Hiccup’s questions are awkward, and Stoick struggles to answer them.
|The Chief’s table in Mead Hall was empty of everyone except Stoick, Hiccup, and Gobber. He and Stoick were enjoying the rare moment, when Hiccup’s high voice broke the quiet. |
“Why do you spend so much time being Chief?”
Gobber saw his friend flinch. It was one of those questions that cut directly into Stoick’s heart: why was Hiccup so small, why didn’t he own a wooden sword, when was he going to grow bigger, why couldn’t he spend more time with his dad. The truth never sufficed: that’s how it is, you need to be bigger, I don’t know, because other people need the Chief.
“Hiccup, I wish I had more time to give you, but people rely on me. Many people, even ones who are not on Berk. I do not enjoy spending time apart from you, either.” Stoick patted his son’s shoulder, and added, “I am sorry, son.”
“Aren’t you gonna answer me?” Hiccup wrinkled his brow.
“I did. I cannot change how things are, even if we do not care for them.”
“I already know that. You’ve told me before, lots of times. My question wasn’t about that stuff.” Hiccup glanced down, and Gobber hid a grin. The lad did that to roll his eyes without getting in trouble. “You spend a lot of time working, more than Mister Iverson, or Astrid’s dad, or Gobber. When they finish, they stop for the day. You don’t have a stop time. It’s weird, Dad.”
Gobber had to give the boy credit for noticing. He was regularly reminded that under that unruly auburn mop was a quick intelligence, and ‘twas a thought shared by his friend, if Stoick’s expression was anything to go by. Hiccup tilted his head and raised one eyebrow, a perfect copy of Stoick’s listening expression, and waited for a response.
“You think I ought to use a schedule, like other adults, and cannot understand why I do not. Is that correct?”
“Yeah. What does Chiefing have to do with not stopping on time?”
“Because the Chief doesn’t have a stop time. The day keeps going, even if other folks stop their work, so I work if someone needs me.”
“So if people ask you for something, you have to help them, because that’s your job.”
Can’t they look after themselves? They’re grownups.”
“Even adults need to be protected, Hiccup.”
“So you have to protect the tribe. That’s your work. Protecting the tribe. Huh.” Stoick exhaled; that conversation had worked out well, with no questions Gobber’s friend couldn’t answer.
“So, Dad, who looks after you?”
Well, mebbe not.
§ § §
“If Dad’s so worried about having enough for the tribe, why does he go on so many nest hunts? The food gets lost if the ship sinks. We have to build more ships and that uses up wood. Can’t he stay home more?”