Troubles In Paradise

Characters; Ethan 36, Claire 14, Joseph 12, Ben 9 George 8

(Based on the TV series Paradise)

Background:Ethan Cord is an ex gunfighter living in Paradise, Colorado in the late 1800's. Paradise is a mining town. Ethan became the guardian of his sister's four children in August of 1897, after she died of tuberculosis. Ethan's sister, Lucy Cord Carroll was living with her children in St. Louis, Missouri and working as a singer in the theater. Ethan has purchased a small ranch. He is determined to raise the children as young ladies and gentlemen as his sister would want them to be. Although he tries to stop using his gun as a way to make a living, he is called on to help out the local sheriff at times. In June of 1898, Ethan legally adopted his niece and nephews.


March, 1899

Chapter 1 school trouble

The spring weather had most everyone in a happy mood. The cold, wet feeling they had been experiencing for months was finally gone. Instead of cold, the air was warm, the snow had been replaced by grass and there were new flowers coming up everywhere.

As Joseph sat looking out the window he thought "It's the perfect time of year to be outside having a good time. Instead of being outside, I'm stuck in this dumb school having to write a stupid school theme! Why does Miss. Harrison think I'm at all interested in George Washington?! If she is so interested in him then why doesn't she write this dumb report herself!"

Just then he hears Miss. Harrison call his name. He looks at her as she says "Please stand and read what you have written." Joseph slowly stands up. He opens his mouth to read but instead of the words written on his paper he hears himself say "Why do you think I'm at all interested or care about George Washington? If you want to know about him then why don't YOU write this stupid theme!"

Joseph hears several students gasp at hearing this. His sister Claire hisses "Joseph, You're being rude!" Then he hears "I agree with Claire. That response was not only rude but disrespectful as well. Let me see your paper. You have only written four sentences in an hour and a half?" Miss. Harrison's voice sounds both surprised and a bit angry.

Joseph hears himself say "Yeah, I did. You want more than that then I suggest you go write it yourself. I'm done."

Joseph cringes and closes his eyes as he hears what he just said. For some reason lately, his mouth and brain don't seem to be cooperating with each other. He has been in trouble at home too, for saying rude or disrespectful things. Joseph can't seem to control what his mouth says. He never quite knows what might come out when he opens his mouth. Just like a few seconds ago.

"Joseph Cord since you have forgotten your manners and decided not to cooperate with your assignment, you are dismissed for the rest of the day."

"I warned you about not completing your assignments just yesterday. You are to go straight home. You will be allowed back in this schoolroom when you have your Father bring you. You will wait while I write a note to your Father."


Later that afternoon

Sitting on the bank by the pond, Joseph is busy trying to think of a way to give his Uncle the note without putting himself in danger. He knows his Uncle is going to be very upset with him for this behavior. Joseph thinks back to their conversation just yesterday when Miss. Harrison had sent a note home about his "not completing his assignments."

Joseph had waited until everyone was in bed before showing the note to his Uncle. He pretended to just have remembered the note when actually he had planned it out to wait. Of course his Uncle had seen through the "forgetfulness" and known he had deliberately waited to tell him about the note.

Ethan had taken him out to the barn and they had "discussed" his forgetfulness and behavior in school.

Joseph remembers his Uncle telling him "I expect you to go to school to learn. You can't learn if you do not do your schoolwork. Joseph, I don't want to hear about you slacking off on your schoolwork again. One of the rules in our family is to do your best in school. Not completing assignments is not doing your best in school. "

"This forgetfulness of yours is a deliberate attempt to get out of punishment and It isn't going to work. Your punishment is going to be to come straight home from school for the rest of this week and you are housebound for the weekend."

"If we need to have this discussion about slacking off at school again, I will be doing more talking with my belt to your backside than with my mouth!"

Looking up at the sun, he decides it's time to go. "Claire and the boys are probably almost home. if I catch up to them, I can act as if I am coming home from school."

Joseph catches up to his sister and brothers on the road close to their house. "Boy, Joseph! You really got yourself in big trouble this time! Miss. Harrison was still mad for an hour after she sent you home. I guess you haven't been home yet, have you?" asked Ben.

"No, I didn't go home. I'm not crazy Ben. I went to the pond to think."

Claire tells him "It's too bad you didn't think earlier when you were at school! You embarrassed me today Joseph. I would never talk to anyone the way you did today! I don't even want to talk to you."

"Fine with me. I don't want to talk to you either! I'm not the perfect person you always are! I have opinions!"

Ben asks "Joseph, What do you plan to do about the note and telling Uncle Ethan about what happened? You know he's going to be really mad when he reads that note. I am SO glad I am not you right now!"

"Right now, I'm wishing I wasn't me either! My plan so far is later tonight, I'll give Uncle Ethan the note. Maybe be then, I'll have thought of something to say. It's going to have to be something really good to keep him from taking me back out to the barn for a talk with his belt."


After supper

As the boys wash the dishes from supper, Joseph is still thinking about what to say to keep himself out of trouble. Drying the pots, he hears Claire talking to their Uncle but she's being too quiet for him to hear what she's saying.

After the boys finish cleaning up from supper, Ben asks "Uncle Ethan, Can we go play outside in the treehouse?"

"Please, It is still light outside." George adds.

"What about homework,boys?" Ethan asks

"I'm all finished." George tells him.

"I did most of mine at school and the rest I finished before supper." Ben says.

"Go ahead, but I want you both inside when it gets dark." Ethan tells them.

"Yes sir, we'll be here." Ben answers.

As the boys run off, Ethan turns to Joseph. "Joseph, I understand you got yourself into some trouble at school today."

Joseph looks over at Claire who is busy mending clothes. "You TOLD ! How could you ! You're supposed to be my sister and friend!" he yells.

Ethan grabs him by the arm and delivers three open handed smacks to Joseph's backside. "Stop shouting at your sister! Miss. Harrison stopped me when I was coming out of the hardware store this afternoon. She told me all about what went on in school this morning!" Apologize to Claire for shouting at her."

"I'm sorry for yelling at you, Claire." Joseph says but glares at his sister when his Uncle isn't looking. In his mind he says "We'll talk later."

Somehow Claire seems to know what he's thinking. She nods her head. Joseph and Claire are aware of a special connection where they often can tell what the other is thinking. Ben and George have it too, but it's even stronger. They are able to finish each others sentences at times.

Joseph looks up at his Uncle wondering just how angry he is about the episode at school. He sees the dark flashing eyes, the eyebrows pulled down and his mouth is in a straight line.

"Oh great! That's the "ANGRY" face. There's no way I'm getting out of this now." Joseph sighs to himself.

Ethan, taking Joseph by the arm says "We're going to finish this discussion in the barn. Excuse us Claire."

Joseph wishes he wouldn't hold him by the arm like this. "I can walk to the barn by myself, Uncle Ethan. You don't have to hold me by the arm." Ethan looks at him but doesn't let go.


Joseph's Bedroom

Laying on his stomach on the bed, Joseph hears a knock on his bedroom door. If I don't bother to answer maybe whoever it is will just think I'm asleep and go away. I really don't feel up to talking right now. He thinks.

He hears the door open and someone sits down next to him on the bed. "Joseph, I know you're not asleep." He hears Claire say. ''Come on, roll over so we can talk. I brought you something."

Seeing Joseph wince as his bottom touches the mattress, she asks "How bad was it?"

"Bad! He made me take my pants down and whipped me on my bare backside with the belt. I counted five licks before I quit counting. I probably got four or five after that. He was mad about me not coming straight home too. He said something could have happened to me and no one would know because no one knew where I was." He wiped his eyes as tears threatened to roll down. His backside was still burning.

Claire handed him the warm wet cloth she had brought in. "Here, put this on your eyes, it'll help make you feel a little better. I brought in some warm milk with honey too. Maybe that will help a little. I could put some salve on your backside if you want me too."

Joseph looks at her in shock "Are you trying to get me a thrashing? I can't pull my pants down in front of you!" Uncle Ethan might say I was exposing myself and take the strap to me!"

"Oh, well it's not like I haven't seen all of you before! I used to help bathe you when you were little."

"Claire, I am not a baby anymore! I'm TWELVE almost thirteen!" Joseph whispers furiously.

"Ok, so I take it you DON"T want salve on your backside?" Claire asks grinning at him.

"NO!"

"Okay, well good night then. I guess you'll be going back to school in the morning. Right?" Claire asks.

"Yeah, he's taking us to school so he can talk to Miss. Harrison. He probably wants to tell her how he whipped me and I am housebound for two weeks. I also have to write a four page theme on George Washington! Uncle Ethan added two more pages than Miss. Harrison said I had to do!" Joseph replies angrily.

"Joseph, he loves us and he's trying to teach you to be a better person. If he didn't care, he wouldn't take the time to punish you when you need it."

"Well, sometimes, like right now, I really wish he didn't care quite so much. My bottom is really sore!"

"Good Night, Joseph." Claire giggles as she closes his door.


Early Morning in the Schoolroom

"Miss. Harrison, I have discussed Joseph's behavior with him. He assures me he will be a much nicer person from now on. We shouldn't be having any more trouble with his mouth or with him not doing his schoolwork."

"Isn't that right, Joseph?" Ethan asks sternly.

"Yes sir!" At a look from his uncle, he adds "I'm very sorry for my outburst yesterday and for not doing my assignment. I will finish my assignments from yesterday today." Joseph repeats what he was told to say.

"Miss. Harrison, I told Joseph he would not be having recess until all of his assignments from yesterday are complete. I have also added two pages to his theme he is to write. He will have this ready to hand in on Friday."

"This is part of his punishment for his behavior yesterday. He may also have a bit of trouble sitting still for long periods of time. He's still a little sore back there." Ethan says grinning at Joseph.

Joseph wishes he were invisible right now. He keeps his mouth shut by biting down on his back teeth. He knows it wouldn't be a good idea for him to say anything right now. Especially when he doesn't know what his mouth might say!

"Miss. Harrison, If you have any more problems with Joseph or any of my children, continue to send me a note. I send them to school to learn, not to misbehave or cause trouble. I have made it very clear to Joseph what to expect if he gets in trouble at school. Actually all three boys know what to expect. I don't think you will be having any more trouble."

"Thank you Mr. Cord for correcting Joseph's attitude. If all parents were as caring as you it would make teaching school much easier. There are a few parents who don't' take the time to keep track of their child's behavior or learning."

Joseph can't stay quiet any longer and says "Yes, like Bad Billy Justice. He's much worse than me. He smokes and drinks and gambles! He gets in fights too! He never has his assignments finished either!' His Pa never cares what he does. He's one lucky kid."

"We are not discussing anyone else and their behavior. Just yours! Joseph, you had better not ever let me hear of YOU doing any of the things you seem to admire this Billy doing. You hear me, son?" Ethan asks angrily.

"Yes Sir, I hear and understand you very well." Joseph says quickly.

"Good! Now remember what I say. I'll see you at home right after school." Ethan says as he leaves the room. "Have a good day."


Two weeks later

As the children walk home from school Claire says, "Joseph, I'm really surprised at you. Why would you try to fight Billy Justice like that?"

"Yeah Joseph, he's bigger and much meaner than you." Ben says.

George asks "Are you ok Joseph? He didn't huwt you too bad did he?"

"I'll be Ok, George. I don't hurt that much. It's mostly my eye!"

"What are you going to tell Uncle Ethan?" Ben asks. "He's going to be mad about you getting in a fight."

"I know." Joseph sighs. "I'll just tell him the truth and give him the note. I'll just have to hope he doesn't get too mad."


That afternoon at the ranch

Seeing Joseph's rapidly swelling eye, Ethan asks sternly "Were you in a fight today, Joseph? Did this happen at school?"

"Yes sir." Joseph answers quietly.

"Who were you fighting with and why were you fighting?"

"It's all in the note." Joseph says handing his Uncle the note from school. As Ethan reads the note his eyebrows go up. When he finishes reading he looks up and asks "Did you really convince four other boys to help you fight Billy Justice?"

"Yes Sir, I did. It was time to teach him a lesson. He was rude and hateful to Miss. Harrison again. He told her to "take a flying leap in the lake" when she scolded him for not listening in class. He's still gambling and drinking too."

"We got together at recess and jumped him on his way back from the outhouse. We got him good too. He has two black eyes, a busted lip and his nose was bloody! If his Pa won't teach him respect and good behavior someone has to!"

"Are you mad at me? Am I going to get a whipping for fighting?"

"No, Joseph, I'm not mad. Actually I'm proud that you stood up for your teacher. That was a very nice thing to do. You won't be punished for this."

"Thank you Uncle Ethan!" Joseph answers grinning happily.

"I don't want you thinking all of your problems can be solved by fighting but, in this case I think you boys did the right thing. You're right someone has to teach that boy to behave himself. However, that doesn't mean I will not be punishing you if you ever get in another fight."

"Yes sir. Uncle Ethan?"

"Yes, Joseph?"

"Miss. Harrison said you have to come back to school to talk with her about my fighting. I don't think she was really mad at us though."

"No Joseph, somehow I don't think she would be this time. We'll both go talk to her in the morning. Right now, I think you and I should take a trip over to the Justice place so you can apologize to his parents for fighting him."

"He started it! Why should I have to apologize?"

"Because I want you to and it's the thing to do. I'll also be talking with his Father about Billy's misbehavior in town. I had no idea he was still drinking and gambling. This boy is under the age of twenty one so he is breaking the law. I want to warn his Father that if Billy is caught he will be punished by me or the sheriff for breaking the law."

"You'd put him in jail?" Joseph asks incredulously.

"No, I would treat him just as I would if it were you. I would take the razor strap to his backside until he couldn't sit down for a week!"

"For Billy's sake, I hope he doesn't ever have to go through that! That strap makes you feel like you sat in a fire!"

"Good to know you remember that. Let's go, Joseph" Ethan says smiling.


The Justice Place

"Mr. Justice?" Ethan asks the man opening the door. "Yeah!, what do you want?" The man is dirty with torn overalls and no shirt.

He looks as if he hasn't bathed in a long time or had a shave either. Joseph thinks.

"My name is Ethan Cord, this is my son Joseph. We're here so Joseph can apologize for fighting with your son Billy. Is Billy here?"

"No. I haven't seen him lately. So your kid beat up my kid? Well, that's quite funny. MY boy is two times bigger than yours! I'll just have to bust him for letting a whelp like that get the better of him."

Joseph just stares at Billy's father. He knows better than to say anything back to the man although he desperately wants to. Sensing Joseph's anger, Ethan puts his hand on Joseph's arm both in comfort and in warning to keep quiet.

"Mr. Justice, there's another reason I came here today. Are you aware of Billy's gambling and drinking when he is in town?"

"So what of it. He's a young man and all young men drink and play cards at times. MY Boy's good at cards! Won me sixty dollars the other day!"

"Mr. Justice, Billy is only a child. He's breaking the law by gambling and drinking when he's under the age of twenty one. It's my understanding that he's only fifteen. Am I right?"

"Yeah, he's about that. So what? Who are you to say what he can't do?"

"I am the deputy sheriff in Paradise, Mr. Justice. It's my job to enforce the laws of the town. If you don't stop your son from breaking the law, I will."

"He will not be arrested but, he will be severely punished. I will take him out to the woodshed behind the sheriff's office and thrash him if I catch him gambling or drinking. That is a promise, sir! Good Day!"

"Joseph, Get in the wagon. We're leaving now." Ethan has to tell Joseph to move because he seems to have grown roots. The boy is just standing there staring at his uncle.

Once in the wagon, Joseph asks "Uncle Ethan are you really the deputy sheriff now?"

"Yes, I am. Tom hired me last week. The job is temporary though. Next month, a new man will be here to take over. His name is Mitchell Williams and he's coming from Colorado Springs. Judge Henry recommended him."

"We've been looking for a deputy for Tom for some time now. Tom's health isn't as good as it used to be and he needs some help."

"Why don't you want to take the job permanently, Uncle Ethan?"

"I'm too busy running the ranch and raising all of you. If I spent all my time chasing down criminals, who would be around to wallop you when you mess up?" Ethan teases.

"That might be nice! Why don't you go ahead and take that job permanently!" Joseph teases back.

"Not going to happen, Joseph. You are not going to turn out like Bad Billy Justice! Not while I'm around anyway. I am going to continue to raise you children to be the well behaved and well -mannered children your Mother wanted you to be. I also want to see you all grow up into polite, educated young adults."

"If that means taking a few trips out to the barn for a talk with the belt, I'll be doing it. You know it's because I want the best for you, right?"

"Yes, you care about us. You aren't like that Billy's father. He doesn't even care what he does."

"No Joseph, he doesn't. Some people aren't meant to be parents."

"I'm glad you are meant to be a parent, Uncle Ethan. Even when you do wallop me! I know you love me even when I'm being obnoxious!"

"Yes Joseph, even when you are obnoxious and run off at the mouth, I still love you anyway. You do need to control that mouth though!'

Joseph just grins at him.