This is not intended to infringe on any copyrights held by Spelling-Goldberg Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Studios, or any other holders of Starsky and Hutch copyrights. There has been no money involved nor has any exchanged hands. No reprints or reproductions with the author's permission. This is just intended to be for fun. Comments about this story can be sent to email@example.com. They will be forwarded to the author.
The Gift of a Brother
It was dark outside, dark with the hour of evening and the heavy weather blown in from over the ocean. Heavy and slow for December, the clouds looked as if they had decided to come and spend the winter, keeping the city enclosed in seemingly endless twilight. And it was cold outside, not like the true bone-biting chill that Kenneth Hutchinson remembered from his younger days. But it was cold enough to make the falling sleet glint in the street lights for that one-millionth of a second each drop was 'almost' snow. Hutch's apartment was like the outside, dark, cold, enclosed and empty, but definitely drier.
I miss the snow, Hutch mused, but it's never the same once you grow up. It's never as sweet...
He leaned at the windowsill and watched the emptiness outside his second floor window, feeling as if he were the only person left in the world. There was some traffic, but no one on foot, and somehow the metal of the cars canceled out whatever humanity they contained. He wanted to be alone right now. He needed it. And he was glad Starsky wasn't here.
Hutch was in a bad mood and he knew it, but knowing it and being able to do anything about it were two different things for him. There were only two days until Christmas now, he had done what he could to minimize the damage his gloom could do. Tonight was the night of Metro's combined Christmas/ Hanukkah and whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it party. Hutch was giving everyone else the only gift he could manage at the moment, his absence.
He had never been a Christmas person. His parents had not believed in coddling their children with fantasies of Santa Claus or elves or brotherly love. There had only been days of parties, strangers and their social duty. Days alone in his or his sister's room, with toys they hadn't wanted and no one to play with but each other had been the normal way they had spent their Christmas hours. It was the only time of year he had been overwhelmed with joy to go back to school. Hutch had never seen the magic of the season that Starsky saw. He knew only too well that the joy and love that everyone touted until New Years would disappear with the first second of the first day of the year. It just seemed to be an empty bubble for him. A lie that grated more and more as he had gotten older.
Last year is not going to happen again, Hutch pledged to himself. I've got to get my head on straight. It's not anyone else's fault that I'm such a Scrooge. The least I can do is stay out of Starsky's way.
Last year he had been in another bad mood. He had felt its slow creep into his system, but had ignored his own warning signals, trying to stay out of his partner's way. Going to last year's party had been a bad idea. Starsky had been in full bloom for the evening, reveling in the song and dance, enlivening the evening with his bad jokes, stupid pranks and joy in the fellowship of the season. Starsky could animate even the most depressing party, Christmas, Hanukkah or otherwise this time of year, and Hutch could drag it down almost as fast.
All through the evening Hutch had sat by himself in a corner. Starsky touched base with him once in awhile, trying to rouse him, but Hutch had refused to act jolly when he didn't feel like it. He had been a jerk, drinking too much and watching his own foul mood expand to include his own little corner of the world, until everyone knew well enough to leave him alone. Thankfully, Starsky had taken him home before he had ruined the party for everyone. Everyone that is but Dave Starsky. Hutch had felt horrible the next day, not only because of his own hangover, but for wrecking the party for his partner. Starsky had chosen to stay with him, rather than return to the ongoing festivities.
I always drag him down this time of year, Hutch thought with a pang. One day I'll drag him under, and he'll lose whatever he needs from this season.
This year they had again been scheduled off-shift during the party and Hutch had been disappointed. Most years, like this one, they both volunteered to work the Christmas day-shift, so that two married men could spend time with their families. Dobey was a scrupulously fair man, and when doing the schedules he gave the single men the same holiday considerations he gave the rest. But the Captain never stopped them from trading, usually for an extra day off at New Years. Neither he nor Starsky would make a big deal of it. Like Starsky said, once the presents were opened on Christmas morning, what else was there to do? Hutch had dearly wanted to trade shifts for tonight's party too, but he couldn't. If he did, Starsky would trade with someone else to stay with him, and that wasn't fair.
But even at work it had been hard to keep his mood from taking over and drowning him in depression. When the gift exchange drawing had come around to their squadroom, there had been a flurry of excitement and goodwill that Hutch hadn't felt. Hutch had decided to skip the whole thing this year, and had been slightly angry to find that Starsky had included his name in the pot. By the time he had found this out, Minnie had already made the rounds of the other departments.
It was a secret drawing, and Starsky had seemed pleased with the name he had drawn. Hutch's heart had fallen, thinking Starsky had gotten his name this time. Hutch knew that Starsky would invariably get him something for Christmas, and Hutch had not yet had the energy to deal with that, let alone another gift he would feel indebted for. Hutch had closed his eyes and drawn a name, not really caring who it was. It had been a pleasant shock to find he had drawn his own name. He hadn't even dared to hope for that to happen.
Starsky had been all over him to get a peek at the name, and after almost losing the paper to his quick-handed friend, Hutch had actually put the paper in his mouth, chewed and swallowed it in front of his surprised partner, Minnie the gift-exchange elf and the rest of the laughing squadroom. 'Better watch out, Hutch!' One of the laughing voices had warned. 'If he thinks it's got his name on it, he'll go down after it!' And the laughter had gotten even louder, at Starsky's reddened face and a embarrassed grin at the teasing. But to Hutch it had been a reprieve.
The rest had been hard, but necessary. 'Sorry Starsk, but I've got a date that night.' Starsky had begged him to bring her along, they would make it a foursome, but Hutch had held his ground. No party. Starsky had prodded and pried, but had not been able to get a name out of him. 'It's just a date, Starsk,' he had replied casually. 'No use bowling her over with a roomful of happy cops. Our group would scare anybody off. It's just not a good night for company.' Hutch felt he had worked it out rather well, being able to get out of the party and letting Starsky enjoy it at the same time. And it was just a white lie, not meant to hurt. But he needed an evening away from everyone's enthusiasm.
Tonight, as soon as their shift was over, Hutch had headed home alone despite Starsky's continued protest. He had parked the car down the block and had made sure it was hidden from casual view. He had sat alone in his dark apartment, eaten his sketchy dinner and had settle down to the sofa and a record. When the phone rang at six-thirty, a half hour before party time, Hutch had listened to its ring blend into his Mozart. He knew it was Starsky and he didn't answer it. At a few minutes past seven, a red Torino, white stripe gray in the twilight, had passed the building quietly, checking for signs of life. Hutch had stood back in the shadows and watched it drive away. And there he had stayed for a few minutes, to watch the sleet become 'almost snow'.
Have a good time, Starsk, Hutch thought with a slight smile. You can tell me all about the party and your date tomorrow. I promise I'll listen.
Hutch walked over to the lamp, switching it on now that the coast was clear. He walked over to the fridge and snagged a beer, then looked through his albums. He was willing to make a small attempt at the season. No Christmas songs. Isn't that a surprise? Hutch sighed and left the Mozart on, looking toward the package that had sat there for several weeks now, waiting for the right time to open it. He had been ignoring it, and even thought about putting it away in a closet somewhere, unopened and forgotten. But he knew he couldn't do it. It had to be opened and gone through, no matter how much it hurt.
Grandfather's package. Grandfather's life. Time to deal with it, Kenneth.
Hutch sat down at the sofa and picked up the package, weighing it's memories in his hands. How much did a childhood weigh? How much for the love of a grandfather? Whatever it was, it wasn't much. He studied the writing on the outside, his own name written by his mother. It didn't mean anything to him. Hutch tore open the mail wrapping to reveal a sturdy cardboard box, a little larger than a shoebox, but much stronger. He knew that inside were some of his best memories, but they scared him.
Whatever it was that was inside, it had waited for him since his mother had called, a month ago.
Hutch opened the door to his apartment, sweaty and just a little out of breath from his early Sunday run. It was a gloriously cool day, and few people had been up and in his way this morning. He had made good time. He took a few steps in and grabbed the towel from the back of the couch, eyeing the large lump that had invaded his apartment yet again.
"About time you were up, lazy," Hutch laughed, wiping his face and neck and tossing the towel in his partner's direction. "You're going to get old and fat and nobody will love you."
Starsky, sitting in a rumpled t-shirt and boxer shorts, sporting a morning's growth of beard, a mass of flattened curls and sleep bleary eyes sat at Hutch's table. He didn't even bother to dodge the towel, allowing it to miss on its own. "It's Sunday mornin', Hutch," he grumbled. "The least you can do is go to church so's I can go back to sleep for a few hours."
"Sure, soon as you start going to temple," Hutch replied with a snort.
"But if I did that," Starsky answered with an exaggerated sniff, a high-pitched quiver in his voice, "when would we see each other?"
"Ass," Hutch replied with a grin. His attention was drawn to Starsky's breakfast and the grin disappeared. "What are you eating?"
"Captain Crunch," Starsky replied around a yawn, spooning a brown and orange mass into his mouth.
"Starsky, I didn't buy that crap."
"It's mine." Starsky replied around a mouthful. "I snuck it in the other day. Hid it behind the raw squid flakes under the sink." He yawned. "Or was it some kinda dried ameba sperm? I can never tell the difference."
"But I'm out of milk," Hutch said, ignoring his friend's early morning lunacy. "What did you put in with it?"
Mouth full with another orange and brown mass, Starsky reached an empty spoon out and tapped the orange juice carton. "'At's what the juice is for."
Hutch was still staring in shock when the phone rang.
"Kenneth, darling, I'm so glad you are home," his mother began, as if in the middle of a conversation. "Your father and I are simply swamped here, and I don't want to miss our brunch appointment. I'm sending you the last box of your things. Do you still live at that... address?" Her voice included her distaste of his current residence. One short visit, when his parents had flown in to visit 'friends' and had found a minute for their son, they had insisted on visiting with him at their hotel. They'd never even been in the apartment, let alone in the area. No telling what their 'friends' had told them of this part of town.
"Hello, Mother, " he replied sarcastically. "I'm fine, and how are you?" He knew she probably didn't care, but she at least could have asked. "What box are we talking about?"
"Why your childhood things, dear," she answered, sounding incredulous that he hadn't read her mind. "Your father and I are cleaning the trash out of the attic, your father has the most wonderful idea for redoing it, and we found a box of your things that your grandfather had." She sniffed, offering her opinion as to it's value. "It's just that old fool's pictures and papers he'd save as mementos or something, and some of your old things I found in a box. We're sending them to you, as your sister surely isn't interested."
"That 'old fool', Mother, was your father and my grandfather," Hutch responded in a tight voice, struggling to stay polite, "I would think that you might want to keep something of his for yourself."
Why try? he thought, suddenly tired. If it doesn't have a price tag attached, she'll just toss it out. Hutch knew that there was precious little in his parent's lives to show the existence of any of their family. The little that Hutch had salvaged of his early years lay in a small cardboard box in his closet. He had been lucky to take the important things with him when he had moved out. Everything else had been 'remodeled' into the nearest trash container.
"Really, Kenneth," she replied in a bored voice, "your grandfather could have done much better than he did, but he was just too stubborn to listen. As it was, his estate amounted to very little other than the value of the farmland and the surrounding woods. Your father managed to turn it around rather nicely after his death, I might add."
"Yes," Hutch replied sarcastically, "and such a nice golf course and condominium grouping, Mother. Father really preserved the natural beauty of the area. I'm surprised that the forest service didn't give him an award for the most woodland destroyed."
"Kenneth, really! This is an old conversation that I do not wish to continue at the moment. Do you want the box or not?"
Hutch sighed, rubbing his sudden headache. "Yes, Mother. I would appreciate the package. Thank you."
"Oh, by the way, your father and I are closing up the house and we are wintering with some friends in Paris this year. I assume you have other arrangements for the holidays?"
As in 'you didn't plan on coming here did you?' Hutch knew very well what she meant.
"Starsky and I don't have any vacation time this year, Mother," Hutch replied. "We're just going to work through the month. I'll be fine."
"Oh, yes," she said, a bit of hesitation and exasperation in her voice. "You and Sergeant Starsky are still working together? Really, dear, I know he amuses you but I would have thought you would have tired of..."
Hutch broke her off quickly. "Yes, Mother, Starsky's right here. Say 'Hi' Starsk." Hutch held the phone up toward his partner, rubbing his face, trying to disperse his budding anger. He knew his mother. If she knew Starsky was there, she would tone down her remarks about him. And if she got started lecturing about her son's friendship with 'him' again, he'd be hard pressed not to slam down the phone.
"Hello, Mrs. Hutchinson," Starsky replied loudly, drowsy and illegible around a mouthful of Captain Crunch and orange juice. "How ya doin'?"
"Oh, Kenneth, really!" his mother replied in exasperation as soon as Hutch replaced the phone at his ear. "Every time I call he is there. A person would think that he was living off of you. I'm sure he's a nice man, but hardly presentable. Can't you cultivate a better class of..."
"Sorry, Mother," Hutch cut in again. "We've got to leave. Work you know. Was there anything else?" He hoped there wasn't, he wasn't in the mood to play her games today.
"No," she answered curtly. "But we will talk later, dear. Your father knows some important people in your area..."
"Goodbye, Kenneth." Her words were clipped and formal, and spoke of unfinished business.
Hutch waited until he heard the dial tone before slamming the phone down. It was childish, but it made him feel better.
"Shame on you," Starsky said with a knowing look, getting up to place his bowl in the sink. "Lyin' to your Mommy like that, tellin' her we have to work. A person would think you didn't want to talk to the lady."
Hutch sighed, and ignored his partner. Starsky knew as well as he did what the score was. He briefly wondered what he would find in his grandfather's things. The thought made him nervous, like the knowledge of pain to come.
Too early to worry about it now. Forget it. Time for a shower.
"Hey, Starsk," Hutch said, pausing in the bathroom doorway, "do you think your mother would adopt an older child? A tall, blond one with his own paycheck?"
"Depends." Starsky yawned and started going through Hutch's dresser drawers, digging out his extra clothes. "I can talk Ma into anything, if it's worth my while. But if you're gonna be my brother, you have to sign a blood oath stating that I get to be the boss and you have to do what I say or I get to knock you around."
"Hey!" Hutch called back through the bathroom door. "Why do you get to be the boss? And who said you could knock me around?"
"I did, 'cause I'm older than you," Starsky replied, apparently standing right outside the bathroom door. "Big brothers always get to be the boss. We get to knock everyone around. Just ask Nicky."
"Come on, Starsky," Hutch protested. "You're not that much older. Just a few months. Besides, I'm taller than you are."
"Sorry," Starsky answered solemnly. "It's a hard and fast rule. Can't be changed. You're pegged for a little brother in this relationship."
"What about Nicky?" Hutch asked, shouting over the shower spray. "I'm older than he is. Do I get to be his boss?"
"Sure," Starsky shouted back. "That's the way it works. Nicky would be little brother for both of us and we could both boss him around."
"What if I just feel like knocking him around a little?" Hutch asked. "What do the rules say about that?"
"Hutch, if Ma adopted you, and you knocked Nicky around then I'd high-tail it to the hills," Starsky replied. "Ma would have a free license to whomp your ass, and she'd do it too. She may be small, but she could take you on in a New York minute. No way am I gettin' in on that. You'd be on your own, pal."
"Damn!" Hutch called to him with a laugh. "Then I'd better think this over some more, Starsky. You just took all the fun out of it."
"Really. How do you think Nicky survived me?"
The box had arrived a few days later and Hutch had set it on the coffee table and had proceeded to ignore it. As had Starsky. He had been grateful to have been able to postpone the inevitable, and Starsky had helped him with that by pushing it aside when he needed to, but never commenting on it.
But tonight was different. Tonight was the evening of December 22nd.
December 22nd. The evening grandfather died. The Christmas I didn't get my letter.
Hutch sighed and used his pen-knife to cut the securing tape. He set the knife aside and opened the lid of the box, not knowing what he would find and afraid it would be too much, or too little.
The first thing he saw was the happy face of a small blond boy, perched on the lap of an older man. Though there were decades between them, and the boy all of six years old, you could see the budding resemblance. Eyes, nose and cheekbones spoke of a single line of decent, and even in the black and white picture you could tell that the coloring was the same.
Definitely family, Hutch thought with a smile. Grandfather and I always were two of a kind. Even then. Glancing at the full head of hair on the old man, Hutch ran a hand through his own thinning hairline. Except for a few things. Hutch grinned at his own vanity. Some things he would continue to fight until the cause was lost. Or a cure was found.
Hutch sighed and studied the old man's face. This wasn't the way he remembered him. His memories of the man were heavily tinged with a small boy's love for the only person he had felt had loved him back. The snapshot hadn't captured the strength, dignity and honor of the man Hutch had remembered. Nor his love of nature that he had tried to instill in his grandchildren. Seeing him through the eyes of an adult was harder than Hutch had imagined it would be.
He laid the picture down and picked up the next item in the box. It was a stack of letters, tied with a string. Hutch opened the first one, and glanced at the greeting, date and the signature, feeling a shock at the realization that he was holding the letters his grandmother and grandfather had written to each other before their marriage. He quickly refolded the letter and tied the string again, laying the letters aside with the photograph.
Really, Mother, Hutch mused, feeling the familiar frustration. Didn't you even care that these were your parent's letters? That your father had never re-married after his wife's early death? That he raised you by himself because he couldn't bring himself to let her go and find another love? Didn't you keep anything of theirs to remember them by? Or was this part of the 'trash' you found in the attic?
Hutch shut out the thoughts, knowing they led nowhere. He knew all the answers by heart now.
In the family he had been born into, each person had a set and assigned roll in the Influential Couple's life. The family was well connected and affluent. The Husband and head of the household was cold, efficient and relentless in business matters. He tended the financial and legal affairs of the growing empire while leaving the children and home to the Beautiful Wife. Hutch's mother had filled the roll well, hiding successfully her simple background and education. She had produced a son and a daughter, content that that obligation had been fulfilled and had arranged for their care and education. She had instilled herself deeply into polite society while leaving her children in well-paid hands.
The daughter was to grow up beautiful and well educated. She was to be the best dressed and most envied girl in her assorted primary and high schools, and she would earn a college degree if she so desired. Then she was to marry well and bring another family into the Hutchinson estates. In that roll his sister had found great success and Hutch felt confident that his sister lived her life with a measure of happiness. He had always wished her well, but had not felt close to her.
The son was to grow up to be an athlete and a scholar. He would graduate with honors, finish college with a degree of his parent's choosing and would join his father to build up the Hutchinson name and family. He would marry his own Beautiful Wife and allow her to run the family while he worked at his father's bidding. They would all be perfect. It was their lot in life.
But the Influential Couple hadn't planned on the Beautiful Wife's father. The older man insisted on being a part of his grandchildren's lives. A deal had been struck. He would get his grandchildren for their young summers, while he stayed in his place on the farm for the rest of the year. The man was not usually intrusive, but had loved his grandchildren for who they were, not for who they were supposed to be. He had influenced his grandson in more ways than they would ever know. The grandson had used the older man as a base to build his own life on, a different role model than his father. The grandfather had been a man who represented the morals and standards the grandson had felt in kinship with. He had been a loving, tolerant and patient person, with no room for the bigotry and biases of society and little patience for those who caused others harm.
In later years, the grandfather's influence had been routinely blamed for the son's rebellion as a man, and for his 'low class' choice of career and friends. Hutch had always defended his grandfather's memory. Kenneth Hutchinson spoke his own mind, and insisted on taking the blame for his own choices, just as he insisted on claiming the various rewards of those same unpopular decisions.
Not bad, grandfather, Hutch thought with a slight smile. With a scant ten years of summer vacations, you managed to make quite an impression on everyone.
Hutch smiled, remembering the golden summers at his grandfather's farm. The sterile winters of school, caretakers, and holiday parties where he and his sister were paraded in front of strangers before eating lonely dinners in their rooms were banished into the background in the long, warm summers. The earth and the woods, the animals and the sunshine had all been more real to little Kenneth than anything else in his life.
Hutch picked up another group of old envelopes, studying the childish writing on the outside, smiling as he recognized his own writing. His Christmas letters to his grandfather, who insisted that he couldn't leave his animals alone to visit them, but who Hutch suspected had never been invited to come, had been the only good thing he had to look forward to in the bleak and lonely month of December.
You fought a loosing battle, grandfather. Hutch thought sadly. You wanted Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, the North Pole and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for us. Instead we were given empty social parties and impersonal gifts, trained to be the perfect compliment to Mother's tree at her numerous holiday festivities. But thank you for the fight, old man.
For many years, the letters to his grandfather had been his substitute for writing to Santa Claus. While the other children were all excited about writing for presents, Kenneth had written long letters to his grandfather. The boy had always waited on pins and needles until he had gotten his Christmas letter back. But one year, at the age of ten, no letter had came.
His grandfather had been found dead a few days before Christmas. Found in his bed by a neighbor, having died sometime on the night of the 22nd of December. The gentleman had been buried on the 28th, and Hutch had not been taken to the funeral, nor had he seen the farm again until years later. His father had sold the beautiful land to developers, and all trace of the man Kenneth Hutchinson had loved had been built on or paved over. He had been left nothing of the man but his memories.
Hutch studied the bare handful of letters. So many memories in such a small space, he mused. Why didn't I save his letters? Where did they go? He sighed at a young child's thoughtlessness and placed the envelopes aside with the others. He knew the kind of letters they were, time enough for them later.
Next came more pictures of him and his sister on the farm. He took a few moments to study them, wishing his grandfather had been in more of them instead of always behind the camera. Hutch had been given all the pictures his parents had owned of his childhood when he had married. It was not his own image he was interested in anymore.
There was a small bundle of newspaper clippings, and Hutch was lifting them aside when he saw the envelope. 'To My Kenneth Hutchinson' it read, addressed but unstamped. In the spidery handwriting that Hutch knew so well was the date '22nd December' and underneath that, the year of it's creation.
The year he died! Hutch though in shock. He felt frozen in place, unable to move. He did write me! Hutch felt a curious relief, as if he had been holding his breath for a long, long time. He sat there and looked through misty eyes at the envelope at the bottom of the box. I'm afraid to touch it. What did I write? What did he answer?
Hutch sat for several trembling minutes before finally reaching fingers to touch the yellowed paper. He tried to remember that last year, those cold fall months before Christmas when he was ten. He couldn't remember writing the letter, or what he had written about. All he could remember was waiting in anticipation for his grandfather's longed-for reply.
It's here! It's got to be here! Hutch thought suddenly, reaching for the stack of his own letters that he had lain aside. He hurriedly turned to the last envelope and heaved a massive sigh as he recognized the date on the last letter. He pulled it out and hurriedly opened it up, eyes scanning the careful but scrawling handwriting.
How are you? I am fine. It is cold here and we have lots of snow. Do you have snow yet?
How are all the animals? I bet Daisy is glad to be in the barn because I know she doesn't like the snow. I know Daisy is old, but she is a good horse. If I were there I would give her some sugar for Christmas. Maybe when we come next time you can show me how to shoe her. I'd like to see that. How are all the cows? I bet they like the barn too. If I were a cow or a horse I'd want to be outside all the time. I like the snow.
School is okay. I'm not doing too well in history, but I've gotten a lot of A's in math.
Mother and Father are fine. Father is on a trip and won't be home until Christmas. Mother is busy now. She is going to have a lot of parties this year so she is shopping a lot. I have to get three new suits for them. I really hate that. I wish I could come to the farm for Christmas. I miss you. I know Mother said you couldn't come this year, but I really wish you could.
Grandfather, could you call and talk to Mother for me? She said that next year she wants to take us kids with her next summer. I think Mother and Father are going to keep us next summer and take us on vacation with them. I want to go to the farm. Can you please call her and tell her that? She never listens to me.
On the phone you asked what I want for Christmas this year. I've been thinking real hard about it, but I don't think I can get what I really want. Mother and Father would say no, and it sounds stupid, so I'm not going to ask them. Don't tell them, but what I really want is a little brother.
Sisters are okay, but they are boring. They do stupid stuff all the time and tell on you and always get you into trouble. They hit you but you get in trouble for hitting back just because she's a girl. But a brother would be different. I know he would be a baby, but I could take care of him. Mother wouldn't have to get a nanny for him all the time because I could feed him and stuff until he got bigger. We could share my room. We could get another bed and he could have the corner by the closet and the nightlight. I'm too big to need it anymore so he could have it. I would be nice and let him play with my toys. Even the good ones. And I wouldn't hit him even if he broke them. We could play Cops and Robbers and the Lone Ranger.
I could show him how to ride Daisy without falling off like you showed me, and I could show him how to take care of all the animals on the farm. We could camp out in the backyard and catch the lightning bugs. And I wouldn't let him squish them because bugs are good for nature.
We could tell him about Santa Claus and pretend he is real. I could use my Christmas money to buy him presents. We could tell each other secrets and he'd never tell on me and get Father mad at me. And I would never tell on him. And I would like him no matter what he was like because he would be my brother forever.
I know it's stupid and Mother and Father would get mad, but that's what I really want. But I'll say thank you whatever it is I get. I promise.
Can you please call Mother about next summer? I don't want to go anywhere but the farm. They can take my sister with them if they want though, that's okay. But if I'm going to be a farmer like you, I need to be there a lot.
I love you, XOXO Kenneth
Hutch smiled at the letter and his childish wish. If I had gotten a brother, I would have been too old to have been anything to him but a busy teenager. We wouldn't have had much in common by then. But still, it would have been nice to have had someone else to care for...
He put down the letter on top of the pile and reached for his grandfather's letter. He felt nervous, unsure if he really wanted to know what his grandfather had replied. It must have been the last thing the elderly man had written. He picked up the letter, checking to see if the seal was still unbroken after all these years. It was still intact. Hutch used the pen-knife to carefully slice open the envelope along the short edge and reached in to pull out the yellowed parchment paper.
He forced himself to take a breath, lean back and open the letter.
It was time.
I read your letter today, and was very glad to see it. I can tell that you try to be a very good boy, yes? I am glad that you are good in school. Remember that what your parents say is right, and that school is very important. I know you are studying hard, and will learn all the things that a farmer must know.
Daisy is grumpy, but she is old and I spoil her. I will give her some sugar for Christmas and tell her it is from you. The cows are fine, but they think I am slow in milking as they are always telling me to go faster. They moo so much you would think they are singing to me, but I know what they are saying.
I will talk to your mother for you after your Christmas. I know she thinks you are getting to be a big boy now and should see more of the world. I would miss you in the summers, but if you go with your parents I expect you to do your best and learn new things. Even a farmer likes to hear of far away places and I would enjoy your stories. You and your sister could be my eyes and ears for me, so don't think traveling with your parents would be a bad thing. I expect you to obey your parents and not fuss and to send me beautiful postcards. I would like to see other places. You will do that for me?
I don't think your Christmas wish is silly or stupid. I would dearly love another little Hutchinson to come and visit me and play with my animals. However, I don't think your Mother and Father are planning on more children, so I will do something for you, if you think you can wait.
I am a very old man, and someday I will go to heaven to be with your grandmother. We have talked about this before, so remember that this is a good thing. I love your grandmother very much, and I feel that I will be with her soon. I love you dearly, and would stay with you and your sister if I could, but everyone passes on when their time comes. Please don't be scared, because I'm not, and I know that it will be sad for you for awhile. But I will make you a promise if you make me one.
When I am in heaven I will look for a brother for you. Your grandmother and I will look and look until we find the perfect one. In fact, I bet your grandmother has one already picked out. She was very good at those sort of things, and I'm sure I will agree with her. But you will have to help.
Your brother will be with his own family until he is grown. They would miss him too much if he came to stay with you now, but we will try to get you two together as soon as possible, so you need to start looking. Your grandmother is a fast worker. I will tell you how to find him.
Your brother -
He will not look like you, so you must be looking for the right things. He will not think like you all the time, only when it's really important, so you must look extra carefully.
You will always be able to share your toys with him, and he will do his best not to break them.
He may get very mad at you, right or wrong, but won't hit or hurt you on purpose. He will be very sorry if he does, and will want to make things right.
He will usually play by the rules and will not try to cheat you at games, unless it is a funny trick.
You will be able to tell him secrets and you won't have to worry that he will tell on you.
He will stick with you if you do get into trouble. He will help as best he can.
He will always pick you for his side of a game, even if everyone knows you don't play it very well.
He will not let people say bad things about you, even if you are not there.
You will be able to share Christmas and Santa Claus with him. But remember, he was raised in a different family and his Santa may be very different than what you think he should be.
And most importantly, he will want to be your brother.
But having a brother is a lot of work, Kenneth. You must be his brother as much as he is yours. This means you have to behave yourself or you will lose him. Remember, your perfect brother is a person too. If he really is your brother, you will want to treat him right.
Your job -
Do not get too mad at him if he breaks your toys by accident. You make mistakes too, so don't be so quick to judge.
Don't be so bossy and fuss at him all the time and hurt his feelings. Respect that he has his own way of doing things.
Play by the rules and don't cheat him. He would eventually catch you and his feelings would be hurt, just like yours would.
Protect him from the bullies. Some brother's need help now and then.
Don't talk about him behind his back or make fun of him. Brother's don't do that.
Let him say what he wants to say. Brothers need someone to listen to them.
Let him like what he likes. He doesn't have to do what you say or like what you like.
Don't spoil his fun because you don't want to play.
Don't expect him to know the things you know. Brothers are good at teaching each other things, if they know how to listen. You must listen and learn.
Let him teach you about his holidays. Your family does special things during the holidays. Let him teach you what his family does differently and maybe you can share the good things from both.
And let him be the Lone Ranger, the Policeman or even Santa Claus if he wants to. You can take turns being the bad guy.
Now, I promise that if you look carefully, watch for the signs and have patience, you will have your brother. But remember all the rules and try hard.
Can you promise me that you will try hard to take care of him? Can you promise to remember the rules?
Be a good boy, and remember the rules for your sister. You can practice on her. Girls are people too, and you will soon find that they can be some of the nicest people there are.
All my love, Grandfather
It wasn't until his grandfather's signature swam in his vision that Hutch realized he was crying. He barely managed to lay the precious piece of paper down before the sobs took him, and he hid his face in his hands and wept.
It was still dark outside, and it was still cold and mushy, but Hutch strode the slick sidewalks with a bounce he hadn't felt in ages. He knew he looked ragged with his reddened and swollen eyes, but he felt wonderful. The cold sting of the air would minimize his tear swollen face, and his silly smile would belie the fact that he had been crying. But it had been the good kind, the kind that let you feel like something inside had been fixed, or at least patched for awhile. He just hoped Starsky wouldn't take it the wrong way if he noticed.
It was still early, and he had a party to go to and a gift to buy. In fact, he had several things to buy before Christmas, but he still had two days to think furiously and shop fast. Tomorrow after their shift was over, their first stop would be the nearest Christmas tree lot. He would let his partner pick out a good one. Then came ornaments and a way to ditch Starsky at the apartment so he could shop in private...
But right now he was late for a party and he needed a gift. Hutch walked swiftly through the crowd of shoppers and saw that he had about an hour of shopping time left. He didn't know what he was looking for, but it didn't have to be anything special for tonight. The real problem would come in the next couple of days when he would have more time to put some thought into the real gifts. Tonight, it would just have to be something small, silly and have 'Starsky' written all over it. Hutch would know it when he saw it.
But he would have to hurry, so he wouldn't miss any more of the Metro party than he had to. He would arrive and claim that his date hadn't worked out. If he was lucky, the gift exchange wouldn't have happened yet and he could slip Starsky's gift into the pile. Starsky could try to figure out how he had gotten his name in the pot twice, but Hutch would never tell. If not, then it would just be something nice that Starsky hadn't expected from his partner.
This party would be different, as Hutch would try extra hard to keep his eyes and his heart open and learn something from Starsky. If Hutch's brother wanted to play Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas or even Rudolph, then Hutch was not going to spoil his fun. It was in the rules, and he had promised his grandfather he would try his hardest. He wanted to deserve his grandparent's last gift.
But Hutch had specifically noticed that his grandfather hadn't written anything about having to be the 'little' brother, so Hutch considered that the position of 'big' brother in this relationship was still up for grabs. He was the taller of the two, and Hutch felt that had to count for some major points in the 'brotherhood' rules, no matter what Starsky claimed.
Dedicated to my own Grandfather,
who had wise words of his own, and a large country yard to play in.