Dusty's Trail. Blatant rip-off, or affectionate tribute to Gilligan's Island?
The latter, obviously!
Same creator, Sherwood Schwartz, same lead actor, the incomparable, outrageously cute Bob Denver. (In a pair of britches that have given me many a sleepless night.)
I saw Dusty's Trail long before I ever saw Gilligan's Island, which means these characters are more familiar to me. I thought about writing my Dusty story and then just changing the names and locations but that would not have worked, and I wouldn't have blamed anyone for rounding up a posse and chasin' me outta town when the deception became clear. (Probably by around sentence number three, the careless leaving in of the name Betsy or something.) Besides, Dusty isn't Gilligan. He's a goofy klutz, sure, but by then Bob Denver would have been around 37 or 38 years old, so the total childlike quality of Gilligan was replaced by an ever-so-slightly more knowing character who wasn't always averse to kissing the girls when it was called for. (Which has also given me many a sleepless night.)
And of course it's always such a sheer joy to watch him do his thing. The man was a genius. Broad comedy, subtle reactions, double-takes, little gestures that spoke a thousand words- he had it all. And he was lovely!
Anyway, epic A/N over. This is my first, and looks like fanfiction's first, Dusty's Trail story. (JWood201, hello, I hope you like this! Thanks for the kind messages of encouragement!)
Betsy was angry. Probably about as angry as Betsy could get. On a regular person's Scale of Angry, it would probably register somewhere just below the lowest number on the left. To a brazen hussy like Lulu, Betsy's anger wouldn't even be called 'anger', it would be called something like, 'gettin' her bloomers in a twist.'
Still, whatever anyone else called it, Betsy called it 'angry'. She felt so angry on her way down to the river that she picked up a stone and threw it as hard as she could, hurting her shoulder, which didn't do anything to her mood except worsen it. By the time she got to the water's edge, she felt like hitting a tree with a stick and pretending it was her.
Okay, Lulu was her friend, her confidante, her ally, the only other young woman for miles around. They had bonded. They looked out for each other. Lulu was knowing in a way that Betsy would never be- she was saucy and flirty and fun, and totally unafraid, because she had no need to be.
Lulu never got angry the way Betsy was feeling angry because Lulu always got what she wanted, at least where men were concerned. And, Betsy reasoned, if you could get men to do what you wanted, then you could pretty much get whatever else you needed eventually.
You could even afford to treat the whole thing like a game.
Which was where Dusty's involvement came in.
Oh, when she was being rational, Betsy knew it was just horseplay. Dusty was so guileless and amiable and inoffensive that when Lulu parked herself in his lap and started playing with his hair it just looked like innocent fun. He went along with it. He was all, "gee, Lulu", grinning in that goofy,embarrassed way of his, and everyone laughed, including Betsy.
But at other times, like yesterday when she saw them out by where the horses were tethered, it all just got a bit too much.
It was never Dusty that started anything. Dusty just breezed through the day doing whatever Mr. Callahan asked of him. He didn't really bother with stuff that wasn't right there under his nose. But even Dusty couldn't totally ignore a good looking girl.
Lulu had been with Dusty out by the horses, laughing at whatever he said, knowing that he didn't need much encouragement to goof off. Betsy was collecting small twigs and things to get a fire going for a pot of coffee, and she had even waved at them, laughing when Dusty windmilled his arms and yelled "hey Betsy!" as though he hadn't seen her for years. But then the tickling had started- Lulu tickling Dusty, and Dusty squirming away and yelling at her to stop. After a few moments of this chasing and tickling he had finally retaliated and tried to knock her over, lunging forward with his shoulders squared, treating her more like a guy than a girl. Of course, Lulu loved this sort of rough-housing. It meant she could get even more hands-on. She whacked at him with both hands, and he grabbed both of her hands and tried to twist her around. All the while they were laughing like a couple of kids, their high-pitched shrieks and yells making Betsy's brain hurt. She did her best to concentrate on the task at hand, but then it had all suddenly turned quiet. She had looked up from her twig collecting and seen Lulu right up close to Dusty, their faces just inches apart, her hands still clasped firmly in his.
Betsy knew exactly what was coming next.
Lulu pulled Dusty forward by the hands and kissed him full on the mouth.
Oh, Dusty wasn't completely stupid when it came to Lulu. He knew when to make a big show of protesting and when to play along. Betsy wasn't fooled. Lulu made such a habit of flirting with him and planting big smackers on his lips that he could probably tell one kind of kiss from another even before it happened, just by the way she advanced on him.
Like now. Holy Toledo, this was a kiss that could safely be called a 'passionate smooch.'. And they were hardly even touching- just their mouths pressed together and their fingers entwined, looking lost in a world of their own making.
It had quite unexpectedly knocked the stuffing out of Betsy.
So here she was, down by the water's edge, with her blanket and hairbrush and cracked old bar of soap that never lathered properly. Everyone else was back at camp. She had told Lulu that she was going for a river bath, and Lulu had promised to keep the guys at bay. Not that they'd deliberately ever sneak down for a look- they were all such perfect gentlemen.
Betsy had just finished removing her dress (ankle and wrist length, of course) and was standing near the water in just her camisole when she heard a loud noise like a dozen trees snapping in half and collapsing. There were indeed trees behind her. She whirled around just in time to see a cloud of leaves and broken twigs and a figure rolled up into a ball as it plummeted out of the lower branches and hit the ground hard with an audible thud, emitting a loud "ooomph" as it landed.
Betsy screamed in fright, but then the realization dawned. It was Dusty, of course. Who else would it be? Mr. Brookhaven?
Dusty sat up, his hands on the ground behind him. He shook his head and blinked. Leaves and twigs fell from his head and shoulders. His hat was hanging on his back, held there only by the piece of string around his neck. His hair was all over the place. He looked dazed and perplexed, not even realising Betsy was there until she said his name. Only then did he look round to see her standing there in what could only be described as the smallest scrap of lacy fabric he'd ever seen.
His blue eyes went saucer shaped and his mouth literally fell open. He stared unashamedly for a moment or two as Betsy stared back at him. Then the penny dropped for both of them at the same time. Dusty looked away hurriedly, staggering to his feet, turning right round so that his back was towards her, scrabbling for his hat, yanking it onto his head and pulling the wide, battered brim right down over his eyes. Meanwhile, Betsy bent quickly and retrieved her blanket, covering up her half naked legs and wide expanse of shoulder. She never let anyone else see this much of her, not even her own mother!
"Betsy! I didn't even know you were there, honest!" Dusty stammered, at exactly the same time as Betsy said "Dusty! What on earth were you doing up in that tree?"
Dusty half turned towards her, his eyes obscured. "What?"
"What were you doing up in that tree? Were you spying on me?"
"No! No, I wasn't spying on you. I was sleeping!"
"In a tree?"
"Because, Dusty, it's a tree."
Dusty shrugged. "It's no worse than sleeping on the ground. Except, I guess you can't fall out of the ground. And even if you could, you wouldn't fall very far before you hit the...er...ground." He stopped talking. He tipped his head back and peered out from under his hat.
"Dusty, you can stop doing that, I've covered up," said Betsy.
"Oh." He sounded vaguely disappointed. "Pity." He pushed his hat up and swept hair out of his eyes. "What are you doing here, anyway, Betsy? You don't swim. And it's not your bath day until Wednesday."
"What do you know about my bath day?" she asked, mortified that he would know such a thing, let alone state it so casually.
"Lulu. She said you both bathe on Wednesdays, unless it's really hot, then you bathe three times a week." He thought for a moment before adding, "of course, unless it's really, really hot then you..."
"That's enough, Dusty. Wait until I see Lulu. Her and her big mouth."
Dusty gave a goofy grin. "Yeah."
Betsy tried to ignore his starry-eyed expression at the mention of the name Lulu. "So will you tell me why you were sleeping in a tree, Dusty?"
He looked around then, as if expecting to find yet a third person lurking in the bushes. "Seriously?" he said in a low tone, cupping his hand over his mouth. "I was hiding."
"Hiding?" Betsy replied, surprised. "Hiding from who? Or what, even?"
"Hiding from Lulu," he answered. And looked guilty as hell about it, too.
This response was certainly not what Betsy had expected. Nor was the sudden lurch inside her chest that suggested her heart had just turned a back flip.
"But why would you want to hide from Lulu?" she asked, pulling the thin blanket tighter around her. "I thought you liked her."
"I do like her. But I think she likes me too." Dusty edged closer, his need for secrecy even greater, as though Lulu herself would suddenly emerge from behind a rock and start battering him into submission.
"Of course she likes you," Betsy said. "I don't understand!"
"You know. Like, the way she kissed me yesterday? I know you saw it. She's never kissed me like that before." His eyes went just a little glazed at the memory.
"And you're saying you didn't like it?"
"Oh no, I'm not saying that at all! I liked it. It was..." he grinned again, "...different."
I'll say, thought Betsy. That was the kind of kiss that got everyone into trouble.
"So, what's the problem? Why are you hiding from her?" she asked.
Dusty shifted on his feet, looked at his boots, gave a little shrug. "I guess, in case she wants to do it again."
Betsy was wholly unconvinced. "Dusty, you can't possibly be telling me that you're turning down Lulu McQueen."
He shrugged again. "It's not that. She's real nice, and all. It's just..."
Betsy also shifted awkwardly, holding the blanket even tighter. "What, Dusty?"
"It's just...I guess...she's too much." He looked up at last. His expression surprised her- there was a glimpse of what appeared to be real thought behind his eyes. Not a lot of thought, but nonetheless, it was highly unusual to ever find Dusty thinking about anything beyond Freckles his horse, and food.
He was starting to look sheepish. "I mean, she's a real good kisser and all. I guess she's had plenty of practise. But I know she only kissed me 'cause there aren't any other guys around, except Andy. And maybe Mr. Callahan." He pulled a face. "And Mr. Brookhaven." He pulled an even worse face, screwing his eyes up and grimacing as though he'd just been forced to eat a slug.
"Dusty, are you trying to say you think you're the best of a bad bunch?" Betsy smiled, touched by his insecurity.
"Well, I ain't no Harry Houdini," Dusty replied, confusingly.
"I think it's safe to say that Lulu kisses you because she likes you," Betsy said gently. "And why wouldn't she like you? You're...you're Dusty."
"Exactly! I'm Dusty." He looked at her plaintively. "I'm just Dusty. Like, what else is there to say about me?" He looked down at himself, brushing dirt and leaves and tree foliage off his britches. "I even am dusty," he observed.
Betsy laughed softly. "So, let me get this straight. You want Lulu to have a better reason for kissing you than the fact that she likes you. But you're not even convinced that she likes you anyway."
"I guess that's it," Dusty conceded. "And I'm no fool, Betsy. I know when we get to California she'll find some rich prince to get married to, and go off and live in a big castle with all her new-found wealth."
"Well then, she'll be missing out on a wonderful man," Betsy said, feeling suddenly quite peculiar.
"Like who?" Dusty frowned, suspicious.
"Dusty. Like you." Betsy reached out and shyly swatted him on the arm.
Dusty looked at her. She could practically see the thought processes grinding into gear again. "Maybe you should kiss me," he said at last. "You know, just so's I can get a comparison."
Betsy was startled. He was kidding her. Dusty was actually kidding her, it was right there on his face.
"Well, then, maybe I should."
" All right." He pulled a gunslinger pose.
"Maybe I will."
"Be careful. I'm a pretty mean sharpshooter round these here parts." His fingers twitched.
Betsy had never felt so nervous, so...Lulu-like. Clutching the blanket around her shoulders, she moved closer to Dusty, fully expecting him to burst out into one of his childish laughs and tell her he was joshing.
But he didn't. He relaxed his gunslinger pose and just stood there, watching her closely.
"I'd like to put my arms around you, Dusty," Betsy said apologetically, "but I'm not exactly, um, dressed for the occasion."
"Oh...I don't know about that," Dusty replied. "I think every occasion oughta require at least some form of underwear and blanket two-piece."
She laughed. When had he gotten so witty?
They were very close now. Close enough for Dusty to reach up and place his hands lightly on her shoulders.
"Sure about this?" she smiled, blushing.
He pursed his lips, shrugged. "Got nuthin' else to be goin' on with," he grinned.
Betsy giggled. "No man has ever fallen out of a tree and landed at my feet before. That's got to be worth something, right?"
"I guess." His voice was low now, his face just a breath away from hers, and just as he was about to give her one of his endearing smiles, Betsy closed the gap and pressed her mouth to his.
Dusty murmured something against her lips, whether it was a word or just a sigh of contentment, she couldn't tell. But she felt him pull her closer, felt her balled fists come between them both as she carried on holding the edges of the blanket.
His kiss was unbelievably soft and warm and gentle. He didn't try to stick his tongue into her mouth. The way he moved against her, well, it almost felt choreographed. Slowly she disengaged her fingers from the blanket and released her death grip on it. Slowly she dared to spread her fingers on Dusty's chest, atop the rough fabric of his shirt. The only things keeping the blanket up now were Dusty's own hands on her shoulders. She felt naughty, sinful.
It was a while before the kiss ended, and not once did Dusty try to get his hands inside the blanket or try anything on with her. And because of this lack of pressure, even after their lips parted from each other, Betsy found herself tingling from head to toe, every cell and hair follicle in and on her body buzzing like a hive full of honey bees.
"Gosh," she whispered, blushing furiously.
"I'll say," Dusty agreed. His voice had gone husky and the hair under his hat hung in untidy hanks over his forehead. His eyes were so heavy lidded that only a sliver of colour was visible in each one. He looked doped.
"That was...quite something else," Betsy added, breathlessly.
"I don't think I've ever been kissed quite like that before."
"You don't say."
Dusty shrugged. "I can't say."
She didn't want to let go. He was still holding up her blanket. Her face was still so close to his that she could almost count every one of his eyelashes. He even smelled of tree sap.
Betsy didn't think that Lulu felt like this when she kissed Dusty. At least, she hoped not. Lulu gave out kisses like candy. One piece of candy was pretty much like another if you ate it all the time.
Quit stalling, Elizabeth, she told herself. Let go of the poor man.
"I should take my bath," she told him at last, taking hold of the blanket edges once again. She stepped out of his embrace, feeling his hands reluctantly leave her shoulders.
"I guess I should go back to camp and get started on peeling those potatoes," Dusty nodded in agreement.
Betsy smiled, looking at him shyly from beneath her own lowered eyelashes. "It's a dog's life, eh, Dusty?"
Dusty rubbed his hands against his britches then rubbed his neck and smiled back. "Not really, Betsy," he said. "Not really."