Fiction: Battle-tested

“No,” Graham said. “Buck can and should stand on his own. He’s struggling lately. It’s why he needs the crutch of religion, but it’ll pass when he’s stronger.”

“Father! How dare you pretend to know me when all you’ve ever done is overlook me! Don’t make excuses for me. Don’t belittle my faith. God doesn’t disappoint like everyone else does—especially you!”

“Where was God when you got shot?” Fred asked. “Does God get you nice things like Father does?”

“I don’t need nice things.”

“Oh—then why don’t you hand over that watch Father gave you?” Fred coveted it.

“I sold it!” Buck said, his eyes flashing at Fred. “I sold it to buy food for the poor Indians.”

“That’s what the government is for!” Margaret cried.

“You thought so little of me, son, that you sold my brother’s memory?” Graham asked, his voice shaking.

So the inscription, the hope filled inscription engraved into that watch had been meant for his father’s brother—not Buck. “I didn’t think the watch was all that special. I thought I’d help people in need—something you never did for me!”

“I thought you wanted to be friends with Father?” Fred laughed. “I guess this Christianity thing is only skin deep. Too bad—I was getting inspired.”

Buck grabbed for Fred, but Fred punched him first, landing a shot in the face—on the sore side. The pain sent Buck reeling. He dropped to the ground. The family stood still. A few soldiers, passing by, joined them. “What’s happened to Buck?” one of them asked.

In a second they had him on his feet, blood sneaking between the fingers Buck held to his face.

“Let me see,” Graham said.

“No. Get away from me. I can’t stand any of you. You ruin everything that’s good.”

Margaret said to the soldiers, “He is suffering under some type of nervous complaint.”

“Hmm. Well, Buck was all himself yesterday,” one of the soldiers said. “A real good example to the other young men. He’s started a Bible study and all. What would lead him to fisticuffs, I don’t know.”

The other, noting Fred’s strong resemblance to Thankful, said, “Family is what led him.” He stared at Fred. “When someone goes and clobbers a feller of our own, it doesn’t sit well with us. Buck may be a bit queer, but we’ve grown to like ‘im. You had better keep that in mind, sir.”

Fred stood, furious but silent.

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