Excuse me, Silas.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Nick. Is your mama up stairs?”
Nick waved his hand towards the second floor. “Yeah, she’s up there in Heath’s room. I think he fell off of a bronc and bruised something. She’s got him pinned down with the liniment bottle.”
Nick pushed by Silas and headed like a thundercloud to the front room where Eugene was looking at a framed picture of the family. He was wondering to himself who the blond fella was standing next to his Ma. “Don’t remember seeing him around here,” he mumbled. “How’d he get in the family picture and I didn’t?” He quickly turned around when he heard Nick come in.
Eugene’s eyes lit up when he saw Nick approaching. That was Nick all right. The same scowl and everything. “Nick!” Gene raised his hands in a gesture of greeting. Nick stopped just beyond his reach. Eugene started to feel a bit uneasy. This was more than a typical Nick scowl. His brother looked like he was ready to smash something. Eugene was more than a little taken aback with the dark-haired man’s next words.
“What are you doing in this house?”
Gene’s mouth gaped open.
“I’m talking to you boy. What is the meaning of breaking into our home?”
“Nick, it’s me. Eugene.”
“Eugene who?” Nick moved closer the shrinking young man.
“Your…your brother,” Gene stammered. “I know it’s been a few years but surely you remember me. Dontcha remember that I couldn’t do ranch work to save my life and that you always said that I’d never amount to a hill of beans?”
“Boy, I’ve never laid eyes on you in my life. Now I’m gonna tell you again, get out of this house and out of this valley. You don’t belong here.” Nick looked menacing indeed.
“Wait! You have a sister too. Or we have a sister. Uh, Audra, yeah that’s her name. She’ll remember me.”
“Audra’s not here. And now if you will kindly exit, the door is that way.” Nick picked up the valise left by the stairs and handed it to the befuddled young man and pointed to the large front door. “GO!”
Just then Victoria voice could be heard as she descended the stairs. Heath, though he was walking gingerly, was right behind her.
“Nick? Kindly introduce your visitor.”
“He, uh, mother, he was just leavin’, weren’t you, kid?”
Gene upon seeing Victoria managed to scramble past Nick and reach out towards the grand lady of the house. Heath quickly reacted and sashayed to put himself in front of his mother. The quick movement caused him to grimace and cry out. “Ouch! Dang ornery horse,” His hand gently massaged his tender hip.
“Ma, it’s me! Eugene!” Eugene cried out, trying to catch his mother’s eye but had to keep looking around Heath. “Dontcha know me Ma? I’m you’re youngest son.”
“Hold on just one minute.” This from Heath who was trying to get a good look at this youngster while still willing the hurt away from his bruised body. “I thought I was the youngest son.”
Gene looked shocked, as he seemed to notice the blond man’s presence for the first time. “Who are you?”
“I’m Heath,” he answered simply. “His,” pointing to Nick, “father’s bastard son.”
“Oh now that’s enough out of you boy.” Nick’s stern glare fixed on Heath.
“Well, I am!” Heath said readily.
“I know you are,” Nick agreed, “but I thought we’d had it out about that years ago. You’re a Barkley now. You’re in the family, boy. Let’s not rehash old news.”
“Alright Nick. But what about him?” All eyes riveted to Eugene, who looked like he was about to burst into tears.
“Doesn’t anyone remember me?” He wailed.
“No we don’t,” stated Victoria with finality. “So, what did you say your name was again, Eugene?” She shuddered. “What a perfectly ghastly name. Now if you will kindly leave this house and please do not come back again or my sons just might have to shoot you for trespassing. Do I make myself clear?”
Eugene suddenly drew himself up to his full 5 foot, 7 inches. “I knew I never should have come back here. I can see that I don’t belong.”
“That’s the first intelligent thing that kid’s said since he got here,” Nick muttered to himself.
“Fine! I’m leaving. I’m going back to college. At least they know me there. They should anyway. I’ve been there for the past ten years.” Eugene scratched his head in deep thought. “Or has it been eleven?” Still looking deep in thought, he moved out the huge front door towards to where his horse was tied. So deep in thought that he very nearly ran smack into Jarrod as the lawyer dodged just in time to prevent his lily-white hands from getting battered.
“Whoa there, young man. You better be careful and watch where you’re going.”
“Oh a lot you care, buster. You probably don’t even remember me either.”
“Should I,” Jarrod asked gamely
“Never mind! All you people are hopeless! Hopeless! Why anyone would think that you’re such a great family and talk about you and write about you is beyond me. I should be insulted when these whackos, who call themselves Valley Dwellers, write about you all and then have the gall to say ‘Eugene does not exist’. I should be, but I’m not! I want nothing to do with those crazies who spend hours upon hours on that new fangled thing called the computer, reading and writing about you and you and you and even you.” Eugene pointed to each present with a stern finger, ending his point fest at a poor befuddled Silas. “I’m leaving this house and never coming back. I’ll make it on my own. I always have.”
“Well, quit your yammerin’ then and start ridin’,” Nick bellowed. “How can we miss you if you won’t go away? Of course, we all know it’s out of sight, out of mind.”
Eugene positioned his valise upon his pony and climbed up into the saddle. Kicking its sides to make it go, the horse started out at a trot and then sped to a full gallop. Soon he was gone, headed back to Berkeley where he continued taking every course offered and ended up staying there for the rest of his life. The university even gave him a special commendation award for the longest enrollment. One that has yet to be matched down to this day.