Summary: A light-hearted look at the Cartwright men struggling with the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance.
Rating: K+ Word Count: 667
February 14th was rapidly approaching and not a single Cartwright had asked a lady to attend the annual Valentine’s Day dance. One night about a week prior to the event, Ben woke up with a start, beads of perspiration stood out on his brow. He sat straight up in bed, his heart racing. He looked around his bedroom to get his bearings. Much to his relief, he found that he was in his own room, by himself, and not at the hall where the dance would be held. He knew that going back to sleep was going to be impossible for the time being; so he went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.
Ben was sitting at the kitchen table in his robe, hovering over his cup, when Adam showed up, bleary eyed and just in his black pants.
“Adam? What are you doing up at this hour?”
“Couldn’t sleep. Had a horrible nightmare.”
“Not you, too!”
You mean that’s why you’re down here, Pa?”
“Afraid so…Clementine Hawkins. How about you?”
Both men grimaced at their painful recollections.
“It’s all because of that blasted dance! I probably won’t get a decent night’s sleep until it’s over!” Ben pounded his empty cup on the table and looked at Adam helplessly. “She grabbed me by the collar and said ‘coooo ducky’ and then…well…anyway…You can guess what happened. I woke up in a cold sweat, terrified because it all seemed so real!”
Adam gave his father a sympathetic look. The two men sat in silence. Ben knew better than to pry information from his oldest son. Soon they heard heavy footsteps approaching. Hoss appeared in the doorway in his green plaid nightshirt. His mouth opened in a wide yawn and then he jumped when he realized the kitchen was already occupied.
Adam asked the most logical question for his brother. “Hungry?”
“Naww…Don’t think I could manage any food.” Hoss scrunched up his face in discomfort and joined the others at the table.
Adam and Ben looked at him with surprise.
“Let me guess, you had a nightmare, too!” Ben gave his big son a pitiable look.
“How’d ya know that, Pa?”
“Looks like we’re three for four.” Adam replied.
“Make that four for four.” Joe was standing in the doorway in his bed-clothes scratching his wavy hair. He shuddered and convulsed trying to rid himself of the memory of his frightening dream.
Hoss pulled the last chair out for his younger brother. “Who ‘dya dream about?”
“Calamity Jane. You?”
“Annie Slocum.” There was terror in his eyes as Hoss spoke the name.
The foursome nodded in unison, then the younger brothers turned to Adam.
Joe gave his oldest brother a look of understanding and then shook his head in remorse.
Next they turned toward their father, but Joe waved his hands. “No. Wait. Don’t tell me. It was Clementine Hawkins, wasn’t it Pa?”
Ben nodded sorrowfully. “What a sad lot we are.”
The four Cartwrights sat with their heads bent low in collective misery.
After a few minutes, Adam spoke up. “You do know that there is an easy solution to this problem, don’t you?” He surveyed the others questioning expressions, but for the moment they were too traumatized and sleep deprived to see the obvious. “Each of us just needs to invite someone to the dance.”
A glimmer of understanding came to three pairs of eyes and they nodded in agreement.
“Well, now that that is settled, I’m going back to bed.” Ben rose from the table following his announcement.
On Valentine’s Day, the social hall was crowded with guests for the festive occasion. Music filled the air and the swish of dresses could be heard around the large room. Each of the Cartwright men had an attractive woman on his arm as he entered the hall. Throughout the evening, the ladies were intrigued by the knowing smiles shared between Ben and his sons as the couples passed on the dance floor.