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:
“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.
Next Story in the Scenes From Our Next Life Series: