Summary: Ben comes home to a comic crisis created by who else – his youngest son! Can he help him before the boy is buried alive?
Word count: 1746
“What? Hop Sing? What is going on?!”
Ben Cartwright tried the door to his Ponderosa ranch house again.
It wouldn’t budge.
“Hop Sing’s not home, Pa. He went to visit cousin one-thousand and thirty-four who, by the way, is hosting a Sing family reunion. They’re in San Francisco. It was the only place large enough to hold the gathering.”
Ben whirled on his heel and glared at his eldest and somewhat smug son who – at thirty – seemed to think he was old enough to wipe his own nose and lace up his chaps all by himself.
“And where have you been?” he demanded.
“Well, let’s see…. I went to town to get the mail. Made it there and back in thirty minutes even though the round trip is forty miles and should have taken me four hours. Then, I realized I forgot to check in with Sheriff Roy like you asked about that band of renegade Indians and the dozen desperadoes that are in the area again – not to mention the crazed psychopaths and gypsies who keep turning up like bad pennies around here – so I rode to town again and just got home.” Adam removed his black hat and ran the sleeve of his black shirt along his forehead. “It was a long hot dusty road, Pa, and I’m looking forward to a tall glass of lemonade.”
“May I ask you a question?”
“WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO YOU ALWAYS WEAR BLACK WHEN NEVADA IS HOT AS HELL IN THE SUMMERTIME?”
Adam blinked. He looked at his clothing – black hat, black shirt, blacks boots and belt.
“It makes me look lean and mean?” His son grinned. “Or maybe sleek and sexy?”
Ben sighed. Fashion.
You would have thought he was raising girls.
“Well, take my advice and try a pair of light brown pants with a white shirt. The road won’t be so long, hot, and dusty then.”
His son shrugged. “So why were you yelling at the door?”
Patience, Ben. Patience.
“I wasn’t ‘yelling at the door’. I was yelling for Hop Sing.”
“Hop Sing isn’t home – ”
“I know that. Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
“I got a question, Pa.”
“Did Jehoshaphat really jump all the time? I mean, he was an old man, wasn’t he? Wouldn’t that have hurt?”
Ben laid his head against the wood of the door and sighed.
“I think it would work better if you used the latch, Pa. That’s how you open doors.”
The older man straightened up. He glared at his son – again – and then turned to the kitchen door. Pulling himself up to his full and somewhat considerable height, Ben took hold of the latch, turned it and shoved in – so hard he fell into the room and toppled to the floor.
Adam used his black-clad lean mean sleek and sexy legs to step over him. As the furrows on Ben’s brow took on epic proportions, his son shrugged.
“Just going to get that lemonade. You want some?” Adam winced. “I’m taking that as a ‘no’.”
The older man rose with what little dignity he had left and said, “If you know what is good for you, young man, you will get out of my way. I am tired and hungry, and all I want at this moment is to pour myself a brandy and take a seat by the fire and put my feet up until someone puts some food on the table!”
“Er, that would be Hoss’ job. He’s not home yet,” Adam said as he filled a glass.
“And just where is your middle brother?”
“He had a long list, Pa,” Adam said after taking a sip. “First, he had to rescue several animals, nurse them back to health, and then take them back to their mamas. Then he loaded a wagon and headed to the local shelter to supply the homeless people there with food. Then he had to help the Widow Carter mend her fence. After that he came back here with a load, unloaded it, and then set off to get some more lemons.” At his look, his son added, “I’m really thirsty.”
Ben’s fingernails were digging ruts into the wood of Hop Sing’s chopping block.
He eyed the ax but decided against using it.
“And what has your youngest brother been doing? Couldn’t he cook supper?”
Adam had gone for the cookies Hop Sing left on the tabletop, which were not going to keep those black-clad legs sleek and sexy for long.
“You know Joe. He’s been in the house ever since Hoss dropped off that load for him.”
“The load was for Little Joe? What was in it?”
“I have no idea, Pa.” Adam grinned as he headed for the open door. “But it was a big one!”
Even though it felt like taking his life in his hands, Ben headed for the great room. It didn’t take long to figure out why he couldn’t open the door – there were clothes piled up against it.
In fact, there was clothing everywhere!
His youngest son, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen.
The pile by his late wife’s settee shifted. A second later a tousled head of chestnut curls appeared.
The room was a complete and total disaster. By the front door was a waist-high pile of pants: black pants, tan pants, dark and light gray pants. There was even a pair of tartan trews that he was sure he did not want to know about! On the dining room table was another mound, this time of shirts – blue, white, red and black checked, light brown and dark. Ben looked up. Hanging from the rafters were dozens of neck ties, every color of the rainbow. The deer’s head was wearing several vests. And the pile of clothing Joseph was buried in? Coats. Blue corduroy coats. Gray corduroy coats. Green corduroy coats.
What was it about corduroy? Didn’t the boy know it was blazing hot in Nevada?
Last of all came the boots. There were so many boots on the hearth – black, brown and tan – they could have supplied an army.
“Jumping Jehoshaphat, boy! What in the Sam Hill is going on??!!”
Joe wrinkled his face to the right. “You sure do keep that Jehoshaphat guy leapin’, Pa. Did he ever win any medals?”
Ben’s eyes narrowed. His calloused hands turned into fists. Steam was rising, but not quite blowing out of his ears.
“Joseph! I…asked…you…a…question. Why…is…all…this…clothing…in…my…house???!!!”
His son’s face wrinkled to the left. “You told me I couldn’t leave the house!”
“I told you to stay home and get some work done!”
Joe stood and, after casting off the cavalcade of coats, came to his side. He threw his arms wide, encompassing the room – and all the clothes. “I’m just doing what you told me. I tell you, Pa, I never knew how hard pickin’ out a wardrobe could be. It’s a lot of work! You gotta consider all kinds of things. You know, that blue coat? Well, it doesn’t set off my eyes, but that waistband sure makes my hips look trim. And that gray one? It makes my hair looks darker, so I kind of look dangerous.” He winked. “Kind of like one of those desperadoes that seem to settle on the Ponderosa.” Joe bounded across the room to grab the green coat. When he returned, he held it up to his face. “This one, Pa, apple green corduroy? It sets off my eyes. Don’t you think?”
Ben drew in a breath. His son definitely did not want to know what he was thinking at this moment.
“WHY corduroy? Joseph, you live in Nevada. It’s hot!!”
Little Joe’s mobile eyebrows leapt toward the curls dangling down in front of those green eyes. “Older brother wears corduroy when it’s hot.”
Good Lord, he did.
Had he bred idiots?
“I don’t know, Pa. There’s just something about the way it fits.” His son flipped the coat over his head and thrust his arms into it. Then he paraded back and forth in front of the settee. “See?”
Ben gripped the bridge of his nose. His patience wasn’t wearing out.
It was worn through!
“Joseph, you will gather up all of this clothing and send it back to the mercantile.”
Those brown brows took a dip, just like a naked boy in a pond.
“Huh? But Pa, I won’t have anything to wear!”
Ben eyed the piles. “Well, then, pick one outfit and only one and send the others back.”
“One outfit, Pa? Won’t it get worn out if I wear it every day? How about two –”
“ONE and only one.”
Joe gulped. “Can I get more than one set?”
“You can get as many sets as you want, but I want you to chose one outfit and wear it until you are old and gray. I am done with all of this! I’ve been through this two times before and I am done!”
Little Joe’s brows couldn’t dip any further, so they rose again. “Two times? You mean with Adam and Hoss? Is that why Adam and Hoss always wear the same clothes? I thought they were just, well, boring like you.” At his look the boy winced, “Sorry, Pa.”
“Joseph, a man has a lot of decisions to make in a day and he needs to concentrate on the things that are important. If there is no decision to be made when he goes to get dressed, it makes his life – and the lives of everyone around him – simpler.”
“So…you mean I gotta send it all back but one shirt, one pair of pants, one coat, one pair of boots, and –“
“Yes, that is precisely what I mean.”
Joe’s green eyes roamed the room. “How long do I get to decide?”
Later that night, Ben Cartwright put his feet up, leaned back in his favorite chair – brandy in hand – and surveyed his beautifully clean and mercifully empty great room.
He let out a sigh.
In the end Joseph chose the green corduroy jacket and a very smart pair of tan pants with a brown shirt to live in until he died. As the piles of cast-off clothing were re-boxed and loaded into the wagon, and his three sons went about their business, the older man remembered something his father had told him when he was a young man dallying over dress.
Keep it simple.
Never wear anything that will frighten the cat.
Tags: Little Joe, Ben, Hoss, Adam, family, humor, comedy
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