When Sam leaped in, it was to the feeling of uncontrollable forward motion. His eyes opened wide as he surveyed his latest predicament. He was astride the banister of a staircase, speeding toward the end, with no brakes.
Still disoriented from the leap-in, he desperately tried to halt his decline, or at least slow it up. Unfortunately, before he knew what hit him, he was free falling. His rump connected painfully with the floor.
"Ouch!" he yelped, picking himself up with as much dignity as he could muster.
"I saw you! You fell!" a gleeful voice proclaimed. Sam looked up to see a tall, dark-haired man dancing merrily around him. "Ha, ha, you finally fell!"
"Very funny," Sam grumbled, rubbing his injured part and surveying his companion sourly. This was without a doubt a very grown man--yet he was acting more like a ten year old.
"Jethro!" a craggy-sounding voice suddenly bellowed from somewhere in the back of the house.
Sam was wondering which one of them was this Jethro, when the man answered. "Coming, Granny!" He headed into the other room on the run.
Heaving a sigh of relief at being alone again, Sam took a look around. His jaw dropped at what he saw. From Jethro's clothes and speech patterns, he'd never have imagined himself in a place like this one. Crystal chandeliers hung from the cathedral ceilings. Expensive vases sat on marble tables in the huge entryway. He was in a mansion.
Who am I? Sam wondered, wandering over to a mirror on the wall and staring at his reflection. A young blond woman in pigtails stared back at him. Not a woman again! Sam pleaded with futility. But he realized quickly it could have been worse. At least he was wearing a men's flannel shirt, blue jeans instead of a skirt--and no bra. He sent a thank you up, for small favors.
"Ellie May!" that voice boomed again, commanding obedience.
"Ellie May?" Sam asked his reflection, but as usual, she didn't have an answer for him. Since no one else seemed to be in the vicinity at the moment, he began hesitantly in the direction of the voice.
After two more calls, each louder than the previous, he finally found himself in a huge kitchen. An old woman was bent over a big cauldron on the stove, humming to herself. Jethro was busily chomping on something that looked like a chicken leg--but not quite.
"Y-yes, granny?" Sam began, unsure of what his role was.
"There you are, youngin'," Granny turned to him. "It's almost ready. When I'm done fixin' it up, Jethro is gonna see to it yer beau gets a nice helpin'."
"Oh, uh huh," Sam mumbled, trying to sound like he knew what was going on. He peered into the concoction and immediately grimaced at the smell. "I--I'm sure it's delicious." Reluctantly, he grabbed the ladle and bent to take a sip.
Granny promptly slapped his hand. "Careful! That's my most potent love potion! That's fer Randy Lee, not fer you!"
"Love potion?!" Sam squeaked in indignant disbelief.
"Now Ellie May, I thought you agreed to let Granny help ya catch a husband," another voice spoke up, as a man walked into the kitchen.
"Listen to yer paw," Granny advised sagely.
'Pa' had white hair and a scruffy beard and mustache, and was wearing a t-shirt, an old brown jacket and tattered hat. "You'll warm up to the idea, if ya give it a chance," he told his daughter.
"You're practically an old maid, Ellie," Jethro commented around a mouthful of food.
"Old maid?!" Sam huffed.
"You don't look like any old maid I ever saw," a new but familiar voice piped in. Sam turned to see Al standing there with his usual handlink and cigar, looking very out-of-place in his neon purple jacket and red pants, and leering at Sam--at Ellie May.
Sam glared at Al in warning. "Don't say another word," he hissed.
"Good!" Pa clamped Sam on the back, misinterpreting his words. "I knew you'd give it a try. Go to it, Granny!"
"But...Pa..." Sam tried, but he was already gone, out the back door. He stared at the others helplessly.
"Jethro--don't jus' stand there eatin' up all my possum legs--bring that jug over here--we'll give ol' Randy Lee a shot a moonshine he'll never forgit!" She grinned at Sam.
Sam glared at Al and hooked a meaningful thumb in the direction of the other room. When he was once again in the entryway--the place he'd leaped into first and therefore the place he felt most comfortable-- he spun on the hologram. "Ziggy better know why I've leaped into this fun house!"
Unperturbed, Al leisurely began consulting the link. "Let's see, cutie. Your name is Ellie May Clampett. You live in Beverly Hills, California, with your father Jed, Jethro Bodine--some kind of cousin, I think, these hillbillies weren't too particular about this sort of thing--and your grandmother."
"I am a hillbilly?!"
Al nodded. "The family moved here from the hills after Jed struck oil while hunting. He's a millionaire now."
"Why am I here?" Sam repeated, hoping he wouldn't have to ask too many more times before he got an answer.
"Ziggy isn't sure yet. Says it might have something to do with a love potion."
"Al, there's no such thing as love potions!"
"I don't know. I swear my--fourth...no, third wife, she was from the old country...anyway, that's how she caught me."
"A woman doesn't need a love potion with you, all she needs is a bottle and a mini-skirt!"
"I'm hurt!" Al said in a wounded voice. "I'm much deeper than that."
"Oh yeah, I forget the most important part--lots of cleavage. Al," he began with less-than-patient tolerance, "the only thing that 'love potion' might get ol' Randy is dead."
"Maybe that's why you're here," the hologram suggested.
Sam stared at Al until it became apparent he was going to have to be clearer. "Well, would you get on it then? Get Ziggy to run the odds?"
"Okay, okay. Keep your shirt on, little dumplin'," he winked at Sam and stepped into the imaging chamber door.
Sam heaved a huge put-upon sigh and, for want of anything better to do, wandered back into the kitchen.
"I put yer love potion in one a those fancy glasses in the parlor, Granny," Jethro was telling the old lady.
"Good...good. Now, when he comes a callin', you bring 'im inside and tell 'im to help hisself to a drink--then you git out of there! It wouldn't do for him to go seein' you right after."
"Got it, Granny," Jethro said, grabbing another...possum leg? and bounding out of the room.
"You'd best git upstairs and change into your prettiest dress!" Granny admonished when she saw Sam. "Your gentleman caller will be here any time now."
"But Granny..." he complained.
"None of your sass, young lady! Now git! And git them critters of yours out of my kitchen!" she added.
Critters? Sam realized what she was talking about when a ferret slinked past him, disappearing into the other room.
Resigned to his fate of donning a dress, Sam went upstairs to search for Ellie's bedroom. From what little clues he had, he got the hunch Ellie was even less enamored of the prospect of having a husband forced on her than he was. At least he'd be leaping out. Poor Ellie would be stuck marrying a man she hadn't chosen and didn't want. She seemed to be a tom-boy, through and through, and not ready to give it up for femininity yet. Not that she should have to.
Which, when he thought of it, was probably why he'd leaped in. To make sure Ellie wouldn't make a mistake she'd be paying for for the rest of her life. The leap should be a piece of cake. The love potion stuff was all superstitious folk-lore, and all he had to do was explain to the young man that he didn't want to get married yet.
Piece of cake.
* * *
Sam was dressed and coming down the stairs when he heard the doorbell. He paused out of sight, peeking down to the front door. Jethro answered it, on cue.
"Mr. Drysdale!" he greeted cheerfully. "C'mon in and set a spell."
"Hello, Jethro." Randy Lee Drysdale wasn't at all what Sam had imagined--but then again, it would be just like these back woods folks to fix Ellie May up with someone older and totally wrong for her. "Is your uncle Jed at home?" Drysdale asked.
"He's around somewhere," Jethro said uncertainly. "Uh--I'll go find 'em."
"Good. I'll wait for him in the parlor."
"Oh--okay." Jethro went off, looking confused.
Father? To attend to the legal matters no doubt, Sam decided. Best to get this over with. He tramped down the stairs and went into the room Randy Lee had disappeared into.
When Sam walked in, his 'suitor' was sipping from a glass. A crystal decanter sat on the table, no doubt the "fancy glass" Jethro had referred to. Poor guy, Sam thought. I hope it doesn't make him too sick.
"Why hello, Ellie May," Drysdale greeted. "You look...lovely today..." he stared into the glass a moment, his eyes clouding over abruptly.
"We have to talk," Sam came right to the point, sitting down beside him on the couch.
"Yes, talk... Your hair smells so nice," he breathed, putting his face close to Sam's head.
"Listen, Randy," Sam began.
"Yes, I'm Randy, you little vixen!" the love-sick man moved closer, putting his arm around Sam. "And we can't deny these feelings between us any longer!"
"What the--" It was unbelievable, but he was acting as if...as if that love potion had actually worked! "Oh boy..." Sam muttered, backing away from him.
Drysdale advanced. "Come to me, and let me breathe in the rapture of your beauty."
"Huh?" Sam mumbled. "Cut it out!" he yelled, pushing the guy's hands away. "Listen, I don't want to marry you--I don't love you! This isn't going to work!"
"Don't break my heart, my love. Let me show you..."
The groping hands grabbed Sam and yanked him close, as the man puckered up and leaned forward. It was the last straw. Finally having enough of the pawing, Sam hauled off and slugged him with his best right- cross. Drysdale fell off the couch onto the floor, knocked out.
At that moment, the rest of the family burst into the room. There was someone else with them, a young blond-haired man in a tennis outfit.
Sam stared at Drysdale in chagrin, wondering how they were going to react to what he'd just done. After all, he was supposed to make everyone think he was the person he leaped into, and it wasn't very ladylike to punch out a suitor.
"Uh, I'm..." he started.
"Oh Lordy," Granny exclaimed, going over to fan the unconscious man with her apron. "He musta gotten into my love potion by mistake."
"Love potion??" the stranger spoke up--and promptly disappeared out the door.
Sam watched him run out, getting a sudden suspicion the guy on the floor wasn't Randy Lee.
"Now you done scared Randy Lee off!" Jed told Sam sadly. "Ellie May, I done told you a hundred times it ain't right for a girl to be fightin' with boys."
Jed sighed the long-suffering sigh of a father. "It's my fault for done raisin' you like a boy, I know. I guess you'll get hitched when you're plum ready. I just hope it's soon..."
"Help me get Mr. Drysdale up, Jethro," Granny asked, and the two plopped him onto the couch like a sack of potatoes.
"What about him?" Jed asked her.
Granny inspected the glass and decanter. "Oh, he should be okay once he wakes up, he didn't get the full dose."
Al strolled through his doorway, taking in the scene before him. "Aw, did I miss all the fun?" he complained in a disappointed voice.
"Yes," Sam smiled brightly, taking some measure of pleasure out of raining on Al's parade.
While the others were busy taking care of Mr. Drysdale--who was actually their bank president come to discuss business with Jed--Sam grabbed the doctored decanter and hightailed it into the kitchen. Opening the back door, he dumped the potion onto the ground, where it wouldn't be a problem anymore.
Sam was about to go inside again when he heard lapping sounds. He turned back to see one of Ellie's critters, a raccoon, licking up the spilled concoction. When finished, it began walking purposefully towards an unsuspecting rooster. Thinking of the implications, Sam shuddered, quickly going inside and shutting the door behind him.
Al was still there, busy consulting his handlink. "Get ready to leap, Sam."
"I'm done?" the time traveler asked happily.
"That was it--throwing out the love potion. That's what you were supposed to do. Originally, Granny managed to give a dose to Randy Lee after all, and Ellie May gave in to the pressures from her family and love-sick beau and married. She was miserable for the rest of her life."
"What happens to her now?" Sam asked.
"She never does marry. When her father goes back to the hills to live, she buys a little ranch and raises all kinds of animals. Becomes one of the leading animal-rights activists, too. She has a happy life, living the way she wants." Al scratched his chin, pondering. "Maybe I should have gotten a critter instead of a wife."
"I'm sure that's about what all five of them said," Sam told him, and leaped.