Stoick learns about pushing people away
|Stoick sat, knees drawn to his chin, staring down at the village. He felt terrible; he’d run away if he could, but he didnae—did not—have permission to leave, and breaking rules would be wrong and worse.
“Stoick.” He looked up and spotted Papa coming from behind the house. He sagged. He did not want to see Papa; he was Chief on Berk and spent time in the village, but he was home early now when Stoick’s disgrace was fresh. Papa walked toward him, and he steeled himself to see his Father. Stoick had to call him Father when he’d done something wrong.
“Lad? What troubles ye?” He did not look angry yet; Stoick stood and looked far, far up to his face. He flattened his palms against his sides, and began to recite.
“Father, I am in disgrace. This morning, while playing...”
“Stoick. Stop, lad. Come sit with Papa and tell me what ails ye.” The big man folded his body ‘til he was on the ground. Papa looked at him and said, “Mama’s angry with ye, true?” Stoick lowered his head. Papa always knew when Mama was angry with him, and how he felt ripped-up inside.
“Tell me what happened.”
It was Flint who came over when Stoick was playing, Flint who wanted to be there. Stoick didn’t want to play with his little brother and said so.
“Were ye mean about it?”
“No, Papa. I just wanted to play alone.”
Flint stayed right there and started taking rocks from the pile to play with. Stoick was using those rocks to make a wall, and he had a place for each one. He always shared but those were his to build with and his little brother had them.
“I told him to go away.”
Stoick shook his head. His brother took rocks from the wall he’d almost finished and it fell down. Then he said something bad to Flint.
“What did ye say?”
He stared at the ground; now Papa would get angry. “I said I didnae want him for my brother.”
“What did she do?”
“She called us inside. She said telling Flint to go away was unkind. We were brothers and I always had to be careful of him. Saying I didnae want him as my brother was worse than wrong, it was mean and I hurt him. Then I had to say an apology.”
“Mama walloped me.” He hunched his shoulders.
“Ah. Who was there?”
“Everybody in the house.”
“How many did she give?” Stoick spread out his fingers. “Five swats? Did she use her angry voice?”
“Yes, Papa.” She hardly ever used that voice. Mama smiled and laughed and teased, but those things stopped when she was angry. Brenna was too good and Flint too little, but Stoick could make her angry.
“Stoick, come close in to me. I have a story.” He scooted into the space next to Papa. “You’re four and Flint’s only two, but Brenna, she’s more than six. When she was four, she was playing with a grass whistle and you wanted to have it. She said your fingers were too little to use it, but you grabbed the grass and it ripped. Brenna was so angry she called you a baby and shoved you with both hands. You fell in the dirt and started to cry. Everyone saw her do it—me and Mama and people in the village. She looked at you and everyone else and knew she’d done wrong. She was crying because she hurt you and Mama was angry and she didnae mean it when she shoved.”
“Brenna doesnae get in trouble.”
“She did that day. Mama used her very angry voice.” Stoick’s eyes widened; he never knew Mama could be angrier. “She used it, and told Brenna that she was oldest and never to hurt you. Brenna pushed you away with her hands and her words, and she must never do that to her brother who she loved. Flint hadnae come yet, and Mama said that if Brenna would be mean to her little brother, what would happen when the baby came? Would Brenna be mean to the littlest, too?”
“Your sister was so scared then. Mama made her promise to work hard at being the oldest. She had to apologize to you. You smiled and tugged on her hair and she felt a little better. Then Mama lifted her skirt to wallop her.”
“Outside? In front of everyone?” Stoick was horrified.
“Aye. Over only her skivvies, Mama lifted her and flipped her and gave her a walloping.”
Papa spread out both hands and tucked in his thumbs. “Eight. The most she’s ever given. Then Brenna stood in a corner until Mama let her go.”
“Five is the most I ever had, Papa, and that was today, inside. And I didnae like it.” He thought a moment. “Poor Brenna. She was in disgrace.”
“Aye. She was ashamed of herself and played nicely with ye and when she grew tired of her little brother, she went to Mama and Mama gave you something to do or sent Brenna on an errand. After a time, she was happy to be your big sister again.”
“Stoick, ‘tis hard sometimes to be the big one. Your sister learned to do it and you have to as well. I’ll tell you a secret, Stoick, but ye must never tell Brenna, because this one belongs to fathers and brothers alone.” Stoick tilted his head, waiting. “She’s the oldest, but she’s a girl and one day a woman. Her father and brothers have to look after her, just as I look after Mama.” Papa gave him a steady look. “We need to make sure no one hurts her, for she’s a treasure we guard ‘til her husband comes. You need to be good to Flint so he grows up right to help us look out for the others. Can ye do that? ‘Tis important work.”
“Aye, Papa, I can.” If Papa could protect Berk, Stoick could protect his brother and sister.
“Good lad. Find yourself a drink of water and see what your Mama wants.” He stood and stretched and made ready to leave; the tribe needed their Chief back. “Get on with ye.” Papa gave him a nudge and Stoick went to find Mama.
She smiled and set down her stitching when she spotted him. “Stoick. I am glad you came back—we missed you. Are you better now?”
“Aye, Mama. Where are Brenna and Flint?”
“I sent Brenna to the bakery for bread and she took your brother with her. I almost wish she were here; I have another thing I need done.” She grew thoughtful. “I think you are big enough to do this, so I do not have to wait for your sister.” He nodded. “Good. Can you visit Mrs. Ericsson and give her a note? I need to talk to her about something on washday. Tell her I will see her in the Mead hall then.”
“Alright. I didnae want to stay inside anyway.”
“Didnae, Stoick? What do I teach you?”
“Say did not, it is proper.” Mama was from Meathead, and they had funny ideas about words. “I spoke with Papa outside.”
“When you are not with Papa, say did not. I already allow ‘aye’ and ‘ye.” Her eyes crinkled. “Dinna push me further.”
“Mama!” He was scandalized. “Say do not. Dinna is not proper.”
She laughed. “I will be more careful with my words next time. Now take that to Mrs. Ericsson and be certain to speak politely to her. Manners are important.”
Stoick headed to the far side of the village. He was being good, but wanted to see inside the note. He shouldnae open it, but it was only folded and no one would know if he peeked. He would be practicing his reading. He stood behind a tree and opened it.
It was blank.
Stoick folded the note back up and delivered it, repeating the message his Mama gave him. Mrs. Ericsson opened it, invited him in, and asked about his schooling.