Summary: Better than flowers on the wall??
Word Count: 1800
Keen eyed viewers will be able to attest that Ben Cartwright’s desk occasionally played host to three portraits, one of each of his late wives: Elizabeth, Inger and Marie. Of course, more often than not, these pictures were nowhere to be seen.
“Where do you think they go to?” the blonde mused one afternoon, sitting on the porch with her sister, Joe and their pet bear, Paw. It was a beautiful summer’s day and the air was full of the scent of roses, which bloomed riotously from the climbing rose that wound its way up one of the pillars.
“Perhaps Ben takes them up to bed with him?” the redhead suggested idly, noticing that there was rather a lot of greenfly on the rose bush. Perhaps she should have a little word with Hop Sing and suggest he threw the soapy dishwater all over it? “Maybe he gets lonely at night and they keep him company?”
Joe just shrugged and pulled off his shirt to make sure he didn’t get any unsightly tan lines. After all, his smooth, golden chest was a sure-fire ratings winner! The sisters looked at his impressive musculature and sighed happily. Paw looked a bit peeved, for his chest was covered in fur and any muscles were effectively hidden. Along with the rolls of fat, for he was rather rotund.
“And why aren’t there any pictures of you, Adam and Hoss?” the blonde asked, just as Adam came out to join them.
“Photographs are expensive,” he explained. “And you have to remember the science is still in its infancy, with long exposure times and…”
Adam was an erudite and well-educated chap, but he did have a slight tendency to go on a bit. As he paused for breath, the redhead jumped in.
“But it would be lovely to have a picture of the three of you together!”
Adam looked at Joe and smiled sardonically. “You’d have to sit at the front, buddy!”
Joe grinned lazily. “Age before beauty, older brother! But you’d better not ruin any photograph with that finger gesture! Remember how annoyed Pa was that time?”
Adam cringed slightly. They had all been posing for a souvenir photograph to celebrate the railroad, when he’d inadvertently slipped one finger out of his jacket pocket. When that picture was developed, Ben had steadfastly refused to pay for it and his fury was so loud and so sustained that the photographic plate had shattered into multiple pieces.
“It would be lovely for Ben to have a photograph of the three of you, just in case…” the blonde said dreamily, giving Adam a guileless smile, which made him feel slightly uneasy.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he demanded. “I’m not going anywhere!”
“Of course not,” the redhead murmured, making him feel even more uneasy. Giving Adam a meaningless smile she went on, “But I suppose a photo of the three of you would walk about as well. After all, look at the way that scary Indian picture moves around. Why I saw it in Bitter Water, on the wall in the saloon! And it certainly follows your room around, Joe.”
“Tell me about it,” Joe muttered, gloomily. “The one thing I can never get rid of is that scary Indian picture!”
“The horse statue in the living room is quite mobile, too,” the blonde remarked. “It pops up in your bedroom in MBK, Joe.”
“Never,” Adam scoffed. “That’s rubbish! It’s just a similar statue.”
“No its not,” protested the redhead, who coveted that statue for her collection. “And I saw it in Boss Sladen’s office in The Boss.” She sighed. “Maimed Joe, a nice JPM, that sexy black sling, but why did they keep tucking that blanket around you?” she asked, glancing once more at Joe’s wonderful golden chest. She felt positively weak at the knees.
Joe shot Adam a look. “When you came back, you didn’t even ask if I was all right,” he complained. “You just nodded to me, as though I was a total stranger! Any other brother would have been concerned about me.”
“You were sitting on the wagon seat,” Adam protested. “So you must have been all right! And you were quick enough to shoot that fellow before he could kill Karen. And you used your injured arm to sight along.”
“I might just have been being brave,” Joe muttered.
“You were,” the blonde sighed. “Very brave. As always.”
“You never even wrote when I was blinded in The Stillness Within!” Joe whined, while managing to retain his boyish vulnerability.
Adam sighed loudly. “You were blind! What did you think – your seeing-eye dog would read it out loud to you?”
Joe looked black affronted, which was a Scottish skill he had picked up from the Giggly Sisters. For the benefit of overseas readers, this was not dissimilar to pouting, but with attitude. A bit like wearing a kilt in broad daylight.
“You didn’t seem too bothered when I was Bushwhacked either,” Joe said disconsolately.
Adam was reaching the very limits of his patience. “What more do you want me to do? Send you a stuffed animal?”
The blonde and the redhead smiled broadly.
“Now, that’s a curious turn of speech,” the blonde remarked, and her sister nodded in agreement. The blonde was a noted expert in English Language, after all. “Always makes me think of taxidermy.”
“A strange phrase,” Adam cringed at the picture this conjured up, but before he could say anything, Ben bustled in.
“I’ve just bought another picture!” he announced proudly. “A beautiful landscape to brighten up the living room.”
“That’ll make a change from the murky daubs currently displayed. Had you left your spectacles at home the day you bought them?” the redhead said nonchalantly.
Ben looked askance. “These pictures are original works of art!”
Adam and Joe tried very hard not to laugh out loud. The pictures were so dark and dingy it was impossible to tell what the subject matter actually was. In fact, they would make Whistler’s Mother look like a positive riot of color by comparison.
“I do like that picture of Marie on your desk,” the blonde cooed, in seductively dulcet tones. They’d run special classes in cooing attractively at her ladies’ seminary, along with lessons in how to prepare snacks for bridge parties. Ben favored her with a loving smile.
“She was a beautiful woman. Ah, Marie…”
“My Love!” everyone chorused dutifully, recognizing a cue when they heard one.
“Have you never fancied having your portrait painted?” the redhead asked. “You’re such a distinguished man and it would look so fitting over the fireplace!”
Joe and Adam exchanged skeptical looks. The fireplace was enormous and dominated the entire living room with a dull, oppressing grayness that sucked the color out of all the surrounding furniture and cast. Ben had realized this early on and had cunningly insisted that the costume designers fashion him a dark, aubergine colored shirt to stand out in splendid contrast. At the same time, Adam had made an ill-advised foray from red shirts into black and thereafter tended to rather recede into the background when placed in interior scenes. Realizing this, he’d insisted on more outdoor scenes, but sadly, these necessitated the wearing of a custard colored coat in order to provide the necessary contrast against the multitude of Ponderosa pines.
“I did have my portrait painted once,” Ben explained magnanimously. “By the Countess. Of course, it turned out that she was a trifle deranged…”
“She thought I could have been her son!” Joe interjected, less than helpfully. Tact was somewhat of an unknown quantity to him at moments of stress. The blonde realized that it would be diplomatic to intervene. Years of working in the exciting world of government service had given her this edge.
“I’ve always been especially interested in one of your landscapes!”
Ben looked interested. “Which one would that be, my dear?”
The blonde looked a trifle abashed. “It’s difficult to describe, because I’ve never had a clear view of it. Whenever we see an exterior shot of the front door, there appears to be a wall about six feet in, running parallel to the front door and there’s a picture on it. But the funny thing is – once you actually get inside, there’s no wall in sight at all!”
“I’ve noticed that!” Joe announced. “There’s an awful draft blows in under that door and swirls around your ankles!”
It was at moments like these that Ben wished the sisters weren’t so observant! He had no idea where that wall came from, or where it went, either, for that matter! It was a bit like the pine trees that sometimes grew in the yard, which came and went alarmingly, and frequently frightened the horses. Ben thought they were ridiculous; why would anyone in their right mind leave trees in the yard? It was difficult enough to get into the yard as it was without having to negotiate the chicane of trees as well! “Err,” he said, lost for words. He goggled wildly at the inept script girl, but she was dozing in the sunshine and going a shade of red that even the redhead couldn’t manage. And that was saying something.
“I could lend you some pictures,” the redhead offered, kindly. Her stitching really needed changing around so she could show off some different pictures. “And don’t worry that the smoke from the fire will make them as dirty as your other pictures,” she went on. “They have glass in front of them.”
“Could I get rid of the scary Indian and the washed out seascape?” Joe asked, plaintively. He looked at the redhead. “How is the picture of my cowboy boots coming along?” he asked, eagerly, for the redhead had promised to stitch it just for him.
The redhead winked at him as Ben spluttered. He chose the pictures for the house, no one else!
The blonde gave another of her charming smiles. “I think you should get a family photograph taken and hand it in pride of place. Just think how the fans would adore that!”
Ben nodded; she certainly was a clever little filly! And squeezable too! He gave her a pat on the knee.
“Oh yes!” Joe said happily. “With the girls and Paw too. After all, he’s like a son to me!”
All of a sudden, Ben felt a dark cloud come over his personal horizon and blot out all the sunshine. So far, he’d managed to stay the tongues of Virginia City’s finest gossips, who were a trifle put out at the fact the Giggly Sisters appeared to have taken up residence on the Ponderosa. But how could he begin to explain the presence of a furry grandson?