Word count: 1250
“JOSEPH FRANCIS CARTWRIGHT!!!“ came the shout from upstairs. Twelve-year-old Little Joe was so surprised by it that he nearly fell from his chair at the breakfast table. ‘Boy, Adam sure sounds mad,’ he thought as he eased himself from the table.
Ben grabbed his arm and asked, “Joseph, what on earth did you do to your brother this time?”
Before Little Joe had a chance to answer, Adam ran down the stairs and quickly made his way to the table.
“Now hold on, Adam,” Ben said as he placed himself between his two sons. “Just calm down, son, and tell me what happened.”
“Pa, baby brother there has completely covered my room with …with FROGS!! They’re everywhere,” Adam said, reaching inside his shirt and removing one very large slimy frog.
“Ribbettt,” called the offender.
“Let me at him, Pa!!!” Adam yelled as he tried to reach around his father.
“Now, just hold on, Adam. Joseph?” Ben questioned, as he pulled the little boy in front of him. “Son, did you put the frogs in your brothers’ room?” It was all that Ben could do to keep a straight face, especially when the green guest continued to voice his opinion.
“Yes, Pa, but it was only a joke,” came a small voice.
“Joseph, how many discussions have we had about your jokes and being in your brother’s room without permission?”
“Yes, a lot, yet you just keep on doing it , don’t you?”
“Yes sir. I’m really sorry, Pa.”
“I’m not the one you should tell, am I?”
“No sir. I’m sorry, Adam,” Joe said as he chanced a look at his brother’s face under lowered lashes.
“Apology accepted, but I want to know what his punishment is, Pa. This is the second time this week that he has pulled a prank on me,” Adam said as he stood holding the green menace out in front of him.
Turning to Little Joe, Ben said, “First you are to march yourself up to Adam’s room and get all those frogs out of this house.”
“Yes, Pa,” Joe answered with his head lowered.
“Then you are to go to your room and wait.”
“Yes sir,” Little Joe said taking the frog from his brother and turning to the stairs to make his way to Adam’s room. ‘I knew he’d be mad, but I sure didn’t think it would get me a tannin’. Joe thought to himself.
“Adam will be up to ‘talk’ with you when you finish his room.”
Looking at his father with pleading eyes, Joe asked. “Couldn’t you come up instead of Adam, please?”
“No son, you have to learn to respect your brothers and their things. Now go on and get busy young man.”
Seeing the smirk on Adams face, Little Joe dropped his head and went upstairs.
After Joe was well out of sight, Ben turned to Adam and said, “Son, just remember that he is only twelve and he’s your brother. You are to only use your hand and keep in mind that it was only frogs.”
“I know that, Pa. Don’t worry I wouldn’t hurt him for the world, just sting him right good,” Adam said as he patted his father on the back.
By the time that breakfast was over, Little Joe came down stairs with a box full of frogs.
“Pa?” came a quiet little voice.
“Can I take them down to the creek and let them go?”
“No, Hoss will take care of them for you. Just sit the box on the porch and go to your room,” Ben said as he looked the sad little face of his youngest.
“Yes sir,” Joe said and did as his Pa told him.
Upon hearing the bedroom door close, Ben turned to Adam and said, “Son, it’s time that you took care of the business you have upstairs. Just remember what I said.”
“Yes sir,” Adam said as he stood up to leave the table. “Pa, does he have to stay in his room after or can he come down with me? I was going to take him out to the corral to see the new horses this morning.”
“That’s up to you, son,” Ben said, knowing that Adam was having second thoughts about this now that he was calmer.
“Pa, you sure that I should be the one to do this? Maybe you should.”
“No Adam, he needs to understand that he can’t continue to do these things. Maybe this will convince him how you feel about it. I know it’s not easy. It never has been with any of you, but it has to be done.”
“I guess you’re right,” Adam conceded and made his way upstairs.
Little Joe was pacing his room thinking about his upcoming ‘talk’ with Adam. Sure Adam had spanked him before, but it was usually just a couple of swats here and there and he had a pretty good wallop, like Pa. But this was the first time that he had to wait on him for a ‘talk’.
It was only seconds later that Little Joe looked up to see Adam walk in. Joe immediately dropped his head and put his hand behind his back.
Adam sat down in the chair and asked his little brother to come to him. Joe slowly walked over and stood before his brother. Cupping his chin in his hand and meeting the tear filled green eyes Adam asked, “Little Joe, do you understand why you’re in trouble?”
“Do you have anything to say before we continue?”
“Just that I’m sorry that I made ya so mad.”
“Do you understand that this is to end now? No more pranks like this?”
” ‘Kay, Adam.”
“Then let’s get this over with,” Adam said as he turned Little Joe over his knee and gave him ten hard swats. Finished, he stood him up and looked at his little brother with tears running down his face, and his heart melted. “Come here, little buddy,” he said as he took him in his arm. “I love you, baby.”
“I…love you…too… Adam,” Little Joe said between sobs.
Adam pulled his baby brother back and looked into his glistening green eyes and downcast face. “Hey, little buddy, it’s over now and all is forgiven. So why don’t you and I go down to the corral and check out the new horses that I have to break? What do you think?”
“You mean I don’t gotta stay up here all day?”
“Nope, Pa said it was up to me and as far as I’m concerned the spanking was enough. Now if it had been snakes, you’d have been up here all week,” Adam said as a big grin came across his handsome face. Seeing the big smile and the twinkle in his brothers eyes, he added, “Don’t even think about it little boy.”
“I wouldn’t do that to ya Adam, I’ll save that one for Hoss,” Joe giggled.
“I wouldn’t, little brother; he’d clobber you.”
“Just kiddin’ Adam, let’s go.” Joe said as he pulled on his big brother’s arm. “Hey Adam, which one can I break?”
“JOSEPH FRANCIS CARTWRIGHT!!!!” yelled Ben who had overheard from his desk.
“Just joshin’ Pa,” he called as ran from the house.
Ben and Adam looked at each other and shook their heads.