It wasn't that he wasn't excited to see Luke, he really was. In fact, it was the only thing he could think about ever since the family got the letter that he was coming home on leave from the Marines. Bo had missed him so much while Luke had been away. It had been only nine months since he last saw him, but it had seemed like an eternity. Bo clung to every letter that was sent home by Luke, and had pretty much worn out the paper they had been written on by reading them over and over again. However, as time went by and he began to compare the most recent letters to the letters from when Luke first left home, he noticed a difference in tone. Something was changing in Luke while he was away, something about the tone the letters started to take and the topics he would write about made Bo realize that Luke may not be the same coming back as he was when he left, and that made Bo a little nervous about seeing him again. He couldn't quite explain it, or put a finger on it, but that uneasy feeling in his stomach told him that he may want to take a little time to readjust to Luke being back.
Bo wasn't really one to judge, either. It wasn't really a secret that Bo had been going through some changes of his own while Luke was away, not all of them good, and that could very well be the biggest thing that had been bothering him about facing Luke again. Losing his big cousin had proven to be more difficult for Bo than the fifteen year old had anticipated. He naively thought that saying goodbye late last year to the young man four years his senior would be the hardest part. After all, Luke had joined the Marines fresh out of high school, leaving Bo to begin his high school career on his own, with no moral support or words of wisdom. Bo hadn't really thought about continuing on with schoolwork while Luke was away. It was almost like Bo expected his life to just freeze until Luke returned and that everything would pick up exactly the way they left off, with no changes. As the day rapidly approached that Luke would finally return on an extended leave, it was all too clear to Bo that Luke would not be overly impressed with the way he had handled Luke's absence so far, and it was much too late to do anything to change that now.
In the beginning, the letters home from Luke would be about seeing the different cities and meeting men from all over the country. He wrote of all the hiking and working out he was doing, and how he had to answer "Sir, yes Sir" or "Sir, no Sir" to everything a superior officer would ask him, and how he had to keep his bunk and uniforms incredibly neat and tidy, unlike he had done at home. As time went by, however, Luke spoke more of the importance of his duties, how the high amounts of discipline were really going to come in handy when he would be deployed overseas. He had started his weapons training and had even begun hand to hand combat. As Bo continued to read the letters, he began to understand that Luke wasn't just away at a camp somewhere. It began to sink in that Luke had become part of something huge, something important, and was about to be part of something that was very dangerous. He never allowed himself to think about where any of this was headed for Luke, the thought of Luke's life in danger made Bo sick to his stomach, so he just tried to focus on how smart and cunning Luke could be. Besides, Luke had promised Bo before he left that he would be back, and so far Luke had never broken a promise to him.
So now here he was with Daisy at the farm, waiting somewhat patiently for Uncle Jesse to arrive back at home after picking Luke up from the bus station. Daisy had prepared a feast of a meal, complete with all the southern fixin's that Luke had been missing since his departure, and Bo had to stay behind to help. Daisy had been a Godsend to Bo over the last nine months. The two cousins had always been close, and even during Bo's worst days lately, Daisy had been there with a warm hug or a soft kiss on the cheek for him. She looked over and smiled at him now as Bo cautiously pulled back the kitchen curtain to peer out into the driveway, anticipating the white pickup truck to pull in any time now.
"Relax, sugar, they'll be here soon. Why don't you come over here and help me set the table?"
Bo turned away from the window. "They'd better get here soon. I can't hardly wait to eat dinner. I've been smelling it all morning and my stomach's aching to dig in."
Daisy tilted her head just a bit as she studied her younger cousin. "You sure that's all you're thinking about, Bo?"
Bo stole a quick look into her eyes before looking down at the floor. "No, I guess not." He took the pile of dinner plates she was holding for him and quickly made his was around the table, plunking plate after plate in each person's spot. "It does seem good to set a table for four again, though, don't it?" Bo managed a smile at Daisy.
Daisy walked up to Bo and gave him a gentle squeeze. "It sure does, honey." She pulled him away a little and looked up into his eyes. "Listen, I can tell you've been nervous about Luke coming back, and I'm pretty sure I know why." Bo looked away and began to pull back from her. She held his arm tight and brought her hand to his cheek to make him look back at her. "I know things haven't been easy for you, Bo, but don't you worry none. We're gonna have a great time with Luke back again. He's not coming back here just to check up on what you've been doing in school. He'll be so happy to see you, to see all of us, and I know that seeing him again will put you back on the right track." She again pulled him close and wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head on his chest. Bo placed his head on top of hers and hugged her back. Even at fifteen, Bo was head and shoulders above his 'big' cousin, but she still liked to coddle him a little, and he had to admit he liked it too.
At that moment they heard the roar of the truck coming into the driveway. Both Duke cousins in the house rushed out to meet the third Duke cousin in the yard, and they all met with a group hug. Uncle Jesse carried Luke's bag in the house and Daisy and Bo hurried Luke right in the door behind him. Within 15 minutes, they were gathered around the kitchen table, feasting on that southern fried meal that Daisy had worked her fingers to the bone on all day. Jesse had led the family in a special welcome home prayer for Luke, thanking the Lord for his safe return, and then they all dug in. Bo couldn't resist a few smart remarks about Luke's new haircut, and Daisy couldn't help but comment on the new muscles he had sprouted while he had been away.
Luke seemed very excited to be back home. He started out with some small talk, asking questions about how the tractor was holding up, if the beat up old pick up had given Bo any problems, if Daisy had finally decided to accept a date with Enos, when finally the dreaded question for Bo reared its ugly head.
"So, Bo, how's school been going this year?"
Bo's stomach twisted just a little. Trying to act passive about it, he just shrugged and replied "Oh, it's been okay, I guess."
"Well, three quarters have passed so far. How've your grades been? You've been staying out of trouble, ain't ya?"
Uncle Jesse studied Bo's reaction for a second. His youngest was just stirring the food in his dish, was not looking up, and had a darkened look in his eyes. Trying to save the dinner conversation from going sour, Jesse intervened. "Bo's been fine. You let me worry about his schoolin'. How was the flight from Missouri?"
Luke looked questioningly at Bo for a moment, then at Jesse. He wasn't quite sure what had just happened, but took the hint that whatever it was, it would be left for another time. "It was okay. I gotta admit I was really nervous flying for the first time, but I guess I'm gonna hafta get used to it before long."
The conversation continued onward and past the school subject, which Bo was very relieved about, but he knew as well as Luke did that although the topic had been stalled, it wouldn't be over. Long after the food had been consumed and the dishes were all cleaned and put back in their places on the shelves, the four of them continued to sit around the table and did their very best to catch up on everything that had transpired while they had been separated. Bo did manage to tell Luke that he had picked up a few odd jobs around town helping with some grocery deliveries and mending some porches and fences. However, he was only allowed to work on the weekends and not on school days, so his cash income had been very limited. Daisy had been helping out at the orphanage lately and had also managed to bring in a little money on the side.
Finances had also been a sensitive subject. Money had never come in abundance at the Duke farm, but this year had been a lean one for the family, and it didn't help that Luke hadn't been there to help with the upkeep and chores of the farm. Bo and Daisy had helped as much as they could, but Jesse had been shouldering a little more of the workload with Luke away, and truth be told, it was wearing him out a bit.
Bo hated seeing Jesse working so hard, and at first had even tried to convince his uncle to let him take a year off from school to help out with the farm, but Jesse would hear none of that. His first two kids had graduated high school, and so was his third. Jesse knew all too well that if Bo were allowed to take a year off, the chances of his returning to graduate would be very slim, so he wouldn't even humor the subject. Bo tried his best, but his uncle stood firm.
Much later that evening, Bo and Luke retired to their bedroom for the night. Luke stretched out on his bed, soaking in the comfort of his old mattress. Bo had tried to clean the room up a little, at least he had pulled all his clothes off Luke's side, but the tiny room still looked like a bomb had gone off in there. As Bo yanked his sheets down to crawl into his bed, Luke shook his head and clicked his tongue at him.
"Looks like your cleaning skills haven't changed any." Luke smirked.
Bo smiled, "Yeah, you could say that. I've never been one for cleaning."
"I'll tell ya, Bo. If you were in the Marines and your bunk looked like that, you'd be doing so many push ups and sit ups, you wouldn't be able to move for a month."
"Yeah, well, I don't remember you having much for cleaning skills either, before you went away."
"That's the thing, you have to learn real quick to keep your area clean and proper, or else you get in a heap of trouble with your drill sergeant. It teaches you to be disciplined real fast."
Bo looked around the room again. "I dunno. It don't seem too bad to me. I know there's clothes on the bed and some on the floor, but the floor's swept up, and all the clothes are kinda clean, those jeans've only been worn once. It's not all that bad."
"It's not bad by your standards, but by Marine standards, it's horrible!" Luke caught himself at that moment as he saw the look of confusion and a hint of shame on Bo's face. He decided he would backtrack just a bit. "Then again, it looked like this when I was here, too, so I guess it's not fair of me to lay that all on you now." He patted his bed for Bo to come sit with him. "Come over here for a second, Bo. I want to talk to you." Not liking where their last conversation ended up, Bo cautiously went over and sat on Luke's bed.
"Listen, I know something was going on earlier at the dinner table. Is everything okay at school? It seemed like maybe there was something you weren't telling me."
Bo suddenly found something very interesting on the floor to study. For some reason he couldn't take his eyes off that one spot on the floor. "No, not really. It's been a little rough this year is all. It'll all be fine. I'm doing okay."
"You don't sound too convincing."
Bo shrugged. "It's really okay. I'm pulling down mostly C's. I did get two D's, but I'm pretty sure I brought one of them up so far this quarter to a C. I'm gonna work to do the same with the other one" Bo was telling the truth. Although his grades hadn't been anything to write home about, they hadn't been the main reason for Bo's hesitancy to talk about school.
"Well, that's not great, but it's not horrible either." Luke replied. "Is there anything else?"
Bo hesitated ever so slightly as his teeth chewed a little on his lower lip and his eyes darted nervously from the floor to Luke's eyes. It was enough evidence for Luke that there really was something else, however, Bo continued to deny it.
"Nope, that's it." Not looking at Luke as he spoke. "It's different from Jr. High to High School. I'm getting used to it now, but it was a rough start for me, is all." He finally pulled his eyes away from the floor and looked at Luke, who was sitting there, acting like he was waiting for him to say something further. "Really, that's it." Bo said again with a bit of a laugh. "I'm sorry I ain't got more to tell ya."
Luke nodded at Bo and decided that on his first night home, he would not push the subject any further with his younger cousin.
"Okay, if you say that's it, then that's it." Luke answered as he again stretched out on his back. Placing his arms behind his head and looking up at the ceiling, he replied, "Gosh, this old lumpy mattress feels so great. I'm gonna sleep like a baby on this."
The next two days went by much too quickly for Bo, but then again, the weekends always did. He had spent as much time as possible with Luke, although he didn't get a lot of one on one with him. News got around about Luke's return to Hazzard, and all his friends wanted to spend some time as well. Cooter had come by, of course, and spent a good portion of Saturday at the Duke farm, catching up with Luke. In fact, Cooter and the Duke family spent a few hours just sitting on the porch listening to the Marine stories that Luke had brought home with him. Just coming from Basic Training and some specialized training, Luke's main topic was discipline, and how he was so against it at first, then had grown to really need it as part of his day to day life in the service.
Every so often, too often in Bo's opinion, Luke would stop telling his stories just long enough to give Bo a friendly jab in the gut, saying "You could use a bit of that, Bo, some discipline would really do you good, too." before continuing on with the rest of his tale. Bo would play along with the joke, but truth be told it was hitting a sore spot with him, and it didn't help that Luke must have said something along those lines at least five times. Daisy, who had been sitting next to Bo, noticed how it was affecting him and she reassuringly ran her hand up and down Bo's arm, smiling at him whenever he would make eye contact with her.
Sunday Bo and Luke took a ride to Hazzard Square to reacquaint Luke with all the surroundings of his small hometown. They finished off the trip with a drink at the Boar's Nest. Soda for Bo, a cold beer for Luke. It was there that they had run into Enos, Boss Hogg and Roscoe, even though Enos was the only one who seemed happy to see Luke again. Enos was still in training to become the next deputy of Hazzard, and Roscoe had just been appointed sheriff. Boss Hogg had been the county commissioner for several years now, and he just grumbled at the sight of Luke Duke back in town. He did manage to comment on how happy Luke's Uncle Jesse must be to have Luke back, and he told the boys to be sure that they gave their uncle his regards. Enos bought Luke a beer, and Roscoe managed to place a hand on Luke's shoulder and almost smile at him just before he scurried off after Boss. It made Luke feel right back at home.
Monday morning sent Bo back off to school, the place that he had learned to dread over the past several months. Daisy had dropped him off at the front entrance of Hazzard High on her way to the orphanage, as usual, and wished him a good day. Before she drove off, she reprimanded him slightly.
"Now listen, Bo. Uncle Jesse will be at the still sight most of the day today. I'll be back to pick you up at two o'clock, right after school. Just make sure you're on your best behavior today so you don't get sent home early. Luke is spending the day with Cooter, helping him install an engine in Mr. Rutherford's Oldsmobile, and there won't be anyone home for the principal's office to call. You hear me?"
Bo nodded. "I hear ya, Daisy. I'm sure I can manage one day without a trip to the office." He smiled and patted the hood of the truck before Daisy drove away. "Have a good day, sugar. Love ya." She called back to him.
Bo's smile faded as he looked toward the school. Taking a deep breath, he headed up the stairs and entered the building. "Here's hoping I can, anyway."
As Bo sat uncomfortably in the wooden chair in the corner of Principal Leighton's office, he stole a glance at the clock on the wall. It was 1:20. Bo smirked at how close he had come to making it through the day without some sort of conflict. Close, but not quite. Mrs. Drummond, Mr. Leighton's assistant, was seated behind her desk, finishing up her work for the day, looking up occasionally at Bo and shaking her head in disappointment. Finally, she acknowledged him. "I've called for your ride, Bo. It'll be here in a few minutes."
Bo frowned. "But, my Uncle is at work, Mrs. Drummond. How could you have called him? He….doesn't have a phone in his…..office." It was a good cover, Bo thought.
"I didn't reach your Uncle, Bo. I reached your cousin."
Bo swallowed hard. "Daisy?"
"No, Luke. He'll need to come in here and sign you out, seeing how your Uncle is at… work today." She smirked at him and continued with her clerical duties. Most of the people in Hazzard knew what the Duke family business consisted of, but it was never really discussed.
This news seemed to deflate the air right out of Bo's lungs. "Great." He sighed. Just when he thought the day couldn't get any worse, it somehow managed to prove him wrong. Dealing with his Uncle was bad enough, but the thought of facing Luke somehow frightened Bo even more than the wrath of Jesse Duke. He would much rather face Jesse's lecture or even a whipping than Luke's disappointment. He leaned against the back of the chair and waited for Luke to come. While he waited, he thought back to what had just transpired in Mr. Leighton's office.
There was a very scripted course of action that would befall students who disobeyed in Hazzard High School, or any of the Hazzard Schools, and every student who attended these schools had known of this since grade school. The first three trips to the principle's office would result in detention. The next three would result in a day's suspension. The next three trips would result in three lashes with the strap, over the jeans, while bent over the principle's desk. The punishments got more severe for the high school students, starting with five lashes, then ten, and finally fifteen lashes before being expelled for the rest of the year. Previous years in school had brought Bo over the principle's desk one time for three lashes, and that had been back in sixth grade. He had been so bothered by that and by the fact that Jesse had done the same to him when he got home, that he made it a mission to never have that done to him again.
Never, that was, until his first year in high school. This had been a particularly bad year for Bo. It had started out well enough, but had continued downhill pretty consistently. The first infractions had basically been not paying attention in class, being disruptive or skipping a few classes. As the year went by, Bo had found a few boys in his grade that really seemed to like giving him a hard time, and no matter how hard Bo had tried to avoid them, they always managed to find him. The end result was that Bo was now facing ten lashes with the strap the next three times he was sent to the principle's office.
The good news was each time he was sent to the office, he would be greeted by Mr. Bixby, the assistant principle, who was no more than five and a half feet tall and weighed in at about 145 pounds. Being a rather small man, Mr. Bixby wasn't exactly known for hard lashings, and not a single strike had hurt Bo in the slightest. Getting a whipping from Mr. Bixby wasn't a true threat, and because there was no danger, there was very little motivation to not defend himself against the boys giving Bo a hard time. The boys would also get in trouble for fighting, but they had behaved themselves better in the beginning of the school year and were simply getting off with a detention, for now anyway.
However, this afternoon had been different. As Bo walked into the lobby of the office, it wasn't Mr. Bixby who was waiting for him, it was Principal Leighton. Mr. Leighton stood at about six feet five inches, weighed in at well over 250 pounds, and had been a Marine himself. The talk of the school was that although the principal very rarely administered corporal punishment to the students, when the occasion arose the students left the office with very painful backsides. Bo had himself seen Bobby Cross leave the principal's office with red and puffy eyes, and he was starting quarterback on the varsity football team. Mr. Leighton held Bo's file in his hands, and escorted Bo into his private office and sat him down for a discussion.
"How did this happen, Mr. Duke? How is it that this is your thirteenth time being sent to this office? Is it your intent to get expelled from my school?" Mr. Leighton had opened Bo's file and was sorting through all the demerit slips.
"No, Sir." Bo answered. His heart was pounding so hard he hoped that the man couldn't hear it from where he sat.
"Then what is it? I'd really like to know why you insist on coming back to this office. Do you like my paintings in here or something? Perhaps you have a secret crush on Mrs. Drummond?" He was toying with Bo now, and Bo actually found himself wishing they would just get on with the lashings and get it over with.
"I don't know, Sir. I just can't seem to keep away from them boys who've been giving me a hard time this year. I know I should just walk away, but it just ain't that easy sometimes." Bo hated how that excuse had sounded so weak.
Mr. Leighton snorted a bit at Bo as he put the slips back with the rest of the paperwork and closed the file. "Well, I guess you're just gonna have to try harder next time. I've spoken with those boys as well, and I want you to know that they've been warned to stay away from you, and I'm warning you now to stay away from them. From here on out, you will all be dealing directly with me, not with Mr. Bixby, and I promise you, you will not like what happens in here one bit from here on out. Do you understand me, Bo?"
"Fine, Well, let's get this over with. Place your hands on either side of my desk, and don't take them off until I'm finished."
Placing his hands on the desk, Bo braced himself for the first blow of the leather strap. The sound of the strap striking Bo's back pockets made a loud 'crack', and the severity of it forced Bo to arch his back and stand straight up, letting go of the sides of the desk. Bo sucked in his breath hard and a look of panic flooded across his face. The sting was much more than Bo had expected. "No, no, Mr. Duke." Mr. Leighton warned, "Your hands are not to leave the edges of my desk. Get back into position, please, so we can continue." Bo let out a deep breath and did as instructed. As promised, the punishment resumed. By the fifth strike, Bo was up on his tiptoes and shifting his weight from one foot to the other, trying to get his backside as far away from the strap as possible, this time without lifting his hands off the desk. Strikes six through nine found Bo breathing very hard and gritting his teeth together to prevent himself from crying out. After the tenth strike finally landed, Bo let out another very hard breath and started to pant a little bit. He took his hands from the edges of the desk and tried to quickly regain his composure. At least his eyes were still dry, but it was by far the most severe flogging he had ever received. Even Uncle Jesse's whippings couldn't compare to this one, and by the time it was over, he had started to break a sweat and felt his body shaking a little bit. He was grateful that he was at least able to keep his jeans up during this. Without them, he would have been sobbing like a kid.
When Mr. Leighton finished, he put a hand on Bo's shoulder. "Okay, it's over now. Relax a little bit and let me know when you're ready to discuss this further." Bo took a minute to catch his breath, and then turned to face his principal once again.
"I'm going to assume you've learned by now that this will no longer be a game for you. When students come in my office and receive this type of punishment from me, they make every effort not to return. Now you're at ten lashes. Can you imagine what it will be like if you get to fifteen? I could show you now if you'd like to receive five more."
Bo put his hand up in surrender and shook his head "No Sir, I wouldn't like that at all."
"Let me promise you that the next time you're sent here, that's exactly what you'll get. I'm not playing with you, Bo." At this point, Mr. Leighton's tone seemed to soften a little, and he tried to get through to Bo another way. "Listen, I know your Uncle Jesse pretty well. I even knew your daddy and your cousin's daddies, and I know that your uncle has done the best he could at raising the three of you. They're good people, and you're a good kid, Bo. I like you, I really do, and it's because I like you that I'm going to stick on you now and set you back on the right track. You're too good for this, and you're smarter than this."
Bo nodded. He had the shaking and breathing under control now and felt he could talk without his voice cracking. "I know, Mr. Leighton. I don't want it to be this way, either, and I really don't want to do that again." He said, referring to the strap still in Mr. Leighton's hand.
"I'm glad to hear that, Bo. Now please step back outside my office and wait for me there."
So there Bo sat in the small wooden chair next to Mrs. Drummond's desk, very uncomfortably waiting for round two with Luke.
The ride back to the farm with Luke was silent for most of the ride home. Bo sat in the passenger seat, again staring intently at the floor of the truck. Luke was fuming! Bo had avoided eye contact with him as much as possible in the principal's office at school, especially when Luke had spoken to Mr. Leighton and found out that Bo was beyond the detention and day's suspension penalties and had just received ten lashes. Luke had been so shocked by that piece of information that his mouth literally dropped open. Luke's jaw tightened afterward and his eyes turned from blue to a dark gray. "Bo," he seethed, "Apologize to Principal Leighton and get in the truck." Bo meekly stood, still not daring even a glance at Luke, mumbled a quick "I'm sorry Mr. Leighton" in the direction of his principal, then quickly made his way out the door and into the parking lot. Luke took a quick moment to sign Bo out, and then followed him out to the truck.
About nine minutes into the ten minute ride home, Luke had calmed down just enough to regain his ability to speak. "What the Hell is going on with you, Bo?" he began. "I'm gone for nine short months and this is what you manage to achieve? How in the heck did you get to ten lashes? What…..what the Hell have you been thinking?"
Bo moved his stare from the floor to out the passenger side window. "It isn't all what you think, Luke. It's not, well, it's not all my fault…."
Luke made a snorting sound with his throat. "Oh, of course not! It never is, is it? I guess you're gonna tell me that someone else caused all this for you."
"No, not all of it, I guess, some of it was me in the beginning of the school year, but a lot of it recently's been because of fightin' with these…"
"Here we go! I knew it. See? That's what I've been talking to you about since I got home. You have no self discipline, Bo. You never had had self control. You lose your temper every time someone provokes you, and look where it gets you. When are you ever gonna learn to walk away from it sometimes? I can't believe this! You wouldn't last a day in the Marines!"
Turning into the driveway, Uncle Jesse could be seen getting out of his truck as he was just getting back from the still sight. Neither of the Duke cousins seemed to notice him as their truck came to a stop and Bo quickly made his exit from the passenger door. Now it was his turn to lose his temper. "Well I got news for you, cousin, I'm not in the Marines, I'm in high school! And don't tell me what's my fault and what ain't my fault, 'cuz you don't know the whole story and I don't hafta listen to this anymore!" He started to storm off when Luke caught him by the elbow.
"Don't you walk off on me, Bo. I ain't done with you yet!"
Yanking his arm away, Bo stood his full height and looked Luke square in the eyes. Bo had reached Luke's height by now, but still was much smaller than Luke in muscle tone and strength. Still Bo, being Bo, didn't hesitate to stand there now and challenge his older cousin, knowing full well it would be a very short fight if it ever came to that.
"Well I'm done with you! And I got another news flash for you, Luke. You ain't my uncle, you ain't my guardian and you sure as heck ain't my drill sergeant! You got no call to holler at me and give me orders!"
Uncle Jesse stood in disbelief as his two nephews spewed back and forth. He then put himself in between them and tried regain the upper hand. "Now just you two simmer down and tell me what in tarnation has gotten into you. What happened?"
"This is what happened, Uncle Jesse." Luke said as he pulled the slip of paper he received from the principal's office and handed it to his uncle. It was the form that needed to be signed each time a student had been disciplined. Bo took a step back and placed his hands on his hips. He looked back toward the ground and shook his head a little in defeat, waiting for Jesse's reaction. Jesse read the paper, bit down on his lower lip a little and looked up into Bo's pleading eyes. "Bo, get yourself into your room until I'm ready for you."
Bo's shoulders slumped and he kicked at a pebble with his foot. He stalled just for a moment as if he were going to say something else, but decided against it. "Yes, sir." he answered as he left Luke and Jesse in the driveway and walked through the door of the house.
"Uncle Jesse, what's going on with him?"
Jesse folded the paper and tucked it into the pocket of his overalls. "Um, let's go have ourselves a seat at the picnic table. There's some stuff that's been going on that you don't know about."
Once seated, Jesse began. "Bo's been having a bit of a rough time with things at school lately, and it's been getting him into some troubles…."
Luke chortled a little "I should say so! Ten lashes? Even the worst kids in my class barely made it up that far….."
"Let me finish, will ya?" Dark and serious eyes met with Luke's, and Luke stopped talking and let his uncle continue. "Now, I know how bad it is, and I know how far up the discipline chart Bo is in school, but a lot of that happened early in the year, right after you were deployed. He really had a hard time with that, Luke. He was real lonely without you, and he started skippin' some classes to go and sit by the swimming hole and do some thinking. It wasn't what he was supposed to be doing, and by no means was it okay with me that he was doing that, but I did sympathize with how he was feeling. He also had a real hard time paying attention in his classes, and his teachers would send him to the office to get detentions for that. After some time went by and Bo adjusted to your being gone a bit, things started to get back to normal for him and his attention span got a little better. Not enough to get his grades up too much, but enough to keep him out of trouble with the teachers."
"But Bo told me a lot of it was because he's been fighting. What's that all about?"
"Well that's the part of it that I'm having a hard time getting out of Bo. He won't say too much about it, just keeps saying that there are these couple of boys that've been giving him a hard time. He won't really get into what they're giving him a hard time about, but he's told me that they team up on him and have been hassling him a lot. It had let up for a while, and I was hoping it was over and done with, but I guess that's not the case anymore."
"So that's it? Bo's been skipping school, slacking off with his schoolwork and fighting, and you've just been hoping it was over with by now?" Those dark eyes came back again toward Luke, and Luke put his hands up to show his uncle that he realized how that had sounded. "I'm sorry, Uncle Jesse, but I just don't understand how you're handling this. Bo needs to be taught that this type of behavior is unacceptable, no matter what his reasons are. He can't just start a fight because some kids are hassling him. A man has to know to walk away from those situations, not jump into fights anytime he feels like it."
"First of all," Jesse began, "How I 'handle' Bo is between me and him, and secondly, Bo's fifteen years old, he's a teenager, he's not a man yet."
"He'll be sixteen in two months….."
"Which still makes him fifteen! Luke, I know this is hard for you to understand, but there's a world of difference between a fifteen year old boy and a young man who'll turn twenty next month. And, there's a lot of difference 'tween the two of you boys maturity-wise, there always has been. You've always been older in your head than you were in your body, and Bo's always been a little bit younger. The trouble is, you've always tried to make Bo older than he was to begin with, even when you were little kids. You'd cart him off on the back of your bicycle, or bring him out climbing trees since he was barely out of diapers, and that's fine. It was good for him back then. But now you've moved on and joined the Marines, and that's great, but it left Bo behind and he's had some adjustin' to do, and it's taken him a while to get used to the idea that he has to find his way without you now. He's always hung around with you and your friends, and he never really made friends his own age because of it."
Luke was quiet for a minute. He'd never really thought about what it was going to be like for Bo while he was gone. He just figured he would be okay and would get along just fine without him. "I never tried to make him older, he just never wanted me to treat him too much like a kid when we were out with the guys."
"I understand that, Luke, I do." Uncle Jesse laughed a little "It's funny, Bo's at that age where he doesn't know if he wants to be a boy or a man. Just the other day I caught him sittin' on the couch, eating cereal straight from the box while watching Tom and Jerry and laughing like a six year old. Then I see him out in the fields plowing or working on the tractor and for a minute he looks like he's about in his mid twenties." Luke smiled as he knew what Jesse was talking about. Heck, he'd even thought the same thing a bunch of times. "As far as Bo getting into trouble at school is concerned, I want you to know that I am working with Bo's principal and together we'd decided that he will be in charge of Bo instead of Mr. Bixby. I think that'll be plenty right there to make Bo think twice before losing his temper again. In the meantime, I'm going to be there to help and support Bo as much as I can, the same way I would do for any of you kids. We's a family, and families stick together and help each other out as best we can. You just remember that, son."
Luke sighed. "I will, Uncle Jesse." Getting up from the picnic table, Luke looked toward the house. "I guess I'd better go talk to Bo now. I was plenty rough on him before and I guess I never listened to his side of things."