The Dance (by ACSPeej)

Summary:   Finding a box of treasures inspires brothers to remember another time from their lives.
Rating:  G   Words:  1740

Brandster’s Note:

There are numerous stories by ACPeej in the Brand Fan Fiction Library, but this one was not previously included.  This story is added as part of our Preserving Their Legacy project.

Thank you AC1830 for forwarding this gem.


The Dance

Strictly by accident, Joe found a small box that he knew belonged to Hoss (who had a habit of keeping things from years past that meant something to him.) With great glee, Joe had shown the box to Hoss and the two brothers had sat down together to investigate the box’s contents. There were some old letters, some dried flowers, a few brightly-colored rocks from a favorite fishing spot, something that defied description and then a ribbon of some kind. Hoss held the fraying object in his hands and allowed the memory to take him back to when he was in school and was all hands-and-feet clumsiness. A smile crossed his face and he explained the reason to Joe as if something had happened only yesterday. His mind took him back…back….

Even as a teenager, Hoss had been big and very tall. He hadn’t been particularly good at his studies but what he lacked in “book learning” he made up for in the understanding of nature – tracking, animals, growing things, an understanding in what the weather would do, how to hunt and how to fish. Painfully shy and self-conscious, he stayed as far away from “social settings” as he could. He was a gentle young man and had endured bullying about his size; he learned never to bully anybody lest he hurt someone’s feelings. He couldn’t abide that thought.

For quite a while, Ben had allowed his middle son to “find his own way” among people. But on a particular October night, Ben actually talked Hoss into going to the traditional Fall dance that came before the beginning of the Fall harvest and the final roundup to move stock into their winter pastures. Hoss didn’t want to go – he would much rather have been walking through the woods alone in the moonlight, listening to the scrunch of leaves under his boots. And he certainly didn’t want to dance! Though he had experienced some mild crushes on some girls in school, the thought of asking a girl to dance made him nervous. The thought of actually dancing with a girl made him break out into a sweat – he didn’t know how to dance but didn’t dare tell his family because he feared they would tease him unmercifully.

Fast forward to the dance. Picture the young girls sitting on one side of the room while the boys sat on the other side. Watching closely, Hoss could plainly see that some of his male schoolmates had no trouble meandering across the room and asking a girl to dance. How Hoss envied them their bravery!

While the clock ticked away, Hoss continued to sit in his chair. His family had tried to encourage him to get on the dance floor, but Hoss just couldn’t do it. Sighing, he looked at his feet and his freshly-polished boots. Closing his eyes, he wished very hard that he could just disappear.

Upon opening his eyes and finding that he had not disappeared, he realized that there were two shoes standing almost toe-to-toe with his boots. Girl’s shoes! Letting his eyes slowly go upward, he saw that there was a dress and then the freckled-face of a girl with her hair in pigtails and sporting horribly buck teeth. While Hoss had been wishing to disappear, it was announced that this dance would be “ladies’ choice.”

“Um…um…I don’t reck’n you’d like to dance with me, would ya?” The girl spoke just above a whisper. She blushed.

“Uh, I reck’n I have to tell ya that I don’t dance,” Hoss practically stammered.

“Neither do I,” came the answer. “My parents made me come to this dance and then they practically pushed me out on the floor. I chose you because you look so kind and might not turn me down.”

Feeling a bit of a smile tugging at his lips, Hoss replied, “My pa and brothers made me come here too. I ain’t got up the courage t’ ask nobody t’ dance. I ain’t never learned how noways.”

“Why can’t our families just leave us alone?” the girl mused. “I’d rather be fishin’ or walkin’ in the woods.” She paused for a moment as if making a big decision. “I went a-walkin’ today and found me a purty rock. Y’wanna see it?”

Hoss could feel himself relaxing. “Why, shore! Most folks don’t find beauty in rocks, but I do!”

Her face brightening, the girl fished in her pocket and pulled out a smooth, shiny rock which she handed to Hoss.

“Yep,” Hoss smiled, “that there’s a keeper. Lookit them colors! Where’d ya find it?”

“Down by th’ crick not far from our wagon. We’ve spent two days outside o’ town restin’ th’ stock. Then we go on tomorrow to th’ Sacramento Valley. My pa bought some land there.”

“Oh,” was all Hoss could say. Feeling rather sad, he handed the rock back to the girl. “If you was gonna stay in Virginia City, I’d take ya to my fav’rite fishin’ hole. I’d even bait yer hook fer ya.”

Snorting, the girl replied, “I kin bait my own hook, thank you very much! I use bloodworms. What d’ you use?” And then, just as naturally as could be, the girl sat down in the chair next to Hoss. And Hoss’s nervousness disappeared into thin air as the two began to talk.

Ranging from bait to wild creatures, Hoss and the girl sat and talked about the things that they liked or disliked. At one point, Hoss realized that neither of them had introduced themselves.

“My name is Hoss Cartwright. What’s your name?”

“Mike,” came the answer.

“That’s a kinda odd name fer a gal,” Hoss said without thinking how it sounded.

The girl shrugged her shoulders. “My pa wanted a son and planned on namin’ him ‘Mike’. What he got was a daughter and he named me ‘Mikaela.’ I reckon that was as close to ‘Mike’ as he could get.” There was a pause. “’Hoss’ is a strange name, too, y’know.”

Somehow Hoss wasn’t offended by this although he cringed when kids laughed at him. He chuckled. “Ya got a point there. My real name is ‘Eric’.”

Mike studied Hoss’s face and smiled. “Kin I call ya ‘Hoss’? It suits ya. And ya kin call me ‘Mike’.” And the conversation continued just as naturally as if the two had known each other for a long time.

“Uh-oh,” whispered Mike. “My pa is givin’ me th’ evil eye ‘cuz I ain’t dancin’.” She sighed, stood up and started to walk away.

Thinking quickly, Hoss stood and gently took her arm. “I tole ya that I cain’t dance. But we kin stand in th’ middle o’ th’ floor and pretend we’re dancin’!”

Smirking, Mike gave a quick answer. “Oh, Hoss! Let’s do! And we kin keep on a-talkin’ at th’ same time!”

They were awkward at first but then began to relax. Toes got stepped on but, instead of being embarrassed, the two of them would giggle. One dance turned into two and then became three – and they grew comfortable with the rhythm of the music and with holding each other. Ben watched his middle son and smiled a fatherly smile. Smiles were also on the faces of Mike’s parents.

Of course, every night comes to a close. Mike sighed; Hoss sighed but offered to escort her outside to the wagon that was waiting. Being beyond the other buggies and buckboards, Hoss and Mike found themselves alone in the moonlight.

Rubbing the toe of his boot in the dirt, Hoss sighed again. “I wish ya didn’t have t’ go to Sacramento.”

Giving an equal sigh, Mike’s response was, “I know. I don’t wanna leave. I jist metcha an’ wish we had a long time to do th’ things we like. But…” Her voice trailed off as she smoothed out one of her pigtails.

Hoss, who had never kissed a girl in his young life, now wanted a kiss. “Kin I kiss ya goodbye?”

Mike, who had never kissed a boy in her young life, also wanted a kiss. “I ain’t never been kissed. I don’t reckon I know how.”

With a bright smile, Hoss remarked that neither of them knew how to dance before now but that they had learned. Awkwardly he bent to kiss Mike. Their noses bumped together and they were a little off target, but somehow their lips managed to meet in the sweetest of kisses.

As Mike’s parents approached, Mike touched Hoss’s cheek. “I’ll never forgit you, Hoss. I’ll never forgit tonight.”

Mike’s parents were here now and Hoss introduced himself and shook hands with Mike’s pa. He nodded at Mike’s ma and helped her into the wagon. Mike’s pa climbed aboard and they rode away with Mike looking longingly back at Hoss. Sadness overcame Hoss and, when Mike was out of sight, he just happened to look down at the ground. One of Mike’s ribbons had fallen from a pigtail and was just waiting for him to pick it up. Gently, he tucked it into his pocket. It would go in his box of “treasures.”

Fast forward about ten years. Joe and Hoss heard a knock at the door which was opened by Hop Sing.

“Hey, Joe! Remember when I told ya ’bout Mikaela a long time ago?” Hoss’s voice was at a whisper. He was stunned.

“Yeah, I remember that. Your first dance and your first kiss.”

“Well, I think that’s her at th’ door talkin’ to Hop Sing!”

Joe looked again. “Where are the buck teeth and the freckles?” He cocked his head and looked confused.

Hoss strode forward, ignoring Joe’s question. “You gotta be Mike,” he stated with assurance.

Her face lit up. “You recognize me? But I look so much different now.” Her hair was long and fell across her shoulders. There were still smattering of freckles on her face, but her buck teeth had straightened out and were now white and even. She slipped her arms around Hoss in a gentle hug. Beaming, she said, “You haven’t changed a bit. I’m going to be in Virginia City for quite a while and wanted to see you the very first thing. And here you are!”

Hoss was speechless. The way she spoke had changed but the lilt in her laugh hadn’t. And then she kissed him gently; no nose-bumping and no being off-target.

It wouldn’t be the last time they kissed. Practice does make perfect, you know.

When the story was over Hoss and Joe sat in brotherly silence knowing how well everything turned out. Later, the box was put in a safe place in Hoss’s room where it stayed for many years – and is probably still there now.



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Author: acspeej

Majored in Archeology at the University of Georgia. Am now a retired surgical assistant. Love to scuba dive, ride horses, read. Am a published author of 2 novels.

2 thoughts on “The Dance (by ACSPeej)

  1. Oh I love this peek at a shy Hoss when it comes to social gatherings. All it takes is one connection to make him forget his awkwardness and he certainly found it.

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