Summary: Drawing the ‘short straw’ without the benefit of the match, Adam finds it left to him to explain Hoss’ ‘strays‘ to Hop Sing.
Rating: K (980 words)
Square Deal Sam… A Missing Scene
Adam took a deep breath and walked slowly toward the kitchen. He wondered how he ended up in these predicaments. It seemed when either of his brothers gave him that ‘Adam will fix it’ look, he was unable to refuse. His mind turned over and over how he would talk to their cook. Apparently Hop Sing had not been in the kitchen when Mrs. Washburn visited it a few moments before. Otherwise, he was sure that the air would have been full of Chinese mutterings.
He stopped at the door to the kitchen and carefully peeked in. All was quiet and serene. All the dishes from their last meal had been washed and placed back in the cupboard and there was a large pot of soup simmering on the stove. He breathed deeply of the savory aroma. It was his favorite, vegetable beef. His mouth watered at the thought of the soup served with Hop Sing’s homemade bread, creamy butter and maybe some raspberry jam. He shook himself out of his daydreaming and squared his shoulders as he crossed the room to Hop Sing’s door.
A soft knock brought no acknowledgment. Now where in the world could Hop Sing be? He usually took a short rest after cleaning up after a meal. So he should be in his room. He knocked a little louder and, this time, he heard a stirring and the soft shuffle of Hop Sing’s slippers as he approached the door.
Hop Sing’s eyebrows drew together as he observed the oldest Cartwright son at his door.
“Mr. Adam need Hop Sing?”
“Yea, Hop Sing, may I have a moment of your time? I have an important matter to discus with you”. Adam rubbed the back of his neck as he posed his request. Hop Sing recognized the gesture. It meant that Mr. Adam was a little embarrassed and was trying hard to hide it.
Hop Sing stepped from his room and crossed the kitchen to the stove. He gave the soup a stirring and then sat at the small table he used for much of his kitchen duties. Adam followed and stopped, looking first at the floor and then at the ceiling. He then turned his back to Hop Sing and stood silent until Hop Sing again asked. “Mr. Adam you say you want talk to Hop Sing. Hop Sing here, why you no talk?”
Adam gave a small chuckle and turned back to face his friend. And Hop Sing was his friend. He had seen Adam grow to manhood. Had been there during the many trials and tribulations that had come to the whole family. There was really no reason he couldn’t talk to him about anything.
Adam sat down and looking Hop Sing in the eye, began his explanation of why there was going to be a woman cooking for them for the next few days.
“Hop Sing, you know how Hoss likes to bring home strays,” he began.
Hop Sing narrowed his eyes. “Hoss no bring strays into Hop Sing’s kitchen or into house. No strays in house. Strays belong in barn or outside.”
“No, no Hop Sing, not an animal stray. This time it’s a couple of human strays. He met this couple in Virginia City and offered them a place to stay for a few days. Seems they are pretty hardup. The woman…..well, the woman is going to cook for us. Hoss promised her she could use the kitchen. And Hop Sing, she’s seen the kitchen and she said it was the nicest kitchen she’s ever seen.” Adam held his breath, waiting for the explosion.
Hop Sing rose from his chair and started back to his room. Adam rose quickly and reached out to stop him. “Is everything alright? You don’t have anything to say?” Adam quietly asked.
“Everything fine. Hop Sing go to room. When woman leave, Hop Sing come out. If family no longer want Hop Sing cooking, he maybe go back China.”
“Ahh, come on Hop Sing, you know that isn’t what I meant. You’re part of the family. We need you here. This is just doing a favor for Hoss. Sorta helping him keep a promise. And as you know, the Cartwright’s keep their promises.”
“Hop Sing no make promise. Family always make promise that make Hop Sing much work. Bring many people to house. Hop Sing hav’ to cook, clean, wait on many people. Nobody appreciate Hop Sing. You want woman do cooking, fine. Hop Sing no care.”
Adam blew out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. This was not going well at all. He had to try another tack.
“Look at it this way, Hop Sing. It will be like a vacation. You can do what you want. No getting up before sunrise to get four hungry men their breakfast, no baking, no running to town to get supplies. Why you can go visit some of your family for a few days.”
Hop Sing drew himself up to his full height. “You think Hop sing go way and leave strange woman in kitchen? No!!!Hop Sing stay, but he watch woman with hawkeye. No mess things in kitchen. I just be looker-on, no cook till woman leave.” With that pronouncement, Hop Sing turned and entered his room, closing the door with a little more force than necessary.
Adam rolled his eyes. ‘Well, the next few days should be fun.’ he mused. He just hoped that Mrs. Washburn was the cook that Hoss said she was. Maybe Hop Sing would soften his attitude and they could work together. With a chuckle and a shake of his head, Adam made his way out the kitchen door. ‘Fat chance of that’ was his thought as he crossed to the barn to do some chores.