Summary: A task gone wrong leads to a discussion and a bet among the brothers.
Word Count: 1097
The day was gorgeous with that clean smell you get after a good rain. With all the dust washed away, everything looked bright and new again. Under an azure sky, Joe Cartwright sighed in pleasure. Then he looked at his older brothers and saw Hoss and Adam scowling.
“What’s wrong with you two?”
“Pa was talking with Shorty. Now he’s headin’ this way. Cain’t be good for us.”
It wasn’t. A creek in their southern pasture had a logjam causing a flood there. It was a Saturday and all the hands had been assigned tasks that would give them a short day as and an early start on a night in town. Ben Cartwright thought it best idea to assign his sons to remove the logjam.
“It shouldn’t take you more than eight hours. Hop Sing will have a hearty dinner for you then.”
Hoss spoke for all three as Adam said nothing and Joe wanted to object but needed a good reason. His mind was working on ways to get out of this task so he could go to town that night, but nothing he thought to say sounded good enough even to him. By the time their father was walking back to the house, Hoss was chuckling about Joe’s inability to come up with an excuse.
Hoss wasn’t chuckling six hours later though when an impatient Joe used his lasso to pull a section of the logjam free. Adam had determined that it would open up the center of the logjam and let most of the water flow out making it easier to remove the rest of the debris. It would have worked well, but did Joe backed up Cochise pulling the logs loose before Adam and Hoss could get off the pile of twisted debris. They both ended up tumbling into the water with cascading debris and were lucky not to be killed although both were injured. Hoss had been hit the hardest by some wood propelled by rushing waters but Adam was gashed by some broken branches into which he got tangled. When Hoss fought his way free of the rushing water, he pulled Adam out of the mess. As soon as Hoss determined that none of Adam’s injuries were serious, they worked together to rescue Joe from the water where he clung to some logs trying not to get swept away. Dismounting from Cochise, he had jumped in to help them but was unable to withstand the current of the water rushing through the newly created gap in the jam. When they got him to dry land and they knew he was safe though, Adam blasted him for not waiting until they were clear.
However Joe wasn’t about to accept that either. “You don’t have to yell. Pa will do plenty of that.”
Shaking his head, Adam smirked. “Oh Joe, Little Joe, give it a rest. We all know Pa likes you the best.”
Frowning at that response, Joe wanted an explanation. “What do you mean by that?”
Looking over at Hoss for affirmation, Adam gave him one. “He’ll see you looking like a drowned rat, and all thought of criticizing you will disappear. He probably won’t even notice we’re hurt. He’ll check to make sure we’re not dying and then focus on you.”
Looking at blood on the side of Adam’s face, and the torn shirt Hoss had with the nasty looking bruise on his shoulder showing through, Joe smirked.
“Yeah, that won’t happen when he sees you two. You’re bleeding enough that he’ll rush to you with a cloth and some liniment and who knows what else. Then he’ll be all over Hoss worrying about his shoulder and if it’s all right. He’s really gonna yell when he sees I’m not hurt because he’ll know whose fault it was before he even asks.”
“That Pa’s more concerned about you than us and doesn’t yell at you.”
Considering his brothers’ condition and what he had done, Joe thought he had a sure thing. “Bet!”
“Our chores for a month?”
“The bet is I do yours or you do mine? You’re on. I’ll take that bet and enjoy my month off.”
As they rode back, Adam switched places with Hoss so that his bloody face wouldn’t be quite so obvious to their father by keeping the worst side of it away from their father. That meant too that Hoss’ damaged shoulder would be away from their father when they rode up. Adam and Hoss were always good with silent communication. It was all done without saying a word so Joe had no idea what they were doing. Even when Hoss made a show of bringing out his handkerchief and blowing his nose. It didn’t take long for Adam to take the hint and begin wiping away at the blood caked on his cheek and chin. As they rode toward the house, Joe got somewhat worried about their reception. His earlier confidence waned at the prospect of actually facing their father and having to say what happened.
When they rode up to the house, Ben walked out and met them. He looked at Adam who smiled amiably as he sat very relaxed in the saddle. Then he took a look at Hoss who grinned back at him as if he had no cares in the world. The two looked a little worse for wear but seemed not to be hurting too much. Then Ben looked at Joe who sat very still and looked worried. Concerned about why he was unmoving and silent, Ben moved to his youngest.
“Joe, what happened? Are you all right?”
Hoss looked over at Adam and winked. He got a big grin with a dimple in return. They knew the bet might not hold up when Joe found out he had been set up and when their father found out the terms, but it was good fun anyway and would be as long as it lasted. Even if Joe didn’t have to do their chores, they could talk about this over and over with him knowing how he would sputter about it every time. Oh, yes, they were going to enjoy every minute of their revenge. It might even make their recovery from their injuries go better especially when Pa got out the liniment and began fussing and mollycoddling. Dang, how they hated that.