Summary: Wisdom has different faces. So has solace. Especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the lake.
Word Count: 1300
For Lars, who taught me all about love when he was six.
“When God is watching us, do he see us like ants, Adam?”
Joe. Lying in the warm meadow near the lake, arms stretched out to the sides, wide as if he wanted to embrace the world—no, not the world, but the sky he was looking up to.
Why was it always he who had to answer these questions? Adam stifled a snort. Because he was the only one here to answer questions. With Pa God knows where, trying “to clear his mind” and coming to terms with his grief, Adam was in charge. In charge of the ranch—he could do that. Had done ranch work as long as he could remember, well, nearly. In charge of the contracts—he could do that, too. Had helped Pa with this for the last couple of years; had been better even than Pa with calculating and planning, at least at times. In charge of the household—he could even do that; and there was Hop Sing, thanks heaven. In charge of his brothers—most of the time he was good at that, too. Made sure they ate properly, put on relatively clean clothes every day, went to school, did their chores. Tucked them in every night, read bedtime stories, joked with Hoss, cuddled with Joe—yes, Adam could cuddle if he put some effort in it, and secretly he had to admit it wasn’t too bad. He got up night after night, rousing Joe from his nightmares, holding him tight, whispering soothing words, and telling him he wasn’t alone. And every time Adam went back to bed he felt he hadn’t done enough, couldn’t do enough, couldn’t be enough. He just wasn’t Pa.
But Pa had to clear his mind.
“Adam, when God is so high above, do he see us as small as ants or even smaller?”
Of course, Joe wouldn’t let this go. Adam was surprised, though, that for the first time in weeks “above” and “God” came without the mentioning of Marie, of Ma. Maybe, just maybe, Joe was starting to heal even without Pa.
Adam sat next to Joe and tickled his little brother’s belly. “Well, buddy, I think God sees us very clearly. He hasn’t got human eyes, he can see everything.”
Joe squinted in the sunlight and turned to his big, all knowing brother. “What’ya mean with everything, Adam?”
“God not only sees how we look, he sees what’s inside of us, too.” Another soft tickle, and Joe snickered and pushed at Adam’s hand.
The little boy sat up. He crossed his arms and frowned at Adam, clearly puzzled. “Why would God want to see all the blood and bones in us, Adam?”
Adam chuckled. “No, you got that wrong. He doesn’t look at our intestines, he looks inside of our minds. He sees what we’re thinking…” a feather light finger tip on Joe’s forehead, then one on his chest, “…and what we’re feeling.”
“Oh.” The small face was a display of wonder. “Like…?”
Adam smiled. “Like…when people love each other. I think he particularly likes to see that.”
Joe stood as quickly as only a child can get up. He threw himself at Adam, arms around his big brother’s neck, buried his face in the broad chest that had given him shelter in oh so many nights and squeezed Adam as hard as he could.
“I bet God was mighty happy that he could see how I loved you so very much right now.” Joe, still breathless, was glowing when he eventually released Adam.
Seventeen year old men usually didn’t cry like little boys. And so Adam choked back the knot in his throat, blinked away the tears that were threatening to fall and croaked, “I’m sure he was, little buddy, I’m sure he was.”
Joe lay down in the grass, gazing up to the sky again, his arms moving up and down in a wide circle, with his hands meeting above his head, where he clutched them for a moment, released and let them trail back down. Their conversation wasn’t over yet, Adam could literally see Joe’s mind working, his restless movements telling that there was something he was trying to put together, but—
“Adam, is that what Reverent Oldman meaned when he recy—, resee—, when he said that bible word? Y’know, that one with love?”
Adam tried to remember today’s sermon. He had listened, or at least tried to listen—but he had been tired. He always was tired since Pa had been gone to clear his mind. Doing the work of a grown man, of two grown men actually, inevitably led to being exhausted. He had been tired, the church had been hot, the pew had felt more comfortable than it ever had, Rev. Oldman’s voice had been monotonous and lulling and, he shamefully had to admit, at some point Adam had drifted in and out of sleep until Hoss had poked him an elbow in his ribs. He did remember the beginning words of the sermon, though.
“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him,” he recited. “Is that what you mean, Joe?”
Joe sat up again and nodded eagerly. “Yes, that’s it. God is love….When God is love, Adam, and I love you, then, then…I ain’t God, but…what?”
“Of course, you aren’t God.” Adam reached out for his little brother and pulled the boy into his lap. He pressed him to his chest, ruffled Joe’s unruly locks even more and buried his face in the blonde curls. “The love is God, Joe. What you feel, and what I feel now, that’s God. That’s how God is in you and in me.” It wasn’t much more than a whisper.
Joe was unusual quiet. Leaning his head at Adam’s chest, he breathed evenly in and out, and just when Adam thought Joe had fallen asleep, he wriggled around on his brother’s lap and, once again, embraced him.
“Then I give you a portion of God now, and you give a portion to me.”
Adam squeezed Joe, and breathed, “That’s right, little buddy.”
“But I get more from you, Adam, than you from me. ‘Cause you’re bigger and there’s more in you.” Joe sounded very satisfied. For once being the smallest seemed to pay out.
Adam was torn between laughing and crying. He planted a kiss on the top of his little brother’s head. “No, buddy, I receive just as much as I give, if not more.”
Joe gave him a conspiratorial grin and leaned back on Adam’s chest, sighing contently. Adam leaned his chin on Joe’s head, and, looking to the sky, prayed silently, “Pa, why don’t you just come back and let Joe help you clear your mind?”
They stayed like that until it was time to get home. They rode side by side in a sedate pace until they turned into the road leading straight to the Ponderosa and they saw the buckskin horse tied to the hitching rail next to the house.
They had never made this last half mile faster. A very great portion of God, as Joe would surely put it, seemed to have given them wings.
Love life and life will love you back. Love people and they will love you back. Arthur Rubinstein
A/N: Thank you, Sklamb, for the excellent beta.