Summary: A humorous Halloween prequel story with a prank played by two brothers on the third.
Word Count: 1670
“Yes, Hoss, that shark was as long as our ship. Its mouth could have swallowed a dinghy!”
“Papa, what’s a dinghy?”
“Little Joe, it’s like a rowboat. Just like the one that Adam uses to give you and Hoss a ride on the lake sometimes?”
“Oh, Papa, I’m scared. What if Adam gives us a ride, and a shark comes up to swallow our thingy?”
“That’s what I said, Adam; you don’t have to repeat everything I say.”
Exasperated, Adam went back to reading his book. The weather was too awful to do anything else on this Halloween. The wind threw small branches against the windows occasionally or they could hear the hail pound down on the roof reminding them of the storm’s fury.
Ben got back to his storytelling. “There are no sharks in Lake Tahoe. The sharks I’m telling you about are in the ocean, and we are a long way from the ocean.”
“Weren’t you scared, Pa, that the shark would eat you?”
“Mostly that would be a problem if the ship ever sank. Luckily, every ship I was on returned safely to port. So, no, Hoss, I was never in any danger of being eaten.”
“So there ain’t no sharks in Nevada, is there, Pa?”
“Aren’t any, and are there.”
“Adam, why don’t you just keep your nose in your book like you always want to do. I can talk just fine without any of your help.”
Getting even more irritated with his six-year-old brother, Adam began to plot, and a plotting Adam is a dangerous thing for six year old boys.
“So, Pa, right, there ain’t no sharks here, is there?”
“No, Little Joe, there are no sharks here.”
“Well, Pa, that’s correct except, what about the land sharks? You know, the ones that lurk in tall weeds in the garden because no one pulled them for Hop Sing like they were told to do or in caves little boys aren’t supposed to sneak into but do anyway?”
Realizing the game Adam was going to play with Little Joe, Ben played along. “Oh yes, and how they do like to be in soiled bedding under horses. That’s why we have to clean out those stalls every day without fail. Why, one stall where someone has covered up dirty straw with fresh straw instead of cleaning it out could be home to one or even two land sharks.”
“Why, Pa, I have even heard of land sharks slipping into a house and hiding under a bed where someone has tossed trash and dirty clothing instead of taking it out and cleaning up the room. Why, I believe it is most likely when that stuff has been there so long, it is collecting dust too.”
Eyes wide with astonishment, twelve-year-old Hoss had some questions now. “How big do land sharks get, and what do they eat?”
“Oh, Hoss, you don’t have to worry. Land sharks don’t have the teeth to bite someone who is say, eight-years-old or older.” Hoss was reassured by Adam’s words.
“Pa, that ain’t right, is it? What Adam said, that can’t be right, Pa, can it?” Joe was very worried now because those land sharks seemed to infest areas for which he was responsible and places he liked to play, and he seemed like just the right size for them to eat as well.
“Well, now, Little Joe, I don’t think you have to worry if you stay out of caves, do your chores, and clean up your room like I asked you to do. All of us will certainly be safe because we don’t do things that would put us in places where those land sharks lurk. It’s getting late now; I think we should all head to bed.
The next morning, Little Joe was up very early. He had cleaned up under his bed the previous night before going to bed thinking he would not be able to sleep if there was a risk that land sharks might want to move into his room. After he was dressed, he gathered up the soiled clothing and wadded up paper that had been under his bed to carry it downstairs. He put the soiled clothing in the laundry baskets and got a thank you from Hop Sing for saving him the trip upstairs. Then he heard his father and Adam walk down the stairs talking and laughing quietly.
“You really had your little brother going last night.”
“Well Halloween is a good time for scary stories, and it wasn’t like he’s been doing his chores and behaving like he should.”
“Did he really sneak off to that cave when I told him he couldn’t?”
“No, not that I know, but I was just trying to add a little reinforcement to that one.”
“Adam, I am really going to miss you when you go off to school next year. You really are a big help not only with the ranch but with your brothers too.”
“Thanks, Pa. I think I’ll head out to the stable to do my chores before I have any breakfast.”
Thinking for just a minute, Little Joe headed out through the kitchen door to go to the stable. Once he was there, he greeted Adam and then grabbed a rake before moving to stand behind his pony’s stall.
“Adam, do you think you could back my pony out for me? He seems a bit skittish this morning, and I don’t want him to bang me into the side of the stall like he did last week that one day.”
Adam smiled and did that for Little Joe.
“Adam, could you help me rake out this stall? What if some land shark got in here last night ’cause the bedding was dirty?”
Joe managed to have his lower lip quiver with that one so Adam moved to his side and helped him. Then the two of them threw in fresh straw before Adam led the pony back into the stall. Adam then moved to finish his chores as Little Joe ran back to the house. When Adam entered through the kitchen and washed up, he heard Little Joe excitedly talking to their father about how he had turned the tables on Adam. Adam headed back to the stable to do Hoss’ chores for him. He finished just as Hoss reached the stable.
“Gee, thanks, Adam. My stomach was growling, and now I can go back and have them flapjacks.”
“That’s good, Hoss, but I have a favor to ask of you. There’s something I would like you to do after breakfast.” Adam talked quietly to Hoss as they walked back to the house. As they ate breakfast, Little Joe several times thanked Adam for his help that morning, each time smirking with how clever he thought he had been. Ben just smiled, for although he had participated in the prank, it appeared that Little Joe’s enmity was all for Adam. He wondered what the rest of the day would bring. He reminded Joe that he needed to do the last weeding of the garden for the year so that the seeds from those weeds would not fall to sprout in the spring.
Sighing deeply, Little Joe nodded. Then he was inspired. He asked Adam to help him just in case there were land sharks lurking there. “You’re my older brother. I need you to protect me.”
Agreeing after only a little cajoling, Adam left with Little Joe to head to the garden. Shortly after that having eaten three helpings of flapjacks, a helping of bacon, and some biscuits, Hoss followed them outside. Ben suspected there was going to be some kind of surprise, but not knowing who would be the most surprised, he stood at the window and watched Adam and Little Joe working. Well, Adam was working. Little Joe was mostly talking.
In the garden, Adam was being his usual exasperated self with Little Joe. “Little Joe, you have to help. This is your chore, not mine, but I’m doing all the work.”
“Adam, I’m so scared that one of them land sharks is gonna eat me, I can’t go in there.”
“Joe, it was just a joke. There really aren’t any land sharks.”
Just then two large arms covered in red splotches reached up and dragged Adam down into the tallest weeds. Adam screamed once, then twice, and then no more. Little Joe stood frozen for a moment and then went screaming to the house, calling for his Pa to come save Adam from the land sharks.
In the garden, Hoss and Adam lay on the ground laughing hysterically after they had peeked through the weeds to see their little brother’s reaction. Hoss pulled off the canvas strips he had wrapped around his arms before he had stained the fabric with splotches of red paint. “Adam, you know Pa is gonna make us pull all these weeds now, dontcha? He’s probably gonna be mad.”
“Yes, but it was all worth it. Hoss, did you see that look on his face and then the screams. That’s the best Halloween prank we’ve ever pulled.”
“Adam, I’m really gonna miss you when you go off to college.”
“Hoss, I’m really going to miss you too, but next year, just for me, will you pull a Halloween prank on Little Joe? Then write to me and tell me all about it?”
Then Adam proceeded to tell Hoss a number of ideas he had before they heard their father’s bellow and needed to go make the appropriate apologies that they would make sound so sincere. Then later when pulling weeds, they would repeat the story over and over laughing hysterically each time as Little Joe watched from the house happy that he didn’t have to do the weeding, and wondering just how he could get back at both brothers for being so mean to him.