Summary: Little Joe needs a little extra care.
Rated: K WC 1300
“I need a glass of water, Mama.”
“But, Joseph, you’ve already had two glasses of water!”
“I’m firsty, Mama.”
“Alright, chéri. Here you are.”
Little Joe drank his third glass of water slowly and Marie was at odds as to whether he was trying to make it last all night long or if he was so full, he was actually ready to burst! He’d been lengthening his night time rituals for almost a week now and neither Marie nor Ben knew the reason why. A good sleeper since the age of one, this new pattern had his parents concerned, especially since his bedtime routine wasn’t all that had changed; he was suffering from frequent nightmares as well.
“Fank you, Mama. I really was firsty.”
“I see that you were! Bonne nuit, Little Joe. Sleep well.”
Marie Cartwright lovingly placed four kisses on her son’s forehead, another part of their nightly routine. As she stepped into the hallway and reached for the bedroom door, a tiny voice came from the lumps and bumps beneath the blue hand-stitched quilt.
“Leave the door open, Mama. Okay?”
“Of course, Joe. Good night!”
“Well?” Ben asked.
“Three glasses of water tonight. And, the bedroom door is to be left open…again,” Marie answered as she sat next to her husband on the settee.
“Something’s definitely weighing heavily on his mind. Boys? Are you sure he hasn’t said anything to either of you?”
“No, Pa. He ain’t said nothin’ ta me,” Hoss replied.
“Me either, Pa. I came right out and asked him yesterday and he got all mad, kicked at the dirt and walked away mumbling,” Adam remarked.
“Mumbling? Could you make out what he said?” Marie asked.
“Something about being a stupid four-year-old baby, whatever that means!” Adam said before trying to focus his attention back to his favorite book.
“Yeah, whatever that means!” Hoss echoed.
“Hoss!” Adam slammed his book shut. “Will you please stop copying me!”
“I ain’t copyin’ ya, I was jist agreein’ with ya! Sometimes, Adam, yer so mean!” Hoss whined.
“Enough, you two!” Ben reprimanded.
“Sorry, Pa.” Adam said.
“Yeah. Sorry, P…I mean…jist…sorry.”
Marie fought to hide a smile as Hoss caught himself before once again repeating Adam’s exact words.
“I’ll talk to him tomorrow and see what I can find out. Darling, if he has a nightmare tonight, why don’t you let me get up with him. You didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“We’ll both tend to him, mon chéri. I am his Mama and I cannot ignore any of my children’s cries.”
Ben smiled at his wife knowing that she would do the same for Hoss and Adam.
“I know, my darling. I know.”
The next morning Ben and Marie sat yawning at the breakfast table after another sleep-deprived night with their youngest son and his nightmares. Hoss and Adam, both of whom had slept through Joe’s troubles, came thundering down the stairs and joined their parents.
“Pa, I looked in on Little Joe. He’s snoring just like Hoss!” Adam tattled.
“You take that back, Adam! I do not snore!” Hoss insisted, his chubby fists balled against his hips.
“Oh yeah you do!”
“I do not!”
“Enough, you two! Adam, we’ll let Joe sleep a bit longer. He had another nightmare last night.”
“Alright, Pa,” Adam chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” Ben wondered aloud.
“When I looked in on him, Joe was droolin’, just like Hoss!”
“I DO NOT DROOL!” Hoss cried.
“Yeah, you do!” Adam nodded.
“ENOUGH!” Ben growled.
“Why did ya aks me ta help ya in the barn today?”
“Well, I needed a strong pair of hands to help with these bales of hay…And Adam and Hoss are off at school…And your Mama…she’s just not as strong as you!”
“She’s not?” Joe squeeked.
“Well…let’s just say this is man’s work.”
“Okay, Pa.” Joe said as he puffed his little chest.
“You know, Joseph, when men work together, sometimes they talk about things,” Ben said as he tossed a hay bale up into the loft.
“Do you and Adam talk about fings when you work togever?”
“Yes, we do. Is there anything you’d like to talk about while we work?”
“Nope,” Joe said as he struggled with the rake.
“The word is ‘no’. Are you sure there isn’t anything bothering you?” Ben continued, hoping his interrogation would reveal the reason for Joe’s bad dreams.
“Well…Timmy n’ me…we was playin’ at his house. He has a new puppy! Didja know?”
“No, I didn’t know. Is that what you wanted to talk about? Timmy’s new puppy?” Ben asked.
“Oh no, Pa. See, we was playin’ wif the puppy he got for his birfday n’ Timmy telled me he got the puppy ‘cause he had monsters unner his bed n’ the monsters are gone now ‘cause he had that birfday n’he ain’t a baby no more,” Joe said, his voice filled with little-boy-fear.
“Monsters? Joseph, there are no such things as monsters!” Stopping his work, Ben squatted down to Joe’s level.
“But, Timmy said…”
“Timmy is…well…he’s mistaken.”
“But, what if he’s right? What if there’s monsters unner my bed too?” Even at his young age, it was obviously difficult for Joe to admit that he was afraid.
“Joseph, is that what you’ve been dreaming about?”
“Yes, Sir,” Little Joe said, his head hung in shame.
Ben laid a reassuring hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Son, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“But, Timmy said I’m still a baby ‘cause I ain’t five yet ‘n’ so I still have monsters!”
“Now calm down, Joseph. Come over here.” Ben sat on the chair in the corner of the barn. “Climb up in my lap. There ya go. First, you are not a baby! You’re a little boy! Why, look at those muscles in your arms!” Ben bragged.
Joe giggled as his father raised his tiny arms to admire the ‘muscles’.
“And Joe, I have an idea. Let’s go up in your room and look under your bed. Ya know what? We won’t find any monsters! And we’ll look again when you go to bed tonight, and we won’t find any then either!”
“Can Hoss n’ Adam look too, Pa?”
“Sure they can!” Ben smiled thinking how wonderful it was that Joe wanted to include his brothers.
“But, not Mama, ‘cause she’s a girl!” Joe giggled.
“Yes, she is! Now come on. Let’s go take a look!”
Ben took the tiny hand in his as Joe skipped as much from the joy of spending this time alone with his father as the effort necessary to keep up with Ben’s long stride.
That night, after all the ‘men’ of the house had checked under Little Joe’s bed, the entire family gathered to tuck the youngest member under his covers.
“Yes, Little Joe?”
“I don’t need no water tonight.” Joe announced, his little chest once again puffed-up proudly.
“I’m very glad to hear that, mon petit fils!”
“And I won’t be havin’ no nightmares ‘cause I ain’t a baby ‘n’ there ain’t no monsters on the Ponderosa! Well, just one.”
“WHAT?!” everyone cried.
Joe’s contagious giggle started slowly then went into full force as he wriggled in his bed and tried to speak between gasps for air.
“It’s just Hoss!” Joe rolled from side to side with laughter. “When he sleeps he snores n’ drools! He looks like…a monster!”
“See! I told ya!” Adam yelled.