Summary: Adam finds that cheating yourself isn’t as bad as one might think.
Word Count: 1270
Suffering with a swollen ankle that wouldn’t fit in my boot for weeks, I was anxious to get out of the house and head to town on Friday night. I had managed to get my boot pulled on for two days and walk with only the slightest limp. I paid for that dearly each night, but I knew my father. If he saw me limping as much as I wanted to favor that sore ankle, he would badger me to rest more. Both of us knew that would only lead to more discord in the house. I’ve never been one to enjoy sitting around doing nothing, and unfortunately, I have a tendency to make those around me suffer with me. Most likely, my whole family was relieved when I finally was able to walk out that door and do some things for myself.
Nearly a month ago, Bill Martin at the mercantile had promised me that he had a shipment of new books coming in from New York publishers. That always meant books I had not read. I wanted to get there to buy one or more of those books before they were all snatched up by other customers who undoubtedly would not appreciate them nearly as much as I would. I had more than enough money to buy the whole lot of them if he still had them. I had been so busy and then forced by my injury to sit idle so I had my wages from last month and this month still in my pocket.
Despite my desire to ride swiftly to town, I had to accept my limitations and ride slowly watching my brothers’ backs as they joyfully rode away when I gave my permission for them to go ahead and have a beer before me. At that point, I regretted my decision to ride Sport and not take the carriage as my father had suggested.
When I got to town, I headed directly to the mercantile assuming my brothers were already busy at the saloon. There in the window, I saw one book. Sighing in disappointment, I entered the store and pointed at the book. It was a Jules Verne novel though, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, so my disappointment was gone. I was ready to pay when Bill told me that he had also gotten in a pearl handled Colt .45 Peacemaker exactly like Joe wanted and a breach-loading shotgun with fancy scrolling on the breach. It was fifty dollars for the pistol and sixty for the shotgun. I had asked him months earlier to keep me apprised of when he might get such items in the store because I planned to get them for my brothers for Christmas. Now here they were, and Bill said it was unlikely they would be in the store again anytime soon. I cheated myself, like I knew I would. I let my brothers buy me a beer later. It was the least they could do.
The pistol was in my saddlebags when I got home, but I the shotgun would have been too obvious. When I went for supplies a week later, it was unobtrusively stowed in with all the other supplies. Hop Sing raised an eyebrow when I brought it into the storeroom with the other supplies, but I simply asked him to hold it there as a favor to me. I usually stay up later than anyone else and retrieved it then to hide it in my room. I felt a mix of emotions when I did so because on that same trip I had hoped to buy that Verne book only to find that someone else had paid the premium price for it. There were no new books for me this fall. I had to console myself with rereading some of my favorites and hope that there would be another shipment before winter. In November, I gave Bill a substantial deposit should any new books arrive so that he would put a few away for me. I was getting that desperate.
In December, Sam Clemens sent me a collection of his essays, which had been published in newspapers. I had read some that had been syndicated, but it was quite pleasing to read them again and to have new ones to enjoy as well. I must have read each one a dozen times until every nuance and every double entendre had been exposed and some perhaps were only in my imagination.
The first snow arrived a week before Christmas and depressed me even as I appreciated the beauty of it. It meant being stranded for months possibly with no intellectual stimulation other than what my family or my imagination could provide. That had a tendency to make me a less than congenial companion although I would guess my family had more unattractive ways to describe that. I moped around as my brothers were excited and busy with decorating for Christmas and even my father seemed unusually joyous for the season. He insisted that I accompany my brothers when they made the excursion to select the Christmas tree and then had me help decorate it. I must admit, I did have some fun doing all of that especially when we had an impromptu snowball fight after toppling that pine. The smell of cookies baking as we decorated the tree helped as well. Then of course my own feelings of good cheer knowing how happy my brothers would be with their gifts finally took over, and I smiled with genuine warmth. When I suggested singing Christmas carols, I got everyone to smile too.
The Christmas party we hosted was quite fun with singing, dancing, and even a few kisses with comely ladies under the mistletoe hung strategically on the porch. By the time the guests departed with the lanterns swinging gaily on carriages or carried by men on horseback to light the way, I felt good about the season and put away any dire thoughts about the long winter without new books. I slept well on that Christmas Eve night and in the morning, carried my gifts to the tree with a feeling like no other. Presenting those gifts almost caused me more emotion than I could hide. Joe had tears in his eyes when he got that pistol and some leaked out when he thanked me. He couldn’t help it. He never can, but his tears nearly got me to do the same. Hoss was so thrilled with his gift, he hugged me and my ribs will tell you that it was a bear hug like no other. I had to remind him that I needed to breathe. He apologized then for hugging so hard, but told me he was so thankful for his gift.
Then I got my gift. It was a heavy square box and I had no idea what it was. When I opened it and saw that Verne book on top, I nearly stopped breathing again for a moment. I lifted it out reverently and underneath was a Dickens book and underneath that more books. There were six new books in total. I looked up to see my family with those grins that looked like the canary that ate the cat. My father simply said that I wasn’t the only one who could leave instructions with Bill. Hoss told me that what goes around, comes around. Joe just had tears in his eyes again. I couldn’t help it then. I got tears in my eyes too, and they heard it in my voice when I thanked them.