Finny backed away a few steps, then turned and simply ran. There was a roar from behind her, and Finny let out a gasping sob. Joe had seen her.
Terror gave her legs strength and Finny couldn't believe she was moving so fast and not yet falling over her own feet.
She made it to the rear of the wagon and scaled the rear wheel like a monkey before climbing inside. Scrambling backwards, Finny stared at the small back door.
She stopped moving, holding her breath.
Time and even the air seemed to stop for two whole heartbeats, and then the little door was almost torn from its hinges, and the space was filled with the rage-engulfed bulk of the berserker,
his animal eyes blazing and fixed on the terrified four-year-old as he slowly climbed into the wagon.
The wagon tilted and Finny thought she was going to slide down the canvas-covered floor right into Joe's bloody arms.
She tried to push herself further away, but her back was already pressing against the small bulkhead that separated the interior of the wagon from the driver's bench. Finny started to cry.
The berserker moved up the length of the wagon like an enormous silverback gorilla, his face twisted into a snarling grimace as if he was savouring the little girl's fear.
Tears rolled down Finny's face and her breath gallumped in her throat.
"Please don't. Joe... Please. You promised."
The berserker came to a stop and raised his massive fist high. Finny had already seen what that fist could do. She held her arms up and turned her head.
"You promised! YOU PROMISED!"
Everything stopped. Finny looked back at the blood-covered fist straining above her, ready to smash down and crush her to mush. But it never moved.
She shifted her gaze from the murderous, bloody hand to the berserker's face. The muscles twisted and contorted and then relaxed into the face she recognised, the rage in his eyes faded.
Joe lowered his hand. He stared at Finny with dawning horror.
"I'm sorry... Finny, I..."
Finny leapt forward, throwing her arms around his neck, still crying but now with relief as much as fear.
She felt Joe's hand, the one that was a split second from crushing the life out of her, fold around her waist with the careful, hesitant gentleness Joe, her Joe,
always used whenever he had to touch her.
They stayed like this until Finny's heartbeat slowed to normal. When she eventually released him, it was to sit back on her haunches and wipe the wetness from her face.
Nobody spoke until Joe coughed.
"I... Er, I'm going to go and... clean up, outside. All the, you know..."
Finny sniffed and Nodded. Joe turned to the rear door and then looked back.
"You stay in here, okay?"
Finny nodded more vigorously. She sat for a while listening to the noises outside as Joe 'cleaned up'.
Eventually, though, the spent adrenalin of the incident caught up with her and Finny snuggled down into the big feather quilt that was the cover of their bed.
The noises receded into soothing regular rhythms, and Finny fell asleep.
When she woke up, the wagon was moving, and it was dark.
Using touch alone, Finny made her way to the front, pulled back the thick canvas sheet that separated the driving bench from the wagon's body and climbed onto the seat beside Joe.
The night was moonlit, and the stars twinkled just like they always had. Both of them sat in silence.
Finny understood now that Joe got mad, like really mad, not just normal mad like other grown-ups. She understood that when Joe got mad, then really really bad things were going to happen.
The four-year-old shut the images of just how bad they could be out of her mind. The curious thing was, she reasoned, was that she wasn't particularly afraid, not now anyway.
In fact, knowing that the big berserker sitting next to her was on her side, well, it was a good feeling. And, importantly, he had kept his promise.
Finny felt safe; okay it was the 'having a lion for a pet' kind of safe, for sure, but it would do.
Joe cleared his throat, making Finny look up at him. However, Joe didn't look back at her. When he started to talk, he just kept watching the road, or the horses, or the moon... Just not her.
"Some of us, people like me, find it really hard not to, you know, get mad like that." Finny returned her attention to the fireflies dancing above the grass.
She listened, but she figured Joe was as much talking to himself as to her. Adults sometimes did this.
"Anyway," Joe continued. "When I was growing up, I tried all sorts of things to not get mad. I even went around for a while with my hands tied together.
It didn't really work though; you see, when 'it' happens, you get very strong see, ropes don't really do the job."
Joe paused, Finny glanced up again, and it seemed like the big berserker was thinking about what to say next. So, she waited.
"So, after a few years of getting into trouble, I went to see this bloke... Can't remember his name, but he was like me... except that he could keep a lid on it."
This time Joe did look down, and he must have seen from the quizzical look on the four-year-old's face that she didn't understand what 'keep a lid on it' meant.
"Not get crazy mad every time someone farts." That made Finny laugh, which made Joe smile, and that made Finny feel happy. "So anyway, I asked him how he did it..."
Something about the way Joe's voice changed made Finny frown. She watched as he sniffed, then coughed, then sort of like blew... and he blinked a lot.
She had a feeling that the berserker didn't want to go on with the story.
"How did he do it?" She prompted.
Joe coughed again, then sniffed again, before continuing.
"He showed me. He had this tiny little glass horse. You know, with really thin legs and tail and stuff."
Joe took a breath.
"Then he said to me that what he did was... Well, he said, what I should do was... He said; 'You need to get something that you have to be careful with.
Something very precious and delicate and that will break easily if you get mad.
Something small that you can't just lug around, but have to handle very carefully because it's so delicate you could break it if you don't'."
"Did you get one?" Finny was intrigued.
"Er, no. Well, I mean, I tried all sorts of things. But I didn't really care about them see. I had no patience with 'em. And this bloke ses, well, you have to care about it.
You have to, or it doesn't work."
"Din't you ever find anything then?"
"Well, yes. Eventually. I found something that I actually did want to look after... but, I broke it anyway."
"You got mad at it?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I got mad at it, and I broke it."
"You should have got another one and tried again. What was it? Was it really precious?"
Joe looked at her, and Finny caught just a glimpse of annoyance.
"It doesn't matter what it was. I broke it, that's all." His face softened. "But yeah, I tried again. I got another one."
Finny dropped her voice to a whisper.
"Did you break it."
"Yeah, I broke that one too. After that, I gave up. I promised myself I wouldn't get another one. I'd probably just break it like the others." He took a deep breath. "But..."
Finny clapped her hands and grinned.
"You got another one!"
Joe looked down at her and half-smiled.
"Yeah... well, I wasn't going to. Then I met some people who had one, but they were about to break it. Break it on purpose."
"What did you do?!"
"I took it off them."
"You stole it?"
"Something like that. But if I hadn't, then the people would have broken it. They were actually taking it away to break it when I stopped them."
"You rescued it?!"
"Yeah, I suppose I did."
"So, you'll have to be very careful of this one. Don't break it."
He looked at her, then leaned down to whisper.
"I kinda like this one so I'll look after it." He sat up again, smiling.
Finny used her best grown-up voice.
"And don't lose it."
Joe stared straight ahead.
"Oh, I won't. And if anybody tries to take it away from me..."
He let the rest of the sentence hang in the air. Finny didn't, however.
"... then, KERPOW!" She said, punching the palm of her hand with a small fist.
Joe should have been smiling at the childish reaction, but he wasn't.
"You said it Carrot-top. Kerpow!"
It was only then that Joe grinned and tousled her hair, very gently, like with something precious.