Not So Fine Print (K.K. Shaulis)

Summary:  The author gratefully acknowledges the work of Lewis Clay (“A Pink Cloud Comes From Old Cathay,” Season 5).
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  G
Word Count:  900


“#@%*&^+@! I quit! Go back to China!” Hop Sing angrily slammed his fist down on the desktop and snarled at his employer.

Ben Cartwright sighed and rolled his eyes. Once again the Chinese cook was agitated about something one of his three sons had done and as usual he was the one getting the earful. “Fine,” he shrugged unconcerned and went back to his figures.

“Mistah Cartlight understand what Hop Sing say?” Hop Sing glared at him, his dark eyes blazing.

Ben nodded still concentrating on his paperwork.

Hop Sing was stunned. What this? Normally he could expect the patriarch of the family to launch into a lot of excited ‘I promise…’s and ‘I’ll talk to…’s at this point but Ben just sat there calmly adding up a column of numbers. “Mistah Cartlight hear what Hop Sing say?” the Chinese cook leaned over so that he could look up into his employer’s face and so that he might hear him better.

“Yes, I did,” Ben nodded but kept right on with his addition. “You quit and are going back to China. Have a safe trip.”

Hop Sing straightened up. “Mistah Cartlight don’t care Hop Sing go back to China?” he growled.

“Not really,” Ben transferred a number from one of the two dozen receipts he had to deal with into the debit column of his ledger.

Hop Sing frowned, crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Ben suspiciously. “Who cook for boys, then?”

“It’s not my problem,” Ben said matter-of-factly putting his pen down on the desktop.

Hop Sing cocked his head to the side and continued to glare at Ben. “Why not your problem?”

“Because you’re taking the boys with you!” Ben smirked at the now very confused Chinese cook.

Hop Sing’s mouth dropped to the floor. “What you say?”

Ben held up his right index finger indicating for Hop Sing to hold on while he opened the bottom right hand drawer of his desk. “Here you go,” he laid a blue backed legal document on the desk.

Hop Sing instantly recognized it as the employment agreement that Tai Li also known as Pink Cloud and a few other less endearing terms, Hoss’ mail order bride from the Yipphee Trading Company, had negotiated with Ben just last month.

Ben cleared his throat and flipped open the contract to page six where paragraph fifteen was circled with red ink. “According to this,” he stabbed at the red circled paragraph using his right index finger again, “When you leave my employ, you, my friend, are obligated to take the boys back to China with you.”

“What?!?!?”

“Tai Li wanted you to have Confucius’s birthday off so she allowed me to put in this proviso, that’s all,” Ben explained patiently.

“What Hop Sing supposed to do with boys in China?” Hop Sing was flustered.

“Quite frankly, like I said, that’s your problem not mine,” Ben chuckled putting the contract back in the drawer. “I figure you’re going to have to find a well paying job to look after them, especially Hoss,” he nonchalantly handed a bill from the mercantile to Hop Sing. He smiled faintly noticing the sudden look of desperation in the Chinaman’s eyes as he read the numbers.

“Can not be…” Hop Sing shook his head.

“Of course,” Ben continued setting down his pen again. “Joe and Adam don’t eat as much but Adam has some pretty expensive tastes and we both know Joe needs a lot of money for gambling and girls so I hope you have some very rich relatives to help you out, too,” he handed the remaining receipts to the Chinaman for his information.

“But, Mistah Cartlight, Hop Sing cannot…” Hop Sing’s voice had a pleading note to it as he went through each bill.

“Of course, we could always tear up this agreement and go back to our old understanding,” Ben opened the desk drawer again and retrieved the document in question. “It’s all up to you.”

“Hmmm,” Hop Sing thought scratching his head. He looked at Ben distrustfully. “Still get Confucius’s birthday off?”

This time Ben took a minute to think, grinned and nodded his head. “Yes, you still get Confucius’s birthday off.”

Hop Sing smiled placing the receipts back on Ben’s desk then he sobered. “With pay?”

“Hmmm, I’ll think about it,” Ben smirked and handed the Hop Sing the contract.

“You think good,” Hop Sing smiled ripping the agreement in two. “I go burn this,” he held up the torn agreement, “And bring you coffee,” he turned and was gone.

Ben laughed watching the Chinese cook scurry off. Another crisis averted. He then glanced back down at the stack of bills and sighed thinking how maybe he had been just a little bit too hasty in agreeing to tear up the contract. After all, how many opportunities would he ever get for someone else to pay Hoss’ feed bill?

***The End***

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