Summary: Little Joe needs an anchor in the storm.
Rated: K+ Word count: 1097
Storms and Anchors
The air had been heavy all day. Since rising, Hoss had repeatedly announced that they would soon be in the middle of a storm. Each time he had said it, Little Joe had shuddered. Finally, when Hoss said for what felt to Little Joe like the millionth time that tonight they would have a devil of a storm, Little Joe had shouted for him to shut up. That had gotten the six-year-old a surprised stare from Hoss and a glare accompanied by a curt reprimand from his eldest brother Adam. Little Joe had then slammed his fork into the table and refused to eat. This defiance had resulted in Adam raising his voice and ordering Little Joe to behave and immediately finish his dinner without another word. When Little Joe failed to instantaneously pick up his fork, Adam had followed his commands with a threat. Hearing the resolute tone in his brother’s voice, Little Joe sat quietly and moved the remaining food in small circles around his plate, but no more food had actually made its way down the boy’s throat. When Adam had finally released him from the table, Little Joe had gone and curled up on the settee. In an effort to lighten his little brother’s mood, Hoss offered to play the little boy a game of checkers or two, but Little Joe refused Hoss’s offer curling up into a ball and staring into the fire. Hoss had exchanged looks with Adam who shook his head and shrugged. Then the two older boys had settled in their chairs and started on their evening work. Adam entered figures into the never-completed legers while Hoss braided a new lariat. Little Joe continued to stare into the fire. There was going to be a storm, and his Pa was not there.
Little Joe lay in his bed and listened to the wind blow through the trees outside his window. When bedtime had come, he had protested, whined, and begged to stay up just a little longer. Adam had said no gently at first and then more firmly until finally becoming totally frustrated with his little brother’s antics. Coming to the end of his patience, the eighteen-year-old had simply picked up the struggling child, carried him to his bedroom, undressed him, put on his nightshirt, and dropped him none too gently onto his bed. Little Joe’s protestations were loud and numerous, but failed to convey the real reason he wanted to remain downstairs. Then Adam had placed his hands on his hips, leaned down close to Little Joe’s face, and told him that if he set one toe out of the bed he would receive a spanking. Though Adam had never actually spanked him before, Little Joe recognized the look on his brother’s face. It was Adam’s I-really-mean-it look. Little Joe had sighed and pulled the covers up over his head. Lying in the dark with his eyes squeezed tightly shut, he waited for the storm Hoss had promised.
Now, Little Joe was never afraid of storms when his pa was there to hold him. Pa’s voice could drown out even the loudest thunder, and his arms were strong enough to hold Little Joe to the ground no matter how hard the wind might try to tug him away. When he sat on his Pa’s lap, Little Joe could watch the lightning bolts with the same wonder as he did the fireworks the town sent into the sky on the Fourth of July. Only tonight Pa was not there, and Little Joe shivered with fear as the first roar of thunder filled his room. As the second bolt of lightning lit the room, Little Joe Cartwright dived under his bed and curled up against the wall. He remained there as the thunder continued to roar and the lightning flashes danced across the floor.
Adam made his way up the stairs. He was so tired. He wished his pa were there but doubted if Ben Cartwright would be returning anytime soon. Since the death of his stepmother Marie, it seemed that Pa hated the house as much as he had loved it before. His father now spent as much time away on business as possible. He stopped at the top of the stairs and wondered if his Pa realized how many important decisions he was allowing his oldest son to make. Adam squared his shoulders. Well, someone had to make them, and if Pa didn’t like the decisions he was making, then Pa just best stay around and make the decisions himself. Adam continued down the upstairs hall toward his bedroom. Knowing his Pa always checked on each of his sons before retiring to his own bed, Adam sighed and opened the door to his middle brother’s room. The sound of Hoss’s snoring could be heard between the peals of thunder. Adam smiled. Perhaps the reason he could sleep through any storm was all the years he had had to sleep with Hoss snoring in his ear.
Adam made his way down the hall and stopped in front of the door to his youngest brother’s room. Had he been too gruff with the boy earlier that night? Adam sighed again and opened the door. A flash of lightning illuminated the room, and Adam looked for his little brother on his bed. The bed was empty. Adam’s heart lurched. “Little Joe,” he called, but his cry was lost in the next boom of thunder. Adam rushed in, lighted the lamp, and began searching the room. Crouching to look beneath the bed, Adam recognized the form of his small brother huddled in terror. Reaching his long arms under the bed, he gently pulled the child to him. Gathering the trembling child into his arms, he held Little Joe against his chest. The child’s tremors continued even as Little Joe’s fingers grabbed onto Adam’s shirt and held tight, so Adam placed his mouth next to Little Joe’s ear and began to sing an old lullaby that Marie had always used to soothe her son.
Little Joe listened as his big brother’s voice drowned out the thunder. He felt the strength of Adam’s arms and knew that the wind could never get strong enough to tug him away. Relaxing, Little Joe drifted into sleep.
Other Stories by this Author
- Seeing a Man (by DJK)
- Five Bits (by DJK)
- From Adam’s Pen (by DJK)
- Stampede (by DJK)
- Wanting Whiskers (by DJK)