Summary: A story written in response to the Chaps & Spurs January Challenge. Ten year old Little Joe attends a New Years Eve party in town with his family and manages to get into trouble – quelle surprise!
Rated: K (2,025 words)
New Year’s Eve Shenigans
‘Responsibility,’ thought Joe, as he lay face down on his bed. ‘If I hear that word, one more time today, I think I will scream,’ and he pounded his pillow, with his fists, to add substance to his words.
‘First Adam, then Hoss. And finally Pa, all going on about the dreaded ‘r’ word. In fact Pa must’ve said it every time his hand made contact with my butt. So, he said it at least six times, but I guess I lost count after that. It just ain’t fair! I mean how many ten year olds do any of ‘em know, who are responsible?’ And he shuddered after he said the word, as though it had left a nasty taste in his mouth.
‘Me and Mitch were just having a bit of fun. The party was so dull; all those grownups standing around jawing to each other. Might have been any ole day of the week, but it weren’t, it was New Years and we wanted to have some fun. Okay, so the fun we had wasn’t seen as being fun to everyone at the party; in fact I think it was only me and Mitch and maybe the little ones who we dressed up, thought it was fun, but the oldies sure didn’t need to get so outta sorts about it. Pa said I should be taking this time to make some New Year resolutions and I guess he expects me to come up with ones like I will behave better this year, or ones like Adam came up with, as he made his grand entrance into the hall, last night – Here’s to health, wealth and prosperity, for the coming year, but I’m not Adam, nor do I wanna be him. Since he’s got back from college he’s bin a bit of an ole sobersides, if you ask me; not that anyone does, ask me, that is. In fact, all they ever do is yell at me, or pound on me.’
Joe tried to get comfortable, without allowing his backside to make contact with the bed.
After his father left him, to think about what he had done, the boy stripped off his clothes and allowed himself a quick peak in the full length mirror, to check out his sore bottom.
‘Maybe I should make a resolution, after all,’ he thought, as he slipped his nightshirt over his head. ‘I resolve to stay away from Pa’s hands; they are dangerous.’ But then the boy started to think about the number of times that those same hands had gently stroked his face, or rubbed his back, or just hugged him tight, when nightmares woke him up and chased him from his bed and into his father’s room, where he always felt safe and loved.
‘I guess Pa’s hands are not always bad, and I guess he would say that they are only dangerous when I do fool things and mess up, so maybe I don’t need to promise to stay away from them, altogether,’ thought Joe
Little Joe returned to his bed and now that his bottom wasn’t stinging, quite as much as it had been, he started to chuckle when he recalled what had happened at the New Year’s Eve dance.
Mitch and Joe rather felt they had drawn the short straw when Mitch’s mother, Martha Devlin, told them to keep an eye on the younger members of the Devlin family.
“This is the only night of the whole year that we get to stay up late, and now we’ve gotta watch my little brother and sister, plus two of their friends,” complained Mitch to Joe, after Martha had left them, to go and dance with her husband, George.
“Never mind, Mitch,” said Joe. “We can still have some fun.”
“Joe, sometimes you are so stupid,” exclaimed Mitch. “I know that you don’t have any younger brothers or sisters, but you have been around mine often enough, to know that if you wanna get up to some fun stuff, you don’t do it with little squealers in tow. If I put a foot wrong, Patti or Luke will tell Ma or Pa, straight away, and I will be in big trouble. And that, my friend, also means that you will be in trouble, too, as Ma and Pa will tell your Pa.”
Joe pulled Mitch just far enough away from the little ones, so that he could talk to his friend, without being overheard.
“You know how we were hoping to get hold of a drink to see the New Year in?” and Mitch nodded. “Well, if we give the little ones a drink, too, then they won’t remember what we were getting up to. We can just give ‘em some juice, spiked with a bit of something.”
“That might work,” said Mitch, warming to the idea.
Luke, Patti, Meg and Josh followed Joe and Mitch around all evening. However, it wasn’t that bad, because at ten years old, neither Joe nor Mitch were interested in girls and so at a dance they spent most of their time messing about and annoying their older siblings. Every time Adam, Hoss, Mary, Andy or Pete – Mitch’s older brothers and sister, danced past them, the youngsters pulled silly faces, or tried to trip them up. The little ones were quite happy to do this, too, especially as Joe and Mitch had managed to get their hands on some alcohol and had given them some in their fruit juice.
As it got closer to midnight, both Joe and Mitch were feeling rather merry and they came up with the idea of getting the two little boys, Luke and Josh, to be the first footers at the party.Both the boys were dark haired, but Joe and Mitch decided that they needed to be even darker.
“First footers have to be dark and the darker they are, the better the good luck they bring, so I think we oughta black up their faces,” said Joe.
“What can we use to do that?” asked Mitch.
“Burnt cork works best and there are loads of corks in the kitchen, from all those bottles of wine that have been drunk, tonight,” said Joe.
The boys sneaked into the kitchen and returned with several corks and some matches. They took the children out to the back of the hall, and soon had Josh and Luke’s faces blacked up. They also helped themselves to a bottle of whisky, some salt, and some cookies, as they knew that first footers had to bring gifts.
The little boys were happy to go along with Mitch and Joe’s plan, but Patti, being a rather fastidious child, was rather concerned that her little brother was looking so dirty.
“Mama doesn’t like us getting that messy,” she said, but the boys told her it would be okay.
“It’s what you do at New Years,” said Mitch, who was more than a little tipsy. “Mama won’t mind, just this once.”
The bells in the church tower rang twelve times, and as the last chime died away, Joe and Mitch knocked on the door of the dance hall, and then pushed the two little boys into the room.
“HAPPY NEW YEARS,” shouted Luke and Josh.
The music had stopped so that everyone could hear the bells chime in the New Year. All eyes were on the two boys, as they rather drunkenly made their way across the room to the Devlin party. When Martha saw that Luke was carrying a bottle of whisky and that his face was black, she was both angry and surprised.
“Those boys are acting like they are drunk,” said George to Martha.
“I fear that there is more than a ring of truth in what you are saying, George,” replied Martha.
Joe and Mitch, plus the two little girls, had slipped into the hall, while all eyes were on the little boys. Patti and Meg ran over to join Mr and Mrs Devlin, but Joe and Mitch stayed well away from parents and siblings.
The two boys could not help but laugh at the way the little ones looked, and at the reception they received. Suddenly, Little Joe felt a heavy hand land on his shoulder.
“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about why those kids are looking and acting the way they are, would you, little brother?” asked Adam.
“Who me?” said Joe, the picture of innocence, although he couldn’t quite hold back the giggle that was desperate to escape from his mouth. “Why do you think I know anything about it?”
“Well, maybe because you and Mitch were responsible for them and also because you two seem to be the only ones finding this to be amusing.”
“Aww, come on Adam,” said Joe, the alcohol he had consumed making him even bolder than usual. “We ain’t the only ones smiling. Having those two little one first footing is kinda funny, doncha think?”
“Seeing two children, only five years old, the worse for drink, is not a source of amusement to me,” said Adam.
“And it certainly isn’t to me, either,” said Ben, joining his sons. “And neither is the fact that I strongly suspect that my ten year old son has also been imbibing in strong liquor.”
For reasons best known to Joe, he found his father’s words hilarious, and he burst out laughing.
“Pa, don’t be such a stuff shirt. It’s New Years, and we’re celebrating, is all.”
“That is quite enough out of you, young man,” shouted Ben. “We are going home and when I get you there I am going to show you just how unimpressed I am by this whole spectacle. But before we go, you are going over to Mr and Mrs Devlin and apologise to them. Now, march!”
Ben’s words reverberated around Joe’s befuddled brain and had the effect of sobering him up, real fast. Suddenly, what he’d done didn’t seem at all amusing to him. His mouth felt like it was full of cotton and he was having trouble swallowing. He made it across the room and somehow managed to mumble an apology to Martha and George. Mitch followed Joe and Ben and he, too, apologised to his parents. George, just like Ben had, made it very clear to Mitch that the two of them would be having a further discussion about his behaviour, once they reached home. The bottle of whisky and other items that had been removed from the kitchen were returned and Luke and Josh were cleaned up. By then, most of the partygoers had gone home and the Devlin and Cartwright families followed suit.
Fortunately, none of the children suffered any ill effects from the small amount of alcohol that they had consumed, but Mitch received the same treatment from his father as Joe did from Ben.
Joe was almost asleep when Ben returned to his room to say goodnight.
He looked down on his youngest boy and marvelled again at just how much he looked like his mother.
Joe smiled at his father, confident in the knowledge that Ben would have already forgiven him for his misbehaviour.
“Have you been thinking, Little Joe, like I told you to?” asked Ben.
Joe stifled a yawn and replied, “Yes, I have Pa. I’ve been thinking that I’m real lucky to have a Pa like you, who loves me enough to wanna keep me safe, and see to it that I grow up to be a decent man. I love you, Papa. Happy New Year.”
“And I love you, too, son,” said Ben, giving Joe a kiss goodnight. “Happy New Year, Little Joe.”
Little Joe forever
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