Topic #61: The Devil's In The Details
|Change of Heart by: Dee
||Please Be Seated by: Jo
|Fine Print by: Cindy
||Details, Shmetails by: Dede
|Nappy Time by: Lori
||Idle Hands by: Raye
Bill Tompkins tapped his pen against his head. He was deep in thought over the details for his daughter’s homecoming party. He could clearly hear his wife Sally’s voice in his mind telling him, “The devil is in the details, Bill.” She’d then tell him to make his list and wouldn’t let him alone until he had a complete list of the things he needed to do. Especially if it was something important to him, and Jenny’s party was very important to him.
Jenny was coming back after being gone almost a year. She was due in on the morning stage and he wanted things to be just right. He’d made so many mistakes when she and Sally had returned last year and wanted to make up for it. He looked down at the list, almost everything was done. Alice at the restaurant was cooking up a fine dinner. Rachel had agreed to decorate the restaurant for him, even after he’d treated her so bad at times. And Louise had made two beautiful dresses for Jenny to choose from. No one could have ever guessed the young woman could sew so fine, but she’d had a talent and since the Express had ended she’d set up shop sewing for the ladies of Rock Creek. Only two things were left and they were going to be the hardest for him and that was why he’d put them off.
He had to apologize and prayed that Buck would forgive him. Jenny had mentioned or asked about him in every letter she had sent. Tompkins knew she would want Buck to be at the party. But he also needed Buck’s help. Jenny loved her little brother and he knew that Buck would probably be the only one to know where to find the young boy.
Taking a deep breath he walked into the back room of the store calling for Andy, the boy who’d been helping him the last few weeks.
“Yes, sir,” Andy said looking up from the job he’d been doing.
“I’m going over to the marshal’s office for a bit. Keep an eye on the store and take care of the customers,” Tompkins ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Andy replied enthusiastically as he followed Tompkins back into the store.
“I’ll be back shortly,” Tompkins said as he left the store. Along the way he tried to figure the best way to ask for the help he needed.
Reaching the marshal’s office he spotted Teaspoon with his feet propped on the desk and his hat pulled down over his eyes.
Sitting up Teaspoon pushed his hat back saying, “What can I do for you, Bill?”
“Umm….Buck wouldn’t be around would he?” Tompkins asked hesitantly.
Teaspoon stood up and walked around his desk to stand in front of Tompkins. “What do you want with Buck?”
“Now that’s between me and him,” Tompkins replied defensively. Looking down at his feet and then back up at Teaspoon he added in a kinder tone, “Teaspoon, I just want to talk to the bo....him for a minute.”
“Teaspoon, Rachel said to,” Buck paused when he spotted Tompkins, wondering what kind of trouble was going on now. “Uh….tell you lunch was about ready and by the time you get closed up she’d have it on the table.”
“Tompkins here was just asking for you,” Teaspoon said pointing at the storekeeper.
Buck looked at Tompkins, his defenses going up immediately since usually the storekeeper had no use for him. He wondered just what the man could want. “What do you want?” Buck’s tone wasn’t hostile just leery.
“I…um…that is….Jenny’s coming back and I wanted to throw her a welcome home party. I figured she might like the youngster to be there. I thought you might know where to find the boy’s village and get them to let him come for a few days so they could visit.” Tompkins couldn’t meet Buck’s eyes at he asked, “Would you help me out?”
“I can’t,” Buck replied flatly.
“Now look I don’t want to cause any trouble. Jenny seemed quite attached to the boy and I figured she’d want him here is all.”
“Buck said….” Teaspoon start but Buck cut him off.
“I’d help you if I could….for Jenny but the village moved on for the summer to the gathering. It’s up in Dakota Territory.”
Tompkins hung his head and turned to leave. He turned back when he reached the door and looked back at Buck. “I was wrong. Jenny’s taught me that. I treated you badly. I don’t expect you to forgive me but I honestly can say that my family wouldn’t have made it if that chief hadn’t taken them in. They’d probably of starved out on the prairie if he hadn’t. I’m sure Jenny would like to see you. She’s asked about you in her letters. I just don’t want her hurt. I hope you understand that.” Tompkins took a deep breath then added gruffly, “Teaspoon, she might like to see what’s left of your bunch, too. So you’re all invited.” He turned and left then not even pausing to see if they accepted his apology or invitation.
“Think he meant what he said?” Buck asked as they watched the storekeeper hurry down the street.
“A man don’t usually eat that much crow unless he does. Looks like he even gave you permission to court that pretty daughter of his. You gonna do it?” Teaspoon asked grinning.
“I might,” Buck said with a smile as they left the office and headed over to Rachel’s for lunch.
The boys were just finishing up their breakfast when Teaspoon entered the bunkhouse with a look on his face that could only mean one thing. He had something for them to do that they were going to hate doing.
“Good morning boys and ladies…” He said jovially, tipping an imaginary hat to Rachel and Lou. The boys all groaned. “Today I have a special job for you…..As you know the church is having a town picnic after services on Sunday and some of the tables didn’t winter very well. They need three new ones built. Mr. Tompkins very generously donated some of the wood….Wipe that scowl off your face Buck, given the right incentive he can be a generous man. Would you like a drink of water Cody? That cough sounds bad…..As I was sayin’, they need the tables built for Sunday and seein’ as how today is Friday I volunteered my boys!” Teaspoon stood at the head of the table with his thumbs tucked under his suspenders and a tentative smile on his face.
“When do we start, Teaspoon?” Kid asked with a sigh.
“As soon as the wood is delivered to the church, which should be happenin’ right about now, I think” Teaspoon grinned and winked at Rachel. “Now why don’t y’all finish up here and head on over there. Ike, Buck, you look done, come with me to get the tools and nails…I saw that Ike. The only one with any excuses is Noah he’s got a run today and no one is changing, UNDERSTAND?”
There was a chorus of grunts that Teaspoon decided were agreeable so he tipped the imaginary hat again, smiled and left the bunkhouse followed by a reluctant Buck and Ike.
Noah patted his lips with his napkin, smiled and said “Enjoy yourselves boys and, er, try not to hurt each other!” Laughing he picked up his gear and prepared for his ride.
An hour later all the boys had assembled behind the church looking at a pile of lumber that had obviously been sitting outside for awhile and the plans the Padre had given them for the tables. “Looks simple enough….” Kid said, handing the directions over to Buck who looked at them briefly.
Buck nodded. “If we work in teams we should be able to build all three tables today and still have tomorrow free, unless Teaspoon comes up with something else…..”
“That’s a great idea Buck; we only have three saws anyway….” Kid laughed.
“Hey! who put you two in charge? What if I want to do this a different way?” Jimmy grumbled looking at the plans with trepidation.
“Ok what do you want to do?” Kid asked with a smile.
Jimmy thought for a moment and looked at his fellow riders. “Um, Buck, you and Ike work together and er, Kid, I guess you and Lou will work together.” The look Lou had shot him looked like she’d chew him up and spit him out if he didn’t pair her with Kid. “Cody I guess that leaves you and me….here’s the plans start measuring!” Jimmy winced as he shoved the plans in Cody’s hands.
“HEY, no fair!” Cody grumbled but looked over the plans anyway before handing them to Ike.
Buck, Ike, Lou and Kid all checked the plans, pulled out the boards they’d need and proceeded to build the tables according to the plans and the drawings they’d been given. Lou tacked the plans up on the church wall so they could all check them as they worked.
Jimmy and Cody watched the other for a few moments, looked over at the wood and decided that the left over boards were already close enough in size so they only made one cut. The others didn’t pay any attention to the pair as they worked on their own tables during the morning hours. Rachel brought over lunch and finally they all stopped and looked around. Ike and Buck had the table part done and were working on the benches. Kid and Lou had made the benches first and were just starting on the table. Cody and Jimmy had three piles of wood of varying lengths and three boards nailed together that didn’t look like any part of the plans.
“What’s that?” Rachel asked innocently looking from the others’ more completed work to the pile that belonged to Jimmy and Cody.
“That’s mine and Jimmy’s, I know it don’t look like much but we’re almost done!” Cody said proudly. Rachel nodded politely, Ike sneezed, and Lou coughed. Buck and Kid exchanged looks; both had raised an eyebrow and rolled their eyes.
After lunch Ike, Buck, Lou and Kid all went back to their projects and began working right away. Jimmy and Cody decided to take a nap. “Just digestin’” Cody had explained when Ike questioned them. Ike shook his head and walked away.
The time passed quickly and Buck’s stomach grumbled as they were just putting the last nails into their table and benches. “I think we’re done Ike, looks good….what do you think?”
“I think you’ve done an outstanding job!” Teaspoon boomed as he rounded the corner of the church, causing the riders to jump. He looked over the two completed picnic tables and benches with nodding approval. “Um, what may I ask, is this?” he stood looking at what Jimmy and Cody had put together.
“This here is the one me and Cody made. I guess our plans were different from theirs.” Jimmy said scratching his head. The creation was sort of similar to the other two, there were eight boards nailed together, all even lengths on one end but varying lengths on the other end, all supported on uneven legs, making a table, sort of. The benches, which were supposed to be attached, were nothing more than a long board with two shorter boards nailed at the ends for legs. Teaspoon looked at it skeptically then smiled.
“I see, may I see the plans and the drawings?” Ike handed the only set of plans over to Teaspoon. “Ok, why don’t we all have a seat? No Cody, you sit on the one you made. I think I’ll have a seat on this one.” Each team sat at their respective tables. Teaspoon sat at the closest one which was the one Ike and Buck had made. “Good solid work boys.” Teaspoon rose walked to Kid and Lou’s and sat there. “Solid as a…..”
CRACK!!! CRACK!!! CRUNCH!! Teaspoon was interrupted by the collapse of the two benches holding Cody and Jimmy. The two riders were dumped unceremoniously on their backsides as the legs of the benches folded and the table soon followed as Cody tried to use it to pick himself up.
“I, ah, only see one set of directions here boys…..Seems you’ve missed a few things…” Teaspoon smiled at the riders.
“So I skipped the silly details, they’re only there for show anyway….” Cody whined.
“The Devil is in the details boys. Now, tomorrow while the others enjoy a day of play, you’ll be building another table and doing it the right way. Maybe you can get Rachel to help you…..” Teaspoon laughed. “Come on boys dinner’s awaitin’”
“I’m in love.”
Cody walked into the bunkhouse with those words and settled onto a bench by the table, a dreamy expression on his face.
Lou looked up from writing in her journal. “Again?”
“How many times is that?” Jimmy asked. He swatted Cody with the back of his hand as he got up and went over to close the door, something the blond rider had neglected to do. For his effort he was rewarded by a smack in the face by the wind and rain the others had been avoiding by staying inside.
“Third time this week,” Buck muttered, looking up from the book he was reading on his bunk.
Jimmy and Lou laughed, but Cody just shook his head. “Go ahead and laugh,” he said. “I know I’ve said that before, but this time it’s for real.”
“You’ve said that before too,” Jimmy pointed out. He sat down again, as far from the puddles forming around Cody as possible.
Cody shed his jacket, letting it drop into a damp heap on the floor. Then he tossed his hat to one side, sending a shower of droplets flying. “You just don’t understand.”
“I understand you’re getting everything wet,” Lou grumbled, pulling the journal out of the way. “Watch what you’re doing!”
Cody gave no indication that he heard. “You should have seen her,” he said, a dreamy quality to his voice. “Hair the color of sunshine, eyes bluer’n the bluest sky. And her smile . . .”
“And does she even know you exist?” Jimmy asked.
The smile on Cody’s face wavered momentarily. “’Course she does. Met her and her pa in town today.”
Lou sighed in resignation. “All right, so who is she?”
“Melody Martin.” Cody sighed, the smile back on his face. “Melody. Don’t that just sound beautiful?”
“Sure, Cody,” Buck replied wearily. He set the book aside, as if resigned to not getting back to reading until this tale was finished.
“I was in town,” Cody continued, oblivious to the discontent around him. “Figured I’d stop in at the saloon, have somethin’ to drink – specially since it was so wet an’ cold. So I was just sittin’ there drinkin’ my whis . . . ummmmm . . . . sarsaparilla, when I heard the stage come in.”
“Does that a couple of times a week,” Jimmy remarked.
“Well, figured I should see who might be comin’ to town,” Cody said. “Never know when there might be trouble,” he added importantly.
“Not like Sam couldn’t watch for himself,” Lou muttered.
“That’s when I seen her,” Cody continued. “Steppin’ down from that stage like a heavenly vision. Seen they had a bunch of bags, so I went to help. Only neighborly thing to do.”
Buck stifled a groan. “Of course.” Only Cody could make such a production of being neighborly . . .
“Gentleman said his name was Jacob Martin, businessman from Chicago. And then he introduced Melody.” Cody held his right hand up, wiggling his fingers. “When she took my hand, it was like touching a piece of heaven.”
Jimmy feigned gagging, and Lou stifled a laugh. “So you got plans to see Miss Heaven again?”
“Oh, I’m gonna be seein’ a lot of her!”
“Got her tied up out in the barn” Jimmy asked.
Cody shot an angry glance in Jimmy’s direction before replying. “It just so happens that some people recognize quality when they see it. Mr. Martin’s an important man, and extremely smart. He offered me a job – executive assistant.”
“What?” The question seemed to echo in the room, voiced by the three other riders in unison.
“You already got a job,” Buck pointed out.
Lou followed that with a question. “You planning to quit the Express?”
Cody shook his head. “I ain’t quittin’ – just might need a bit o’ help ‘til things shake out.”
“Help?” Jimmy asked skeptically.
Cody nodded enthusiastically. “See, I was figurin’ if all of you . . .”
Buck sat up, shaking his head. “Cody, you already owe me for covering two rides for you, plus the three dollars you owe me from that last special run we did.”
“But . . .”
“I missed the last social because I wound up fixin’ the corral fence alone after you disappeared,” Jimmy pointed out. “Think you were in love that time too.”
“But . . .”
“An’ before that I wound up doin’ a double run ‘cause you weren’t here when you were supposed to be,” Lou added.
“Couldn’t help that one,” Cody muttered. “But this is different!”
“Different how?” Buck asked.
“But nothin’, Cody. You’re still tryin’ to get out of work,” Jimmy added.
“This is different!” Cody insisted. “I’d be an executive assistant to a real important man. He’s plannin’ to do lots of stuff in Sweetwater.” He paused, then tried a new tactic. “Might be able to get you all in on something’ big too.”
“I’ve got enough work here,” Buck replied.
“This Mr. Martin, he actually said ‘executive’ assistant?” Lou asked.
“Well he just said assistant,” Cody admitted. “But I knew what he meant!”
“And he just offered this job to you?” Jimmy asked.
Cody shook his head. “Since I’d already been so much help, he asked if I could tell him where the newspaper office was, so’s he could get some flyers printed up sayin’ he was lookin’ for help. Well, I told him he didn’t have to look no farther, ‘cuz I was his man.”
“So what exactly is this Martin fella planning to do?” Buck asked.
For the first time, Cody faltered. “Well, we didn’t get to all the details.”
“But you still figured you were the man, even without knowing what it was?” Jimmy asked with a shake of his head.
“He had a list, ready for the printer,” Cody said, reaching inside his shirt. “I got it right here, so’s it would stay dry. An’ the printer didn’t need it, since I was already hired.”
Buck rolled off his bunk and went to the table. “Let’s see,” he said, taking the list as he sat down. He unfolded the paper, and within a few seconds a smirk appeared on his face. “Sounds just like you, Cody.”
“What?” Jimmy asked quickly, sneaking a glance at Cody’s wary look.
Buck just grinned as he started to read. “Dig a latrine, build a corral, clear the fields . . .”
Lou had come to stand behind Buck, and she read over his shoulder. “Clean out and repair old barn, muck stalls after stock is delivered . . .”
Buck continued. “Make repairs to old farm house, paint house and fence . . .”
Jimmy couldn’t contain it any longer and he laughed. “Sounds real executive.”
Cody had a shocked look on his face, and now he reached over and grabbed the paper from Buck’s hand. “Maybe it’s the wrong list,” he mumbled.
“No, it says it’s the list of duties for the worker to be hired,” Buck said, barely holding in the laughter.
The expression on Cody’s face changed rapidly from wary hopefulness to shock to downright desperation as he looked at the list.
“Cody, didn’t you read it before?” Lou asked.
Cody just shook his head. “Can’t be right,” he muttered. “He said assistant . . .”
“Sure he didn’t just say he needed assistance?” Buck asked.
Any answer Cody might have provided was cut off by a bellow coming from the yard.
Cody gulped, his face going pale. “Teaspoon,” he whispered. “I forgot . . .”
The door opened and Teaspoon stomped in. “Cody, seen your horse in the barn. Where’s that package you was supposed to pick up at the freight station?”
The power of speech seemed to be deserting the blond rider. “Well . . . ummmmm . . . I mean . . . uh . . .”
“Cody got a little side-tracked,” Lou offered.
“Yeah, got himself another job,” Jimmy added.
Teaspoon just stared at Cody. “Another job? Seems like you’re havin’ trouble just doin’ the one you got – less’n you’re hidin’ that package.”
“Well, Teaspoon, see, it’s just that . . .” Cody stammered, looking for the words.
“He’s in love!” the other three chorused.
Teaspoon just groaned and shook his head. “Again?” He took a few steps toward the table and reached down to pick Cody’s jacket up. “I need that package, Cody.”
Cody jerked as the wet buckskin landed on his shoulder. “Teaspoon, I’m already soaked,” he complained. He looked around the table. “Couldn’t . . .”
“No, Mr. Cody, one o’ them can’t go,” Teaspoon answered firmly, grabbing Cody by the collar and pulling the younger man up. “Sent you to town to do one simple thing, and you ain’t done it yet.” His hand firmly on Cody’s back, he hustled the younger man toward the door. “Try an’ get it right this time,” he suggested, as he pushed Cody out of the bunkhouse.
The wind and rain were still fierce, and Teaspoon hurried to close the door. But even as he did, the others heard the words carrying on the wind.
”But I’m in love . . .”
"The baby is so tiny," said Em, showing how small with her hands. As always, she very much enjoyed being the center of attention as she talked about their trip. "And she looks just like Aunt Rachel," she added with all the authority of one who knows such things.
"And what did you think, Polly Ann?" Polly asked her namesake.
"Her hair is white," pointed out Polly Ann curiously from her vantage point on her grandfather's lap. "I thought only old people had white hair." She looked at the hair that crowned Teaspoon's head.
"Now, my hair ain't," Teaspoon paused as his wife eyed him. Sighing he continued, "isn't white. See?" He fluffed his hair up so he looked slightly mad and added a funny face to go with it. Receiving the giggle he wanted from his granddaughter, he chuckled too, ignoring any response from the elder Polly.
"Teaspoon," Polly murmured, though she didn't quite stifle the giggle that escaped. Smiling, she turned back to Em and noticed that the young girl was slightly put out that the focus had changed, so Polly encouraged her to continue. "So the new family is doing well then?"
It was Sunday dinner and the family was back together. The food had been delicious and now everyone had gathered in the sitting room of Lou and Jimmy's house to hear the news about Rachel, Janus and their new baby girl, Sarah.
"Oh yes." The big smile returned immediately. "And they appreciated all the gifts we brought them. They send their thanks and love." Turning to Buck, she said, "Aunt Rachel especially likes the sling you made for her to carry Sarah in. She said it makes doing things much easier, since she can use both hands."
"Though Uncle Janus tries to do everything himself so Aunt Rachel doesn't have to," Maggie pointed out.
"Ah, so you do talk," Buck teased. Since they'd arrived, Maggie had kept her nose in one of the books she'd bought on their trip. He grinned as she ducked her head in embarrassment, though he did get a small smile from her. "I'm glad Rachel liked it. I hope to get there for a visit soon. That is if I can get someone to take my time." He looked over at his friend and saw that Jimmy was watching Lou.
Lou had barely been listening for the last half hour or so as her daughters told about all the things they'd done in Rock Creek, how the town was growing and how Rachel had just added to that growth. She was more interested in what was outside, her attention fixed on her son. For almost an hour, right after they'd finished dinner, Joshua had been methodically throwing a stick for his dog, Hickok, to retrieve. With most boys, that would be normal, but not for Joshua. Something as mundane as the back and forth activity of playing fetch wouldn't normally keep Joshua occupied for longer than five minutes. Normal. There was that word again and he was acting anything but by Joshua's standards.
As everyone had arrived, Joshua had dutifully greeted each person and then sat quietly waiting for dinner. He'd also been quiet all through dinner. Once finished, he'd politely asked to go outside to play. Lou had been surprised, but not distracted so she'd seen the look that passed between Jimmy and Buck. It was the same look she'd seen when they'd arrived home on the stage just a couple of days before. Joshua had been clean - very clean - and standing patiently as Jimmy greeted Lou with a big hug and kiss. Em, Maggie and Polly Ann had been jumping around to get their hugs from their father, as well as from Buck, Teaspoon and Polly. Not Joshua. He'd remained glued to his spot and only moved when Lou called to him. She'd commented on it but Jimmy waved it away, making some cursory explanation about him being excited. That wasn't Joshua excited. Even if Jimmy had acted nonchalant about the whole thing, she didn't miss the look between the two men. This caused Lou to keep a closer eye on Joshua.
Now, after being home for only two days, she'd noticed a tremendous change in how the little boy acted. He seemed quieter and almost mellow, though for him, that still didn't mean calm but it was enough that she noticed. Finally, tiring from watching the never-ending game of fetch, she turned to Jimmy.
"Alright, what happened while I was gone?" At that point, she didn't care who was in the room. She'd tried to subtly and not so subtly find out what the two men had done while the women were away but her husband wasn't forthcoming, so, with everyone around, maybe she'd find out what had happened to cause Joshua to act this way.
"Um, what?" Jimmy immediately looked over to Buck for help. When his friend shrugged slightly, Jimmy knew he was on his own.
"Don't look at Buck," Lou said. "You've been doin' that since we got home." She stood up and walked over to stand in front of Jimmy. Even though the top of her head barely reached his shoulders, with her hands on her hips and her lips set in a firm line, she was a formidable opponent. "Now, what - happened?"
Sighing, Jimmy knew he had to come clean. "Alright, I'll tell you." He immediately pointed at Teaspoon. "It's his fault."
"That's telling her," Buck muttered, shaking his head as Teaspoon moved Polly Ann from his lap so he could stand.
"My fault?" Teaspoon spluttered. "How is this my fault? I don't even know what yer talkin' about!" The older man walked over, arms crossed in defiance. "Lou, I will have you know that I did not do a thing."
"Teaspoon?" Buck said, quietly. "I don't think you should..."
"Buck," Teaspoon answered, holding his hand up for the young man to be quiet, "I know I am inn-o-cent of all charges." He ran his fingers down his suspenders in his usual assured way.
"Oh you are?" Jimmy countered. "I suggest you think long and hard about that." Jimmy crossed his arms over his chest in his own act of defiance.
Buck sat back down and Polly Ann quickly climbed into his lap for a comfortable ringside seat. He looked over to see Em in rapt attention and even Maggie had put her book down for this. Shaking his head, he leaned back and let the confrontation begin.
"I don't have to think," Teaspoon grumbled, "cause I know I didn't do..." he paused, his brows furrowed as he did try to think, going over the time Lou and the girls were gone. Coming to a conclusion, he gave a satisfied nod and finished, "nothin'."
Polly walked over to stand by her husband and whispered, "Are you sure?" She saw how positive Jimmy was and she knew Teaspoon very well. He could easily have done something without really knowing it, possibly saying something to Joshua that caused some major problem. Joshua took everything his grandfather said as gospel and, the way the little boy was, he'd do anything to impress the old man as well.
"Yes I'm sure," he whispered back, harshly. He couldn't believe that Polly doubted him. Mirroring Jimmy's stance, Teaspoon crossed his arms again.
Lou was honestly amused by the standoff and she couldn't wait for the men to find out that they both were at fault, since that usually was the way. "Alright, fine. It's Teaspoon's fault," she had to raise her hand to stop Teaspoon's denial, "but he seems to not know what he did. So, why don't you tell us?" She had to swallow the laugh that bubbled up as Jimmy's face fell.
"Uh, well, see, hmmm," he stammered. How was he going to tell Lou about Joshua trying to fly? He again looked to Buck for help, Jimmy's eyes pleading with his friend.
Heaving an overly dramatic sigh, Polly Ann was once more evicted from her seat as Buck stood, placing the young girl back in the chair. "Since I was witness to both...um...hmm...situations, I'll go ahead and tell the tale." He coughed to clear his throat as all eyes were on him waiting impatiently for him to begin. "Well, I guess it actually started just before you all left."
Everyone exchanged curious looks, including Jimmy. Though Jimmy knew the basis of what had caused Joshua to cover his body in liniment and feathers, he didn't know much of the details.
"Yeah, um, so it was when you and Jimmy took Polly Ann to see Doc Carter and, well, you left Joshua at the jail with, um, me and, um, Teaspoon." Buck looked at Teaspoon and saw the older man's brow furrow again as he tried to remember exactly what had happened that day. Suddenly, Teaspoon's eyes widened with realization and then closed in dismay.
"I tol' the boy the story of Icarus," Teaspoon said softly, shaking his head, his eyes still close. He was imagining all sorts of horrible possibilities.
"You what?" Maggie exclaimed breaking the silence she and her sisters had been in. She stood and walked over to where the adults were circled her older sister followed quickly behind not one to be left out of anything.
"The story of who?" Lou asked, looking around to see if she was the only one that didn't understand. And, by the expressions on the faces of her two other daughters and Polly, she saw that she wasn't. When she looked at Jimmy, he was just quietly staring at a spot on the floor so she knew this story, whatever it was, was the root of the incident.
"Icarus," Maggie said, jumping in as she always did to explain anything. "It's the story of the boy that flew too close to the sun and his wings melted."
"What?" Lou looked incredulously at her middle daughter. "His wings? What kinda' story was this?"
"It's a myth," Buck answered, eyeing Teaspoon to see how the man was taking this. He still hadn't opened his eyes. "It's an excellent story."
"Yes it is," Maggie agreed. "But not told to a child such as Joshua."
"Maggie," Buck said quietly, his tone held warning. He didn't want this to get blown out of proportion.
"And the way Joshua takes things to heart..." Em added. She and Maggie exchanged very amused looks. Both girls knew exactly what had happened.
"Oh Teaspoon," Polly said, as realization dawned on her too.
"Now wait a minute..." Teaspoon's eyes shot opened. He was telling a simple story to his grandson, that was it. Of course, he knew that was never it with Joshua.
"Are you saying," Lou said, her voice low, "that Joshua tried to fly?" She looked directly at Jimmy and when he wouldn't return her gaze, she gripped his chin and turned his face to look at her. "Is that it?"
"Yes," Jimmy said with a sigh.
Nonplussed, Lou stood there a moment, trying to absorb what she'd just been told. Though she knew she'd regret it, curiosity got the better of her and she asked, "How?"
"Well actually," Buck said, "it was pretty smart of him."
"Smart?" Jimmy snapped. "It was a mess...one you didn't stay around an' help clean up." He pointed his finger at Buck, eyeing him with one eye closed.
"Yes smart," Buck countered. "And I cleaned up Hickok."
"Oh please," Jimmy scoffed. "Like pouring water over the dog..."
"Stop!" Lou commanded. She turned to Buck. "You said smart...how so?"
"Well," Buck said, ignoring the warning look Jimmy was giving him. "The story has Icarus using wings his father constructed of wax and feathers..."
"Joshua made wings," Lou blurted out, "with wax?"
"Um, no," Buck answered. "We really haven't talked to him about it but, I think since he's not allowed to use fire by himself, he used liniment instead."
That got everyone to wrinkle their noses and Jimmy added, "Yeah, you shoulda' been here to clean it up." Again, he looked pointedly at Buck, who just made a face in return.
The girls couldn't help but giggle, as did Lou and Polly.
"Anyway," Buck said, not sure he wanted to finish. "He got in the feathers from the coop and, well, he tried to fly..." he paused, sighing, "off the shed."
"What!" Lou stared shocked at Jimmy. "He could've really hurt himself." She saw the look in Jimmy's eyes and knew he'd realized the same thing. As she reached out for his hand, she stopped. Something else occurred to her. "Who was with him?"
Jimmy groaned. He really didn't want to tell Lou this part; he knew she'd kill the Johnson boy. "Well, Taylor was supposed to be here but..." He had taken care of the older boy good. He'd locked him in a jail cell for most of the morning and, once the boy was almost in tears, he let him out and took him to the livery for Pete, the owner, to put him to work cleaning out every stall and taking care of every horse. The boy had worked into the wee hours of the night. It had been a very hard day for Taylor and Jimmy was sure the boy would never, ever, shirk his responsibilities. Especially anything for Jimmy. When he saw the fire flash in Lou's eyes, he couldn't help smiling. "Don't worry, I took care of him."
"Is he still alive?" Lou growled. Remembering that her children were there, she cleared her throat. "Just as long as he knows, if he ever watches Joshua again..."
"Boy, I sure wish I'd been here to fly too."
Everyone looked down to see Polly Ann gazing towards the window in wonder.
"Tsk, he didn't fly, silly," Maggie said, shaking her head.
"But Uncle Buck said..."
"No, he said Joshua tried," Em replied. Looking at her father she asked, "How did he not get hurt?"
"The mud," Jimmy answered simply.
"And your sheets," Buck mumbled with a grin.
"Sheets?" Polly echoed. She'd been watching Teaspoon the entire time. He'd just listened as Buck and Jimmy described what Joshua had done and she could tell that her husband was very pleased, particularly by the small smile on his face.
And Polly was right. Teaspoon was impressed how Joshua had thought through his problem and come up with a possible solution. That Joshua might have been hurt, Teaspoon regretted but, with some supervision, the boy could really go far.
"Thank you Buck," Jimmy grumbled. Trying to avoid the direction the discussion was going, he turned to Teaspoon. "So, do you admit it's your fault?"
"Fault?" Teaspoon pondered the notion. "I believe that has to do with the boy's creator..." He smiled at Jimmy and then at Lou. "God gave that boy the mind he has."
"Now Teaspoon," Jimmy argued, "you can't be sayin' that..."
"Come on Jimmy," Buck chided, laughing. "What about all the things Teaspoon got us into?"
"Oh, yeah," Lou said, "that baseball game..."
"Don't forget that stupid tenness," Jimmy added.
"As I heard it, you shot all the balls," Buck retorted. "Wish I'd been there to see that!"
"Daddy!" Em and Maggie exclaimed at once both girls grinning. "Did you really?" Em asked.
"Buck..." Jimmy playfully warned.
"Yes he did," Lou answered, swatting Jimmy on the arm as he made a grab for her.
"Why'd you shoot the ball Daddy?" Polly Ann grabbed Jimmy's hand and pulled him towards the settee.
"Yeah, Jimmy," Buck teased, "why did you?" Maggie and Em prodded him to go sit in the chair and both girls, flanking him, sat on the floor.
"Teaspoon got us into all kinds of crazy things," Lou said, a sentimental tone to her voice as she sat by Jimmy.
"Do tell," Polly encouraged, watching Teaspoon slowly move towards the door. She'd heard many stories about the ideas that Teaspoon involved the riders in and knew that the children loved to hear about the adventures their parents and uncle got into. The fact that this distracted everyone so they missed the mischievous old man going out the front door was just a bonus.
Teaspoon gently closed the screen door behind him and saw his grandson sitting on the porch swing, absentmindedly scratching Hickok on the head. He walked over and ruffled the boy's hair. Joshua looked up at him with sad eyes.
"They think I'm dumb, don't they?"
"Mind if I sit down?" Teaspoon knew this had to be handled delicately. He didn't want to stop Joshua's curiosity but the boy did need to understand that thinking things through to the end result was important. Joshua nodded so Teaspoon sat beside him. "No they don't think yer dumb. Your ma was just worried about you gettin' hurt."
Looking off in the distance, Joshua continued to scratch Hickok. "I know. I guess I didn't really think about what I was doin'."
"Well, no," Teaspoon agreed. "But what ya' did is how people figure things out. Sorta' scientific like."
"People like, um," he paused, scratching his chin. "Oh! Leonardo da Vinci. He's someone that did all kinds a' experiments, tryin' to figure how things worked." He patted Joshua on the shoulder. "You keep it up, you could discover somethin' wonderful."
Joshua's face lit up for the first time in days. "Ya' think so?"
"Sure," Teaspoon said. "Um, ya' just need to think things through. Remember the devil is in the details so ya' gotta' make sure you've looked at somethin' from all angles."
Joshua eyed Teaspoon suspiciously. "What's the devil gotta' do with anythin'?"
"A lot in my case," Teaspoon muttered. Clearing his throat, he motioned Joshua to follow him. "Basically it means that if you ain't careful, there could be somethin' hidden in the specifics that could come back and bite ya'."
The two walked down the steps, followed by a faithful Hickok, as a burst of laughter rang out from inside and Jimmy yelled, "It took me all day to wash those dang sheets!"
Joshua sheepishly looked at his grandfather when Teaspoon asked, "What are they talkin' about?"
"I took down the wash line and Daddy had done the sheets that mornin'." He shoved his hands in his pockets. Hickok nudged Joshua to take at least one hand out and put it back on his head. Joshua did as the dog wanted.
Teaspoon couldn't help but chuckle. He glanced up at the shed and thought, 'What a sight that boy musta' been.' Again, the possibility of Joshua getting hurt surfaced in Teaspoon's mind but it couldn't match the pride the older man felt. Contemplating what Joshua had done, he stopped, "You used liniment to apply the feathers, huh?"
Squinting, Joshua glanced up at Teaspoon. "Yes sir and it was kinda' smelly. The feathers stuck but not when I was flyin'," he said matter-of-factly.
"I'd imagine," Teaspoon murmured, pondering this fact. "Hmm, wonder what would happen if ya' did use wax..."
A Prequel of Sorts to the Jimmy, Karen and Brood stories. Just a bit of fluff.
It shouldn’t be this difficult.
He’d seen others do this dozens of times, possibly even hundreds. They were calm, they were quick, they were efficient.
Heck, even Ike had done this like a pro. If the mute rider could do it, then he should definitely be able to.
So why was it that he had was holding his daughter’s diaper, all pinned neatly together, and his daughter was across the room? Without her diaper. Her bare bottom mocking him with his failure.
Who knew that a baby, who could only scoot on her stomach, could move so fast?
He told his wife that he could do this. She could go with Polly to the sewing bee and he would watch their daughter. It was only a couple of hours, she ate canned peaches that were cut into small pieces and liked to gum on bread. She would take a few sips of water from a cup; she didn’t need to nurse every few hours anymore. So he would be fine.
He’d even changed her diapers before. Sure it wasn’t his favorite task, but he was able to do it. Besides, he figured he was lucky in that she had done the really messy business right before Karen left and all he’d have to contend with were the wet diapers.
He’d clearly given her too much water. She sprung a leak only half an hour after Karen left and his daughter did not like anything wet against her skin. So he gathered up the necessary supplies, laid Becky down…and everything promptly fell apart.
She twisted and turned and bucked her back so much he could hardly get the offending thing unfastened. Once the diaper was off and his daughter felt the fresh air against her bottom, she promptly wet again. Soaking her dress. So Jimmy figured it was better to change that before putting on the new diaper.
His wife and the other women in town had made too many little dresses with too many tiny buttons. Or maybe it was just his hands were bigger and his fingers weren’t as dexterous. Because he had a bear of a time getting the dress off. Once she was undressed, wiped up and he was ready to try again, Becky once again became a rodeo star.
She turned, twisted, bucked, drew her legs up, kicked them out, rolled onto her stomach and began to scoot away from him. He would grab her, put her back on her back and try again. Then disaster struck. He stabbed her with the diaper pin. She wailed, he felt guilty and he scooped up his little girl to soothe her and apologize. She got him back by wetting on his shirt.
Once the soiled shirt was off, he tried again. But now he’d gone the other way and made the diaper too loose. It was all pinned, he felt proud and let her go, ready to get a new shirt for him and a new dress for her. She rolled onto her stomach and began her impersonation of an inchworm and by the time he came out of the bedroom with clean clothes, his daughter was on one side of the room and her diaper was on the other.
He quickly grabbed it, wanting to get it on her before she sprung another leak but wasn’t successful.
“Becky,” he sighed heavily, “you gotta help me out, darlin’.”
She just giggled and flashed a smile that was all gums and two little teeth at him and his heart melted. How could he be upset with something so cute? The only thing left to do was try again.
And pray that this time, he got it right.
Cody’s horse fairly danced along in front of the group. You’d think this was something akin to Cody’s first time away from the Station… ever.
“Put a lid on it Cody, them braves didn’t think much of you last time… you start acting like a bunny on loco weed, I’ll knock you over the head.”
“If Jimmy doesn’t, I will.”
Cody gave Lou a hurt look and guided his mount to the side of the trail, turning his face into the sun. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”
Looking over at Buck, Lou watched the straight line of his back and knew that he was worried. She relaxed her hold on the reins and moved ahead to ride beside her friend. “You’re awfully quiet, Buck.”
He scanned the trail ahead before turning to answer her. “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
She nodded. “The trading?” She didn’t need to see the subtle nod of his head; she knew this was a big responsibility that Teaspoon had given him. It would make any of them quake in their boots, but Buck took the responsibility like a heavy yoke on his shoulders. “You’ll do a fine job, Buck… you’ll see.”
Hickok rode by, sweeping Cody’s hat off of his head with a whoop before he rode off the trail away from the old Cooper place. Cody rode off after him, drawing his rifle from its scabbard.
Raising an eyebrow at the unruly pair, he turned to give Lou a smile. “If we ever get there.”
Lou’s laughter made him smile, even through his worry.
Molly Cooper was waiting for them when they got there, her hands twisting in her apron. When she caught sight of Buck she ran and nearly ended up under his mare’s hooves. He quickly pulled up on the reins and moved his horse to the side, hoping her frantic movements wouldn’t spook the horse more than he could handle. “Oh, Mr. Buck, I’ve been so afread that you’d decided not to come, thank the saints!”
The young woman clutched at his arms as he slid from the saddle. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Ma, she’s taken sick and there ain’t no more of that tea you gave me.”
Buck put a hand on her shoulder and the touch seemed to comfort her. He spoke to her quietly and Lou stood watching as Molly fired back answers as quick as he could ask the questions.
Coming up along side her, Jimmy led his horse by the reins and pushed his hat back on his head to see what was going on.
“What’s wrong with Molly?”
“Somethin’ about her ma bein’ sick.”
“Are we ready to get started?” Cody ambled up and stopped short. “Where are the horses?”
“You don’t miss a thing, do you, Cody?”
He gave Hickok a nasty glare before his attention was caught by movement off to the side. “Hey, where’s Buck goin’?”
Lou stepped around Cody to see Buck walking alongside Molly, heading off down the shallow slope toward the new farm house. He raised his gaze long enough to catch Lou’s and with a deft movement of his hand he sent her a message.
“What was that?” Jimmy’s forehead was furrowed with frustration. “What did he say?”
Lou lifted her hand to hide the snort of laughter that threatened to escape. “He’ll be right back. Really, Jimmy…”
He shrugged. “Ike’s easier to understand.”
Cody spit out the blade of grass he’d been chewing on and scuffed at it with the heel of his boot. “Where did Buck run off to?”
Lou gave him a look. “He’ll be back any minute now.”
“He better,” Cody groused, “them braves don’t look any happier than we do.”
“I know where the house is,” Jimmy offered, “I can run and get Buck; maybe spell him with Missus Cooper, like I did that one time when Ike was sick.”
“Naw,” Cody pushed away from the wall of the old homesteader’s cabin and started over toward the Lakota waiting by the corral, “I say we get things started. If we wait around for Buck those horses’ll need to be put down the day after we buy ‘em. They’ll be too old to be any good.”
Jimmy gave Lou a look before running after Cody. “This ain’t a good idea, Cody.”
Cody paused for a moment and stuck a finger in Jimmy’s chest. “The only thing that ain’t a good idea is the fact that you didn’t think of it first and you aren’t gonna be the hero when we ride back into the station, a whole bunch of brand spankin’ new ponies trailin’ behind and Teaspoon thankin’ me for it. Admit it Hickok, you wish you’d come up with the idea yourself!” Cody started back across the field. “’Sides, Buck isn’t here to do his duty so, we should do it for him.”
“Don’t be stubborn, Cody-”
“Oh ho!” Cody stopped ahead, sweeping his hat off of his head. “It ain’t jealousy… I ‘ve seen Buck do this a… a… a… million times. It can’t be that hard.”
They met the braves a few feet from the corral, Cody reaching out his hand with a smile… only to grasp air and the look of disdain on their faces. A quick check revealed that his hand was clean. His gaze snapped back up to the warrior’s face. He was not amused. “I guess you boys don’t ‘shake’ do ya?
He turned to address the assembled group of braves, making a quick gesture of welcome. They responded with a rousing cry that rippled through the group. Several braves advanced closer, one laying his hand on the hilt of his knife.
Jimmy started forward his own hand pausing just above the grip of his gun.
“No, wait.” Lou put her hand on his arm. “No one’s trying to harm him…” she turned to face Jimmy, “yet.”
“Just wait ‘til Teaspoon finds out he couldn’t wait.”
Cody made another couple of motions and Lou’s grip on his arm felt like talons. “Get Buck, please Jimmy, get him… now!”
He spared a moment to watch as Cody waded into the group of braves, a brilliant smile on his empty-headed face. The next second saw him gripping Lou’s shoulders and giving her a worried look. “Which way is the Cooper house?”
Jimmy was nearly out of breath when he finally caught site of the Cooper place. It was nestled in a small copse of poplar trees that made it hard to see the house, even if you knew it was supposed to be there. Buck was just walking up the rise and Jimmy finally gave up on running. He leaned over, clutching at his knees with his hands and just waited until Buck made it to the top. “Buck.”
“Sorry, it took so long, I had to…” He saw the panic in Jimmy’s expression and moved closer, “what is it?”
Trying desperately to corral enough air into his lungs to actually speak, Jimmy was concentrating on the agonizing effort, but he knew that time was of the essence, so he settled for a message sure to drive fear into the hearts of anyone. “Cody… started… trading…”
Buck didn’t have to hear a thing after that. The pictures that it conjured in his head were ridiculous at best… horrific at worst. “Let’s get back.” He grabbed the collar of Jimmy’s shirt and pulled him up the hill.
A few minutes later, Lou had to forcibly pull her hand from her mouth before she bit away what was left of her finger nails as Cody extricated himself from the group and turned around. Cody sauntered over with a smug look on his face. “Looks like Jimmy ran away. Couldn’t stand seein’ me do a man’s work, eh?”
Lou gave him her shoulder in his side. “I wouldn’t be so sure of yourself, Cody. Those braves don’t look too happy with you.”
He craned his head over his shoulder to look at them for himself. “Hmmmm… well, I’d say,” Cody spun around wagging his eyebrows at her, “that you’re just imagining things.” Throwing his arm over her shoulders, Cody smiled over at the braves and pointed to Lou. “My friend here thinks you boys are mad at me.”
“Cody… they’re arguing.” Lou shifted at his side, trying to get him to let her go, just in case his type of lunacy was catching. “You better just wait for Buck, Jimmy went to go and get him from the Coopers’ place.”
Hooking his arm around Lou’s neck to hold her still, Cody called out to his new friends. “I think we’re getting’ along just fine, don’t you boys?” Cody was pointing back and forth between himself and the braves and Lou felt her stomach sink as the Lakota braves erupted into a loud conversation that eventually had them all nodding in agreement. “See?” Cody whispered into her ear. “You had nothing to worry about.”
The leader of the assembled group waved at Cody to get his attention before he crooked his fingers in a motion designed to bring them both forward.
“Cody!” Lou dug her heels in as Cody struggled to bring her closer. “Let me go.”
“You don’t want our new friends to think you ain’t sociable, Lou… just come on over and say howdy. Would that little bit o’friendly feelin’ kill ya?”
She stumbled along with him, grumbling under her voice. “No, but it might kill you.”
Buck offered up a silent prayer as they reached the top of the slope. With a quick assessing gaze he recognized the familiar site of horses, nearly ten in all, milling about the enclosure. They were spirited, some taking playful nips from the hide of the others then dancing away.
It all seemed fine, then he heard Cody’s scream and Lou’s angry epithets. “Now, you just wait a gall-darned minute here!” Buck swung his gaze over toward the sound and froze. Cody was waving his arms while the braves had him trained in their sights, a combination of rifles and bows aimed at his heart. “You don’t understand!”
Jimmy came up at his shoulder and swore. A moment later both Colts were aimed at the assembled group. “Lou!”
Buck finally saw her as the brave on the end of the group turned to aim at them. She was thrown over the back of a horse, her hands and feet tied together and her face red. Later, Buck would be able to speculate if the color had come from the blood rushing to her head from the position she was in, or if she was just that angry.
“Cody!” She hollered over the rising din of angry voices. “You better get me down off this horse!”
“I’m trying! I’m trying!”
“That’s for damn sure,” Hickok muttered it under his breath before turning to Buck. “Fix this, Buck, or I’m gonna start shooting.”
He saw the glint of sunlight flash off of the silver barrel of a Colt and Buck called out in fear and desperation. The assembled group turned in his direction and that’s when he started to sweat.
Lou rode just ahead of Buck and Jimmy, her head held high into the sun. Jimmy looked over at Buck. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say she stole the flagpole right off of the courthouse and stuffed it down the back of her shirt.”
She turned to glare at all three of them. “This is all your fault, Buck.”
“Me?” Buck stared back at her.
“If you hadn’t been gone so long, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“I’m the one that got you back, without shooting anyone.” He sent a pointed look toward Jimmy. “That’s what he was going to do.”
Jimmy’s expression was dark. “Me? I was just gonna make sure they didn’t ride off with Lou… that’s all Cody’s fault.”
“You traded Lou to the Lakota!”
“Aww… come on, Hickok… it was an accident!”
Lou swung her mount around and gave Cody a scathing look. “An accident? You had to know what was going on!”
“Well, not at first,” he didn’t even try to look sheepish, “but come on, Lou… I had him up to twelve ponies!”
She turned away, murder in her glare. “Next time, we wait for Buck… no matter what… or, I’m gonna personally hog-tie you to the back of my horse and stuff your mouth full of mud to keep you quiet.”
“It didn’t turn out too bad, Lou, we got you back safely and -“
“And,” grumbled Buck, “cost us twice the money Teaspoon wanted us to spend. You think we’re mad, just wait ‘til he hears about this.”
Cody pulled his hat brim down over his eyes. “Don’t remind me.”
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