Summary: It’s Halloween on the Ponderosa
Word Count: 2200
The hammering on the front door of the Ponderosa ranch house wasn’t an unusual occurrence, and everyone seated in front of the fire looked at Joe. Except the Giggly Sisters, that is. They looked at Ben. Well, it was his house after all. Why didn’t he open the door?
With a martyred sigh, Ben levered himself to his feet and went over to answer it. He half expected the caller to be some sort of hoodlum, or long-lost relative, so he received something of a shock.
Standing on his doorstep were a small witch, a devil and a wolf!
“Trick or treat,
Trick or treat,
Give us something nice to eat.
If you don’t, we don’t care,
We’ll just steal your underwear!” chanted the apparitions.
The redhead lowered her head into her hands and groaned. “It’s Halloween,” she mourned.
Hearing this, Ben rounded on her. “Are these yours?” he demanded, as the two girls trooped in, followed by the wolf, who had remained silent thus far.
As the redhead nodded miserably, Kelly and Elen trotted over to kiss Joe and the blonde soundly. “Hello, Auntie Blonde,” chirruped Elen, who had a green face, somewhat stained around the mouth by either tomato soup or beans. The blonde fervently hoped it was the former.
“Great wolf costume,” Hoss commented.
Joe went rather pale. He always got nervous when there was a wolf around. He glanced at Adam, but he didn’t have a gun anywhere near.
“Isn’t trick or treating rather anachronistic?” drawled Adam.
The youngsters gave him a hard look. “Do you know what that word means?” Kelly asked him. “Because if you aren’t sure, you can ask my mum or Auntie Blonde. They know everything!”
The Giggly Sisters looked modest. They did this extremely well. Almost as well as Joe did his appealing, hard-to-resist, utterly gorgeous and devastatingly handsome look. Loyal viewers can attest to the impact of this. If they can still breathe, that is.
“Actually, we prefer to call it guising,” the blonde explained, looking carefully at the wolf, whose mask was slipping to reveal a dark brown furry snout.
“Same principle, less grasping,” added the redhead. “In Scotland, the children have to sing a song, or tell jokes before they get their sweeties.”
“Or candy, as you might say,” amplified the blonde. “And of course, we have dooking and treacle scones…”
Just as the words left her mouth, Hop Sing trundled into the living room, carrying a large tray, piled up with large, triangular scones, a reel of string and a large jar of thick, black sticky treacle.
“Just the very dab!” exclaimed the redhead and promptly roped the Cartwrights into looping string across the room, while the blonde rooted out the family bath-tub, last seen doing sterling service in The Horsebreaker and filled it up with water. Luckily, the fruit bowl was full to overflowing with apples, so within a short space of time, she was encouraging Adam to open the games.
“Just kneel down and then grab an apple with your teeth,” she explained. The children encouraged him loudly and, with a slightly pained smile, Adam bent over and made a valiant effort to retrieve an apple. It was extraordinarily difficult! Once again, he gave thanks to the valiant inventor of the remarkable Toffee Toupee. What a pity it wasn’t around during the mud fight in Springtime!
Eventually, after several abortive attempts, Adam arose triumphantly, albeit a trifle damply, with an apple firmly clenched between his teeth. There was a round of applause and the wolf shuffled forward to take his turn.
“Bags I get first shot with the treacle scones!” Joe bounded forward. This game didn’t look too tricky, he thought. All you had to do was to take a bite out of a scone, hanging from a string and liberally smeared in treacle. The redhead beamed happily at him.
“Hands behind your back!” she instructed. Joe looked slightly bemused, but obeyed. Just as he was about to take a large chomp out of the scone, the blonde gave the string a sharp tug, and Joe found his ear was dripping with treacle. The wolf snickered happily and licked the worst of the mess off. Nevertheless, Joe had a nasty feeling that his curls were now bedaubed in treacle. And although the wolf looked rather familiar, perhaps it was tempting fate just a little to allow it in such close proximity…
“Stop looking at me like that!” protested Adam. “It was an accident!”
Ben thought it was best to try to change the subject. Adam was still racked with guilt about the unfortunate accident, after all. Mind you, it wasn’t quite clear just why he had thought Joe was a wolf. After all, who had ever seen a wolf with curly hair and sticky-out ears?
“Are you going to sing a song then?” Ben asked Elen. The redhead noticed he didn’t call her ‘darling’, like he did every other little girl who appeared on the ranch. She fervently hoped Elen wouldn’t agree to sing. She still hadn’t quite grown into the part that involved staying on key…
Unfortunately, Elen didn’t require any more prompting. She launched into a rousing rendition of ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’, having had to learn it – again – for the school Christmas cd. Explaining that it was a Christmas song and shouldn’t be sung in October was proving very tricky.
“She’s nearly as good as you,” Joe told Adam and the blonde had to cough hastily at the look on his face.
“You have a go at dooking, Hoss,” Kelly encouraged. She had thus far stood back and looked superior, a trick all modern teens learned – some of them before their teens. She leant her trident against the staircase and grinned at the wolf, who had managed to dook for half a dozen apples, all quite successfully.
Hoss knelt awkwardly by the tub and began to dook. But, once more, he had been unable to find the Toupee Toffee, and his rug slid off and floated amongst the apples. However, both Elen and Joe fell about laughing and Hoss was so charmed by this, that he didn’t mind.
“Aren’t you going to do something?” Ben asked Kelly, who shrugged and took a deep breath.
Eyeing Adam with a great deal of meaning, she intoned, “Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp, and stretch ones eyes…”
At this point the sisters and Joe had to make a break for some fresh air. However, there was a sharp frost that night, so they didn’t linger. As they went back in, Elen could be heard asking, “Why haven’t you got a lantern made from a neep?”
“A what?” Adam asked, as Hoss almost drowned trying to get the last apple away from the wolf. He missed and fell headlong into the tub.
“A neep,” repeated the blonde, in her best telephone voice. “A turnip or swede. They’re called neeps in the Scottish vernacular.”
“Or you could have a big orange thing instead,” Elen went on. She was only 8 ½, and couldn’t remember what a pumpkin was called. The one she’d seen in the local supermarket was bigger than her head, which had impressed her immensely.
“And why is the downstairs bedroom light on?” Kelly asked. She had inherited her mother’s distressing practical streak. “Do you have a guest?”
The Cartwrights assumed various looks of terror, for it was a well-established fact that all guests who resided in the downstairs bedroom were either mad (Tirza, in Dark Star) or bad (Clay, in First Born). Hop Sing shuffled through in his inimitable way (Wardrobe kept providing him with slippers that were three sizes too large).
“I lit the lamp, just in case,” he informed the company.
“In case of what?” Ben demanded, testily. He kept a keen eye on all expenditures and was what Scots would describe as “canny” or “gey close wi’ a bawbee”. He preferred to think of himself as prudent.
“Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties?” theorized the redhead. The wolf looked around nervously.
“I hope you always knock the bottom out of your eggshells,” added the blonde.
There was a pause.
“Why?” Adam just knew he was going to regret asking this question. He was right.
“To stop witches sailing out to sea in them, of course! Haven’t you ever read Macbeth?”
“I may have perused it, while at college,” Adam admitted. “But that was a long time ago.”
“In a galaxy far, far away,” intoned Kelly, who hadn’t as yet met with Shakespeare, but recognized a cue when she heard it.
“And you do hang your horseshoes with the open ends up, don’t you?” asked the redhead. “Otherwise the luck will run out.”
“I thought the witches swung on them when they were that way up,” commented the blonde.
“That’s an old wives tale,” the redhead assured her. “After all, how many witches have you spotted swinging on my horseshoe?” This was a splendid example. The redhead had had that horseshoe for more years than she cared to remember, and never once had they spotted a witch swinging on it.
“Let’s put all the lights out and tell ghost stories,” Joe suggested.
“Oh, good!” Elen exclaimed and climbed onto Ben’s lap, twining her arms firmly around his neck and almost choking him. To further demonstrate her love, she planted an extremely soggy kiss on his cheek and confided, “I’m going to marry you.” Ben looked stunned. Adam looked horrified; an eight year old step-mother? It didn’t bear thinking about!
“This is a nightmare!” he moaned.
The sisters exchanged a glance. “Aren’t nightmares a part of Halloween?” queried the redhead.
At that moment, the wolf, who had been feeling a little neglected, jumped onto Joe’s knee. Kelly looked affronted, for she had been planning on commandeering Joe’s knee herself. However, before she could sit down anywhere (the sofa looked hideously uncomfortable, she thought and the floor looked none too clean), there was a scratching at the door.
“Answer the door, there’s a good girl,” the redhead encouraged and Kelly heaved a martyred sigh and answered it.
Given the number of peculiar people who knocked, or even scratched, at that door, sending Kelly might not have been the best thing to do. She opened the door and another little silver grey wolf cub stood there. It howled once, and rushed across the room to land on the redhead’s lap.
“A wolf!” Adam cried. “Quick, get a gun!”
“Oh no you don’t!” cried the redhead. “This is our wolf, Silverado. He’s our new watch wolf.”
“Then who’s this?” Joe asked, as the wolf on his lap gave a wriggle and the costume fell away to reveal Paw, the sisters’ pet bear. He grinned wolfishly at Joe.
“What do a watch-wolf do?” asked Hoss, thinking the wolf looked about the right size for a snack. He would probably have to skin it though. That anteater he’d had with the skin on had come back on him something awful.
“It watches for things,” Joe explained, less than helpfully. “Bad things!”
“You’re sure it isn’t a werewolf?” Adam enquired, casting a longing glance at the gun rack, which was overflowing with guns. The Cartwrights were inordinately fond of giving one another guns for birthdays and/or Christmas. Or it might just have been a lack of imagination. In series one, there was even a secondary gun rack, on the outside wall of the downstairs bedroom. But this was obviously judged to be too great a temptation for the various miscreants who took up temporary residence in there, for it soon disappeared.
“Positive!” the blonde reassured him. “Although it’s Halloween, we haven’t wound up a spell by going three times around a church widdershins, so we’re quite safe from any such beasties!”
Ben gave a small sigh. Life was very hard, sometimes. He had hoped that living out in the back of beyond, he would be able to enjoy the quiet solitude of his surroundings. But no! There was a constant stream of visitors to his door, either neighbors pleading for help, or long-lost friends/relatives coming to stay. He did a quick calculation and realized the Giggly Sisters had now been in residence for 10 months! They really were remarkably tenacious. And they never stopped talking. Still, he mused, things could have been worse – Joe might have married that awful Gipsy girl, Tirza…
“Trick or Treat?” Joe breathed into the sisters’ ears. “I know some very interesting tricks involving handcuffs and…”
“…then we get our treat?” finished the redhead, grinning broadly.
Ben wondered if Tirza had left a forwarding address. Adam wondered if there were any blue dresses left in the attic. And Hoss just wondered if wolf was more suited to roasting or stewing.