Summary: Adam finds a precious object.
Word Count: 1320
It was just a clay plate glazed in bright blue and chipped in numerous places. Adam turned it over in his hands studying the back as if some hidden message might explain what made this blue plate important enough to be wrapped in a soft cloth and carefully placed in his father’s trunk.
“What ya gots?” His little brother’s voice startled Adam, and the plate slipped in his fingers, but Adam managed to snatch it towards him and cushion it safely against his chest.
“Just a plate.” Adam turned and showed his brother what he held.
“Where’d ya get it, A’am? I ain’t never seed it ‘fore.” Hoss peered at the plate and reached to touch it.
Adam raised it out of the four-year-old’s reach saying quickly, “Don’t matter. It’s just an old plate.” Reaching for the cloth he had dropped on the floor, Adam wrapped it once more around the plate.
Hoss watched his brother with a puzzled expression. “Why ya wrapping it? Is it a present?”
“No. It’s not a present.”
“Then why ya wrapping it?”
“Because Pa wants it wrapped,” Adam snapped.
“Where ya gonna put it, A’am?”
Adam swallowed. “Where it belongs. You just go outside and wait for me.”
“Don’t wanna go outside,” Hoss replied settling into a firmer stance next to his brother.
“I SAID GO!” Adam bellowed at his brother. He could not let Hoss see him putting the plate back into their father’s trunk.
“NO!” Hoss shouted back. The little boy felt his brother had no reason to shout at him, and his feelings were hurt by the thought that his brother did not want him around.
“You better mind me, Hoss. You know what Pa told ya,” said Adam invoking his father’s authority.
“I’ll tell Pa that ya was being mean to me. I wants a snack. I don’t wants ta go outside.” Hoss plopped down on the floor, tears rising in his eyes.
Adam bit his lip. “Don’t go crying now,” he soothed. “I’ll give ya a snack, and then we’ll go outside together.” Adam thought maybe he could sneak the plate back into the trunk while the little boy was eating.
” ‘Kay.” Hoss followed his brother over to the table and sat down. Adam buttered a slice of bread and handed it to Hoss. Hoss took a large bite and began to chew solemnly. For Hoss eating was a serious business, and he gave it his full attention.
Adam slipped across the single room of the cabin, picked up the cloth wrapped plate, and eased up the lid of his father’s trunk. The hinge let out a loud creak.
Adam sucked in his breath. “Whys ya going in Pa’s trunk?” His little brother’s voice sent Adam’s stomach sinking to his feet.
Hoss slipped from his chair his bread forgotten. “Ya ain’t ‘lowed in Pa’s trunk, A’am.”
“I need to put this back.” Adam said simply. He finished raising the lid and set the plate inside.
“Pa’s gonna be mad. Ya ain’t ‘pose to touch in Pa’s trunk.”
“Pa won’t be mad if nobody tells him. You better not tell, Hoss.” Adam tried to make his order authoritative.
“He doesn’t have to tell.” Ben Cartwright’s deep baritone rolled across the room to his sons. Both boys jumped at the sound.
Eyes wide the boys watched their father walked toward them. “What exactly have you been doing, Adam?”
Adam tugged his ear and stared at the floor. He fought the urge to lie. Pa never believed him when he lied, and lying made his punishment worse. He croaked softly, “I went in your trunk.”
Ben’s eyes hardened. “You know that is not allowed, don’t you, boy?”
“He didn’t have nothing to do with it, Pa. Really,” Adam quickly asserted while Hoss nodded his head vigorously.
“Hoss, go outside and play in the yard. Only between the cabin and the barn.”
“Yes, Pa.” Hoss gladly made his escape.
“Tell me exactly what you did.”
Adam tried to swallow the lump in his throat. When that failed, he managed to push an explanation past it. “I just wanted to look, well, touch, just touch mama’s shawl. I was missing her. There was something wrapped up. I took it out. It was just a plate, Pa. I put it back.”
Ben placed his hands on his hips. “What are the rules, Adam?”
“We aren’t to touch your things without permission. We can’t go in the trunk or take things from it without you there.”
“What are the consequences for disobeying in this house?”
Adam took a step back. “Pa, please, I’m sorry.”
Adam lay on his bed wishing he were too old to get spankings. Hoss sat on the floor playing with a stuffed dog and feeling sad along with his brother. Ben Cartwright finished dishing up his sons’ supper and set the bowls on the table.
“Wash your hands and come to the table, sons.”
Both Hoss and Adam quickly obeyed. Neither boy wanted to anger their pa anymore today.
Adam slid onto the dining bench and started to eat slowly and silently chewing each bite.
“Swallow first, son.”
Hoss swallowed and continued. “Whys ya gots a blue plate in the trunk?”
Ben paused and looked at both his sons. Adam resisted asking his father to answer, even though he wanted very much to know what was special about that plate.
“It’s the only thing I have that belonged to my grandmother,” Ben answered. He looked at his eldest son. Adam was a good boy and seldom disobedient as he had been today. The sound of his son whispering that he had been missing Inger filled his head. “After supper, we’ll get the plate out, and I’ll tell you both about its travels.” Ben watched both boys grin and dig into their stew with new vigor.
Ben opened the trunk and took out took two of its treasures. He called his sons to him and settled them both half in his lap spreading Inger’s blue shawl over them. Then he unwrapped the blue plate and started to spin the tale of a young girl’s trip across the ocean to a new life in America.
By the time Ben’s tale was told, Hoss was sleeping with his head against Ben’s chest. Adam’s head was against Ben’s shoulder. His body was very still, but Ben knew Adam was thinking not sleeping.
“Pa,” his son’s whisper was soft and tentative, “I, I almost dropped the plate.” Ben did not comment. “It coulda broke.”
“Yes, it could have.”
“You’d woulda been really mad.”
Ben decided to admit the truth. “I suppose I would have.”
“I would have got a real tanning.”
“Quite possibly.” Ben felt Adam tremble. “But I would have forgiven you, son.”
“But it woulda been lost.” Adam’s voice was far too despairing.
“You didn’t break the plate, son. Even if you had, well, after all, it is just a plate.”
“But it helps you remember.”
Ben’s arm came around Hoss, and his finger lifted Adam’s chin, so the child would look into his eyes. “Sometimes we want something we can touch while we’re remembering, but even if we don’t have anything, the memories are still there.”
Adam sighed and snuggled closer to Ben bringing the edge of the blue shawl up against his cheek. “I can still smell Mama.”
Ben’s eyes misted. He knew that no real trace of Inger’s scent lingered in those woolen folds.
“She loved you, Adam.” Ben pondered the situation. “You can always ask me if you need to touch something in the trunk, child.”
“Okay, Pa.” Adam’s voice was sleepy and relaxed. Ben held his sons in his arms as they slept and breathed in the memory of his Inger’s scent.