Summary: An enhanced scene from The Stillness Within by Suzanne Clauser which takes place prior to Jamie’s adoption. Joe’s reflections are from The Artist. Written for a Father’s day challenge – lessons in Ben for Jamie as told by the sons.
Rating: K+ WC: 967
A Disquiet Spirit
Joe abruptly left the breakfast table with Jamie following close behind. Though he had arrived downstairs in an upbeat mood, the frustration and helplessness caused by his blindness had made Joe end the breakfast conversation and take up Jamie’s offer for a ride in the new buggy. Hoss and his father remained behind at the table, conflicted and unsettled, as they mulled over Ben’s decision to bring a teacher from the school for the blind in San Francisco to the ranch, counter to Joe’s wishes.
A little while later, Joe and Jamie sat together in a pleasant, grassy knoll listening to the birds sing.
“Hey, Jamie, what kind of day is it?”
“Oh – uh – real nice.” Jamie gave an emphatic nod that Joe could not see.
“Any clouds?” Joe’s eyes remained fixed forward.
Jamie looked up to examine the sky. “Yeah, there’s a couple up there. Not rain clouds, though, they’re just the white fluffy kind.”
“Were you ever afraid of the dark when you were a kid?”
“Yeah, a little, I guess.”
“I wasn’t. I kinda liked it. Something kinda quiet and warm about it.” Joe chuckled and then went on. “You know – you know my brother, Hoss, was afraid of the dark when he was little.”
Jamie laughed. You’re kiddin’?”
“Yeah! Pa said he wouldn’t go to bed without a candle burnin’ in the room every night.”
Jamie grinned and giggled.
“Kinda funny a guy that big bein’ afraid of the dark and I wasn’t.” Joe became serious and his voice went soft. “Sure afraid of it now, though.”
There was sadness in Jamie’s eyes that went unseen. The two sat without speaking for a time.
“Funny – the other day I remembered something that happened years ago, back when Adam was still around.”
“Yeah, what was that?”
“We had just sold a bunch of cattle in Placerville and were eating at the saloon when this blind man stormed in with his hired man following him. The blind guy was spoiling for a fight and told his man to hit him, but the hired man wouldn’t do it, of course. The blind man’s name was Raine and this Raine fella just kept after his hired man and slapped the guy. When the hired hand refused to fight back, Raine took a swing and missed and then yelled, Hit me! Hit me!”
“Yeah, kinda crazy, huh?” Joe let out a nervous laugh. “That Raine guy begged to be hit. And then the strangest thing happened.”
“Pa got up from the table, walked over and slapped Raine on the face.”
“You’re kiddin’! Mr. Cartwright hit a blind man?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed it either if I hadn’t seen it. I think our jaws hit the floor – Adam, Hoss, and me. But that’s exactly what happened. Everyone in the place was shocked. In fact, I remember one of the barmaids even screamed.”
“So what did that Raine fella do then?”
“Funny thing – Raine didn’t act surprised or anything. He wasn’t even mad. Pa gave Raine the chance to hit him back. He had Raine grab onto his left arm, you know Indian style, like they do when they wrestle.”
“Pa said he wouldn’t duck away and would take whatever came his way, but that he was gonna hit back. Raine reached out and touched Pa’s face to measure the distance and then reared back and nailed Pa square on the cheek. Pa’s head flew back but he didn’t let go of Raine’s arm.” Joe took a long, deep breath as he remembered how difficult it was to watch the scene unfold.
Jamie squirmed and shook his head imagining what it would have felt like to be hit that hard. “Then what? Go on!”
“Pa tapped Raine on the arm to let him know what was coming and hauled of and hit him hard enough that Raine lost his grip and flew back onto a table.”
Jamie’s mouth dropped open. “Your pa really did that?”
“Yeah, he sure did. Well, Raine got up and Pa stepped forward and reset their grip. Raine measured his reach to Pa’s face again, swung and landed another punch. This went on for a few minutes, back and forth, hanging on with their left arms and throwing hard punches with their right fists until both conceded they had had enough.”
“Wow! That sure woulda been somethin’ to see!”
“Yeah, it sure was, but the most amazing thing was that when it was all over, Raine was grateful to Pa for doing it. In fact, he shook Pa’s hand and invited him for coffee at his house.”
“Pa, ended up staying at Raine’s place for a few days. Matthew Raine. That was his name. He was a famous artist – known around the world. Did you ever notice that painting in Pa’s room, the one of the seaside?”
“Yeah, it’s beautiful!”
“Raine painted that before he went blind. Sent it to Pa to thank him for helping him, you know, kinda find his way again.”
“Gosh, no wonder that Raine fella was mad at the world. Can’t imagine bein’ that good at somethin’ and then goin’ bli -” Jamie stopped short, suddenly realizing the gravity of what he was saying. “I mean – uh -”
“It’s ok. I thought I understood how Raine felt back then. Now – now – well there are days that I’d like to beat the tar out of anyone and anything. I hate just sitting around feeling useless.”
Jamie’s mouth opened, but then he closed it, uncertain what he could say that would be of any comfort to the man that he had grown to love over the past months. “Sorry, Joe”, was all he could get out.
“Thanks. You know Doc thinks I could get better anytime now. Any – time…..”
Other Stories by this Author
- Finding Christmas (by Hart4Ben)
- Lessons In Love (by Hart4Ben)
- Not Too Old A Fool To Change (by Hart4Ben)