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*Turnabout was inspired by a Current Case Assignment in the Simon and Simon letterzine, Brothers, Partners, and Friends, in which the writers were challenged to pen a story where A.J. was the older brother, and Rick the younger.
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"Mommy! Mommy!” Four-year-old Ricky Simon threw his head back and hollered. Mommy!"
"Stop it, Ricky.” Nine-year-old A.J. admonished as he gathered up his schoolbooks. “Just do what I tell you and don't bother Mom.”
Ricky kicked the pointy toe of his right cowboy boot at his bedpost. "But I don't wanna do what you tell me to. You're always bossin' me around, and I don't like it!"
"I don't care if you don't like it. I'm the oldest, so you have to do what I say."
A red faced Ricky ignored his brother. "Mommy! Mommy!"
The harried young mother of the two active boys appeared at the bedroom doorway. "My goodness, Ricky, you don't have to yell like that. The neighbors can hear you two blocks away. Now what is the problem up here this morning?"
The brunette crossed his arms over his chest and stamped his foot. "A.J. says I gotta pick up all these toys by myself."
"That's 'cause they're all yours, shrimpo," A.J. pointed out before turning to face his mother. "I picked mine up before I went to bed last night, Mom. I shouldn't have to help him. Every time I do I'm late for school."
Cecilia readily acknowledged the organizational skills of her eldest. "Yes, dear, I know you picked your toys up last night. And no, I don't expect you to help Ricky this morning. He and I will do it together."
Parroting his father, A.J. scolded, "Mom, you shouldn't help him. Ricky should do it by himself. It's his mess. How will he ever learn responsibility if you're always helping him?"
Ricky stuck his tongue out at A.J., while Cecilia affectionately ruffled his blond hair kissed him goodbye. "You sound like an old man, Andrew," she teased. "Don't you worry about Ricky and responsibility. For Heaven's sake, he's only four years old."
Once again mimicking his father, A.J. reminded, "Yeah, but you can never start too soon teaching a child to pick up after himself."
"Oh, go on with you. Off to school," Cecilia shooed with a chuckle. She didn't have to worry about A.J.'s future. He was nine going on ninety.
Ricky forgot all about his anger when he realized A.J. was leaving for the day. He ran to his brother and wrapped his arms around the older boy's waist. "I don't want you to go to school, A.J. Stay here and play cowboys and Indians with me."
A.J. hugged the little brother who could drive him crazy at times, but yet whom he loved dearly. "I can't stay here, short stuff. I gotta go to school. I'm going to turn in my science project today. The one you helped me color. You colored the ocean, remember?"
Ricky nodded. "Yeah, with the blue crayon. Are you gonna tell your teacher I helped, A.J.?"
"Sure I will. And when it's hanging up in the gym at the Science Fair next weekend Mom will even bring you to see it."
Ricky turned to his mother, eyes bright with anticipation. "Will you, Mommy? Will you really?"
Cecilia smiled down at her robust youngest. "I certainly will. And Daddy will come. too."
"Goody, goody!" Ricky clapped, jumping up and down with glee.
"I gotta go, shorty. See ya' later," A.J. said as he exited the room. "Bye, Mom!"
"Bye, honey! Have a good day!"
"Bye, A.J.! Bye, A.J.!" Ricky called over and over again. He raced to the open bedroom window and thrust his upper body into the sunshine. He waved goodbye to his big brother as A.J. met up with a group of his friends on the sidewalk.
Cecilia pulled her youngest back in the window by the seat of his pants. She was surprised that her little daredevil had yet to tumble out it head first. There were times he'd certainly come close.
"Okay, Ricky, let's get busy cleaning this room," Cecilia instructed as she took in the mess. Ricky's half of the room was littered with toys, crayons, and coloring books, while A.J.'s was organized and free of clutter.
"We can do it later, Mommy."
A quick grab of his shirt collar stopped the youngster's progress for the door.
"Oh no you don't, young man."
"But, Mommy, I don't want to."
Cecilia sighed with resignation. At age four, the word responsibility had already meant something to A.J., had already given him a sense of pride as he accomplished an assigned task. Ricky was a different story, however. Cecilia knew this little boy required different motivational techniques from those that had worked with his older brother.
"Let's have a contest," Cecilia challenged. "I bet I can pick up these toys faster than you can."
"No, you can't," the little whirlwind declared as he spun into action, throwing toys in the toy box right and left.
Ten minutes later a joyful cry of, "I beat you, Mommy! I beat you!" filled the room.
"You sure did, sweetie," Cecilia declared while she dawdled over replacing a storybook on the shelf.
Cecilia next enlisted Ricky's help in making his bed. She smiled with fond amusement as his little hands attempted to smooth a wrinkle out of the blue ripcord bedspread.
Ricky stood back and surveyed his work with proud satisfaction. "There. Now it looks as good as A.J.'s, doesn't it?"
Cecilia planted a kiss on the little boy's forehead. "It sure does, Ricky. You did a good job."
"I don't like to make my bed every day, not like A.J. But it's not a bad job if you help me, Mommy. Then I don't mind."
Cecilia ran her hand through Ricky's dark hair, teasing, "I think you don't like work of any kind, son, unless someone's willing to help you do it."
Ricky laughed at his mother's words, and the truth they contained, as he loped off down the hallway on his pretend horse. His cowboy boots echoed a rhythmic 'clomp, clomp, clomp,' down the stairs. Cecilia followed at her son's heels, ready to start her own working day now that Jack and A.J. were both gone.
Cecilia was cleaning the house later in the morning when she noticed that Ricky was no longer seated at the kitchen table. The modeling clay he had been playing with was sitting in a lifeless gray lump on a piece of cardboard.
Cecilia listened carefully for a moment, trying to track her youngest down.
Oh, no, it's too quiet.
Where Ricky was concerned, silence was an ominous warning Cecilia had learned to heed.
"Ricky! Ricky! Ricky, where are you?"
"I'm up here! Come see! I'm an Indian!"
"I wonder what he's up to," Cecilia asked out loud while ascending the stairs. She followed Ricky's voice through the master bedroom and into the bathroom she and Jack shared.
"Oh, Richard, what have you done now?"
"Look, Mommy. I'm an Indian."
Cecilia shook her head at the mess. Jars of makeup and powder, tubes of lipstick, and a bottle of red nail polish were open and scattered on the bathroom floor. In the middle of all this disorder stood Ricky, clad only in his cowboy boots and briefs. He had darkened his face with Cecilia's liquid base makeup, drawn bright pink lines on his cheeks with her lipstick, and covered his chest with red nail polish circles.
"See, Mommy, this is my war paint," the youngster pointed to his cheeks. "And these circles are where arrows hit me, this red stuff's blood. But I'm not dead. I'm the meanest Indian around."
"And you've got the meanest mother around, Mr. Indian," Cecilia declared, hands on her hips. "Look at this mess, Richard! You know you boys aren't supposed to be in Mommy and Daddy's bathroom."
Ricky looked down at his feet. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I forgot. You got some neat stuff for playin' Indians with in here, Mommy."
Cecilia tried not to smile at her little Indian's bowed head. She couldn't make herself scold him any further. She already felt Jack was too harsh with Ricky at times, expecting him to be a carbon copy of A.J. She, on the other hand, felt it was important that each son be allowed to be his own person. Even if being his own person led Ricky into more trouble at age four, than most children manage to get into in a lifetime.
Cecilia began running water in the bathtub. Once she had it adjusted to the right temperature she turned her attention to her young son, pulling off his boots, socks, and underwear.
"Hey, it's still light outside!" The naked boy protested as he was lifted into the warm water. "We haven't even had lunch yet. I never take a bath before lunch!"
"You do when you get into Mommy's makeup," Cecilia informed her son while she began scrubbing him clean.
Within minutes, all traces of the Indian were gone. Cecilia lifted Ricky back out of the tub, dried him off with a fluffy towel, than patted his warm, red bottom.
"You go to your room and put clean clothes on, then come right back here. You're going to help me clean this mess up."
Ricky didn't protest these orders, knowing he had gotten off easy with this punishment. If Daddy had been home, Ricky might have had to stay in his room for the rest of the day, or maybe he wouldn't have been allowed to ride his new bike, or he might have even gotten a spanking.
Twenty minutes later the bathroom was spic and span once again. Cecilia took her son by the hand and led him to the kitchen. Feeding Ricky lunch would keep him occupied and out of trouble for at least a little while.
Later that same afternoon, when it was too quiet once again, Cecilia peered into the boys' bedroom to observe her youngest sleeping soundly. It wasn't often anymore that her four- year-old whirlwind would nap, but on some days, if Cecilia were lucky, Ricky dropped off to sleep when the two of them shared what she referred to as quiet time. Sometimes this involved Cecilia reading her son one of his favorite books, other times it involved Cecilia enjoying a favorite book of her own, while Ricky played nearby with puzzles or toy soldiers.
Today had been one of Cecilia's lucky days. Her son had fallen asleep soon after she had finished reading from a large volume of fairy tales the boys had.
"How you can look like such an angel in sleep, and be so full of the devil when you're awake, I'll never know," Cecilia whispered to her sleeping Ricky with a rueful smile.
Just last week her littlest angel had flushed his daddy's new leather shoes down the toilet because he wanted to make a tidal wave. Cecilia had to do some fast talking that day to keep Jack from spanking Ricky, as not only were a twenty five dollar pair of shoes ruined, but the plumber's bill was another twenty five.
Fortunately for all concerned, the perceptive A.J. had grabbed his little brother by the hand and disappeared out the door with him. By the time the two boys returned for supper the crisis had passed, and their dad had calmed down. Ricky's only punishment was a stern scolding and loss of that night's dessert.
Not that the latter made any difference. Cecilia had seen A.J. cut his piece of cake in half and smuggle it out of the kitchen in a napkin while the dishes were being cleared away. The crumbs she found in Ricky's bed the next morning confirmed her suspicions as to where that piece of cake had gone.
Things changed around Cecilia's household rapidly though, and by the next night A.J. wasn't inclined to sneak his brother dessert. The blond boy had come home to find the water had been drained out of his goldfish bowl. The fish and their plastic accessories were lying on the boys' desk. Cecilia had been in the kitchen that afternoon when she heard the commotion.
Two sets of footsteps pounded down the stairs, then A.J. chased Ricky round and round the couch until Cecilia intervened.
Ricky sought refuge behind his mother's skirt, a murderous A.J. barely held at bay by Cecilia.
"What's going on here boys?" Cecilia had demanded. "A.J., why are you chasing your brother?"
A.J. ignored his mother's inquiries as he attempted to reach around her, making several futile snatches at his brother's shirt.
"Andrew, stop it!" Cecilia had ordered as Ricky clung to her legs begging, "Save me, Mommy. Save me!"
Holding firmly to A.J.'s upper arms, Cecilia requested, "Calm down, A.J., and tell me what's going on here."
"He emptied my goldfish bowl! He killed Fred and Ed! They're layin' up on our desk all dried out!"
Cecilia turned to face her youngest, disentangling his clutching arms from her knees. "Ricky, why would you do such a thing?"
A lightly freckled face looked up in distress. "I didn't do it on purpose! I didn't know Fred and Ed would die! Really I didn't. I just wanted to use the fishbowl for a spaceman's helmet," Ricky finished as tears began to run down his cheeks.
A.J., whose quick temper cooled immediately when someone's feelings were hurt, especially Ricky's, ended up comforting his little brother before Cecilia had a chance to.
Cecilia couldn't help but smile fondly that day as her oldest knelt and hugged her youngest, patting the little boy's back while crooning, "It's okay. Don't cry. I know you didn't mean to kill Fred and Ed. It was an accident. I'm sorry I got so mad."
A half an hour later, with their allowances pooled, the two boys took off hand in hand toward the local pet store, returning shortly with Frank and Hank.
Cecilia watched now as Frank and Hank swam around in a contented circle. She looked back at her sleeping youngest and smiled as she said softly, "You will definitely be my challenge, Richard Lawrence Simon."
Later that afternoon, while Cecilia was getting supper started, Ricky sat at the kitchen table coloring. The sunlight streaming in through the window gave his brunette locks a reddish cast as he bent over his task.
When Ricky grew bored with his coloring book he closed it he asked, "Will A.J. be home soon?"
Cecilia glanced up at the clock to see that it was three fifteen. For the fourth time in the past half hour she answered, "Yes, honey, A.J. will be home soon."
Cecilia no more than said those words when she heard the front door slam.
Ricky jumped off his chair and ran to greet his older brother. "A.J.! A.J.!"
A.J. dropped his books and the boys wrestled like playful puppies for a few minutes before heading to the kitchen to share an after-school snack.
Cookies and milk were consumed and Cecilia's questions about A.J.'s day at school answered, before the boys ran outside to round up their neighborhood friends.
Jack Simon arrived home at five thirty to a yard full of young baseball players. He stood off to the side and watched the boys, taking special pride in one nine-year-old blond and one four-year-old brunette.
Jack didn't step in when Ricky was shoved off his position at second base and knocked to the ground by an older boy. He didn't have to. Quick as lightning A.J. was there.
"Leave my brother alone, Billy Brummel!" A.J. ordered as he helped Ricky to his feet.
"Aw, he's too little to play. He was in my way,” the husky boy growled. ”And anyone who gets in my way will be sorry."
A.J. stood up straight and challenged the bully, even though he was a head shorter and twenty pounds lighter than Billy. "He wasn't in your way. He was playing his position just like he's supposed to be. And I don't think you're so tough. Only a sissy would push around a four-year-old kid!"
Jack almost laughed out loud as his formidable Ricky stood up for himself. He stepped in front of A.J. and sneered at Billy. "Yeah, only a sissy would push around a little kid like me!"
Having said that, Ricky quickly retreated behind his big brother. Before the argument could go any farther the other boys jumped to A.J.'s defense.
"Come on, Billy, let's play ball!"
"Shut your mouth, Brummel. We gotta game to finish!"
Seeing he was outnumbered, the bully backed down and the game resumed.
Jack watched when, a few minutes later, Ricky took his turn at bat. The little boy already had good hand-eye coordination and sent the baseball bouncing between the shortstop's legs. Amidst the cheers of his teammates, Ricky ran for first base.
"Go, Ricky!" A.J. encouraged loudly from the sidelines. “Go!”
"Way to go there, son!" Jack clapped and called when the four-year-old safely reached his destination.
Soon mothers from all over the neighborhood began beckoning their offspring home for dinner. The Simons' backyard cleared out, leaving only Jack and his sons.
The blond man lifted Ricky high into the air before settling the youngster on his hip. He draped an arm around A.J.'s shoulders as the trio headed toward the back door.
"That was quite a hit, champ!" Jack complimented his dark headed son. "Do you think your Little League team will have room for Ricky in a few years, A.J.?"
A.J. smiled. "Sure, Dad. Ricky will make the team. He's good."
"I wanna pitch!" Ricky declared from Jack's hip, wanting to play the same position his big brother did.
"You can't pitch 'cause I'm already the team's pitcher," A.J. pointed out. "But you can catch. You'll be my catcher."
Ricky was satisfied with that. "Yeah, I'll catch, A.J. You pitch me the ball, and I'll catch it every time. I promise."
Jack chuckled as he ruffled Ricky's hair. "That will be a day I can't wait to see; both my sons playing Little League ball. Andrew Simon on the pitcher's mound, and Richard Simon catching."
"We'll be a team that can't be beat, Dad," A.J. declared before running into the house ahead of his father and brother.
Later that evening Cecilia and Jack were drawn upstairs by the loud commotion coming from the boys' bedroom.
"Ricky, pick all this garbage up, right now! You're a little pig! Oink, oink, oink!"
"I am not a pig!"
"You are too! Now pick this stuff up!"
"I'm gonna count to ten, and if you don't start pickin' this stuff up you'll be sorry!"
"I'm not afraid of you, A.J. Simon! "
"Boys, stop it," Jack ordered as he and Cecilia entered the room to find their sons locked in combat.
"I told you to pick your junk up!" A.J. said from his seat on Ricky's stomach.
Ricky kicked at his brother's back and tried to hit A.J.'s arms with his fists. "And I said make me!"
Jack put an end to the nonsense. He reached down and plucked A.J. off his brother's stomach, then pulled Ricky to his feet. He kept a firm hold on each boy's shirt collar.
"What's going on ?"
"Dad, Ricky's a pig!"
"Boys, stop it," Jack ordered, giving a stern tug on each shirt. "This isn't getting us anywhere."
A.J. looked up at his father. "Well, Dad, he is a pig! Look at his side of the room! It's a mess! And now his junk is spillin' over to my side of the room."
Jack released his children, shaking his head at the argument that had been ongoing since Ricky was two. As usual, A.J.'s side of the room was spotless, while Ricky's looked like a tornado had gone through it.
Jack took a deep breath, trying to keep in mind Cecilia's frequent admonishments that each boy was his own person, and that Ricky shouldn't be unfairly compared to A.J., or be expected to place importance on the same things A.J. did.
"Well, A.J.,” Jack stated, “I guess Ricky likes to live in a dirty environment."
Although Ricky had no idea what the word environment meant, he did know what dirty meant. He smiled and nodded his head. "Yep, I do. I like dirt."
Cecilia gave a strangled cough that sounded suspiciously like laughter. Obviously, Jack's plan to shame Ricky into cleaning up his side of the room had backfired.
Jack shot his wife a dirty look, then tossed the ball in her court. "Maybe you have a suggestion or two you'd like to offer, Mommy."
Smugly, she replied, "Yes, I do." Addressing the boys, she said, "I think Daddy and I should redecorate the guest room for you, A.J. Then you'll have a room of your own, and you boys won't fight so much. This weekend we'll go to the paint store. You can pick out the colors and the wallpaper you want."
The boys looked at their mother with wide eyes, then at each other. Ricky ran over to wrap his arms around A.J.'s waist. "But I don't want A.J. to move into the guest room!"
"All right then," Cecilia agreed. "We'll move you to the guest room, Ricky. You can pick out your favorite colors when we go to the paint store on Saturday. I bet you'd like wallpaper with cowboys on it, wouldn’t you?"
It was A.J.'s turn to protest as his hold on Ricky tightened. "No! I don't want Ricky to move out of our room!"
Jack's eyes twinkled with amusement.
They can't live with each other, yet they can't live without each other.
Jack cleared his throat and said sternly, "If you boys are going to continue to share this room, you're going to have to learn to live together peacefully. Your mother and I are tired of breaking up these fights every night. Are you going to stop your arguments and name calling?"
"Yes, Dad," A.J. promised.
"Yes, Daddy," Ricky nodded earnestly.
"Okay. I'll hold both of you to your word on that. If these silly fights and petty arguments start again, one of you will be moving to the guest room."
"They won't start again, Dad," A.J. promised as he hugged Ricky even tighter.
"We'll be good, Daddy," Ricky vowed.
"You can prove your promises to Daddy and me now, by working together to get this room cleaned up," Cecilia told her children. "When you're through with that, I want you both to brush your teeth and get your pajamas on."
Tonight that order brought no protests, just a, "Yes, Mom," and a, "Yes, Mommy."
Jack and Cecilia stayed in the room long enough to see that the assigned tasks were underway. Once they exited Jack asked, "I wonder how long this good behavior will last?"
the peace and quiet, Cecilia replied, "I have a feeling it'll last a
while. For a long while, if
Forty five minutes later the room was clean, the boys had brushed their teeth, gotten into their pajamas, and had been kissed good night. Now the brothers were sitting together on A.J.'s bed, reclining against his pillows. Ricky rested his tired head on A.J.'s chest, snuggled into the crook of his big brother's arm.
A.J. was reading out loud from Treasure Island. Ricky’s attention was riveted to A.J.'s every word, his young mind clearly picturing the action his brother's words depicted.
Interrupting A.J., Ricky pointed to one of the illustrations in the book. "That's how we're gonna dress for Halloween, isn't it, A.J.? We're gonna be pirates, aren't we?"
"Yep," A.J. agreed. ""Mom's already making our costumes."
"You're gonna be Black Jack, and who am I gonna be?"
"Yeah, Captain Bly! That's who I'm gonna be. And we can even paint our faces with Mommy's makeup."
A.J. nodded. "That's a good idea. We'll look real scary then."
Recalling clearly his before lunchtime bath, Ricky added, "Only we have to ask Mommy first. We just can't go messin' her stuff up."
"We'll ask first," A.J. confirmed.
"Good," Ricky agreed, not wanting another early bath.
Soon Ricky was lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of his brother's voice. Not long after that, A.J. nodded off, too, with Treasure Island still open in his lap.
Two hours later Jack gently lifted the sleeping Ricky from A.J.'s arms and deposited him in his own bed. Cecilia managed to get her oldest in a reclining position and covered up without awakening him. Both boys were kissed good night once again before their parents turned off the light and exited the room.
Cecilia smiled up at her husband as they walked hand in hand down the hall to their bedroom. "Despite their bickering, they really are good boys, Jack."
"Yes, they are," Jack agreed proudly.
"Ricky...well, he's going to be our challenge, that's for sure. A.J. will never give us half as much trouble as I have a feeling Ricky will, but still, our little one is a good hearted boy."
"I have a feeling Ricky's going to give me my fair share of gray hair before we have him raised," Jack chuckled. "But I guess we owe Richard to my father's curse."
"The ‘someday I hope you have one just like you,’ curse," Jack explained.
"Oh, so you're the one I have to blame for my mischievous Ricky."
"It's like I always say, hon. Richard's my son, and Andrew's yours."
"I'll remind you of that fact the next time Ricky's up to no good and driving you crazy, Mr. Simon," Cecilia teased.
"I'm sure you will, dear,” Jack laughed. “I'm sure you will."
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
A dog barking somewhere in this early morning predawn hour woke Cecilia Simon from a deep sleep. Yawning, she rolled over to look at the digital alarm clock on the bedside table. It was four thirty-three. Much too early to begin the day, the woman decided.
Cecilia chuckled as her mind replayed the vivid dream she had just awakened from. Not that it was that unusual for Cecilia to dream about her boys' childhoods. In recent years it occurred quite frequently. Especially if one of them was sick or injured, or if she was worried about a particular case they were working on. But she had no explanation for this dream. Both her sons were healthy and happy as far as she knew. Not to mention the fact that this was the first time she had ever dreamed of the boys and reversed their birth order.
"Now that's an interesting thought," Cecilia commented as she pondered the possibilities of A.J. as her first-born, and Rick as her youngest.
Their childhood years would have no doubt been a lot calmer and easier on me if A.J. had been the oldest. He would have kept my wayward Rick in line, of that I have no doubt.
Cecilia chuckled again as she recalled the countless misadventures her two boys had shared together, prompted by Rick's reckless ways and wild schemes.
"It's interesting to think about, but I believe, if given the opportunity to change things, I wouldn't. I'd keep you both exactly as you are," Cecilia said to the old black and white photo that was framed and sitting on her bedside table.
Cecilia marveled at the coincidence between this picture and her dream. Rick had been nine, and A.J. four, when it was taken late one evening in October. Both boys were dressed in their pajamas, cuddled up together on Rick's bed, A.J. with his head resting on Rick's chest. They were oblivious to the camera, and engrossed in the book Rick was reading out loud, Treasure Island.
Cecilia stared at that old photo fondly, smiling at the images it brought forth of her recent dream.
When her eyelids began to feel heavy again Cecilia rolled over and drifted back toward sleep. A small smile touched the corners of her mouth.
a silly, dream. We never called Rick,
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