His Just Desserts
What if the Space Family Robinson had never attained Alpha Centauri or regained Earth??? Here is a possibility.
“Dr. Smith! You screwed up as usual! Admit it!”
Smith stared in consternation. He couldn’t believe that his dear little friend Will had betrayed him, bellowing at him in such a manner, and in front of Professor Robinson and Major West, yet. Smith blushed his humiliation at the satisfaction in the two men’s faces. Robinson’s twinkle and West’s smirk hurt him. Smith’s eyes winced away from theirs, and accused little Will. No. Not little Will. That was just it. Big Will. And getting bigger all of the time. Now eighteen, the “boy” had lost all of his smallness. And Smith had lost his friendship? Will’s flaring, unrepentant eyes glared back at Smith, seeming to confirm the loss. Smith’s eyes slid away from him, too, and the older man slunk away in shame.
Hours later, Will found Smith sitting alone on a rock. “Mom sent me to get you. It’s time for dinner.” Having delivered his message, he turned to go.
“William, wait! Please!” Smith begged.
“What is it?” Will asked, with his back still to him.
“Why don’t we spend time together anymore? Why won’t you still be my friend, the way that you were? You spend all of your time with the men now, doing work that I don’t even understand. I miss you!”
“I’ve grown up, Dr. Smith. And I’ve grown tired of your foul-ups. It’s always the same thing. You could fool me when I was a kid. You don’t fool me anymore. I’m wise to you, just as Dad and Don are.”
Smith said quietly, “That’s what I’m afraid of; I have been all along.”
Will turned to him in surprise. “What?”
“You are becoming like them. You have a temper. You get angry with me. You yell at me as they do. And more’s the horror, you do it in front of them. And they enjoy it. They see that you are deserting me and joining them. And it’s what they’ve awaited and hoped for, for years. And what I’ve dreaded.”
Will shrugged helplessly. “What do you want me to say? What do you expect from me??”
“Oh, William, don’t you see where this is leading? They yelled at me first, too! And then they learned to threaten me, and made me afraid of them! And now they see you entering the first stage of that, yourself! How long will it be, William? How long until you threaten me, and make me afraid of you, too? How long do I have until the feared two become three?” Smith leaned forward earnestly.
Will looked baffled for a moment. Then he shrugged again and urged, “Come on; it’s dinner time. We’re going to be late.” He wheeled and strode back toward the Jupiter.
Smith had no choice but to follow.
After dinner, John, Don, and Will returned to the drill site, to do a bit more work before calling it a day.
Will thought it over, and then decided to tell them. “You wouldn’t believe what Dr. Smith said to me when I went to call him for dinner.”
“Nothing would surprise me,” John Robinson commented.
“I can hardly wait,” Don West replied.
“He said that I’m becoming like you two.”
John grinned playfully. “Isn’t that a compliment?”
Don chuckled. “Not coming from Smith!”
“Well, he said that I’m yelling at him like you two do.”
“He’s right.” John nodded. “And I was impressed.”
“It sure made my day,” Don agreed.
“But he said more than that. He didn’t like my doing it in front of you. He’s worried about where this is leading.”
“Oh?” John’s eyes flicked up at Will’s face, from his work.
“Yes. He doesn’t want to be afraid of me like he is of you two.”
Up until that moment, the three had been working steadily throughout the conversation. But at that, John and Don stopped abruptly and straightened, staring at Will from either side of him.
“How’s that again?” Don asked with hands on hips, a grin beginning to spread across his face.
Will responded matter-of-factly. “He’s afraid of you two because you threaten him. He’s wondering how much more time it’ll take before I start threatening him, too, and before the three of us gang up on him.”
Don laughed. “O ho! What a joyful thought!”
John smiled. “I’ll admit that it does have intriguing possibilities.”
Will shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it up until now.”
Don prompted, “And now that you have?”
Will blinked at him.
John urged, “Do you feel up to it, Son?”
Will stammered, “W…what do you have in mind?”
“Just scare him.” John sloughed it off casually. “It might make him easier to control.”
“We…wouldn’t have to go through with it?”
“Not the first time,” Don allowed reluctantly. “But boy, will it be fun when we do get around to it, one of these days!” He rubbed his hands gleefully.
Will squirmed minutely.
John was alert to it. “Are you saying that you couldn’t go through with it, Will?” His tone was gentle and non-accusational, merely seeking information.
“I don’t know,” Will admitted. “It would depend.”
“On how mad at him I am,” Will responded ruefully.
“I know what you mean,” John supported.
Don spoke, “Now me, I can work up to ‘mad’ enough any time!”
John went on, “We won’t push you, Son. Whenever you’re ready will be soon enough.”
A sudden suspicion entered Will’s eyes. “You two have been waiting for me to reach that stage, haven’t you? He was right about that, wasn’t he?”
John said evasively, “You’ll make the right decision, Will. We have faith in you.” That was an answer.
It was three days later that Smith tripped over the mechanism, destroying five hours’ worth of tedious work.
“Smith!!!” Will bellowed, without benefit of the title “Doctor.”
Don’s eyes lit. John’s head rose in anticipation. Smith froze in his tracks and turned. All three seemed to know instinctively that Will’s moment had come.
Will was scarcely aware that both fists had balled.
Smith’s breathing became irregular. “Will….”
“Get over here,” Will ordered tightly.
“Please…Will…I’ll fix it.”
“You don’t know how,” came from between clenched teeth.
Don circled around quietly, and took up position behind Smith.
Smith shot a panicked glance at him, and whispered in horror, “Major. No.”
“Fine.” Will hissed, “If you won’t come to me, I’ll go to you.” He took several confident, purposeful strides in the latter’s direction.
Smith looked to his left and extended pleading hands. His voice was hushed. “Professor, I believe that he’s serious. It’s not supposed to be like this. You never go through with it. Tell him. Help me.”
John stepped closer. “I think that you’ll stand there and face it, Smith.”
Don shifted slightly, to make their formation into a perfect triangle.
Smith sensed the motion, and regarded him with wild eyes. “I’ll do anything.”
Don radiated pleasure. “This is long overdue, Smith. Just make sure that you behave better in the future, and don’t earn it again.”
Smith gulped. Don grinned. John set his jaw firmly.
Both brunettes looked to Will, determined to take their cue from him. The two had discussed it privately at length, and were certain that they must not push the young man before he was ready, and thus spoil his progress.
Smith turned once more to Will. “I’ve begged you not to let it come to this! I’m so afraid of all of you!”
John and Don glanced at each other, wondering if Smith’s words would make a difference. They needn’t have worried.
With a fury beyond rage, Will buried his fist into Smith’s stomach. The latter doubled over and choked. John clipped Smith’s jaw, forcing him nearly upright again. Don drove his knuckles into Smith’s nose, knocking him heavily to the ground.
Smith curled up and lay sobbing, now oblivious to the three. John and Don weren’t paying any attention to him, either; they both stepped close to Will, to be sure that he was all right. John laid a hand on his son’s shoulder, and both men peered inquiringly into his face. Will nodded to them in reassurance; he was calm, confident, and mostly free of guilt.
John spoke aloud, “I’m proud of you, Son.”
Don winked supportively at Will, and then called to Smith, “Remember what I said, Smith. Toe the line in the future. Or face more of the same.”
Will nodded solemnly. John patted him on the back.
A louder sob was Smith’s only reply.
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