Little Joe

Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace

Book: Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sandra Neil Wallace
announce it over the loudspeaker.” Eli came up to Little Joe’s head. “They got bleachers high as corn silos and they’re loaded with people looking down at you.”
    Little Joe brought his muzzle close to Eli’s chore coat and smelled the apple in Eli’s pocket. “You wanna try an apple?” Eli took out a slice and reached over to give one to Fancy first, but Little Joe snatched it instead. “There’ll be plenty of good stuff to chew when you go on pasture next month.” Little Joe nudged at Eli’s pocket for more slices. “After weaning. First clover. Then apples, come summer. Sure seems like you’re ready. And you won’t have to drag me down the field to get to it.” Eli laughed and looked out the window. It had started to rain.
    There were still patches of snow, lumped on the lawn like dirty snow cones. But it wasn’t snowing; it was raining.
    Eli got closer to Fancy and gave the last apple slice to her. “Pretty soon it’s gonna be Big Night,” Eli whispered, his pulse quickening. He’d never seen one before butknew what it meant. “That’s when little, tiny creatures no longer than your ears come out of hiding.” Eli scratched one of Fancy’s ears. “In the middle of the night. It’ll get warmer after that,” Eli assured them. “Then you’ll be in the pastures in no time chewing on apples.”

Chapter Seven
Big Night

    Grandpa was peering out from his kitchen window when Pa dropped Eli off for dinner like he did every Wednesday night. And there was one more tractor seat in Grandpa’s collection, mounted on the red barn.
    “Pick what you want for dessert, Eli.” Grandpa smiled. He was peeling a potato and came into the sun porch wearing one of Grandma’s aprons up high around his chest.
    Eli could smell something good cooking as he passed rows of lumpy old hats and Pa’s blue ribbons pinned on the beams.
    “Go on now.” Grandpa tapped his peeling knife against the freezer lid. “I’ll lift it open and you reach. Everything’s labeled.”
    It was the kind of freezer you stuck your head in, then leaned over, careful not to tip onto the bags of frozen peaches. There were jars of gooseberry jam underneath and those thumbprint cookies Hannah liked.
    Eli dug deeper and spotted licorice stripes. They came from an orange tub of homemade Tiger Tiger ice cream. Below it was a layer of square pizza Grandpa learned to make when he was in the army and lived in Italy.
    “Don’t matter what you pick or how you mix it,” Grandpa said, poking his head through cloudy pockets of freezer air. “Tiger Tiger with pizza can be nice. So can gooseberry jam over peaches.”
    Eli chose Tiger Tiger ice cream, then square pizza for later.
    “Salisbury steak’s for supper, Eli. Know what’s in the secret sauce?”
    Eli smiled. “Something with tomatoes.”
    Grandpa loved growing tomatoes. Said it gave him something to fuss over, with Grandma gone and no milkers to take care of anymore.
    “We’ll make ’em into sandwiches tonight,” Grandpa said. He pointed to a loaf of bread puffed out beyond the pan. “Turn it over. It should come out if you tap the bottom.”
    Eli tapped twice and the loaf came out.
    “You can cut ’er up, then get out the wax paper.”Grandpa lowered the stove burner and the pan stopped sizzling. “We’ll be having those Salisbury steak sandwiches—to go.”
    Eli’s heart skipped a beat. He knew it was raining out and that it was April, but it seemed kind of early. Winter had just ended.
    “Tonight could be Big Night, Eli. I can feel it.”
    Eli stopped cutting.
    “Ever have Salisbury steak by a pond with thousands of spotted salamanders and spring peepers to keep you company? How ’bout it?”
    Eli cut the bread slices as thick as his wrist to get to the end of the loaf. “Do you think they’re out right now?” He couldn’t wait to see salamanders and peeper frogs.
    “Let’s see.” Grandpa spooned his special sauce onto the steaks and looked at Eli. “Suppose

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