Summarys: It’s time for Ben to have the discussion with Little Joe.
Word Count: 1,675
Adam walked casually into the ranch house, tossing his hat onto the credenza as he entered.
“Is that you Adam?” Ben called, prying his eyes from the documents in front of him.
“Yeah, it’s me Pa,” Adam called back. “You still working on that logging contract?”
Ben sighed heavily and put down his pen. Bookwork had never been his forte and, if truth be known, he would far rather be riding fence with Adam than sitting at his desk all day.
Adam walked into view and raised an eyebrow as he looked at his father’s forlorn face. “Not a good day, I take it?”
“You take it right,” Ben reiterated. “I can’t get these figures to balance no matter how I try.”
“Don’t worry, Pa,” Adam said magnanimously. “I’ll take a look at the contract after supper and see if I can get it to work out. A fresh pair of eyes is always good.”
Ben sighed with relief. He hated to admit it, but Adam was far better at the administration side of the business than he ever would be.
“Thanks, Adam, I would really appreciate it,” Ben said, trying not to appear too enthusiastic. After all, he didn’t want his eldest son thinking he could do everything around here better than the old man.
“By the way, were your brothers doing their chores when you rode up? They’ve been out there an awful long time.”
“Hmm, I was going to talk to you about that, Pa,” Adam said, a slight smirk appearing on his face. “The boys didn’t hear me ride up; they were too busy having a conversation together in the barn.”
“Oh” Ben said, his curiosity aroused. “What are they up to now?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say they were up to anything, but from what I heard, I think it’s about time you had a talk with Little Joe.”
“Little Joe,” Ben frowned. “It’s not a week since we had our last little talk and I would have thought that one would have left enough of an impression on him to last at least another month or so.”
Adam laughed out loud. “Not that sort of talk, Pa,” he said with a shake of his head. “I was thinking more of a ‘birds and bees’ kind of talk.”
A shocked expression appeared on Ben’s face. “Why? What’s he been saying? Joe’s only eleven and I would have thought that talk could wait a year or two yet.”
“If you think so, Pa,” Adam smiled. “But Little Joe’s growing up, and much as you don’t want to, you’re going to have to face it at some time.”
“But why now? Why today?” Ben asked, not at all convinced that Little Joe was ready for the facts of life at such a tender age.
“Just what I heard,” Adam repeated. “He was telling Hoss how he knew all about it.”
“All about what?”
“All about babies,” Adam smirked. “He says his friend Tommy told him all about where babies come from…….and, more to the point, how they got there. Just thought you would want to talk to the boy and make sure he had his facts right, that’s all.”
This wasn’t a new experience for Ben; after all, he had had similar discussions with his elder sons when they hit puberty, but somehow Little Joe seemed so much younger for his years. “I’m still not convinced Joe is ready, Adam; he’s still very young.”
“Hoss and I were about his age when you explained everything to us,” Adam pointed out.
“Yes I know,” Ben acceded. “But you and Hoss were far more mature than Little Joe — not only mentally, but physically as well. I can’t see him hitting puberty for a few years yet.”
“Well, like I said, it’s up to you, Pa,” Adam said with a shrug of his shoulders. “But you always said to me that knowledge came with responsibilities, and if Little Joe has the knowledge, he’s going to have to understand the responsibilities that go with it.”
Ben didn’t like it, but Adam was right; he really would have to speak with his youngest son. “Okay, Adam, if you and Hoss make yourselves scarce after supper, I’ll talk to him then.”
Little Joe didn’t know what was up with his Pa. He had been looking at him strangely all night and Joe was beginning to think he must have done something wrong. His fears were confirmed when Adam and Hoss quickly disappeared after supper and left him and Ben alone.
Walking over to the couch, Ben sat down and patted the cushion next to him. “Come and sit here, Joseph,” Ben instructed. “You and I need to have a little chat.”
“S-s-something wrong, Pa?” Joe asked tentatively.
“No nothing’s wrong, son,” Ben reassured. “I just think it’s time you and I had a talk….man to man, as it were.”
Joe’s eyes almost popped out of his head; adults could be so contrary. Only last night, Pa told him not to act like a baby when he whined on about Hoss having more apple pie than him; then this morning, Ben made it very clear that Joe was too young to go to the dance on Saturday night with his brothers and now his father wanted a man to man talk. He really wished adults would make their mind up what they wanted.
Still not convinced he wasn’t in for a lecture, Joe sat down gingerly next to his father and tucked his hands under his knees, for want of a better place to put them.
“Now, Joseph,” Ben began. “You have certainly grown up a lot over the last year.”
“Three inches,” Joe informed him proudly.
“Yes, well, I wasn’t just talking about your height,” Ben continued, trying hard to stifle his laughter. “You are growing up in other ways as well; soon your body will start to change and you will begin to grow into a man.”
“Like shaving and stuff?” Joe interrupted, beginning to find the conversation interesting.
“I don’t think we are quite at the shaving stage yet, Joe,” Ben said tactfully, much to Joe’s disappointment. “But there are a few things I think we need to talk about; you know, grown up things.”
“Like what, Pa?” Joe asked, looking up with such innocence that Ben again thought the conversation was far too soon for the youngster.
“I was thinking about babies,” Ben said slowly.
“Babies!” Joe repeated. “I thought you wanted to talk about grown up things.”
This was not going well and Ben decided to find out just how much knowledge Joe did have before divulging any information he thought his young son was better off not knowing. “Joseph, do you know where babies come from?”
Joe giggled childishly. “Course I do; everyone knows they come out of ladies tummies Pa.”
“And do you know how they got there?” Ben asked tentatively, unsure of Joe’s reaction.
Joe pulled a face. “Yeah I know, Tommy Burns told me.”
“And what did Tommy tell you?”
“Well you know,” Joe replied awkwardly, screwing up his face in disgust. “A guy puts his i-i-in….in the girl’s….wiggles it about….a-a-and she has a baby.”
Ben swallowed hard; thank goodness Adam had spoken to him. He now wished he himself had told Joseph the facts of life sooner. The intimacy between a man and woman should have been explained to his young son in a loving and moral way. As it was, Joe seemed naturally upset at being given the basic facts with no guidance and Ben hoped he could undo the damage that had been done.
“Joe, the intimacy between a man and woman is something special. Maybe if I explain it better you will understand.”
Joe pulled another face; he wasn’t going to be swayed by anything his Pa said. “Well I ain’t ever going to do it,” he said adamantly. “There’s no way I’m putting my tongue in a girl’s mouth.”
“Tongue?” Ben asked, feeling confused. “What did you say about your tongue?”
“Tongues, Pa,” Joe repeated raising his eyes to the ceiling. “Tommy Burns said that’s how you get babies, by putting your tongue in a girl’s mouth.”
Ben started to laugh but quickly covered up his laughter with a cough. His youngest son really was such an innocent after all.
Joe wasn’t fooled; his Pa was laughing at him and he had a suspicion he knew why.
“Pa,” Joe said questioningly. “Is that not how you make babies?”
Ben quickly pulled himself together and turned to face the small boy who was looking to him for an answer.
“No, Joe, that’s not how babies are made,” Ben confirmed. “If you think you are ready, I can explain to you properly just how you do have babies.”
Joe thought about this for a moment and shook his head. “No thanks, Pa, I don’t think I really want to know. Is it okay if I go to bed now?”
Ben smiled warmly and pulling his young son towards him he kissed his forehead. “Goodnight, Joseph, sleep well.”
“Night, Pa,” Joe said and headed up to bed.
Sitting back on the couch, Ben watched his young son slowly climb the stairs. Adam had been wrong; Joe wasn’t ready for a ‘birds and bees’ talk. The boy hadn’t shown any interest in girls and Ben was relieved to let him remain an innocent for a few years yet.
Ben looked up to see Little Joe standing on the landing. “Yes, son.”
“I’m really glad that’s not how you have babies,” Joe said with conviction. “I mean, who would want to do something as horrible as that. I had hoped you got babies like the cattle do…..that looks way more interesting!”
Ben’s chin dropped to his chest, and for all of five seconds, he was speechless, but then…… “Joseph, can you come back downstairs please????”