Summary: A dispute between Joe and Adam is settled in an unusual way.
Word Count: 919
The batwing doors slammed back and a dark dusty cowboy with a mean look strode into the saloon. For a moment, about twenty men looked worried but relaxed when they realized that Adam only had his eyes focused on one green jacketed smiling young man who waved at him although hampered by hands fully occupied. One was wrapped tightly about a saloon girl on his lap and the other gripped a dripping mug of beer. Unwilling to risk the saloon girl leaving, he used the beer hand to wave. He didn’t get a wave back but rather a gesture that would have been far worse if he had not had a woman sitting on his lap.
“I just finished driving fifty head of cattle out of that muddy slog and up over a dozen hills and brushy ravines to get them to a safe pasture by myself. You rode right on by me and saw I was alone and didn’t stop to help! No, you went merrily on your way with nothing more than a look my way.”
“Nope, Pa said my day was done when I finished fixing that section of fence. You didn’t help me with that.”
Exasperated, Adam took off his hat and slammed it on the table. “Of course not because instead of finding twenty strays, I found fifty. I couldn’t help you because I was too busy to help anyone. I was doing the work of two or three men, and I was alone. They got through where that fence was down apparently, and it was all I could do to get them back where they belonged.”
“But you’re done now, right?. If I had known you needed help so badly, I would have sent someone to help you.”
Rolling his eyes, Adam dropped into an empty chair.
“Tell you what I will do, I’ll buy you a cold one.” Smiling his most charming smile at the saloon girl, Joe made his request. “Darling, could you please go get my grumpy older brother a tall cold one. He needs it.”
Slapping dust from his shirt, Adam couldn’t help sounding peevish as the saloon girl left to get the beer. “Why do you have to be so damn lazy?”
Leaning back in the chair, Joe smiled that smarmy smile he always had ready for his oldest brother. “Lazy is such an ugly word. I prefer to call it selective participation.”
Blowing his breath out forcefully, Adam didn’t say what he wanted to say because the saloon girl was back with his beer half of which he gratefully drank in one long gulp. He wasn’t going to say anything crude in front of this woman who had no responsibility for his brother’s failings. It wasn’t in his nature to be crude in front of a woman who had committed no offense.
“Now, older brother, I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling, and I know you won’t let me down.”
That nearly made Adam choke on the second swig of beer he took but he still wouldn’t say anything nasty in front of the young woman. He really was doing his best to act the gentleman though Joe was testing his limits. “You really have no idea what I’d like to do, do you?”
“Like to do or ought to do, now that is the question.”
Now that was almost funny. “I thought you didn’t like Shakespeare.”
“I don’t, but you do, and I’m being charming.”
Snorting, Adam was grateful none of the beer came out his nose when he heard that because it would have ruined the image of being tough but a gentleman, an image he sought to convey always. “You’re as charming as a snake oil salesman.”
“Now what is snake oil? It’s something that makes you feel good. I make you feel good, don’t I? I mean, you came in here looking meaner than a Mojave sidewinder, and now you’re relaxing and even thinking about smiling.”
“I am not thinking about smiling.”
Except Adam couldn’t help it with the look that Joe had as he leaned down and forward, looking up to study his brother’s mouth. Adam had to laugh even if it was at his brother and not in any true merriment. However that was enough to get Joe giggling.
“Oh, no, not that cackle. I’ll buy you a drink if you’ll stop.”
Immediately Joe sat up sober as a judge with his back as straight as a soldier on revue. “Yessir, Adam, sir. Ready for that drink now.”
“You are incorrigible.”
“I’ll assume that’s a compliment since I just offered to accept that drink you graciously offered to buy me.”
“Now why would I compliment you because I have to buy you a drink?”
“You know, I was wondering that too.”
Joe threatened to start that cackle again, but Adam held up his hands in surrender. By then, the saloon girl was back with the drinks. Adam tipped her generously enough that she decided she would sit on his lap for at least a few minutes. She decided he had a much more comfortable lap, and she didn’t have to constantly fend off his roaming hand so she stayed there. Gradually, Adam decided Joe’s plan wasn’t all that bad. She only got up when it was time for more beer.
Four hours later, two happy, slightly inebriated brothers arrived at home.