Long Walks and Cold Suppers


For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin (Ps. 38:18).

I could see by the length of the shadows that it would be almost dark by the time I got home. Supper would be over at our house, and, being late, I’d get only what was left over. The fire in the stove would have burnt itself out, so I’d probably eat another cold meal too. I put a little more effort into my stride, because thinking of food had made me hungry.

As I walked, I thought about some of the people I wanted to be like when I grew up. One was Uncle Milton. He always said, “If you will say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ along with ‘you’re welcome,’ you can make friends and get along with most everyone.” Since he was so well liked, I tried hard to practice what he said.

Then I thought about my cousin Garn. To me he was a great horseman and cowboy. Garn came by our house and showed me the rope tricks and fancy riding he could do. He used me in one of the tricks he did: He loped his horse almost at a run. Then, as he went by, he reached down and grabbed me under my arms and swung me up on the horse with him.

Garn had surprised me the first time he snatched me off the ground. Once I got over the shock and got my breath back, I asked him to do it again. After just a few times, I felt secure with his strong arms around me, and we soon had the trick worked out so it looked smooth and easy.

The first time Mother saw Garn and me do the snatch-up trick, she was upset. “What if you drop Adam, and he breaks something?”

Garn didn’t have much to say, so I came to his defense. “We’ve done it lots of times, and nothing has happened.”

Father put his arm around Mother and added, “It’s much safer than Adam’s riding a half-broken horse.”

Nothing more was said, but I knew that Mother worried.

A few days later I was showing off my little gray mare by loping her up and down the streets of town. I met my friend Marlene and asked her, “Would you like to learn the snatch-up trick?”

She just kept walking without answering me, so I asked again, adding, “I’ll give you a ride anywhere you want to go, if you will.”

She finally nodded. “OK.”

I rode down the street, turned the horse around, and loped toward her. As I got close, I leaned over in the saddle and got a firm grip on the horse with my knees, just like Garn did. Then I reached under her arms to pick her up.

She was heavier than I thought, but I got her up off the ground without slipping out of the saddle. I just had to swing her up in front of me. But her long dress flew up and spooked the little gray horse. It shied, and I lost my hold and dropped Marlene.

Before I could get the frightened horse stopped, Marlene had scrambled up and run down the street and into her house. I assumed she was all right and went on home.

The next evening Mother said, “Doctor Meeks has been at Marlene’s house. He had to set her broken arm. When Father gets home, he and I have something to say to you.”

While I waited for Father, I learned that the break was just below the elbow and that Doctor Meeks had said it would probably heal as good as new. He’d had to pull the bones back in place before putting on a cast, though, and she’d cried hard.

Father came home and said, “Adam, do you know that what you did was wrong?”

“I guess I shouldn’t have tried to do the snatch-up trick with her.”

“I will pay the doctor. What do you think that you should do?”

“Well, she said she’d do the trick with me, and it wasn’t my fault the horse shied.”

“While you are thinking about what you did not do, and about what you need to do to make amends, you are not to get on a horse—yours or anyone else’s—until Marlene’s arm is well. You are not to accept rides on wagons or buggies, either. In other words, wherever you need to go, you will walk!”

So I walked. I walked for more than eight weeks. When my friends found out what happened, they made sure to ride by me on their horses and say things like, “Adam, are you practicing to be a foot soldier?”

I also had to get up much earlier in the morning to get to the fields to work, and I got home long after everyone else, usually to a supper of cold leftovers, like tonight. I started to avoid people and went out of my way when I saw someone coming who I was sure would ask, “Adam, how much longer are you going to be walking?” And I started to think about why I was in this fix. I had made a mistake, and someone else had been hurt. Each step I took seemed to pound that fact more firmly in my head. I started to pray as I walked—for Marlene and for me.

Last week Doctor Meeks passed me in his buggy. I waved him to a stop and asked, “Doctor, how much longer do you think it will be until Marlene’s arm will be better?”

“Well,” he said, “we set it right, and she’s been careful. She was given a priesthood blessing of healing by her father, so I haven’t worried about her. Usually six weeks is long enough for that bone to heal, but we didn’t get hers set until the next day, remember, so it may take at least two more weeks. Then it should be as good as new, and she’ll probably forget all about it, except when she sees you.”

Doc reached over and tousled my hair. “Be careful, Adam. No more trick riding. I have enough sick people to take care of without you helping to make more.”

He clicked to his horse and went on down the road, leaving me to walk on alone.

When the two weeks had passed, I started looking forward to church so I could see if Marlene had the cast off her arm. She still had it on last Sunday, and it had been a few days more than eight weeks since the fall. The past three nights I had walked by her house, hoping to see her without the cast. I was sure people were saying, “There is that Adam. Let him walk and let it be a lesson to him.”

I was feeling pretty bad tonight as I came to our street. Then I remembered that my Uncle Milton’s advice was not just to say “please” and “thank you” but also “I’m sorry” and “It was my fault.”

I hurried past our house and went up to Marlene’s door and knocked. She called out, “Just a minute, please.”

It was a long minute before she answered the door. I just stood there looking down at my dusty shoes. Then I looked up at her. Her arm was still in the cast, and it was a bit soiled. I looked her in the eye. “Marlene … I’m sorry. Really! It was all my fault. I hope sometime you can forgive me.”

She let me stand there a moment longer. Then she said, “I’m glad you came, Adam. Your mother said that you would probably remember to come and say you were sorry for what happened before the doctor took the cast off. You made it—it comes off tomorrow.” She smiled. “Last night I prayed you would come today.”

“And you’ll forgive me?” I asked.

“Yes, I forgive you.”

I felt so warm inside as I walked home that I didn’t even mind the idea of one more cold supper.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown