My Brother’s Shadow (by pbeaking)


Summary: Adam is leaving and Hoss finds an interesting way to express his feelings and fears about his departure

Rating:  K+  WC 1150


My Brother’s Shadow

Adam Cartwright sat on the stagecoach deep in thought. He had only pulled away from his family less than ten minutes ago and already there was a feeling of emptiness. He still could envision the last image he had of his family as he leaned out the window to wave a final goodbye.

His father stood stoically, trying to muster a reassuring smile through already watering eyes. Little Joe was clinging to his father’s leg and solemnly sucking his thumb, and Hoss just stood waving simply in disbelief. It wasn’t exactly what he hoped for that day, but it was what had been imprinted and what he would have to live with until he saw his family again.

Suddenly the stagecoach hit a bump and a moment later it came to an abrupt halt. The driver jumped down and opened the door.

“Sorry folks, but we’ve got a loose wheel that needs fixing. I’ll have to ask everyone to step out.” There were a few moans as everyone complied.

The driver took down the luggage and arranged a small seating area under a nearby tree. It was a chilly fall day and everyone was bundled, trying to stay warm.

Adam pulled his coat collar up over his ears and placed his hands in his pockets. That’s when he felt something inside. He pulled out an envelope that was simply marked, “To Adam.” He opened it to reveal a five page letter written in his brother’s sloppy handwriting. This made him smile. He found a rock to sit on and quietly sat down to read what had been written.

“Dear Adam,

It hasn’t always been easy living in my brother’s shadow. Yet, it’s something I’ve had to do all my life and something I now find myself not having to do any longer. I can remember time and time again thinking how I would much prefer to trample down tall grass and find my own way, rather than following a well laid out path you had already made. But, now come to think of it, some of those paths were quite handy to follow, especially when dealing with Pa.

You know, Adam. I looked up the definition of ‘shadow’ just to see what it said. It had more than one meaning, which surprised me, but I bet it don’t surprise you. A shadow can be ‘a darkened shape on a surface that falls behind somebody or something blocking the light.’ I guess in that sense it means you were always there to protect me.

A shadow can also mean ‘somebody who secretly follows somebody in order to keep watch on that person.’ In that case, you always told on me if you thought I was making a poor decision; like that time I decided to try smoking with my friends.

Then again, a shadow can be seen as ‘an ever-present threat.’ I have to admit there were times that you didn’t make life easy for me, especially in school. You’d bring home those perfect report cards and I’d have to face Pa with my, well… not so perfect one. You’d be surprised how many hours I spent trying to find ways to be as good as you were at some things.

Finally, a shadow can sometimes be ‘an inseparable companion.’ My teacher told me that a companion is the same thing as a friend. That’s what you’ve been to me brother… a true friend. And, right now I find it hard to imagine what the Ponderosa will be like without you there.

So now, I have to admit I’m scared, Adam. I thought I was ready to forge my own path and take over where you left off, but now I’m not so sure. It’s my turn to be that shadow for Joe and Pa, too, in a way. I’m not sure I can do that. Then again, I haven’t really much choice in the matter. I just hope when my time comes that Joe will see me in the same light as I do you right now.

Well, I’m not good at goodbyes, brother. I just wanted you to know how much you mean to me… to all of us. I want you to know that when I see my shadow on every sunny day or every moonlit night, I will think of you.

Your brother,

Adam looked up from the letter and wiped a tear from his eye. He couldn’t help but glance one more time over his brother’s grammatically near perfect words. This produced a chuckle as he thought,“I bet Pa helped him proofread this…just a little.”

Adam stood up and stretched. Then he walked over to one of his bags, quickly producing a piece of writing paper and pencil. He immediately sat down and, crossing his legs in a crisscross fashion while using his knee as a makeshift table, began to write a response.

“Dear Hoss,
Thank you for the letter. I must say your writing has improved greatly and I was amazed at your near perfect grammar. After reading your thoughts, however, I must point out that you forgot to mention one other definition of a shadow: A shadow can also be ‘a reflected image.’ I can see your face right now as you are pondering what that means. Well, brother, it simply means that a shadow can be a mirror image of your own self. I, too, had the same fears when you were young. I asked myself the same questions. Then one day I realized by being a good role model I was setting an example for you to follow. Pa had taught me wrong from right. Just like he has taught you and is now teaching Joe. You just need to continue to follow those values, Hoss. Do that, and Little Joe will have no choice but to follow down that same path, however worn or untraveled it may be.

Forever your shadow,

Adam had just finished his signature when the stagecoach driver yelled out, “All aboard!”

Everyone piled back into the dusty coach and in a matter of moments they were headed down the road once more. Adam looked out at the countryside and marveled at how the clouds cast shadows onto the varied landscape. He couldn’t help but think that they were running alongside the coach as if to keep up.

Suddenly a thought passed through his mind: “A shadow follows you everywhere.”

Adam couldn’t help but smirk for it was at that moment the emptiness he had been feeling began to fade. He knew that from now on, no matter how far he traveled, his family would always be with him amidst the shadows.

*** Dictionary definitions taken from the Encarta Dictionary, North American edition


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