The Haircut

Terri Sutro

The girl sighed as she settled comfortably in his lap.  “Oh Thaddeus, I love your hair.  Such beautiful curls.  Why I can’t make mine do that?”  She giggled and ran her fingers through the long blond hair of the man known to most of the populace on either side of the Mississippi as the fastest gun in the West. 

Kid Curry blinked at her, silently groaned and glanced at his partner.

Hannibal Heyes laughed.  “I’m sure he’d be happy to show you how he does it Miss Jennie.”  He forced himself to swallow his smile.  “Women sure do love those curls Thaddeus.”

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be Joshua.”  Kid growled at his cousin. 

“Nope.  No place at all.”  Heyes said pleasantly. 

“Well I do.”  He stood up unceremoniously pulling the woman to her feet with him.  “I’m gonna get a haircut.” 

Heyes grinned.  “Barber’s closed for the night.  But if you’re in a hurry, I’d be glad to help you out?” 

Kid froze, staring at Heyes.  Finally his face creased in a memory. 

“It wasn’t so bad.”  Heyes reminded him.

“No, not so bad at all.  After a month or so when it all grew out again.”  Kid grinned in spite of himself.  “Think I’ll just wait till morning.”

“OK, Thaddeus, but if you change your mind, I think I’m gonna be helping those fellas over there lighten their money belts.”  Heyes rose and started towards an adjoining table where a seat had just opened up at what looked like a very profitable poker game. 

Kid watched him go.  He shook his head, and muttered under his breath.  Haircut.  He snorted in amusement, remembering the last time Heyes, a pair of shears and he had gotten together.

“Well will you look at him.”  The smiling woman approached Bridget Curry with hands outstretched.  “What beautiful curls.”  She ruffled the blond ringlets happily.  “Why with those curls he should be a little girl.” 

Seven year old Jedediah Curry squirmed out of his mother’s grasp.  “I’m not a girl.”  He shouted.

“Now Jed, darlin’.  Mrs. Witherspoon didn’t mean that…”  Bridget Curry smiled and tried to get hold of her son.

“I don’t care…I’m not a girl…”  He glared at the woman unhappily.

Mrs. Elsie Witherspoon frowned.  “Such a temper. You should teach the child manners Mrs. Curry.”  She huffed off down the busy main street of Lawrence, Kansas. 

Bridget Curry sighed and looked down at her youngest child.  His jaw was set and his forehead creased in a deepening frown.  His eyes, normally a laughing sky blue were a darker, stormier shade.  “Jedediah m’love, you shouldn’t be talkin’ to adults that way.” 

“But ma, she called me a girl…”  Jed’s lip trembled angrily. 

“No, darlin’ she just said…”  Bridget sighed again and ran her fingers through the blond curls.  Try as she did she never could stay angry with him.  “Well your hair is a wee bit long…maybe we should see about gettin’ it cut.”

Jed nodded vigorously.  “Can we cut it now ma?”  He tugged on her arm and tried to turn her towards their wagon. 

She laughed.  “We have supplies to buy, darlin’.  But after that.  Come along now.   Aunt Murieann and Hannibal are already at Mr. Patrick’s General Store.  We shouldn’t be keeping them waiting.”  She practically dragged the boy across the dusty street to the store where her sister and nephew were talking to the storekeeper. 

The dark haired boy’s eyes lit up when he saw his friend enter the story.  He immediately disengaged his hand from his mother’s and ran to him. “JED! Come look what I got Jed!”

Jed ran towards him eager to see what was being clutched in that small fist and together they disappeared towards the back of the store.

“Don’t be gettin’ into trouble you two!”  Brigid Curry called out, knowing full well they would.  It was just a matter of what and where.  She hugged her sister and they exchanged knowing glances.  “Day to you Mr. Patrick.  Did that cloth I sent for come?”

“Oh Bri, it did indeed and it’s lovely.”  The dark haired woman held up the bolt of  deep blue cloth for her sister.  “It’ll make a beautiful dress for Rachel.” 

“Indeed it will Miz Curry.”  Sean Aloysius Patrick’s dry goods store was part of the mercantile area along Massachusetts Street.  So many new stores were opening almost daily, what with talk of the railroad making it’s home here.  He was a widower, who lived over his store with his fourteen year old son Michael.  “Michael’s been doin’ nothing but talking about your beautiful daughter.”

“Ay, well he’s a handsome lad to be sure.” She fingered the cloth and thumbed through the folds.  “But Mr. Patrick, there’s far too much….”  She frowned calculating the cost of the extra fabric.

“They went and sent all that ma’am.  And there’s not enough for two lady’s dresses, but surely enough for….”  He saw the distinct something else in her glance and cleared his throat.  “Well I can’t sell the left over, so there’ll be no charge.”

Brigid Curry was a beautiful woman, tall, slender with golden blond hair and wide blue eyes.  Many men admired her, including Mr. Patrick.  Brigid Curry wasn’t aware of most of that and if she had, she would have put the men in their place with a few very carefully chosen words.  For whatever else Brigid was, she was devoted to her husband James and their children.  She glanced at her sister who was trying not to laugh at the man’s attempts at flattery.  “I can’t be takin’ it Mr. Patrick.  But thank you for your offer.”

“Now Bri, the poor man can’t be sellin’ that wee remnant.  She’ll take it Mr. Patrick and be thankin’ ye too.”  She nudged her sister with a look. 

Brigid took another deep breath and glared at Muireann.  “Very well, thank you Mr. Patrick for your kindness.  Now if ye’ll be gettin’ our supplies together we both have chores waitin’ for us at home.” 

“And some of us have social engagements to attend to.”  Mrs. Witherspoon had listened to the dialogue at the counter.  She pushed her way between the two women.  “And if I’m not mistaken, I was here first.” 

Muireann laughed, ignoring the woman’s interruption.  “G’on then and take care of Mrs. Witherspoon first, Mr. Patrick.  A few more moments won’t be causing that much trouble.”  She turned to Brigid.  “You and Rachel’ll both be beautiful at the dance.” 

Brigid scowled at the other woman’s rudeness, but turned her attention to her sister.  “And what’ll ye be wearin’ Molly?”  She peeked around her sister and found a bold of deep green.  “Ay, wearin’ the color of home.  It’ll suit you sister.” 

Muireann smiled softly.  As beautiful as her sister, with auburn hair that shown coppery in the Kansas sun and eyes that could be the deepest brown or the blackest black depending on her mood. 

Suddenly the sisters exchanged glances and looked around.  It was far too quiet.  And for far too long.

“Hannibal?  Jedediah?”  Muireann called out.  “What’re ya gettin’ into boys?” 

There was silence for a moment. 

“Nothin’ ma?”  Hannibal’s voice trickled out from the back of the store.  He exchanged looks with his cousin and shook his head.  How did his ma always know.”

“You sure this’ll work Han?”  Jedediah kept glancing over his shoulder.  He just knew his ma was gonna be there. 

“Sure Jed.  If I set the fuse just right…long enough I mean, why we’ll be clear at the other side of the park ‘fore it goes off.  Right in the middle of Mr. Swanson’s tuba playin’.”  Nine year old Hannibal Heyes grinned a mischievious grin. 

June in Lawrence brought warm nights and band concerts to the town’s center.  The residents came to South Park and sat on blankets listening to the band play.  The adults might even dance.  Which was fine for them.  But for a little boy named Hannibal Heyes with too much energy to sit still for long, they needed just something else to make them tolerable. 

Something like the biggest firecracker Lawrence had ever seen.  He’d been planning it for months now, carefully gathering used bullets, shotgun pellets anything that had a trace of gunpowder on it.  He had actually been brave enough to take some of his father’s real bullets from the desk he wasn’t supposed to get into. 

He knew that’s where the gun was kept.  He didn’t want to touch that.  Something about it scared him.  His father and uncle and even his grampa had been practicing shooting for months.  In case the troubles come to our farm, he’d told a curious Hannibal.  Not to worry son, they won’t come.  We don’t have anything they’d be interested in.  No, the gun didn’t mean anything to him.  But the bullets.  Well the bullets had something he wanted. 

Hannibal wanted to ask them more about the troubles.  And about the soldiers who came to their farm from time to time.  But he didn’t have time for that now.  He had to finish the plans.  He made a note to talk to his father about those other things later.  He had so many questions to ask his father.  And everytime he’d get one answered, he always thought up another.  He pushed his errant thoughts aside.  He had to get back to the firecracker. 

Every night since he thought this up, in the dark of his room, with only a stub of a candle casting a soft glow, Hannibal would scrape the gunpowder into a small leather pouch until it finally was full.  He’d kept it a secret from everyone, even his best friend, until he was sure he could do it.  Now to tell Jed what he had planned for the 4th of July. 

But his ma took him to town first thing the next morning.  “I’ll be needing some help with the supplies Hannibal.  And your father has his work here.”  She ruffled his hair and fixed a simple straw hat livened up with a red sash on her hair.  “Come along now darlin’.”

“But ma…I got things…I mean I got chores to do.  Pa’ll skin me for sure if’n I don’t get to them.”  He tried to scramble away, but she caught his arm.

“Now don’t try any of your blarney on me Hannibal.  We both know as soon as I leave you’ll be sneakin’ off to see Jedediah.”  She smiled and turned him to the door, deciding to put him out of his misery.  “You can see him later, he and Aunt Brigid will be meetin’ us at the store in a while.  Come alone now.” 

Hannibal’s eyes widened, hearing his words and suddenly he was pulling her towards the wagon.  “Can I drive the wagon Ma?”  Hannibal scrambled onto the seat of the wagon and reached for the reins.  “Please, I’ll be real careful.”

His mother chuckled.  “You’ll be wantin’ to grow up too soon…all right, just go slowly.  Hannibal.  Slowly.”

He smiled gleefully and clucked the horses into motion, frowning when his mother’s hand covered his in an unspoken command to slow down.

They finally made it into town.  Hannibal jumped down and rushed to help his mother, taking her hand once she was down and tugging it till they got to Mr. Patrick’s store. 

“Hannibal, well you please slow down…oh mornin’ Mrs. McCarthy…Hannibal for Heaven sakes…good day t’ye Mr. Perkins…HANNIBAL!”  She pulled to a stop, ricocheting Hannibal back into her arms.  “What on earth…what’re ya in such a hurry for darlin’…”  She saw the eager look in her son’s eyes.  “Ah, of course.  It’d be because Aunt Brigid and Jedediah are at the store.”  She laughed.  “G’on then, off with ye.  I need to stop and see Mr. Campbell at the leather store.”  She shooed him off, watching as he took off running to find his friend.  Smiling fondly at the boy, she sighed and entered the shop.

Hannibal raced to the dry goods store and pushed open the door.  He looked frantically around but didn’t see either his aunt or his best friend. 

“Well young Hannibal, what can we do for you today?”  Mr. Patrick handed the boy a cinnamon stick.

“Did you see Jed, Mr. Patrick?”  Hannibal looked around again, then remembered.  “Thank you Mr. Patrick.  Is Jed here?”

“Why no, I haven’t seen Jed today, nor his mother.”  The man looked up as the door opened. 

Hannibal turned excitedly.  “Jed, I gotta talk…oh.” 

“Morning Mrs. Witherspoon.  How can I help you?”  Mr. Patrick smiled at the woman and walked her to the counter. 

Hannibal sighed deeply.  He saw his mother crossing the street.  Where was Jed.  He had things to tell him.  He opened the door as his mother approached.  “Jed’s not here ma.  He’s comin’ isn’t he?  You said he’d be here with Aunt Brigid.” 

“And so he will be darlin’.  Perhaps they weren’t pushing the horses quite so quickly.”  She grinned at him and brushed his hair off his forehead with her fingers.  “They’ll be here soon enough.  Come along now.  I need to talk to Mr. Patrick.”  She took his hand, eyeing the cinnamon stick.  “You’ll be savin’ that till after lunch.” 

Hannibal looked dejected.  “Yes ma.”  His small shoulders slumped as he followed her to the counter. 

To most nine year old boys time waiting for their best friend to arrive seems to never pass.  To Hannibal Heyes who had not been born with any part of the gift of patience, waiting for Jed seemed to take forever.  He nearly tackled the younger boy when he finally arrived. “JED! Come look what I got Jed!”

Finally alone in the shadows of the back of the store the two small heads conspired. 

“We gotta build it today Jed.  It won’t be hard.  I got all the parts and I know I can do it.”  Hannibal showed Jed a picture he’d drawn.

Jed turned it around.  “But Han, it’s gonna half’ta be real big.”  He scrunched up his face.  “You got the powder?”

Hannibal nodded vigorously.  “I been savin’ it up Jed.  It’s gonna be bigger that the one that fella at the circus had last year.  You remember?”

It was Jed’s turn to nod.  “That blowed a hole right in the top of the tent Han.”  His smile faded.  “I don’t think ma’ll like us blowing a hole in anything Han.”

“We won’t Jed.  I know how to point it so it won’t hurt nothin’.  It’ll just make a real big noise.  Trust me Jed.  I know how to do this.”  Hannibal broke the cinnamon stick in half and gave the larger piece to his cousin.  “You gonna help me?”

Jed hitched up his overalls and glared his best glare. “Course I am.  We’re partners.  What do we gotta do?”

“Well after chores, you come over and we’ll start building it.   I got a hiding place all picked out in the barn.  No one’ll find it.  Then we just gotta figure out how to get it to town on Sunday.”  Hannibal looked thoughtful. 

“We could wrap it in a blanket and put it in the wagon real early Han.  If we got in the wagon first we could sit next to it.  No one would even see it.”  Jed was studying the drawing his cousin had given him.  “How big you think it gonna be?”

“That’s a good idea Jed.”  Hannibal bit off a piece of the candy and motioned with his hands.  “About this big I think.”  He spread his arms wide.

“We’re gonna need a bigger blanket.”  Jed folded the paper and put it in his pocket. 

They jumped up at the sound of Muireann Heyes’ voice.

“Hannibal?  Jedediah?”  Muireann called out.  “What’re ya gettin’ into boys?” 

There was silence for a moment. 

“Nothin’ ma?”  Hannibal’s voice trickled out from the back of the store.  He exchanged looks with his cousin and shook his head.  How did his ma always know.”

The two little boys walked solemly back to the counter where both mothers stood.  The women looked at one another.  Something was going to happen.  There was no mistaking those faces. 

“Hannibal, take Jedediah out to the wagon.  And don’t be getting into trouble.”  Brigid Curry frowned. 

“Yes ma’am.”  Hannibal motioned to his cousin and the two boys ran to the door, running right into Mrs. Elspeth Witherspoon.

“Well…little boys should know their manners.”  She huffed as she left the store.

“Oh.”  Jed remembered their prior encounter and didn’t move for a minute a dark expression on his usually happy face.

“What is it Jed?”  Hannibal held the door open, but his cousin didn’t move until the woman had crossed the street and was nearly out of sight.

Then he ran past Hannibal to his wagon and climbed in. 

Hannibal caught up, climbing in next to him.  “What’s the matter?  Did Miz Witherspoon do somethin’ to you?”

Jed’s eyes had darkened to a deep blue.  “She called me a girl.”  He whispered, glaring at Hannibal, daring him to laugh.

“Huh?  Why’d she think that?  That’s dumb Jed.”  Hannibal cocked his head curiously.

“She did Han.”  He thought for a minute.  “Han?  Do I have hair like a girl?”

Hannibal screwed up his face and studied his friend. 

“Do I Han?”  Jed for an instant looked worried that his friend might actually agree.

“Nah.  It’s just that it’s long and got curls and stuff Jed.”  He suddenly figured it out.  “Is that what she said Jed?  Cause you just gotta ignore her.  Why she don’t know nothin’.”

Jed relaxed.  “Anyways I’m gonna get a haircut.”  He jumped up, remembering.  I gotta go get Ma.  She promised I could have one after the store.”  He slid down from the wagon and started running back towards the store, meeting his mother and the young man who helped out at the store, half way there.  “Ma!  I gotta get a haircut.  You promised.”  He tried to pull her towards the barber shop where he’d watched his pa get a haircut once. 

“Jedediah!  Will ye stop pullin’…Jedediah!  I told you you’d get your haircut and so you will.  As soon as we get home…I’ll do it myself.  Now will you get to the wagon.  Your father will be wonderin’ what’s become of us all.”  She tugged the boy back to the wagon and watched as the man loaded the bolt or fabric and her other supplies. “Go on Hannibal.  Your mother’ll be lookin’ for you too.”  Brigid gave her son the look that told him clearly that this was not the time for an argument.  

“Yes ma’am.”  Hannibal climbed down and walked forlornly towards his wagon.  He could see his mother dividing her attention between him and the supplies being loaded in the wagon.  He turned back and waved at Jed as their wagon went by. 

It was a slow ride back to the Heyes farm.  Muireann kept hold of the reins this time.  “I think the horses have had enough of a race for one day darlin’.” 

“Yes ma’am.” 

She watched him for a moment.  Lost in his dreams again.  She slid an arm around his shoulders and drew him a bit closer.

He looked up at her and smiled.  “It’s all right ma.  I just got some things to think about.”

He sounded so serious, she had to smile again.  “You’re just a boy Hannibal.  Don’t go spending so much time thinkin’ about things that you miss what’s in front of you.”

He frowned, not understanding entirely.  “Yes ma.”  He’d have to ask her to explain what she meant.  But not now.  They were finally home and he had other, more important things to do.  “Can I go ma?” 

She sighed.  “Yes darlin’.  But don’t be goin’ far.  You’ve got your lessons to finish and chores to do. 

“I won’t ma.  I promise.”  He jumped down and ran to the barn, skidding to a stop when he saw his father coming out.  “Pa…”

“Ah, I see you and your ma are home.  Did you enjoy your trip to town Hannibal?”  Daniel Heyes knelt down so he was eye level with his son. 

“Yes pa.  Jed was there and Aunt Brigid.”  His eyes drifted towards the barn.

“You have chores don’t you son?”  His father tried not to smile at the downcast expression on the boy’s face.  “Well I suppose they can wait for a little while.  Tis a fine day and I’m sure you and Jedediah have some grand adventure planned.”

Hannibal’s eyes lit up.  “Yes pa…I mean no…I mean…thank you pa.  I promise I’ll do my chores later.”  He ran towards the Curry farm to get Jed. 

“Hannibal!”  His father’s voice stopped him. 

He turned hesitatingly hoping his father hadn’t been teasing him.  “Yea Pa.  I promise I’ll do my chores Pa and my lessons too…can I go now Pa?”

“Jedediah’s already in the barn.”  Daniel Heyes laughed at the amazed expression on his son’s face.

Hannibal frowned.  He’d never understand how his ma and pa always knew everything.  But he decided it was all right.  He had a plan.  And he and Jed had the whole day to finish the firecracker so that it would work perfectly.

“Jed!”  Hannibal stopped just inside the barn, letting his eyes adjust to the shadows. 

“Up here Han.”  Jed peeked down from the loft that the two boys had made their special place.  They’d spend hours there playing and talking and sharing dreams and adventures they’d be having when they were grown up. 

Hannibal hastily climbed the ladder up and looked around.  Satisfied they were alone he started digging through some blankets balled up in a corner.  “Look Jed.”  He drew out a long slender tube of heavy paper, about a foot in length and an inch around.  “I saved the box my map came in.  And I used some of the stuff pa uses us stick his stamps in his book to keep it together.  I thought it needed colors so I colored it.”  He handed it solemnly to Jed. 

The younger boy took it, holding it up to the light.  He nodded his approval.  “How you gonna get the fuse in Han?”  Both ends were sealed.

Hannibal frowned and looked at his cousin, then at his firecracker.  “I forgot Jed.  How could I forget the fuse.”  He shook his head.

“It’s all right Han.  If we make a hole at the end we can push the fuse up the ‘cracker.  And if’n you still got the glue we can make it so the powder don’t come out.”  Jed pointed to the end he thought would do.

“I got the glue right here Jed.  You wanna make the hole?”  Hannibal unburied the pot of glue and picked off the bits of straw stuck to it.

Jed looked around and finally found a loose nail hanging from one of the beams in the loft.  He yanked out and carved a hole in one end of the tube.  “You got the fuse Han?”

Hannibal nodded and handed him a length of cord.

Jed carefully fed the cord through the hole into the tube until he had only a about a six inch length left.  Then he held the tube out.  “That long enough Han?”

Hannibal studied it thoughtfully, pulling it out a bit more, then carefully painted the glue over the hole.  He added an extra glop just to be sure.  “It’s gonna take a while to dry so it’s not sticky anymore.”

“I’ll hold it Han.  We got time.”  Jed lowered himself crosslegged onto the hay covered floor of the loft. 

Hannibal followed.  “Thanks Jed.  I forgot the fuse.”  He shook his head.

“But I remembered, so it don’t matter.”  The younger boy frowned.  “Han?”

“Yea Jed.”  Hannibal stretched out next to Jed and folded his arms behind his head. 

“I don’t think my ma’s gonna give me a haircut.”  Jed said mournfully.  “She said she would, but then she and Rachel were talkin’ ‘bout her stupid dress and ma kept sayin’ later.  But I don’t wanna look like a girl Han.” 

Hannibal thought for a moment.  “You want me to cut it Jed?” 

“You ever cut hair before Han?”  Jed turned hopefully to his cousin.

“Why sure.  I cut Xander’s and Conor’s all the time.”  Hannibal had never actually cut either of his brothers’ hair.  But he’d watched as his mother lined all three boys up and cut each in turn, but he figured that was close enough. 

“Would’ya Han?”  Jed tested the glue with the tip of his finger, then carefully set the firecracker down. 

“Sure Jed.  You want me to do it now?  I think pa keeps some scissors out here.”  Hannibal sat up.

“Yea, that way I won’t look like no girl no more Han.”  Jed nodded vigorously.

“You don’t look like a girl Jed, but if’n you want…”  He got up and started down the stairs.  “I’ll see if I can find the scissors.

A moment later the boy was back in the loft.  “I got ‘em Jed.”  He was trying to remember what his mother did.  “Come over here so I got light.” 

Jed sat crosslegged in front of his cousin waiting expectantly.  “You gonna do it Han?”

“Yea, just let me figure out where to start.”  Hannibal shrugged his shoulders and took hold of one of the blond curls. 

Snip.  The curl came away in his hand.  This haircutting wasn’t so hard. 

Snip.  Another. And another.

“The firecracker is gonna be the best anywhere Jed.  It’s gonna go as high as the stars.”  Hannibal closed his eyes and watched his firecracker climbing and climbing and finally exploding. 

“No one’s gonna know what it was or where it came from Han.”  Jed laughed.

Hannibal laughed too.  “We’re gonna be famous Jed.” 

“Han?  You almost done?”  Jed looked at all the curls that surrounded him.

“Huh? Oh yea…oh.”  Hannibal released his hold on his vision of a firecracker and returned to the loft.  His eyes widened and he swallowed hard.  His ma and aunt were gonna kill him.  Jed’s hair lay everywhere.  What was left was chopped at all lengths. Some very short, some not.  “Uh, Jed.  You wanted the curls gone, right?”  He said weakly.

“Yea Han…Han?”  Jed looked confused. 

“I’m sorry Jed.  I got to thinkin’ ‘bout the firecracker…I’m sorry Jed…it’ll grow back…”  Hannibal suddenly had a thought.  “I can fix it Jed.” 

An hour later the two boys had hidden the firecracker and climbed down the ladder. 

“You sure it’s better Han?”  Jed didn’t know what exactly Han had fixed.  But he trusted him completely. 

Hannibal couldn’t look.  “Yea Jed. It’s better.  I got chores.”

“Yea, me too.  Are you comin’ over tonight Han?”  Jed headed back to his farm.

“Uh, no, I got lessons Jed.”  He headed towards the house.  “Uh Jed.  Your ma’ll be busy with Rachel’s dress.  So you just go do your chores.  OK?  Oh and make sure you wear your hat.”

“Jed looked confused.  “Sure Han.”  He ran off down the well worn path back to his house.

Daniel and Muireann Heyes wondered why their eldest son was suddenly so quiet.  He’d come in the house and gone straight to do his chores.  Then he’d done his lessons.  Then he’d gone to his room and was reading a book. 

They’d asked if he’d had a fight with Jed, but he shook his head.  His ma felt his forehead to make sure he wasn’t sick.  He had such a mournful, desperate look in his eyes, they both knew something had happened.  But Hannibal had his own ways and they knew him well enough to know he’d either talk about it when he was ready or they’d find out on their own.   

The family had just sat down to supper when the explosion happened.

The door burst open and Brigid Curry stormed into the house.  “Hannibal Heyes, how could you…Muireann I expect the child to bear full punishment for this…my poor little boy…oh Hannibal what were ya thinkin’…what are people gonna say…Daniel…you’ll be teaching the boy a lesson or so help me…” 

“Calm yourself woman.”  Daniel Heyes rose and went to his sister in law.  “What’s happened.  Is Jedediah hurt?”

“Hurt?  Hurt?  How can you even ask.  Why look at him?”  She reached behind her and pulled Jed out.  His face was tearstained and his lip trembled.

Hannibal closed his eyes. 

The other children laughed. 

“Oh my Lord in Heaven.”  Daniel said.

“Saints preserve us”  Muireann whispered.  “What on earth….”

There was the sound of childish laughter.  “Looka Jed Ma”  Alexander Heyes happily squealed

“Never you mind that.  Alexander, Conor, go to your room.  Now.  I’ll bring your dinner.”  Their mother ordered the boys off. 

The two children ran to their room, still laughing at their cousin’s plight. 

James Curry and Brendan Patrick Curry, grampa to the children slid silently into the house from either side of the woman. 

“My beautiful child…look at him…look at what Hannibal’s done to him.”  Brigid Curry’s anger turned to tears.  “His beautiful hair…”

“Jedediah, darlin’ what happened?”  Murieann knelt before the boy and put her arms around him. 

Jed’s voice quivered.  He still wasn’t sure what the problem was, although he knew it had something to do with his new haircut. 

He’d gone home and done his chores and lessons.  He’d kept his hat on until he was done and it was almost supper.  Then he took it off.  His brothers had stared at him, and started laughing.  They always teased him, so he didn’t think much of it.  His ma had been busy with Rachel. 

But then his ma had called him to supper and as soon as he’d come into the room she’d started screaming.  Rachel had laughed too, but then got as mad as their ma.

Now, the boy wasn’t sure what to say.  “Han cut my hair for me, Aunt Murieann.”

The woman turned to her son.  “Oh Hannibal how could you.”

Hannibal opened his eyes.  “I’m sorry ma, I tried to cut it good, cause Jed didn’t want to look like a girl no more.  But I cut too much so I tried to fix it…”

“By gluing it back on?”  Brigid strode to the boy.  “Do ye realize what you’ve done?” 

Daniel stepped between them.  “Now Bri, Hannibal didn’t mean to hurt Jedediah.  But I must admit, I’ve never heard of anything like that before.  Are ya hurt Jedediah?”

“No sir. Han was just tryin’ to help…”  Jed started.  He scratched his head and came away with a curl in it.

Daniel choked, the beginning of a laugh escaping from his throat.  He heard similar sounds coming from the other men. 

He turned to see Brigid’s face. 

He swallowed the laugh quickly.  “James…” He tried to address a question to his brother in law, but the man was suddenly convulsed by a coughing fit.  Although to anyone watching he might have been laughing. 

“Glue!  He glued my baby’s hair back on!  What was the boy thinkin’”  Brigid scooped Jed up.  “It’ll never come out!” 

Daniel refused to look at either of the other man.  He turned to his son.  “Come along Hannibal.”  Taking the boy’s arm he led him from the house.  “You’d both  best come along.  To help, I mean.” 

The two men nodded as solemnly as they could and followed him out of the house. 

“And I’d best hear the sound of a leather strap against his backside…”  Brigid called out after them and slammed the door. 

“Ma, please don’t be mad at Han.  He didn’t mean...it was my fault…he was just tryin’ to help me.”  Jed looked up at his mother, his blue eyes wide with anguish that he’d caused his friend to get a whipping.  “Aunt Murieann…Han didn’t do nothin’ really.”

Finally Murieann couldn’t stand it any longer and broke out laughing. 

Brigid looked astonished then angry then finally gave up.  She sighed deeply and tried to brush some of the curls off Jed’s forehead.  They came away in her hand.   She sighed again. 

“Come along, let’s wash that off.”  Murieann took Jed’s hand and led him to the kitchen.  “Then there’ll be a big piece of cake for you.   Is that all right darlin’?” She caressed his cheek enjoying the smile that creased his face.

“Yes ma’am!”  He let himself be draped with a towel.  “Aunt Muireann?  Han’s not in trouble is he?”

The two women exchanged looks. 

“Yes Jed he is.  Hannibal knows better than to do something like this.”  At the look on his face, she leaned down and kissed his forehead.  “Don’t you be worryin’ about Hannibal, now.  By the morn’ he’ll have some new mischief planned.” 

Jed wondered how his aunt knew about that, but decided not to say anything more.  It was a secret after all. 

The woman brought the younger children their dinner in their room. 

“Rachel’s seein’ to Michael and Patrick.”  Brigid said as they set the plates down on the small table in the room all three boys shared. 

Then Murieann and Brigid returned to Jed and set about washing the glue out.  They trimmed what was left of his hair.  When it was done, they both decided it while shorter than usual, it would grow out after a time.  And he hadn’t really been hurt. 

“There.  All done.”   Muireann removed the towel from the boys shoulders.  “D’ya want your cake now Jedediah?”

Brigid turned his head and looked at him carefully.  “I suppose it’ll haf’ta do.”   

“And I don’t look like a girl.”  Jed said emphatically.  “Can I go find Han ma?  He can have my piece of cake.”

“Yes darlin’ g’on.  And don’t be worryin’.  There’s enough cake for the two of ye.”  Brigid kissed his cheek and watched him run out of the house. 

“It will be nice and cool for summer Bri.”  Muireann said, humor apparent in her voice.  “And Hannibal didn’t mean to hurt Jed.”  Of that I’m sure.”

“I know Molly.  The way Hannibal protects Jed, well I trust him with Jed’s life.  It was such a shock d’ya know.  Those curls pasted to Jedediah head and…”  She smiled.  “Is there any tea to go with that cake?”

“I’ll go make some right now.  Go tell the men to come in and to find our two little angels.”  She hugged her sister.

“Han?”  Jed called out to the darkness in the barn.  “You in there?”

“Go ‘way Jed.”  A little voice came from the corner.

“Han?”  Jed thought he saw movement and followed the voice.  “Ow.”  He tripped in the dark and went sprawling right in front of his cousin.

“You ok Jed?”  Hannibal helped him up.

“Han, you been cryin’?”  The moon shifted enough for the younger boy to see his friend’s face.

“Nah.  Got somethin’ in my eye.”  Hannibal wiped his face with his sleeve.

“You get a whippin’ Han?  I told them it weren’t your fault.  I told them…I’m sorry Han.”  Jed looked as miserable as Hannibal did.

“It’s all right Jed.  It wasn’t a bad whippin’ anyway.”  The boy paused.  “I’m sorry Jed.  I should’a been payin attention.”  He paused.  “Are you mad at me?” 

“Nah. Why’d I be mad at you Han?  I asked you to do it.  Han?  Did you tell your ma about the firecracker?”  Jed was tired of talking about his haircut.

“Huh?  No.  Why’d I tell her that.  She’d never let me…what’d she say Jed?”  Hannibal had a moment of panic that his ma really did know what they were going to do.

“That tomorrow you’d be plannin’ somethin’ Han.  I don’t ‘member what, ‘xactly.”  Jed’s brow furrowed as he tried to remember the woman’s exact words.

“Oh.  That’s all right.  Ma always thinks I’m plannin’ somethin’.  You wanna help me put the firecracker in the wagon tonight Jed.  Then we just gotta get to the wagon first.”  It was all right.

“Sure Han, I can get it.”  He scrambled up the ladder, retrieved the blanket wrapped firecracker and carefully climbed back down. 

Together the two boys edged out of the barn and towards the wagon.  No one in sight.  They slid the package against the side of the wagon and tucked it in. 

“Well here’s where the two of ye got yerselves to.”  A wisp of smoke curled from Grampa Curry’s pipe.  “Helpin to load the wagon early boys?”  He smiled knowingly.

“G.g.grampa…”  Hannibal stuttered, surprised at the man’s appearance.

“We’re not doin’ nothin’ Grampa.”  Jed’s heart was thumping.

The man looked at the boys, then at the wagon, then back at the boys.  “So, would the nothin’ you’re plannin’ be goin’ ta happen at the picnic tomorrow night?” 

The boys frowned in unison.  Then they smiled.  Grampa Curry loved adventures too.  They both nodded. 

“Fine boys.  I believe there’s cake waitin’.  G’on now the both of ye.”  He waved his pipe shooing them off. 

“Thanks Grampa.” They shouted and ran off.

The adults were sitting in the parlour when the boys ran up.

“Well we were wonderin’ if you two were comin’ back.  Hannibal, have ye said you’re sorry to Jedediah.”  Muireann tilted his face up, not missing the boy’s still swollen eyes.

“Yes ma’am.” 

“And Jedediah, is that all right with you?” 

“Yes Aunt Muireann.” 

The woman smiled.  “Well then.  Tis all right again.  Now, will there be anyone wantin’ some of me cake?”

The two boys managed to convince their parents to let Jed stay with Hannibal that night.  All four adults knew something was being planned.  But it was just too difficult to say no when the Hannibal’s very young, but very skilled silver tongue got to spinning the reasons Jed should stay. 

And if they were able to see past that, they’d look at the pleading in Jed’s wide blue eyes and surrender. 

The Curry’s bid everyone good night and walked arm in arm back to their farm. 

Muireann got the children tucked into bed and  went to clear the dishes.  Finally she returned to the boy’s to make one final check on them. 

Her two younger children were already asleep.  But Hannibal and Jed were waiting for her.  “Now close those eyes and have sweet dreams, m’loves.  And whatever you’re plannin’ for the morrow, I hope it’s nothin’ more than a second helpin’ of Rachel’s berry pie.”  She smoothed the hair back from Hannibal’s forehead and tucked the covers tighter around Jed. 

Her words brought shocked looks from both boys and they started to answer her.

“Now, no talkin’, just sleepin’.”  She kissed them both goodnight. 

“Night ma.”  Hannibal couldn’t figure out just how she knew. 

“Night Aunt Muireann.”  Jed snuggled deeper into the covers, his eyes closing quickly.

“Ma?  I’m really sorry.”  Hannibal reached for her hand. 

“I know darlin’.  Don’t fret. No one thought you’d do anything to harm Jedediah.”  She kissed his cheek.  “Now close your eyes and may the saints protect you on whatever adventure you’re plannin’.  She watched his eyes close and his breathing deepen, before releasing his hand and tiptoeing out.

July 4th morning found Hannibal and Jed, up, dressed and ready early.   They raced into the kitchen to find Daniel and Muireann sitting side by side at the table.  They looked startled at the sudden entrance, but smiled at the children.

“Can we go now ma?”  Hannibal nudged himself between them. 

“Mornin’ darlin’s”  Muireann ruffled his hair and smiled at Jed.  “Are you hungry boys?”

“Yes ma’am!”  Jed nodded eagerly.

“But ma, can’t we go now?”  Hannibal persisted.

“Hannibal, the picnic isn’t for hours yet and the fireworks won’t be till dark.  Now go get your brothers up, then come back and get started on breakfast.  You and Jed can have the mornin’ to yourselves.  We’ll leave just at noon.”  Daniel gently pushed Hannibal in the direction he’d just came from. 

The two boys spent the very long morning playing near the house.  They were eager to get to town, but they also wanted to make sure no one went near the wagon.  Finally it was time to go. 

The Curry’s arrived and both families headed for South Park, where the entire town would gather for an afternoon of food, music and games.  At night there would be fireworks.  Hannibal and Jed scrambled onto the wagon first making sure they were sitting firmly against their firecracker. 

Grampa Curry greeted both boys with a wink and a smile. 

It was a short ride to the park.  The boys were the last out of the wagon, waiting until the rest of the families had gone off to great friends and to find just the right place to spread their blankets.  Picnic baskets were opened and food spread out.  The adults were busy talking and the children were busy eating and playing.  There was a lot of laughter from all parts of the park as more and more people arrived.   

For a little while the two boys almost forgot about their plan.  At least it was put aside as they ran and played with the other children.  They finally both fell asleep.  It was nearly dark when they finally woke up.

“Did we miss it!”  Hannibal jumped up and ran to his father. “Pa!  Did we miss it?”

“No…settle down…they’re just goin’ to get it all set up.”  His father laughed. 

Hannibal took a deep breath.  “I was afraid…I mean Jed and me don’t want to miss the fireworks Pa.  Can we go watch them get ready?”

Daniel looked at his son, whom he loved a very great deal.  He also knew him inside and out.  “Hannibal, you aren’t plannin’ on doin’ anything with those fireworks now are ye?”

Hannibal looked at his father and considered his words very carefully.  “No Pa.  I’m not gonna do anything with those fireworks.” 

His father squinted at the boy.  “All right then, but don’t be too long.”

“Yes Pa. I mean no Pa.  Come on Jed.”  Hannibal grabbed his friend’s hand and dragged him running towards the center of the park, where the fireworks were being set up.  He stopped when he was hidden by a group of people.

“Han, the wagon’s that way.”  Jed pointed back the direction they’d come from.

“I know Jed, but Pa was watchin’.  Come on.  We’ll go back that way.”  He started running for the trees that ringed the park. 

They stayed in the trees until they came to where the wagons, buggies and horses had been hitched.  Quickly finding the right one, Hannibal climbed up and carefully handed the blanket wrapped package to Jed.

“Let’s go.”  He said quietly, taking the firecracker out of the blanket and sliding it up his sleeve, along with a stub of a candle and a long wooden match.  “I know just where to put it.”

“Wherever can the boys have gotten to?  I hope they haven’t found new trouble to get into.”  Muireann looked anxiously around the park. 

“And whose doin’ would that be?”  Brigid glared at Daniel. 

The man chuckled.  “Now Bri.  I think Hannibal’s learned his lesson.  Don’t fret Molly, you know whenever Hannibal and Jed get together…well they’ll be back in time for the fireworks.  And for the rest of your fried chicken.  And you know neither boy would miss your apple pie Brigid.”

As if on cue, the two boys scurried back to their families. 

“Is there still pie, Ma?”  Jed dropped to his knees and searched frantically through the picnic basket.

“Where did you two get off to?”  James Curry wrapped an arm around his son’s waist and hauled him up, swinging him around. 

Jed laughed as the others watched.

“We just watched Pa….”  Hannibal was about to say more, when the Mayor’s voice rang out.

“Happy 4th of July, friends!!!” 

There were answering shouts back to him and he held up his hands for quiet.

“I hope you’ve had a wonderful day and that the display we’ve planned for tonight will be memorable…” 

A rocket went up behind him, startling him into jumping forward. 

The crowd ooohed and ahhhhhed as the rocket climbed finally exploding in a shower of sparkles.

Hannibal nudged Jed.  “Ours’ll be better than that old thing.”  He whispered.

“Well it appears the fireworks are ready.”  The Mayor laughed.  “So…well let’s get started!”  He moved aside and the men lit the next rocket.  And the next.  Sparklers were handed out and the children held them out for their parents to light.

Hannibal and Jed and the other children waved the sparkling sticks around, casting drops of light off to float through the air. 

More rockets were lit.

Hannibal looked at Jed.  Their’s should have gone up by now.  Something had gone wrong. 

Jed shrugged.

Hannibal looked for a way to get to the firecracker.  Both sets of parents were right there.  There was no way to escape and find out what had happened.  He frowned, both angry and disappointed.  And the worst of it was the next day there’d be chores and no way to get back to either find out what had gone wrong or to retrieve the firecracker for use at a later time. 

Finally the fireworks were over.  People gathered their belongings and walked to their wagons to start for home.

The Curry’s and the Heyes’ packed their baskets and gathered the children’s toys.  Daniel Heyes picked Conor up and carried the sleeping boy in the crook of one arm, the other around his second son’s shoulders.  Muirean folded the blanket and carried one of the baskets.

“Hannibal, bring the other basket darlin’.”  She called out as she started after her husband.

“Yes ma.”  Hannibal was still looking towards where something should have happened.   He looked at Grampa Curry who raised his eyebrows. 

“Best laid plans…”  The older man said.  “There’ll be other times grandson.  Of that I’m sure.”

Hannibal scrunched up his face.  He didn’t entirely understand what his grandfather said.  He’d have to ask him to explain. 

James and Brigid Curry, were also packed and ready.  James carrying Jedediah. Rachel, Michael and Patrick following behind. 

“Come along Hannibal…don’t be keepin’ your pa and ma waitin’.”  James turned back.

The boy picked up the basket and ran to catch up.  “Yes Uncle James.  Uncle James, can Jed stay with us tonight?”

“NO!”  Brigid spoke quickly and just a bit too sharply, waking Jed.

Hannibal’s chin sunk onto his chest.  “I’m sorry Aunt Brigid.  I didn’t mean to cut Jed’s hair like that.”

The woman softened.  “I know Hannibal.  I know.  Will ye be wantin’ to spend the night with your cousin, Jedediah?”  It was an unnecessary question.  Any chance the two boys had to spend time together they did. 

They’d reached the wagons.  James handed Jed to Daniel.  “Looks like you’ve got another child again Daniel.” 

The man smiled and lifted Jed into the wagon, where he curled up on the blanket and fell back asleep. 

“It’s no trouble James.  We’ll have him home after breakfast.”  He clucked the horses into movement and slowly the two families made their way home.

By midnight, even the town’s most restless of citizens were fast asleep.  Five minutes later even the town’s most sound sleeper was wide awake. 

The rocket sputtered and came alive with no one watching from its hiding place next to the large corral on the outskirts of town.  Not that far from the edge of South Park. 

It soared through the night sky finally fulfilling it’s promise with a series of small pops leading up to one magnificent explosion.  The sparks whizzed and flew and continued cracking and popping for minutes.  The sky was alight with sparkles. 

The residents of Lawrence flew out of their homes and stared in wonder at the sight.  They didn’t know entirely what to make of it. 

The residents of the large corral didn’t know what to make of it either.  So they ran.  All two hundred of them.  Large and small, they ran.  Every single one of Mr. Olafson’s price herd.  The herd that was to be shipped to Chicago in two days. 

This night however, there were pigs everywhere.  In the water troughs.  In the Sheriff’s office.  In the dry goods store.  In the fancy tea room that Miss Emmy Pointerfield had just opened. 

The residents screamed and squealed and tried to round the pigs up.  The pigs had other ideas.  It was a very long night for the residents of Lawrence, Kansas.  Both man and beast. 

Morning dawned warm and sunny.  The residents of the two adjoining farms that lay only a few miles out of town awoke from a peaceful slumber.  Some of them had heard a distant rumble during the night.  But they put it down to thunder.  Perhaps there’d be a summer storm. 

Daniel Heyes kissed his wife, finished his coffee and went outside to start his morning chores.  He stopped short at what he saw.  “Murieann.”  He called tentatively. 

“Yes…Daniel what is it?  Oh my.  Well whatever are they doing here?”  The woman joined her husband on the porch.

James Curry stepped up from the side and joined them.  “We have them too.  Brigid’s beside herself.  Sure it’s a sign.  Grampa…well Grampa hasn’t stopped laughing since Jed’s haircut.  But he was plannin’ on fresh bacon.” 

The three people frowned as one and stared out at the row of pigs, sleeping soundly by the hitching rail in front of the house. 

The pigs, aroused by the voices decided perhaps it was wiser to go elsewhere and honking their displeasure, trotted back down the road towards town.

Hannibal and Jed looked out the window, watching the parade return to town.  They exchanged looks and frowns.  Then Hannibal smiled.  And smiled.  And Jed, understanding smiled too.  It was always better when an adventure worked out the way they’d planned.  Even if it wasn’t exactly the way they planned.

            “Never quite saw bacon the same after that Heyes.”  Kid laughed.  “And I always did wonder how that firecracker of yours got itself lit.”

            A late breakfast found the two men at the small café.  The poker game had been generous the night before.  They’d both slept later than usual, enjoyed the luxury of long baths and now Heyes was treating them both to steak and eggs, fried potatoes and coffee. 

            Heyes joined his partner in laughter.  “I figure the candle wasn’t quite out.  Not enough to light the fuse when it was supposed to.  But enough to spark later on.  Or there was something about that glue that sort of delayed things.  What I would have given to see that explosion.”  There was a longing look in his dark eyes. 

            “Well one day Heyes you’ll just have to do it again.”  Kid chuckled.  “Now, I’m gonna go see about that haircut.” 

            “Kid?”  Heyes had a dreamy quality to his voice.

            “Yea…what…”  Kid stared at the other man.  “Heyes…Heyes put it out of your mind.  Heyes we don’t need trouble and you just know that somethin’ like that’s gonna cause trouble.  Heyes you’re not listening to me.”

            “Just to see if it really worked Kid.  What trouble could it cause?”  Heyes smiled.  The same smile he always smiled.  Right before an adventure began.

            Kid frowned.  The frown he always frowned.  Right before he figured out how to make the adventure work.

            “I bet I know where we could get a tube Kid.  And a few of your bullets would be enough to make it fly. 

            Kid stared at his cousin and finally sighed.  “Well don’t forget the fuse this time.”  He said.  And smiled. 

            Later that night, after the residents of the town had turned in, two men stared out the open window of their hotel room anxiously awaiting the thing they’d started so many years before.

            The dark haired man checked his watch frowning in anticipation.

            The blond haired man laughed at his friends eagerness.  But he too watched.

            “Not gonna go off Kid.”  Heyes said dejected.

            “Give it time Heyes.”  Kid slapped him on the shoulder.

            “Not gonna work.  Candle must’a gone out.  Just like before.”  Heyes snapped his watch closed and sighed. 

            “A little faith Heyes.”  Kid grinned.  “Heyes.”  Kid pointed to the night sky.

            Heyes looked.  Something was flying up and up and up and finally it stopped and the rest is history.

            “Never could get the amount of powder right.”  Kid teased.

            “Worked well enough.”  Heyes grinned. “Will ya look at that Kid.” 

            The sky was lit up and the sparkles floated on the night breeze over the town.

            Then all hell broke loose.

            “Kid….” 

            “I see it Heyes. I see it.  I just don’t believe it.”

            People burst from their homes over shops to stare in wonder. 

            The two men laughed and pointed and laughed till tears ran down their faces.

            “Heyes…”  Kid stopped laughing.

            “What…”  Heyes groaned.

            Pigs.  Everywhere.  Mingling with the staring and now horrified townsfolk.

            The two men exchanged looks. 

            “ You don’t ’spose they’re the same ones?”  Heyes had to sit down he was laughing so hard.

            “Finally found us.”  Kid leaned against the wall for support.

            When the pandemonium had subsided and most of the laughter had stopped, the two men finally crawled into their beds. 

            “Thanks Kid.”

            “For what Heyes?”

            “For always bein’ willin’ to share an adventure.”

            “Go to sleep Heyes.”

            “Kid?” 

            “Heyes, if’n you don’t let me sleep I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

            “But Kid?”

            Curry sat up in his bed and glared at his partner in the dark.  “All right Heyes.  What is it now.  Get it out so we can both get some sleep.  What is it.  You need to paint the Sheriff’s office red?  Or put salt in the sugar bin at the dry goods store?  Or loosen that one log that holds all the others in place?  G’on Heyes what is it?” 

            “I’m hurt Kid. But I know you’re just tired.  G’on to sleep.  I’ll tell you in the morning.”  He lay back down and pulled the covers up to his chin.

            Kid chewed his lower lip.  “So help me Heyes.  Some day….just tell me so I can not think about it all night.”

            “I was just thinkin’ about the one thing we missed doin’ today.”  Heyes chuckled, his voice muffled by the pillow.

            “WHAT!”  Kid yelled loud enough to have the man in the adjoining room pound on the wall.  “What!”  Kid repeated himself, considerable lower in volume, but considerably higher in agitation.

Heyes smiled to himself.  “I could’a given you a haircut.”