Summary: Hoss has an unusual gift for Little Joe. A prequel challenge piece.
Rating: K WC:510
“What’s that you’ve got in the bucket, son?”
Ben stood by the water trough peering down over twelve year-old Hoss’ shoulder.
“Oh – uh – it’s Jeremiah.” A forced, nervous chuckle escaped the big boy’s tense mouth. Embarrassed, Hoss held his hand over the frog hoping to delay his father seeing it.
“Jeremiah? Like the prophet?” Ben laughed softly. “Let me have a look.”
“Uh sure, Pa” Hoss turned and lifted the small pail toward his father.
“Why it’s a bullfrog. Jeremiah, you say?”
“Yeah, ya know the preacher did say that Jeremiah did a lot o’ weepin’. This old bullfrog seemed lonesome like and sounded kinda sad when I was down at the creek today.”
Ben folded his arms across his chest. “Don’t you think he would be better off down there? The creek is his home.”
Hoss swallowed uncomfortably. “Yeah -mebbe, but I was thinkin’ ’bout givin’ him ta Little Joe.”
Hoss nodded tentatively as Ben twisted his mouth in question and waited for further explanation.
“Well, Pa, ya know Joe’s been missin’ Adam real bad since he left for school in Boston. I jest thought he might like a pet to keep him comp’ny.” The boy looked up at his father with a mix of sympathy and pleading.
Ben relaxed his posture and placed his large hands on his son’s shoulders. His mind wandered briefly at the frightening realization that it would not be long until Hoss was looking him squarely in the eye. The contradiction of this child in a man-sized body often made Hoss appear comical. And yet, Ben knew that his middle son’s heart was in the right place despite how Adam might feel about being replaced by a bullfrog.
His father’s thoughtful silence made Hoss even more uncomfortable. “Pa?”
“Yes, son. Sorry. Guess I was thinking about Adam, too. We’ve all been missing your brother.” Ben gave Hoss a warm smile and squeezed his shoulders. “I think Joe will like Jeremiah just fine. But -”
“I know, Pa. I know Jeremiah hasta stay outside or Hop Sing will have a fit. I’ll see to it. Thanks, Pa!”
Hoss took off with determined steps toward the front door and stopped abruptly at the ‘uh hem’ coming from behind him. He turned and gave his father a sheepish grin.
“Oh yeah. Sorry, Pa. Guess I got a little excited.” Hoss set the bucket by the front door and charged inside. “Little Joe! I got somethin’ for ya!”
Ben chuckled and leaned on the pump waiting to observe the presentation of the gift. Moments later, Joe came running through the door and grabbed the frog from the bucket and began to stroke its back and call it by name. Hoss gave his little brother quiet words of instruction and encouragement. At seeing how happy Little Joe was with Jeremiah, Hoss beamed up at his father and gave him a nod.
Ben shook his head and murmured to himself. “Would that more of the hurts of this world could be eased by a caring brother and ‘lonesome’ bullfrog.”
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