Summary: Are we sewing or time-traveling, or maybe there’s a magician on the Ponderosa. No, it’s another SJS incident.
Word Count: 2100
It was another beautiful day on the Ponderosa, beginning with the traditional stock-shot of a sunrise. Mind you, as exactly the same shot was also used for sunsets, this could be a little confusing. And, to be perfectly honest, except for the odd winter-themed episode, most days on the Ponderosa were slightly tedious, meteorologically speaking, with endless sunshine and blue skies. The Cartwrights sat around the breakfast table, in their normal haphazard positions, except for Ben, who sat at the head of the table, effortlessly dominating the meal.
“Good morning, girls,” he beamed, as the Giggly Sisters came in. He effortlessly raised his voice another 100 decibels to bellow, “Hop Sing! More coffee! And a bowl of milk for the bear!” Joe ducked as the prisms hanging from the standard lamp shattered into smithereens and large chunks flew by his left ear.
Hop Sing came shuffling through at high speed. The wardrobe department seemed incapable of finding him a pair of shoes that fitted properly. The redhead was thrilled to note that there was now a sugar bowl to match the famous coffee pot (ghastly design, but guaranteed to keep coffee piping hot for hours on end) and wondered if there was a milk jug and slops bowl to complete the set. Paw was equally delighted and calmly abstracted a pawful of sugar lumps, which he crunched gleefully
“I’m really frightfully busy this morning,” Hop Sing explained, before beetling back into the kitchen.
“I wonder what he’s doing?” Adam asked.
“Perhaps he’s refurbishing the family sling,” suggested the redhead. Seeing the blank looks that greeted her, she decided to elaborate. “You know, the traditional black silk sling you all wear whenever you’ve had an arm or shoulder injury.”
“It used to be one of my neckerchiefs, you know, “Ben confided. “Then I decided black was a little draining on my complexion and that green or aubergine were more becoming.”
The sisters tried very hard not to look at one another, for they had noticed that, on occasions, Ben’s neckerchiefs were abnormally long and would certainly provide more than enough material for a sling.
“Or perhaps he’s hemming some more cloths for emergencies?” the blonde ventured. “You know – for wiping down fevered bodies? I mean, judging by the size of the pile that dreadful Reardon girl was carrying in My Brother’s Keeper, he must spend hours making them.”
The mention of Sheila Reardon made Joe choke slightly and he shot a baleful glare at Adam. He still had nightmares that she might have taken advantage of him, as he lay there helpless and delirious, left to her less-than-tender mercies as his brother discussed Thoreau.
Ben gave a throaty chuckle, which caused Paw to give him a very suspicious look. “We’ve certainly used enough of those cloths over the years, haven’t we boys?”
“Not to mention them whole blankets you used on that poor horse in The Friendship, Joe,” Hoss added.
Adam perked up at this. “Exactly where did you get those from, little brother?” he enquired in silky tones. The only thing that betrayed his agitation was the fact that his wig moved back a good 2 inches.
“Well, eh…” Joe began, floundering helplessly. He had no idea where they had come from; they were just there when he needed them.
“Don’t be silly, Adam,” said the redhead. “He got them from the credenza, like Ben did in The Last Viking.” She saw Hoss wince, as he always did when his Uncle Gunnar was mentioned, and she gave him a smile. She had never told Hoss that it was one of her favorite maimed Joe episodes. “Did you know we actually call that item of furniture a sideboard in Scotland?”
“As long as he didn’t strip them off the beds,” Adam said, darkly, for he wasn’t sure that he hadn’t been cold every night since then.
“The beds don’t have blankets on them,” the blonde pointed out innocently. “They have those horrid scabby candlewicks.”
“And what do you prefer?” Adam asked, sarcastically.
“Well, a downie, obviously,” the redhead answered. “Light-weight, warm and soft, what more do you need?”
Not having the least idea what a downie was, Ben decided to change the subject. “Well, they certainly come in useful, those cloths,” he said. “It might be nice if you girls helped Hop Sing out and stitched a few hems for him, don’t you think?”
“No,” the redhead replied. “I don’t do hems. Buttons are my limit.”
“But you do that wonderful cross stitch stuff every evening,” Ben protested. He had watched her wedding sampler growing every day, and hoped to goodness it wasn’t for one of his sons. He would hate to see all that hard work go to waste, as none of their girlfriends ever lived to reach the altar.
“Cross-stitch isn’t much good on hems,” she replied composedly.
“It’s great on t-shirts, though,” Joe exclaimed and pulled up his usual tan shirt to reveal a black t-shirt with a tiger emblazoned on the front.
“Besides,” added the blonde, “We’re still not sure what material those cloths are made out of.” She cast a hopeful look at Joe, but he stayed resolutely maim-free. “I mean, if they were old bits of blanket, they’d need to be blanket stitched. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?”
The Cartwrights nodded weakly, stunned to silence by her remarkable logic. The arrival of Doctor Paul Martin provided a timely and welcome interlude.
“Why is he the only doctor ever mentioned in fanfic?” Joe asked in a penetrating whisper. Now Joe was stunningly good-looking, had hair to die for and a body that the Greek gods would have envied, but subtlety was somewhat of an unknown quantity to him. “I mean, there are numerous doctors in the other episodes, but some strange reason, Paul’s the only one anybody writes about. I can’t understand it at all.”
Paul gave a rather strained smile, while simultaneously hoping Joe’s next accident would be very painful indeed. “I’ve just come to check out Buck.” He tried to ignore the small bear sitting on Joe’s knee and demolishing a plateful of kedgeree with evident relish. “Acting up again, is he?”
Much as he hated to admit it, Ben found Buck a bit of a handful. The horse had a number of annoying habits, including turning 180 degrees whenever he attempted to mount and then taking several steps backwards. He’d pleaded with the wranglers to replace the skittish creature, but they insisted the viewers would notice.
“They never notice the 27 different Cochises!” Joe had put in brightly, ducking neatly to avoid a large pitchfork that came singing through the air.
“Buck’s certainly a lot livelier these days,” Ben said cautiously. “I think that last dose of long-acting, industrial-strength tranquillizer must be wearing off. Isn’t there anything else you could try?”
Paul rubbed his chin thoughtfully and tried to look as if he was concentrating very hard. Actually, he’d missed most of his pharmacology course, due to his prowess in a rather interesting billiards championship and, as a result, he was never completely sure which drug did what. He much preferred to recommend his patients just got regular wipe-downs with cold, wet cloths instead. Well, it was cheap, the materials came readily to hand and it wasn’t likely to do any harm.
Being somewhat of an expert in stitching (after all, his patented suture technique ensured that Joe’s golden-hued body remained scar-free after each unfortunate accident) he thought that Hop Sing probably used a rather lovely double-herringbone stitch to hem the cloths. Any more complicated work, such as invisibly mending bullet wounds in the back of a certain little green jacket was outsourced to number 3 cousin. Hop Sing took a cut of the fee and was currently investing in offshore bonds.
“Perhaps I could try a lobotomy on Buck?” Paul suggested tentatively, not entirely able to remember if the operation had been invented yet. He looked across at the script-girl, but she merely shrugged her shoulders. To the doctor’s great relief, Ben vetoed that suggestion. They had enough problems with Buck’s flyaway fringe, which normally had to be stuffed firmly under his brow band, without adding a scar to further complicate matters.
Adam leant back in his chair and surveyed the scene with evident amusement, unaware that there was a clear dividing line between his real hair and his wig.
“How’s your entry to the Women’s Aid needlework show coming along, Paul?” he asked.
Paul flushed and hoped that Adam would have a nasty accident, too! Preferably when he was too far away to call. All this time, and he had fondly believed that nobody knew he entered – and won – the needlework show in Virginia City every year.
“Coming along,” he answered, stiffly. “It’ll be ready in plenty of time.” He didn’t point out that it was this very hobby, which had helped him create the patented suture he used on Joe. Lord forbid he ever left a scar on the lad. He’d swiftly find himself relegated to the mists of time, and he lived in the hope that some enterprising publisher would discover the wonderful world of fanfic, and he would then earn repeat royalties for appearances. Gosh, in some stories, he made several appearances! Oh, the riches that awaited him…
His balloon was burst rather sharply when Ben said, “Well, let’s give Buck some more tranquillizer, and we’ll let you get on with your paper round.”
Gnashing his teeth in frustration, for the paper round was the only thing that kept him from total poverty, Paul made a move to get his bag. He wondered if Joe or Adam might get a life-threatening maim before he left, so he could hold Ben to ransom over it.
Adam rose, and Paul wondered what had happened to his supposedly bad back. Oblivious of the doctor’s rancor, Adam went over to where the redhead had let her stitching the previous night. Adam’s dislike of the redhead was no secret, but he saw a wonderful opportunity to get at Paul, through her.
“This is your chief rival for the blue ribbon,” he said, and unfurled it. But before Paul could get a good look at the wonders before him, the unfeasibly large and lush flower arrangement on the sideboard toppled over and clonked Joe soundly on the head. The Giggly Sisters had often wondered who imported all those expensive lilies and roses up to Tahoe, and indeed who was the flower arranger, but with Joe bleeding all over the breakfast table, this did not quite seem the right time to ask. Paul grabbed the stitching firmly and clamped it to Joe’s head, ignoring the gasps of horror from the redhead.
He lifted up Joe’s eyelid and gave a cursory glance at the pupil, wondering just what he was supposed to be looking for. “He’ll be fine!” Paul announced in hearty tones, pressing down firmly on Joe’s head wound, as Hoss scampered around picking up the scattered blooms and making small whimpers of distress. “Good thing I was on the spot, eh Ben?”
Ben bustled over and stroked Joe’s head lovingly, while simultaneously shooting Paul a furious look. It was going to be jolly difficult to wriggle out of paying the bill this time. And yet …
“I think I’ve worked out what to do with Buck. Quite simple really. We’ll just let Hoss ride him for a couple of days and he’ll settle down nicely.” Everyone could see the sense behind this and even imbecilic Buck, the dopiest horse in the Sierras, would soon realize which side his griddle scone was buttered on.
Meanwhile. Joe was making piteous little moans, indicating that he was in dreadful pain and suffering bravely, but was being incredible brave and manly at the same time. No doubt his feet were twitching in a heart-melting way, but they were hidden by the red and white checked tablecloth that clashed brilliantly with the china, not to mention the entire Cartwright family.
“I think you’d better lie down, son,” Ben stated. Joe’s eyes flickered open and he cast a terrified look at the hideously uncomfortable sofa. He really hoped they wouldn’t sling him on that, as he didn’t need a crippled back to go along with a splitting headache.
“I’ll jist help him upstairs,” Hoss said helpfully, mentally planning a nice bowl of hyacinths and freesias for the sickroom. Hoss Sing came out of the kitchen at top speed, carrying a pile of freshly laundered cloths. The blonde picked up the top one and studied it carefully.
“Feather stitch! Well, who would have thought of that?”