Shirtless Joe (by JC)

Summary:   One man’s field of dreams is another woman’s fantasy.  (With a deferential nod to David Dortort and W.P. Kinsella)
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  G    (Alternative Universe)
Word Count:  987

“Mom, there’s a man in our backyard.”

My son’s words raised the hairs on the back of my neck.  I dropped the laundry basket and ran to the window.

“It’s him. It’s really him,” I whispered.  “The Voice was right.”

“Him who?” my son asked.  “What Voice?”

“Could it be the same Voice that told you to fill in the swimming pool and build a pasture?” My husband has a way of making everything sound so negative, but then, he has always been a “half-empty glass” kind of guy.  I’ve learned to ignore him for the most part.  Besides, it wasn’t a pasture; it was a corral, certainly no reason for him to resign his post as Vice-President of the Homeowners Association.  That was his idea, yet somehow it had become my fault.

“Shirtless Joe Cartwright, that’s him who.”   If you build it, he will come.  That’s what The Voice had said, and here he was. I couldn’t help but be awestruck at the sight of him, so young and bronze and full of classic television goodness.  The Ingalls clan wasn’t even a gleam in his eye yet.

I was only vaguely aware of my spouse’s continued grousing. “Did The Voice happen to say anything about when we’ll be having dinner?”   Was he kidding?  Who needed food while the eyes feasted?

My son interrupted my gawking reverie. “He’s wearing a shirt and a jacket, so why do they call him Shirtless Joe?”

“Well, you see it’s because he’s hot…I mean, sometimes it’s hot…and he gets all sweaty and…”  I balked at the prospect of trying to explain mid-life female fantasies to an eleven-year-old boy.  Some things are better left unsaid.

Apparently, my husband agreed with me on that point.  “It’s no use, son.  I would say you’ll understand when you’re older, but if you do, you’ll be a better man then most. Come on, let’s go get a pizza and watch the All-Star game on the big screen.”

“Can we get a horse, Dad?”

With the two of them off to seek solace in deep-dish pepperoni, baseball and other man things, I got up the nerve to go outside and greet the handsome but bewildered looking cowboy gracing my back lawn (right after I fluffed my hair,  pinched my cheeks, checked my teeth, glossed my lips and popped a breath mint.)

“Hello,” I said, assuming my most charming demeanor, trying to act natural.

“Howdy, ma’am.”  He took off his hat, seeming relieved to see another person.  “I’m a little confused.  I’m not sure where I am or how I got here.  Is this…heaven, or Iowa?”

I shook my head. “It’s Texas.”

“Well, I figured it was too hot for either one.  Texas, huh?  Looks a lot different from the way I remember.  It’s a lot prettier.”  He smiled at me.  “I’m Joe Cartwright.”

“Yes, I know.”  I felt myself blushing under his green-eyed gaze.   “I mean, nice to meet you.  I’m…uh…” I couldn’t think of my own name for a moment.  “I’m JC.”

“JC, like me.”  He grinned.  “Nice place you got here.  You wouldn’t happen to have a horse I could borrow, would you?”

“Thanks,” I said.  “I’m sorry, I don’t have any horses. I only built this place because the Voice told me to.”

He raised his eyebrows.  “You hear voices?”

“Just one.”  It was always so hard to explain to someone else.

He was looking at me the way the neighbors used to before they started avoiding me altogether. “You don’t think you’re a fish or a tree or anything like that, do you?”

“I’m not crazy or dangerous, if that’s what you mean.  The fact that I do things for no apparent reason just seems to annoy some people. I didn’t know it before, but I think I built this for you.”

The notion seemed to please him as he surveyed his new surroundings once more.  “There is something about this place…I think my father and my brothers would like it, too.  Would it be all right if I brought them here, and maybe a few friends?”

“That would be perfectly fine.”  I tried not to sound too excited.

“Well, I guess I’d better be headin’ back.  My pa worries if I’m late.  Do you have any idea which way…?”

“Try the cornfield.”  I had a feeling it would come in handy somehow.

As I watched him disappear between the tasseled rows swaying in the breeze, I was tempted to follow but decided against it.  After all, a little mystery adds spice to life.  Besides, I really wanted to touch up my roots before anyone else happened to show up.

That was only the beginning.  Of course, not everyone sees what I see.  My poor blind husband sees only the piles of laundry and the dishes in the sink and a vacant lot where a swimming pool should be.  But there are a few people who think like me.  Someone once said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.”  If you build it, people will come.

A voice calls to me from across the fence.  “Wanna play with us?  Come on!”

I’m still not too good at horseshoes, but I’m always game.  Hoss grins and Adam winks at me as I walk by.

My husband stares and shakes his head sadly.  “Honey, they’re going to take you away, you know.”

My pitch is a perfect ringer this time, earning me a rousing cheer from the growing number of spectators and a bear hug from my teammate Joe, in all his shirtless glory, giving me a new appreciation for the Texas heat.

“Maybe you’re right, dear.” I smile.  “But what a way to go.”

***The End***

Return to JC’s home page

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