Summary: Oh to be young and wanting facial hair.
Word Count: 1800
Breakfast time at the Ponderosa was not renowned for being the most peaceful of meals, and this morning was no exception. At first, things had begun smoothly enough and the rhythmic chomping of Hoss’ powerful jaws was punctuated only by slurps of coffee and the gentle padding of Hop Sing’s silk slippers. These were actually two sizes too big for him, which accounted for the shuffling noises that invariably greeted his arrival on scene, while his bent-over posture was explained by the fact that the cord in his pajama-bottoms had snapped and he had been unable to thread a new one through the waistband.
As ever, the coffee pot was demonstrating its remarkable insulating properties and was doing a sterling job in keeping the beverage piping hot for hours. Joe came ambling down the stairs, yawning loudly and sat down between the Giggly Sisters. The blonde had Paw, their pet bear, on her knee and was feeding him toast soldiers spread liberally with Marmite. Ben frowned at his youngest son and wished the boy would do up an extra button or two on his shirt. It really wasn’t seemly for him to expose quite so much smooth, golden chest at the breakfast table! The redhead flashed him a friendly smile: she thought that everything about Joe was just perfect!
“Late again, little brother!” Adam chided, in jocular fashion. He could always be relied upon to bring discord to meal times. Hoss was determined not to fall prey to an ulcer and had therefore been stuffing his ears with cotton wadding before each meal for several years. No one seemed to have noticed, but judging from the comments the Giggly Sisters kept making about the unyielding nature of the sofa, Hoss had a sneaking suspicion that they might have rumbled his little ruse.
Joe manfully ignored his brother’s comments and helped himself to a blueberry muffin, but Adam was determined not to let things drop so easily.
“It’s not as if you have to spend time shaving, after all!” he said smugly, running a hand over a chin that was already showing a rather off-putting blue tinge and recoiling slightly at the rasping noise this produced. Withdrawing his hand, he was horrified to see several spots of blood and hurriedly wiped it on his red and white checked napkin.
Joe flushed slightly: his inability to grow a beard was a source of endless amusement to his family and he had suffered several taunts about the hamsters that had been stuck onto his upper lip in both The Gunman and Alias Joe Cartwright. They really hadn’t added to his outstanding good looks. He shot a dark look at Adam, certain that the stick-on facial hair had been suggested by his eldest brother.
“Don’t worry about it,” the redhead whispered in one of his slightly sticky-out ears. “We prefer a man who doesn’t think its hilarious to rub his horrid stubble up against our faces and leave behind stubble-burn.” She ran a hand caressingly down his face, making Ben frown. Really, at breakfast! Had she no sense of decorum?
“That’s right,” amplified the blonde, caressing his other smooth, golden cheek. “All that smooth skin is very sexy.”
At that sally, Ben choked on his coffee. “Hop Sing, I think we need more muffins,” Hoss called, spraying crumbs all over the table. “There ain’t gonna be enough to go round.”
With a sigh, Hop Sing brought through the tray he’d been holding back in the hope there might be some left for him for elevenses. The redhead looked at the tray suspiciously. “Where are the chocolate ones?” she enquired in a steely tone. “I gave you some Cadbury’s especially for them.”
“You haven’t eaten it all, or used all the cocoa powder already have you?” gasped the blonde. This would be a tragedy of epic proportions if he had! How could they survive on what the Cartwrights insisted was chocolate? No wonder their American friends all stocked up on giant bars of Dairy Milk whenever they visited the fair shores of Caledonia.
Hop Sing gave the sisters a very old-fashioned look. “I’m using it for some millionaire shortbread,” he explained in his crystal-clear, cut-glass English accent. Whenever the cameras weren’t rolling, he always reverted to the vowel sounds of dear old Blighty. Humming Rule Britannia he returned to the kitchen to peruse The Times, which Paul Martin had kindly delivered that morning.
Hoss felt his mouth watering wildly at the thought of the sticky wonderfulness of Scottish delicacy. He’d never been one to indulge in facial hair either. Mainly because he already had so much fuzz over the rest of his body that a beard and moustache would just be too confusing for younger viewers. He smiled indulgently at Paw, who was now enjoying a cup of Horlicks.
“Did you never sport a beard, Ben?” the blonde asked. “Most naval gentlemen do, don’t they? I suppose it acts like a hairy balaclava against all those winds.”
Ben gave her an indulgent smile. “I always preferred the clean shaven look. But then, I have a strong chin and firm jaw line and it would be a shame to hide them.”
Joe fingered his own perfectly delightful chin absentmindedly and shot the makeup girl a look that was filled with venom. He was fed up with her doodling in a cleft chin on his visage whenever she was bored. He was handsome and boyish enough without it! Was she trying to make him look like Kirk Douglas or something?
The redhead looked puzzled. “I thought practically all men of this period had beards and moustaches? Dundreadie whiskers, mutton chop sideburns – all that sort of thing. But Clay’s the only member of the family with a ‘tache!”
Joe blinked away the tears that filled his green/hazel/emerald eyes at the mention of his half-brother. He’d promised to send up a regular supply of that pulque stuff, but it had never materialized.
“Roy’s got a mustache,” Adam said, and then hastily corrected himself. “Sorry, I meant moustache.” He prided himself on his command of the Queen’s English, and whether the Queen in question was Victoria or Elizabeth II didn’t really matter.
“We’d noticed,” sniggered the redhead. “He seems to chew on it whenever he can’t remember his lines.”
Ben felt that this was a slight on his friend, and tried to think of a way to defend him. “Roy is – um, how shall I put this? A littler older than I am.”
“He’s The Oldest Sheriff In Town,” sang the girls, and they promptly dissolved into fits of laughter. Joe joined in.
Looking at them reprovingly, Ben went on, “And he seems to have developed a little mannerism to cover some slight memory lapses.”
The redhead’s eyes opened so wide at this that Ben became concerned lest they pop out onto the table. Now there was a revolting thought at breakfast. And was her hair really pink all of a sudden? He blinked, and looked again. Indeed it was – the most vibrant pink color he had ever seen. How did she do it?
“I think Roy keeps some of his last meal in his ‘tache,” Joe said, laughter bubbling in his voice. He was amazed at the color of the redhead’s hair, too, but he thought it was pretty cool. The blonde, who had helped her sister accomplish this miracle, looked amused. Ben’s reaction was everything they could have hoped for.
Now there was an idea, Ben thought. If he grew a moustache, he could keep some leftovers hidden there for when Hoss had eaten them out of house and home again. Mind you, he didn’t really fancy the roll spread with butter and something the girls referred to as golden syrup that Paw was now chomping on. Hoss licked his lips with pleasure and his eyes eloquently pleaded with the little bear for a bite.
“Roy may not be the most active of men, but he does do a good job as Sheriff,” Ben stated and then stopped short. Actually, now he came to think about it, Roy never really seemed to be able to do very much in the way of preserving law and order without the assistance of the Cartwrights. Perhaps he should have a little word about some suitable form of remuneration? Was sporting a moustache an essential part of the job description? If so, poor Joe would never stand a chance, despite the sterling work he had done in The Tin Badge.
Hop Sing bustled around the table, wondering when the family would notice that he was now flaunting a long, droopy Fu Manchu-style moustache. That bottle of hair-restorer he’d found hidden in the barn really did work wonders! He looked curiously at Joe’s abundant curls and wondered if the wonder stuff belonged to the youngest Cartwright. Was it really feasible that anyone should have quite so much hair?
Paw turned around and gave the general factotum of the Ponderosa a toothy grin, while inclining his head slightly towards Adam, who continued sipping his coffee, totally unaware that he was the object of such intense scrutiny. Hoss smiled contentedly and helped himself to the last muffin. Peace and tranquility had returned to the Ponderosa!
Just then, there was a thunderous knock at the door and Roy tottered in, being careful to hitch up his watch chain, which was so long that he was in constant danger of tripping over it.
“Ben!” he quavered excitedly. “The stagecoach’s been ambushed! I need you and your boys to ride out and help!”
The Cartwrights exchanged highly significant looks and pushed back their chairs.
“We’ll be right with you, Roy!” Ben called, musing on how all those important chores around the ranch just seemed to disappear whenever the services of the Cartwrights were required elsewhere. Presumably the stock managed to feed themselves. Mind you, this might prove the perfect opportunity for everyone to go without shaving for a few days, just to see how they would look with full sets of facial hair. They could even have a little competition, although Adam had an undoubted advantage.
Joe caught the look on his father’s face and pouted slightly as he realized that he was bound to be the brunt of much good-natured teasing over the next few days. He cast a quick look at Paw; while not a perfect match, the little bear’s fur would make a pretty decent hamster to stick onto his upper lip. Whistling merrily, Joe strode out of the house with his father and brothers, while Roy wheezed uneasily behind them, chewing on his rather moth-eaten moustache for solace.