Summary: Just where did the piano come from or where was it stored?
Word Count: 2200
Ben Cartwright folded his paper and beamed congenially at his three sons, who sat around the over-sized fireplace. Adam was in his favorite blue chair, Hoss had pulled up one of the red leather chairs and Joe was perched on the wood box. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it did put him on eye-level with the rest of the family. The Giggly Sisters were thus relegated to the hideously uncomfortable sofa. It had been recovered several times and was currently sporting a dull maroon stripe. Why Ben had not instructed it to be completely reupholstered and re-stuffed at the same time was somewhat of a mystery.
“I think we should hold a little soiree – a musical evening for our friends!” Ben announced happily.
Predictably, Adam was thrilled at the very idea. In his dim and distant youth, he had taken singing lessons. Exactly why a small frontier town had a vocal coach has never been satisfactorily explained, nor was the teacher’s reaction to Adam’s unique vocal stylings ever recorded. Suffice to say, Adam only knew two songs and there was no longer a music teacher in Virginia City.
“I could sing!” the redhead quickly said, for she had a beautiful soprano voice, of some considerable strength. “But I’ll need a piano, so my sister can accompany me.”
“We’ve got a perfectly good piano,” Adam said, mentally planning a duet of “Sweet Betsy from Pike”.
Joe looked around the room, with a certain degree of confusion. There was no piano to be seen. Just to make perfectly sure, he got up and peeked at the peculiar bit at the side of the stairs, where the balustrade didn’t quite reach the wall. No, there were several spiders’ webs and a veritable warren of dust bunnies (Hop Sing appeared to be slacking on the housework front) but there was definitely no piano. “Where?” he asked.
“Don’t be stupid, Joe,” Adam said, airily, for he was fondly imagining many cozy evenings in the winter spent around the pianoforte. “It’s over there.” He waved vaguely in the direction of the office.
They all turned to look, for there didn’t appear to be a piano anywhere in the great room. All that was in the office was the desk, the pot-bellied stove, the bookcase (which had swapped places with the window again) and the famous map, which for some reason wasn’t drawn north/south, but east/west instead.
“Where?” the blonde asked. She knew what a piano looked like, for she had managed to break the workings of one when just a child.
“Well, there was one there at one point,” Adam said, pinching the bridge of his nose while he tried to remember. This was just a ploy actually. Hay fever season was in full swing, and the pollen, plus the dust bunnies in the house, was playing havoc with his sinuses.
“Ah, but when?” Ben asked, enigmatically.
“Well, one of those dances we’ve held here,” Adam proclaimed disgustedly. “I clearly remember it. It sat against the wall where the bookcase is now.” He got up and went over to demonstrate. Since the window was currently behind the desk, looking out into the yard, the bookcase was against the porch wall.
“So where did the bookcase go then?” the redhead asked.
Rolling his eyes, Adam ignored the question, because he simply didn’t know the answer. He wasn’t even sure how they’d managed to get the huge piece of furniture into the house in the first place.
The blonde shot a look at Hoss. She knew he was very gentle, but no one had ever seen him in a real temper, and she didn’t want to be the first. However, he who dares and all that. “Wasn’t it She Walks in Beauty?” she ventured, tentatively.
“Who cares?” Hoss said, in an off-hand tone of voice. He was wondering when his family would get around to asking him to play the violin. Or even the double bass. He was equally talented at both after all, as he had proved in Maestro Hoss. And Hop Sing could accompany him on the samisen.
“Actually, I rather thought I’d prefer a solo performance of The British Grenadier’ or perhaps even Land of Hope and Glory’, in memory of all my happy years spent at Oxford and Cambridge,” Hop Sing retorted, wondering why everyone seemed impervious to the fact that he spoke a pure and unadulterated upper-class English accent.
Ben thought this was a wonderful idea and promptly began to hum Oh Canada. There was a marked resemblance between his voice and a cello and the crystals around the standard lamp began to thrum in sympathetic resonance. If only they could find Hoss’ double bass and get the violin back, they’d have three quarters of a chamber orchestra.
“And I just happen to have my recorders with me!” the redhead crowed happily.
Sadly, no one asked Joe to contribute to the musical extravaganza. He was a little hurt by this, for he had a perfectly sweet voice and could whistle charmingly. However, everyone was now busily planning the songs they would play, so no one noticed him slip out of the house and go across to the barn.
“Hey Cooch,” he crooned softly and then did a double take. There, nestled unobtrusively in a corner of the barn was an upright piano.
“Strange!” Joe thought. “I’ve never noticed that before.” Although actually, when he thought about it, that made perfect sense. After all, he never turned a hair when a close relative or life-long friend turned up for 40 minutes and then promptly disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again. It was a bit like Miss Abigail Jones, who only ever appeared in The Wooing of Abigail Jones, but then became a stalwart staple of fan fiction. And to add a smattering of increased confusion, Eileen Ryan, who so memorably played the school marm, turned up several seasons later as Emily in First Love. Yes, it was definitely best not to question certain things on the Ponderosa.
“Where’s Joe?” Ben asked, looking wildly around the room, as if he expected Joe to be perched on top of the preposterously enormous animal horns above the fireplace.
“Maybe something’s happened to him,” Hoss suggested. He looked excited. Perhaps he might get to go for the doctor again.
Looking worried, they all began to shout, “Joe!” and hunt round the house. When there was no sign of him anywhere, even in his perambulating bedroom, they ventured out to the yard, and heard tinkling coming from the barn.
“It sounds like Joe’s found the piano,” the redhead commented.
“It’s almost in tune, too,” the blonde added. “Do you suppose your piano tuner would come out here to tune this one for us?”
“Bound to,” replied the redhead, with an airy wave of her hand. “I’m his favorite client.”
They went quietly into the barn, where Joe was plaintively singing Shenandoah, which he did with great feeling. They all sniffed appreciatively when he finished. Joe jumped, for he hadn’t heard them coming. “I found the piano,” he said, defensively, and unnecessarily. “It was out here all the time.”
“Good for you, son!” Ben exclaimed, heartily, and gave Joe a pat on the shoulder that almost floored him. “Let’s get the piano inside then.” He looked a trifle puzzled, but didn’t ask what the piano was doing in the barn, or why he hadn’t noticed it before. Hoss gave a loud sigh and then obediently started to push the piano across the yard. He knew that whenever there was any hard graft to be done, it inevitably fell to him. Not that the scriptwriters tended to stereotype the Cartwright brothers, but Adam had a bad back and Joe was simply too small to be of much use.
“Show-off!” Adam hissed into Joe’s sticky-out ear. “Everyone knows I’m the musical member of this family – and don’t you forget it.”’ He gave Joe a sharp dig with his elbow and smiled in grim satisfaction as his brother tumbled headfirst into the horse trough.
“Why is it always me that ends up in the horse trough?” Joe spluttered indignantly. “Ponderosa Matador, The Scapegoat and Ponderosa Birdman – three times! It’s not fair!”
Ben smiled indulgently at his youngest. “Now Joseph, you do look adorable when wet! Just remember those other wonderful scenes in The Crucible and First Born! They live on in many hearts – and do you know why? Because you look great when wet! Even your hair looks good!”
This, of course, was the crux. Although both Adam and Hoss had ended up in the horse trough in The Tin Soldier, the hairdresser was not keen on having his toupees subjected to such escapades and had insisted the experiment was not repeated.
“He looks even better wet and shirtless!” the blonde avowed fervently. “Still, I’m still puzzled about the piano. It certainly wasn’t in the barn earlier.”
“It was probably in the bunkhouse but got fed up. All that disappearing and reappearing must be quite tedious,” suggested the redhead.
The bunkhouse had indeed reappeared and was currently situated to the right of the house. However, it was entirely possible that it might relocate to the side of the kitchen at any moment, so they were careful to give it a wide berth. Two rather dazed looking ranch hands staggered out.
“You boys will be coming to our musical evening, won’t you?” Ben said, and both men nodded vehemently, wearing terrified expressions the whole time. They had been subjected to Hoss’ playing before, and only one of them had been sensible enough to bring some cotton wool to plug his ears. They looked round hopefully at the bunkhouse, but it seemed to be resolutely staying put this time.
Inside, Adam and Hoss were bickering as to where the best place was to put the piano. Hoss thought it should go in the space where they usually set up the table with punch and nibbles on. Adam thought Hoss should move the bookcase, so it could slot into that space, nicely out of the way. Hoss was telling Adam, with some heat, that if he wanted the bookcase moved, he should do it himself.
The redhead rolled her eyes. “This reminds me of home,” she muttered. “And I thought girls were bad!” She grinned suddenly. “What do you bet he calls for Betty next?” she whispered.
“Goes without saying,” the blonde returned.
Sure enough, Adam then bellowed, “Betty!” There was a long pause while they all looked expectantly at the stairs, but there was no sign of Betty. Someone in the corner cleared their throat, and they saw that the inept script girl was holding up a bit of paper, which read ‘Betty’s day off.’
“Well, I think we should have the piano against the side of the stairs,” suggested the blonde. “And since I’m playing it, my vote should win.”
“It’ll hide all those dust bunnies, too,” Joe agreed. “And shall I move the Indian blanket?”
“It’s a rug,” the redhead said, in long suffering tones. “But, please do move it and be careful. We don’t want it tripping you up, now do we?” She gave Joe a sunlit smile, which he returned full wattage.
The blonde sat down at the piano and flexed her fingers in a professional way. Ben patted her on the knee solicitously and then beamed as a tall figure strode across the room.
“Clem! How lovely of you to join us. Is Roy Coffee coming along too?”
The Deputy Sheriff of Virginia City cleared his throat, inadvertently hitting G below C and the redhead almost swooned. She’d always thought he had a lovely voice.
“’Fraid not, Ben. He had a nasty accident with his low-slung watch chain.”
Ben shrugged his shoulders in resignation. He’d always wondered why the good people of Virginia City saw fit to re-elect an octogenarian as Sheriff, but at least Clem was able to walk at speeds above 2 miles an hour. In the background, the Giggly Sisters began to play one of their duets. A cacophony immediately assailed his ears as Adam produced his guitar, Hoss whipped out the double bass and Joe pulled his whistle out from his pocket. The only saving grace was the fact that Hop Sing was still whipping up devils on horseback in the kitchen. Life on the range might be tough, but it was important to be regular.
Ben was heartily grateful that he had built his house in the middle of nowhere. It might be inconvenient when they ran out of milk at tea time, or when an urgent medical attention from Doctor Paul Martin was required, but the advantage of being outside the Virginia City limits, with their pesky noise ordinances, simply could not be overestimated.