Summary: A sequel to Painful Truth with the same OCs, this short story is about sharing family stories and memories to pull members closer together by having a shared past.
Word Count: 3093
The whole time Jamie was telling him the story, Hoss had a little smile. Finally, Jamie had enough.
“First I have to put up with Adam acting like a teacher when he’s supposed to be the foreman of the building crew, and now I have to put up with you laughing about it.”
“I ain’t been laughing, Jamie.” Turning to Candy, Hoss did his best to look innocent. “Candy, I ain’t been laughing, have I?”
“Nope, I haven’t heard one laugh out of you, not even a hearty chuckle.”
“Now you’re both doing it. I don’t need you making fun of me. I’ve had a hard enough day as it is.”
“What’s been so hard about it?”
“It’s Adam and the way he has of answering a question, or rather, of not answering a question. I was supposed to help there today, but when I’d ask him something, he’d turn to Rand and ask him to answer. Then he’d lean on something and listen until Rand would look at him with that puppy dog look of his to see if he did good or Rand would ask him a question, and then finally mister smarty pants would answer.”
“Sounds about right, don’t it, Candy?”
“Yep, if I was running the crew, I guess I’d do it that way too because of all the new ones on it.”
“What are you two talking about and giving Jamie a hard time?” Joe had come up to the three and knew that Jamie was upset.
Hoss answered because Jamie was too upset to do so and Candy wasn’t about to get into a brothers’ issue. “He went to work with Adam today on the building crew, and Adam wouldn’t answer a question directly but sent him to Rand for the answer while he leaned there somewhere and listened to Rand answer.”
“Oh, boy, I remember those days. Used to bother me some too until I started using it myself with the greenhorns.”
“I’m no greenhorn.” Jamie was offended.
“No, Jamie, you’re not, but Rand and his brothers are, and so are the other young men in that crew Adam is training to do construction.” Hoss wanted to settle his younger brother down so they could take the time needed to explain things.
“What does that have to do with him not answering questions.”
“Joe, why don’t you give it a shot.”
“Now you’re doing it too.”
“Yup, you might say I am except Joe’s got purtier words is all.”
“Jamie, what Adam is doing is trying to help Rand and the others learn. One of the best ways to learn is to teach. When Rand had to answer your questions, he had to try to remember what Adam had told him, organize it in his head so he could explain it properly, and get it into words that he could use so it made sense to him and he could make sense to you.”
“Why would Adam want him to do all that?”
“When you try to do that, sometimes you find out, you can’t. Maybe you forgot one step of the process or didn’t really understand a part of it. So you try but you can’t do it at some step in the process. Then you have to go back to the source and tell him which part you don’t remember or don’t understand. You see, when you first hear it, you think you know it or understand it, but when you have to tell someone else about it, you find out maybe that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew.”
After thinking about that for a short time, Jamie smiled. “So it wasn’t about me. Adam was trying to teach Rand and I was there to help?”
“Yeah, that’s a good way to think about it.” Hoss liked that conclusion.
A little sheepishly, Jamie had an admission to make. “That’s pretty smart. I know when a teacher repeats something a bunch of times, you think you know it. You wish they would just shut up about it. But then when it comes to a test and you have to use it, sometimes you find out you didn’t really know it at all.”
Echoing that sentiment, Joe said about the same thing. “Yes, it sounds familiar when you hear it over and over, but that doesn’t mean it really sank in. I didn’t know that when I was younger. I used to resent Adam doing what he’s doing with Rand and with you, but it works.”
“Wow, Adam should have been a teacher.”
That got grins from Hoss and Joe which elicited questioning looks from Candy and Jamie. Hoss decided to explain.
“Adam did teach a couple of times. Nearly got him killed once.”
Candy smirked. “Now I know he can be a mite snarly, but what did he do to those kids that they almost killed him?”
“Nah, Candy, weren’t the kids. The kids were real happy with him. No, he stirred up some real trouble by digging into the history here and how some people got their land. It wasn’t always on the up-and-up, and some preferred it stay hidden what they did.”
“Somebody got so mad they wanted to kill Adam?”
“Yes, Jamie, not only wanted to but tried to. They had some men beat him up and when that didn’t stop him, shots were fired. They killed his witness to the killing that took place. The last surviving member of his tribe, and I’m pretty sure if we hadn’t been ready for it, Adam woulda been the next one killed. I was waiting for trouble. Too bad I couldn’t help that survivor of the massacre though. They got him right there on the steps of the schoolhouse.”
“I had no idea teaching school could be so exciting around here.” Candy whistled in appreciation.
However Jamie had a decidedly different reaction, and his brothers wondered why.
“Pa said the school board wants me to help out at the school in April. The teacher is going to visit her mother who’s sick. She wants to go as soon as the passes are open. I’m to finish out the school year for her. I know it’s only a few weeks, but what if I made somebody real mad?”
“Jest don’t go teaching any history units.” Hoss laughed but relented when he saw his brother’s worried look. “I’m just joshing you. It’ll be fine. By then all you got to do is finish up a few things, and half the boys will be gone anyway. The farm boys who are old enough will be helping with the planting. Happens every spring. You must remember that. Makes all the others so darn jealous.”
Snickering, Joe had to add a bit more. “Yeah, and if he really gets stuck, he can always call on Adam to fill in for him.”
“Yeah, Joe, maybe Missus Meyers could come help out too.”
Then the two of them started laughing hard and had to explain the whole fiasco with Abigail Meyers and how Joe’s scheme almost got Adam married to her.
“Almost married to whom?”
“Oh, howdy there, Chastity. I didn’t hear you coming. I thought you was in the house with my Georgia.”
“No, Hoss, I came out to tell you that Georgia isn’t feeling well again and would like you to help her up to your room. Meanwhile, who was it that Adam almost married?”
“Ah, that was a long time ago, ma’am. And it wasn’t nearly as like he was really gonna marry her. She asked him. He didn’t want to marry her. He only sang those love songs to her for Hank. Oh, Lordy, I better go help Georgia. I think I’m making this worse.”
Fixed with Chastity’s stare, Joe had to pick up the explanation where Hoss had left off. As soon as he mentioned that it was his plan, both Candy and Jamie grinned. Chastity had a difficult time holding back a smile too.
“So, you see, I asked Adam to sing love songs to Abigail except she couldn’t see him, and she would think Hank was singing to her. But Hank got scared off, and Abigail came down to find Adam singing, and well, she pretty much thought he wanted her so she thought they should get married.”
“Why didn’t Adam see Hank leave?”
“You know how he is when he gets singing.”
“Oh, I do.” Chastity smiled again. “So, Abigail wanted to marry him. Hmm, he’s had quite the history. He asked Laura to marry him. He and Ruth were supposed to get married except she went off with the Shoshone. Whenever Regina’s name gets brought up, he doesn’t want to talk about it, so I know that one hurt. Religion was an issue with Rebecca too. Sue Ellen was killed, but he’s not sure his relationship with her would have lasted anyway. Then there’s Anne and the adventure they had tracking down the man who impersonated him. The mystery of Isabella or Rosita still intrigues him, and he wonders if she was both of them. Now, how many others are there whom I still haven’t heard?”
“Well, there were Inger and Marie.” Adam had walked up behind her and wrapped an arm around her. “Curiosity can get you in trouble, sweetheart. You might find that you shouldn’t have married me.”
“Oh, no, I would never think that. I’m only curious trying to think of what name we could possibly use for a little girl if we have one because there seem to be a large number of them that would bring up a lot of stories and memories. We could use your stepmother’s names if you wish.”
“We can’t use Inger because Hoss and Georgia are already planning on using a variation of that when they have a girl.”
“Then we could use Marie if Joe doesn’t mind.” Chastity looked over at Joe who was grinning broadly but looking at Adam as if there was more to the story. Chastity turned to Adam. “Is there more to the stories and memories there that I should know?”
When Adam didn’t answer, Joe offered his version of the situation. “Adam and Marie didn’t see eye-to-eye on things. I wasn’t there, of course, but the stories have been passed down in the family. They’re legendary.”
“For being awful or for being funny?”
“A little of both but now mostly because they’re funny. Adam, tell the one about the Christmas tree. That’s one of the best ones.”
Rolling his eyes at his younger brother, Adam wanted to say no, but Chastity’s plea to tell the story and then Jamie adding his endorsement to her request made him relent. “I have to warn you though that the story isn’t as funny as Joe has led you to believe. After all, how funny could the life of a twelve-year-old be?” That didn’t release him from storytelling either so he decided to go with the spirit of the moment and told the story in dialogue doing all the voices.
“Adam, while we’re gone, please trim the tree.”
“Trim the tree?”
“Yes, trim the tree. I would like it to be perfect when we return. Little Eric is going with us so there will be no one to interfere with your work. I am sure you can trim the tree to make it the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.”
“Marie, I’ve never trimmed a Christmas tree before. Maybe I shouldn’t do it, and you and Pa can do it when you come back from Eagle Station.”
“Adam, don’t be silly. It’s true we haven’t trimmed a tree, but surely you’ve read enough and heard enough stories to know that people trim trees at Christmas. Now we’ll be back tomorrow. Please do as Marie has asked and have that tree trimmed and standing beside the fireplace ready for Christmas.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll do my best.”
So the next day, they returned to find Adam standing next to a perfectly shaped Christmas tree. All the excess branches had been cut away with ax, saw, and knife until the tree was a perfect symmetrical cone shape. Marie burst into tears.
“You mean boy. Why would you do this?”
“Adam, go to the barn. I’ll be out to deal with you directly.”
“But, I only did what you said to do.”
“Do not be impertinent with me. Go.”
Confused and upset too, Adam grabbed his coat and hat and left for the barn with Hoss hurt look the last thing he saw. Ben comforted his wife who once more felt her eldest stepson would never accept her.
“I’m sorry, Marie. I’ll make him apologize and get another tree which he will trim properly.”
“He already trim this one.” Hop Sing had come out and witnessed the confrontation utterly unable to understand the issue.
“He butchered this tree!” Ben wasn’t about to let his cook defend his wayward son.
“He only do what they do in lumber camp when they trim a tree. He ask me how to trim a tree. I say I not know and say do what he thinks trim is. He say loggers trim by cutting what is not needed.”
Suddenly Ben understood. Trim had two meanings and Adam had never had a decorated tree in the house. He had never heard the term trim the tree in the context of Christmas. That he had asked Hop Sing what it meant showed his confusion over the term. So he had done what he thought was expected. Turning toward the tree, Ben realized the work that he had done to make that tree such a perfect cone. It must have taken hours of work measuring and cutting. Turning to Marie, he began the explanation he knew she might have a difficult time accepting at first. Eventually, she looked at the tree in a new light.
“So, he did all of that for me?”
“Yes, he wanted to please you.”
Quiet for a short time, Marie had a request. “Let me be the one to go apologize to him and ask him to come to the house. I think he should get one of his gifts early too. What we planned to give him for his birthday should be a gift now too. We can get him another gift for his birthday.”
“Marie, that will be quite an extravagant Christmas for him.”
“It seems he needs to catch up on lost Christmases. Now, I need to go make things right with him.”
Stopping then, Adam didn’t elaborate on the scene in the barn. He had been asked to tell the story about the tree. The story about him and Marie was another topic and far more personal. Not yet aware of how volatile that situation had been, Chastity didn’t want to let it rest.
“Did she come out to the barn and make things right with you?”
The terse answer was enough of a clue that Adam wasn’t going to talk about that part, and everyone there knew him well enough by then to know that. It was time to change the subject, and Joe took charge of that.
“Adam, why don’t you and Chastity think about a name like hers? You know, you could use Faith, Hope, Charity, or any number of names like that.”
Smiling gently, Adam looked at his wife before answering. “No, you can only guess at the jibes a girl named Chastity had to take as a young girl and then as a young woman especially from the boys. I won’t subject a child of mine to that.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Teasing can be cruel.”
Looking over at Jamie, Adam had one more bit of advice. “When teaching, it’s one of those things you have to watch out for. Some students who are different can become targets. Those can be good opportunities for teaching for children from families where the parents haven’t taught their children to accept others.”
Jamie wasn’t so sure that advice was correct. “Is that right to do? I mean, should teachers be teaching children to do things their parents don’t like?”
“One of the reasons for setting up public education in this country was to give an immigrant population a common culture and a common history. If we all emphasize our differences, we will tear this country apart. We’ve seen how that can happen.”
“I get it. We’re not a country where everyone looks alike so we have to learn to accept differences as normal. That makes sense. I can do that.” Pausing briefly, Jamie was curious though. “Why is that so important to you?”
“When I was young, we traveled. I didn’t have a home or a mother. We were poor. Some thought that was reason enough to call names and treat us like we were inferior. Later, I saw how Hoss was treated because he was so big even when he was young. Then Joe was small and got the same kind of treatment. We all went through it. I’m guessing you had your share of it too. Children should be protected and cherished so this bullying should be curbed as much as we can.”
Clearly Adam felt strongly about the issue, and no one there disagreed with him. It was quiet until Chastity said she should get back to the house to see if Georgia needed anything from her. Hoss was there but she knew sometimes only a woman understood what a woman wanted. Adam moved to put his horse away and Candy left to go back to work. Joe looked at Jamie who looked back. Both had the same question. Only Joe was brave enough to ask it.
“Say, Adam, all this talk about children’s names, and then this concern about teaching children properly: you wouldn’t be trying to tell us something, would you?”
Not turning around, Adam kept brushing his horse and said nothing but did begin whistling. It wasn’t common to announce such news early in a pregnancy so both assumed that’s what it was.
“We won’t say anything, but congratulations, oldest brother. You’re going to be a great father.”
Waving at them without turning around, Adam had a different reason by then. He didn’t want them to see the tears in his eyes.