Summary: My boy was late. He was never late. A different POV for the episode “Elizabeth, My Love”.
Word Count: 1,057
My boy was late. He was never late.
He always remembered me, always fussed over and doted on me. It didn’t matter the hour or the circumstances, come hell or high water, rain or shine, he always came for me.
But not this time. This time he was late.
Thunder echoed through the barn and the loud noise made me swish my tail in irritation. It had been pouring for the past few days; a puddle had begun forming in the barn doorway. Storms had always made me antsy, but my boy knew how to calm me. His mere presence could sooth my restlessness. Shifting my weight, I stomped a hoof on the hay covered floor of my stall, impatient to see my boy.
Lately he’d seemed off. He was haggard, less aware of his surroundings. Once he almost slid from my saddle as he started to fall asleep, but at the last minute I snorted a warning to him and he caught himself. He’d patted my neck in thanks with an overly warm hand.
Then the coughing had started. At first is wasn’t so bad, but it soon settled into his chest. My sensitive ears had picked up an odd rattling noise as he’d sucked in lungfuls of air, each breath sapping more and more of his strength.
That had been yesterday.
Today, he was late and that worried me. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. I needed to see him, to see that he was all right.
But he didn’t come.
Cochise’s boy dished out breakfast. Chubb’s boy served supper. But my boy? My boy never came.
The next day and the one after that was more of the same. The third day dawned. Cochise and Chubb’s boys were quieter than before. They poured grain into my bin, straightened up my stall, and left without saying a word. Their faces were grimmer than I’d ever seen before.
The fourth day arrived, and the doctor was sent for. His pretty, bay mare was stabled in the stall beside mine and remained there for the next five days. When he left, his shoulders were slumped and he shook his head.
Eventually the gossip among the ranch hands reached my ears. My boy was sick, very sick. Pneumonia in both lungs. They didn’t think he would make it.
I kicked a hole in my stall. One of the ranch hands trussed me up in a pair of cross-ties and quickly repaired the damage I’d wrought, muttering about ‘dang-fool horses’ the whole time. I tried to take a chunk out of his rear as he slipped out of my stall, but he was quicker than I expected him to be. Too bad.
Chubb’s boy showed up later with a curry comb and gave me a thorough brushing. I ignored him. Usually I never would have been so rude to him; I liked Chubb’s boy. He was a friend of mine and would sneak me sugar cubes whenever my boy wasn’t looking. He was also an expert at neck rubs. But he wasn’t my boy, and I wanted my boy.
One week passed into two, and two into three. The doctor constantly came and went, smelling strongly of flax seed, corn oil, and opium.
My boy didn’t come.
By week four no one spoke about my boy.
I stopped eating. No amount of coaxing could get me to take even one bite of my feed. I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t thirsty. All I wanted was my boy and my boy was gone. He had to be gone. He wouldn’t have left me alone for so long unless he was gone. And if he was gone, what was the point of living?
Two days later there was a stirring at the barn door. The barrier opened and a shaft of bright sunlight filled the gloomy interior only to be eclipsed by the shadow of a tall figure. Cochise whinnied a greeting to the newcomer, but I paid it no mind. It was probably Chubb’s boy and I had no desire to see him.
A slow, shuffling noise filled the space as the figure made his way down the aisle, occasionally stopping to rest and gather his strength. His breathing was labored by the time he reached my stall and leaned against the doorway. Still I didn’t look up. As far as I was concerned my visitor could keep on walking.
Then a familiar voice spoke. “Hey there, Sport.”
I froze. That voice…it couldn’t be…could it?
Lifting my head I gazed into a pair of hazel eyes.
It was my boy. He was thinner than I remembered him being; his clothes hung on his frame. His eyes were rimmed with dark circles, his skin was a sallow, yellow color which spoke of long illness, but it was my boy. There was no doubt.
With a low whicker, I stepped toward him, gently butting his shoulder with my nose. He smelled of sweat, stale air, and the sharp, bitter scent of the doctor’s medicine, but I didn’t care. He was here and that was all that mattered.
A pair of shaky hands reached up and fondled my head before sliding down to scratch under my chin.
“What’s this I hear about you not eating, huh, boy?” he crooned. As if on cue, my stomach gurgled, drawing a laugh from my boy. Pushing my nose out of the way, he scooped a fresh bit of grain into my bin. I didn’t hesitate. Snagging a mouthful of feed, I munched away. Food had never tasted so good.
While I ate my boy stayed with me, petting me and catching me up on all the doings up at the big house. Eventually though, he grew tired. His voice softened and the trembling in his hands became more pronounced.
“I gotta go now, boy,” he murmured reluctantly. I stared at him, not wanting him to go, but knowing that he needed to. He smiled at me. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back in the morning,” he promised and I knew everything would be all right.
He gave me his word, and when my boy did that, he always made good on it.
The next morning, just as the sun crept over the horizon, he kept that promise.
- Written in loving memory of my Bonanza Boomer friend Donna (dougsgirl), who was 100% an Adam’s gal. RIP, my friend.
- I know that Adam’s illness was never named other than having a fever, so I used some creative license and decided that he had pneumonia.
- This was written for a writing challenge on Bonanza Boomers called Bonanza Ballads. I was given the song title “He Was a Friend of Mine” by the Byrds and was supposed to come up with a story based solely off of that title. This is what came to me.
Tags: Elizabeth, My Love, Sport, Adam, illness, friendship
Other Stories by this Author
- The Maiden With the Chestnut Hair (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- You’ve Got a Friend (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- The Pickle (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- My Dearest Husband (by Annie K Cowgirl)
- I Met a Friend of Yours Today (by Annie K Cowgirl)