by Grasshopper

Chapter 2

Jase drove into the barnyard, parking the truck in front of the house. He found Ginny Farley sitting at the kitchen table helping Davy with his math homework.

"Thanks for staying late, Ginny," he smiled at the babysitter. "Need a ride home?"

"No, sir. Thanks. My boyfriend will be here in a minute." He pulled out his wallet and gave her $20.

"It's only 15, Mr. McBride," she frowned.

"I know, but I really appreciate you staying late and helping Davy," he told her. He heard a loud muffler and screaming music as Ginny's latest pulled up out front. She ruffled Davy's hair, said goodnight and left the two McBride men alone in the big lonely house.

"Did you eat?" Jase asked the boy.

"No, sir," Davy answered. "I wanted to wait for you." Davy McBride watched his father as he opened the fridge and pulled out a covered bowl of leftover mac and cheese and some salad greens. The young boy's eyes never left his father.

Davy McBride worshipped the ground his father walked on. He wanted to be just like him when he grew up. Everything his father did was great. He was the best vet in the county, he had a way with animals that was close to spooky. Everyone admired and trusted him. The only problem Davy could see was that his father didn't love him. He had tried everything he could think of but it was just a pure and simple truth. His father didn't love him.

"Did you finish your homework?" Jase asked absently.

"Yes, sir. The math is really hard. Ginny helped me. Maybe you could show me how to....................," he started.

"What?" Jase asked, "Oh, sure, later."

Davy sighed. It was always like that. He had a nice home, hot food, everything he needed except one thing. He always wanted to jump up and hug his dad's neck but something always stopped him. He didn't want to know for sure. He didn't want his dad not to hug him back.

Davy remembered his mother so clearly. He had her picture in a frame beside his bed. She had died in a car wreck out at Wild Horse Ravine when he was just 6. His father sometimes sat on the edge of the bed as Davy fell asleep and held the picture in his hands. Davy would pretend to be asleep and he would see his father's shoulders shake, hear his quiet sobs. Davy had long ago decided that his dad hated him because his mother had died. He didn't understand how he could have stopped that Jeep from going over that cliff. He was just a kid.

It was weird. He didn't look like his dad or his mother. The kids sometimes teased him, calling him a half-breed. When he asked his dad what that meant, Jase had told him that it meant he was half white and half Indian.

"Are you an Indian?" he had asked.


"Was Mommy?" his voice trembled.


So, Davy never understood. When he looked in the mirror, he saw a boy with big brown eyes, straight black hair and ruddy skin. His nose was thin and his cheekbones sharp. When he held the picture of his mother and dad, he saw her blonde hair and soft blue eyes. He wanted so much to look like her or look like his dad. Her name had been Charity. Charity Carson McBride. He loved her so much and she had died when he was six and all the love had gone out of his world.

"Dad?" he spoke softly. "Did you hear about the big mess at the motel today?"

"What?" Jase turned from the sink. "The motel? The Drift Inn? What happened?" He immediately pictured Cody's face as he had driven off.

"The old rotten roof finally fell in and it fell on some old guy taking a bath," Davy giggled.

"The whole roof?" Jase asked quickly.

"Yes, sir. Ty and I went to see it after school. It's a big mess inside," he told him.

Jase stood still, his mind not wanting to care and yet knowing that Grandpa Taylor would never forgive him if anything happened to his grandson.

"Davy, get your shoes on. We have to go to town."

Cody stuck his feet up under him as he sat in the booth of the Four Corners Café. It was late. He was so tired and sticky from the flight. The waitress had told him that there was no other motel and sure no hotel in Drifter. The closest was in ShipRock, twenty-five miles to the north. The rental car place was closed and he was just stuck.

He unbraided his hair and ran his fingers through it, trying to ease away the tension, then pulled it back and tied it with a leather strip at the nape of his neck. "How late do you stay open? Can I just stay here awhile?"

"Sure, hon. You're stranded, ain't ya? Want some more coffee?"

Shaking his head, the acrid taste of strong coffee bitter in his mouth, he lay his forehead down on his arms and closed his eyes.

Cody dreamed. He was in the desert. It was dark. No noise. No sound at all.

He was sitting high atop a rocky cliff, a coyote lying by his hip. He could hear something moving toward him. Something big. The coyote began a low growl deep in his throat. As the shadowy figure got closer, the moon came out from behind a cloud and Cody could see his arms, his pouty bottom lip and finally, finally, his eyes. They were the color of......................

"Dakota?" He felt someone shaking his shoulder gently. Opening one eye, he recognized the curt raspy voice.

"Mr. McBride?"

"Why didn't you tell me you had no place to stay?" he asked, his voice almost sounding hurt. That had to be Cody's imagination working overtime.

"I didn't think you'd care one way or the other. You were just glad to get rid of me," he answered, knowing he sounded like a rather sullen child and not giving a shit.

"Come on. You can't stay here," Jase said in a rather commanding tone.

"Well, there's nowhere else to go," he said sleepily.

"Yes, there is. My house. Your old house. Come home, Dakota." Jase lifted his suitcase under one arm and pulled the smaller bag onto his broad shoulder. He turned and walked out of the café.

Cody sat for a minute, weighing his alternatives. Hmm, sleep on this table,,,,

Go home with Jase McBride. He got up slowly, smiled at the waitress and walked out to that black truck, the same truck he had escaped from just a couple of hours ago.

The door open, Cody grabbed the handle and pulled himself up onto the seat, right into the bashful face of an adorable 10 year old boy.

"Whoa, hello," he smiled. "You must be Davy McBride."

"How did you know?" he asked, surprise written across his face.

"I've heard about Jase McBride's handsome son and you're the only one here, so I put 2 and 2 together," he laughed. Davy laughed with him and sat up a little straighter in the seat. Handsome, huh?

Cody tried not to stare. He didn't look anything like Jase. Not one thing was the same. He was cute as a button but he sure didn't have "McBride" stamped across his face. He must look just like his mother. Jase must have been married to an Indian girl! This didn't surprise Cody, but it did cross one reason for Jase's instant dislike off his list. He couldn't hate him because he had Navajo blood etched across his features, not if he had chosen an Indian girl to marry.

"Are you coming to our house?" Davy asked shyly.

"He is," his dad answered.

Cody wrinkled his nose. He could certainly answer for himself, thank you very much. "I guess so, Davy. I haven't any place to sleep tonight."

"You own half the ranch, right?" he asked. "Are you gonna sell it?"

"Davy!" Jase reined his son back in. "Not your business." Jase glanced quickly over at Cory and saw his look of irritation. Why did he care?

Cody watched the interplay between the two McBrides; one too young to guard his words and the other apparently too old to care who he hurt. He was totally mystified about the lack of emotion in Jase's voice when he spoke to his son.

"Hey, Davy? Do you ride?" Cody spoke soothingly. "I'd sure like to take a ride out to Lone Coyote Canyon. I used to ride there all the time when I lived here." He saw the boy's face light up.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Um..........," he trailed off, not knowing what to call Cody.

"Call me Cody, Davy. All my friends do," he said softly, cutting his eyes across the seat at the stiff profile.

"Dad, can I ride with Cody to the canyon, please Daddy?" his young voice rang clearly in the truck cab. Cody looked at Jase's face. His brow furled and he seemed ready to deny his son even this small pleasure. Cody's lips were already forming a nasty comment.

"All right, but not til your chores are done," Jase said slowly. "And be back by dark. I don't have time to be out looking for 'strays'.

'Strays?' He wanted to reply with a sharp barb but the sight of the happiness on Davy's face took the sting out of his father's words. Cody realized he wanted very much to ride to the canyon with Davy; to see the Saguaro and the mesquite through eyes that had were the same age he had been those years ago.

Pulling up to the farmhouse, Cody slid out, falling the short distance to the ground. Totally bedraggled, his suit pants creased beyond repair, his silk shirt half in, half out, his hair, loose from the tie, falling down around his face in hunks, all he wanted was a hot shower and sleep.

"You'll have to sleep in Davy's room," Jase said. Davy's eyes lit up. Maybe he could sleep with his dad. "He can sleep on the sofa in the living room."

Cody heard the loud sigh that escaped from the boy's chest. 'That man is a case,' he thought angrily, somehow knowing exactly what had raced through Davy's head. A bit wildly, he thought, 'You should be happy someone wants to sleep in your bed with you, you old fart.'

Davy led him toward the door to his room, opening it shyly. "It's not fancy," Davy told him. Cody looked around, enjoying the lovely, soft, muted colors that someone had used to make his room a happy place. The southwestern colors of turquoise and terra cotta ran through all the furnishings. His bed was covered by a handmade patchwork quilt and the pillows on the old high-back rocker matched. The curtains and the carpet were soft sand tones and the walls were decorated with gentle pictures of Indian life.

"Davy, your room is way cool," Cody said, turning to the boy.

"My mother made it for me and I never change anything," he whispered. "I only need a couple of things." He pulled pjs, and clean school clothes out of the dresser and then walked self-consciously over to the bed and reached for an old raggedy stuffed rabbit. Holding it close to his chest, he lowered his head.

Unable to stop himself, his heart somehow breaking for the child, Cody dropped to his knees. "Davy, that's a beautiful rabbit." He watched as he sniffled and tried not to look at him.

"I had an old stuffed bear that my daddy gave me and I kept it on my bed forever," Cody shared.

"Where is it now?" Davy asked.

Cody paused. "It's in a box in my closet. I'm going to get it out when I go home and put it back on my bed where it belongs. It's good to have things that you love around you to hug." He realized he was talking to himself too.

He didn't have anything or anyone to hug anymore than Davy did.

Davy held the rabbit out, embarrassed but happy to have someone to talk to. "My mom gave me this rabbit at Easter before she....before she...........," he trailed off.

"Come here, punkin," Cody opened his arms and nearly fell over as a warm bundle of boy rushed into his embrace. He held onto him and felt his body tremor. Pulling back, Davy looked into his face.

"I need to go now. Dad wouldn't like this. Men don't cry." Cody felt him squeeze onto him one last time and then he pulled away and ran to the bathroom.

'What the hell was going on?' Cody thought. The tension in this house was enough to choke a horse. That little boy adored his father, mourned his mother and, as far as he could tell, got nothing in return. Jase McBride was a total bastard. So he loved an Indian. So what? Why couldn't he love his own son? There had to be more to the story than that.

Walking slowly over to the bed, he sunk down on the quilt and tried to put the pieces together but he didn't even know what the puzzle was supposed to look like. Jase McBride had cared so much for Cody's grandfather that Grandpa had left him half the land and the house. He was a fine doctor. Who was he? What made him so bitter?

Cody's eyes fell on a picture in a delicate turquoise frame standing on the bedside table. Lifting it, he stared down into a sweet innocent face, blonde curls held back by a sky blue ribbon, rosy mouth laughing for the camera, and those eyes, the color of a clear summer sky. Jase was behind her, a younger version, his face wreathed in a glorious grin, his arms wrapped around her, saying he would never let her go. Here was the man Cody somehow knew was behind that brick wall out in the kitchen. And THIS was Davy's mother? His head full of questions, Cody just sat, holding the picture, staring at the happiness that had died and taken Davy with it.

Jase couldn't sit down. He couldn't be still. He didn't want Dakota Taylor in the house. He couldn't look at him. He was beautiful. He was everything Jase had ever thought of as beauty in a man. His chest hurt. He would just keep up the front until he was gone. Jase would not look at him again and he would never let him look in his eyes.

The door slammed behind him as he strode to the barn, saddled his paint, Sazi and rode off into the night as if the demons of hell were grabbing at his back. Jase would not look at him.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead