Synopsis: Readers can thank Elvis Presley for inspiring this story. When the pain and the hurt are still fresh, can a memory shine bright?
Word Count: 1,125
A bright blue sky greeted Ben Cartwright as he exited his home. Stepping to the wooden front porch, coffee cup in hand, he welcomed the promise of this new day. For too long, depressing gray skies had hung over the Ponderosa. Inhaling the fragrance of the budding roses, memories swept over him.
Returning from a long day working the cattle herds on their ever-expanding land, a dust-coated and sweaty Ben handed Buck to the ranch hand who greeted him in front of the barn.
“Long day Mr. Cartwright?” asked the grizzled old man, posture stooped and walking with bowed legs.
“You can say that.” Ben sighed; stretching his back before striding across the hard-packed ground to the front porch entrance of his home.
The sun had dropped behind the western mountain range, yet the sky still held a faint hint of blue /gray that occurred before turning black.
Closing the heavy door behind him, he stopped at the sideboard long enough to divest himself of his gun belt and hat before acknowledging the ‘shhhh’ coming from farther inside the great room. Eyebrows arched at seeing Hop Sing sitting in the chair his sons proclaimed as Ben’s; a small boy with curly brown hair asleep in his lap.
“Long day fo numba twee son,” Hop Sing spoke in stilted English, arms wrapped around his charge.
Ben reached forward to take his youngest son. “I’m sorry if he caused any trouble.”
Shaking his head, “Lit’le Joe no cause twouble. No, fatha have other duty.”
Looking around, Ben queried, “Where’s Hoss? Is he upstairs?”
“Hop Sing think he go see Missy Cartwright. Boys have difficult day.”
“Will you keep my supper warm?”
Hop Sing nodded.
With his own heart still grieving, he understood. Placing a hand on the mop of his son’s head, “I love you Little Joe.”
From where he sat on his eldest son’s horse, Beauty, Ben barely discerned Hoss’ form in the dark of the landing at Marie’s grave site. Closer, he saw his son wipe a sleeve across his face.
“Hoss?” Ben dismounted, dropping the reins.
“Pa?” Hoss stood. Looking to his feet, “I’m sorry if’n I worried ya. I know I shoulda been home.”
Ben watched his eleven-year old son walk across the needle-strewn land, “Hop Sing told me where you were.” Using his right hand he lifted the boy’s chin. “I take it you had a bad day?”
“You can say that.” Teary eyes looked up.
“Would you like to talk about your day?” Ben lowered his hand.
“No sir, I think we best get back home, ‘fore Little Joe gets to cryin’ again.”
A hand to the shoulder prevented his son from walking past. “I think Joseph will be fine with Hop Sing. He was sleeping when I left.”
“We don’t have to talk, Pa.”
Ben led his son back to Marie’s grave and sat down. “Hoss, please son. Have a seat.”
Making himself as comfortable as possible, Hoss sat and fiddled with the pine needles. “I don’t wanna make ya sad Pa.”
“Are you afraid I’ll go away again?”
Hoss shrugged his shoulders, not daring to look up.
“Talk to me son.” Ben reached over, taking Hoss’ hand in his. “I promise you, I won’t leave you. Not like I did. I might have to leave for business on occasion, but you’ll know where I am at all times.”
Ben waited. He regretted how his misery had driven him away, leaving all three of his sons to manage their grief by themselves. Trust was re-established before Adam had left for college; at his age he could accept the why of Ben’s absence. Only time would tell if love would overcome the hurt he’d inflicted on his youngest boys during the two months he’d been gone.
“It’s not the same is it?” Hoss looked to the tombstone; unable to prevent the tears, his breath hitched.
“No, it’s not.” Using a thumb, he wiped away the tears streaming down Hoss’ face. “She’ll always be with us. Your mother will always be in our hearts.”
“That’s what Adam said.”
“And you’re missing Adam too, aren’t you?” Ben pulled Hoss to lean into him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
“Yes sir. Sometimes,” Hoss raggedly inhaled, fighting his mourning. “Sometimes it feels like he’s died too, only there ain’t no grave to visit.”
“I guess I can see how it would feel that way. But you know, Adam left to fulfill his dream of continuing his education. He’ll be back.”
“I know that, but he’s always been here for me.” Hoss sniffled, wiping his sleeve under his nose to stop it from running. “I just wish I could feel like I did before Mama died.”
Father and son sat quietly, allowing the sound of the lapping water to sooth their sorrow.
“Sometimes I wish the same thing,” Ben whispered.
“Huh? You do?”
“Son, it’s easy to think of all we’ve lost; and that’s why I went away. But I came back. Do you know why?” Standing up, Ben motioned for Hoss to accompany him to the water’s edge, the moon reflected bright across the water. The image shimmered as the small waves danced over the shoreline.
“Because ya missed us?”
“Yes, I did miss the three of you. But I also realized that my dream was still alive. My sons were at home waiting for me. You, Adam, and Little Joe help lessen the grief. You’re the bright spots in my life.”
“Well…” Hoss picked up a flat pebble and threw it across the water, skipping three times before disappearing below the surface. “I don’t wanna forget Mama, and…” Hoss smiled as a memory brightened his face, “Mama liked the roses.”
“That she did. She always loved fresh-cut roses.” Mirroring his middle son, Ben reached down and picked up a pebble. Hoss giggled when the stone skipped five times before sinking.
“You think we could plant a rosebush so we can remember her?” Hoss asked, taking Ben’s hand before he headed to where Beauty patiently waited next to his horse Cocoa.
“I think that would be a wonderful way to remember your Mama.” Ben climbed into the saddle first, reaching down he pulled Hoss to sit behind him.
“Pa, can I go to the tradin’ post with ya some time and order a rosebush for Mama?”
“I think we can. Why don’t we take Joe and make it a family affair; I think Hop Sing would enjoy having help loading the supplies.”
Taking the pony’s reins in hand and turning for home, Ben felt his son waving and heard, “Bye Mama, we’re gonna plant roses as beautiful as you.”
“Yes Hoss, you were right. The roses are a beautiful reflection of Marie. But now they’ll be a reminder of your beautiful soul.” Rocking in the chair, tears streamed down Ben’s face. “Oh how I miss you both.”
Please forgive me for not including the Series in the Summary, I didn’t want to give away the ending of the story. I hope you’ll forgive me.
Author’s Note: And I’ve Got Mine…was the first story written, followed by Momma Liked the Roses, and What We Didn’t Choose, and lastly, Always in what has become known as my Remembering Hoss Series. The Series is listed in chronological order below
Remembering Hoss Series:
End Note: Mama Liked the Roses, recorded by Elvis Presley, composed by John L. Christopher.
Author’s note: I don’t remember if it was canon or fanon that claimed Marie planted the rose trellis on the front porch. If it was canon, please forgive this variation on how the roses came to be, this is how my muse inspired me after hearing Elvis singing.