Summary: It pays to listen. After the fact, the family tries to figure out what Hop Sing said before returning to his kitchen.
Rating K (1,240 words)
What Did He Say?
“What did he say?”
Joe’s hazel eyes swivelled over to Adam who glanced up over the edge of his book, surveyed both his brothers blankly and resumed his reading.
“I heard ya!”
“Well, what did he say?”
Adam sighed, put down his book and tried to recall to mind exactly what had been said in the fleeting seconds that Hop Sing had peeked around the door,
“He said that the back swing needed mending.” he mumbled very quickly and returned to his book, sticking his nose even closer to the print in the hope that his brothers would take the hint and leave him in peace.
“The back swing?” Joe scoffed with a derisorily note in his voice, and gave a chortle of laughter, “The back swing?” he repeated to no one in particular and slapped his knees for emphasis, even though no one was taking any notice of him.
“What’s wrong with the back swing?” Ben asked as he came down the stairs looking tired and discontented after a sleepless night.
“Nuthin’s wrong with the back swing, seeing as we ain’t had a back swing since Joe left school.” Hoss snorted with contempt and continued to pay attention to his whittling, carefully making sure the shavings fell in the same tidy little mound on the hearth.
“I think he meant that the door had a bad swing,” Joe grinned, standing up to walk over to the table.
“Who?” Ben sighed, sitting down heavily in his chair.
“What about him?”
“He said the back door had a bad swing.” Joe replied, sitting down and picking up his red and white checkered napkin.
“He said no such thing,” Adam said with a slight sneer in his voice and looking at Joe with a glint of contempt in his eyes.
He strolled over slowly to the table and pulled out his chair.
“Well, he certainly didn’t say anything about a back swing, seeing as how we ain’t got one since -”
“I know, since Joe left school.” Adam scowled and sat down opposite his father. “I know all about that.”
“And there isn’t anything wrong with the door, it swings open just fine.” Ben growled, picking up some bread from the platter. He glanced up and down the table and frowned, “Where’s the ham and eggs?”
“That’s it!” Joe exclaimed, clicking his fingers with all the grace of a flamenco dancer, “He said there was something wrong with the black hen’s wing.”
His brothers stared at him in disbelief, and Ben looked at the three of them in confusion. Then Adam shook his head and shrugged. As far as he was concerned the whole conversation had plummeted to ridiculous depths and he wished to be no party to it. He distanced himself from it immediately and concentrated on pouring strong black coffee into his cup.
“Do we have a black hen?” Hoss asked thoughtfully.
“Sure we do,” Joe’s voice raised a pitch higher, and he caught Adam’s eye and the single black eyebrow raised in blank contempt, “Yeah. Of course we do.” he muttered on a lower note.
“Wal, I don’t think Hop Sing said that.” Hoss replied, tapping his knife on the table with impatience for he wasn’t used to having to wait for his food.
“Perhaps he was saying Hop Sing quit!” Adam growled.
Joe and Hoss looked at one another thoughtfully. Panic in Hoss’ eyes at the very thought.
“Nah, he didn’t say that,” Joe responded with a shake of the head.
“He wouldn’t anyway,” Hoss muttered, looking hopefully over at the kitchen entrance from where the smell of food was now beginning to drift into the dining room
“Wouldn’t what?” Ben snapped tersely.
“He wouldn’t quit.” Joe and Hoss said in unison.
“Who wouldn’t ?”
“Hop Sing.” Adam, Joe and Hoss cried… and in harmony too.
Hop Sing appeared with a look of concern on his face as he glanced from Ben to the three brothers.
“Hop Sing, are you gonna quit?” Hoss asked, his blue eyes wide with consternation.
“No quit. Not today. No how.” came the swift reply.
“And the black hen’s wing is all right, isn’t it?” Joe asked.
“No got black hen no more. Black hen got chop chop long time now.”
“Chop chop huh?” Hoss frowned.
“And the back doors swinging too and fro easily enough, isn’t it?” Adam sighed, flicking his napkin open and spreading it across his knee.
“Back door oiled last Fliday and swing very good.” Hop Sing beamed on them all as he considered this previous statement from Adam as a compliment rather than a query. Perhaps his good management in making sure all doors swung back and forth with ease and good oiling would bring about a pay rise.
“What about the back swing?” Hoss said, tucking his napkin into the top of his shirt.
“Not have swing in back yard for long time since little boy leave school. You want me to make new swing?” Hop Sing’s eyebrows were raised in question and all four men shook their heads.
“What is a back swing anyhow?” Hoss asked.
“I thought it was something baseball players did,” Adam replied, wondering if breakfast was ever going to be served.
“I thought he meant the swing we had in the back yard.” Joe grumbled, “I used to get mighty high on that thing.”
His brothers stared at him long enough for him not to reminisce further on the subject of swings and how high he would go. They were the ones who had to pick him up off the ground when he fell off – regularly.
“Hop Sing, what exactly did you ask about earlier?” Ben said quietly.
Hop Sing frowned, his brow creased in deep thought.
“Ah,” he clicked his fingers almost as well as Joe had done earlier when Joe had imitated the flamenco dancer so well, “I said where is black sling that we use whenever any of you get shot in arm or leg, or have bad head or break rib? Black sling very necessary piece of equipment for family household like this.”
“It sure is,” Hoss nodded, remembering the number of times he had recourse to use the black sling.
“Don’t say you’ve lost it?” Adam exclaimed, a pained expression on his face seeing that he used the black sling more often than most of the family, and, anyway, it went better with his outfit
“You haven’t used it for anyone else, have you?” Joe narrowed his eyes, resenting the idea that anyone outside the family would dare to use it.
“I was wondering if I could borrow it,” Ben said quietly, “I’ve got that pain in my wrist again.” and he looked plaintively at Adam who pulled a sympathetic face before looking at Hop Sing.
“Ah, no worries.” Hop Sing beamed at them, “I found black sling in kitchen all the time. Hop Sing lose it when straining fruit for jam last week. But no worry, I find it in tub.”
Hoss’ stomach gave a rumble at that point, a clear indication that the inner man was starving and the outer man about to pass out. Hop Sing did a wonderful vanishing trick and reappeared minutes later with the food and the black sling dangling from his arm, ready for Ben to use – again!