Growing Pains

by: Rose O’Thorns

 

The young man sat, his knees pulled up to his chest and his chin resting on crossed arms, staring ahead at a blank, grey wall. The young man was unsure of everything. He fought to keep back tears of frustration and self-pity. He had only wanted to have friends of his own, to feel important and popular. One sure thing–he was in it deep. He didn’t know who to fear more-the judge or his uncle.

His uncle had taken him in when his parents had died. His uncle was loving but firm, and there was no way he was gonna go for his nephew being a jailbird at fourteen! The young man dreaded the look his guardian was sure to give him, one of disappointment and sadness. He wondered what his cousins, who also lived with his uncle, would think of him now.

“BO DUKE, WHERE ARE YOU?” yelled out a voice with firm, unabashed authority.

Bo Duke looked up shakily from the bench in the Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department holding cell, hoping for the best but dreading the worst.

Bo’s uncle, Jesse Duke, was met by the town sheriff, a younger man with a lot of get up and go for the law. “Sorry to have to call you in Jesse, but this is a serious matter,” Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane said matter-of-factly.

Jesse looked up to see his nephew looking very contrite and very scared. “I’ll deal with you in a moment, young man,” Jesse told his nephew, trying to hold in his temper.

****

The drive back to the farm was worse than Bo could have ever expected. There was no questions, no comments, no shouts, nothing. The silence was a killer. As the battered, old pickup truck pulled up in front of the farmhouse, Bo peered up from under his bangs and caught sight of his cousins. Luke, his oldest cousin, stood with his hands stuffed in his pockets and a look of confusion on his face. Daisy, who stood next to Luke, just looked bewildered and ready to cry. Bo thought that was way worse than silence.

When Jesse stopped the truck, he paused only long enough to say 3 words-“the barn, now.” As Bo made his way to the barn like a man on his way to the gas chamber, Jesse went over to speak to his other ‘kids’. Bo had no idea what Jesse had said to them at the time. Later, he found out Jesse had told both of them he hadn’t heard Bo’s side of the story yet. Jesse also made it a point to let Luke know, under no uncertain terms, that he was not to interfere between Jesse and Bo.

Jesse calmly entered the barn, finding Bo sitting on a bale of hay with a distant look upon his face. Jesse worried about his nephew’s calm air. It wasn’t like Bo to not try and wiggle his way out of trouble. There was definitely something on Bo’s mind if he was holding his tongue.

Jesse sat himself down on the bale directly across from Bo and then waited to make eye contact before asking, “why”. Bo looked at his feet, studying them like the answers to life where etched there. After a long pause and a deep sigh, Bo began to talk at about a million miles an hour.

“I didn’t know. Really. I just wanted to be a part of their group. I didn’t see no harm in it. They were just boxes. Who knew?”

Jesse answered back plainly, “You should have.”

Bo met Jesse’s gaze, tears welling up, and said softly, “But I didn’t want to know.”

Jesse knew Bo had realized the truth and felt relieved that perhaps the hardest part of the battle had already been won. Jesse was none too pleased to pick up his young nephew at the jail, but would have been fit to be tied if his nephew hadn’t realized how wrong he had been.

Jesse believed in firm discipline, but hated dishing it out. He gave Bo his punishment and told him to get to his room. Jesse followed a few steps behind, wondering how the rest of this puzzle was going to work out. There was no way Jesse was going to stand for his nephew going to jail, no how and no way.

Jesse nearly walked into Bo when Bo stopped long enough to meet the eyes of his older cousins before turning away and heading to his room. Jesse sighed and moved into the family room. He held up a hand to Luke and Daisy, stopping their questions before they even came.

“Jesse, it just can’t be. Bo wouldn’t do anything so reckless and he definitely wouldn’t stoop to dealing with druggies,” Luke said emphatically. Daisy nodded in agreement, “This has to be a trick of Boss’s, Uncle Jesse. What are we going to do about it?”

Jesse pursed his lips and motioned for his two kids to sit down. “It is true. I don’t think Bo really wanted to be involved with anything wrong, much less drugs. From the little Bo said, it has more to do with friends or lack of them. And Luke, stop right there, come back in here and let Bo think about what he done.”

Luke gave a worried glance toward his and Bo’s room and then sat down again. Luke felt guilty. He knew Bo had felt left out a lot this year. Luke had been caught up in the fun and responsibilities of his senior year. Bo had always depended on Luke, especially for friendship, and Luke felt he had let his little cousin down.

******

Dinner was quiet that evening, what with Bo still in his room and all. Bo had always been the one to start talking and not know when to stop, thought Luke with a slight smile on his face. Jesse seemed really worried and rightly so. It’s not everyday that you find out your nephew’s friends deal in drugs. Daisy didn’t look much better. She and Bo had always buddied up and told each other their secrets. She looked hurt and sad and disappointed all rolled into one.

Luke asked to be excused and Jesse barely acknowledged the request. Luke went to his and Bo’s room, stopping at the door to offer up a prayer for understanding and guidance. Luke opened the door quietly, just in case Bo was sleeping. He wasn’t. Bo was sitting on his bed, his back against the wall, staring out at the night in deep thought.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Luke said, hoping Bo would talk. His cousin could be as tight-lipped as anything when he had a mind to. Bo looked up at his cousin before returning his eyes to the window. “Penny ain’t enough,” Bo said gruffly. “Ten cents then, but no higher,” Luke chimed in, trying to lighten the mood.

Bo looked over to his cousin, his eyes momentarily bright, holding out his hand. Luke laughed as he searched his pockets for a dime. Finding one, he handed it to Bo and sat across from him on his own bed.

Bo looked up from the dime with a smirk on his face. He had known one way or another his cousin would be dragging the truth out of him before the night was over. He just didn’t think it would be with a dime.

Bo’s face fell as he remembered the day’s events. His friends fleeing when Rosco rounded the corner, his mad rush to leave the scene, or his confirmation about those boxes when Rosco opened the one Bo had.

“Tell me, cousin, you can tell me anything,” Luke said honestly.

Bo ran a hand through his hair, deciding where to start. “I’m not like you, Luke. I don’t have a lot of friends. I don’t have a few friends, either.” Bo stopped and began to pace the area between the beds as he continued. “I wanted friends, any friends. So when the Cracken brothers offered..”

“The Cracken brothers!” Luke shouted, looking at Bo as if he was half crazed.

Bo met Luke’s stare which clearly read ‘do you want me to talk or not’. Luke stopped and nodded for Bo to continue.

“I guess I knew they were bad news. Okay, okay. I knew they were bad news. But all I had to do was deliver a box now and then and that was it-instant friendship.”

Luke shook his head in disbelief. “You are not that stupid.”

Bo stopped pacing and turned on his cousin. “You think so, huh? What do you know? You make decent grades and help out your poor, helpless cousin. What a joke! If I’m so bright, how come I fight for D’s? How come I need 3, count them 3-you, Daisy, and Jesse-to help me through math? My math teacher even told me, right in front of the whole class, how slow I am and that I’m wasting my time goin’ to school!! Seems everyone knows just how stupid I am but you!”

Bo sunk to the floor in tears as Luke looked on not knowing what to say or what to do. The door of the room opened and there was Jesse, looking ready to cry himself, and Daisy who already was. Jesse knelt to the floor and wrapped his arms around his young nephew, letting him cry out all his fears and frustrations. Luke wrapped an arm around Daisy, allowing them to share strength with each other.

*****

Bo didn’t end up doing time. The judge knew the Cracken brothers well and was more than willing to let off Bo with a strong warning in exchange for his testimony.

That night was a long one for Bo and Jesse, an all-nighter Bo would never forget. A lot became clear to Bo Duke. One, no matter what others said he wasn’t stupid and couldn’t let others lead him head-on into trouble. Two, his family was the best friends he could ever hope to have.

And three, Luke Duke had quite a temper-as Bo’s math teacher found out.

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