Word Count: 1200
Hop Sing sighed. It had to be done and he knew that it was the most expeditious way to do it. He sat down on the wooden kitchen chair, took eleven-year-old Little Joe Cartwright by the arm and pulled him across his knees bottom end up.
“But the fellas are waitin’ fer me,” the youngest Cartwright son protested trying to wiggle out of the Chinese cook’s grasp as he reached down and retrieved something from the basket that sat on the floor beside him.
“You want ‘fellas’ see your drawers through tear in seat of pants?” Hop Sing deftly jabbed the needle into the thick denim without jabbing Little Joe or his drawers and pulled it and the thread on through.
Joe suddenly realized how embarrassing that would be! “No,” he said shaking his head.
“Then stay still while I fix,” Hop Sing made another stitch to anchor his thread. “Or I stick you instead of pants.”
“Okay,” Joe reluctantly agreed putting his hands on the kitchen floor to steady himself. “But hurry up ‘cause the fellas…”
“Fellas can wait a little longer,” Hop Sing pulled the frayed edges of the fabric together so they met and folded them with his thumb just a bit so they overlapped.
“But we’re supposed to …”
“Father say you not go with fellas,” Hop Sing frowned down at the back of Little Joe’s pants contemplating whether he should just use a patch instead. “Say you stay home and do chores.”
“Aw, Hop Sing, I’ll be back in plenty of time ta do ‘em ‘fore he gets back from Carson City,” Joe shifted his position slightly.
“Uh-ha,” Hop Sing nodded, thinking. “And what if you not?”
“I’ll think of something.” Joe grinned mischievously back at the Chinese cook. “Don’t worry.”
“What you gonna do anyway with fellas?” There was a note of suspicion in Hop Sing’s voice.
“Oh, I don’t know. We’ll do what Johnny says…,” Joe paused, then turned away abruptly.
It was obvious to the Chinaman that the eleven-year-old knew exactly what ‘the fellas’ were going to do but was not about to offer the information. “I know,” Hop Sing grumbled nodding his head. “You get in trouble. Then Father in bad mood and yell at Hop Sing.” He finally decided that since the pants had seen better days, he would just whip stitch them to finish off the edge.
In the meantime, Little Joe’s father Ben Cartwright, back from Carson City, was just about to enter the kitchen when the sight of his youngest upended over the Chinaman’s lap caused him to stop dead in his tracks. Before he could ask what in the world was going on, he noticed Hop Sing sewing and heard Hop Sing ask, “Little Joe always do what Johnny say?” He settled himself against the doorframe to listen to this since he was pretty sure that Johnny MacAllister had been the primary cause of Little Joe’s change in attitude lately.
“All the guys do,” Joe said matter-of-factly. “Ain’t ya almost done?”
“Couple minutes,” Hop Sing took about ten more stitches then asked, “Why you do what Johnny say?”
“I guess ‘cause he’s my friend,” Joe said matter-of-factly.
“Father friend too. Why not do what Father say then?”
I’d like to know that, too, Ben said to himself.
“It just is, that’s all.”
“You afraid that friends not like you if not do what say?”
Joe thought a moment and answered slowly, “Maybe.”
“Hmmm… Not afraid that Father not like you if you not do what he say?”
This question caught Ben totally off guard, as it also appeared to do to his eleven-year-old son.
“’Course not,” Joe shook his head. “He’s my Pa…he’s got to like me.”
“Sometimes you do not like Father…”
Hop Sing managed to catch them both off guard again.
“When he tans me and gives me chores…” Joe tried to qualify the cook’s statement.
“But still love him, right?”
“S-s-sure.” Joe hesitated again since he was at the age when it was hard to openly acknowledge that to anyone, even his trusted friend Hop Sing.
“Father love you, too, but he sometimes does not like you much either when you do not do what he say,” Hop Sing paused as he spied Ben leaning against the doorway listening, his arms crossed over his chest. He did not acknowledge his presence just then. He kept right on stitching Little Joe’s pants.
Joe, however, couldn’t see Ben from the position he was in. To Ben, he appeared to be genuinely mulling over Hop Sing’s statement that his Pa sometimes “did not like” him much either. Was that true?
Hop Sing finally smiled at his employer, made another stitch and continued. “You know, Father only wants what is best for you. Punishes you to make you good man when you grow up. Gives you chores to make you good man also.”
“But Pa makes me do chores when I want to be with my friends,” Joe sighed.
“Don’t think Father would rather be with friends than work so you have nice place to live and food to eat?”
“Never thought of it that way,” Joe admitted frowning.
“All done,” Hop Sing finally broke off the thread and gave the seat of Joe’s pants a solid swat. “You stay fixed now.”
Ben suppressed the chuckle that almost gave his presence away and slipped back out of sight but still within earshot.
Joe jumped to his feet but instead of an angry response about the assault on his backside as Hop Sing and Ben expected based on his recent behavior, he smiled broadly rubbing his behind. “Thank you, Hop Sing. You saved my butt more than you know.”
“Hop Sing happy to fix Little Joe,” Hop Sing smiled back at the eleven year old. “Now best get to chores before Father returns.”
“Yes, sir,” Joe started to leave but stopped. “Could you let me know when he comes in, Hop Sing? I have something I need to tell him.”
“If water plants on porch, Hop Sing will,” Hop Sing was going to do this before Joe’s pants crisis interrupted him but he thought this might give Ben a few more minutes to get outside so he would be ready for whatever it was that Joe wanted to tell him.
Ben immediately surmised this, mouthed “thank you” to Hop Sing, and left as the cook handed the metal pitcher to Little Joe and directed him to fill it using the kitchen pump.
Five minutes later, Little Joe found Ben in the barn giving Buck a very much needed rubdown while Buck munched on a ration of oats. And the something he needed to tell his Pa after he gave him a ‘welcome home’ hug? Well, you can be sure that it had something to do with Hop Sing fixing him when he fixed his pants.