Younger (by PSW)

Summary:  A quiet, light moment among family.  Written for the January 1st Pinecone Challenge, and expanded (very slightly) for inclusion here.  Prompt/lyrics: I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.  (Bob Dylan)

Rating: K   Word Count: 518

Scenes From Our Next Life Series:

Like You Were
Younger
A Good Life

Younger

“I’ll see your two, and raise you … three.”

Five smooth stones joined the pile on the old coffee table, and a contemplative silence settled.  The fire, the only light in the house, flickered against hair and eyes and the eclectic jumble of offerings heaped at their center.  It was an odd time of day—of night?  of morning?—for the undertaking, and an odd choice of entertainment for Ben Cartwright’s home … but the man himself had only shaken his head in amused affection before climbing the stairs to his bed some hours past.

“I’ll see your three.”  Adam, newly returned from nearly a decade in Australia, added several shells to the pile then settled back into the settee.

At the opposite end of the striped couch, Joe had three bullets ready to go.  “I’m in.”

“And I.”  Lina dropped three dried black beans into the mix and settled back, tugging her skirt down to cover her bare toes.  After years of knocking boots and guns and bodies off of the heavy piece of furniture, Ben had succumbed to his new daughter-in-law’s habit of sitting cross-legged on the coffee table with barely a protest.  Joe’s second wife had conquered very quickly and without effort a heart already disposed to love her.

“Call?” Jamie squeaked, and Joe recalled with sympathy his own long battle against adolescent voice changes.  The boy was perched on the other corner of the table, having been quick to take advantage of Lina’s work in that area.  Grins began to spread.  With a sigh and a low mutter, Jamie dropped a hand on the table which consisted of nothing more than …

“Eight high?”  Joe’s cackle rang out, quickly muted by a wave from Lina and a glance up the stairs.  He smothered the volume, but not the laughter.  “You raised on that?”  Jamie shrugged, flashing that goofy grin that was half proud, half heartbreakingly shy.  “I remember a time you wouldn’t have done anything of the kind.”

Jamie paused in the act of stealing a few rocks back from the pile.  “Well … I was so much older then.  I’m younger than that now.”

It was meant to be flippant, but the words caught them all off-guard.  Memories assailed—a rainmaker tarred and feathered by an angry town; long days on the trail and a vibrant woman cut down by an arrow, leaving a (semi) small, precious gift behind; too many losses one on top of another, aging a battered heart before its time; a father who seemed incapable of love and a late unlamented husband who most certainly was—and for a moment the crackle of the fire was the only sound.

Perhaps they were younger now, having come through it all.  They certainly felt it.

A loud pop startled them back to the present.  Joe grabbed for a toe peeking out from beneath Lina’s skirt and she jerked away, stifling her giggle so as not to wake her sleeping father-in-law.  Jamie hung backward off of the coffee table to scratch a dozing April behind the ears.  Adam shook his head, gathering the cards.

“Whose deal?”

 

Next Story in the Scenes From Our Next Life Series:

A Good Life

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10 thoughts on “Younger (by PSW)”

  1. Thought I had commented on this lovely vignette. Catalina seems to fit so well, not just as a mate for Joe but also as a balm for a family who has loved, lost and endured. No wonder she captured Ben’s heart. as well. Maybe one day you’ll give us more of her story. 🙂 P.S. Thanks for bringing Adam home!

    1. I hope to! I’ve done a lot of the background research/planning for it, and hope to maybe start the writing around the first of the year. My goal is much the same as what you’ve said of your Jilly stories — for it to be not primarily about her, but about the Cartwright family with her included. (fingers crossed)

      I’ve always believed that Adam would come home. I think his leaving for a time makes perfect sense … but I just can’t picture him leaving forever …

      Thanks so much for your comments, I appreciate them!

  2. Nicely done. The paragraph following Jamie’s assertion that he’s younger now is stunning. I actually read this before its prequel and went there, hoping to understand more about Catalina and how she won Ben’s heart, but I’m still wondering. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. This scene is just crystal clear in my head — I can see it almost like I’m looking at a picture.

      As I said in my response to your Like You Were review, I hope to have their story started soon(ish). It will explain these questions, and hopefully more …

      Thanks again for reading, and for your lovely comments!

  3. So much happens to this family, it’s good to remember they can relax and have fun. Loved the bit about the feet on the table: it was always a losing cause but Ben didn’t know it.

    1. Yes … in fact, this little series is (in my own head) about them relearning how to live and have fun after all that they’ve collectively been through. This snippet gave me a kind of warm fuzzy feeling when I wrote it — it sounds like a fun evening to me … 😊

      Thanks so much for reading and letting me know you enjoyed!

  4. Joe’s second wife had conquered very quickly and without effort a heart already disposed to love her.

    Loved that line – great story

  5. Loved this little glimpse of family life. Definitely “younger” than they were. We needed more scenes like this in the series.

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