Summary: Was that room there or was it… there?
Word Count: 1900
The blonde and the redhead sat on the sofa, surveying their surroundings with interest. Between them, a small shaggy bear was playing with his toes and snuffling quietly. Ben glared meaningfully at first Adam, then Hoss, but both men refused to meet his gaze. Eventually, he could stand it no longer.
“Why do you have a bear with you?” he asked, in patient tones, developed over the many stressful years of bringing up three sons.
“That’s Paw. He’s a sun bear,” Joe said helpfully.
“Isn’t it a bit confusing to have a bear called Paw in the same house as our own Pa?” Adam said hesitantly.
The redhead patted Paw gently. “Not if you’re Scottish. Entirely different vowel sounds. Anyway, it’s not half as confusing as this house, is it?”
The four Cartwrights exchanged startled looks and the blonde smiled at their confusion.
“I suppose it all seems quite normal to you, but to an outsider, nothing is quite what it seems, is it? Take the staircase for example. What’s that funny bit down the side of it all about? I mean, one moment it’s there, the next it’s gone. And even when it is there, the gap’s too narrow to be of any practical use. Must be a real dust trap.”
Ben nodded in agreement. He noticed that only this morning and he made a mental note to have a little word with Hop Sing. Joe picked up an apple from the bowl on the table and tossed it to Paw, who caught it nimbly and began crunching away with evident delight.
The redhead took up the tale. “Then there’s the mystery of the wall that isn’t there.” Four dumbfounded looks greeted this pronouncement, so she walked over to the front door to demonstrate.
“In the interior shots, you can see quite clearly that from the front door there’s an uninterrupted view to the living area and the fireplace. But, and here’s where the mystery comes in, when the view switches to an exterior shot, this white washed wall suddenly appears. Very strange indeed.”
“Yes,” continued the blonde. “And that wall has a painting on it, and there’s usually a blue leather chair sitting in the corner, roughly about here.” The blonde pointed.
“You know, the girls may have a point there,” Adam said, thoughtfully. “I remember, in First Born, when Joe came home from town all beaten and bloody, we had to dodge round that stupid chair as we carried him inside.”
“Slung between the four of you like a sack of tatties,” the redhead said, scathingly. “You had no idea what was wrong with him, and you picked him up, one at each limb. Huh!”
The Cartwrights looked a bit sheepish at this, as well they might. None of them had ever done a first aid course, so didn’t know about the dangers of moving people before they had been checked over. And the person who seemed to suffer this indignity most was Joe! Good thing he was resilient.
“And as for the downstairs bedroom,” the redhead said. “Well, it’s got more shapes to it than the Tardis has!”
Naturally this didn’t make any sense to the family, but they were too polite to say so. The blonde debated about trying to explain about Doctor Who and the Tardis, but it was too weighty a task, and she discarded the notion.
“What my sister means is this,” interjected the blonde. “In Dark Star, there’s a window there, leading to the outside, which we think really ought to open into the kitchen. Then, in Day of the Dragon, there are doors to the porch, which is really more of a verandah, isn’t it?”
“Hmm, those doors have really naff curtains on them, too,” the redhead agreed. Ben was standing with his mouth open, trying to follow all this. He wondered why he had never noticed these things before. “They look just like the ones on the kitchen doors, which also open onto the porch. Sometimes.”
Joe pulled one of his famous faces before he took his turn. “Have you noticed that everyone who stays in the downstairs bedroom is either a nasty piece of work, or is about to do a runner and never be seen again?” he asked, eagerly.
Adam thought about this carefully and realized that his little brother was right. Admitting this would be too painful, so he contented himself with a “Mmmph,” and made a mental note never to go near the room again. Who could tell what might happen? Why, he might even disappear from the ranch, never to be seen or heard of again! The thought was beyond contemplation.
“Then, of course,” the blonde continued, feeding Paw a slice of bread and jam, “there’s the elusive bunk-house. One moment it’s there, the next it isn’t. And even when it is, why on earth would you want to build it so close to the main house?”
No one could answer this question, but Ben Hoss and Joe all turned simultaneously to look at Adam, who flushed dull red.
“I was a child!” he said in expiation. “Pa never should have given me that set of drawing tools for Christmas, or at the very least employed a proper architect to supervise things.”
“It was winter,” Ben said, stretching out his hands in supplication. “The nights were long and cold and it was one way of keeping you out of trouble. Things weren’t easy, you know.”
“That’s all very well,” the redhead said in tolerant tones, “But it really doesn’t help the poor ranch hands, does it? Either they’re spirited away in the disappearing bunkhouse for weeks on end, or else they’ve nowhere to sleep at night. It can’t be easy for them.”
Hoss had so far been following the conversation in silence. “What’s always puzzled me is the approach to the barn. Now that plumb ain’t right. The ways a man’s gotta squeeze round that big ol’ bush and tree – tarnation, Pa! A man could do hisself a mischief!”
“I feel much the same way about my bed!” confessed Joe, sheepishly. “Has no-one ever noticed how short it is? I mean, I may not be the tallest guy in Nevada …”
“Nevada?” queried the redhead. “I thought it was filmed in California?” Everyone ignored her, except Paw, who looked puzzled.
“… but my feet hang clear over the edge. There I was, badly maimed after Adam shot me accidentally-on-purpose …”
“I thought you were a wolf!” Adam said, between gritted teeth.
“… and the bed’s not even long enough!” Joe gave one of his trademark smiles, and the sisters sighed in unison.
Ben looked embarrassed. “Well,” he said, sheepishly, “we got all the beds and the bed linen in a going-out-of-business sale. A job lot, you see. We just took them all. They said they were double beds, but they didn’t mention how long they were.”
“So that’s why I’ve got bows on my pillowcases,” Hoss said. “I always wondered how come I had such girly bed linen. And I guess that’s where all them candlewicks came from, too?”
“I’ll have you know those candlewick bedspreads are very fashionable,” Ben said, sounding miffed.
“They’re very ugly, too,” Joe added.
“Yeah,” chimed in the redhead. “Especially when you keep tucking them up over Joe’s gorgeous smooth, muscley bandaged chest! We want to see the boy when he’s been maimed, and you keep covering him up!”
“Like after Adam shot me accidentally-on-purpose,” Joe said. “There I was burning with fever, and you kept tucking me in. Didn’t you realize I was throwing those covers off for a reason?”
“I noticed that about them bunkhouses,” Hoss said, still a few beats behind. Luckily, his comment stopped Adam from losing his temper entirely. “Sometimes they’s on one side o’ the house, and sometimes they’s on another.”
The redhead wiped the jam off Paw’s paws, and gave him a drink of fruit juice. The little bear burped, and put his paw over his muzzle, smiling in a shy, embarrassed sort of way. Hoss beamed at him. He seemed to be the only member of the family who burped, although he harbored deep suspicions about Pa, who slept with his window open at night. The noises you heard coming from his room….
“And what about those trees in the front yard?” said the blonde. She opened the door and peered out. “Look! There’s one now!” Everyone rushed over, but by the time they got there, not only had the tree disappeared, but the window in Ben’s study had moved from the front wall to the side wall. Just to keep it company, the bookcase had switched places too. Even though it was mid-February, the geraniums still bloomed bravely in their pots on the windowsill.
As they came back in, the redhead gave the coat rack a suspicious glance. There was no way it could hold four hats and four coats. And it looked a bit too high for Joe to reach anyway. She shook her head slowly as she caught a glimpse of the murky oil painting on the wall. Done in various shades of ochre and sepia, it was impossible to tell what the subject matter actually was.
“That’s probably why they hang it out of the way, so they don’t have to look at it too often,” she thought, joining the rest of the family round the fireplace once more. The blonde was studying Adam intensely and he squirmed under her velvety-brown gaze.
“That’s your chair, isn’t it?” she asked and Adam nodded, half-dreading what might come next. “Then why is the rubbed-out bit a good foot below your head? And have you ever considered investing in some antimacassars – they’re jolly useful!”
Hop Sing came shuffling through from the kitchen. “Have you never wondered what I do during my time off?” he enquired in Oxford-accented English. Before anyone could comment on this, he continued. “Does anyone ask what I do when I’m not cooking or looking over the family? Do I have a sitting room or even an armchair? No one knows and no one even asks!”
The Cartwrights exchanged guilty looks: they had just accepted that Hop Sing would always be there to attend to all their needs. In many ways, the situation was similar to that of the ranch hands: one moment there would be someone to hand your horse to, the next there was no one to be seen. Of course, they might all be in the bunkhouse when it disappeared …
Ben leant back in his chair, steepled his fingers and smiled benevolently at everyone. “Well, now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ll go and have a little word with Continuity …”
Joe interrupted him. “Continuity? We’ve got Continuity?”
Ben gave him a steely glare and continued. “You girls might have noticed these things, but I can assure you, the viewers never will!”