The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Doc

 

 

A Nice Lady

 A get well card/story for Melanie Maben.

Johnny stepped out of the bank, into the bright dustiness of Stockton’s main street. It was too late in the day to start for home, but it was too early to turn in; maybe a walk would be nice. He didn’t pay too much attention to where he was going, but he wasn’t surprised to end up in the roughest part of town. The Madrid in him felt more comfortable here than in the business district Johnny Lancer just walked out of.

The usual gangs of toughs hung out on the street corners and in front of the cantinas. He watched a small group of young men—boys, really—pushing and shoving a smaller, younger kid down the middle of the street. They circled around him until a gringa rushed out of a store wielding a broom; she shook it at the boys and shouted at them to stop it.

They laughed at her.

She ran into the gaggle of them, swinging the broom, yelling words Johnny couldn’t really make out. The kid being pushed ducked behind her, mocking the older boys from his place of relative safety. Johnny could have told the kid that was a bad idea, but before he could move, one of the toughs pushed the woman to the ground.

“Hey! Stop it!” He dashed over to the group to help the woman up. They scattered away, laughing and catcalling, and one of them grabbed the kid again and pushed him into the street. By the time the lady was standing, brushing herself off and thanking Johnny, the gang was circling around the boy, feinting toward him and backing up again.

“You OK?” Johnny wasn’t looking at the woman as he talked; he kept his eyes on the action in front of him. The kid in the middle was outnumbered but not cowed. He was scared, no doubt about that, but he kept his hands up near his face, to protect it as best he could when the dance started.

“You go help him.” The lady with the broom pushed Johnny’s shoulder.

“He yours?”

She shook her head. “He needs help.”

Well, she got that right. Johnny knew bullies when he saw them. He made up his mind and walked straight to the gang. The tormentors, focused on their victim, were too slow to block his way. When they tried, he pushed past them, grabbed the kid’s hand, and gave it a hearty shake.

“Hey, I been looking all over for you! Good to see you, amigo,” he said, loud and cheery.

The kid looked stunned for an instant but figured it out real quick. He smiled big at Johnny and nodded. “You too. Real good!”

Johnny put his arm around the kid’s shoulders and looked at the faces that just a second ago had been sneering.

“I’d be obliged if you’d let us pass.” He kept his voice friendly as he pushed the kid toward the bullies.

The biggest guy took a step toward them. “Who are you?”

Johnny guided the boy toward a small gap between the smallest guys and kept walking. “It don’t matter, but it’s okay. He’s coming with me. You rest easy now.” And the waters parted and Johnny and the boy stepped through and kept going.

The kid walked quick and Johnny walked half a step behind him, listening behind for what would happen next. Nothing did.

Two blocks down Johnny stepped up to the boy. “You all right now?”

The kid looked at him, his eyes puzzled. “What just happened?”

Johnny snorted. “Nothing. That was sort of the point.”

“Why’d you stop it?”

Johnny stared at him. “A nice lady asked me to. Besides, five against one ain’t sporting.”

The boy knotted his forehead. “I was outnumbered but it was fair. I started it.”

“Well, that was dumb.”

The kid started to explain, but Johnny didn’t need the details. Poverty and boredom were a bad combination for young boys in a dead end town. He knew all about that.

“You go on your way now. And stop poking bears, all right?”

The boy glanced at Johnny’s Colt. “Never was gonna poke a bear. I was gonna shoot it instead.”

That brought Johnny up short. “You gonna go ahead with shootin’ that bear?”

The kid flashed a sheepish grin. “They got my gun.”

Johnny laughed at that, too, but then he looked the boy hard in the eye. “I don’t know your business, kid, and I don’t want to. But before you do what you’re going do, promise me you’ll look real careful before you ever pull that trigger.”

The kid grinned even bigger. “I’m always careful.” He stuck out his hand and they shook for real this time. “Gracias.”

“De nada. I’m Johnny.”

“Felipe.”

“Well, Felipe, you take care. And remember that lady back there…” he pointed back to the gringa with the broom, but she was gone. “…anyhow, that lady back there cares about you.”

Felipe looked confused. Johnny laughed again. “I don’t know who she is, but you should go back and thank her. If she hadn’t got my attention, I think you’d be feeling like nine miles of bad road right about now.” He turned to go back the way they’d come. He was glad Felipe didn’t follow him. Kid had guts, and a certain charm. Reminded Johnny of someone, but he couldn’t quite place it…

 

 

~ end ~
February 2020

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