Summary: Where we love is home. A short WHIB for Forever.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Bonanza or the Cartwrights. This story is for entertainment and no money was made from it. No copyright infringement is intended on Michael Landon’s amazing script.
Reviews from the Old Library are on the last page.
I should have known I’d find Joe here. After the funeral, Candy, Jamie, and I left Joe at Alice’s graveside. That was hours ago.
No one had seen Joe since the funeral and I figured Joe would return home when he was ready. But he didn’t.
I went to Alice’s grave first, expecting to find him there. A grave is a place to visit long after the pain is gone, not while the wound is raw. But this house is a grave, too. A cold shell filled with death.
Candy and Jamie told me how they’d had to pull Joe out of the inferno, his burning shirt clinging to his wrists, Joe’s desperate screams unanswered as the house was consumed. If I’d been in his shoes last night, I would have done the same.
The doctor gave Joe a sedative but my boy spent a restless night calling for Alice, his hands slashing through the air as if he were trying to beat aside the flames.
When I built the Ponderosa, it was for me and my sons. We’d added onto the house when Marie had been expecting so there would be room for more children. Joe had been building a room for his child when . . . when it happened.
Joe was proud of this house, the home he’d built for his family. I’d offered to hire a crew and Adam had offered to draw up plans but Joe wanted to do it all himself. For Alice. This had been his Ponderosa.
I catch the glint of a whiskey bottle in Joe’s bandaged hands. When Marie died, I’d turned to alcohol for comfort, too. It didn’t make me forget the pain of losing the woman I’d loved.
“Good to see you. You’re always welcome to our house.”
“It’s getting’ kind of late, I was just . . . wondering where you were.”
“Same ol’ Pa, always worryin’.”
I insist I wasn’t worried but he knows I am. My sons know me too well. I’ve always worried about them—they’re my children even though they’re grown men.
“Oh come on now, come on. You were worryin’. There’s nothin’ to worry about. You heard the preacher today. He said . . . Alice is in Heaven and you think about the good times.”
Joe smiles as if to reassure me, but there’s no happiness in it.
It’s easy for others to say you think about the good times after losing a loved one but the memories are too raw. When you recall those memories you realize all the hopes and dreams you’d shared will never come to fruition and the pain returns. Eventually, the hurt fades enough to smile on birthdays or anniversaries. He heard it from the preacher so he doesn’t need to hear it from me, too.
With the house a ruin, it’s as if Alice never lived. There are no pictures or quilts to touch when sorrow becomes too much to bear.
A frisson of fear travels up my spine. What if I go home and leave Joe here? What if he tries to join his wife and baby? I want him under my roof, where I know he’s safe. I can’t lose another son.
“Why don’t you come on home?” I ask.
“Home.” he whispers. “I’m home. See how quickly you forget I’m home?”
I’ll always think of my home as Joe’s home. He was born there and remained there until he married Alice. Even though Adam is back east, I think of the Ponderosa as his home, too.
Joe angrily tosses the bottle into the debris, the breaking glass briefly louder than the crickets. He takes a few steps through the wreckage and leans against a charred post. He keeps his back to me, as if he’s ashamed to cry in my presence.
“This is my home. This is our home—Alice’s and mine . . . and our baby’s.”
Joe has never held his emotions close to the vest, yet now it’s as if he’s afraid to let his tears fall. His voice quavers as he holds tightly to the post, the fresh bandaging wrapped around his hands in stark contrast to the blackened wood.
“I never got the baby’s room finished, you know. I thought it was too small but I told Alice I could make it bigger. She said it was plenty big.”
No man should face this kind of heartache, have his dreams shattered like the glass that crunches under our boots.
I’ve had my dreams destroyed but always had a child, a reminder that life continues. Joe has nothing but ashes.
He holds tight to the beam and sinks to his knees, no longer able to hold back the tide as his body shakes with his sobs. For the first time, I don’t know how to ease my son’s anguish. When he was a boy, I soothed the pain of a scraped knee with a few whispered words. As a young man he lost his heart to girl after girl; I reassured him that one day he’d fall so deeply in love the pain of those heartbreaks would be forgotten. Those words are useless now.
I carefully pry one of Joe’s hands from the beam and pull my son into my arms. He clings to me, like a scared little boy, limp in my arms. I stroke his hair as he sobs for his wife and child buried in the cold ground.
Hot tears spill down my cheeks and onto Joe’s shoulder. I hold him tight, afraid if I let go he’ll vanish into the dark and I’ll never see my son again.
Please, Lord, keep Joe from joining Alice and the baby. Help my son find a reason to go on. Bestow your healing power upon his heart.
We remain in each other’s arms until Joe exhausts his tears. Then we head home.
Other Stories by this Author
- Broken Chords (by Patina)
- No More Security (by Patina)
- Moon Blind (by Patina)
- A Spoonful of Medicine (by Patina)
- Saints Preserve Us (by Patina)