I Was This Close

"I was this close," Joe Cartwright muttered as he knelt down on one knee to the wooden sidewalk and picked up one of the pieces of what used to be his brother Adam's prize ruby.

"What was that, son?" his father asked as he knelt down in a similar pose beside him.

"Oh, nothing, Pa."

"And what was that about a 'cinch bet'?"

"You know I don't bet, Pa."

"Of course you don't. Simply wondering WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND HERE?"

Joe winced as his father shouted. When his father shouted, the whole town could hear him, even over the noise further up the street during the Founders' Day celebration.

It wasn't simply the shouting that made Joe wince. It was knowing that he would have to explain much more than how his brother's prize ruby ended up in a million pieces on the sidewalk, where stagecoach passengers were disembarking at this very moment.

Before he could thing of a good story to get him out of more trouble than he'd gotten himself out of the day before, a pretty blonde stepped off, right ahead of his brother.

The same brother who would require more than the good story he was hatching for his father to get himself out of more trouble than he'd gotten himself out of the day before.