Summary: Without a woman on the Ponderosa, who does the redecorating?
Word Count: 1800
Ben Cartwright stood in the living room of the Ponderosa and surveyed his surroundings with considerable satisfaction. He had heard some people refer to it as “the great room”, but that seemed a trifle pretentious to him. In fact, this early experiment in open-plan living was actually due to the fact that there was a state-wide shortage of plaster board at the time and he had never quite got around to erecting partition walls afterwards.
The blonde caught the expression on his face and smiled sympathetically. “I know just what you’re thinking!” she said brightly, never ceasing to wind wool into a neat ball. Paw was lying with all four feet in the air, holding the skein of wool in just the right position. For a small bear, he really was remarkably practical. “Well it is spring and it’s quite natural to fancy a change!”
Ben looked bemused. By now, he was quite accustomed to the somewhat cryptic statements the Giggly Sisters were wont to make, but this one had him completely stumped.
The redhead took pity on him and elaborated further. “So what are you thinking of doing in the way of decorating? Sanding down those lumpy walls and painting them a nice cheery colour?”
“Getting a new sofa?” Joe suggested. He was fed up with the way the rest of the family all seemed to have their own comfy chairs, while he was either left with the option of the coffee table or the hideously uncomfortable sofa. The rest of the family avoided it like the plague, he’d noticed. About the only way he could stop his back going into spasms was to stretch out his legs, but of course that only resulted in a barracking from Pa. And why did they always dump him on the sofa when he was maimed? That was simply adding insult to injury! No wonder he’d moaned so piteously and moved his legs in that heartbreaking fashion in the Deadly Ones – if he hadn’t, Joe was certain he would have ended up paralysed.
“I don’t quite understand what you mean,” Ben said stiffly and, it has to be admitted, a trifle huffily.
Sensing they were treading on the very boundaries of Ben’s tolerance, the sisters tried to back-pedal.
“It’s nice to freshen things up and have a bit of a change, isn’t it?” blonde said timidly, fervently hoping that Ben wouldn’t shout at her.
“I don’t like change,” Ben stated firmly.
“Neither do I!” Joe confided. “Every night I go to bed, not knowing where my bedroom will actually be. And when I get there, it’s a constant mystery as to what position the bed will be in. And speaking of my bed …”
“Yes, yes!” Ben interrupted, his voice rising to dangerous proportions. “We all know about your short bed.”
“I don’t see the problem with that,” Adam interjected smoothly. “You are the smallest member of the family, after all. It stands to reason you’d get the shortest bed. It would be ridiculous to expect Hoss to fit in it!”
“Listen, older brother, that bed is so short that even that strange Irish woman in the Auld Sod just fitted in, with no room to spare. And she was no more than 4 foot 8!”
Hoss smiled shyly. That had been his clever little plan – a small bed had made the old dear feel right at home, so she continued cooking all those delicious meals. Although, now he came to think about it, he couldn’t actually remember where Joe had slept during that time.
“There’s nothing wrong with either the furniture or the decoration!” Ben said firmly. “And we do change things around – the dining table used to sit sideways across the room and we didn’t always have the sofa!”
“And where on earth did I sit then?” Joe asked sourly. “On the wood box?”
“When you were little, you used to sit on my knee,” Ben said, with a reminiscent smile.
“Why didn’t you bring that pink velvet chair over here?” asked the redhead. “Joe could have sat on that.”
Ben’s eyes opened wide. “But Marie placed that chair over by the clock,” he protested. “And it comes in so handy for people staggering in mildly injured. Its very hand for collapsing into.”
Beaming, Hoss agreed with that. “It were right handy in MBK, after I’d been hit on the head.” He gave Adam a speculative look. “You weren’t much worried about me,” he complained.
“I had enough to worry about with Joe and that mad Irish girl,” Adam defended himself.
“You always sat on the fireplace, Joe,” Ben said. “Or on the floor, with your head resting on my knee.” Joe looked nauseated, but gorgeous at the same time. The Giggly Sisters looked enchanted and Ben had a far-away, reminiscent little smile on his face.
“I don’t see why I couldn’t have used one of those chairs at the bottom of the staircase!” Joe mumbled, ignoring the scandalised expressions on his family’s faces.
“Oh no you couldn’t!” Ben stated categorically. “Those chairs are carefully positioned to suggest a subtle change of emphasis; a break from the norm so to speak. If you were to sit there willy-nilly, the viewers would be totally confused.”
The blonde thought it was time to get the conversation back on track. “So, are you going to get the plaster smoothed over?” she enquired. “After all, that rustic look is a trifle passé.”
“These walls bring back many happy memories,” Ben protested. “They may be a little uneven and I have to admit that Hop Sing doesn’t brush them down as often as he should, but Adam and Hoss helped me to do the plastering, and they were only little.”
“What about me?” Joe asked.
Adam grinned triumphantly at this irresistible opportunity. “You’re still little!” he chortled, his dimples making one of their rare appearances.
“Why don’t you get some new pictures?” the redhead asked, diplomatically defusing the rather tense atmosphere. “These murky daubs you’ve got are pretty depressing. Plus, you can’t actually see what they’re meant to be.”
“They’re not half as bad as that scary Indian in my room!” Joe protested. “No matter how often my bedroom moves, that picture always seems to turn up somewhere. No wonder I have nightmares – how would you like to sleep with that creature scowling down at you?”
“Joe, you were gifted that by a very famous artist,” Ben said. At the expectant looks, he shrugged sheepishly. “I just can’t remember his name…”
“I could give you one of my cross-stitch pictures to put up,” the redhead said, brightly. “I have some wonderful Native American stuff.”
“Some what?” Adam asked, blankly.
“Indian,” the redhead explained, in long-suffering tones. “They would look terrific on the walls. And those multi-coloured cowboy boots would be great!”
“I want those for my room!” Joe protested.
Sighing, Ben wondered how on earth he could change the subject. He had been quite impressed with the redhead’s cross stitch, and thought the wedding sampler she was making (who was it for? Not for them and Joe, surely!) was stunning. But somehow, he couldn’t quite envisage them on his walls.
“Lilac,” said the blonde, apropos of nothing else. She smiled at Ben, who just looked blank. “The walls would be lovely smoothed out and painted lilac.”
“And we could get some nice new bed linen in the spring sales,” added the redhead, knowing how particular her sister was about her bedding. But then, anything was better than the girly stuff the Cartwrights currently used. “I’m sure Ikea would provide everything we need.”
Ben looked at them all for a long, silent moment. “There are buckets and cloths in the kitchen, along with plenty of hot water,” he said. “The spring clean starts with you people washing the walls down! That will bring them up a treat, and we can think about painting them another year.” And they will not be lilac, he vowed.
“What about the curtains?” Joe asked. “Are they to be washed or are we getting new ones?”
Adam had always thought that some velvet curtains would give the room a sumptuous, baronial feeling, much more in keeping with his original vision for the Ponderosa, so he was vocal in his support for new curtains, but once again Ben over-ruled the family.
“These curtains are as good as the day they were bought!” he thundered, and the shades on the oil lamps quivered. Hoss wondered if this was really true, but his memory didn’t stretch that far back. Still, as no one ever bothered to draw the curtains, it was really a moot point. They could be faded away to nothing and in tatters for all anyone knew.
“New cushion covers then?” Joe ventured tentatively, wondering if Ben would ever loosen his hold on the purse strings. The Patriarch of the Ponderosa loved getting costly birthday presents, but never seemed to spend much money on anyone or anything else. Joe could distinctly remember giving his father an expensive horse for his birthday at least twice! Mind you, the big white horse had that unfortunate accident and then Joe had almost been killed. Still, everything had ended well, and the episode culminated in a classic Joe/Pa moment that the Giggly Sisters indulged in regularly. Still, after spending all that money, it had been just a touch galling to hear Ben declare that his real gift was having Joe safe. Sadly, Joe’s attempts at gift wrapping himself the following year had been largely unsuccessful.
“Cushion covers?” Ben looked perplexed. “But we don’t have any cushions!”
Joe looked around in disbelief, for he distinctly recalled hugging a cushion for comfort in Ponderosa Explosion, but sure enough, there was not a cushion to be seen. The Indian blanket had got bored with being a rug and had draped itself over the banisters again, while the biscuit barrel had migrated from Ben’s desk to the table at the foot of the stairs. Joe shook his head slowly, tousling the curls to tumbled perfection. “I think Pa’s right! Things in this house move themselves around enough as it is, without any further encouragement from us!”
Ben smiled paternally and put his arm around Joe’s shoulders. “Exactly son! After all, we don’t want to confuse the viewers, do we? Continuity does that just fine without any interference from us!”