Checkmate (by Territell)

Summary:  Ben’s explanation on sharing comes back to haunt him.
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  G
Word Count:  1,540


 

“Joseph…….Joseph! You come back here right now.”

Marie raised her eyebrows in amusement as her small defiant son ran into the house and over to his father’s desk before dropping to his knees and crawling beneath it.

Seconds later, an angry Ben strode into the house and scanned the room for his youngest. Marie nodded towards the desk as she could see her husband was in no mood for games.

Without another word, Ben walked over to the far end of the room, and bending down on his hunkers, he stretched his long arm under the desk to grasp hold of the little boy. Unfortunately for Ben, Little Joe had pushed himself as far back as possible and no matter how hard Ben tried he couldn’t reach him.

Standing up from the floor, Ben’s agitation was evident as he barked, “Joseph, you come out from under that desk immediately.”

No response.

“I’m warning you, Joseph,” Ben continued. “I’ll give you to the count of three to come out or else. One, Two……THREE.”

There was a slight shuffling from under the desk, but Joe did not appear.

“So help me, young man, you’re going to be mighty sorry when I get hold of you,” Ben said through gritted teeth. He couldn’t believe such defiance from a four year old.

Marie, ever the peacemaker, tried to sooth the situation. “Now Ben, you’re frightening him; he’s only a little boy.”

“You get him out then,” Ben challenged.

“Why all the upset anyway?” Marie wanted to know. She knew her young son could be rather mischievous, but usually her husband was quite tolerant of their youngest and it was unlike him to get into such a state.

“Matt Devlin is here,” Ben informed her. “He brought along his little boy about the same age as Joe and Joe refuses to play with him.”

“Is that all?” Marie asked incredulously.

“No, that’s not all,” Ben said in exasperation. “Joe was playing with his soldiers and I told him to share them with Mitch, whereupon he picked up the toys and flatly refused to let the child play.”

“Oh I see,” Marie said beginning to understand.

“No you don’t see, Marie. Our child has to learn to share, and when I insisted, he pushed Mitch to the ground and ran inside the house. I’ve never been so embarrassed.”

“Really, Ben, they’re just babies; you can’t expect them to behave like grownups.”

“He is not a baby, Marie; he is four years old, and he won’t defy me on this one,” Ben said, and to emphasise his point, he struck one hand across the other to indicate what he intended to do to his young son.

Ben was not a harsh man and he very rarely resorted to smacking Little Joe, even though his patience was sorely tested on many occasions, but one thing he did insist upon was respect and Joe had been very disrespectful and defiant in front of a visitor and that could not be tolerated.

“Where is Mr Devlin now?” Marie asked, hoping that Ben had not left their visitor standing outside.

“Oh, Adam’s taken him and Mitch to see the horses they are thinking of buying, but they’ll be back soon.”

“JOSEPH!” Ben called again, bending down to gaze at his young son’s pinched up face as he pushed himself further back under the desk.

“Now Ben,” Marie cajoled. “Don’t you think you are doing this all wrong? Little Joe has never had playmates of his own age. Hoss and Adam give in to him all the time; he really doesn’t understand about sharing. Wouldn’t it be better if you explained it to him rationally instead of frightening him half to death? Smacking the child is not the best way to get your point across.”

Ben looked at his young wife’s pleading face and capitulated; she really did have a way of getting round him like no one else ever could. “Oh all right,” he conceded. “I’ll talk to the child.”

Little Joe had been listening intently to the conversation between his parents and he fully understood the implications of the agreement they had come to, so when his mother knelt down on the floor and asked him to come out, Little Joe immediately crawled out on all fours and into him mother’s lap.

This fact incited Ben even more, but he managed to keep his temper in check as his wife stood to her feet with a still defiant Little Joe in her arms.

“Remember,” Marie said, handing her small son to her husband. “You promised you would speak to him.”

“Yes I know,” Ben conceded, carrying the child over to the settee and sitting down with him on his knee.

“Little Joe,” Ben began quietly, but with enough authority in his voice to get the boy’s full attention.

Joe did not answer but he looked challengingly at his father’s face, his expressive green eyes showing not one sign of contriteness.

Ben had to stop himself from overreacting to his son’s insolence; he promised Marie he would talk to the boy and talk is what he would do. “Little Joe, why didn’t you share your soldiers with Mitch?”

“They’re my soldiers,” Joe said quickly, grasping the toys tightly in his hands.

“Yes they are your toys,” Ben agreed. “But even though they belong to you, it’s only right that you share them when friends come to play.”

“Why?” Little Joe asked, not convinced at all.

“Well because it’s the right thing to do,” Ben explained. “If you went to Mitch’s house, he would share his toys with you. They are still your toys, but you won’t have any friends at all if you don’t share.”

Joe thought about this for a few moments and then challenged Ben’s argument. “Hoss and Adam don’t share.”

Ben smiled in spite of himself. “Yes they do, Little Joe; they are always sharing their things with you.”

“Adam won’t let me play his guitar,” Joe stated, jutting out his chin and just asking for Ben to deny it.

“But that’s different,” Ben disputed. “Adam’s guitar is expensive and not to be used by a four year old. The strings could easily be broken and then Adam wouldn’t be able to play with it anymore.”

Joe took this information on board, but was still not persuaded. “Hoss won’t let me play with his knife.”

“Yes but there’s a very good reason for that, young man. Hoss’ knife is very sharp and you could easily hurt yourself with it. That’s why you are strictly forbidden from touching Hoss’ knife.”

Joe’s mouth pouted, but even he could see his father was unlikely to be swayed on this one.

“Now Joseph,” Ben cajoled. “Mitch will be back in a minute. Are you going to be a good boy and let him play with your soldiers?”

Knowing this was one argument he couldn’t win, and, at the same time relieved that he had escaped one of his father’s ‘necessary talks’, Little Joe’s face broke into a beaming smile, “Yes Papa, I’ll share.”

“That’s my boy,” Ben said with pride, hugging the child to him and kissing him on the top of the head.

“See,” Marie cooed as they passed by. “That wasn’t so difficult was it?”

*****

The next morning, Ben woke early and was surprised to find that his youngest son’s bed was already empty. He checked his other sons’ rooms but Little Joe wasn’t there either, so he quickly made his way downstairs.

Ben’s eyes almost popped out his head when he spied Little Joe, still in his nightshirt, sitting in the middle of the coffee table with Ben’s prized chess board.

“Hi Papa,” Joe called as he carefully set up the pieces into the places he thought they should go.

“Joseph,” Ben barked. “What do you think you are doing?”

Little Joe jumped momentarily but then a happy smile spread over his face. “I’m playing chess, Papa.”

“But that is Papa’s chess set,” Ben said angrily. “You know you are forbidden to touch it.”

“But I’m sharing, Papa, I’m sharing with you.”

“No Joseph,” Ben stated emphatically. “Papa’s chess set is not to share.”

Joe looked at his father with a perplexed expression on his face. “But I won’t break it, Papa.”

“That’s not the point,” Ben replied.

“And it’s not sharp, I won’t hurt myself,” Joe continued.

Ben could see where the argument was going and he didn’t like it.

“So there is no reason why we shouldn’t share,” Little Joe summated with a shrug of his shoulders.

At a complete loss for words, Ben turned to find Marie, hand clasped tight across her mouth, trying hard to suppress her laughter.

Seeing as he wasn’t likely to get any help from his young wife, Ben turned once again to his baby son, determined that the child wouldn’t get the better of him.

However, at that precise moment, Little Joe looked at his father with childlike innocence, then he lifted up the ‘king’ placed it on the board and in a voice way beyond his years he announced …….“Checkmate!”

***The End***

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