A Day in Town


Arien Undomiel


“I love my brothers, Lord knows. I would gladly die for those two but, honestly, there are times when I wouldn’t mind having been an only child. Just the thought of being able to sit down and not have to worry about those two, Joe especially, is something I can’t conceive of any longer. It’s gotten to be such an ingrained part of me that I don’t even know if it can be shut off.

Yes, I know. I’m supposed to be the oldest and, therefore, the most responsible of us. Do you know how tired I am of being seen as “responsible”? I would love to be able to shirk that once in a while. Just once I would like to have the opportunity to give in and pull a stunt worthy of Joe. Can you see me doing half the things he does? No, I didn’t think you could.

Hoss, God love him, is the easiest for me to get along with. Well, most of the time. We do have our moments but, for the most part, we spend our time trying to keep younger brother out of mischief. He rarely gets mad but, boy, watch out if he does. He doesn’t really care what people say about him, you know that. It’s what those people are saying about his family that will rile him up.

And Joe’s not a bad kid. He’s not. He’s just…irrepressible is the best word I can think of at the moment. There’s just no describing him, no really, you have to experience the “human tornado” that is Joseph Cartwright. I have never seen anyone who can go from being that happy to being ready for a brawl in the space of one breath. It absolutely astounds me.

I turn my back for one second and those two are tearing up the Bucket of Blood. All I wanted was to go into town and get a cold beer. Is that too much to ask? Most would say no. Apparently, it is too much to ask of my younger siblings. I’ve had a hard week, not that they haven’t but that’s beside the point. I just wanted to sit and enjoy my drink. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. Seemed reasonable at the time. To the gods, however, this must have been an impossibility to grant.

It never occurred to me that they’d tear the place up like that. Really, it never crossed my mind. Some guy was making eyes at the saloon girl in Joe’s lap. I’m not sure what was said but it must have been something to get both of them worked up like that. I’m kind of sorry I missed it to tell the truth.

The next thing I clearly remember is seeing Joe ram some miner and knocking the guy off his feet. It was pretty spectacular; even I have to admit it. But the guy didn’t stay down long. He came up swinging. He knocked Joe into another table which did not sit well with the men playing poker at said table.

Yes, this is where Hoss comes in to this sad tale. He didn’t seem to think that it was fair odds to have that many people trying to maim a seventeen year old kid. He picked up the miner that started all of it and hurled him in my direction. I didn’t appreciate that either. Not only did my beer get spilled but that’s how I wound up with a black eye and a concussion.

No, I didn’t try to get into the middle of it. He’s always saying he’s not a kid any longer. I thought it was time he dealt with things like an adult. I know, I should have helped out but maybe he learned a lesson in all of this. I’m not sure what he learned. I did learn that I need to work on my ducking skills.

All I remember after that is waking up on the floor of the bar with Joe and Hoss looking down at me. As if I wanted to be there on purpose. What, did they really think I like sleeping on floors? I have to admit they both looked properly concerned and chastised. It’s a very odd look for them,” Adam finished his diatribe. He could feel himself getting all worked up over the whole situation again.

“And, all of this--” Ben started and ended up in a stunned silence at the “adventure” that had taken place in Virginia City. All he had done was ask his sons to go into town to get supplies for the week.

“Yes, it all happened in an hour. Sixty minutes. Amazing what those brothers of mine can do in such a small amount of time. Like I said, I love those two and would die for them. But I think that, while I’m laid up, I’ll be thinking of ways to get my revenge on those two. It’s only fair after all.”

“Adam, I don’t want any roughhousing around here. You remember what happened with that bullfighting scheme those two brothers of yours came up with,” Ben warned, briefly wondering what it would be like to have raised girls. Surely they couldn’t have caused this kind of trouble.

“Now Pa, would I really do something like that?” Adam asked, not saying that he wouldn’t get back at his brothers but leaving the impression nonetheless. If there was one thing he’d learned it was the art of evasion. Not surprisingly, Joe was a master.

“No, no I don’t suppose you would,” Ben stated, knowing that Adam rarely joined in the roughhousing. For which he was thankful as he didn’t’ think the house would survive if all three were wrestling in the living room.

For the next few days, peace reigned on the Ponderosa. The retaliation that Ben had still half suspected hadn’t been realized. Joe and Hoss, in a show of making amends, had been most solicitous to their brother. Adam, realizing that guilt was at the root of their sudden kindness, used it to his full advantage.

Just as all were beginning to relax, Adam found himself having another late night “discussion” with his father.

“Well, it seemed like a brilliant plan of revenge at the time. After those two brothers of mine caused such a ruckus in town, it seemed only fair that I should get my revenge on them. All I wanted was a beer and to sit in peace and quiet. Did I get that? No, I did not. What I did get was a black eye and a concussion. All thanks to those loving younger siblings.

I kept thinking that there had to be something that could be done to teach them a hard lesson. Just as I learned to work on ducking. Yes, I know. It sounds childish now but, at the time, it just sounded really funny. Oh, I decided to take a lesson from younger brother, Joseph. I mean, if you can’t rise above them you may as well stoop to their level.

No, I didn’t think that it would wind up the way it did. If I had thought that I certainly wouldn’t have done it, now would I?

See, it all came to me while I was cleaning my gun. For the love of—no, I wasn’t going to shoot them! Now that you mention it, it does have a certain allure, don’t you agree? I’m joking! I wouldn’t ever harm them, permanently anyway.

I’m getting sidetracked. Some of Joe’s habits must be wearing off on me and not the good ones either. I can’t explain it—I just choose to blame it on the concussion. Addled my thinking. Think they’ll buy it?

It just sounded funny to give Joe’s floor a really good waxing after he went to bed. I guess I shouldn’t have given it that extra coat. I didn’t realize a person could get that high off the ground from slipping. It looked pretty darn funny too. That is until he started screaming because he’d dislocated his left knee. The humor went out pretty fast after that. I think the “concerned and chastised” look must look pretty odd on my face, too.

I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to nearly give you a heart attack. I just had forgotten how loud he could yell. Now, Joe’s got a limp, Hoss isn’t speaking to me, and I have to do his chores! Where’s the justice in that, I ask you? Sorry, stupid question wasn’t it,” Adam asked his father.

“Yes, that would be fairly stupid. Honestly, I thought you, of all people, wouldn’t let something like that brawl get to you! I’m just glad the only problem with Hoss is that he’s not talking to you. I can’t have two of my sons unable to work. I trust you boys to help me. I can’t do it all on my own any more,” Ben stated, laying the guilt on pretty heavily. He just hoped it wasn’t too much.

Before Ben could continue, an outraged bellow sounded from upstairs.

“Adam! I’m going to get you for this,” exclaimed Hoss’ disembodied voice.

“Uh, I guess he found my ‘present’ that I left for him. Well, I guess I’d better get to work,” Adam said in a rush. Grabbing his hat and gun belt, he made an uncharacteristically hasty exit.

Thudding footsteps sounded on the stairs.

“Where is he? I’m going to pound him good for this one,” Hoss threatened. He noted that his brother’s hat and gun were missing and knew Adam had left. Barely acknowledging his father, Hoss grabbed his gear and went in search of his oldest brother.

In the quiet that ensued, Ben reflected on the events of the past week. He could only come up with one conclusion: his sons had lost their minds and were trying to take him with them.