Summary: Adam reflects. Written for the December 15th Pinecone Challenge, and expanded for inclusion here. Prompt/lyrics: The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age. (Rod Stewart)
Rating: K Word count: 754
Scenes From Our Next Life series:
Time and Change
“Hey, Adam. Whatcha doin’?”
Caught out—and by the kid, no less. I stand, looking away from the sluggish autumn stream, and he sidles nearer. Jamie Cartwright. This new brother I’d only met in letters (and only a few of those) until a month ago, when I’d arrived back home after ten years away (the last two of those completely out of reach). The lack of communication had been unplanned, but it had happened all the same—an extended trip through some of Australia’s vast rural spaces, a missed letter here, a few wires crossed there … and the next thing you know, I’m standing at the port in Sydney holding a letter from my brother that tells me life is changed forever.
Hoss is dead. Hoss … is dead. I still can’t think the words without pain stabbing right through me. Joe was married and widowed, all in less than a year. Pa’s slowing down. Things have been hard. The Ponderosa is doing okay, they’re making out all right, but it would be good if I would come back. He (Joe) had about given up on me, but a friend convinced him that there was a lot of distance between Nevada and Australia, and maybe he should try me one more time.
I couldn’t even dredge up any annoyance over the distrust screaming off those pages. My little brother—my whole family—had been through a lot, and had heard nothing from me despite repeated attempts. Frustration, anger even, was only to be expected. I hadn’t done anything wrong … but neither had they. After two years, what were they supposed to think? I just got on the first ship home, which in any case had been the plan all along.
And life is changed. I hadn’t expected it to stand still while I was gone, but I also wasn’t prepared for the shock of what ten years had wrought. The land is the same, of course—the hills, the lake are solid, immovable—and I’m glad of that, at least, because I’m not sure how I could deal with all the rest otherwise.
Pa is … old. Older, at least—lined and thinner and moving so much more slowly.
The house is both too big and too small without Hoss’s booming presence.
Joe, my baby brother, is completely grey. He’s quieter now, more reflective, though sometimes I still see the old glint in his eye. He’s also remarried—that friend, the one who convinced him to write to me one more time. I owe her for that. Lina’s good to him, and to Pa, Jamie, Hop Sing (who’s also getting pretty slow on his feet). Me. To pretty much everyone who walks into the Ponderosa’s yard. Joe made a good choice in her, on any number of levels.
Jamie … he was no surprise to me, of course, but it’s odd having a kid in the house again. He has a tendency toward the same types of scrapes Joe used to find himself in, but without Joe’s brash self-confidence to push him out the other side. The kid grew up in the back of a wagon with his pa like I did, but I get the feeling that’s one of the very few similarities in our upbringings—until my pa took him over, that is. I think sometimes he’d like to ask me about it and doesn’t know how.
I’m not the only one still adjusting to my return.
And if I’m honest with myself, my home and family aren’t the only things changed. That reflection I was staring at when Jamie found me … I don’t often remember that I’ll be fifty in a few years, but time doesn’t stand still for anyone. O Time and change! – with hair as gray as was my sire’s that winter day … I’m not as grey as Pa—not yet—but the poet’s thoughts are still my own. How strange it seems, with so much gone of life and love, to still live on!*
“You okay?” Jamie asks, tentative.
I’ve let my thoughts distract me.
“Yeah. It’s just … the morning sun.” I motion to the water at our feet. “When it’s in your face, really shows your age.”
Jamie frowns, then shrugs philosophically. “I guess so.”
He’s not old enough yet. And I need to quit dwelling on it.
“Come on.” I grip Jamie’s shoulder, and he grins up at me. “We need to get back.”
*From ‘Snowbound: A Winter Idyll’, John Greenleaf Whittier, 1866
Next Story in the Scenes From Our Next Life series:
Other Stories by this Author
- Without You (by PSW)
- Younger (by PSW)
- Meeting Family (by PSW)
- Warm Milk and Memories (by PSW)
- Only Fifteen (by PSW)