Summary: For those who believe… After an accident, Little Joe asks one very important question that only one person can answer. Is it any surprise at the response he receives?
Rating: K (2,215 words)
The final page contains the reviews/comments left on the old BonanzaBrand Library.
I’m Already There…
Little Joe Cartwright’s vision faded in and out, not knowing where he was or why he was there; all he knew was he must be dead because he was flying and only angels flew. His mind envisioned his mother greeting him as the clouds of dust swirled around him.
“Pa? I’m sorry,” fourteen year old Joe pitifully cried before the darkness finally descended. Joe laid sprawled on the trail with no one around.
He awoke to see the faint outline of a woman dressed in white appear; her blonde hair curled around her face.
“Momma?” Little Joe called and reached out as he fought to see clearly.
“Joseph, mon bébé,” a feminine voice with a French accent answered.
“I miss you. Is this heaven?”
She answered in words he didn’t understand.
“Momma? I hurt…” Joe raised his hand to his head and winced as the pain increased. “It hurts.”
“Shh. Mon petite Joseph…, don’t make a sound,” the woman spoke as she knelt next to Joe and ran her fingertips over his face.
“I miss you momma… Momma, please… It hurts…”
“I know Joseph, but you must hang on. Please believe that your Papa will come.”
“Papa’s dead?” Joe used the term for his father that he had as a small child, especially when he needed to be comforted.
“No my precious, your papa is not dead.”
“Momma… When are you coming home?”
“Oh, Joseph, I’m already there.”
Marie ran the back of her fingers down her son’s cheek.
“Where?” Joe asked. Unable to stop them, tears caused by his injury as well as grief fell down his cheeks.
“Shhhh. I’m the sunshine in your hair, I’m the shadow on the ground, I’m the whisper in the wind, I’m your imaginary friend, and I know I’m in your prayers.”
“My prayers… Momma, I miss you. Hold me,” Joe quietly cried. “Please come home.”
“I’m already there, Petite Joseph. I’m the beat in your heart, I’m the moonlight shining down, I’m the whisper in the wind, Oh… I’m already there.”
“I love you Momma,” Joe whispered as he again lost his tenuous grip on consciousness.
Boots climbed the staircase and struck the hardwood flooring along the hallway outside the door to the youngest Cartwright’s bedroom. As the door opened, light from the hallway filtered into the darkened room, the woman smiled and faded deeper into the shadows.
“Well Joe, what did you do this time?” Paul Martin asked as he set his black kit on the night stand next to his patient’s bed. “Joseph?” Paul asked as Joe continued to look to the opposite side of the bedroom.
“Joe?” Ben asked as he stepped around the bed to face his youngest.
“She was there…” Joe whispered, oblivious to the two men who stood beside his bed.
Ben looked to Paul who placed his hand to Joe’s shoulder to gain his attention.
“Joe, can you tell me what happened?” Paul asked.
After fifteen minutes of examining his patient, Paul felt confident that with a couple of days of complete bed rest his patient would be fine to return to light duty, and by the end of the week, Joe Cartwright could resume his full responsibilities on the Ponderosa. But having received no answers to his questions asked, he worried about the mental state of his patient.
Ben escorted the physician to the first floor and waited for the doctor to speak.
“He’s not acting like the Little Joe I know, Ben. I think that he’s suffered a concussion…”
“He’ll be alright after a few days of bed rest… won’t he?” Ben asked.
“He should be, but this keeping quiet… And this mystery woman…” Paul Martin declined a cup of coffee from Hop Sing. “Ben, just keep him in bed for a few days, but see if you can get him to talk…”
“I will. And if we need you, I’ll send one of the men to town for you,” answered Ben.
“I know you will, let’s just hope that he’ll recover without any further need of my services.”
After the doctor left the house, Ben returned to his son’s bedroom where he reclaimed his seat in the chair next to the bed. His son had not turned to look at him, yet he could see the trail of tears that fell down his youngest son’s face.
“Are you in pain?”
Joe shook his head no. “I miss her. She came to me,” Joe whispered.
“She’s here… She said she was already here… The sun… The moon… The whisper…” Joe’s voice faded as his eyes drifted closed.
Ben sat forward, sweeping his son’s bangs from his face and remembered the times when he thought he had heard his beloved Marie or Inger or Elizabeth only to turn around and find he was alone; it was then he knew in his heart the identify of the mystery woman.
“Pa?” Hoss and Adam inquired as they entered the room.
Adam continued, “Charlie came and got us from the field…”
Both brothers were scared when their foreman had informed them that Ben had rode Buck across the main yard to their home, carrying an unconscious Little Joe in his arms. They feared the worse when they saw their little brother lying ever so still in his bed.
“He’ll be okay. Doc said a few days in bed and he’ll be just fine.”
Relief flooded through the brothers, but it was Adam who expressed his relief through sarcasm, “Why does this always happen just as we’re ready to start haying?” As the tension in his body faded, he relaxed to lean against the door jam.
“Just lucky I guess,” Joe sleepily answered as he fought against the effects of his concussion.
“I wouldn’t call it lucky that your horse spooked and threw you …” Hoss exclaimed, softening his voice when Joe winced, he continued, “Pa, Charlie told us a little of what you thought happened.”
“Wouldn’t a happened if I’d been on Cochise,” Joe mumbled.
“You wouldn’t have been riding Largo if you’d closed the gates.” Ben saw his son wince at his words. As a father he grieved that he chose now to remind his son of the root cause of this accident, had the boy closed the gates as he should have, Cochise would not have gotten out of the barn to run loose out in the field and ultimately suffering a stone bruise to the bottom of a hoof.
“He’ll be okay, won’t he pa?” Joe asked, knowing why he was restricted to riding the older, plod-along horse Largo. It was because of the horse’s propensity to be bomb-proof that Joe had not paid attention to his surroundings on his way home and was caught unaware when a fox bolted across the road in front of his horse’s hooves causing the horse to rear and shy, deposing his rider backwards to the ground. Largo came to a stop not ten feet away from its fallen rider and proceeded to munch a patch of grass.
“Cochise will heal, as will you. Okay boys, Joe needs his sleep,” Ben explained as he stood to talk towards the door in an effort to shoo his older sons out of the room.
“Pa?” Joe called out quietly.
“You do believe me…” Joe’s eyelids quickly rose only to slowly lower.
Ben cocked his head curiously.
“That Momma was here?” Joe replied, “and I saw her… She talked to me…”
“What did she say?” Ben asked as he returned to sit down on the side of his son’s bed.
“She told me you’d come… Pa, she’s my guardian angel, isn’t she?”
“Yes Joe, your mother, like Inger and like Elizabeth,” Ben looked from one son to the next, “each of your mothers watches over you and I know they’ll always be in our hearts.”
“Seeing as how we don’t get into nearly as much trouble as Shortshanks there, guess your momma and my momma spend most of their times helpin’ Joe’s momma, don’t ya reckon Adam?” Hoss teased.
“It’s a full time job for just the three of us to keep an eye on him,” Adam replied.
“Speaking of keeping an eye on Joe… just who was supposed to go to town for the mail today?” Ben asked. “Why was it that Joe was on that road home when he should have been here helping Hop Sing in the garden?”
“Uh, Pa… We didn’t think he’d get hurt when I offered him to go to town instead of me… We just thought he’d enjoy some time away from the ranch…” Adam stated.
“Yeah, he looked so pathetic, Pa… Not being able to ride his pony,” Hoss admitted. “Adam and I thought it would cheer him up, gettin’ to go into town for the mail. I cain’t believed Largo dumped ya.”
“He didn’t do it on purpose,” Joe quietly voiced. “He got outfoxed by a fox… I saw it scurry into the shrubs when I was falling.”
“Well, all that matters is that Joe’s going to be okay.” Looking to Adam and Hoss with that look, Ben continued, “Why don’t you boys go get cleaned up for supper.”
“Sure Pa,” Adam stated as Hoss followed him down the hallway.
Ben sat back down in the chair beside Joe’s bed and inhaled deeply before exhaling, “Thank you, Marie, my love… Thank you for watching over our son. I don’t know how you did it, but I heard you loud and clear that Joe needed me,” he voiced aloud.
Closing his eyes, Ben smiled as he thought he felt the soft touch of a woman’s fingers upon his cheek.
“We’ll always be here, my love, watching,” Marie stated as she stepped back to stand between Elizabeth and Inger, all three smiled at the man who had captured their hearts and the young man who was the heart of the family.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thank you to Lonestar for performing the song that stood as the inspiration for this story. No copyright infringement is intended, it’s just a beautiful song that spoke so eloquently of Marie and her feelings for her son. In actuality, this song could apply to Inger or Elizabeth; I chose Marie and Joe for this story because Little Joe knew his mother.
For those who do not know the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jm5gfuT9Z4