Summary: A prequel, this story has twenty-four year old Adam bringing home eighteen-year old Hoss after a Saturday night in town when the large brother has consumed too many beers.
Word Count: 1131
It had been a major task getting Hoss into the saddle and then keeping him there for the ride home. If Adam thought that was difficult, it was because he hadn’t considered the problems he would have getting him down from that horse safely and keeping him in one place while he took care of the saddles and the horses. Next up, he had to get him across the yard to the house without letting him fall. Finally he had him on the porch and settled him in a chair and pulled off his boots. That’s when a new problem arose. Hoss was getting sober enough to want to talk. On the ride home, he had been quiet.
“Adam, now why’d ya take ma boots? They’re a mite big for ya.”
Hoss had chuckled loudly then, and Adam told him that they had to be quiet so they wouldn’t wake their father. Then he explained that they were going to go into the house in their stocking feet so they would be quieter. He talked about how their father would be so unhappy with Hoss if he found him in that condition.
“Right! You’re so smart, Adam. I wish I was smart as you.”
“If I was so smart, I would have watched you closer tonight. Now, let’s get you up and into the house.”
Struggling to keep eighteen-year-old Hoss upright once he got him standing again, Adam had him lean against the wall when they got as far as the front door and managed to get it open. Then he pulled his large brother into a standing position so he could propel him slowly into the house and toward the kitchen. Thinking better of that and not wanting to wake Hop Sing, he pulled a chair out and had Hoss sit at the dining room table.
“Stay here and don’t make a sound. I’m going to see if there’s any coffee left.”
“I’d rather have another beer.”
“You’ve had more than enough beer tonight already. You’re lucky you didn’t fall off your horse on the way home. Now sit here and let me get you some coffee.” Adam moved into the kitchen as quietly as he could and hoped not to wake Hop Sing.
“I only had ten beers, Adam. Hey, Adam, why didn’t you drink any beers?”
Stepping back into the dining area, Adam shushed his brother. “You have to be quiet so we don’t wake Pa. He won’t like it if he finds out you drank that much beer. And I did have one beer.”
Bending low and whispering then, Hoss looked around as if he expected their father to be lurking close by. “Did you only drink one ’cause you was playing poker?”
“Yes. I needed my wits about me.”
Grabbing Adam’s arm and pulling him down close for an even softer whisper, Hoss looked worried. “Does Pa know ya plays poker when ya goes ta town?”
“Maybe, but we don’t need to talk about that, now do we? If you could be quiet, I’ll heat up the coffee.” Hoping Hoss would be quiet, Adam headed back into the kitchen. How he regretted not paying closer attention to his younger brother, but somehow he had thought that Hoss would know better than to keep drinking one beer after another. He’d never had beer before so Adam had no way to know he would like it so much.
“All right, Adam, I’ll do jest what you say. You was real nice ta take me wit ya ta town for Saturday night. Like Pa said, I’m old enough now ta go ta town wit the other hands as long as you’re there ta look out for me. I’ll jest sit here and be quiet. Yessiree, you kin count on me ta be quiet. Ya know that, dontcha? Hey, Adam, ya know I’ll be quiet for ya, dontcha?”
Exasperated, Adam leaned out the doorway. “Yes, I know that, but could you please stop talking before you wake Pa?”
“Oh, right, I’m supposed to be quiet. I bet talking ain’t what I’m ‘sposed ta be doing then. I’ll jest shut my mouth then. You kin count on me. Ya know that, dontcha, Adam? Adam, you still there?”
Looking more perturbed than earlier, Adam leaned out one more time. “Please stop talking.”
“Adam, those guys in that saloon could sure sing pretty, couldn’t they?”
Hoping it might be the last time he had to do it, he stepped out into the dining area. “No, not one of them could carry a tune in a bucket. Now the coffee’s almost hot. If you can please be quiet for one minute, I’ll bring you a cup or two or three.”
Adam left and Hoss frowned.
“I thought they sung real nice. ‘Twas funny too. I really liked that one line. Near laughed my head off when they sang it. How’d that go again? Oh, yeah, now I remember.” And Hoss sang it as well as he could and just as loud. “Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.”
Preoccupied with pouring cups of coffee, Adam hadn’t anticipated that, but he did anticipate the next line he heard and nearly dropped the pot of coffee.
“Jumping Jehosophat, it’s three in the morning. What in tarnation is going on down there?”
In the kitchen, Adam considered his options. He knew there was no way for him to successfully explain this away because no matter what he said, Hoss was going to keep talking to help him tell the story. He could go back to the stable, saddle up Sport again and ride to town. He guessed if he stayed about a week or so, his father’s temper might have cooled down some, but then he’d have a whole new set of grievances with all the work he would have missed. Drinking a cup of the coffee, he wished he had had more than one beer. Then he would be able to nod and say ‘Yessir’ as if he meant it. Now he knew he would likely look as resentful as he was likely to feel, would probably let loose a few dramatic sighs, and have to deal with recriminations for the foreseeable future. He hoped Little Joe would be easier to manage, but remembered some of the stunts the youngster had already pulled. He groaned and then groaned louder as he heard Hoss talking or rather whispering rather loudly.
“Shh, Pa, don’t say nothing about that, huh, ’cause Adam don’t want nobody ta know. It’s a secret.”