By Denise Craig and Calico
“So are ya comin’ over?” Hannibal asked Jed. It was Friday after school, and Jed had been invited to stay over at the Heyes’.
His friend didn’t answer.
Hannibal turned and saw Jed was staring at…Oh, for Pete’s sake! “Hey! Stop dreamin’ an’ wake up!” he called, clicking his fingers in front of the blue gaze. “I’m talkin’ to ya! She‘s only skippin‘ rope an‘ giggling about nothing. It‘s not THAT fascinatin’!
“Huh?” grunted an inattentive Jed. It sank in. Flushing, he brought his eyes back to his friend. He hadn’t been watching Hannah Williams skipping! He HADN’T! How sappy did Han think he was, huh?
“I said,” repeated Hannibal in his ‘patient’ voice, “Are ya comin’ over?”
“Yeah, Ma said it was fine. What are ya havin’?”
“Bless you,” Jed sniggered.
Hannibal grinned. Schnitzel sure tasted good, but it did kinda sound like a sneeze.
“So, this…” Jed was beginning to get the giggles, “…ah-schnitzo.o.o.o.l…”
“Bless you!” chipped in Hannibal, never slow on the uptake. His grin broadened. Dimples flashed. “So, Jed …whaddya wanna ask me about…” the delivery of the word was deliberately explosive, “…SCHNITzel?”
“Bless you!” Snicker. Snort. “I reckon I was gonna ask, after we eat the …” Snort. Snicker. “…ah…ah…ah-schnitzel…”
“Bless you!” Snirt. Honk. “Yeah, go on, after the AH-schnitzel…”
“Bless you!” Heek. Heek.
The friends gave in. Why it was suddenly so funny, who knows? Every time Hannibal began to stop…Jed would give another explosive ‘schnitzel’ and off his friend would go again. Every time Jed regained a tiny bit of self-control, Hannibal mimed a huge sneeze and, with the yucky humor delightful to small boys, pretended to wipe unbelievable amounts of nose gloop off himself. Tummies were clutched. Snirts, honks, heeks and snorts finally gave way to wheezing.
Wiping his eyes, Hannibal looked over at Jed. His face lit up with mischief. “If we can get Samuel to say that, we can have some real fun tonight.”
Jed smiled back. Hannibal always had the best ideas.
Tommy Bauer caught up with the two friends. A book in his hands instantly caught Hannibal’s attention. “Whatcha ya got there?”
“Remember the circus I got to see ‘bout… two years ago? Well this book has pictures, proper photographs, not just drawings of it. Elephants, acrobats, clowns, girls standin’ on the backs of horses showing all their…” A faint color showed on the older boy’s face. “…all their legs an’ stuff. Not that I’m int’rested in pictures of girls,” he hastened to add.
“Photographs of elephants?” said Hannibal, impressed in spite of himself.
Jed reached for the book, but Tommy’s hands swatted him away. “I just wanted to see the pictures,” Jed sulked.
“Can I see the elephants?” Hannibal asked.
“It’ll cost you a nickel a piece if ya wanna see,” gloated Tommy.
“A NICKEL! That’s…that’s… highway robbery,” Jed stated, quoting his mother who had, in turn, been quoting his sage ol’ grandfather.
“Well that’s what it’s gonna cost ya.” Tommy turned down his lane and smugly walked away.
“As if anyone wanted to look at his dumb ol’ photographs,” exclaimed Hannibal, unconvincingly.
“Yeah,” Jed agreed, adopting the proper attitude. “I sure don’t wanna see anythin’ belonging to THAT blowhard!” There was a short silence before Jed looked, knowingly, at his friend, “So, Han…how are we gonna trick him into a wager this time, so we get to see the elephant pictures?”
As the boys entered the Heyes’ yard they saw Samuel playing by the pump. “Howdy Sam,” said Jed, ruffling the boy’s blond hair.
“Hewow Yed.” Two blue eyes smiled up at him. “Sam’ul’s hepin’ Mama. Pumpin’ wader.”
The two boys looked down at the pail in the small boy’s hand. There wasn’t much water in the bucket, but there sure was a mud puddle under it.
Hannibal began to work the pump, which was really much too heavy for Samuel. Samuel’s face lit up at having a proper pail full to splash in. Hannibal smiled at his young half-brother. “Hey Samuel, how would you like to play a game with me and Jed?”
Two blue eyes got wider. Samuel LOVED to play with the big boys. A white blond fringe nodded vigorously.
Hannibal began to kneel down, realized just how muddy Samuel could make things, even on the driest day, and contented himself with squatting on his haunches. He looked, very seriously, at Samuel, “You’ll have to be a very good listener. Can you do that? Can you listen real hard?”
“Uh huh!” Nodding became insufficient to express Samuel’s eagerness. The boots of a delighted two-year old jumped on the spot. Jed stepped back, Hannibal wiped the mud splatter off his face.
“Ok, here’s whatcha gotta do…”
Further nodding of the small head as the game was whispered in his ear.
“Can you do that Samuel, Can you listen real good?”
“Sam’ul do! Sam’ul litten vewy goo’!”
Hannibal smiled, the stage was set.
“Boys! Time to come in!”
Three hungry heads snapped up from the shallow, though geometrically complex, irrigation system, Hannibal and Jed were constructing for Samuel to pour pitcher after pitcher of water into.
“You remember whatcha hafta say, Samuel?” checked Hannibal.
“Good boy!” A blond head was ruffled, approvingly.
They ran into the house. Well…almost. A hasty, house-proud command halted them at the threshold, spun them through 180 degrees, and expelled them.
After washing their own, and Samuel’s hands and faces in fresh water, removing their squelchy boots out on the porch, tucking in shirts, straightening collars, and using the comb thrust at them, the boys tried once more to gain admittance.
They trooped in. Two older boys suppressing grins at the thought of grown-up teasing to come. One much younger boy mouthing, silently, over and over, ‘B’ess ‘ou. B’ess ‘ou. B’ess ‘ou,’ and frowning in concentration.
Hannibal’s primed toddler-weapon was about to be unleashed! “What’s for dinner?” he asked, in his most nonchalant voice, as they seated themselves at the table.
“Schnitzel,” replied Louisa.
“Yum,” replied Alex.
“B’ess ‘OO!!! B’ess ‘OOOO!!!” Samuel’s face was pink with pleasure. A crow of excited laughter, then, even louder, “B’ESS ‘OOOOO!!!”
Alex and Louisa exchanged an enquiring look, then, a parental ‘who knows’ shrug.
“Did your mother teach you how to make, how to make, THIS, ma-am?” asked an enquiring eight year old, struggling to keep his face straight as he carefully avoided ‘the word’.
Samuel grinned at Jed. He knew what was coming! He was listening real good! No way would he let Han’bul and Jed down. He was on the edge of his chair, mouth open. Ready. Eager. Waiting.
Louisa smiled at her young guest. “Uh huh,” she nodded.
Jed and Samuel’s shoulders both drooped. Oh!
Jed rallied for another try. “So, ma-am…did your Ma teach you make this …this…er…” A gesturing fork indicated he was searching for the right word. Samuel leaned forward. Tensed to spring. Any minute now…A plump little bottom bounced on its chair with impatience.
“Schnitzel?” supplied Louisa. She smiled at Jed, “Yes, she taught all us girls how to make schnitzel.”
“B’ESS OOOO!!!” exploded Samuel, struggling to get it out over his giggles. His mug of milk went flying.
Louisa grabbed a rag and cleaned up the mess. A second parental glance was exchanged. Alex directed a ruminative gaze at two small boys who were suddenly finding their plates and cutlery so fascinating they didn’t look up. The pair radiated suspiciously high levels of good behavior. After moving the sauce jug beyond ‘excited flailing toddler arm reach’, Alex experimented. “Delicious schnitzel, Gor…”
Hannibal’s eyes came up. His brows snapped together, as he met his Father’s bland look. He knew that, that ‘nonchalant’ voice! He should! It was HIS!
“B’ESS OOO!!! B’ESS OOO, Papa!” squealed Samuel, delighted with himself. He decided to copy what he’d seen Han’bul do, improving on the scanty lines he’d been offered. He mimed, if something so noisy can be called ‘miming’, a sneeze. “Yuck! Poo! Euwwwww!” Unbelievable amounts of imaginary nose gloop were wiped off his face, shirt, the table, his baby brother David, …
“Samuel, Liebchen,” protested Louisa. “That’s not nice…”
“Not nice at all,” agreed Alex. “Not nice like this…this…” Innocence was written all over his face, as, once again, his gaze met Hannibal’s. Two sets of brown eyes crinkled. “Hannibal,” Alex said brushing his hand on his chin, “…you’ve a little of …this …this delicious…er…”
“This SCHNITZEL!” finished Hannibal, with a dimpled grin.
“B’ESS OOO!! B’ESS OOO! B’ESS OOO!!” crowed Samuel. Bouncing on his chair became insufficient. He climbed down to run and deliver a ‘B’ESS OOO’ direct into his big brother’s ear. “B’ESS OO, Han’bul! You seddit! B’ess you! B’ESS OO!!!”
“Hey! No need to deafen me!”
“Besh!” chipped in David, from his high chair. Samuel was saying it! If his big brother, Samuel, said it, he could too! “BESH! BESH!” A happy smile. A spoon clattered to the floor, as podgy fifteen-month old hands clapped. “Besh, besh, besh, besh…”
Jed grinned at Han and motioned ‘Look’ with his eyes at Mrs. Heyes. Both boys watched. She was moving to get Samuel back in his seat and David’s spoon back in his fist, but… Through his own growing heeks and squeaks of laughter, Jed beamed at the pink-faced mother trying to sound stern and utterly failing. Sure, she was a bit…sappy…sometimes, but when she got the giggles this way, he couldn’t help liking her. If only they could manage to get her real good when she’d just taken a drink, like last time; when, to Jed’s huge delight, she’d snorted coffee out of her nose.
ABOUT FIVE…NOISY…MINUTES LATER
“Right,” said Alex, as a semblance of order was restored. “So…we’re all agreed. No one uses…” His eyes looked warily at a still fizzing, though seated, Samuel. He switched to mute. “The ‘Ess’ word,” he mouthed.
Cheerful enough nods. The boys had already chalked up a success and…well! They did actually WANT to eat this…this…y’know, ‘Ess’!
“A little more, Jed?” offered Louisa.
An eager nod. A portion was dished out. A kindly smile and enquiring lift of the eyebrows. Jed gave another eager nod. The serving spoon again moved over his plate.
“Hey!” protested Hannibal, peering in the dish to check his own ‘second helping’ was not being impinged on. “You wanna watch it, Jed, you’ll get indigestion, be havin’ nightmares!”
Louisa spooned another portion onto her stepson’s plate to quiet him.
“Nah!” protested Jed. “I reckon this stuff’d only give ya…” he gave Louisa what Hannibal sometimes called, his ‘big-blue eyed’ look, “…sweet dreams, huh, ma-am?”
Hannibal rolled his eyes. Sheesh! Talk about ‘buttering up’! It worked though. Louisa beamed at Jed. “More potatoes? A few more beans?”
Explosion. Coughing and spluttering from a blond toddler trying his best to swallow so he could fulfill his primary obligations. “Sed Tay-toes! B’ess OOO, Mama! Tay-toes! Bess OOO! Beansh! Beansh! BESS’ OO!! Seddit…BEANSH! Bess ooo, bess ooo! I sed yit! I sed yit!”
“Besh, besh, besh!” crowed David. He liked this game!
The table was silent for exactly 30 seconds before laughter broke out once more. Hannibal and Jed exchanged a rueful glance. Sure, they had taught Samuel his lines real well. But, maybe they had not done so well teaching him his cue?
LATER THAT EVENING
Jed strode purposefully through the field of wheat, the wind gently rustling his curls. Han had tried to suggest he’d been kinda greedy earlier, but…he hadn’t! He was still hungry. He was gonna get him some of those apples growing on the trees up ahead. They were the biggest, reddest apples he had ever seen.
Jed shimmied up the tallest tree and dropped several of the sweet fruits to the ground. He looked down, a good thirty yard drop. It would have been quite a feat for some eight-year old kid, but not, of course, for Jed! He was so tall, so strong, so…so grown-up! Older than Han! Sheesh! He wouldn’t be surprised if he were as old as Nate!
As he put the first of the apples to his mouth, he heard a giggle. Okay, maybe not quite a giggle, maybe a kind of wheezy snort. A titter, a rumble, a…Wait! Jed listened harder. It sounded just like a horse clearing his throat.
He looked around and spotted a chestnut horse, not three yards away. A circus horse being led by…an elephant; the halter in its trunk. ‘Stands to reason, I guess,’ thought Jed. ‘Where else would an elephant hold a halter?’
“Sure does stand to reason,” said Hannibal. “Where else would a perspicacious pachyderm, like me, hold a horse’s halter?” The brown eyes rested on the apples. “You thinking of sharing them?”
“Elephants don’t EAT apples!” protested Jed. Sheesh! Han thought just because HE was an elephant and never forgot anything…JED forgot everything. But, he didn’t! Everyone knows elephants don’t eat apples! Especially Jed! Jed knew most everything. More than Han ‘cos he was older, and cleverer, and taller. Han was only an elephant! And only ‘nearly, nearly ten’. Jed was practically grown up!
“Elephants don’t eat apples, but, my horse’d sure like one,” explained Han. The horse whickered in approval.
“You want some, boy?” Jed asked, as he held the apple out in front of him.
The horse walked slowly towards his outstretched hand.
“What I’D like…” put in Han, “…is a drink. If elephant’s don’t get plenty to drink, they dry up!”
“It means they can’t talk!” said Han, wiggling his huge ears and opening his brown eyes very wide.
“And…this would be a bad thing because?” teased Jed, who ALWAYS got the last word with Hannibal, because he was cleverer, and taller, and older! But, all the same, he put the apple on the ground in front of the horse and started to pump water into the pail.
The horse sniffed and nuzzled the apple. Han the elephant dropped the pink tip of his wrinkled trunk into the pail and sniffed and nuzzled at the cool water. Sniff. Nuzzle. Ah…Ah…Ah…Sniff. Snuffle. Ah…Ah…Ah…A horse sneeze, sprayed Jed with equine spit. Euuuuwww!! A second later an elephant sneeze, sprayed Jed with …Oh No! The horse spit was washed off by a whole pail full of water squirting from a pointing trunk! Jed was knocked flat onto the grass, by the jet spouted by Hannibal.
“B’ess OOUUUU!” crowed Samuel, from where he was riding on the elephant’s back. “B’ess oouuu! B’ess oouuu! B’ess oouuu!”
“Bless you, Jedediah,” came a soft, feminine voice. Jed looked up at Hannah, smiling down at him. “Bless you,” she repeated, her spangled skirts swirling out from her…Jed flushed …her legs, as she pirouetted on the circus horse’s back.
She was so pretty, with her hair in soft curls and her eyes sparkling in the sunlight. Her voice was so sweet as it chanted, “Salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper. Salt, vinegar…” Jed thought he had never seen anyone skip rope on a prancing horse’s back, more gracefully than Hannah did.
Jed was glad he was not shy. Why should he be shy? He was all grown-up, tall, handsome, smart. Grown up boys, nearly as old as Nate, NEVER felt shy with girls. Not even real pretty girls like Hannah. Still, he was glad Han was nowhere around. Nor his inquisitive little brother. Just him and Hannah. And the horse.
“Would you like an apple,” he offered, with a confident smile. That was the kinda thing girls liked you to say. “And …may I carry your books? I mean…your rope?”
“Thank you Jed.” A dazzling smile accompanied the response. Hannah took one of the apples. Except, she didn‘t. She just kept holding his hand. For ages. Then, her eyelids fluttered and she pouted. “Oh, Jed…why don’t you climb up behind me? I need you to peel this apple for me.”
“Sure!” nodded Jed. But… Oh! This was one tall horse! Nearly 32 hands high!
“Bless you, Jed!” called Hannah, stretching and stretching to try and keep hold of his hand. But, she was too far up! “Bless you! Bless you!”
“I’ll be right back, Hannah,” called Jed. “Don’t worry! I’ll save ya!” He looked around for something to help him mount. The Myers cannon! Just the thing! He could shoot himself outta the cannon, onto the horse, behind Hannah!
The only problem, thought Jed, was the lion on guard. Not just some little cub, but a full grown monster of an animal. It bared its teeth, menacing. Drool hanging from six-inch fangs. It tossed its golden mane and roared from its seat on the upturned pail. Bravely (‘cos he was always brave), Jed held the roaring beast at bay with David’s high chair. “Schnitzel!” ordered Jed, cracking the skipping rope like a whip. “Schnitzel! Schnitzel, or…or… I’ll…” More roaring. Sheesh! Those fangs did look sharp!
Jed gulped and looked back over his shoulder. Hannah was watching him. “Bless you!” she called. “Bless you, Jed. Bless you!” His chest swelled, proudly.
He looked down at his feet trying to think. Ah! An idea! He ALWAYS had good ideas! Han ALWAYS said Jed had the BEST ideas. With a smile on his face, Jed hefted David’s high chair above his head, whirled it, and threw it with all his might. “Fetch!” he commanded. “Fetch!”
The lion wagged his tail and took off after the chair. With a single bound, just like a hero in a six-cent story paper…Jed threw himself into the cannon. It was already lit and with an explosive blast, he was hurtled through the air. He did a somersault and landed perfectly on the back of the magnificent charger, behind Hannah. “I’ll keep you safe, fair maiden,” he said.
Hannah clapped her hands, as she nestled into his manly arms. Jed blushed. They were galloping, together, through the field of wheat. But…the way she was looking at him…He felt his cheeks grow hot. Her lips were very close. Did she want him to…? Sure, he was all grown-up, but… How exactly were you supposed to…?
“Oh, Jed,” breathed Hannah, lying back on the sweet-smelling grass which carpeted the bank of the gently flowing river. “I wish you’d…”
Her hands brushed the silky fronds waving in the soft breeze.
“Uh huh?” he gulped.
“I wish you’d…”
Now, her hands were around his neck, pulling him towards her.
“I wish you’d…”
She was bringing her mouth closer and closer.
“I wish you’d do somethin’ ‘bout that elephant. He keeps poking at me with his trunk.”
Yeah. Jed guessed he had better do something about the elephant. The elephant was poking him too. And, shaking him. And talking and talking and talking. Sheesh! That elephant sure went on! Couldn’t he see when he wasn’t wanted?
“Oh, Jed!” smiled Hannah, admiringly, as he waved his arms and ran at the elephant to scare him off. “Oh, Jed. Jed. Jed.”
“Jed! JED! JED!”
Jed opened two sleepy blue eyes. Through the dim light he could just see a very cross-looking Hannibal staring down at him. It wasn’t an elephant…it was Hannibal prodding him and shaking him awake.
“What the Sam Hill is wrong with you?” hissed Hannibal.
“You’re moanin’ an’ groanin’, mutterin’ stuff, an’ twistin’ into knots like some dang rattlesnake! AND you just kicked me. AND… ” Han took a firm hold on the bedcovers, “… you’re stealin’ my share of the blanket!” Half a blanket was tugged, firmly, back into place. “AND you keep rollin’ onto MY side, get back over there!”
“You’re not sick are ya?” checked Han. “Though, you were askin’ for it the way you were lickin’ out that pie dish!”
“Huh?” Jed sat up and scratched his head. “Nah, I’m fine. Guess I was dreamin’.”
“Well, if’n you’re fine…get back to sleep. An’, make it quiet! It’s like tryin’ to sleep in the sty with a…a…litter of snortin’ piglets!”
Jed settled back on his own side, hands behind his head, staring through the dark at the ceiling. So…it had been a dream. He thought on it a minute and then a smile graced his lips. That was one strange dream.
“This dream, Han. There was this ‘pin’yonated elephant…who talked too much…and kept buttin‘ in…”
“Go to sleep!” came the muffled voice of a boy with his nose buried, firmly, in his pillow. “You can tell me in the mornin’.”
Jed shrugged, but shut up. He was definitely going to have to tell Hannibal all about it in the morning. Well, he thought, snuggling down and hugging his own pillow close, most of it anyway. Maybe not ALL of it. He smiled again. A secret smile, and drifted off, once again.