Synopsis: It’s a difficult task, but someone has to do it.
Word Count: 880
The clock by the door ticked away the early morning minutes. With every soft click, Pa’s temper grew. His fingers drummed the matching beat, seeming awfully close to the sound of a military execution. Hoss sat at the table, his eyes fixed on his empty plate with a forlorn expression. I felt a pang of sympathy for my bigger little brother. Breakfast was ready and waiting, and it was all younger brother’s fault.
I watched Pa’s frown deepen, his eyebrows practically reaching the bridge of his nose. Hop Sing stomped into the room, his scowl matching Pa’s. He muttered something about ungrateful boys and threatened yet again to go back to China. Hoss didn’t even look up from his plate.
Joseph should learn to at least get up on time. Pa expects us to be on time, dressed and ready for breakfast. Not bright eyed and bushy tailed, mind you. Just alert enough to say “Yes, Pa” and get our assignments for the day.
I took a look at my fellow waiters. Pa didn’t seem too eager to fetch his wayward son. Hoss was only thinking of how full he would heap his plate when that dadburned brother of ours finally made his appearance. Hop Sing was too busy clattering around in the kitchen threatening to carry out his threats. It seemed I was elected once again.
I gave a deep sigh in frustration at my brother. What a nuisance he was sometimes. “I’ll fetch him.” I stood from the table and made my way up the stairs without a sound from anyone, except the pots from the kitchen.
Coming to Joe’s door, I knocked softly, hoping he would be on his way down. The only answer was an equally soft snore from the other side.
Rolling my eyes, I opened the door. Joe was sprawled over his bed on his stomach, a content smile on his face. One arm curled under his pillow to give his head extra support. Aww. How sweet.
“Joe?” I called a little louder this time. Joe gave a grumble and shifted to his side. It reminded me of the boy Joe had been only a few years ago. I almost started to tuck the blankets around him when I remembered why I was there.
After a moment of thought, I grabbed the covers and yanked. He was still fully dressed, except for his boots and hat. Younger Brother gave a shiver and curled up tighter. I’m sure I had a perplexed expression on my face. I know my brows furrowed in confusion, at least. Joe usually jumped out of bed the second anyone stole his warm blankets from him. The added mystery of his attire rose a bit of concern in the back of my mind. Was he sick?
Then it hit me, quite literally and figuratively actually. As I bent over to check his forehead, Joe turned over to his other side, his arms sprawling out and catching me in the jaw. As I rubbed my cheek, I remembered the muffled sounds of Joe’s entrance late last night (or early this morning, however you prefer). He had gone out for a night on the town after bedtime, without Pa’s knowledge or permission I was willing to bet. I could feel my mouth tug into a wicked smile.
Dropping the blankets in a heap on the floor, I searched around the room, looking for something to give my brother the rude awakening he deserved. After a few seconds, I found it. Joe’s wash basin. Moving quickly, I tried to muffle the click of my boots. Now that I had a plan I didn’t want Younger Brother to spoil my fun.
Picking up the basin, I swirled the bit of leftover water around. My smile broadened as I submerged a cautious fingertip. Freezing cold.
I shook my finger dry and wiped my hand on my pant leg. Not very gentlemen like, but it was only water. Carefully, I stood between the still open door and the head of Joe’s bed. I wanted to make sure I could make a hasty retreat before Joe could throw something at me. After this, I almost wouldn’t blame him if he did.
“Joseph!” I called in my sweetest, sing-song tone. “Time for Breakfast, Little Brother!” Joe mumbled something, only curling up a bit tighter.
I silently counted to three and threw the contents of the basin in Joe’s face. I heard a sputter and a yell that could rival an Indian war cry. I spun on my heel and sprinted out into the hall. Closing the door quickly, I leaned against it, basking in my success. I heard the thunk of an object land on the door. I was right about Joe’s form of retaliation.
I set the basin down carefully before taking a breath. With no great hurry, I walked back down the stairs and took my seat at the table.
Pa gave me a curious look, wondering what in tarnation was going on up there, no doubt. I just gave a smile as I placed my napkin in my lap once more.
“Joe’ll be down in a minute, Pa. What’s for breakfast?”