Summary: Strange things are afoot on the Ponderosa in these three after-dark comic vignettes featuring your favorite brothers.
Rating: K (1,040 words)
Adam — The Nightmare
‘Twas the night before sometime a few weeks ago,
The Cartwrights were sleeping (at least Ben, Hoss and Joe).
Poor Adam was tossing and turning in bed
While visions of Laura whirled in his head.
She was whining and moaning and all in a snit;
She was nagging and droning and pitching a fit.
“Don’t you love my new dress and my big eyes of blue?
Adam, don’t go to sleep while I’m talking to you!
I don’t care if you’re tired or how hard you’ve been working,
It’s your duty to compliment me — and you’re shirking!
And while we’re on the subject of duty…
The shutters need painting; the fences need mending;
Peggy wants a new pony; the garden needs tending.
Someone’s at the door — Oh look, it’s Aunt Lil!
She’ll be staying six months. What’s wrong, are you ill?
Not tonight, Adam, I feel another one of my headaches coming on…
I’d like some more tea — would you get me a cup?
Blah, blah, blah…are you listening? Adam Cartwright! Wake up!”
He woke up in a sweat, his eyes wide with fright…
A dream – “Thank the Lord! She’s NOT Mrs. Cartwright!”
(Not mine, at least, but still — poor Will….)
Hoss — The Uninvited
Saddle weary and bone tired, Hoss Cartwright tethered his horse outside the line shack. He’d been working since dawn, riding fences and rounding up strays, and he felt as though he could sleep for a week. It didn’t matter where; he could sleep on the ground if he had to. But the bunk sounded mighty fine.
There was a can of beans in his saddlebag, but for one of the few times in his life he was too tired even to eat. Sleep was the only thing on his mind. He stopped at the door of the shack, pausing long enough to yawn and stretch, when an unexpected noise reached his ears. Someone was inside.
His fingers curled around the butt of his gun, but he didn’t have time to draw it before the door flew open and a familiar voice greeted him.
“Well, are ya comin’ in or ain’t ya? I got supper all ready.”
Hoss let out an exasperated breath. “Obie, what in the world are you doin’ here?”
The old man smiled. “Me and Walter decided to pay you a little visit,” he drawled. “It wuz his idea, actually. He said he knew you’d be comin’ this way, even figgered when you’d get here.”
Hoss raised his eyebrows. “Walter figgered that?”
“Yeah, ain’t he a caution?” Obie gazed fondly at the dog. “Just look how glad he is to see ya.”
Walter lay sprawled on the bunk, eyes half-closed, limp as a rag doll. Hoss frowned. “Listen, Obie, it’s not like I ain’t glad to see you, but I gotta be honest. I’m just about dead on my feet, and I gotta get some sleep!”
“Well, the way I figger it, a man’s gotta eat.” Obie dished up a heaping plate of beans and set it on the table. “Now sit down – me and Walter fixed your favorite, just the way you like ‘em.”
Hoss swallowed hard, beads of perspiration forming on his forehead at the spicy memory. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“Aw, it weren’t no trouble at all.” Obie sat down across from Hoss. “When you’re done eatin’ I’ll set up the checkerboard. Walter said he’ll play the winner.”
“I didn’t know Walter played checkers. How come he didn’t play with us last time?”
“Aw, he didn’t want to embarrass ya, you bein’ company and all.” Obie hooked his thumbs on his suspenders and leaned back in his chair, puffing on his pipe. “Truth is, checkers is his most favorite game. See how excited he is? He can’t hardly wait.”
Hoss studied Walter, whose only movement was to close his eyes completely. He shook his head before turning back to Obie. “He any good?”
Obie nodded. “Beats me two outta three,” he chuckled. “Ain’t he a caution, though?”
Hoss sighed. He knew he was no match for Obie and Walter in checkers or anything else for that matter.
“How ‘bout pourin’ me some of that scaldin’ hot coffee of yours? I figger I’m gonna need it.”
Yep. It was gonna be a mighty long night.
Joe — The Haunting
Darkness falls, as silent as a stone. The stars burn bright and cold; there is no warmth in the moon’s silver glow. My breath hangs in the air like an eerie apparition. How fitting. It is indeed a night for ghosts, for even in my solitude I know I’m not alone.
A lot of things can haunt a man, mistakes for things he has done, regrets for things left undone, but nothing like a woman and love gone awry. She is with me always, wherever I go, waking or sleeping, wherever I turn, I see her face, her eyes, her lips, her smile. Her arms reach for me, teasing, beckoning, pleading with me to come away and forget everything and everyone I knew before her. It almost happened. Somewhere in time, enchantment became obsession and then right became wrong – so very wrong.
There were those who saw what I couldn’t, but their warnings fell on deaf ears. The spell of her kiss was strong and I was an eager and willing subject, and so I happily offered myself as a sacrifice on her moonlit rock of love. A wolf howled in the distance, and that’s when things got a little hazy. I woke up later in a cold sweat on a pile of chicken feathers after dreaming I was kissing a fish. I’ve been a red meat man ever since.
I also earned a valuable lesson that night. Never trust a schizophrenic gypsy woman, no matter how oddly attractive she is.
I shiver, and not just from the chill memory. That darn Tirza took my favorite green jacket.
My heartfelt thanks to David Dortort for the Cartwrights, and to Bonanza writers Ed Adamson (“The Waiting Game”), Lois Hire (“Any Friend of Walter’s”) and Anthony Lawrence (“Dark Star”) for their unforgettable characters Laura Dayton, Walter & Obie and Tirza.