The Return (by Sibylle)


Summary:  Adam’s upcoming return from Boston affects his brothers in an unexpected way.

Rated:  K+

Word Count:  1,015

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, setting, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


The Return

“No. I can’t and I won’t come back to a household with such an uneducated and lazy boy as you. Never. I will stay in Boston, where I belong. With my equals.”

“But, Adam, please. Pa misses you, he is so happy about your return. He has been talking about you for weeks.”

“If there were only Pa…”

“Please. Hoss also is so happy, and even Hop Sing seems cheerful. I heard him singing in the kitchen.”

“Alright, I can’t disappoint them. But now I missed the wagon train. So I have to travel alone. Look at my horse. We don’t have as fine horses here as we do in the West, but I could try it.”

“Adam, yes, do it. And I’ll start with my homework and I will tell Pa about the bad history test. I promise. Look, I’m working until you get here. Ugh, it’s a very hard math problem, but I will not neglect my homework. I’m working…”

“Joe … Joe, look, look at my horse, it lost a shoe. I’m in the desert. There isn’t a blacksmith in a thousand miles. I can never reach one, never. I can’t walk anymore, it’s too hot. I’m exhausted. No water, my canteen is empty, so very empty, and I’m so weak, so very weak.”

“No, stand up, walk, please walk, Adam, don’t die.”

“I can’t. I’m dying. Why did I agree to your request, why?”

“No! No! Open your eyes! Open them….”


“Li’l Joe, what’s wrong? Hey – Joe. Open your eyes.”

“Hoss, Adam is dead. His body lies in the desert. His horse lost a shoe, and then he had to walk, and he died. It’s all my fault.”

“What? Joe, come on. Ya dreamed. Only a very bad dream.”

“You’re sure? But all seemed so real. Adam even wore that tasseled hat, you know, from his graduation.”

“The one from the picture he sent us?”

“Yes. Do you think he will remember me and would even like me?”

“Sure, Joe. Haven’t ya forgotten about his last letter, where he wrote that he is anxious to see you?”

“Yes – Do you think I…I will…satisfy his standards?”

“Ya will. I did and you will, too. He loved you from the day you were born.”

“Really, Hoss? Alright then. And tomorrow I will finish my math homework before Adam arrives. I think it’s better.”

“Yeah, maybe. Sleep well, Joe.”

“Good n…”


“Oh, Adam, you are alive. How wonderful.”

“I booked a passage on the Wanderer. You know, my grandfather’s clipper ship, where Pa was also first mate. I will sail from Boston to San Francisco.”

“Isn’t it very far?”

“Oh no. Not for this ship. It’s very fast. If you like, I will even use a lot of extra sails.”

“Yes, do it! Pa will be so happy, if you are here as early as possible.”

“Look, I’m nearly flying.”

“Oh yes, the wind filled all the sails and the foam is splashing high. Watch out for your hat, Adam, in the wind. Watch out, Adam, watch out there is a reef in front of you! No – not your hat anymore – a reef!

“Oh no. I’m too fast and too close. A ship has no reins or brakes. We’re going to collide!”

“The ship is sinking! Adam, where are you?”

“Here. I’m swimming. But the ocean is so big and so cold, so very cold. I’m exhausted. I’m drowning.”



“Li’l Joe. Dreamed that bad dream again?”

“Yes – no. This time there was a shipwreck. Adam died again. He waved a last time, then he sank standing up into the ocean. The last thing I saw was his forehead and that hat straight on his head. … It was my fault, I asked him to hurry.”

“Seems strange to me but in a dream … Ya know what? – How about you sleep with me in my bed. I know you are too big for that, but it’s a real bad night, and we both need sleep.”

“Thanks, Hoss, I’m coming with you.”


“Hello, Adam. Where are you?

“At the railway station in Boston. I will take the train to Saint Louis and from there the stagecoach. It’s fast and comfortable. At least more comfortable than when Pa and I made our way to the West. Did I tell you about our travels?”

“Yes, but maybe I forgot a lot of it.”

“I will tell you again, when I’m home.”

“Is the railroad safe?”

“Yes, it’s the safest way to travel.”

“Don’t hurry, Adam.”

“I can only travel as fast as the train goes.”

“That’s good. Pa would never…Adam, look, what’s that? There is a big mountain ahead of you! The railway ends in the mountain. It will smash your train. Adam – don’t die. Don’t die again! Please! – Pa… I… I love you!”

“Don’t worry, little brother. I’m an engineer; solving technical problems is my profession. Watch, I’m constructing and digging a tunnel.”

“Are you sure you can do it in time? Isn’t the stone too hard?”

“This obstacle isn’t made from stone, not anymore. I can dig through it, and it melts like butter in the sun.”

“Yeah. You did it. But… when did you change? That hat is the one Pa gave to you at your last birthday at home. Hoss braided the hatband and I helped him.”

“I know, it means a lot to me, Joe. And now sleep well. We will see each other tomorrow and I will help you with your math problems.”


Hoss turned to Joe because the wiggling and struggling had stopped, and in the early morning sun he saw a relaxed smile curl the boy’s lips. He didn’t know that this smile was a reflection of Adam’s broad smile in Joe’s dream, but it filled him with warmth, so he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep again with a smile himself. No, Adam would never avoid Joe or his family, and he was glad that Joe knew it now.


The End


Written for the 2019 Ponderosa Paddlewheel Poker Tournament

The suits were:  Location of story (clubs); object desired or coveted (diamonds); person to be avoided (hearts); calamity (spades)

The words dealt were:

Joe and blacksmith (to avoid)
Railway station
A ship is sinking

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Author: Sibylle

17 thoughts on “The Return (by Sibylle)

  1. What a good little story. The use of all dialogue was perfect. Dear Little Joe, of course he’d be excited and nervous about seeing his big brother after so many years. Hoss was awesome.

  2. Dreams can be omens or full of strange things. Little Joe sure wanted his oldest brother home again in a hurry but safe. Thank you for contributing a story!

  3. Clever use of the prompts and a completely delightful story–I love the images you conjured up as the nightmares eased into cheerful anticipation!

  4. Poor Little Joe, he was always prone to bad dreams! But thankfully none which came true. It’s tough to be a little lad missing his older brother!

  5. My, my, what a little boy won’t dream up. Glad Hoss was able to reassure him and that the dream sweetened with time.

  6. Dreams are often an extension of our fears, aren’t they? I’m glad Little Joe realized he had nothing to worry about after all. Good use of your pokeer hand. Thanks for your story! 🙂

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