Please Be Seated
By Linda Phillips, April 2011
Slim Sherman is used to being in control and expects to stay in control. It’s hard for take-charge individuals to step back, and Slim Sherman is no different.
This story is dedicated to Mary Brown, a loyal and devoted Slim Sherman fan. I am very grateful to Gail Gerstenlauer for her strong encouragement and technical help she is always so willing to give us.
Slim Sherman finished his breakfast after he completed his Monday morning chores. He washed his hands, picked up his school books, his lunch sack and headed to school. His mother was hanging clothes on the line. He was looking forward to school today because he had studied hard and was getting ready to prove himself on his Math test scores. His teacher, Miss Harvey, would really be proud of him, he was sure of that. Slim was a tall, good-looking young man and unusually intelligent. He was good with books, learned quickly and had made quite an impression on his teacher over the past two years.
Slim would often help out the other students with their reading lessons as Miss Harvey sat at her desk grading papers. Slim was reading at the highest level, along with two people besides himself: Elizabeth and Katherine, a pretty pair of fifteen year old twins, one year younger than Slim. They had an interesting, but beautiful combination of blond hair with brown eyes. Their faces glowed with beautiful, perfect skin and a hint of pink. They were a bit on the short side, just cute as could be. They were certainly able to capture the eyes of the boys and were constantly being chased around the schoolyard. Elizabeth was very serious minded, rarely came out from behind a book, while Katherine, on the other hand, was always daydreaming. She never answered when her name was called, and more often than not never knew the answers whether it be Math, English or whatever. Slim was often the object of her daydreams. Slim would never forget the day Katherine tripped over Johnny’s strategically outstretched foot and dropped all her books. All the papers that fell on the floor had “Slim Sherman” written all over front and back. She even had hearts drawn with Slim’s name in the middle of the hearts. He would never forget that day, and neither would anyone else for that matter. He endured endless ribbing over that one.
Now Miss Harvey was a very beautiful young woman. She had wavy dark hair with curly wisps that cascaded around her face. Her eyes were light blue and very sweet and to Slim, they sparkled. When she smiled, she had the cutest dimples. She stood only about five feet tall and almost had the look of a doll…the kind you might see in a storefront window around Christmas time. She was just gorgeous, Slim always thought, but unfortunately she was very much in love and engaged to marry a doctor back east; however, that didn’t stop the men in town from having a few daydreams of their own, even the married ones. Slim was no different. He had a sizable crush himself, and he was very impressed with himself that he had commanded her attention at school. She had even once told Slim that he was one of the brightest students she had taught and that he might want to consider going away to one of the colleges back east. So all in all, Slim took considerable interest in school in those days and was basking in all the attention he got from his teacher.
Slim rounded the bend past Ms. Wright’s home. She was a cranky old lady, but she had a yard full of beautiful roses, and they were just coming into season now. So he had managed to pick a few good ones to place on Miss Harvey’s desk the past few days. Making sure Ms. Wright was not peeking through her window, he carefully picked one large red one and ran another 30 yards or so up the school house steps and into the classroom. He carefully placed the red rose on top of a pile of books on the desk. He moved the books slightly to the center of the desk, arranging them perfectly…kind of like a “showcase” so to speak.
As the children arrived, they each took their seats, and as was his custom lately, Slim sat down in the teacher’s seat to maintain classroom order until she arrived. Miss Harvey had given Slim this new responsibility in the last few weeks because as she told the class “Slim is the oldest student in class. He has proven himself responsible, and whenever I am not in class, he will be in charge, and you must do as he says.”
Slim was admiring the beautiful red rose, tracing the stem with his finger and was imagining how delighted Miss Harvey would be with him this morning when she saw it. This was Slim’s last year in school. He became immersed in his dreams. Why maybe Miss Harvey would even break off her engagement, fall in love with him instead, and they’d get married. She was, after all, not many years older than him, and she seemed more his age due to her petite stature. His self-absorbed thoughts were interrupted when a spitball hit him in the eye. Slim jerked his head up suddenly, eyes widened and his brows arched . He pushed back the hair that had fallen over his eyes. He looked in the back of the room, and there sat Johnny, the class clown, smirking. Oh how Slim loved to write names on the board. He slowly got up from his seat. He always felt the slower he stood up, the taller it made him look. He turned his back to the class and commenced writing on the blackboard…Joh…
“Young man, please be seated!”
This was NOT Miss Harvey’s voice. This was the stern voice of a man with a heavy British accent. As he turned, he faced an aging, but distinguished-looking gentleman walking towards him waving his cane toward Slim’s empty desk. He was a well- dressed man with graying hair and mustache.
Slim hurried to his seat. He felt a slight wave of panic as he suddenly realized that his world was turning upside down this morning.
“My name is Mr. Pennystone, and I will be your teacher this morning and every morning for the rest of the year. Miss Harvey had to leave unexpectedly to head back east. “
Slim’s sixteen-year-old heart sank.
Mr. Pennystone hooked his cane on the side of the desk and eyed the red rose.
“My, what an exquisite red rose!”
Slim never felt so humiliated . Everyone knew he had brought it for Miss Harvey. Johnny, who sat beside him snickered, not to mention several others.
Looking at Katherine, Mr. Pennystone said “Young lady, would you like to place this rose on your desk today?” Katherine quickly walked up to the teacher’s desk and gingerly picked up the rose. She turned around holding the rose close to her nose, smiled at Slim and practically danced back to her desk. Giggles and snickering could be heard all around the classroom as Slim felt his face growing warmer by the minute.
Mr. Pennystone spent pretty much the rest of the morning explaining the rules of conduct to his class and what they could expect for the few remaining weeks of school. There was no test in Math that day. All the extra time Slim had put into his studying was wasted as far as he was concerned. When the day ended, he walked home feeling totally dejected. Why not one time did Slim get one ounce of recognition. He was treated like everyone else in class. His days of leading the reading groups, filling in at the teacher’s desk and enjoying the role of leadership were over. He couldn’t believe he had even been asked to take a seat . “Young man, please take a seat” he grumbled to himself. He picked up a rock and threw it hard as he could against a big tree. He had never felt so insignificant, yet he learned a valuable lesson we must all learn at some point in our life… and that is our situation or station in life can be subject to some unexpected and unwelcome changes.
As Slim reminisced about his school days with Jess, this was the one story Jess had not yet heard. Jess and Slim regularly enjoyed sitting on the porch on nice evenings sharing stories and their thoughts, and Jess always enjoyed the school day stories Slim told him. This allowed him to envision a younger Slim, a side of Slim that he seldom got to see.
Jess grabbed his side. He couldn’t stop laughing. “Young man, please be seated“ Jess mocked in his best “British accent”.
He laughed harder and harder, to the point where his voice just evaporated and left him gasping for air. “Well Slim, I reckon that’s one problem I never had. I sure didn’t have far to fall from grace in school. I was always the one with my name on the board and that was on the days I bothered to attend.” Again, Jess broke down into a fit of laughter which he just couldn’t stop. Slim was not even sure if Jess would maintain his balance in his chair which was tipped back on its two hind legs. He didn’t have to wait long to find out. The chair finally slid off its hind legs and crashed, but even that didn’t seem to phase Jess’ laughter.
Then Slim laughed, mostly at Jess. He had not seen him laugh that hard in quite a while. The two chewed the fat a bit more until they were too tired to talk anymore. They turned in a bit later than usual since it was Saturday night. Sundays were always slow and easy.
Since the weather was perfect for a day of fishing, Jess, Slim and Andy rode the horses down to the lake after Sunday dinner while Jonesy stayed behind to take a nap. They stopped at their favorite spot, after surveying the area carefully beforehand for any snakes slithering on the banks. They poked their fishing poles around the grassy areas and rocks. The snakes seemed worse than usual this spring around the lake area. Once the site was deemed safe, the three decided to dismount when suddenly Alamo grew restless and reared just as Slim had swung his right leg out of the stirrup. With lightning speed, Jess killed the venomous snake with one shot sending Slim’s horse galloping off at full speed. Slim fell and unfortunately hit his head hard on the ground. It had all happened so fast. Andy was the first one off his horse running to Slim’s side.
He grabbed his brother and cried out, “Jess, Slim’s hurt real bad! He’s unconscious. Oh no! Slim, don’t die. “
Jess knelt by Slim. “He’s not gonna die, but we gotta get him back to the ranch fast. Give me a hand, Andy.”
Between Andy and Jess, they managed to pick Slim up carefully and place him on Traveler with Jess sitting behind him, holding him up.
Once back at the ranch, Andy ran into the house ahead of them to get Jonesy’s help. The elder man rushed out to help get Slim off the horse and into bed. While Jonesy and Andy tended to Slim best as they could, Jess was already on his way to town to get the doctor. His intuition told him Slim was way too injured for doctoring by Jonesy and himself, and he wasted no time. His heart was pounding fast the whole ride into Laramie.
As Jess was heading into Laramie, Jonesy and Andy were busy trying to help Slim. “Andy, go boil some water while I remove Slim’s clothes. Start making some long strips from the rags I got sitting in the box by the stove.”
Jonesy carefully removed all of Slim’s clothes including his boots. He pulled down the covers on Slim’s bed. Later he would move Slim off Jess’ bed onto his own bed. He wiped his face down carefully with a damp cloth, applying some pressure to a bloody wound on the side of his face. He sat in a chair next to the bed and patiently, but anxiously waited for Jess to come back with the doc.
It seemed to take forever, but finally Jonesy could hear the welcoming sound of galloping horses coming near the house. Jess rushed in with the old Doc Turner following close behind holding his black leather bag.
After moving Slim back into his own bed, the doctor examined Slim’s pupils. He examined inside his ears and mouth. Then very carefully he checked out Slim’s arms, legs, feet and hands.
“Well, he certainly has a concussion, that’s for sure. His knee looks a little swollen on the right and lightly bruised” said Dr. Turner as he stood up. “There’s not too much I can do right now except stitch up the facial cut. After I finish that, I will give you something to ease the pain a bit when he awakens. One thing’s for sure, he’ll be laid up in bed for a good stretch of time.” The doctor then reached in his worn leather bag for his suture materials and commenced work. He finished up by wrapping Slim’s knee in a wrap for stabilization.
Slim finally came to in a few hours and was complaining of a severe headache, so much so, he was asking for pain medication. Jonesy explained to him that he had fallen off his horse after a venomous snake spooked Alamo. Slim could not remember any of these events. All he knew was that he had a splitting headache, and never could he remember feeling so bad.
Jonesy spent the rest of the evening trying to coax Slim into taking small sips of water.
Over the next few days, Slim slept most of the daytime hours. Nothing changed. Slim did not get worse, but yet he didn’t seem to really get any better. The doctor carefully checked Slim’s condition during one of his return visits to the ranch and determined that he was about the same, and that he was going to have to just keep convalescing on his own, staying quiet and only sitting up when he felt he had the strength.
As the days passed into weeks, Jess had to take on more and more of Slim’s regular duties. He hired a man in Laramie named Jake to help out around the ranch. With Jonesy’s input, Jess took over Slim’s paperwork as well as the other ranch duties.
About three weeks after the accident, Slim finally began to show signs of improvement. His face was less swollen and beginning to heal. He was staying awake longer during the day and had begun to eat a little food.
By the fourth week after his accident, Slim noticed that Jess had become quite confident in taking care of not only the day-to-day duties of running a ranch, but also had become quite adept at dealing with the business end of the stage line duties as well.
Slim became more and more restless and tired of sitting on the sidelines. Much to Jonesy’s and Jess’ disapproval, he started spending more of his time limping about both inside and outside the house. He was awaiting the stages, going over his books and mail, and to put it simply was pushing himself a little too hard. Slim had been laid up so long at the ranch that some of the town folk were coming by to visit, bringing food and such. Slim told Jonesy he didn’t really want any company, didn’t want to be seen lying around in the bed, looking all sickly. It didn’t set well with his image, the big, tall, strong, always reliable Slim, always around town to help out when needed. But Jonesy had a different take on things.
“I’m not about to turn away good folks when they come all this way just to cheer you up. How would you like it if they did that to you? Sometimes Slim, you just got too much pride, and you know what they say about pride. Why every now and then, the good Lord just has to take ya down a notch or two.”
On week five after Slim’s fall, the Doc Turner showed up at the ranch one morning just in time to catch Slim quickly grabbing hold of the porch post as he stood there barely able to stand. His dizziness was still a hideous companion to all the other aches and pains.
“Young man, please be seated!” The words sent Slim’s mind into a jolt. He experienced an unpleasant “déjà vu” to another place and time. Suddenly he felt like a teenage boy again.
The doc, shaking his head, dropped his black bag on the porch as he helped steady Slim into one of the porch chairs.
“Slim you are getting better, there’s no doubt about that, but you still are pretty weak yet, and you shouldn’t be overdoing it.”
“I know doc, but Jess just can’t run this ranch alone.” Slim explained.
“Well, I’m not runnin’ this ranch alone Slim.” Jess said as he walked up to the porch. “There’s me, Jake, Andy and Jonesy. Doc, I’m sorry about Slim bein’ up and all. Just can’t keep’m down. He’s just so darn stubborn…just like an old mule.”
The doctor took a seat next to Slim.
“Listen, Slim, you have got to slow down a bit and let that body of yours heal properly. I know you are used to running this here ranch and all, but right now it appears to me that Jess and Jake are doing just fine. Sometimes we just have to step back when we need to and just let other folks help that’s all. You’d be no good to them anyway if you make yourself sicker than you already are. So my advice to you is be glad you have such fine responsible friends here to help you out a bit. There’s no shame in letting other people help out now and then. We have to remember that we can only do so much, and sometimes it’s just plain humbling to have to rely on others, but that’s just the way life is. So just practice a little bit of humility, and you just might see that you will get better a whole lot quicker.”
The doc went in the house and shared a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie with Jonesy before he left.
Slim admitted he was tired and went to his room to lie down a bit. The doc was right. Instead of feeling like he was indispensable, he needed to be reminded that there would always be others around to do the job when he couldn’t. The bed felt so much better now. He just sunk in and let the softness of his pillows and blankets carry him away into a very-much needed deep, soothing sleep, content that he had such good friends to share his good times and the bad times.