Stories: Alias Smith and Jones

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 December 2009

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Join date : 2013-09-26

December 2009 Empty
PostDecember 2009

Glad Tidings

Han and Jed are on their own when Jed gets sick. Han's asked to do something he doesn't want to do, but blessings happen from it.

Glad Tidings

Han looked around the Main Street of Granada, Colorado for any prying eyes before darting into a dark alley. “Jed,” he whispered as loud as he dared making his way further into the darkness. “Jed…where are ya?”

A deep cough behind a barrel answered his question. Han made his way to the sound and glanced around the container. Huddled in the corner was his younger cousin, Jed, shaking in the chill of the night. “Jed…what’s wrong?” Han knelt in front of him and felt his forehead. “You’re burning up! When’d you get so sick?”

Glazed blue eyes looked up at Han and a hand held out a small coin. “What I made today…” was interrupted with more coughing. Han took the ten-cent piece and pocketed it. He remembered Jed stifling a cough in the morning when they separated to find work in the town.

“That’s good, Jed. Every bit counts. Where’d you find work?”

More coughing was followed by, “Cleanin’ out a few…cough…sheds.”

A job cleaning out the livery took Han most of the day and earned him a half dollar and an idea of where to spend the night. “Come on, let’s get you outta this cold night air and somewhere a little warmer.” Han stood up and grabbed Jed’s arm, easily pulling him up. He put his arm around his cousin and led him to the back of the livery.

“Stay put,” Han said as he leaned Jed against the building while looking for the loose board he discovered earlier in the day. Finding the board, he moved it to the side and peered within to make sure no one was inside and the place was closed.

“Okay, we gotta be quiet so no one hears us. Can sleep in the loft…” Coughing interrupted the instructions and Han frowned.

“Sorry…I’ll be…cough…quiet as a mouse.” Jed slipped through the hole into the livery and waited for Han.

The dark-haired boy of fourteen came into the livery and made sure the entrance was concealed behind him. He pointed to the ladder leading up to the hayloft and led the way. A few horses in the stalls snuffled as the boys walked by. Jed climbed up the ladder and waited for Han.

“Over here…away from the edge and ladder. We can kinda make a fort like we used to back…well, you know when.” Han walked over to a corner and made a concealed place to sleep that was protected from the cold draft making its way into the barn. Jed sat down and watched his older cousin, all the while trying not to cough. “There…that should make a pretty warm bed.” Han stood up and admired his work.

Jed crawled into the bed made of hay and snuggled deep into the loose dry grass to get warm.

“Are you hungry?”

Jed shook his head. Talking made him cough and he promised to be quiet.

That shaking of head concerned Han. He bent down and touched Jed’s head again. It felt hot and yet Jed was shaking. “When’d you get so sick?”

“During the day…cough…cleanin’ sheds.”

“Well, you’re burnin’ up. I’m gonna get some water for you. We gotta get that fever down.”

“Too cold…no water.” Jed tried burrowing further down.

“Let me see what I can get for us. I’ll be back as soon as I can. You just rest.”

Han climbed back down the ladder and looked around the stable. There was a pile of blankets that smelled of horse, but they would be better than nothing. He grabbed a few, took them up into the loft and covered his cousin. “Better?”

A head nodded yes.

“Be back with some water.”

Back down the ladder, Han saw an old bucket in the corner and filled it with water. Looking further, he found a discarded tin cup. He carefully climbed up the ladder so not to spill the water and went over to his patient. He removed his bandanna, dipped it in the water and placed it on Jed’s head.

Jed squirmed. “No…cold,” he whispered, stifling a cough.

“Sorry, Jed, but we hafta bring down the fever. Here, drink some water.” He handed a cup to the sick blond.

Jed scowled, but did as he was told. Han smiled as took the cup back. “I’m gonna go find something to eat. You okay for a little bit?”

A head nodded yes again and then a deep cough was heard. “Sorry…quiet,” was all he could get out as he tried not to make noise.

“Be right back.” Han took the cup with him and, finding the loose board, left the livery. He stealthy walked to the back door of the café and peeked in to the kitchen. He watched the cook fill two bowls with soup simmering on the stove, grab some biscuits from the table, and head into the dining room. Han tried the door and found it unlocked. He quickly opened the door, filled his pockets with biscuits, dipped his cup into the soup, and ran out the door before getting caught. After cautiously closing the door, he carefully made his way back to the livery and up to Jed, so not to spill the soup

“Jed, wake up. Look what I got us.” He held out the cup of soup and dug a biscuit from his pocket.

Sleepy eyes opened and looked up. A head shook and the eyes closed.

“Yes; the soup will warm you up. You gotta eat something and I went to a lotta trouble gettin’ this. Come on…just a couple sips.”

Jed opened his eyes again and sighed which made him cough. Frustrated, he tried to suppress it while sitting up. His hands were shaking enough that Han kept a hold of the cup while he sipped. Almost half of the soup was gone when he stopped. “Your turn.”

Han held out a biscuit. “Here you go.”

“Hafta?” Jed asked as he laid back down. He was so tired.

“No, you don’t hafta.” Han ate the biscuit and finished the soup. “That was good, huh?”

A slight nod of the head was visible under the blankets.

“You still cold?”

Another nod, not so slight this time, followed by a deep cough.

Han sighed. “Can’t be lying down like that…gotta be sittin’ up some. ‘Member last time you were sick like this in the Home? Here, sit up.” Jed moved a little forward as Han moved in behind him allowing Jed to lean back against him. “Better?” the older cousin asked as he made sure Jed was covered with blankets and then rubbed his hands up and down his cold arms. A head nodded as Jed nestled comfortably into Han’s hold. “We’re gonna hafta get us some warmer jackets and boots without holes for the winter, huh? That way you won’t be gettin’ sick again.”

Jed barely nodded as he fell asleep.

After a restless night with Jed coughing, Han woke up to someone unlocking the livery door. “Damn,” he barely murmured. “Jed.” He could hear the wheezing in his cousin’s chest and feel the heat from the fever. Jed did not respond to his voice or the gentle shaking.

Han closed his eyes and sighed in frustration. Now what am I gonna do? He whispered in Jed’s ear, hoping he would understand, “Jed, I’m gonna go get help. You stay here and I’ll be right back, you hear?”

Han slowly and quietly got out from underneath his cousin. He propped him up the best he could and covered him with blankets and hay. He looked down to see the owner busy with the first customer of the day. He walked to the ladder and looked back at Jed. At a glance, he couldn’t see him—perfect. Han patiently waited for the right moment when he scrambled down the ladder and out the door without risking being seen.

Once outside, Han sat down with his head in his hands. Now what was he going to do…

George Owens, the livery owner, thought he heard a noise. Yep…there it was again…coming from the…loft. He climbed the ladder and looked around. He didn’t see anything and was heading down when he heard a slight cough. Then he saw the source of the noise. A blond boy looking around ten-years of age bundled in some of his horse blankets.

“Hey…you!” George went over and shook the child. There was no response, but he felt the heat from the fever. “What…how…” He bent over and picked the boy up, throwing him over his shoulder as he headed down the stairs and over to Doctor Becker’s house.

Han had no inspiration of what to do with his sick cousin, though he felt guilty for taking them away from the Home. He slowly got up and walked back to the livery looking for the owner. Not seeing him in the stable, Han ran to the ladder and was half way up when he felt a hold on his foot. No! A hand pulled him down off the ladder.

“Where do you think you’re going?” boomed a deep voice. “It’s you…you cleaned out my livery yesterday.”

A large hand held tight to Han’s arm. “I…I’m just…I…” Han stuttered not knowing what to say. Realizing the truth might be best, he said, “Sorry sir, I had no where to go last night and…”

“That blond boy with you?”

“Yes, he’s my cousin and he’s…”

“He’s sick! Burning up with a fever and wheezing! Why’d you leave him?”

“I left to find help. I don’t know what to do.”

“Where’s your folks?”

“Dead.” Han looked down at the ground and then quickly looked up. “Jed? Did you find him?”

“Took him to the doctor’s—just headin’ outta town to the north.”

“Please let me go…I gotta go to him. We’re all each others got and he’ll be scared without me.” Han tugged at the hand that had a firm grasp of his.

“Okay, but don’t let me catch you in my livery again without askin’. Understand?” The grasp loosened.

Han started running out of the stable. “Yes sir and thank you!” He ran down the Main Street until he saw a house with a sign out front—‘Dr. Becker, MD’. Rushing to the front door, he stopped a moment to catch his breath and ran his fingers through his hair before rapping on the door.

An older woman answered the door. “May I help you?”

“I hope so, ma’am. Is Dr. Becker here?”

“He’s busy with a patient right now. Are you hurt?”

“No, ma’am. I’m lookin’ for my sick cousin and I think he may be here. He’s twelve, though he looks younger, with curly blond hair.”

“Yes, my husband, the doctor, is looking after him right now. Please come in…” a hand stopped him from entering, “after you wipe your feet, and have a seat. I’ll let my husband know you’re here.” Han quickly wiped his feet and followed her inside.

“Can’t I come with you?” A stern look gave him his answer and Han was escorted to a sitting room where he impatiently sat for a minute and then started pacing the room.

“You may come back now.” Mrs. Becker appeared at the doorway almost an hour later.

Han followed her to a back room where propped in a bed was his unconscious cousin with a wet cloth on his head and a wrap on his chest. The wheezing sounded worse. “Is Jed okay? He’s gonna get better, ain’t he?”

“Isn’t he,” the doctor corrected him and held out his hand. “I’m Dr. Becker and you are?”

“Heyes…Hannibal Heyes, sir.”

“And this is your cousin?”

Han nodded his head. “Jed Curry.”

“And your parents?”

“Dead. We’re on our own.”

“Well, Jed is a very sick boy. Has he ever been sick like this before?”

“Yes sir, last winter at the Home. I cared for him ‘til he was well.” Han walked over to his cousin and held his hand.

The doctor explained Jed had a severe case of bronchitis with pneumonia setting in. The cold air, dust, and the hay from the stable was irritating the airways and what the cure would be. “He’s going to have to stay for a few weeks and then I suggest you move south to a warm climate.”

Han continued to look at his cousin. “We ain’t…don’t have no money to pay you or to go south.”

Dr. Becker smiled at the genuine concern and care the young man had for his cousin. “Well, if you help me nurse Jed back to health, I’m willing to reduce my fee. You can stay here and do chores for my wife for the fee and for room and board. Mrs. Becker gets very involved Christmas and could use some help. Agreed?”

“Yes sir, and thank you. I didn’t know what I was gonna do this morning.”

The next week found Han alternating between caring for Jed and running errands for Mrs. Becker. He changed the poultice on Jed’s chest and chopped wood. He bathed his cousin and mopped the floors. He changed the bedding and washed the bedding. In the evenings, he read books to Jed that the Beckers allowed him to borrow from their bookcases.

One evening, Mrs. Becker stood in the hallway and listened to Han’s reading. “Hannibal, you read so well!”

Han’s face reddened. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“I want…no, I need you to read for the Christmas Eve service.”

“Ma’am? I…I can’t…in church?”

Jed smiled at his cousin’s discomfort.

“Of course in church. Can you memorize? The church will be dark with a few candles so it would be best if you memorized the piece.”

“Memorize?” Jed asked puzzled.

“Learn by heart, Jed.”

“Oh, you done that when we was kids in church, remember Han? You even had my part learned so you could help me.”

Mrs. Becker smiled. Han scowled at his cousin. “I remember,” he muttered.

“Good, so that’s settled. No more chores for you since you have plenty to memorize. The service is called Glad Tidings and you will read Luke 2:1-20.”

“All twenty verses, ma’am?”

“Of course! Let me get a Bible for you so you can start memorizing.” Mrs. Becker left the room to return moments later with her Bible opened to Luke.

“But ma’am, I can’t.”

“Why can’t you?”

“I don’t have no church clothes. These are my only clothes.”

“Pffttt…don’t worry about clothes. Jesus himself was wrapped in swaddling clothes. You just concentrate on learning those verses,” Mrs. Becker said as she left the room.

Han grimaced.

“Han, what glad tidings mean?”

“Tidings is the same as news…good news.”

“You havin’ to read—ain’t glad tidings, huh?

“No, it isn’t.”

Han worked hard the week before Christmas memorizing the verses. “And it came to pass in those days…”

Christmas Eve morning, Mrs. Becker walked into the boys’ room with two large packages. “Open them up,” she encouraged them.

Jed ripped open his package. “New store-bought clothes and boots! I never had store-bought. Ma made all our clothes and I always got my brothers’ and Han’s old clothes.”

Han gave his excited cousin a look.

Jed looked apologetic. “I mean…thank you, ma’am, for the new boots and clothes.”

“Now you both have new clothes for church this evening. Be bathed and dressed at 6pm sharp.”

“Yes ma’am, and thank you very much for the clothes. We appreciate it.” Han smiled at Jed.

“Oh, and there are two warm coats hanging in the hall for you two. You make sure you’re bundled up warm, Jed. We don’t need you to get sick again.”

“New coats, too! Yes, Mrs. Becker, I’ll bundle up. Thank you for everything.” Jed beamed at the thought of his simple gifts.

That evening, the church was full and dimly-lit with candles. Jed sat in the second row and watched with pride as his big cousin said his lines to the congregation. Everyone listened…not a sound was heard as Han recited Luke 2.

After Han’s reading, an offering plate went around the congregation. The service concluded with Rev. Cole standing up and addressing the church members. “As you all know, these two young men, Hannibal Heyes and Jed Curry, have been staying with Dr and Mrs. Becker for several weeks while Jed recovers from pneumonia. For health reason, Jed needs to move to a warmer climate. I propose, after that fine reading, that we use some of the offering money to buy two train tickets to New Mexico.”

The congregation eagerly agreed with Pastor Cole. “What a wonderful time of the year to help those in need,” the Pastor concluded.

Han and Jed sat in surprise at the kindness of the strangers. They were going somewhere warm for Jed during the winter.

“Now this is glad tidings, huh Han?”

“It sure is, Jed. It sure is.”
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