SUMMARY: Joe is hurt and wonders if the dream he had was a dream because it seemed so real. It’s the kind of thing he rather wishes might be true, but then again, could this really be?
Rating = T Word count = 1450
Waking in his bed with his father sleeping in the chair at his bedside, Joe Cartwright assessed the damage to his body. There was a bandage around his chest and shoulder and lumps on his head. Those bumps on his skull probably accounted for the headache and perhaps the strange dream he had had except it had seemed so real. His father had sat by his side as he lay wounded in bed with these exact same injuries and had confessed a number of things he had done. At first, he had found it so hard to believe, but it did fit the family history so he had begun to believe it as the confession got longer and longer. Now, he stared at his father sitting there and waited for him to wake. He had to ask, and when Ben woke, he did ask him.
“What dream was that, Joseph?”
“The one where you admitted you loved me best and have been trying to get rid of Adam for years.”
“Now, Joseph, do you think I would really do something like that?”
“But, Pa, it seemed so real, and you talked for so long. Everything you said made so much sense. I can remember all of it.
“Joe, I have to confess, you’re my favorite, and I did my best to get rid of Adam for you. When the opposition hired a gunman, I insulted him knowing Adam was there at my side and with his pride would step up to fight the man for his father. Who knew he could beat a professional gunman in a fight?
“He was there at my side in the first encounter of the Paiute War and that couldn’t have worked much better, I thought. By all reports, that was it. Then some said he’d been taken instead of killed, and sure enough, they had him. He was going to be killed if we didn’t get back in time. You well remember that we managed not to get back in time, but lo and behold, there he was free and alive. Some say he moves like a cougar. Well, he’s got the nine lives like a cat. I’ll give him that.
“I sent him off alone to get rid of those sheepherders, but he came back just fine. One of them was dead instead. I refused to get the sheriff involved, and instead, we all went out there, and I sent him to get them moving. He got captured instead of killed. I had to try to get him back. It wouldn’t have looked right otherwise.
“Then with that mine, I said, sure when he was going to go down there with his friend and that Diedesheimer fellow. The mine wasn’t safe. Not a surprise to me that it collapsed, but only Gill got killed. Adam ends up under a beam and walks out of there with scratches and bruises. I thought Hoss and those men went down there to retrieve bodies never expecting they would come up with survivors. I mean, who lives through tons of rock falling on their heads?
“When that homicidal marshal was here to arrest Dave Walker, I encouraged Adam to go with him on that trip. I expected there would be a pretty good dustup out there in the California desert. How was I to know Hoss would volunteer to go along too because he was worried about his brother? That was another plot foiled.
“I encouraged him too to go down to Mexico to find what happened to Carl Reagan expecting that he would run into all sorts of problems. I mean, we all knew that Carl was no good and was likely involved in all sorts of shady business down there with dishonorable people. Again, he ends up having complete strangers help him out, and he comes home a hero making Carl’s father so happy in the long run.
“You may not know this, but I tried to shame him into fighting Bill Enders. Yes, it’s true. Bill challenged him, but he wouldn’t fight. Oh, he had some highfalutin reasons why he shouldn’t, but I tried to show him I didn’t think much of his reasons, but I didn’t fight them too hard either. I thought this one was a losing proposition from the start. I guess Hoss did too, because he seemed to have the same sort of lukewarm responses I did. So maybe this one doesn’t count against him.
“Out in that desert, I was ready to go home when he walked right where we could see him. After that show I put on for Hoss riding around in circles for days and yelling until I was hoarse, I thought it was finally over. Who would have expected that to happen?
“I sent him off with that ten-thousand-dollar bank draft all signed so anyone could waylay him. Then even though he ran into an escaped convict who was a cold-blooded killer, he ended up getting help, managed to pay the taxes, and came home safely too. I simply do not understand the luck that boy has.
“On a lighter note, when he found that crazy knight, or the crazy man pretending to be a knight, I thought we had a shot at getting him committed. Doctor Martin wouldn’t agree though saying he needed some good rest and nourishment instead. That would have worked so well. Even if he got out, everything would have been put in your name, and if he objected so much, we could show that he was hardly competent to deal with these things having been so recently released from a hospital for the mentally ill. Then that darn niece had to show up and everything got explained logically.
“Now that didn’t stop me from pushing him to help Roy out when the town wanted to replace him with news that a gang was on the way to rob the bank. Now I knew Adam could do the job, but when a gang of murderers and thieves comes to town, anything can happen. Who knew anyone would think to reinforce the bank with iron bars over the windows like that and wait them out? Roy and Adam turned out to be a far better team than I ever thought they could be. I expected Adam to try to tell Roy what to do and Roy to have his usual response to that. None of my plans ever seem to work out.
“I left him home to handle Simmons by himself when I knew there was a range war on the horizon. Tempers were flaring, and I assumed he would lose his. But, no, he had to keep his head and handle things as well as they could be handled. Tarnation, he’s too darn unpredictable.
“The same thing happened when he took over for Barbara Scott. When I knew the Colonel was upset and after Adam got the tar kicked out of him, I guessed they might try to go further. Seeing him standing there on that porch of the school all lit up by those torches, I guessed he was a perfect target. But they shot the eyewitness instead. I hadn’t thought about that. He walked away from that with nary a scratch. No, I had to look for another way to get rid of him for you.
“Oh, I know he could have gone off with Laura, but that was too cruel. I couldn’t sentence him to a fate worse than death, son. I couldn’t push him to do it. I simply can’t be that nasty to anyone. We’re going to have to wait for him to decide to leave on his own. I’m guessing riding a few more fence lines, digging a few more ditches, and pushing cattle a few more times, and he’ll decide the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.”
“That was it. Now, you didn’t say any of that to me?”
“Joe, you had a head injury. Do you think I would say those things to you?”
“I guess not. I guess I better not say anything about it to anyone else. It could only stir up trouble.”
“Yes, it would.”
Then Ben winked at Joe as if they shared a secret except Joe couldn’t tell what the secret was: that the conversation was a dream or it wasn’t.
Author’s Note: This is an expanded version of a challenge from Bonanza Trailriders.
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Ben Cartwright, Joe / Little Joe Cartwright, tongue-in-cheek
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