Summary: A young Adam story.
Word Count: 4800
Adam sat on the front porch, slumped forward with his elbows on his knees. He couldn’t stop staring at the note in his hand. The seventeen-year-old boy’s world was crumbling around him. Pa’s gonna kill me! he thought to himself.
This was the second time in a week he’d gotten into a fight at school and now, to make matters worse, he had failed the history test so necessary towards his college scholarship. He wasn’t sure what was worse — the fight or failing the test.
I’ve never failed a test before. So much for college! He started to shake as he thought about what his father was going to say or more so what he was going to do.
Oh Ma, why’d you have to die? he said out loud as the tears fell.
It had been three weeks since that fateful day when Marie’s horse stumbled as she raced into the yard, killing her instantly. He remembered coming out of the barn just in time to see her fall. He had stood frozen as he stared at her limp body lying on the ground. He now vigorously shook his head as he tried to get that image out of his mind.
It seemed like nothing had gone right since then. Mr. Davis, the school teacher, had agreed with Ben to give Adam private lessons in order to prepare him for the college scholarship, Mr. Davis had tried to talk to him, but Adam insisted he was fine. Although he tried everything he could think of to reach the boy, his teacher was at a loss as to what to do to help the boy. Finally he had no choice but to send a note home to his father.
Then, instead of being scared of what Ben was going to do, Adam found himself getting angry at the world all over again. He was mad at his father for living out here in the west, he was mad at Marie for dying, he was mad at his teacher for the note, he was mad at Chad Roberts for saying nasty things about Marie.
Damn that Chad Roberts; if he says one more thing about Marie I’ll kill him, Adam thought to himself.
Not caring who saw him, he finally gave in to his emotions and dropped the note on the ground and buried his face in his hands, letting the tears fall.
On the way home from town, Ben was lost in his own world as Hoss and Little Joe rambled on. He had spoken to Mr. Davis in town and was at a loss as to what to do to help his oldest boy.
Adam had been withdrawn, angry at everything and everyone ever since Marie had died. Not that Ben blamed him for being angry. He was angry that another wife was taken from him, but he had to push his feeling aside to be there for his boys.
Adam was falling behind in the work Mr. Davis had required of him, he had gotten into more fights than ever before, and Ben was very concerned as to what to do about it.
Another fight! Ben grumbled to himself and silently asked, Marie how do I get through to our son?
Closing his eyes, he prayed for help. It wasn’t until he felt a small hand on his arm that he realized he had stopped.
“P…Papa, are you okay?” Little Joe asked, looking at his father with concern.
Giving a sad smile, he pulled Little Joe close to him. Giving Hoss a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder, he said, “Don’t worry, boys, I’m fine.”
He quickened his pace for home; he needed to see Adam. One, he wanted to make sure his son was physically all right, and second, he wanted to make sure the boy was mentally all right.
Don’t worry, my love, I’ll make sure he’s okay!
As Ben pulled into the yard, he could see Adam sitting on the porch with his face buried in his hands.
Turning toward the two boys sitting next to him, Ben said, “Hoss, I want you and Little Joe to go see Hop Sing. You two can help him unload these supplies. Right now, I need to talk to Adam.”
“Okay Pa, come on, Little Joe,” Before Joe could protest, Hoss swung him down from the buckboard and started to chase him out back to the kitchen.
Ben waited until the two disappeared around the house and then walked quickly over to Adam. Kneeling down on one knee, he reached down to pick up the note from Mr. Davis, putting it in his pocket. Reaching out, Ben put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, speaking softly, “Adam, look at me.”
Adam jumped when he felt his father touch his shoulder. Looking up, he tried to speak. “P…p…pa, I…I…” He shook his head when his voice faltered.
“Its okay, boy, come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Guiding him upstairs to his bedroom, Ben could feel Adam tremble underneath his hand. Once they reached the room, Ben grabbed a cloth and began to wipe Adam’s face. He could see the dark bruise forming on his son’s left cheek.
In a soft voice, Ben asked, “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I…I…it’s all m…my f…fault. Oh Pa…” Adam struggled to continue but he completely broke down before he could say any more.
“Shhh, it’s okay, Adam, it’s going to be alright,” Ben said as he held Adam tight, rubbing his back trying to calm him down. He could feel him shaking in his arms.
My God, he hasn’t been like this since he was a child! Oh Adam, my poor boy! Ben thought to himself, closing his eyes. So much pain; my God, what have I done to this boy? Could I have done things differently? Could I have protected him from all this pain and anxiety?
Pulling away from the embrace, he held Adam’s face in his hands. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Ben watched Adam change into clean clothing, paying close attention to see if he were injured anywhere else. Noticing a bruise forming on the left side of his ribs, Ben touched his side gently; even so, Adam flinched. He heard his father say, just bruised!
Guiding the boy over to his bed, Ben spoke gently, “You’re exhausted, Adam; get some rest. We’ll talk later once you’ve calmed down, okay?”
Adam looked up at his father. “I…I’m s…sorry, Pa,” and the tears started to fall again.
“It’s okay, boy.” Ben reached over to brush a stray curl from his forehead.
“W…will you s…sit with me for a minute, p…please,” Adam begged.
“Of course I will, son; you just rest for now,” Ben said as he sat on the edge of the bed, speaking gently until Adam fell asleep mostly from exhaustion.
As Ben sat there, he reached up to grab Elizabeth’s photo that sat on the night stand. He prayed for a way to help Adam get through this. Sighing, he left Adam to sleep.
Slowly Little Joe opened Adam’s bedroom door; as he crept over to his brother, he climbed up on the bed and snuggled close to Adam’s side. Adam had felt the movement; he knew it was Little Joe.
“What are you doing, little man?” Adam asked with a small smile, only to see the brilliant light from the sun coming through his bedroom window sparkling in his baby brother’s eyes.
“I missed ya, Adam, and I needed to see ya,” Joe said matter-of-factly as he laid his head on Adam’s shoulder.
Adam smiled and pulled him closer to his body; he buried his face in Joe’s thick curly hair and the two laid there together.
Meanwhile, Ben was going out of his mind trying to find Little Joe. He had entered the house after checking the barn and the bunkhouse; he turned as Hoss came back from the pond.
“He wasn’t at the pond, Pa” Hoss said breathlessly, having run all the way back to the house.
“If that Little boy has…” Ben stopped in mid-sentence, looking toward the stairs. He shook his head in amusement; he knew right where the little boy had disappeared to and made his way up to Adam’s room with Hoss right behind him.
Opening Adam’s door, Ben stopped, leaning on the door case, drinking in the sight before him: the two boys lying cuddling together and talking quietly to each other. Adam saw his father and brother and smiled.
Hoss had stuck his head under his fathers arm; looking up at his father. he smiled as he whispered, “Guess we shoulda looked here first, huh?”
Nodding Ben said with a laugh as he tousled the boy’s hair, “Yes, I guess you’re right.”
Lifting Little Joe up, Ben said, “Alright you little rascal, off you go; you boys get your chores done and then you can play but stay in the yard.” He watched the two younger boys hurry out of the bedroom before turning towards Adam. He still looks exhausted! thought Ben.
Adam was sitting up on the side of his bed, not daring to look at his father.
Ben sat beside him giving his neck a gentle squeeze. “You’ve had a pretty bad day today. Want to tell me about it?”
Adam took a deep breath. “I…It’s my fault, Pa; I threw the first punch. Chad Roberts said something nasty about Ma and I hit him. I know I shouldn’t have but I got so mad I.…I…” He stopped and tried to regain some composure.
“What did Chad say, Adam?”
Adam knew looking into his father’s eyes that he expected an answer. He turned away from Ben, not able to continue to look at him, before he spoke.
“He called her a no good…” He finished the statement in a whisper. “I know I shouldn’t have hit him b…but…” Shaking his head, Adam added, “I’m s…so sorry Pa.”
“Adam, it’s okay, calm down.” Ben tried to contain his own anger at what the boy said about Marie while comforting Adam.
“I…if he says anything about her again, I’ll pound him into the ground.” Adam started to shake as he finished his statement.
“You will do well to stay away from that boy, do you understand me!” Although Ben’s voice was soft, it was still forceful.
Not trusting himself to answer his father, Adam just nodded.
I certainly can’t punish him for this because I would have done the same thing! thought Ben and he told Adam so.
“I spoke to Mr. Davis in town, he said you can re-take the test after chores on Monday,” Ben said softly.
Adam looked up shocked; he never expected Mr. Davis to let him re-take the test and he knew he should be grateful. However, he didn’t, he really didn’t care about anything anymore. “Why bother,” he said with a hint of anger.
Ben closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. “So you’re just going to give up? Give up college?”
Adam shrugged his shoulders. “Who cares.”
“I do. I’m not going to let you ruin your future, your dream.” Squeezing Adams neck, he continued, “Now you have a lot of work to do this weekend to prepare for the test and I’ll be here if you need any help.”
Ben could tell Adam was getting upset again as he didn’t say anything, so decided to leave him alone for a while. Ben smiled at the boy, patting his shoulder before leaving.
Once he closed the door, Ben leaned against it with his eyes closed, I have to reach this boy; I won’t let him give up! he vowed before heading back down stairs.
Adam walked over to the dresser to get his books. He started to think about the past few weeks. He felt all the anger and frustration all over again. Picking up his history book, he hurled it across his room.
Ben had stopped at the top of the stairs when he heard the crash from Adam’s room and immediately turned to race back to the boy’s bedroom. Ben opened the door, ducking just in time when the second book Adam threw just barely missed him. “ADAM!” he bellowed.
But ignoring his father, Adam turned and, in one swipe with his arm, he knocked everything on his dresser onto the floor.
Adam screamed at the top of his lungs, “IT’S NOT FAIR, I HATE IT HERE!”
Ben realized the boy was in a rage, and before his son could get to his drawings, he raced to Adam and grabbed him from behind, pining his arms at his side. Adam struggled and Ben held onto him for dear life.
“LET ME GO, LET ME GO. AHHHH!”
“Adam, calm down. Please, it’s okay, boy.”
“NO, IT’S NOT, IT’S NOT OKAY.”
“Shhh, I’ve got you; we’ll get through this,” Ben said, desperately trying to calm him.
As Adam continued to struggle, Ben lost his balance and landed on the floor with Adam in his lap. His breathing was very erratic but the struggling lessened. Ben continued to talk to Adam trying to calm him.
“W…why Pa, i…it’s not fair. W…why d…d…did she have to die?” Adam whimpered. “I…I loved h…her.”
Speaking softly to his son, Ben said, “I know you did, Adam, and she loved you very much; you must believe that.”
“I…I’ll n…never l…love again,” Adam stuttered, trying to catch his breath.
Ben’s heart constricted when he heard Adam’s last statement. Oh Adam! How can I refute that statement when I feel the same, he thought to himself as he continued to hold him. Rubbing Adam’s arm, he could hear the boys breathing start to return to normal.
“We’ll get thru this, Adam, I promise.”
“D…don’t ever leave me, Pa, please,” he begged.
“I’m not going anywhere, Adam; I’m right here,” Ben said and hugged him tight to his body.
Adam looked around and realized what he’d done to his room, “S…sorry, Pa. I didn’t mean to make a mess.”
“It’s okay, we’ll get it cleaned up,” Ben told him softly. Caressing Adam’s neck, he asked, “You okay now?”
After Adam nodded his head, Ben loosened his grip. Getting up off the floor, Ben helped Adam up and wiped his tears. Ben started to clean up the bedroom; Adam slowly helped his father, not sure why he had done this to mess to his room or his books.
In silence, they finished tidying up, Adam keeping his head down the entire time. Thankfully, nothing was damaged just scattered. Ben prayed that this was the release the boy needed and things would start to get better. Looking up he sent a silent prayer, help me, Marie!
Several hours later, Adam left his room; he just couldn’t stay there any more. As he headed down the stairs, he saw his father sitting at his desk doing on some paper work.
Ben lifted his head when he heard Adam coming down the stairs. Giving him a smile, Ben walked over to him. “You okay, son?”
“Yes sir.” Adam tried to smile but just didn’t feel like smiling. “I thought I’d go out side for awhile.”
Ben nodded, squeezing Adam’s neck gently. “Just don’t go too far; it’s almost supper time,” he said softly.
Nodding to his father, he went outside to get some fresh air. Once he stepped onto the porch, Little Joe slammed into his legs as he was running from Hoss.
“Hey Adam,” Joe said with a big smile, “look at the frog I gotted.”
Adam looked to where the boy was pointing and noticed a big bullfrog on the wooden table that sat under the window on the porch. That did make him smile because he knew Hop Sing would have a fit if he saw the frog there. Picking Little Joe up, he threw him in the air as the little boy let out a loud squeal of delight.
Adam looked at his brothers and asked, “You guys want to go down to the corral with me?”
Both boys yelled in unison with delight. Ben had stepped out onto the porch and watched as the trio slowly walked towards the corral. With Little Joe in the middle of Adam and Hoss, they held onto his hands swinging the small boy back and forth. Ben smiled to himself and went back inside to his paper work. He’ll be alright, that’s what he needs. Adam and his brothers together. Ben prayed he was right.
Once Ben finished his work, he was just about to go get the boys for supper when he heard them on the porch laughing. Adam was laughing! That’s a good sign, thought Ben.
The conversation was light at supper; Ben noticed Adam ate more than he had been over the past few weeks. He was still a little quieter than Ben wanted but he knew he could not push the boy. Settling in the living room once supper was done, Ben poured some brandy, offering some to Adam.
“Care to join me, son?” He almost laughed at the look on his son’s face, as Adam’s eyes grew wide while he quickly agreed.
Ben took a sip and set the glass down on the coffee table and he watched Adam cough when he took a sip. Adam gave Hoss the glass before he spilled it. The eleven-year-old took a sip and Ben smothered a laugh as his face turned beet red as he started coughing.
Looking down, he saw Little Joe grab the glass that was on the coffee table, and before he could snatch it from his little hands, the boy had taken a big gulp. Ben grabbed the glass quickly as Little Joe’s throat closed and he coughed and choked, trying to catch his breath. When he started crying, Ben picked him up patting his back.
“That was not for you, little boy,” Ben said with a laugh, shaking his head.
“Nasty!” cried Joe and laid his head on his fathers shoulder.
Adam started giggling and, in turn, so did Hoss. Not sure what his brothers were laughing at and not wanting to be left out, Little Joe started giggling uncontrollably. Before Ben realized it, he too was laughing along with his boys.
Setting Little Joe down, he watched the three of them wrestle on the living room floor, laughing. Ben picked up the brandy and the glasses before there where any other mishaps. Shaking his head, he continued to smile at his boys’ mischief. Ben looked over at the photo of Marie. The days are getting a little easier my love!
The next morning had been a quiet one. He had let Adam sleep in as he knew the boy needed it; his had fallen asleep with his history book in his hand. Ben also noticed Adam had cried himself to sleep and that broke Ben’s heart. He was getting ready to leave for an early morning meeting and wanted to return before lunch. He wanted to be there for his boys; he needed them as much as they needed him, especially now.
When he arrived home, he found Adam in his room with his nose in a book.
Adam had never heard his father coming into his room; catching him out of the corner of his eye, he looked up and smiled. “How’d the meeting go Pa?” he asked.
Ben returned the smile. “Just fine. How are you this morning?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Adam replied with a sigh, “I’m okay.”
Ben asked how studies were coming along and if he needed any help. Adam told his father he was further ahead than he originally anticipated but did have a few questions. Ben was answering Adam’s questions when Little Joe burst into the room, diving into his father’s arms, asking to go fishing, which Ben thought was an excellent idea. He suggested that they would pack a lunch and all go to the lake.
On the way to the lake, Little Joe asked if they could pick some flowers for Mama. Ben smiled. “Of course we can, sweetheart.”
Adam swallowed and asked with a tentative smile on his face, “Pa c…could I go visit for a minute by myself?”
Nodding, Ben smiled, giving Adam’s neck a reassuring squeeze. “I’ll wait with Hoss and Joe while you visit your mother.” He watched his son walk slowly over to her grave; he sucked in his breath and went to help the boys pick some flowers.
Sinking down on his knees, Adam ran his hand over the head stone. “Oh Ma, I miss you so much,” he said out loud as a tear slipped down his cheek. Why’d you have to leave us?
Shaking his head, he continued his conversation. “I guess you know about the trouble I’ve been in,” he said with a teary smile. “I…I don’t know what happened. Ma, I n…need your help.”
“You were always there for me! Oh Ma, I love you so much!” Adam put his head down and let the tears flow freely. Wiping his face with his sleeve, he smiled, “I promise, Ma, I’ll make you proud of me.” With his last statement, he got up as he heard his father and brothers coming over.
As Little Joe and Hoss ran over with their flowers in hand, Ben went over to Adam he asked, “Are you okay, son?”
“Yeah, I’m okay, Pa.” He smiled at his father and went to help Joe and Hoss with the flowers.
Ben noticed it was a genuine smile, when the boys where busy with the flowers, he looked sky wards and whispered, thank you Marie!
When Monday morning finally came Adam wanted to roll over and die. He did not want to go into town to re-sit the history test, but knew there was no way his father would let him stay home. Stalling as long as he dared, he made his way down stairs where Hoss, Joe and his father were already eating breakfast.
As Ben greeted his son, he noticed the downcast look on Adam’s face. Smiling, he said, “Good morning, son. I thought I was going to have to come get you.”
Adam mumbled a good morning to his father and sat down. Looking at the food, he sighed; eating was the last thing he wanted to do.
Noticing this, Ben spoke softly. “You need to eat something, Adam.”
“I don’t think I could get it down, Pa.”
“Are you nervous about today?” Ben asked knowingly.
After a long pause, Adam finally looked at his father and said, “W…what if I fail again?”
Ben reached over and giving his son’s arm a gentle squeeze. “You will do just fine. You studied very hard this weekend, Adam. Just do your best; that’s I ever ask for.”
Adam nodded. “Yes sir. I really don’t think I can eat anything, Pa. C…could I leave for town early?”
Ben agreed and told him he would meet them later, at the school, which Hoss attended and where Adam was to re-take the history test.
Arriving at school early, much to Hoss’ displeasure for he loathed school more than anything and could not understand why Adam spoke so highly of it. When the two went to stable their horses, Adam cringed when he heard Chad behind. Spinning around, he took a step towards his tormentor.
Mr. Davis stepped behind him. “Adam, inside now; you too, Hoss.” When Adam didn’t move, he stepped in front of him. “Go on now, both of you,” he said, giving the boys a hard look.
Looking up at Mr. Davis, Adam figured he better listen before he did something stupid. Which he has done a lot of lately, he thought to himself.
Adam had to take the test in a room set apart from the pupils in the school. The rest day progressed easily for him. Adam wasn’t sure what Mr. Davis said to Chad but it must have worked because the boy left him along the rest of the day.
Ben and Little Joe had picked up Hoss after school. He had a few words with the boys’ teacher and was pleased with the report, with the exception of this morning, but agreed with Mr. Davis in hoping the teacher’s threat of expulsion had ended Chad from antagonizing Adam. Ben and the younger boys then joined Adam, who had been waiting for them in the schoolyard. Ben noticed his son wore a worried look on his face.
Before Adam said anything, Ben smiled and said, “I’m sure you did just fine son.”
Adam ran his hand through his thick hair saying, “I hope so, Pa. If not, then I’ll never get into college.”
Ben’s heart skipped a beat; it was the first time since Marie died that he mentioned college and Ben could see the anticipation in his eyes.
“You will, Adam; you just have to believe,” said Ben as he winked at Adam.
Yes, my boy, you will; I know you will, Ben thought to himself as Little Joe rambled about his day to his brothers.
Adam had been in the barn, doing his chores along with Hoss and Joe, when he heard his teacher’s voice. Tensing, he thought, why was Mr. Davis here? Oh no! Immediately thinking the worst, he wanted to disappear; that was, until he heard his father calling his name. Putting his head down, he started towards the house to face his father and Mr. Davis.
Ben looked up when Adam walked into the house; the boy looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Smiling at him, he motioned for Adam to come over. “Adam, Mr. Davis has some news for you.”
When Mr. Davis looked at Adam, he could see the fear in his eyes and couldn’t hold off any longer. “Well, Adam, I have some very good news for you. You passed your test with flying colors and you have my recommendation for college.” He laughed out loud when he saw Adam’s eyes open up as large as saucers.
“Y…you, I…I mean…” Adam stopped when all he could do was stutter.
Mr. Davis got up and squeezed his shoulder. “Yes, Adam. A friend of mine, Professor Samuel Johnson, is retired from teaching but by recommendation still tutors some students to get them ready for college. And I have recommended you.”
Adam turned to his father with tears in his eyes but this time Ben could tell they were tears of joy, not sorrow, and pulled his son into his embrace.
Adam chocked out a thank you when his teacher shook his hand to congratulate him. “T…thank you Mr. Davis.”
“You are welcome, my boy; you’ll have a lot of work to do this year and next, but I know, and your father, knows you can do it.” Mr. Davis looked down and saw Little Joe peeking out from behind Adam’s legs. “And I’ll be looking forward to teaching this little guy next year.” When he playfully tweaked Little Joe’s nose, the little boy instantly put his arms up. When Adam picked him up, Joe pushed his face into Adam neck, making everyone laugh.
Laughing Ben said, “He’s not that shy once he gets to know you, believe me. Won’t you join us for dinner?”
“Thank you for the offer but I really must be going. I just wanted to give Adam the good news in person.”
After seeing his teacher out, Adam asked, “Pa, could I go for a ride? I just want to see Ma for awhile.”
“Of course you can; just don’t be too late or Hop Sing will go back to China,” Ben said and they both shared a chuckle.
Once he got to the lake, Adam sat down to tell Marie and excitedly told her his news, “I did it, Ma. I did it,” he said and continued to tell her all his plans.
“I’m going to go to college just like we talked about and you’ll be so proud of me, not that you weren’t proud of me no matter what. You were always there for me. Thanks, Ma, for not giving up on me. I love you.”
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Adam stood to head home. The sun was just setting and the colors of the sky cast a brilliant orange-red hue as it gave its way to the night.
Looking at the grave one more time before he turned Sport towards home, Adam finally felt a sense of peace that he hadn’t felt in a while. He knew even though Marie was no longer alive, she would always still be with him. Always!