Two boys walked alone along a winding country path. Dry branches and crisp leaves crunched underfoot in the cool autumn air, the sounds reminiscent of many falls before, or at least one.
“I did it when I was in your grade. Now it’s your turn.” Stopping, Han laid his books on the ground and picked up a rock, flinging it with all his might.
His cousin Jed mirrored the action. “Don’t see why I have to mem’rize it. It’s stupid!”
“Jed, ya just have to.” The older boy watched his opponent’s missile. “But you’re almost as good as me throwing rocks.”
Jed shrugged. “Ma says I’m startin’ to fill out.” He picked up his books. “What good is me knowin’ a speech from some old book gonna help on the farm? My pa don’t know anythin’ like that.” Blond curls flopped as the boy looked up at his cousin.
Han shrugged. “I don’t know, but both our pas read at night to pass the time when we’re all in bed – their way of relaxing at the end of the day. My pa reads that stuff all the time.”
Jed’s nose crinkled. “Not sure my pa does. It’s stupid. Don’t see the point in it.”
“It’s not stupid – it’s culture.”
Han straightened. He stood a full three inches over the younger boy. “Sure. It’s what the ladies in town say we need more of out these parts. You know, so we’ll be more like the big cities.”
“But we’re not in a big city.”
“I know. Doesn’t mean we can’t have some of what, say, Chicago and New York have.”
Jed almost stumbled over a boulder. Han reached out an arm to break the fall. The younger boy looked up. “Thanks, Han. But we can have somethin’ else they have that we don’t – maybe a circus!”
Han laughed. “A circus would be fun, but the play’s the thing.”
Han shrugged. “Nothing. Just something my pa was saying the other night.”
“Maybe we can play more?”
“Nah, had nothing to do with playing.”
“Then what did he mean?”
Han thought. “Like the culture the ladies in town want to bring out here. It’s a line like ya have to memorize, but from something else.”
The younger boy sighed. “Ya mean there’s more of that stuff?”
“Yup, lots of it.” Han reminisced. “Don’t’cha remember all that memorizin’ I had to do couple years back? Those were just passages. I’m gonna have to start on the whole book now, not just a part like you’re doing.”
The younger boy scowled. “Don’t wanna read the whole book – ever!”
“Jed, ya might change your mind one day.”
“I don’t think so...”
“I don’t think so, Heyes.”
“Huh?” The dark-haired man squinted in his cousin’s direction.
“I don’t understand anythin’ you’re readin’. And don’t think I ever want to. Had enough of that when I was a kid.”
Hannibal Heyes lowered his book. The rocking of the saddle did not make for easy reading. “Okay, I’ll read to myself. You’re right – you’re not cut out for the likes of this.”
Kid Curry turned in his saddle. “You sayin’ I’m stupid?”
“Nope. Just like different things is all.”
Curry did a double-take. “Heyes, am I hearin’ you right?”
“No more tryin’ to convince me?”
“Why the change of heart?
Heyes’ eyes opened wide. “Because, Kid, it’s about time I listen to what you’ve been saying. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.”
Kid’s eyes narrowed. “There’s gotta be somethin’ in the air. You feelin’ all right?”
Curry pulled his mount alongside Heyes. He reached the back of a hand out to his cousin’s cheek. “Hmm, you’re cool enough.”
Kid stared hard at his partner. “You’re up to somethin’, Heyes.”
“Nope. I’m not.”
“Then why ya agreein’ with me after all these years?”
Heyes shrugged. “Guess I’m admitting you know what you like. Maybe I can’t do all your thinking for you.”
Kid hastened an answer. “No, you can think for me. Well, maybe sometimes. But, yeah, I like what I like, and …”
Heyes smiled to himself. “Um hmm.”
Curry pursed his lips. What was this surrender? He stared at nothing in particular. To Heyes, he appeared deep in thought. The dark-haired man opened his book and began again to read, to himself this time. The wisp of a warm autumn breeze and the sway of their horses gently lulled both men to nod off in the saddle, only to quickly regain their senses. The silence, companionable and marked by steady hoofbeats, continued for a time.
Kid eyed the landscape. They were used to the terrain here in the southwest now. It rolled and undulated like that back home, but it was different – brown, not green; more high than flat. But Kansas was in their blood.
“Remember when we had to memorize that stuff back in school?”
“And I didn’t think it mattered a hill of beans?”
“Yep. You still think that.”
Curry’s voice was rueful. “Well, maybe not as much.”
Heyes lowered his book. He smirked. “All right. Just before we agreed you didn’t like it. You having a change of heart?”
Curry removed his hat, running a hand through matted curls. The light autumn breeze felt cool on his perspiration-soaked head. Falls here in the southwest were not as cool as those in Kansas, but still the occasional leaves at higher altitudes rustled with the wind or crunched underfoot, reminiscent of so many yesterdays, long ago. “No, not really. But, maybe … I don’t know. Just …”
“Brings back …”
“Yeah, sort of.” Curry paused. “Heyes, you ever get to thinkin’, what might’ve been different?”
Heyes removed his hat, settling it in his lap. The sun filtering through white, puffy clouds felt good on his face. The bit of a breeze rustled the open page of his book in one hand. He glanced at the print. Squinting back at his cousin, he reminisced. “I remember that speech you were so worried about. It went off without a hitch.” His countenance darkened. “It was the only one you had to do.” Lightening, he smiled. “You got off easy.”
“Yeah, easy.” Curry’s brow furrowed. “Maybe not so easy.” Kid focused on the ground, now brown, a bit undefined, thoughts meandering back to the rhythm of the saddle, of a time, to yesterdays. When he looked up, they shared a soulful glance.
Kid started, and Heyes joined in. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, … “
_________________ Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
Posts : 8718 Join date : 2013-08-24
Subject: Re: The Speech Tue Sep 01, 2015 4:56 pm
Wonderful dialogue, going back and forth between them, comparing the grown man to the boy. From the last line I get that when they were boys and Jed had to deliver that speech life was full of possibilities and could have gone in any direction.
For me, the "Tomorrow and tommorow and tomorrow..." speech has always been about how transient life is, and how men are destined to face into obscurity."
To me this story is all about what might have been. It was both poignant, and pregnant with possibilities, at the same time.