Summary: If you would like to know why Adam always wears black you must look at an incident that seriously affected not only him but the whole family.
Rated: K+ WC 2100
A comedy in response to the Pernell Roberts’ Birthday Challenge 2013
The “Polluter Pays” Principle
“Adam, this is your fault. We had never troubles with Hop Sing when you were back East. But now you’re home for only half a year, and Hop Sing is quitting.”
“That’s goddamned nonsense, Hoss!”
“Could you please stop swearing, Adam. Or is such language the newest trend in Boston?”
The four Cartwrights were sitting around the dinner table with nothing before them but four empty plates and a very bad case of the blues.
“Sorry, Pa. But I don’t know why you all are nagging at me!”
“Not to blame son Numbel one!”
“There you have it!” Adam said triumphantly.
“Not your fault alone! You all guilty. Hop Sing had enough! Going to cousin and then leave for China!” Hop Sing stood in front of the dining table carrying his travel bag.
“Hop Sing, please! I’ll raise your pay, but don’t leave!”
“Not matter of money! Hop Sing can’t work with Catlights any more!” And with that he continued on towards the front door.
“But Hop Sing! What did we do wrong?” Hoss desperately tried to stop the man on his way out.
“Oh, Hop Sing explain to you!” The irate Chinese cook turned back to the table, tossing his bag to the floor so he had his hands free. “All of you,” and Hop Sing drew a circle with both his hands that included the whole family, “not value Hop Sing’s work.”
“But Hop Sing, we …”
“No, you all destroy Hop Sing’s labor! All of you!” The small man stared at the Cartwrights. “You,” he pointed to Adam, “become dandy after college. Change your clothes like in hotel. Fresh towels evely day and two clean shirts. 14 shirts to wash and iron for Hop Sing evely week!”
“I knew it, Adam, it was your fault!” Hoss stated.
“Son Numbel two makes Hop Sing angry more! Always going after food!” Hop Sing poked his index finger at Hoss so fiercely that the seventeen year old flinched back. “Nibble, nibble, nibble! Never wait until food is finished! Yesterday Hop Sing baked little cakes, today made icing … but cakes gone already!”
“Hoss, that was really wrong. How many years have I been telling you not to snitch Hop Sing’s cookies?”
“But, Pa, they were so good. And I thought you liked it that I’m so fond of your food, Hop Sing?” Hoss tried helplessly to placate their cook.
“Eat, when food is served! Not sooner!”
“Hop Sing, how about if we …” Ben Cartwright, the patriarch of the Ponderosa, tried his luck.
“No! Now fathel make sweet talk, all sugar mouthed like Son Numbel two with cookies. But other times he always yell. Hop Sing has good ears; why always shouting?”
Three sons from eleven to twenty-three years old tried unsuccessfully to hide their grins.
“Adam, Erik, Joseph, stop that! Immediately!” Ben roared angrily.
“Shouting! Shouting! Shouting! Why fathel always loud?” Hop Sing waved an accusing arm at his employer.
Adam and Hoss had recovered their self-control, but Joe giggled afresh at this second reprimand.
Hop Sing spun around. “And you, son Numbel three, you never clean your room. Put all things under your bed! Not only clothes but also frogs and other animals! Mostly dead ones! Hop Sing cleaning, cleaning, cleaning!”
“Joe, you know you have to tidy up your room!” Ben tried to support his housekeeper.
“Now all are talking nicely, but all of you, elegant Mistel Adam, messy little boy, greedy big boy, and fathel, come in with dirty shoes directly from barn. Hop Sing is leaving. Definitely!”
And right on cue, a wagon drove into the yard. It had to be Hop Sing’s cousin, who visited every two weeks.
“Last wold, before final good bye. Nobody ever says how many people will eat. Wednesday Mister Ross, Miss Amy-Sue, Mastel Mitch and Doctol were invited for dinner without Hop Sing knowing, and yestelday Hop Sing cooked big bird but nobody was there–no guest and no Catlight! Hop Sing leave now. Good bye!”
All four Cartwrights had risen in an attempt to hold back Hop Sing but they could only watch as their cook climbed on the wagon. After he spoke a few Chinese words to his cousin, the man turned the horse, and the wagon drove away without a pause.
“Now, boys, it’s too late to argue. We can only divide up the work.” Ben Cartwright sat down at his desk, took a piece of paper and a pencil, and scribbled down a few words. His sons clustered around him. “We should use the ‘polluter pays’ principle.”
“The what?” Hoss and Joe asked in unison.
“The ‘polluter pays’ principle. Let us start with Adam. Since he piles up most of the dirty laundry, he should be responsible for doing the washing!”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know how to do it. You are a certified engineer. Consult a book or invent something. You must at least have seen Hop Sing do the laundry!”
Adam gasped disbelievingly at his father but finally nodded in resignation.
“You, Hoss, are interested in food most of all. So you will be responsible for the kitchen.”
“But, Pa, I can’t cook.”
“Do you think anyone else can?”
Adam thought it over. He knew the limits of his father’s cooking; Pa could fry fishes over an open fire or make a stew out of whatever could be found – Adam remembered the one with squirrels quite vividly – that with luck wouldn’t taste too bad. He himself could cook the same dishes, and maybe scramble a plateful of eggs. Yes, under the circumstances Hoss might well be the best choice, Adam concluded. He slapped his brother on the shoulder by way of encouragement.
“And you, Joseph, will start by cleaning your room, and later you will help doing the dishes.”
Joe’s mouth stood open. “Doing the dishes, Pa?”
“And you, Pa, what will you do? Voice exercises?” Adam blurted.
If Adam had been a few years younger he would have been afraid that a deadly glare wasn’t all he’d get from his father in return.
“No, I won’t!” Ben shouted, “I … .” Lowering his voice with an effort he went on sweetly but with a clear sarcastic undertone, “I will clean the first floor. The bedrooms will be cleaned by their owners.” Out of the corner of his eye Ben caught a movement from Joe’s direction. He turned abruptly. “That means you will tidy up and clean your room by yourself, Little Joe, but I will check it. And I will have a look under your bed, too, young man!”
“Yes, sir”, Joe responded to his father’s clipped tone, then suddenly his face brightened. “Pa? “What if … maybe I could visit Mitch until the weekend. The Devlins have invited me so often, and you’d be rid of me here. One less person eating and producing dirt. And next week I can make up for it.”
“That would be five days, Joe. And you have other duties here, but on the other hand it’s true …”
“Please, Pa, please.” Joe made his eyes as wide and innocent as possible.
“Hm, then Adam will have to help with the dishes. See that you clean your room and fill up all the wood boxes before you leave. I will look after the chickens for you while you’re away.”
“Pa, isn’t that a bit hard on us?”
“Nonsense, Adam. Your brother is only an eleven year old child. I’m glad he will have some decent food at least for a few days.”
“I’m going to go clean my room, Pa,” Little Joe said in an angelic voice as he slid from the arm of his father´s desk chair.
Behind their father’s back the two older brothers looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
“What’s for dinner, Hoss?”
“Ah, I was thinking about beans, Adam.”
“How delicious and so unusual. Didn’t we just have beans yesterday and the day before that? But yesterday they tasted different somehow. So spicy – like coals.”
A well-aimed wet rag promptly hit Adam in the face. He hadn’t thought that his brother could turn so quickly.
“Sorry, Hoss. Don’t take it personally. It’s mostly gallows humor. I don’t know how Hop Sing managed the laundry so easily. The water is so hot and my knuckles feel as if I’ve been brawling in a saloon for hours. And when I was wringing out one of the bed sheets somehow it touched the floor and I had to wash it all again. One thing’s for sure; two shirts a week are sufficient: a white one for Sundays and a black one for everyday. Black suits me and it doesn’t show the dirt. And by the way we should wear napkins around our necks or better yet big kitchen towels when we eat. Tomato sauce stains are really hard to get out.”
“Oh, yeah, checkered towels at the dinner table, the newest fashion directly from Boston.”
Both brothers had to laugh.
“Can you please stir the beans, Adam, while I fry the bacon?”
“Sure. I can pass on the special flavor today.”
Both young man worked diligently at their tasks.
“A slice of fresh bread would be nice,” Adam commented.
“Yeah, but the only baking I ever helped with was the Christmas cookies.”
“Why don’t you try that tonight? Leave out the sugar and the other special things – cinnamon and whatnot.”
“Do you think I should?”
“Sure! What other choice do we have!”
Hoss took the pan and Adam the pot and they started into the dining room.
“Da – dburnit! Keep forgetting how Pa’s put down wet rags in every doorway. Now my socks are wet again!”
“You could try wearing slippers, little brother. All this walking around in socks isn’t good for me. I can’t be washing your socks all day!”
“Have you placed the advertisement for a new cook yet, Pa?”
“Yes, Hoss, I did. It should be in today’s newspaper. Please pass me the beans, Adam. Didn’t we have beans for dinner yet this week?”
“Don’t worry, Pa. I’ll drive to Virginia City tomorrow. I can buy another wagonload of canned beans in tomato sauce,” Adam grinned smugly over the rim of his spoon first at his father and then at Hoss.
“Hoss, can you please do the dishes? If I put my hands in any more water they might just dissolve.”
“No problem, it doesn’t matter.” Hoss switched places with his older brother and begun to wash up.
“Can’t you be a bit more thorough, Hoss? There’s still dirt on that plate.”
“Don’t make such a fuss. Wipe it up.”
“Oh yeah, with the clean towel maybe, you dumbass.”
“Ouch, Hoss, are you silly?”
Both brothers turned angrily. There Hop Sing stood, wooden spoon in hand.
“Work hard and don’t use bad language! Chop chop move on!”
“You’re back, Hop Sing!” Hoss cheered.
“How wonderful!” Adam agreed, rubbing his sore spot but smiling happily at Hop Sing.
“You clean kitchen. Hop Sing go to fathel and make new contract. Hop Sing and cousin all written down.”
He waved a sheet of paper at them.
In that moment they heard hoofbeats from the yard and went outside.
“Hi, Little Joe. I thought you weren’t coming home until tomorrow,” Hoss greeted the youngest Cartwright.
“Oh, Hoss, I changed my mind. Now that Hop Sing’s back it’s best at home!” The boy smiled.
“Wait a minute! How did you know Hop Sing would be back? He just now arrived.” Adam asked suspiciously. He was still fuming over how his little brother had weasled out of his share.
“Oh, he told his cousin right at the start that he would return if he saw an advertisement for the job in the newspaper or at the latest this weekend. Don’t you understand even a few words of Chinese, big brothers?” and with that Joe giggled as he led his pony to the barn.
“Just wait, little brother, till I get a hold of you …” Adam threatened–but he couldn’t help grinning too.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Other Stories by this Author
- A Long and Twisted Path (by Sibylle)
- Home Alone (by Sibylle)
- Aunt Tilda (by Sibylle)
- The Invitation (by Sibylle)
- Das Verursacherprinzip (by Sibylle)