Summary: How many mistakes could he make in one afternoon? A Chaps & Spurs Challenge and a Seedlings Challenge combined response.
Rating: K (1,415 words)
It’s about time for the sun to set, giving my little brother the chance to sneak back into the house. The tirade Hop Sing used to persecute him earlier this afternoon almost had me shaking in my own boots. In all the years this man has been an extended member of our family I’ve heard him threaten to go back to China on many occasions, but today was quite different. How I missed hearing him during the years I was away at college. But now that I’m back home, the familiar sounds of Hop Sing’s robust way of watching over my family is most welcome.
I know Hoss has helped hide Little Joe somewhere outside, considering Hop Sings’ diatribe was also directed towards him. How the two of them can get into so much trouble in one day simply astounds me. It will be a miracle if Joe survives to reach his teens; it will be a miracle if WE survive the years of his teens; he’s not even twelve yet.
We didn’t know a storm was brewing, until we reached home. I had spent an enjoyable, yet long, day in the saddle in an effort to allow Pa to show me many of the improvements and additions that had been made during my time away. Like a father showing off his infant son or his Harvard educated son, Pa was proud of the prosperity of the Ponderosa. All the hardships and heartaches were behind him… us. Almost… And that’s the crux of the matter or rather why Hop Sing greeted us as soon as we walked in the door, hands to his head as if in pain, declaring, “No more! Hop Sing work hard! Hop Sing cook good meal for family. No more! All gone! Hop Sing go where little boy and bigger boy show respect!”
And it was at that moment that the two alleged culprits, unfortunately, decided to make an appearance per chance to plead their case. Mistake number one.
Hop Sing didn’t give either of my brothers the chance to speak, vociferously announcing, “You tricked me!” and from there his voice rose in anger. His invective began in Canontese and when his language didn’t have a word to express his outrage he threw in a word or two in English; whether the word was correct or not.
Not being able to get a word in edgewise, Pa and I stood to the side in silent witness as the events unfolded. Hoss looked properly chastised over the whole ordeal as his favorite cook berated him; waggling his forefinger and emphasizing his point by poking my middle brother in the chest. Hoss’ face had almost turned beet red as he hung his head, accepting the verdict of his guilt.
Every now and then I caught a word here or there from our trusted housekeeper and cook who proclaimed of dire consequences, probably for offences past, present, and future… if I’m not mistaken.
“Numba two son no get dessert tonight.”
But Joe… Little Joe had the audacity to actually stand there, with both hands over his mouth, his eyes open wide. Anyone else would think his actions were a result of shock from suffering Hop Sing’s wrath, but those green eyes spoke volumes. It wasn’t shock, he was laughing! Mistake number two, and the lecture changed focus to him.
Even though he doesn’t know for what, I know that Pa is just as upset at my younger brothers as is Hop Sing; how could he not be. Pa has always instilled in us to respect one’s elders and our employees.
‘Hiding guilt’ and ‘bring father shame’ were only a few of the choice phrases I could understand while hands on the end of arms pointed every which direction with blurring speed. Our factotum towered over the smallest member of our family who now stood staring straight up, fisted hands on hips, a posture I knew so well even after being gone for over four years… defiance. Oh Joe… that’s your third mistake.
And then I heard, as Marie would have said, the pièce de résistance, “Numba three son no get dessert for rest of week!”
Pa and I looked to each other; Pa wasn’t amused as he crossed his arms and waited.
With that, Hop Sing grabbed Joe by the ear and led him back to the bath house Pa had built on to the exterior of the house in anticipation of my return. Pa had built a small bathing room during the original construction of the house, as an accommodation for Marie… But now that all three of his sons were growing, well at least two were growing and one just remained small, Pa had expanded the room to serve our needs, and his own.
Joe yowled louder than any alley cat I’d heard back in Boston or louder than any woman in a… Um… best I not say. Walking on the tips of his toes, he had no choice in the manner but to follow regardless of how loud he begged or pleaded or carried on.
Hoss glumly left the great room and went outside as Pa and I still stood somewhat dumbfounded as to exactly what happened. And then came the great crash and splash.
“HOSS!!! SAVE ME!” came the piercing shriek that could only be Little Joe, as footfalls announced someone was running.
“Shall we?” I asked Pa.
“Leave him to Hoss. Let’s see to Hop Sing.”
Flabbergasted would be an acceptable word to describe Pa and I as we entered the bath house to find a still clothed Hop Sing where he had fallen or been pushed by my little brother. I know I expected the slight of stature Oriental man to be red in the face with anger, but there he was blushing and laughing.
As Pa held out both hands to pull Hop Sing from the filled bath tub, the man calmly replied, “Now Hop Sing get peace and quiet and finish cooking suppa.” Still giggling, Hop Sing left the room.
“It is rather peaceful…” I offered.
“For now,” Pa answered.
“I’ll defer to you, the bath is all yours.”
When we finally sat down to the table for dinner, Joe had yet to make an appearance. The only thing that Hoss said was the Joe would be okay and that he’d make sure the boy ate something when he came back.
Pa was flustered, I was curious, and Hoss was… hungry.
From the lack of sounds coming from the kitchen, we knew that Hop Sing had finally retired for the night while the three of us sat in the great room. Silently I watched as the light from the fireplace bathed the room in a warm glow, and it was killing me how Pa could sit there and not ask Hoss for a complete explanation of the afternoon’s debacle. But then I heard the noise, what Pa had been waiting to hear, the slight sound of an upstairs window being opened and the tapping of small boots on the floor above. A few moments later, a door hissed open and the boots continued down the hallway and sounded along the back stairs. So… Joe was returning to the scene of the crime.
With the look that only Pa could give, silently he warned Hoss to sit still and not say one word. Pa rose from his chair and I, mischievously, followed. From the entrance to the kitchen we watched as Joe fixed a sandwich and then cut out a thick slice of chocolate cake. Both were set to a tray along with two glasses of milk. Two? Now we knew, the sandwich was for Hoss and the cake was for the thief.
Pa stepped through the kitchen entry and walked across the floor. A firm hand was placed on Joe’s shoulder before he lifted the tray, thankfully, because as high as Joe jumped, there would have been a terrible mess for someone to have to clean up.
“Uh… hi Pa.”
How can the kid stand there while looking and sounding so innocent?
“Practice,” Hop Sing said from the doorway to his room.
“How did you know what I was thinking?”
Hop Sing smiled, “Practice,” and then returned to his room.
“Adam, if you’ll take care of the tray; I’ll take care of this young man.”
Joe gulped hard, that look of innocence disappeared.
Mistake number four, Joe. When will you ever learn?
~The End (or is it the beginning?)
The Seedling Challenge prompt was: ‘You tricked me’
The Chaps & Spurs Challenge prompt was of a frustrated Hop Sing.