Summary: The Giggly Sisters investigate the ever-changing layout of the Ponderosa.
Word Count: 2100
Pausing half way up the stairs, the redhead looked over her shoulder at Ben, where he was sitting perusing the Territorial Enterprise before going to bed. He deliberately always waited for the rest of the family to go upstairs first, so he didn’t have to think about where the Giggly Sisters slept.
“Where does that door lead?” she asked, curiously. The door behind the stairs seemed to come and go alarmingly, rather like a lot of other things on the Ponderosa, including a wall in the house, the bunkhouses, ranch hands and several trees.
“Which door?” Ben asked, blankly.
“That door, there, behind the stairs,” the redhead persisted. “Where does it go? Is it another guest bedroom?”
“No,” Ben said, uncertainly. “It’s just a door.”
“It must go somewhere,” the redhead protested.
“It’s just a door,” Ben repeated, hoping that the redhead would get the hint and stop talking about it.
Attracted by the voices, and wondering where the redhead had got to, Joe and the blonde came onto the stairs. The blonde peered at the door, too. “Have you ever been through that door?” she asked Joe.
“Not that I remember,” Joe admitted. “I often had the impression that the wall should be up against the stairs, because I’m sure that room didn’t used to be there at the beginning.”
Paw had joined them by now, but because he was only a small bear, he sat yawning loudly and generally looking rather belligerent. Ben felt rather uneasy and decided it was time to put an end to the inanities. He folded the paper up with an ostentations rustle and stood up.
“If you must know, it was a little modification Adam decided to make one day. I’m impressed that you noticed the door, for most people just think the stairs jut out from the wall in a loveably eccentric fashion.”
“Was that the same time as the bunkhouse started moving?” Joe asked curiously, but the redhead was not easily deflected from the topic of the mysterious door.
“Where does the door lead to then?” she asked, with a deceptively innocent look on her face.
The blonde got very excited and started to jump up and down in an agitated fashion that made Ben privately wonder if he should offer the services of a chamber pot. Although, now he thought about it, he’d never seen one of those useful, nay essential objects around the house. He wondered if they would be in the same red and white pattern as the china. It was nice to have things matching, after all.
“Maybe it’s the famous back door!” the blonde burst out happily, but Ben merely shook his head.
“No, it’s not the back door. And it doesn’t lead to the backstairs either.” He pursed his lips and looked particularly enigmatic. Paw rolled over and started to scratch himself in a contemplative way and Ben fervently hoped the creature didn’t have fleas. The little bear was dangerously close to the Indian rug, which was once again pretending to be a blanket and had cunningly hung itself over the banisters.
“Oh, all right – I’ll show you!” With rather bad grace, Ben stood up and walked slowly to the stairs, then turned sideways and gingerly eased down the narrow corridor.
“Didn’t Adam have a proper measuring tape then?” Joe asked, for it was indeed a tight fit. The redhead merely contended herself with the thought that Adam must have considerably svelter around the posterior in those days.
“The side wall is a lot further out that you get the impression it is,” the redhead commented, and Ben smothered an unworthy desire to smother her. “It must come in very handy for parties. You could store all the furniture over here.”
“I often wondered where you put the furniture,” said the blonde, sliding easily through the restricted space. The redhead and Joe followed closely, while Paw merely stuck his head through the banisters.
There, stuck away in the corner behind the stairs was the door. Like the other doors in the ranch, it was plain wood. Ben gestured to it. “There it is,” he said.
“This bit of floor’s a bit manky,” the redhead commented, disapprovingly. “Doesn’t Hop Sing polish the floor over here?”
“He doesn’t polish the floor anywhere else,” the blonde retorted. “Why should he bother over here? Nobody sees it.”
“Hop Sing does a sterling job,” Ben protested, although he did sometimes think the floor could do with a polish. But then, the last time he’d polished the floor, the rugs had become death traps, and Ben had landed on his pride with a bruising thump. The boys’ laughter rankled yet.
They stood and looked at the door for a few seconds. “Aren’t you going to open it?” asked the blonde.
“I don’t have a key,” Ben said.
“There isn’t a key in this entire house,” Joe commented. “There’s a bolt on the front door, but we don’t seem to be able to lock it from the outside.”
They never seemed to bother bolting the door either and all sorts of people would just walk in and make themselves at home. The sisters remembered that annoying Irish girl (the one who didn’t fancy maimed Joe) and her father simply walking in and making themselves at home. And that girl sure was a mean packer: her small carpetbag held an impressive variety of clothes, even a dressing gown!
The blonde reached out her hand and slowly turned the handle of the door, which opened smoothly and soundlessly. Exchanging looks of excited pleasure, the sisters bounded inside, with Joe following closely behind them. So close that they could feel his warm breath on the back of their necks, which was really rather pleasurable.
The mysterious room was completely dark, for there was no window. Through the gloom, they could make out that one wall had floor to ceiling shelves, but it was impossible to see what was on them.
“Righty-oh!” Ben said cheerfully, but with an underlying note of desperation in his voice. “You’ve seen the room, so I think it’s time to go to bed now!”
Joe stood resolutely still and placed his hands on his hips in time-honoured style. Not for the first time he wondered why his pants didn’t have belt loops, but this really didn’t seem to be the time to go into all that. “I think you’re trying to hide something, Pa.”
It was getting to be a bit of a strain, trying to remain jovial, but Ben persevered. “Nonsense, Joseph! You asked to see the room and I’ve shown it to you.”
“Except we can’t actually see anything in this gloom,” the redhead pointed out. Even in the enveloping gloom she could feel the force of Ben’s glare.
“There’s a lantern here. I’ll just light it, shall I?” The blonde proved as good as her word and Ben cringed as light flooded the room. Three astonished gasps of wonder and delight filled the room, revealed at last in all its glory. The shelves were filled with a veritable cornucopia of delights, filled almost to bursting with a myriad of differently hued and styled wigs.
“We have to store them somewhere cool and dark,” Ben explained, shamefacedly, as the girls rushed over to a shelf labelled “HOSS”. The wigs had a rather dusty and unloved appearance, which chimed in with the fact that Hoss strongly resisted wearing a rug unless absolutely forced to. They admired him for this charming lack of vanity.
There were several marked “ADAM”, varying from very short, through slightly longer, wavy, to long. There was one with a side parting, which the girls recognised from when Adam had shot Joe accidentally-on-purpose. There was an empty wig stand, denoting that Adam was wearing his medium length, slightly windblown wig. And since he was already in bed, they wondered if he wore it to bed or not, and if not, what he was doing with it!
The section marked “BEN” was very large. There was the dark grey, which didn’t match his won natural colour, and the soft, tousled, “I’m understanding” one, which came out quite often for Joe/Pa moments. There was the one that practically stood at attention, and declared that the wearer was in charge. There was also his, “I’ve just been in a fight” wig, which featured a strand of hair hanging over the forehead.
It was a veritable treasure trove, and Joe and the girls exclaimed at length over each one. Ben blushed harder and harder with each word and burst of laughter. He thought that if any of them went to try on a wig, he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.
“I think that’s enough,” he said, stiffly, and they abandoned the delights of the room reluctantly. Ben shut the door firmly behind them, and they all squeezed through the narrow gap until they were back in front of the fireplace. They noticed Ben had on his “I’m going to bed” wig, which looked rather mussed and tired.
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes. Ben was clearly embarrassed, and Joe shuffled his feet and ducked his head. The redhead broke the silence. “Don’t you find the wigs rather hot and uncomfortable?” she asked. “Whenever I’ve had to wear one, I found them pure torture.”
Looking at the young woman’s vibrant tresses (did hair come in that shade of red in nature? he wondered), Ben said, “I imagine it’s different when you already have hair.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” she answered, contritely. “But thanks for showing us the room.”
The blonde was lurking in the corner by the gunracks, looking slightly furtive. Once Ben had climbed the stairs, she came forward, her expressive face wreathed in smiles.
“Look what I found!” she exclaimed happily and produced a small, round tin, that Joe instantly recalled sitting on one of the shelves.
“How on earth did you manage to filch that?” the redhead asked, but the blonde just shrugged modestly. Years at an expensive and exclusive private school equipped one with so many highly desirable skills. The redhead grabbed the tin and examined the legend closely.
“Toupee Toffee,” she read aloud. “Guaranteed to stick rugs firmly no matter what the circumstances. Ideal for roundups.”
Joe stretched out his hand (complete with lovely unbitten fingernails) and read the small print. “Not only works well but tastes good!” He opened the tin and dabbed his index finger in gingerly and then licked it. The girls watched in awed fascination. “It is good!” he crowed delightedly and the Giggly Sisters took a wee dod too.
“We must save some for Paw!” the redhead said, licking her delicious lips.
The blonde smiled enigmatically. She was good at this, for they had special classes at her ladies’ seminary in being devastatingly attractive. “Oh, I’ve got something much better for Paw!”
Hearing his name, Paw scuttled down the stairs and sat at her feet, looking up with obvious adoration. Well he was a male bear, after all. The blonde delved into her capacious handbag, cunningly accessorised with a monkey and pulled out a rather squashed relic. It was Ben’s steel grey “patriarchal” wig, which he only wore on those occasions when he wanted to exude righteous authority.
Paw snickered in delight, grabbed the wig and scuttled into a corner, where he proceeded to make a little nest for himself.
“Pa’s not going to be happy!” Joe observed, but he was smiling adoringly at small, fat Paw, snoozing contentedly and hugging the rug. Truly that bear was like a son to him!
“It’ll be ages before Ben needs it again! And we can just tell him Roy nicked it to do some running repairs on his ‘tache!” The redhead was of an exceptionally practical bent. She had a point: Roy spent a good deal of time chewing on his moustache in ruminatory fashion, so it stood to reason that touch ups would be required.
Joe ran his fingers through his enviably thick curls. “I hope I don’t go bald!” he said in a plaintive voice and the sisters rushed to reassure him that a little greying was the worst that was in store.
It was up to the blonde to have the final word. “Some people call Adam the MIB,”
“Man in Black,” the redhead explained to Joe.
“But really he should be called MPB!” Her sister and Joe looked perplexed, so after a few moments of snickering, the blonde relented and explained: “Male Pattern Balding!”