All too soon, 5:30 am arrived at the Duke farm. The resident rooster crowed to announce that it was time to get up and start the morning chores. Luke Duke tried to ignore the annoying bird and go back to sleep, but his alarm clock soon started to buzz. He sat up, bleary eyed, and slammed the button to turn off the offending sound. The rooster crowed again to make sure everyone in the house was awake. Luke growled, under his breath, “OK…I’m up. One of these days, that bird is gonna end up in a pot of dumplings!” He groaned, rubbed his hands over his face, and slowly got dressed for doing chores in jeans and a cotton shirt. As he sat on the bed, putting on his boots, he hollered at his still sleeping cousin; just as he had done almost everyday for nearly twenty years, now.
“Bo…wake up. Bo! Get your lazy butt out of bed! The chores ain’t gonna do themselves.”
Bo continued to snore and didn’t even stir; in fact, he appeared not to have moved an inch since falling, fully clothed, into the bed. Luke noticed that Bo still looked pretty tired even though he was asleep! The dark-haired man had pity on his cousin, shook his head, and said, “OK…I’ll let you sleep in for a while…but you’ll owe me one!”
Luke finished up then walked from his room to join Jesse and Daisy in the kitchen.
Jesse was helping Daisy cook breakfast; gradually returning to his old routine. He looked up as Luke entered the room. His nephew still looked half-asleep and was yawning widely as he sat down at the table. Luke had apparently decided to wait until he had finished his chores to clean up for the day. He was dressed in old work clothes, his hair looked more unruly than usual and he had not shaved yet.
“Good morning, Luke. Looks like it’ll be a nice day today; don’t it?” Jesse said as he took a pan of homemade biscuits from the oven.
“G’mornin’,” Luke mumbled.
“Well, you’re a real ray of sunshine! I almost thought you were Bo…” Daisy said, in a bright, wide-awake voice, as she sat a plate filled with eggs and bacon in front of her cousin. Luke raised an eyebrow and just glared at Daisy.
Jesse saw this and laughed. His youngest nephew had always hated waking up early; no matter how much or how little sleep he had the night before. Luke, however, was usually a morning person like Daisy; but lack of sleep tended to make him cranky in the morning like Bo. “Speakin’ of Bo, where is he?” Jesse said.
“I let him sleep in. He still looked pretty tired.” Luke replied.
Jesse nodded and said, “He needs the rest. He had a real rough night. If he’s not up in a few hours, I’ll go check on him.”
Jesse said Grace before he sat down at the table. The three Dukes then ate their breakfast and went about the routine morning chores.
Bo awoke to the sound of Luke rummaging through the dresser. He noticed that the sun was higher than usual when he woke up and he looked at the clock: 8:30 am. He sat up in bed and looked around, bleary-eyed, at his cousin. “Luke, how come you didn’t wake me up? We’re gonna be late gettin’ the chores done.” Bo scratched his beard-stubbled jaw and then ran both hands through his hair; making it stand on end. He looked down at himself and realized he hadn’t undressed or even taken his boots off last night! ‘Oh, well,’ he thought as he stretched.
Luke turned from the dresser with a clean shirt in his hands and laughed at his wild-looking cousin. His dark hair was still damp from his recent shower and he smelled of his ‘good’ after-shave.
“Good mornin’ to you, too, Rip Van Winkle! As for the chores…they’re already done. I let you sleep in…you looked like you needed it! Oh, by the way…you get to do all the evening chores by yourself since I did yours and mine this morning,” he said with a toothy smile.
Luke shrugged into his newest shirt and looked in the dresser mirror as he started to comb his hair; a little more carefully than usual.
Bo noticed this and grinned…wickedly! He loved to annoy his older cousin…that was one thing he knew he would never outgrow! He got out of bed and sauntered over to lean on the dresser, next to Luke.
“OK…no problem about the chores…but I really need to know something, Lukas. You just look too dang purty and smell too good to be hanging around here all day,” Bo said, as he fluttered his eyelashes, teasing Luke. “Are you goin’ somewheres?” he asked his cousin, grinning widely.
Luke looked at the floor and blushed…he actually blushed! Bo was astonished at this and he started poking Luke in the ribs to further annoy him. “Well, are ya? Huh? Are ya, Lukas?”
“Bo! Stop it, ya idiot!” Luke flinched and moved out of Bo’s reach.
He looked sidelong at his cousin and decided to tell his plans; it felt real good to have someone to talk to again, even if that someone was being an annoying brat at the moment!
“Well…Uncle Jesse wants me to pick up some feed and the new part for the cultivator…and since the parts-store is in Capital City…and Tri-County Hospital is in Capital City, too…well…I…thought I might stop by and see Meghan…and maybe see if she wanted to go get lunch or something like that. You know, spend a little time together before our big date, to talk and stuff.” Luke stammered as he looked at the floor; a slow, soft grin appeared on his face.
A cold knot formed in the pit of Bo’s stomach. He felt wretched, especially when he saw that little grin on Luke’s face. He knew his older cousin too well; that grin and the fact that he blushed meant Luke must really like Meghan…a lot.
“Oh…ri-i-ight…Meghan. She works in Capital City…at the hospital…yeah…that’s a good plan, Luke. Hope she’s working today…I’d hate for you to have to go there for nothin’.” Bo said, tensely, trying his best to sound cheerful and supportive of his cousin.
He had a fake smile plastered on his face and he hoped Luke couldn’t see his internal struggle. He wanted to scream, curse, break something or even hit Luke…he wanted to do anything except stand there and act like he was happy! He wished he could be happy for Luke…Luke deserved it…but right now, the disappointment was just too fresh…maybe in time he would be able to think about Luke and Meghan together without wanting to cry or explode…but today would not be that day.
He had to get away before he lost it and went ballistic in front of Luke. He gave his cousin a friendly slap on the shoulder and quickly headed for the bathroom.
“Well, I’m gonna take a shower. Have a good trip. See ya when you get back.” Bo said in a hurried, strained voice.
Luke turned and watched as Bo nearly ran out of the room. He shrugged and passed his cousin’s odd behavior off as a side-effect of the rough night they had all had. He finished getting ready and, when he thought he passed inspection, left the farmhouse.
By the time Bo had finished his shower, Luke was well on his way to Capital City. The youngest Duke had first thought the day was starting out to be good. He and Luke were joking and talking, as usual…but, then Meghan’s name was mentioned and his good mood went down the drain. He chastised himself for getting so worked up over someone he didn’t even know and most likely would never know as anything other than a friend.
Bo stood in front of the sink with a towel wrapped around his waist. He ran his fingers through his wet hair, trying to get it into some semblance of order. He looked at himself critically as he prepared to shave. “You sure won’t get Meghan to look twice at you now, Beauregard; you look like death warmed over! She wouldn’t look at you anyway; not with perfect Lukas running after her!” he said bitterly and slammed the medicine cabinet door shut. Bo instantly felt bad about his comment. “It’s not like you had any claim on her, you know. You were too chicken to go see her and now you lost out. So, get over it, Hot Shot, and get on with your life. The sooner the better…everything can then get back to normal.” Bo said to his mirrored reflection as he gingerly shaved his bruised face. ‘Great, I’m talking to myself, now. This is starting to get pathetic!’ he thought and shook his head.
Bo finished shaving and brushed a towel over his face. He winced when he touched his left cheek. He examined his reflection and thought, ‘Man…if this is what Uncle Jesse can do when he’s weak, I’d hate to get him mad when he’s at full strength!’ Bo sighed and quickly turned his thoughts to other matters as he got dressed for the day.
Bo finally ventured out into the rest of the house. He had left his shirt untucked and carried his boots and socks with him to put on later. He half-heartedly hoped no one would be in the kitchen because he didn’t really want to talk to anyone right now. He was relieved to see that he was alone in the house. Daisy had saved him some breakfast and he took a cold biscuit from the plate and ate it slowly as he poured himself some coffee. He drank the coffee as he looked out the window at a peaceful scene that he never tired of: his home and the people he loved. His Uncle Jesse sat in front of the barn, sharpening the edge of a hoe; Daisy was walking from the chicken coop with a basket of freshly collected eggs; and Luke…well, Luke was in Capital City with Meghan! Bo struggled to control himself…he had almost thrown his coffee cup across the room at the thought of Luke and Meghan! He had to get a hold of himself or things would get out of hand!
Daisy entered the kitchen just as Bo was about to throw his coffee cup. She knew he didn’t see her and she remained silent as she watched him regain control of himself. Bo had his hands on the edge of the sink and his head was bowed as if he were praying. Daisy cautiously approached him and gently placed a hand on her cousin’s shoulder. He jumped as if he had been shocked. Bo looked at Daisy, all his emotions vying for control. She could see the turmoil in his eyes. He looked so sad and tired. Daisy had hoped the reconciliation with Jesse would help Bo’s mood; but, if anything, he seemed more upset and depressed than ever! She stroked her hand through his bright hair to soothe him.
“Honey, that extra sleep didn’t seem to help you one bit. You still look like something the cat drug in and left in the hayloft overnight!” she said jokingly.
Bo smiled slightly. “Gee, thanks!”
“Seriously, Bo, are you OK?”
“Yeah, Daisy, I will be.” He was pouring himself some more coffee and looked away as he said this.
“Come on, ‘Squirt’, sit down and tell me all about it.” She steered her taller cousin toward a chair.
At the sound of a long forgotten nickname, Bo laughed and nearly choked on his coffee. “ ‘Squirt’?!? You haven’t called me that since I was ten! What’s the deal with you and Luke and the old nicknames here lately?” He let Daisy lead him to the chair and he sat down.
She smiled and hugged him. “Well, I just couldn’t resist. You looked so pitiful…I figured it might make you smile…and sometimes I still think of you as that little ‘squirt’ you used to be before you outgrew me!”
Bo smiled widely at the beautiful young woman he considered to be a sister and took her hand. “It did the job, Daisy Mae! I’m smilin’.”
“It’s good to see you smiling again, Sugar. Now…tell me what’s going on. And don’t lie to me and tell me it’s nothing! I know you better than that. I thought you and Jesse settled everything last night.” She looked at Bo with concern.
Bo tried to avoid her gaze. “We did. Everything’s fine between me and Jesse now. It’s…it’s just something I need to work out for myself.” He said softly.
“You need to talk to someone, Bo. It’s not like you to keep to yourself and you’ve kept to yourself too much lately. If you won’t tell me, why don’t you talk to Luke…?”
“I can’t talk to Luke about this.” Bo said sharply as he rose from his chair. He walked over to the door and leaned against the wooden frame.
Daisy’s suspicions from the night before came back to her, forcefully.
“It’s that nurse; isn’t it? Bo…you like Meghan…don’t you?” She said gently.
Bo turned to look at her. He looked like a deer caught in headlights. Daisy had figured it out. Dear God! What was he going to do? If Luke found out…
“Bo…you do like her! That’s why you got so upset last night when Luke talked about taking her out!” She joined her cousin at the door and touched his face, gently, forcing him to look her in the eye. “Oh, Sugar…why didn’t you say something…”
“What good would it have done? Luke beat me to the punch. I was too much of a coward to ask her out and I lost my chance. End of discussion.” Bo tried to end the conversation and strode into the living room where he sat on the arm of the couch and began to put his socks and boots on. He had to get out of the house. He had to get away from the questions.
Daisy noticed the pained quality to Bo’s voice.
“How long have you liked her?” she softly asked, though she already knew the answer.
Bo sighed and shook his head. There was no way around Daisy! She would keep after him till he told her all she wanted to know…and part of him was grateful for the chance to at least get some of this off his chest.
“Since the first time I heard her voice in that waiting room. Since the moment I looked into those pretty green eyes and she touched my arm. Since she smiled that perfectly cute crooked little smile. Since…” Bo’s face softened. He smiled gently and his dark-blue eyes sparkled as they seemed to be lost in a day-dream.
Once he had started, the words came out in a flood. He told Daisy about all his feelings toward Meghan…his confusion, his fear, and the possibility that he might love her. Daisy listened, in awe at the depth of feeling her young cousin had for this woman who he barely knew!
“Now, Bo! I don’t want to rain on your parade…but, you’ve fallen in love before…”
“Daisy, believe me, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Leave it to Bo to fall in love with a woman he doesn’t even know!’ But…I can’t explain it. I’m crazy about her. When I looked into her eyes, I felt something so strong it scared the crap outta me! I wanted to go to that hospital every day and talk to her…but I was too scared! Can you believe it? Me…scared to talk to a woman! But she’s not like any other woman I’ve met, Daisy. I know I don’t have anything to offer Meghan. I don’t have a good job, I’m always broke, I don’t have a lot of book-smarts, and I know I can act like a danged fool sometimes…but I do know that if I ever got the chance, I would love her till my dying breath! She’s the one Daisy…don’t ask me how I know…but I know! She’s the one…and now I’ve lost her to the best man she could possibly have…Luke.” Bo had been pacing as he gave his impassioned speech. As he ended, he sat down on the couch and sighed, sadly.
Daisy didn’t know what to say. It was obvious that Bo felt things for Meghan that he had never felt before. This was definitely more than one of his usual romances. He had fallen and fallen hard for a woman he now thought he couldn’t have. She sat down by her cousin and rubbed his back to comfort him. He leaned his head over on her shoulder; feeling a little bit better now that he had shared his burden. Bo had always shared things with Luke, but he felt he could open up more and show his true feelings around Daisy. She had always seemed to understand him and didn’t tease him too much for showing his emotions.
“Go on. Say it. I’m pathetic!”
“Bo, honey, you are not pathetic! A little crazy sometimes, yes, but not pathetic!” she joked to lighten the mood.
The two cousins sat in silence for a few minutes. Daisy could feel the conflicted emotions radiating from Bo and she was disturbed by them. She again had the feeling that something bad was going to happen between Bo and Luke and she now knew if it did it would be over Meghan.
“Bo, you really need to tell Luke. You can’t keep something like this from him. He needs to know.”
“NO!” Bo said, vehemently. “No. I almost messed things up between me and Luke over a girl once before. I won’t do it again. If he knew it would just make him mad. Besides, I didn’t have any claim on Meghan. He was perfectly free to ask her out…so there’s no need of bothering him with this. Let him be happy. I don’t want to hurt him because of my own problems. I’ll just have to accept it and try to forget about her.”
“Please, Daisy. Don’t tell Luke what I just told you. And I’d appreciate it if we didn’t talk about it anymore…OK?”
“What about Jesse? He’ll want to know what’s going on with you.”
“If he asks, you can tell Jesse enough to satisfy him…but, only Jesse and be sure he knows to keep it from Luke! I’ll be the one to tell Luke if and when I’m ready” Bo said in a serious tone as he looked at Daisy. “I mean it, Daisy.”
Bo decided it was time to lighten the mood. It seemed to get too serious too quick around the farm lately. He looked sideways at Daisy and grinned.
“You just wait and see…by the time I get ready to tell Luke my problems, I’ll have forgotten all about Nurse What’s Her Name and have my mind on three other girls.” He nudged his cousin and said, “Ain’t that right…” he paused dramatically “… ‘Toothpick’?”
Daisy gasped in surprise. “Bo Duke! Don’t you dare call me that stupid name!” She hit him with a pillow off the couch.
“Hey, you started it with that ‘Squirt’ business!” He threw the pillow back at her as he jumped up and ran from the living room toward the screen door, yelling the hated nickname at the top of his lungs.
Daisy, welcoming the change in mood, shrieked in mock anger and gave chase.
Jesse looked up from his work at the explosion of noise from the kitchen door. His youngest nephew burst into the yard. Bo was laughing and being chased by Daisy who was threatening to douse him with a pan of dishwater. General chaos ensued as the laughing, shouting young people stirred up the yard full of clucking chickens. Even the mule in the barn started braying in response to all the noise.
Jesse laughed out loud. To him the joyful noises of his family were like music to his ears! It had really been too quiet around the farm for the past few weeks.