Return to East Gate (by Robin)

Summary:  A REALLY Lost Episode

Word Count:  4240

 

 

                                          Return to East Gate

 

 

Ben was traveling to East Gate.

It was years since he had been there hunting for Adam. This time, he was there to give his opinion on a small ranch one of his long time old friends, George Smedly hoped to buy. George would meet Ben in East Gate and then go examine the property.

Penelope Smedly wasn’t sure she wanted to relocate to a new ranch. She loved the old ranch, despite it having only one out house, no not-yet-invented stainless steel appliances and a leaking roof. She loved the coziness and the view of the pig trough near the kitchen door and the fact that she had raised her children in the place. Mrs. Smedly insisted they could fix the place up and stay.

George wanted to sell the ranch and get a new ranch with a bigger barn, room for more cattle and a creek that didn’t run dry each summer. He wanted a new ranch.

Ben, a good friend, could see both viewpoints — fixing up the old ranch as well as selling the place and moving on. He was going to East Gate to help the Smedly’s decide if they should love it or list it….much like Hop Sing’s favorite show on not-yet- invented HGTv.

Both Hoss and Joe argued with Ben before he left that he shouldn’t make the trip alone, that there was lots of bad country for him to be travelling through on his own. Ben was furious at their attitude and dug his heels in even more. “Do you think I’m old and feeble? Why, I am perfectly able to come and go as I please! Heck! I’m going to be a guest host on not-yet-invented HGTv’s ‘Love it or List it!”

His sons finally gave up their fight when Ben offered to wire them when he arrived in East Gate.

Joe told him exactly where the telegraph office was and where the bath house and saloon were, and said he heard there was now a new-fangled, not-yet-invented Starbucks in town as well. The memory of that town and searching for Adam was etched in his mind all these years later.

 

*****

 

“We should have heard from Pa two days ago!” Joe argued.

“Maybe he’s just peeved at how we acted before he left the Ponderosa and making us stew,” Hoss suggested, even though he knew their father wouldn’t behave like that. Pa was not one to cause his boys unnecessary stress.

“Let’s saddle the horses and pack some gear. Let’s go hunt for him,” Joe insisted.

Hop Sing absentmindedly rearranged the throw pillows on the settee, imitating the arrangement he saw last on not-yet-invented HGTv’s “Design Star”. He carefully gave each pillow a karate chop in the middle of the top edge, giving it that perfect combination of poof and fluff. “Room needs better fung shui! This look too much like Man Cave!”

“It’s already done. I saddled our horses at sun up. Let’s ride!” Hoss said, putting on his hat. “Hop Sing packed us some grub…beans…and fromage sandwiches.”

Hop Sing nodded. “You eat fromage! Go find Mistah Cartwright!”

Joe was too worried about their father to spill the secret that, since Hoss insisted that he despised cheese, Hop Sing had started calling cheese “fromage” after watching Julia Child on the not-yet-invented TV in the kitchen.

“Let’s ride!” Joe said.

 

*****

 

Ben Cartwright was dying of thirst. Outlaws had ambushed him as he rode in the desert towards East Gate, not far from where he had found Adam dragging dead Kane behind in a travois.

The outlaws had stolen Ben’s horse, his gear, his canteen and all his money, as well as the keys to his not-yet-invented Chevy. The rancher was left in the dust to try to walk across the desert to East Gate. He was surrounded by rocks, sand, cactus and dust.

“Maybe my boys were right. I shouldn’t have made this trip alone.” Suddenly he remembered that there was a certain amount of liquid in cactus. Perhaps if he could cut into the cactus and drink the juice, he could survive.

He had a teeny tiny pen knife in his pocket that the outlaws had missed. He saw the first bunch of low growing blue-green cactus. There were even some plump, pinkish fruits on the cactus. He picked some and ate them.

Suddenly Ben looked up. There was a bridge in front of him. A charming stone bridge that was just there. There was no river or creek flowing beneath it, nor did it connect two sides of a chasm. It was just a bridge in the middle of nowhere, much like a pork barrel project by a dang fool politician wasting tax dollars to bring construction work to his district in West Yenimsvelt, the county next to East Gate.

“I wonder why I didn’t see this before. Maybe because I was so thirsty?”
He made his way towards the bridge. Suddenly a small herd of goats came down the trail.

“Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” said the goats.

“Goats? I didn’t know there were goats in these parts!” Ben said to himself.

“BaaaaaAAAaaa!” said the goats.

Suddenly, the sounds the goats made seemed to make sense. It seemed as if the goats were introducing themselves to Ben Cartwright as the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

“My name is Cartwright, Ben Cartwright. I seem to be lost here in the desert.”

The smallest goat said “There is a troll under the bridge who is making our lives miserable. He has red hair.”

“His name is Red, the Ugly Troll!” said the middle goat.

“If you can get rid of him, we will help you get home,” said the largest goat.

“I’ll try!” Ben said. He always was a helpful cowboy and a role model for folks who watched him on Bonanza each Sunday night on not-yet-invented TV.

 

*****

 

The two Cartwright brothers had been hunting for their father day in and day out. Exhausted, they climbed down from their weary horses and started to make camp in the desert.

“It’s been a full week since Pa’s been missing,” Hoss sighed. “No one’s seen hide nor hair of him.” He finished making the fire and started to cook a pot of beans for their dinner.

“We can’t give up!” Joe exclaimed. “Did Pa give up when Adam was lost and held prisoner by Kane?” He set down his bedroll next to Hoss’.

Hoss shook his head; a tear trickled down his cheek. He sat down next to his brother and put his arm around Joe’s shoulder.

“Did Pa give up when you were lost and had amnesia and those Dutch people held you prisoner?” Joe squeezed his brother’s arm. A tear trickled down Joe’s cheek. He cried so cute.

Hoss shook his head; a tear trickled down his cheek. “Did Pa give up when you were lost and that Angus Borden said he was Joe Cartwright?”

Joe burst into tears and threw himself into Hoss’ arms. “I want my PAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

“He’s my Pa too!” said a deep voice from the darkness.

Joe and Hoss quickly grabbed their guns. “Who is there?” Hoss shouted into the darkness.

“Come out and let us see you or we’ll shoot!” Joe added.

“And come out real slow with your hands raised!” ordered Hoss.

Like a panther emerging from the shadows came a tall man in black. Was it Paladin?

NO!

Was it Johnny Cash?

 NO!

 Was it Ell Gallo from the Fantastiks?

 Of course not!

 It wasn’t even Darth Vader who would have said “LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER” rather than “He’s my Pa too!”

It was their long-absent brother, Adam Cartwright.

“Adam!” Joe said, launching himself into his brother’s arms.

“Adam!” Hoss said, gathering him in a massive bear hug.

“Mmmafffhs cough cough!” gasped Joe, who was somehow mushed in between his two older brother’s hugging and was being squeezed to death by the too larger men. Joe was so cute even when he was being squeezed to death.

Being loving brothers, Hoss and Adam immediately sensed their younger brother’s distress and released their boa constrictor like embrace before Joe was flattened into fruit leather.

“Adam! Where have you been?” Joe asked after his lungs re-inflated.

“Been travelling….I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king.
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing;
Each time I find myself, flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race.” he sang.

“That’s life,” Hoss declared.

“That’s what the people say,” Joe agreed.

“I tell you, I can’t deny it,
I thought of quitting, baby,
But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it.
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try,
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly.” Adam added pointing to his small not-yet-invented air plane, a Cessna 310, which he had landed on the salt flats a few hundred yards from his brothers’ camp. “Been working for Sky King on the Flying Crown Ranch down in Arizona. He lent me his not-yet-invented plane, the Song Bird. He has a really pretty niece, Penny.”

“Did he lend her to you too?” Joe asked hopefully.

Adam rolled his eyes.

 

*****

 

Not far from where his three sons were having a heartfelt family reunion (accompanied by a pot of Hoss’ Mesquite Beans and liberal doses of Doc Martin’s not-yet-invented Beano to relieve gas), Professor Harold Hill, a boys’ band organizer and leader who made a dubious living selling band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk, found Ben Cartwright lying semiconscious on the desert sand. Ben was lying in the middle of a big field of blue-green cactus with pink fruit. He was holding one of the plum pink fruits, half eaten in his hand.

After Professor Hill checked the delirious rancher’s pockets, he took Ben’s not-yet-invented credit cards and lucky rabbit’s foot made from the large paw of a Gerby Royal. He ignored the half-used not-yet-invented Chapstick and the pocket versions of the gold framed pictures of the three dead wives and the partially eaten jelly donut. He loaded Ben into the back of his buckboard and brought him into River City, the nearest town. River City was a strange name to use for a one horse, rundown settlement in the middle of the desert, but the founder had a cynical sense of humor.

Ben was delirious and muttering about red haired trolls and goats and bridges and burning maps and piñatas and “my three sons”. Assuming the man was Fred McMurray, Hill brought him to the office of the only doctor in town, retired Army Doctor Sherman Potter.

“Found this fellow lost in the desert. He looks pretty bad off and needs doctoring,” said Hill.

“HmmmMMMm,” said Doc Potter. “Looks like he is pretty bad off and needs doctoring. Have any idea who he is?”

“Maybe Fred McMurray?” Hill shrugged. “By the way, do you have a pool hall in this town?” His pockets were filled with Ben’s not-yet-invented credit cards.

“Sure, right across the street from the River City Library,” Potter said. ”Now get out of here and let me tend to Mr. McMurray.

 

*****

 

Adam, Hoss and Joe scoured the desert looking for their father.

“It’s a good thing Hop Sing put them not-yet-invented brillo pads and a can of Ajax in with our supplies. It makes scouring the desert much easier,” said Adam.

“Too bad he didn’t put in some Mr. Clean too,” said Little Joe. “And some of those not-yet-invented Swifters with disposable microfiber pads.”

“It sure would be easier hunting if’n we had another feller with us. But Hop Sing didn’t put in that many fromage sandwiches and Adam jest ate the last one.”

“Fromage?” Adam raised his left eyebrow. “I ate cheese.”

“Hush up, Adam!” Joe waved both hands. “Hop Sing made FROMAGE from Julia Child’s recipe.”

“Julia Child?” Adam sighed longingly as he nostalgically remembering his brief, torrid romance with Julia when he was in Back East University and interned at PBS. It was a brief and sizzling interlude, much like flaming crepes Suzette or briefs instead of boxers. They parted as friends and Adam went back to the Ponderosa with an autographed copy of the not-yet-written Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Before Adam could explain to Hoss that fromage was French for cheese, Hoss yelled “LOOOK!” and leaped from his horse Chub and ran towards a cluster of blue green cactus with pink fruit. “LOOOoooK!”

Adam and Joe jumped off of their horses. They raced after their eagle-eyed brother while Chub and Beauty (Adam’s horse) watched Cochise brew up a pot of coffee.

“Look!” Hoss exclaimed, holding up something in his baguette sized fist. “Pa’s teeny tiny pen knife!”

“That’s Pa’s teeny tiny pen knife all right!” Joe agreed, nodding his head like a bobble-headed giveaway doll of not-yet-born Mickey Mantle that he had received at the opening game of the NY Yankees vs. The Virginia City Miners (in the minor league).The Miners lost of course…their shovels were no match for the Yankee bats. Joe had taken one of his doomed girlfriends along, Doomella Spaulding. Late in the seventh inning, Doomella was hit between the eyes by a foul ball off the bat of Sven Svinkmen of the Miners. Despite Joe’s valiant attempt to administer mouth to mouth resuscitation and external heart massage, Doomella died.

“Are you sure?” Adam asked.

“Sure I’m sure!” Hoss said holding up the teeny tiny gold pen knife. “Lookee here at the inscription!”

Adam squinted and started to read the teeny tiny engraved inscription on the teeny tiny gold pen knife. “To the honorable and beloved Benjamin Cartwright of the Ponderosa in honor of his steadfast and everlasting, as well as courageous, leadership of the Virginia City, Nevada, Cattleman’s Association. President and Founder. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Thanks for all you have done for Virginia City from your fellow members of the Cattleman’s Association.”

“You done read that real good, Adam. It was a lot of words on that there teeny tiny gold pen knife,”

Adam nodded. “It sure was. And it wasn’t easy reading that teeny tiny engraving on the teeny tiny gold pen.”

“Sean O’Brien did it,” Hoss explained.

“Who is that?” Adam asked.

“Sean is one of Hoss’ leprechauns. He got a job in the Virginia City Trophy and Jewelry Shop. No one can do that teeny tiny engraving like Sean.”

Adam carefully wrapped their father’s pen knife in his handkerchief and put it in his pocket. “Let’s ride!”

 

*****

 

Meanwhile back in River City at Doc Potter’s Office…

“How’s that patient doing?” Mrs. Potter said as she unpacked the dinner basket she had brought from home for her hubby and their ward Walter “Not-Yet-Invented Radar” O’ Reilly. When he was fighting in the Civil War, Doc Potter had found the lad, a drummer boy, and brought him home to River City.

“Coming along. He’s pretty delirious. Rambling on about his three sons. Fella who brought him in said his name is Fred Mc Murray.”

 Doctor Sherman Potter poured himself another cup of coffee as his patient in the other room sang loudly:

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Aaaaahhhhh…”

“He has a nice singing voice,” said Walter O’Reilly. He sat down and tucked a checkered napkin under his collar and started eating the tuna noodle casserole that Mrs. Potter had served him. “Sort of deep and fatherly.”

“Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,” sang the patient from the other room. “And you’re gone.”

“He sure does have a lovely voice. Do you think if he survives, he might want to sing in our church choir?” asked Mrs. Potter. She poured some cider for Walter and her husband. “I’m heating some water for tea, if that’s all right with you, Sherman.”

“Tea would be fine,” said Sherman. He buttered his bread and took a bite. “No one makes tuna noodle casserole like you do, dear.”

“It’s a recipe I got from Mrs. Crocker.”

“Betty?” asked her husband.

“Yes. She is such a swell cook. I’ll tell her you liked it.”

“I’m sure McMurray will survive…He’s just hallucinating a bit.” Potter sipped his cider.

“Think he’ll stay in town?” Walter asked hopefully. “Mr. Starbuck needs some help in his café.”

“He’s welcome to our spare room until he finds a place of his own. He’s an awful nice looking man. “Mrs. Potter suggested. She mentally started making a list of her unmarried friends. Betty Crocker topped the list. And if Betty wasn’t a match for this Mr. McMurray, perhaps he would court her widowed cousin in Stockton, Victoria Barkley.

“If he decides to stay…” Doc said. “Maybe he has a place and family. He did say something about three sons. “

“Maybe they are hunting for him,” Walter said. He started eating his dessert — red Jell-O with fruit cocktail. “He does have a nice singing voice.”

“Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Aaaaahhhhh…”

 

*****

 

The horses started galloping as soon as they entered River City and smelled the fresh brewed coffee wafting from the café.

“Coffee!”whinnied Cochise.

“Goldurn you and your pinto, Little Joe!” growled Hoss as Chubb took the corner on two hooves. “Why the heck did you get that pony hooked on caffeine?”

Joe grinned and winked and looked all-around adorable as he swung from the saddle with the grace and agility and tight pants of a cowboy Mikhail Baryshnikov. “Coochie had to keep awake when I had late dates and would be riding home to beat the sunrise….”

“Make mine double caffeinated with foam and shaved chocolate!” Coochie called as Joe sauntered into the cafe. “And don’t be flirting with any cute waitresses while I stand out hear pawing the ground and whinnying, Joe-boy!”

“De Caf for me!” Chub called.” I have trouble sleeping.”

“Who else?” Joe called over his shoulder. He looked so adorable when he took coffee orders from cranky horses.

“Black for me! “ Adam said. “And some rugalach!” He loved rugalach and bobka. They reminded him of his friend Lillian in New York City.

“Cocoa and some waffles would be good,” Hoss suggested. “With a bit of maple syrup and strawberries…like Hop Sing makes for Sunday brunch.”

“Are you kidding? If you want all that, you better come and help me carry it all out. Styrofoam cups haven’t been invented yet and those crockery dishes get heavy,” Joe demanded. He pouted. “And what the heck is brunch? It ain’t even been invented yet, Brother!”

Grumbling, Hoss climbed down from his saddle and followed Joe inside.

“I thought he would never get off!” Chubb grumbled as he rubbed his back against the hitching post. “That boy has been eating too much breakfast, lunch, supper, dinner, snacks…and now he wants BRUNCH!”

Suddenly the Cartwrights and their horsies heard someone singing from the Doctor’s office across the street…

“Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Aaaaahhhhh…”

“THAT’S OUR PA!”exclaimed Joe, Hoss and Adam in brotherly unison from inside Mr. Starbucks coffee shop.

“No one sings like Ben Cartwright!” exclaimed Beauty, twitching her ear in the direction of the song.

“Unless its Lorne Greene singing “Ringo,” grumbled Cochise, pawing the ground with his/her hoof. “Yo, Joe! Shake a leg with my coffee! “

“And bring me a couple of those nice big oatmeal cookies too!” added Chub. “I need some energy if I’m stuck hauling the big one around.”

“Hold your horses, horsies!” giggled the adorable freckle-faced lad with the stupid bowl-like, derby-ish hat who happened to be passing by on his way to Chucky Cheese to pish in the ball pit.

“Lucy in the sky with diamonds…”

“THAT’S OUR PA!” exclaimed Joe, Hoss and Adam in unison from inside Mr. Starbucks coffee shop.

“Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Aaaaahhhhh…”

“THAT’S OUR PA!”repeated Joe, Hoss and Adam in unison as they abandoned the idea of getting coffee or rugalach or oatmeal cookies or flirting with the busty blue-dressed, pretty blonde girl who was re-filling the not-yet-invented Sweet and Low bins. They dashed down the street towards Doc Potter’s office. “THAT’S OUR PA!”

 

*****

 

As soon as his three sons burst into Doc Potter’s office and embraced their beloved Pa in their manly embrace, Ben Cartwright regained his memory. “Joe! Hoss! ADAM!!!” Ben exclaimed. “Adam! Adam, Adam! Oh my goodness! I haven’t seen you since season six!”

“Did you think I was dead and gone?” Adam teased. “I wrote home every week!” He wasn’t going to admit he Skyped with Hop Sing for years as his Pa was such a technophobe.

“Looks like Mr. McMurray is really Ben Cartwright!” Doc Potter declared after hearing Adam, Hoss and Joe’s tale. “Walter, write up a bill for Mr. Cartwright and send them on their way.”

“Not until you boys have some yummy waffles for BRUNCH!” smiled Mrs. Potter. “I can’t let Mr. Cartwright depart on an empty stomach!”

“MmmmmmMMMM!” Ben smiled. “Nothing like waffles with my three sons!”

Epilogue

 

There was an awful scream and a pounding on the ranch house door.

“I’m back!” He tried to come into the house, much like a cockroach. The three Billy goats sent me! Aren’t you going to let me in?” Red the Ugly Troll, the troll from under the bridge, whined. “Don’t you want to make me part of your family? You left and never wrote

“Wrote? No one missed you!” Ben said blocking the door. His sons stood behind him, guns drawn.

“But…..” Red the Ugly Troll gasped.

“We don’t believe in you,” said Ben, glaring at the awful visitor. “Red the Ugly Troll was the name of the troll who lived under the bridge that I hallucinated when I ate that pink cactus in the dessert!”

 You don’t exist!” declared Joe. “Pa ate that pink cactus in the desert and you were just a hallucination!”

“You never existed!” added Hoss. “Pa ate that pink cactus!”

“You are one of Pa’s unfortunate hallucinations. Matter of fact, our friend Lillian dubbed you ‘Red the Ugly Troll Who?!” said Adam. He nibbled on a rugalach and wished that it was Lillian he was nibbling.

Ben put his arm around Adam’s shoulders. “As my sons have explained, none of us believe in YOU.”

You don’t believe in me,” sniveled Red the Ugly Troll, trying to enter the house.

“I don’t,” said Adam. “You are one of Pa’s unfortunate hallucinations.”

“I don’t,” said Hoss. “You heard what my real brother Adam called you!”

“I don’t,” said Joe. His trigger finger itched.

“Joseph!” Ben growled, sensing his true youngest son’s itchy finger. “We Cartwrights don’t shoot what never was. Why waste a bullet or make noise that might wake up our livestock? Our horses are still resting up from that long trek and all the waffles they ate when they got home. This is but a hallucination, a flashback. You boys don’t believe in hallucinations, mirages, delusions, or even trolls who live under bridges.”

“And our Pa doesn’t either!” all three brothers said in unison. Ben nodded in agreement.

“What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?” the brillo-headed boy said. He thought he could put one over on the real Cartwrights but he was wrong of course.

“I don’t know,” said Hop Sing, who had come from the kitchen brandishing a sharp carving knife that he used to make roses from radishes and carve whole pineapples into doves. Even Hop Sing didn’t want Red the Ugly Troll around.

“Why do you doubt your senses?” Red the Ugly Troll pleaded.

“Because,” said Ben, quoting Charles Dickens, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

“And what our father is attempting to say, you hideous troll, you are but a bit of stale dinner that gave us all indigestion, so….” Adam began.

“GET OUT!” Adam, Hoss, Joe, Ben, Hop Sing, all the ranch hands and towns people from Virginia City and River City Boys Band directed by Professor Harold Hill, who happened to be passing by shouted.

And Red the Ugly Troll Who? was never seen again.

Perhaps he joined the band, playing the tuba?

 

The End

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