Summary: An extremely silly response to a Chaps & Spurs challenge. Also partly inspired by the thread “Feminizing the Cartwrights.” Little-Little Joe is driving Adam crazy. Hop Sing has the solution: it’s story time!
Rated: K WC 1400
“No, Joseph, we’re not there yet,” Pa said sternly, but his eyes were amused as he glanced over his shoulder at the boys and Hop Sing in the back of the wagon. Marie, sitting beside Pa, turned to smile at them. She’s excited, Adam realized, and he grinned back at her. Her eyes, almost exactly the same color as her green bonnet, danced like a girl’s.“Be patient, mon chere,” she told Joe. “Why don’t you play Twenty Questions with your brothers?”
Joe poked out his bottom lip. “Don’t like Twenty Questions.”
Hoss nudged Joe. “How about I Spy?” he suggested. Joe shook his head. “Rumors?” Again the dark curls shook in an emphatic “no.”
Adam broke in. “You tell us, then. What do you want to do?”
Instantly, Joe answered, “I want to get to Virginia City. Now.” He stood up, teetering as the wagon hit a bump, and Hop Sing reached out to steady him. “I wanna hear the fiddle playing,” he added, reluctantly allowing Sing to draw him onto his lap.
Hoss tried to placate him. “We all want to get there, Joe. I gotta sign Lucille up for that frog-jumping contest.” He eyed the small wooden box between his feet and poked a finger into one of the holes he’d drilled in the top. “I sure hope she’s got enough air in there.”
Joe looked accusingly at Adam and demanded, “Don’t you want to get there?”
“Sure I do,” Adam replied. “I want to see the Independence Day decorations. The entire main street will be lined with red, white, and blue.” That wasn’t all he wanted, of course. Like Joe, he was looking forward to the music at the dance that would be held in the meeting house that night. And before that, there would be the pot luck supper (Hoss must really be excited about the frog-jumping contest, not to have mentioned that). And there were some friends he was eager to see…one in particular, perhaps…
Marie interrupted Adam’s thoughts of a certain young lady. “I am most excited about the fireworks,” she said.
Hop Sing nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, yes,” he agreed. “Red and yellow, velly pretty.” He poked Joe in the ribs, and the little boy twitched and giggled. “And noisy,” Sing added. “Maybe you should not go. Too scary for litta boy.”
“Who, me?” Joe yelled indignantly, twisting out of Hop Sing’s grasp and turning to face him. He’s louder than any firecracker, Adam thought, and Joe proved him right by shouting, “I ain’t scared of nothing!”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” Marie corrected him.
“See?” Joe said triumphantly. “Mama ain’t afraid of nothing neither!” Hoss and Adam laughed, and Joe, sensing he’d misspoken, glared at them before climbing back onto Hop Sing’s lap. “Tell me a story, Hop Sing,” he demanded.
Sing’s brow furrowed for a moment as he considered. Then he smiled. “I tell you good story,” he said, and Adam leaned forward. Hop Sing’s stories are always good, he thought. Apparently he wasn’t the only one who believed that; Hoss turned toward Sing as well, and even Marie and Pa leaned back slightly, undoubtedly so they wouldn’t miss a word.
“One a-punce a time,” Sing began, as Adam suppressed a smile (not daring to look at Hoss, for fear they’d both burst out laughing), “there was boy with dark cully hair and eyes color of jade.”
Joe wiggled. “Me!”
Sing shrugged. “If you say.” He continued, “Boy have flog…” Frowning, he paused and corrected himself, “Boy have frog name Guang.”
“What’s that mean?” Hoss asked, glancing down at the box holding Lucille.
“Light,” Adam supplied, proud that he’d remembered one of the words Sing had taught him. He wondered if Hop Sing knew that “Lucille” also meant “light.” Probably, he decided.
Sing smiled at him. “Good. So…Guang not common frog. He smart as snake.”
“Snakes aren’t smart!” Joe burst out.
“Mes cheris, no more interruptions,” Marie said, twisting around to fix all three of them with a look nearly as stern as one of Pa’s. Joe’s lower lip went out again, but only for a moment.
Hop Sing drew a deep breath and addressed Joe. “In China snakes smart. Not here, maybe.” He continued. “So…Guang smart. Boy teach him talk. Then Guang tell boy, ‘I not eat bugs any more. You give me li—rice and eggs and chestnuts. Season with onion, gah-lic, ginger. I eat like boy eat. Yum!’ So boy give Guang rice and eggs and chestnuts, season as he say. And Guang say again, ‘Yum!’ and eat it all.
“Then Guang say, ‘I want feast like boy on festival day. Want chicken feet. Want squid. Want pickled duck tongue. Yum!” All three boys laughed, and Adam saw Pa’s and Marie’s shoulders shaking. “Oh,” Hop Sing said soberly, “these things special dishes, how you say…derica—delica—” He looked questioningly at Adam.
“Yes. Guang say he want these de-ri-cacies. So boy give him chicken feet and squid and duck tongue. And Guang say again…” He paused.
“Yum!” all three boys chorused.
“Then Guang say, ‘I want chah-coal, saltpetah, pound to fine powder. Mix with sul-fah, pack in bamboo shoots.’ Boy say, ‘No! I not give you such to eat. These things kill you dead.’ Guang say, ‘You give me these to eat, or I tell Chan Chu, One-Eyed Toad God, to give no more wealth to your house. You will die a poor man.’ So boy do as Guang say, give him chah-coal and saltpetah and sul-fah in bamboo shoots. Guang eat them, say again…”
“Yum!” the boys shouted, and Adam was sure he heard Pa’s voice in the mix as well.
“Then Guang, he bling forth big dah-gey—” And Hop Sing swallowed air and emitted an enormous belch. Hoss and Joe shrieked with laughter. Alarmed, Adam looked toward the front of the wagon, expecting Marie to be horrified and Pa to be furious. To his surprise, they were both smiling broadly. Boy, if I had belched in front of a lady, he thought, and on purpose, too…still, it was nice to know someone could get away with such behavior. He gave up and laughed too.
Hop Sing leaned forward, his eyes crinkling mysteriously, and everyone fell silent to listen. He said softly, “But remember, Guang not common frog, so his dah-gey not common either. Guang’s dah-gey go…BANG!” he shouted, and Joe nearly fell off his lap. Hop Sing caught him and continued to shout, “Ka-pow! Sound of thunder, noise of avalanche, clash, boom, pow! Fire come from Guang’s mouth!” Joe’s eyes were so wide that the whites showed all around the irises. “Fire shoot out, go up to sky and pow! Beautiful fire-flower, red and yellow petals falling to earth. Guang burp again and again! Pow, bang, clackle!”
Crackle, Adam thought, hearing in his mind the fireworks to come. He closed his eyes and saw the waterfall effect, the flaming scarlet and gold streamers against an ebony sky, bursting into life and fading as they fell. Pow, bang, crackle. Whistle toward heaven and blow apart. He seemed to hear the echoes of one report blending into the next explosion. Sky rocket, he thought. Roman candle, Catherine’s wheel, hummer. Dah-gey. Dah-gey.
He opened his eyes and saw Hop Sing smiling at him. And Adam knew that from that moment on, he would always think of fireworks as dah-gey—the gigantic belch of Light.