SPINNING THROUGH PERIL
The snowball seemed to come out of nowhere and landed right against the back of Joe’s head, knocking him down. Frank rushed over and knelt down to help his brother. It scared him seeing his brother drop like that.
“Are you okay, Joe?” Frank asked in concern, carefully getting hold of Joe’s arm and helping him stand back up. Joe had still looked a little stunned when Frank had first reached him, but once he was back up on his feet again, he was getting angry.
“Yeah. Who threw that?” Joe demanded as he turned toward the direction the snowball had come from, his brother’s protective hand still resting on his shoulder.
Frank had seen the three boys in his peripheral vision when he had gone over to help Joe. It made him furious with whoever had thrown it, because he knew it was not an accident. This was based logically on who was in the vicinity and that they were advancing on the Hardys in a menacing manner.
“Hey, Hardy brats,” Hank snarled. Hank was two years older than Frank, much bigger and seemed to like nothing better than to push other kids around. This was not the first time Frank and Joe had had a run-in with the bully.
“Did you throw that snowball?” Frank asked, his voice deadly quiet. Even at eight he could be pretty intimidating when he was in his warrior mode.
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Apologize to Joe, and don’t ever do that again.” Frank gave the bully an unwavering look, one that didn’t encourage a challenge.
Hank guffawed, “Or what? You think you scare me, Hardy?” He glanced at his two friends, “There’s three of us and only two of you runts.”
Frank stood his ground, an angry Joe standing with him. “Two is still more than you usually like to take on,” Joe said, fists clenched at his sides, as the bully dared to taunt his big brother.
Hank stepped closer to Frank and Joe, as did his two flunkies, “I don’t think you got the guts, Hardy.”
“You don’t have the guts or brains, Whitl-” Joe was interrupted by his brother’s hand over his mouth. Joe shifted his blue gaze in Frank’s direction. Frank shook his head and then took away his hand.
Hank’s face got red with anger at Joe’s words, or rather what he was about to say. Hank’s real name was Whitmore, but he had warned everyone to only call him Hank, which was from his middle name, Henry. On a previous occasion, Joe had intervened when the bully had been picking on another kid, and the younger Hardy brother had coined a new nickname for Hank – Whitless.
“You little punk!” snarled Hank and raised his fist. Frank made a mental note to talk again to Joe about antagonizing their antagonists. That would need to wait until later because right now he had a situation to diffuse and an apology to obtain. He doubted either one would be an easy task.
“Don’t even think about hitting him,” Frank said calmly. He was ready to catch that fist if it started moving toward his little brother. He shifted unnoticed by the bullies, getting into position so that he could do so.
“If you do, I’ll have to hit you back and you’ll regret it.”
Hank scoffed, “I told you I ain’t scared of you, Hardy.”
“You should be, because I can hurt you a lot worse than you can hurt me.” Frank’s voice was steely and determined. Joe watched the exchange but was ready to jump in if the fighting started. Looking at his big brother, he thought to himself that if Hank dared challenge Frank, the bully was definitely witless. It didn’t matter that the bully was bigger than Frank; Joe would count on his brother being the winner.
“Oh yeah?” Hank threw at Frank.
“Do you want to find out?”
Hank didn’t want to lose face in front of his friends by backing down, which was what he really wanted to do; this Frank Hardy kid was a little unnerving.
Hank took a step closer to Frank so that they were only an inch apart. He glared down at the shorter boy.
“You’re asking for it, kid!!” Hank shouted right in Frank’s face. Frank barely blinked which added to Hank’s amazement at the elder Hardy brother’s nerves of steel.
“Asking for what?” came another voice from the right. Hank and his cronies jumped in surprise at the presence of a new person. Turning, they found it was actually four guys and a girl who had just arrived. Chet Morton raised an eyebrow at Hank. Phil Cohen, Tony Prito, Biff Hooper, and Iola Morton stood next to Chet, as the Hardys’ friends regarded the bullies.
“A broken nose!” snapped Hank, desperately trying to figure out how to get out of this and not look as if he were backing down. The arrival of the Hardys’ friends added to the unsure feeling that had started when Frank and Joe had stood up to him.
“Is that what you want?” Biff asked. He was almost as tall as Hank and the bully had no desire to make Biff angry. Glancing back over at Frank and Joe, Hank decided he wished he hadn’t made the Hardys angry, either.
“How about a knuckle sandwich?” Chet offered. The Hardys’ friends were now standing next to Frank and Joe.
“Apologize for hitting the kid,” Hank smacked one of his friends and then pointed at Joe.
“But I ….” Hank’s buddy started.
“Just apologize.” Hank glared at the other kid, who looked confused.
“You said you threw the snowball,” Frank reminded Hank, whose face was staying red.
“Maybe I was just covering for him,” Hank said, indicating his friend, Simon.
“Um, I’m sorry?” Simon finally muttered, looking decidedly uncomfortable. Joe glanced at Frank, wondering what he should do. Frank gave him the slightest nod. They hadn’t actually seen which of the three it had been who had thrown the snowball.
“It’s okay,” Joe told him.
Before the bullies left, Hank had one more comment for Frank and Joe, which he muttered quietly, “There’s gonna be a time when your gang ain’t right next to you. Then we are really going to get you two.” He glared at the brothers before turning and sauntering off.
“What a bunch of blowhards,” said Chet and shook his head.
Iola had gone over to Joe, “You okay, Joe? That jerk hit you?” Her big eyes showed anger at the thought, as well as concern for the blond Hardy brother.
“I’m fine, he just threw a snowball,” Joe said, downplaying the situation. Iola sure looks cute with her rosy cheeks, he thought.
“He was hit in the back of the head with a snowball so hard it knocked him down,” Frank elaborated, smiling at Joe’s toughness.
“He can’t get away with that!” Iola started to go after the bullies, but was stopped when her brother picked her up and turned her back around.
“Where did you think you were going?” Chet asked.
Iola looked up at Chet, ready to answer him when Joe distracted her. He lobbed a snowball at Chet, who easily batted it away having seen it coming. She turned in surprise and saw Joe’s smile and twinkling deep blue eyes. Joe sure looks cute with his rosy cheeks, she thought.
Before long all of the friends were engaged in a fun, friendly, playful snowball fight. Tony stood up from where he had hidden behind a pile of snow, and let loose with a fastball that got Biff right in the shoulder. Biff was surprised because he had just hit Frank in the leg and hadn’t seen Tony at all.
There was much laughter as the friends enjoyed the ever increasing snowfall. Frank and Joe went back to their original idea of building a snow fort, and they all pitched in to make an impressive one together.
“Here’s another one for this side, which should make it pretty even,” Phil said, as he finished packing together a good sized snowball that he placed on top of the sturdy foundation that they had all completed. Biff got to work on reinforcing Phil’s contribution by filling in any gaps with snow acting as mortar. The snow fort was looking better every minute, but the minutes were adding up.
“Hey, I better get going!” Phil exclaimed, after looking at his watch. All of the friends’ parents had told them they could play outside until a certain time and they had all worked their way over to the Hardy house. Chet and Iola didn’t have to walk the mile outside of Bayport to their farmhouse. They were meeting their dad and mom after they finished some errands.
“What time is it?” Chet asked as he tossed a solidly packed snowball from one gloved hand to the other. He’d forgotten to wear his new digital watch. With the snow and cloud cover, it had constantly looked much later than it was.
“At the tone it will be….” Tony started to say, imitating a cartoon he had heard before on TV. He lifted his arm up to give Chet the exact time, right to the second. Tony let out a loud exclamation when he pushed his coat sleeve up to reveal a bare wrist. “My watch is gone!”
The friends all gathered around at Tony’s announcement. “I can’t believe it!”
“When was the last time you saw it?” asked Frank, as his dark eyes were already searching around the fort, hoping to spot it in the snow, figuring it had fallen off.
Tony threw his hands up in the air, “I don’t know, not since I put my coat on.”
“It’s black, right?” Joe asked as his eyes also scanned the area.
“Yeah, it’s got Scooby-Doo on it,” Tony said. Joe nodded, remembering his friend showing it to him when he received it for his birthday.
“Hey, I wonder if Hank and his gang stole it,” Chet contemplated. The others thought over that possibility but Joe shook his head.
“Just because he’s a jerk, doesn’t mean he’s a thief,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did,” Tony muttered, not seeing his watch anywhere. “Or one of his pals.”
“There’s no proof,” Joe stated. Frank glanced over at his brother, proud of him. Joe could be impetuous at times and jump to conclusions, but he was fair minded and unafraid to state his opinion.
Tony had been running all over the yard, so it was likely to be anywhere, including the possibility that he could have lost the watch on the way to the Hardys’. Everyone joined in on the search, attempting to cover every inch of the packed snow. Already their footprints were being covered by the newly fallen snow. Frank wondered how much time to give to the search before the others had to go. It could be dangerous walking back to their homes. Just a few more minutes, he decided, and then he would suggest stopping the search.
Joe sighed in frustration as he searched through one section of snow. Poor Tony, he really likes his watch, but it could be anywhere, he thought. Joe didn’t give up looking, despite that fact.
Remembering that Tony had been using one pile of snow as a shield to hide behind during the snow fight earlier, Biff moved over to that area. This was where Tony had gotten off several perfect throws, some of which had successfully targeted Biff.
Using his boot, the tall boy scraped along the snow. He couldn’t even tell at this point that Tony had gathered snowballs from there, since more snow had fallen in a short amount of time. So, hands in pockets, Biff walked up and down that portion of the side of the yard. Tempted to give up when nothing turned up at first, Biff decided to give it one more sweep. His persistence paid off when he spotted a small piece of black that had just been uncovered. Reaching down, he plucked the watch out of the snow.
“Found it!” he shouted. Tony hollered his thanks from where he was and ran to where Biff was proudly holding the found treasure. Everyone was happy to see the grin on Tony’s face. He slapped Biff on the back as he thanked him again. After putting the still-working watch securely on his wrist, he called ‘so long’ to his friends and took off for home. The rest followed suit, knowing they were supposed to be home by now.
Joe watched their friends heading for their houses, hoping they would be safe since he could hear the few cars that were out skidding on the slippery roads. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up at his brother.
“They’ll be fine,” Frank told him, accurately reading his little brother’s expression. “And don’t even think about wanting to stay out here longer.” Joe had to admit he was starting to get more than a little cold. The brothers hurried into the house to get into some dry clothes. Once they had accomplished this, their stomachs as well as the clock indicated that it was time to eat lunch.
“How about a sandwich and chips?” Frank suggested as they entered the kitchen. This sounded great to Joe and they worked together to get the supplies. They gathered the necessary ingredients and once they had them all on the table they set to work building their sandwiches.
Joe wanted to cut the thick homemade egg bread, but Frank was firm about being the one to do so. Instead, Joe watched as his brother carefully sliced the bread. Once that was accomplished they took slices of honey smoked turkey, hearty slices of tomato, leafy lettuce, and sweet onions to build some amazing sandwiches. Adding some potato chips to their plates, with apple juice to drink, it was perfect.
“Hey, know what one kid told me the other day?” Joe’s deep blue eyes got even larger, obviously still incredulous at whatever the kid had said. He didn’t wait for Frank to answer but kept going. “He said he saw some reindeer flying. Know what I said?”
Frank shook his head.
“I said, I saw ’em, too. They flew over the rabbit laying the chicken eggs. What a mixed-up world.”
Frank was glad he wasn’t drinking the apple juice right then because he would have spit it all over the table as he started laughing. It took him a little while to stop. Joe looked at him in concern but started laughing too, proud that he had made his brother laugh so hard.
“You didn’t really, did you?” spluttered Frank when he could almost, but not quite, talk coherently again.
“Sure, why not?” Joe shrugged his shoulders.
“He might have believed you.”
Joe stared at his brother, “You’re kidding.”
“No, some people will believe anything.”
“Wow.” Joe was silent, thinking about that for a minute. “I guess I better tell him I was just kidding. I thought that was a no-brainer.”
“Yeah, I know,” Frank said. “One kid was surprised at what we do and don’t believe. Different things are important to different people.” Frank made his comment matter-of-factly, not realizing how philosophical he sounded.
The two finished eating and went back into the living room. They concluded their game, with Frank winning, and then went to call their friends to make sure they had made it home okay. After learning that they were all home safe, the brothers settled down on the couch to read some books. Frank reached over and flipped on the light.
“Getting a little too dark to read,” he noted. Joe nodded, leaning back against the plush couch and opening his new book, which promised to be an exciting adventure story full of mystery. Looking over, he saw that Frank was already immersed in his own new book. No babysitter, a fun afternoon with his brother, playing in the snow, seeing his other friends – life was good, Joe thought to himself, as he smiled at his big brother and then began to read.
BOLO FOR CHAPTER 4!