Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 March 2009

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Join date : 2013-09-26

March 2009 Empty
PostMarch 2009

Bad Things Happen When We Separate

Han wonders if Jed would be better off without him.

Han left the headmaster’s office slowly with his head down and coughing as hard as he could muster. “Go straight to the infirmary . . . don’t need anymore sick . . .” he heard as he closed the door.

Once he reached the hallway, he darted into the boys’ dormitory hollering, “Jed! Jed! I’m back!”

When he reached their bunk, he found both mattresses folded in half waiting for new occupants. Han froze, not knowing what to say or think. “Jed?”

“Jed got real sick; been gone 3-4 days,” replied Billy, whose bunk was next to their empty one.


“Took him to the sick room.” Billy barely got the words out when Han dashed out, heading to the cold, sterile infirmary.

Han cautiously opened the door, afraid of what he’d find. The room had only one occupant –- Jed was alone with his blankets kicked off and sweating from a fever. Obviously no one was keeping an eye on him for the bed was filthy, along with his cousin, from the sweat and more. Jed looked so small; he had obviously lost weight while Han had been away.

“Ma! Pa! No, Han, no, not you too! You promised!” Jed whimpered as he tossed in the bed.

Guiltily, Han quickly went over to his little cousin. He sat on the edge of the bed and took Jed’s hand into one of his and brushed away the long damp curls from his forehead. He could hear a rattling in Jed’s chest as he struggled to breathe.

“I’m here, Jed . . . I’m here. I’m so sorry I had to leave you. Please get better!”

Jed’s little body slowly quit tossing and calmed down, but he remained unconscious.

The room was chilly. Han added some wood to the smoldering ashes in the stove and fanned a flame. He looked around and found a basin of water that he put on the stove to warm. All the while, Han chattered nonstop to Jed to let him know he was near. He moved the room’s other bed close to the stove so it would be ready for a clean Jed. When the water was warm enough, Han took a rag and washed his cousin to cool his fevered body and remove the sweat and filth. He took a clean nightshirt from Jed’s box of possessions under the bed and dressed him. Then he carefully carried his cousin to the clean bed in the warm corner of the room.

Han was exhausted and just wanted to close his eyes. He cleaned himself the best he could, not taking an eye off his little cousin. That is when he noticed Jed’s body starting to shake from chills.

Han needed to warm his cousin’s body and assure him of his presence. He slid in bed behind Jed, sitting up against the headboard. Then pulling Jed up between his legs into a sitting position, he leaned him against his chest. He hoped being more upright would be better for the rattle he heard. Han tucked his cousin in with the blanket and placed a cool cloth on his forehead.

As he rubbed warmth back into Jed’s arms, he remembered the events of the last few weeks that brought them here....


Mrs. Arndt, the teacher for the Home of Wayward Boys, read the note from the headmaster asking for Hannibal Heyes to be sent to his office. She sneered as she gave him the message.

Han and Jed glanced at each other. What had they done now?

Han shrugged and walked out of the classroom, but not before giving Jed a reassuring smile. Han knocked on Headmaster Gruenwald’s office and waited to be admitted. He was no stranger to this office or its routines.


Han opened the door and stepped inside. Talking with Headmaster Gruenwald was an older man who Han guessed to be a farmer. He was tall and lanky with a callous face. Although his clothes were clean, they were worn from years of use.

“Hannibal, this is Mr. Riggs. He needs help on his ranch and I have decided you are the perfect candidate since you were raised on a farm. You are one of the older boys and since you cause more disturbances in the classroom than others, you can be finished with your education.”

“What about Jed?” Han inquired, staring at Mr. Riggs.

“Jedediah is younger and will be better-behaved without following the likes of you. In fact, there have been several inquiries about adopting Jedediah.”

“But I’m all Jed’s got. I can’t leave him.” Facing the farmer, “Can’t you take both of us? Jed’s a hard worker and I’ll make sure he won’t be no trouble.”

“Nope –- can’t be feedin’ two young mouths. Just needs one of ya.”

“Hannibal, surely you can see that a loving family would be the best placement for Jedediah. It would be selfish of you to deny him a new family. If you leave, Jedediah will be free to start a new life.”

Han hung his head, closed his eyes and thought for awhile. Was he being selfish wanting to be with his cousin? He had said he’s all Jed’s got, but, to be honest, Jed was all he had, too.

“When would I have to leave?” asked Han.

“I don’t think you understand, boy; you have no choice in this matter. You are going with Mr. Riggs.”

Han turned to leave the room when he heard the headmaster’s cane slam on the desk.

“Where do you think you are going?”

“I gotta go find Jed and explain it to him. I gotta go say goodbye to my kin.”

“Jedediah is still in class and cannot be disturbed. A goodbye will just cause more anguish for both of you. Just quickly leave and we will explain it to Jedediah.”

“What about my belongin’s?”

“We gathered your box of belongings and it is in the outer office.”

Mr. Riggs, a man of few words, spoke up. “Daylights a wastin’. We’s gotta be goin’!”

Headmaster Gruenwald took hold of Hannibal by his shoulder and escorted him and Mr. Riggs to the wagon. He was not going to have Hannibal running off now that he was finally rid of him.

Han reluctantly climbed into the wagon next to Mr. Riggs. He gazed towards the classroom longing to go see Jed one last time, but Gruenwald actually made some sense –- it would only cause more anguish. And if there was a chance Jed could be adopted into a real family . . . well, it was worth whatever he would have to endure.

“Giddy up!” Mr. Riggs yelled as he whipped the horses into motion. Soon the wagon and Han were going down the road towards an uncertain future.


Jed had an awful feeling in the pit of his stomach; something just wasn’t right. Why was Han called to the office? He couldn’t think of anything they did wrong lately.

When he heard the yell and a wagon leaving the Home, he had a bad premonition. Jed slowly ventured over to the window to peer outside, realizing he might get caned by Mrs. Arndt, but he just had to look to calm his fears. What he saw horrified him!

“Jedediah Curry, you come back here this instance!” shouted Mrs. Arndt, but Jed was already running across the yard towards the main gate that was locked after the wagon’s departure.

“Han! Han! Where are you going? You can’t go without me . . . you promised! Han! Han, come back! Please come back!” Jed sobbed as he reached the gate. But the wagon was already down the road and around the bend. Han had not seen his cousin running after him.

Jed wept by the gate until nightfall when he fell asleep. The cook, Miss Annie Washington, found him as she was leaving for the evening and carried him back to his bunk where she tucked him in.

“Ain’t right to separate them boys, just ain’t right!” she commented as she left the room.


Han felt awful –- like a part of him was gone. It just didn’t seem right leaving Jed and things happened just too fast to sort it all out. But Headmaster Gruenwald was right . . . wasn’t he?

He tried making small talk with Mr. Riggs, who remained monosyllabic in his responses or grunts. After a few miles, Han dismally settled down to just staring at the countryside.

Mr. Riggs was a farmer who lost his wife and baby too many years ago. He became a bitter lonely man who had no use for other human beings. He did have use for some free labor, though. His well was about to dry up and he had to hurry to dig a new well before the winter came and the ground froze. He had heard last time he was in town that the Home for Wayward Boys was filling up because of the war and there was free labor if you took an orphan home. He filed that information in the back of his mind in case he needed it. And he needed help now.

The depressing ride did nothing to prepare Han for what was to come. The farm was run down; the few animals were scrawny and though it was past harvest, the barn was not full.

Mr. Riggs got down from the wagon. “Leave the wagon in the barn and tend to the horses,” he demanded as he walked into the house.

Han took care of the horses as he was told and walked back to the house. He hesitated at the door . . . should he knock or just walk in? Well, this was going to be his new home so he decided to just walk in.

“No manners –- haven’t you learnt to knock?”

“Sorry, Mr. Riggs, I was just thinkin’ . . . “

“Didn’t get me no young whippersnapper to think! Here’s a blanket; you can go sleep in the barn.”

“Mr. Riggs, sir, may I have somethin’ to eat ‘fore retirin’ for the evenin’?”

“You haven’t done a lick o’ work . . . no work, no eatin’!”

“Yes, sir,” Han gloomily replied as he left for the barn.

Han was cold and hungry. He kept imagining what Jed might be doing or eating. He thought about the bunk he shared with Jed. He wondered how Headmaster Gruenwald broke the news to Jed and how he took it. How soon would Jed be adopted out? And . . . .

Next morning Han woke early with a kick into his side. “Time to get up . . . lots ta do.”

Too soon Han realized the true reason Mr. Riggs wanted a boy –- not for companionship, but for slave labor. Together they dug the well until it became too deep to shovel out the dirt. Mr. Riggs lowered Han into the hole in the morning to dig and put dirt into buckets from dawn until dusk. Meals consisted of mainly beans with a little corn or meat occasionally, depending on how pleased Mr. Riggs was with the amount of work done. Beatings became part of the routine as Han frustrated Mr. Riggs with simply talking or not working fast enough.

After just a week, Han had enough. Instead of going to bed, he walked away from the farm, not sure what direction the Home was located. Being exhausted from the day’s work, he finally succumbed to sleep under a tree several miles away.

Mr. Riggs was livid when he discovered Han gone. Winter was fast approaching and the well was nowhere completed. He hitched up the wagon and went after his free labor.

Han was just waking up when Mr. Riggs caught up to him. Riggs boxed him in the ear, making him dizzy, and heaved him into the back of the wagon.

“So that’s the kinda gratitude I get fer takin’ you on, boy?” Mr. Riggs yelled as he threw Han into an empty corner barn stall. With a few old boards, Mr. Riggs made a type of cell for Han to sleep in or stay in when they were not working. He wasn’t going to escape again.

Han had never been more miserable or lonely. He needed a plan . . . a Heyes plan to get him back to the Home . . . back to Jed!

At the Home, he thought, they never had to work or go to school if one was sick enough. What if . . . .

Next morning Han started coughing –- not too much to raise suspicion. A few days later, he was coughing more and washing his face without drying so it looked like he was sweating and feverish. After about a week, Han played possum when Mr. Riggs went to wake him up. He pretended to be unconscious and mumbled incoherently. Mr. Riggs left him alone for the day hoping he would get better. He even fed him a little more hoping to build up his strength. But it was no good. His free labor was sickly and weak –- no use to Mr. Riggs.

“Get your stuff together and hitch up the wagon.”

“Why, Mr. Riggs? Please, sir, don’t send me back to the Home!” Han weakly pleaded.

“I don’t need ta feed a sniveling sick boy. I need a laborer. I’m takin’ ya back to where ya came!”

Han smiled for the first time in weeks as he hitched up the horses.

Of course, Headmaster Gruenwald was less than pleased to see Hannibal returned. Han ruefully stood and looked his sickest in the corner of the office while Mr. Riggs and the headmaster talked. Wasn’t too hard to look sick with the lack of food and the bruises from the beatings he received. He couldn’t wait to tell Jed he was back!


Miss Annie walked into the infirmary to check on Jed. She was sick herself and hadn’t been able to check on him for a couple of days. She had asked someone to keep the fire in the stove going and water near his bed. She noticed the beds moved –- one being closer to the stove. “Thank you, Jesus!” she quietly exclaimed when she saw Han and Jed asleep in the bed. “You brought Hannibal back home to Jed, thank you, Jesus!” She slipped out the door and down to the kitchen. There was soup that needed to be made.

Han must have dozed off. He woke up suddenly when Jed’s nightmares returned and he was whimpering. Han listened to his cousin’s breathing –- seemed like he was breathing easier.

“I’m here Jed; please wake up now!” coaxed Han as he again put a cool cloth on a still warm forehead.

Miss Annie walked into the room with a tray of soup and bread for her boys. “Welcome back home, Hannibal!”

“Miss Annie! Jed’s sick and no one’s watchin’ over him!”

“I know, Hannibal, and I’m sorry about that. I was too sick myself to come up here and care for him. But he’s been watched over. Jesus has been watchin’ over him and sent you back to him! Lands, am I happy to see you, again!”

“Think he’s breathing better? When I got here yesterday, I heard a rattlin’ in his chest. I bathed him and put him in a clean bed and kept him cool. Couldn’t get no water in him, though.”

“You done good, Hannibal, and yes, I think he is breathin’ better. Don’t hear much of that rattle, either. I’ll hold him up so you can get outta bed and eat somethin’. Brought up some soup fer ya two. Ya both could use some fattin’ up. Now you try and get him to take some water, too.”

“Yes, ma’am, and thank you.” Han slipped out from under Jed as Miss Annie held him up. The motion made Jed stir.

“Jed –- it’s me, Han! You gotta wake up now. Gotta get some water inta ya. Wake up!” Han gently shook Jed.

Slowly Jed started to react as Han continued persuading him to wake up. He fluttered his eyes and then tried blinking them into focus.

“Han?” Jed barely whispered.

“Yeah, Jed, it’s me. I need ya ta drink some water.”

“Han, you back?” Jed asked as Han lifted the glass to his mouth.

“Yeah, I’m back and you ain’t gonna get rid of me again –- ever! I shoulda never have left. I’m so sorry Jed! Seems like bad things happen when we separate. Will you still be my partner?”

“Always were . . . where’d ya go?”

“Long story . . . Miss Annie brought us some soup. D’ya reckon you could eat some?”

“Maybe a little . . . I missed ya somethin’ fierce, Han!”

Han fed Jed some of the soup broth.

“I missed you, too, Jed; more than you’ll ever know!”

“You don’t look so good.”

“You don’t look so good, yourself!”

“I’m so tired . . . think I’ll go ta sleep now. You need ta eat Han –- have the rest of the food.”

“I will . . . you just rest and I’ll watch your back, partner!”
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