Summary: Needing a modern-day convenience.
Word Count: 2000
The blonde looked out of the window of the Ponderosa ranch at the blizzard howling outside. She shivered. That was a huge fireplace, but it didn’t do much to warm the room on a cold day like this. The door opened and Hoss came in, along with a whirl of snow.
“What on earth were you doing outside on a day like this?” asked the redhead from her perch on the stonework by the fire. She felt the cold, and this was by far the warmest spot.
Hoss blushed, and mumbled something that nobody caught. Really, his diction was appalling. However, Ben, Adam and Joe didn’t appear to need his answer. They just nodded knowingly. The sisters exchanged glances. Was this some male right of passage they didn’t know about? Was Hoss inventing thermal underwear, and trying it out?
“I beg your pardon?” the blonde said, her diction as clear and precise as ever. “We didn’t quite catch that.”
Again, Hoss blushed and muttered something. However, by that point, he was thawing out over the fire, and the redhead caught what he said. “You were at the outhouse?” she repeated, incredulously. “In this weather? Are you mad?”
With great composure, Adam said, “We try not to use the chamber pots if we don’t have to. For certain things, the outhouse is preferable.”
The blonde gave a little wriggle, and Ben wondered if she wanted to use the outhouse. “But you have an indoor bathroom,” she said. “Why not an indoor toilet, too?”
“I assure you, young lady, we don’t have an indoor bathroom,” Ben said.
“You had in Calamity Over the Comstock,” the redhead pointed out. She was now hugging Paw, the sister’s pet bear, who was lovely and warm. “Calamity Jane had a bath in it, and Hoss went to give her a towel.”
“Eric!” Ben bellowed, and then wondered if that should have been “Erik”. That was the trouble with those foreign names: they all sounded the same and then caught you out unawares with their different spelling. “Were you spying on a lady guest?”
“No, sir!” Hoss rushed to explain. “I didn’t see nothin’, no ways!” He sounded rather put out. “Anyways, how come I was supposed to know we had an indoor bathroom? An’ if we did, how come that young filly in The Spitfire used a bathtub in the bedroom?”
Joe looked sour. “My bedroom, if I remember correctly. And just where was I sleeping then?”
Ben assumed an innocent look, but he was desperately trying not to think about bedrooms, because ever since the Giggly Sisters had arrived at the Ponderosa, he had his suspicions, but he preferred not to think about these things too deeply.
The Giggly Sisters looked at one another. They knew that many fanfic writers went on about the washhouse at the ranch, but they’d never seen so much as a trace of that fabled place. Could it possibly be an invention? Or was it one of those Ponderosa specialities – a room that sometimes existed but generally didn’t? After all, if the Cartwrights did have a proper bathtub, why wasn’t there a “Joe in the bath” scene every week? It would save viewers ruining their tapes of The Crucible as they constantly rewound and played the bath scene in slow motion, lovingly lingering over the full extent of the golden one.
“So,” drawled the blonde, “What do you do, when … err, nature calls?”
“We use chamber pots for our personal needs,” Ben said stiffly. He was rather uncomfortable with the way this conversation was developing.
“Don’t I know it!” Hop Sing moaned, as he ran down the stairs in his trademark agitated fashion. “And who is it who has to empty them? Me, of course. And I don’t even seem to have a place to sleep!” He scuttled off, looking utterly disgusted, and the sisters couldn’t blame him. They wouldn’t want to empty other people’s chamber pots either.
“And what about Enter Mark Twain?” the redhead said. “Rosemary was being bathed somewhere outside. In the bunkhouse, perhaps?”
“And if she was in the bunkhouse, where were the ranch hands?” asked the blonde, sitting down on the hideously uncomfortable settee, and bracing herself so she wouldn’t slide off. Paw, feeling that the redhead was warm again for the moment, hopped over to give the blonde a hug.
“Did you have to mention that?” Adam enquired.
Joe laughed. “Brother, you sure needed a lesson that day! Fancy thinking she was a boy! I had no trouble telling that Cal was a girl.”
“Shut up, Joe!” Adam muttered, making threatening motions with his hands. Joe continued to laugh, knowing that Adam touched him only under extreme duress.
“Um, yes well,” Ben said, and picked up his paper. It appeared to be that day’s edition of the Territorial Enterprise, but quite how it had come to be at the ranch was just one of those things it was better not to talk about.
They all waited for some great pronouncement, but then discovered this was Ben’s way of closing the subject. However, the redhead wasn’t so easily put off, as certain education department members were discovering, and she cleared her throat. “So why don’t you put in an indoor bathroom?” she asked. “We all know you bathe – Hoss even mentions Adam doing it in The Way of Aaron.” She paused and gave Adam a speculative look. “There again, the way he does that suggest this is an unusual occurrence.”
“What are you implying?” Adam demanded, looking angry. Paw bear gave a low growl.
“Nothing,” returned the redhead. “But we’ve seen Hoss in the bath in The Courtship, and Joe in the bath a couple of times, but we’ve yet to see you in the bath.”
Joe sat with a rather disgruntled expression on his incredibly handsome face. He still looked utterly gorgeous, just a little hacked off. “Adam always gets to go first,” he mumbled. “Then I have to use his bathwater.”
“I am the eldest,” Adam said smugly. “There have to be some recompense for putting up with you, little brother.”
“That’s positively inhumane!” cried the redhead. “Mind you, it does explain why Joe kept his long johns on in The Crucible.”
Hoss felt he should defend his family’s reputation for cleanliness. “We go swimming in Lake Tahoe,” he ventured, but this earned him two beady stares.
“In the winter?” the redhead enquired and was gratified to see the Cartwrights flush.
Ben thought it best to end this rather unseemly little conversation before things really got out of hand. “We have several bath tubs and we bathe in our bedrooms,” he intoned and tried valiantly to ignore Joe’s sotto voce comment of, “When I can find my room, that is!”
However, the blonde was not so easily distracted. “These chamber pots – are they red and white to match the rest of the china then?”
For once, Ben found himself incapable of speech and could only nod weakly. He opened up the Territorial Enterprise and immersed himself in its deathless prose. The size of the broadsheet meant that it effectively shielded him from the rest of the room and he could just ignore the remainder of this conversation.
“What about when you go on those long stagecoach journeys?” the redhead asked, having really got into her stride now. “That must be terribly difficult!”
A thunderous knock at the door interrupted her and Joe got up to answer it. Paw turned around and stood on his hind legs looking over the back of the settee with great interest as Doctor Paul Martin bustled in.
“I’ve come for my payment!” he announced and Ben lowered the newspaper in surprise. There had been no maimings on the Ponderosa for at least a week. Mind you, the bunkhouse had disappeared again, with all the ranch hands inside, so there was no way of telling of they were all right or not, but nevertheless …
Paul looked highly displeased. He patched up the Cartwrights faithfully for years, but the sheer amount of time he spent riding out to the Ponderosa and tending to them had placed the rest of his medical practice in jeopardy. Consequently, he’d been obliged to look for ways in which to supplement his income and had recently started to deliver the Territorial Enterprise to outlying ranches.
Ben Cartwright was a canny man when it came to money and was never actually seen to pay the hapless medic for his services. He stood up and announced, “I just have to pop outside for a personal matter,” and left the room at a brisk trot.
Doc Martin looked at the girls, who were sitting on the sofa in convulsions. “I hope that bear’s house trained?”
“It’s not the bear you have to worry about round here,” the redhead chortled, and ducked as Adam threw a cushion in her direction. He’d rather have thrown something more solid – like his fist – but he had been brought up not to hit women. He bet Pa hadn’t even met women like the Giggly Sisters when he had taught his sons that little stricture!
“I want my money!” Doc Martin insisted. “Where has Ben got to?”
“Answering a call of nature, outside,” answered the blonde, helpfully. “I have no idea where the outhouse is, but I wish you the best of luck finding it in this storm!”
“In the Mountain Girl, Trudy had a bath upstairs,” the redhead said, her thoughts having returned to the original topic of conversation. “Was that in a portable tub?”
Doc Martin paused. “Do you know,” he said, leaning over to get a better view of the girls, “in all my visits out here, I never yet saw them having a bath? Ben has never been known to bathe at all!”
This was something the girls had never noticed before. Hoss and Joe had been in the bath on screen (oh, the bliss of a ‘Joe in the bath’ scene in every episode!) and Adam had talked about bathing – although no one had seen him. But Ben! Well, he hadn’t even talked about it! Small wonder the man had made himself scarce!
“Well,” said the blonde, “I think you ought to mount an expedition to Virginia City and get a bathroom installed somewhere in the house. After all, there are enough rooms going around that you could use on as a permanent bathroom.” She smiled at Joe, who was nodding. “And while you’re at it, you could get a flush toilet.”
Adam was frowning at this. A flush toilet indeed! New-fangled nonsense! They’d never catch on! His thoughts were only too easy to read. The redhead was the one who played their ace.
“After all, they did it in Little House on the Prairie,” she said.
The blonde went off into fits of giggles, and Joe grinned broadly at the sisters. Adam scowled and Hoss looked blank. He was still trying to figure out how Doc Martin came to be there when he hadn’t had to go for him.
Ben came back into the room, covered in snow and looking rather wind-blown. “It’s freezing out there,” he complained. “You know, girls, I think an indoor bathroom might be just the ticket.” His eye fell on Doc Martin standing there, and he moved hastily towards the stairs. “I’ve just got a little personal matter to take care of upstairs,” he said.
Hop Sing stuck his head out of the kitchen. “And guess who’ll have to deal with it after?” he asked.
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