Summary: What transpires when Doc Martin visits.
Word Count: 2000
Joe opened his eyes cautiously and surveyed his bedroom with trepidation. Once again, everything had moved around during the night. The previous evening, the window had been facing his bed, but this morning it was on a sidewall. The fireplace had moved too, and most of the furniture had not only changed places but was actually sporting an entirely new look. The only constant in all this was that his bed was still far too short. Despite many pleas to the Patriarch of the Ponderosa, Joe had two basic choices when it came to his sleeping arrangements: he could either lie propped up on a pile of pillows (and this was the option chosen whenever he was indulging in one of his many maims. Well, the scriptwriters weren’t daft: they knew the legions of fans would do anything to have a glimpse of Joe’s smooth, golden, beautifully muscled chest. Besides which, he did wear bandages so beautifully. Mind you, he’d had years in which to perfect this arcane art.) Failing this, Joe had to sleep with his feet hanging off the bottom of the bed, which was jolly uncomfortable in the depths of winter.
Squinting horribly, which did not diminish his manly beauty in the slightest, Joe noticed that the picture of the scary Indian had followed his room’s perambulations. No matter where his room decided to locate itself, that awful picture managed to place itself upon a wall. Screwing his head around, he noticed that this time he had a rather feeble watercolor of a seascape on the wall above the bed. The horse statue that normally sat on the pier table in the living room was now placed upon an occasional table. It was all very confusing.
“Joseph!” The familiar tones of Ben Cartwright shattered the peace of the early morning and Joe shuddered slightly as two roof tiles crashed to the ground. Didn’t his family realize that it was kind of tricky to bounce of bed bright and early if you were never quite sure where your bed actually was?
Dressing quickly and smoothing his ears back into place, Joe bounded downstairs. The blonde was engaged in tying a napkin around Paw’s neck, while the redhead was pouring rosehip syrup over his morning Farola. Ben sat at the head of the table, but yet again, everyone was sitting in seemingly random positions.
“Not again!” Joe thought. Why couldn’t the Cartwrights just act like a normal family and have their own positions around the table? But no, every meal was preceded by an atmosphere of high suspense and drama as he, Adam and Hoss jockeyed for position. Choking down the urge to say that he needed a little stability in his life, Joe sat in the one remaining seat and was just helping himself to a portion of scrambled eggs when there was a loud chap at the door.
“That’ll be Paul delivering the Territorial Enterprise,” remarked Adam, who evidently found nothing strange in the fact that a morning newspaper was delivered to remote ranches before 7.30 in the morning by the town doctor.
Just for once, Hop Sing decided to answer the door. This was usually left to Joe, but since the arrival of the Giggly Sisters, he had noticed that he had fewer menial tasks to perform. Which sister had performed this miracle (and he privately leaned towards it being both working together) he wasn’t sure but was extremely grateful. He seldom had managed to eat a meal in peace before the sisters came. Small wonder all the fanfic writers went on about his small appetite.
“That’s the paper, chaps,” Hop Sing announced in his lovely Oxbridge accent. He was careful only to revert to his natural voice when the cameras were not rolling. No sense in ruining the illusion for the fans. “Doctor Martin brought it.”
“Paul!” Ben exclaimed. “Come and have a cup of coffee.”
The sisters looked surprised at this, for Ben wasn’t the most hospitable soul first thing in the morning, and since Paul Martin was usually trying to wangle money out of him, Paul was usually the last person invited to the table.
“Who’s he?” asked the redhead, bluntly.
The blonde’s velvety brown eyes were wide open in amazement, and even Paw paused in scoffing down his Farola to blink in wonderment at the person before them. For it wasn’t the Doc Martin they expected, nor was it someone wearing the boots of that ilk.
It was an impostor! This man bore no resemblance to portly kindly Doc Martin. His hair was snow white and he was a good decade or so older just for a start.
“I could ask the same thing,” retorted the man. “Who are these young ladies, Ben?” He didn’t have to voice the next question. His eyes did it for him. Why were they so scantily and unsuitably dressed for Victorian maidens? Mind you, the wardrobe department had never quite got the hang of modest dressing either, so most female co-stars blatantly flaunted décolletages of eye-popping proportions that owed a great deal to 1960s American corsetry and very little to Victorian sensibilities.
“You’re not wearing nearly enough petticoats!” the Doctor said sanctimoniously. Of course, he was just worried in case one of the sisters came down with pneumonia and he would have to pay many more visits to the Ponderosa, without any real prospect of payment.
“Cast not a clout till May is oot!” the redhead remarked obliquely. Hoss sensibly ignored her, as he was once again engaged in wrestling the small bear over the last bit of Lorne sausage. As usual, Paw was cheating and using both his front and back legs, but then he was a lot younger.
“Come and have a comfortable seat by the fire, Paul,” Ben invited hospitably. He knew he could afford to be so welcoming, for few guests ever stayed at the Ponderosa for more than 40 minutes of screen time. If they were allotted the dreaded downstairs bedroom, their stays were usually considerably shorter. Strange and unmentionable things tended to happen in that room.
“A comfortable seat – that’ll rule out the sofa then!” Adam managed to say this with a straight face, but everyone else around the table collapsed in fits of barely suppressed giggles. However, they soon subsided when Ben shot them one of his frighteningly effective looks that attentive viewers will recognize only too well – eyebrows raised, forehead furrowed and eyes popping out slightly. It really didn’t presage well for his blood pressure. For some strange reason, Ben was abnormally attached to the sofa and refused to get a new one. However, he was careful not to sit there himself.
Joe noticed that Ben seated himself in the red leather chair, which really didn’t go with the other fireside furniture. In fact, it looked totally out of place and surely belonged with the other two leather chairs, which cunningly sat at the foot of the stairs, beautifully placed to catch every single draught when the front door opened. They were also awkwardly placed for camera angles, as it was difficult to set a scene there that managed to avoid showing the non-existent sidewall. In consequence, the chairs were very rarely used and looked as if they had just been bought. Mind you, this could have been a tribute to Hop Sing’s skills with saddle soap.
Adam noticed that Paul sat down in the blue velvet chair and bristled slightly. Well, he hadn’t had time to shave that morning. “That’s my chair!” he said indignantly. He’d chosen that seat on purpose, as it allowed him to display his left profile to the viewers, and it was just a little better than the right. Not that there was much in it, of course.
Hoss sat down heavily on the sofa, which creaked alarmingly, and Adam chose to join him there. Joe just stood looking, with his hands on his hips. “Where am I supposed to sit?” he demanded.
“Sit on the fireplace,” Ben ordered. “It’s perfectly comfortable.” This, of course, was clear evidence that Ben had never sat on the stonework monolith in his entire life. He occasionally rested his foot on it, but Joe and Hoss seemed to be the ones doomed to perch their butts there. And Hoss’s butt had considerably more in the way of padding than Joe’s.
Sighing, Joe did as he was bid, and sat on the fireplace; his only consolation being that the girls came and snuggled up on either side of him, and Paw crawled into his lap. “Why don’t I have a seat of my own?” he asked.
“When you were a little boy, you always used to snuggle on my knee, son,” Ben said with a reminiscent smile. “You didn’t need a seat of your own. And now that you’re older, well, you so often get maimed, the settee is the perfect place to lay you.”
“I’d have thought the bed was better,” muttered the blonde.
“But it’s never in the same place twice in a row,” Joe complained. “It’s hardly ever the same bed two nights running either. No wonder I feel as if I’ll go prematurely grey!”
“Why is your father pretending that man’s Doc Martin?” the redhead asked. She was nothing if not persistent and single-minded, a trait she shared with Joe.
“Well, you know how everything moves round here?” Joe asked.
“Everything except you,” Adam commented. “Especially when there’s work to be done.” Hoss guffawed as he raked in the fruit bowl for an apple. He obligingly threw one to Paw, too, who lay onto his back to use all four feet to eat it.
Ignoring his oldest brother, Joe said, “Well, Doc Martin tends to have a lot of heads, too. We all have our favorite one, you know the one most writers use, but for some reason, the others make odd appearances every now and then. It’s just all part and parcel of life on the Ponderosa.” He wriggled around on the fireplace, which was almost as unyieldingly hard as the sofa and looked longingly at the table. It was marginally more comfortable, as the wood didn’t tend to freeze your butt off.
“How come it’s alright to sit on the fireplace, but not on the table?” he asked plaintively. “They’re both bits of furniture after all! Or there’s that pink velvet chair that sometimes lurks by the grandfather clock. We could bring that over to the fireplace and I could sit there. In the body of the Kirk, so to speak.”
A familiar, reminiscent look came into Ben’s eyes. “That chair belonged to you dear Mama. We bought them together as newly-weds: blue for a boy and pink for a girl! Ah, Marie…”
He paused and everyone dutifully chorused “My Love.” Even Paul Martin joined in, for despite his new head, he was still an old friend of the family and knew what was expected.
“I still don’t see why I have to sit on the fireplace,” Joe whined.
Ben leant across and gave him a condoling pat on the knee. “It’s for the best, son. What with rooms, furniture and heads all whirling around merrily, we couldn’t take a risk with you doing the same thing. After all, you are the smallest of the Cartwrights and so you’re the most vulnerable. Sitting there means I can grab onto your belt and keep you safe and sound!”
Ben sat back in his chair and smiled happily at his family. Keeping Joe out of danger was almost a full-time occupation these days as more and more fanfic writers thought up increasingly inventive ways to maim him. A slight look of desperation crept across Adam’s face, and he began to hum the theme tune to the Great Escape.
“There’s no place like home!” Ben declared and the Giggly Sisters could only agree that the Ponderosa was indeed unique.