Let Me Lean On You

I Know We'll Make It Through

Anxious and restless, Heyes was pacing outside in the hallway where he’d been denied entrance until the doctor could finish his examination. When he’d tried to talk his way in, although he’d used every persuasive skill he possessed, the physician had looked him straight in the eyes and made it perfectly clear that if Heyes couldn’t wait until the exam was done, then he wouldn’t be allowed in at all.

“Well, I might be forced to wait, but that doesn’t mean I have to do it sitting down quietly!” What’s taking him so long anyways? Is Jed really that bad? Heyes’ patience was near its breaking point.

Just then the door opened. “Okay, Hannibal, I’m finished examining Jedediah, you -” Doctor Martin halted midstream when he realized he was speaking to an empty hallway, the boy having ducked under his arm and bolted inside the room before the doctor had finished saying his name.

Approaching the bed, Heyes looked down with some trepidation at the motionless figure laying on it and swallowed. Jed looks so pale… so helpless, just lying there all still, not moving at all. He sat down, being careful not to jar the patient and then reached over and picked up Jed’s hand, unable to prevent wincing when he saw the raw red scrapes and the darkened bruising of the knuckles. “Aw, Kid…” he whispered and searched his friend’s face. Upon closer inspection he found it difficult to tell if Jed was breathing and looked up at the doctor in alarm, the unspoken question in his eyes.

“It’s okay, he’s just resting right now; I gave him something to help with the pain.”

Heyes swallowed, “Is he in... is there much pain? How bad is he, Doc? Tell me the truth, please - I’m all the family Jed has left – we’ve always looked out after each other.” He turned his attention back to his cousin, watching Jed intently for any sign of movement.

“Well, considering everything he’s been through, he’s a very lucky boy. The cuts, scrapes and bruises look worse than they are and will disappear in time. My first real concern is that arm of Jedediah’s; it’s what’s called a greenstick fracture. I’ll have to tend to that immediately, but he should remain unconscious with the medicine I’ve given him long enough to get it fixed.”

“A greenstick fracture? Does that mean it’s broken?”

“Well, yes and no. Children have softer, more pliable bones than adults, so however Jed injured it, while one side of the bone bent, the other broke.”

“What do you have to do to fix it?”

“Well, first the bone has to be reset; I have to put it back into the right position and after that I have two options. I can try splinting it and if the bone shows signs of healing properly, Jedediah will only have to be patient for a few weeks.”

“And if it doesn’t, Doc? What happens then?”

“If that doesn’t work, then I would need to apply a plaster cast to immobilize the bone until it has healed. A cast will take longer, but it may be necessary.”

“How will you know?”

“Well, the goal is to keep the bone sufficiently immobilized. From what I can tell, the splint should be sufficient. If a splint can provide adequate support, then my goal is accomplished and Jedediah will

soon be running around as if nothing had ever happened. A splint has certain advantages; one is that it can be removed for washing the injured area and then reapplied. A plaster cast is permanent until the mending process is completed and more of a hindrance than a splint.”

Heyes nodded. “I hope the splint works, Doc; he’s not very good at waiting.”

“Most young people aren’t,” Doctor Martin agreed. “Now, my second concern is a bit more complicated; I’m worried about the amount of smoke he got inside his lungs. That, along with lying on the cold, damp floor has put him at a higher risk for pneumonia. You know as well as I do, Hannibal, that unfortunately Jedediah has a history of taking a cold easily which, in turn, has the nasty habit of turning into pneumonia.”

His eyes never leaving his friend, Heyes nodded in agreement.

“Now, those last two things are what we’ll have to watch very carefully for the next few days. In addition, his throat is very sore, raw from yelling and coughing from the smoke he breathed in, so he really doesn’t have much of a voice left at the moment. That being said, Jedediah was conscious for a brief time and during those few moments he managed to say a few words.”

Heyes’ head jerked up. “What’d he say, Doc?”

“He whispered, ‘Tell Han, sorry,’ before he passed out again.”

Heyes turned back to his cousin and gave his hand a quick squeeze before he leaned forward, close to Jed’s ear. “Apology accepted, partner,” he whispered, “now you just get better - you hear?”

“I’ll give you the choice of staying while I set that arm or waiting outside until I’m done. It won’t take long but if you stay, you can’t get in the way or interfere with the work in any way. You should be prepared for your cousin to be in pain if he doesn’t stay under the medication. It won’t be easy; sometimes it’s harder on the family than it is on the patient. I need to set it right now, so I need to know what you’re decision is.”

Heyes’ eyes had widened at the mere suggestion that he might abandon Jed. There was no way he’d leave his cousin alone! I just got in here and nothing or nobody is going to make me leave now! There wasn’t any doubt in his mind as to what his answer was going to be. His voice was firm and filled with conviction when he answered, “I’m staying!”

“That’s what I thought you’d say, Hannibal. In fact, I would have bet on it - if I were a betting man. I’ll be as gentle as I can, but as I already explained, it all depends on his pain level and how the medication is working. You can stay right there beside him and hold his hand. I have one of the men coming back to help me with Jedediah’s arm; it’ll take two of us to get it set.”

Heyes leaned down next to Jed again, wanting him to know that he was there. “I’ll be right here, Kid. It’s okay if you have to yell, the doc says it might hurt. You can squeeze my hand if you need to...” Heyes felt his hand being squeezed...once, twice! “Hey Doc,” Heyes called out in surprise, “I swear he just squeezed my hand! You think he heard me?”

“Yes, Hannibal, it’s very possible Jedediah can hear you even though he can’t speak; this may be his way of letting you know that he knows,” the doctor smiled.

Just then the other man arrived that was to help set Jed’s arm.

“Jack, this is young Jedediah’s cousin, Hannibal; Hannibal, this is my friend, Jack Carter. You may have seen him around, but I’m not sure the two of you have met. He and I have done this many times; it should be fairly easy since Jedediah is so young. The younger you are, the easier it is to set the bones.”

Heyes stood up to shake his hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Carter, and thank you for helping with Jed,” Heyes smiled up at the man, who nodded back at the boy.

“Okay, Hannibal, we’re ready to start. Remember, whatever happens, your job is to stay right there and hold his hand.”

Heyes sat back down next to Jed and picked up his hand. Taking a deep breath and keeping his eyes fixed on his friend, he announced, “Okay, Doc...I’m ready.”

Without another word the two men set briskly to work.

Heyes turned to watch them, fascinated as usual by discovering how something new worked. The way they manipulated things around - they made it look easy! He felt his hand being squeezed again and shifted his gaze back to Jed, alarmed to see his eyes were open. He got down on his knees next to the bed, “It’s okay, Kid, they’re just fixing up your arm.” As the boy turned to look, Heyes spoke sharply to get his attention. “Uh, uh, don’t look at them - look at me! Hey, Doc, Jed’s awake - you almost done?”

“You just keep talking to him, we’re almost finished.”

“Hey, Jed, you hear that? The doc wants me to talk to you and you’ve gotta listen! Why does he give me all the hard things to do? You know what? You’re gonna miss out on a whole lot of chores, having a busted arm an’ all. Too bad it wasn’t the right one; you probably could’ve got outta all your homework too!”

Heyes was rewarded with a weak grin from Kid which was quickly replaced by a grimace and a scream of pain as the two men guided the bones back into place. The cry trailed off into a low moan as Jed sunk back down into unconsciousness. Heyes released a heartfelt breath of relief. It’s a good thing you did, Kid; I think you’ve been through enough already!

“You did a fine job, Hannibal; you were a big help keeping him busy while we finished up. Now, I’m going to suggest that you take a break. He won’t wake up for a while. I can stay here with him,” he offered, “until you come back if you’d like?”

Torn between staying with Jed or getting things settled with the bullies, Heyes decided he’d better go take care of them first, that way he would be free to stay here with his cousin. “Okay, Doc,” he answered and laid Jed’s hand down on the bed. “I won’t be gone long, Kid. I just need to take care of something and I’ll be right back, I promise.” With one last look at his sleeping friend, Heyes turned and walked away.

Heyes found the three boys outside in the yard waiting for him. Their usual ‘bully’ image was noticeably missing and in its place were just three anxious teenage boys. Heyes shook his head. He’d really rather just tell them it was their own fault for picking on Jed the way they did and they deserved whatever they got, but he also realized that if he wanted to make things right for his cousin, he’d have to get them off the hook as well. He took a moment to give each of them a measuring look before speaking. Then, with no desire to spend any more time with them than he had to, Heyes didn’t waste any more time telling them his plan.

“Okay, here’s what you’re going to do. First off, none of you - and that includes Jed - is going to get out of this without some kind of punishment, there’s just no way around it. Too many things have happened that you can’t explain without making it worse on everyone. The first two things we’re all going to do is forget that you three made fun of Jed - calling him a baby - which is what started this whole thing. The second thing, is that the spiders and the bees were just ‘accidents’ -”

“Accidents – are ya crazy? You mean we’re jus’ supposed to forget Jed was responsible for ’em? Why should we?” demanded Michael angrily.

“If you’d let me finish, you’d see why! Let’s just say for now, that’ll be our secret. Now, let me tell you the rest. Think about it; if there isn’t any memory of Jed causing the accidents then there also won’t be any memory of someone locking him up downstairs to almost suffocate!” Heyes glared pointedly at Danny.

The bully was quiet for a minute and then shrugged his shoulders. “Okay, guess that makes sense.” Turning to the other two bullies, he added, “A whole lot less trouble than explainin’ how we knew he was down there in the first place, right? Which brings up a good point – how ARE we gonna explain that part anyways, Heyes? How’re we gonna tell ‘em we knew where to find Jed, without gettin’ into all kinds of trouble?”

“Well, this is the part that’s a bit tricky. I’m going to have to get Jed to listen to me ’cause he’s not going to like it. It’s going to take a whole lot of talking to convince him, to get him to understand it’s the best way. I’ll have to get him to listen as soon as he’s able. All of us have to see Miss Menius in the morning, so we have to get the next part down right. And, we all have to tell the same story, or it won’t work. They won’t question Jed for a few days, so that’ll give me the time I need to work it out with him. After I explain to him why we’re doing it this way, he’ll go along...” Heyes said confidently.

He glanced around quickly before continuing, “Now, this is the way it happened...Jed was nosing around like he always does, trying to find something to do, and that’s when he smelled the smoke. He somehow found the secret door, got it open and went down to investigate. The door accidentally shut on him, trapping him down there.

“As far as the smoking rags, nobody should be blamed for that, whatever it was that was on them caused them to go up in smoke ‘cos of the chemicals. Danny got rid of the cigar - which was really what started the whole thing. And we all know who the last one down there with a cigar was - don’t we?” Heyes’ glare of accusation never wavered as he stared at Danny.

Danny grinned back in return. “Well, Heyes, if things happened the way ya say, then nobody was anywhere with anything – at least that’s the way I see it.” His smile disappeared and his tone became serious. “Ya really think Jed’s gonna be willin’ to take the blame for bein’ down there where he shouldn’t have been? Ya don’t think he’s gonna want to tell on us an’ let ’em know what we had to do with it?”

“Listen, it’s like I said before; everyone has to forget some things, but no one is going to get off totally. I’m pretty sure he won’t want them finding out he was responsible for the beehive or the spiders and you guys sure don’t want them finding out that you’ve been going down into your little secret hideout for the last two years.

“You just leave Jed to me; he’ll listen to me and do what I tell him to do. You have any other questions? I need to get back. You all know what you need to tell Miss Menius in the morning, right? Remember, this’ll only work if everyone sticks to the same story.”

The three boys looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and then nodded.

“Just want ya to know, Heyes, we appreciate you workin’ out a plan to keep all of us outta really big trouble - we won’t forget it. Jus’ try to talk some sense into that cousin of yours, will ya? You tell Jed that if he leaves us alone, we just might leave him alone.” As Danny finished speaking the other two boys nodded their heads in agreement.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be talking to him a lot – and I’ll be sure to mention it. Now, I’m going back up there with Jed, you’d better get going too - and try to relax; it’ll make your stories sound more convincing.” Heyes walked up the steps and into the building without a backwards glance.

The three boys he left behind in his wake were oblivious to the big smile that had appeared on Heyes’ face. He had omitted one small detail of his plan; the part about the story that would soon be circulating around town. He didn’t want the story getting around too soon, though; timing was crucial. It had to be right before their appointed meeting with Miss Menius for it to do the most good, especially if he didn’t want to tip his hand to the bullies.

“Now all I need to do is to help make sure the right people know about the story...” Heyes murmured. Shoving his hands into his pockets and whistling softly, he made a few stops and when he was finished, Heyes headed back to the sickroom. He settled down into the chair next to Jed, watching his cousin while he slept, wishing he’d open his eyes so he could tell him everything was going to be okay. He leaned forward to touch Jed’s arm.

“I’m right here, Kid; sure would be nice to see you open your eyes. Boy, have I got lots to tell you! Hey, did you know that you’re a hero? Folks ’round here think you risked your life to save the whole place from being burnt down to the ground! How ’bout that? They can’t believe such a little guy like you could do such a big, brave thing! Wonder who’s been telling them such stories, huh?” Brown eyes twinkling, Hannibal Heyes grinned in that special way of his.

“Anyways, the Doc’s being a real big help; even says that if it weren’t for you, we all could’ve died! He says it won’t be long and you’ll be up and running round, back to normal. Boy, will I ever be glad when things settle down and get normal again! After all that’s gone on these last couple of days, I’m ready for something normal! ‘Course with you around, Kid, not much stays normal very long. You just have a way of keeping things stirred up, you know. Good thing you’ve got me around; someone’s gotta make sure you don’t get into too much trouble,” Heyes’ speech was interrupted by a huge yawn.

It had been a very long day… Leaning back, Heyes’ lashes fluttered down to shutter his warm brown eyes. “Just gonna rest for a minute...” he mumbled.

Heyes awoke to feel the warmth of sunlight streaming on his face. He sat up quickly, rubbing his eyes and looked over at his cousin. Geez, he whispered, Jed looks even worse today! Most of the boy’s face was pale, except for his cheeks, which were patches of bright red. Heyes groaned; he knew the telltale signs better than anyone. He and Jed had been together too long for him not to recognize the signs of fever which usually accompanied the hateful pneumonia that Jed was so prone to.

He reached up and felt Jed’s forehead. Yep, he was burning up alright! And here he’d been sleeping all night instead of taking care of his cousin! Angry with himself, Heyes hurried over to the washstand. Picking up a towel, he wet it, wrung it out and carried it back to put on Jed’s feverish forehead.

“Oh good, Hannibal, you’re awake,” Doc Martin smiled a greeting as he opened the door and stepped inside the room. “Thank you for getting that back on his head. The nurse and I just stepped out for a few minutes so I could give her some instructions regarding Jedediah’s care.”

“Nurse? Jed doesn’t need a nurse!” Bristling with umbrage and unwilling to let someone else take care of Jed, Heyes challenged the physician.” I’m right here – and I know how to take real good care of him - I’ve been doing it since I was a kid!” That was his job and nobody was going to take it away from him!

Hearing the uncertainty that was even more prevalent than the defiance in the boy’s words, the doctor smiled down at the angry young man who glared up at him. Putting a hand on Heyes’ shoulder, his voice was calm and without censure. “Hannibal, nobody is asking you to leave or trying to take your place; you can still do your job and help Jedediah get well. The nurse is just an extra precaution I’m taking because of the severity and the nature of his illness.

“As you are probably well aware, Jedediah has the beginnings of pneumonia; added to that are the complications from inhaling all that smoke into his lungs. If he’s to have a fighting chance, then we must all work together, use all of our combined strengths to help him. This time you don’t have to do it all by yourself; do you understand, Hannibal?”

Ashamed at his angry outburst, Heyes heaved a sigh and then looked up at the doctor contritely. “Yes, sir, I’m sorry; guess I’m just used to being the only one around for Jed. Most of the time, when he’s sick, nobody wants anything to do with him. The thing is, he always needs lots of stuff done and they don’t have the time to do it; they say it’s too much of a bother. Plenty of times I had to beg, and sometimes even steal, to get the stuff he needed: extra blankets, broth, a bigger fire, someone to be there when he woke up... As far as they were concerned, he was already dead. I just - I couldn’t let that happen, Doc; I know Jed’d do the same for me.”

“No, you couldn’t, Hannibal, no more than your cousin would let something happen to you. It’s wonderful that you two have each other to lean on. Most people go through their whole lifetime and never have a fraction of the love you two have for each other. That love will be the thing that helps Jedediah the most. All the medicine, nurses, blankets, fires and broth won’t help him get well if he doesn’t have a good enough reason to live.”

“Don’t worry, Doc; Jed’s got LOTS of reasons to stay around and I’ll be sure to remind him of all of ’em when he wakes up!” With a dimpled grin on his face that went from ear to ear, Heyes crossed the room to take his place beside his cousin.

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