The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Southernfrau

 

 

Taking The Town By Storm

Murdoch Lancer let out a sigh of relief as the surrey splashed over the sodden path under the Lancer arch and headed for the open road.  The rain of the past week was finally over. The sky was a uniform brilliant blue, not a cloud in sight.  There was a cool breeze blowing, just enough to lightly kiss the skin and give a fleeting impression of a gentle caress.  The big rancher was rudely and painfully drawn from his poetic ruminations when his youngest son flounced down in his lap with such force he was sure he would never be able to father another child . . . not that he wanted or needed another one at this point.

At times like these the big rancher wished they had a closed carriage for their trips to town.  It would be much easier to contain the perpetual motion of his youngest in a smaller confined space.  As it was, if Grandfather Ha or another adult was not available to ride along when the boys went to town, Murdoch had found it easier to control Johnny in the surrey.  The little boy had accidentally bounced or jumped from the moving buckboard one too many times to trust taking it without help.

Once the pain of the unintentional blow to his manhood had settled Murdoch was able to breathe again.  He controlled his respirations, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly.  He absent-mindedly rubbed at his chest as it rose and fell, recalling the aching sting of his earlier encounter with Johnny. 

Johnny had managed at breakfast to coat himself in honey, burn his hands on the coffee pot and wet his pants.  So while Scott ate, Murdoch had taken Johnny to the bathhouse.  He took the small tub down, placing it right by the large one, and filled it with water.  He stripped Johnny and sat him in the water with his little wooden boats.  Then he had filled the large bath for himself, quickly disrobed and got in.  He had planned to wash up and be out of the tub while his youngest was pre-occupied with his toys. 

However it had not happened like that, as soon as Murdoch sank down into the warm water, Johnny had scrambled out of his tub and tried to get in with his papa.  The small child had tried to pull himself in by holding onto the side of the tub and a handful of his father’s chest hair.  The little fingers had become so entangled in the curly hairs; Murdoch feared he would be depilated.  It had not been easy holding onto the wet slippery boy with one hand while the other worked to free himself from the torturous situation.

By the time he had cleaned them both up, trekked back upstairs for clean clothes and returned to the kitchen for breakfast, forty-five minutes had passed.  Scott was in tears thinking they would be late and Johnny was cranky because he was hungry.  Maria was flustered and fussing about because the ninos were out of sorts.  And Murdoch himself was ready to go back to bed and try starting the day over.  Instead he plowed ahead, he spoke soothingly to Scott calming him down as he fed Johnny his breakfast to keep him from soiling another set of clothes.  Somehow he managed to drink his coffee and eat a couple of biscuits smeared with strawberry preserves.

While Murdoch talked to Scott and fed Johnny, Mamacita fixed a snack for the boys to take with them.  She had molasses cookies and cinnamon bread twists wrapped in a napkin for them.  She took the child sized canteens that Ha had a silversmith in Boston custom make for the boys and filled them with lemonade.  The small size of the canteens made it easy for the two little boys to drink from them unassisted.  Maria moved back to the table and poured the last of the coffee into Murdoch’s cup. 

“I’ll put this snack for the boys in the baby’s bag, Senor.”  Stated Maria as she headed out of the kitchen to the foyer.  The adults in the house had learned a long time ago to keep a bag of extra clothes packed to take along with Johnny, because if there was any dirt, water or sticky substance around the youngest Lancer was going to find it.  And just for good measure it also held spares for Scott who tended to land in whatever mess Johnny did, trying to keep his little brother out of it.

Hearing the jingle of tack and the plod of horses as she took the little satchel down off the coat tree and placed the snack items in it, Maria opened the door and saw one of the hands parking the surrey at the front entrance.  Mamacita made her way back to the kitchen and came in on an unusual conversation.

“Papa, Squat is taking his rifle to town.”

Scott’s mouth dropped open and he appeared stunned by his baby brother’s statement.

“Scott, you’re not taking your gun to town.  I told you when Father Christmas brought it to you that it was for use only when we went hunting.” Admonished Murdoch.

“Papa, I don’t know why Johnny said that.  I didn’t say I was taking it to town.  I didn’t!” He declared as tears welled in his eyes.  The little blond was just about at the end of his rope this morning.  First it seemed like Johnny was trying his best to make them late going to get Ha and now he was telling lies on him. 

“Johnny, it’s not nice to tell stories about other people.  Why would you say that about your brother?”

“Squat say him and Robert were going to shoot marbles hind the livery today.  Squat needs him gun to shoot.”

Scott dissolved into giggles as Johnny’s made his erroneous statement; causing Papa to spray the mouth full of coffee he had just sipped all over the tabletop. 

“Senor, do I need to put a change of clothes for you in the bag too?” laughed Maria.  “The surrey is parked out front.”

“I’m beginning to wonder.” Murdoch replied as he inspected his shirt for stains, finding none he decided now would be a good time to leave before something else happened.

“Boys, it’s time to go.  Do either one of you need to go potty before we leave?”

“No, sir.” Replied his oldest.

“Nope, Johnny peed in the tub.” Announced Johnny

“Ewwwww,” grimaced Scott as his face warred between disgust and amusement.

Murdoch appeared stunned, the thought flashing through his mind over whether or not Johnny had urinated in his tub or when he tried to climb in the bath with him.  He shook his head as he decided he really didn’t want to know.

In a flurry of hugs and kisses between Mamacita and the boys, along with her warning to behave the Lancers finally made it out the door and to the surrey.  She stood in the doorway waving until the surrey rounded the corner of the house, then she pushed the door closed, melting briefly against the strength of the heavy oak wood.  The house was blissfully quiet and she reveled in it for the moment, but she knew by this evening she would be anxious for the return of the boys who were the heart and soul of the big hacienda.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The soothing sound of the cadence of the trotting horses was disrupted along with Murdoch’s retrospective thoughts of the hectic morning when a desperate voice finally got his full attention.

“PAPA . . .I need to go!”  Scott practically whined, red faced with embarrassed.

“Scott, you told me not twenty minutes ago that you didn’t need to.”

Squirming uncomfortably Scott admitted, “I was ready to go, I thought we were going to be late.”

Slowing the horse down, the buggy had not quite stopped when Scott leapt out and ran for the nearest bush.  Murdoch’s long arm was the only thing that kept his youngest from tumbling head first out the surrey as he tried to emulate the more coordinated movements of his older sibling.

“Hold on Johnny, do you need to potty too?”

“Yeah-huh.”

“Let Papa help you down.  I don’t want you to get dirty before we even get to town.”

Johnny being the stubborn little boy that he was refused to hide in the bush to relieve himself.  Instead he insisted on ‘making bubbles’ in a large mud puddle in the middle of the road.  Where as Scott was a very private child, Johnny could not be accused of having a modest bone in his body.  More than once they had found the little scamp buck naked swimming in the water trough for any and all to see.

With both boys needs seen to the Lancers were back on the road to Morro Coyo.  Murdoch sighed as he saw the outskirts of town come into view.  He had managed to keep an excited Johnny from bouncing out of the surrey before they reached town.  The tall rancher had put his long legs to use, corralling his youngest between them.  Scott sat forward practically trembling in self-contained joy. As they cleared the outskirts and began passing buildings Johnny shrieked in delight.

“Ha! Ha! We’s going to get Ha! Hurry Papa!”

People passing on the wooden walk stopped to watch the Lancers pass, some smiling in amusement at Johnny’s antics.  The youngest Lancer was well known for his sunny disposition and penchant for finding trouble.  Everyone knew the small boy and most were delighted to be wrapped his little fingers.

Murdoch pulled to a stop in front of the stage depot and stepped out on to the road.  It was as good a place as any to park as it was situated middle ways from all the other businesses he needed to visit as they waited on Harlan.  Scott jumped down and stood dutifully beside his father’s side.  Papa turned just in time to catch Johnny as he took a flying leap from the surrey.  He playfully swatted at the little backside before setting him down beside Scott.

Johnny took off like a flash, little booted feet clopping noisily across the wooden walk as he rushed for the door of the stage depot office.  He shoved the door open and called out loudly.

“Come on, Ha, Johnny here.”

Scanning the people sitting in the little lobby and not finding the beloved old man, Johnny stormed towards ticket agent.  As cute and adorable as he was when he was happy, little boy Lancer was a force to be reckoned with when he was on the cusp of a fit of temper.

“Where’s Johnny’s Ha?”  He fairly growled at the stunned agent.

The stage employee was in the process of backing up from the angry child when Murdoch and Scott came rushing in.  Their abrupt appearance was the only thing that saved the harried agent from a vicious kick to the shin from tiny hard boots.  Murdoch hurried over and picked Johnny up, seeing that he was on the verge of becoming distraught.

“Johnny!  What has Papa told you about town? You do not run off, you either hold my hand or Scott’s.”

The youngest Lancer turned weepy eyes towards his father, his little chin trembled, and his bottom lip protruded in a disappointed pout.  “Papa shoot that bad man he has Johnny’s Ha.”

Scott groaned and stepped behind Papa, away from the curious eyes of the strangers present.  He felt like hiding, sometimes having a baby brother was embarrassing.

“Johnny, Mr. Pitts doesn’t have your Grandfather.  Ha is still on the stage it’s not time for it to be here yet.  We came to town early to do our errands, then we’ll come back to the stage depot to pick up Ha and go to lunch.”

After searching around the little depot to assure himself Ha was not there, Johnny finally agreed to leave and come back later.

“I’m sorry Mr. Pitts.  Johnny is a little over excited.  Harlan has been away two weeks and that’s the longest he’s been gone since Johnny was an infant.  He’s anxious to see him.”  Sensing Scott peering out from behind him, he added, “Scott too.”

“It’s all right Mr. Lancer.  I understand about kids and grandfathers, my own are crazy about theirs.  And I believe Mr. Garrett loves the boys more than life its self.”

The three Lancers departed under the curious stare of several of the waiting people.  Once back outside, Scott asked for permission to meet Robert behind the livery.  Receiving it, the little blond ran off towards the big building.  Murdoch stood and watched him until he saw the owner’s son, Scott’s friend Robert, come out to greet him.  The two boys disappeared around the barn for their game of marbles.

“It’s just you and me little man, lets go get our business done.”

The big rancher settled his son into the crook of his arm and strode purposefully off towards his first stop, the bank.  They met Aggie Conway coming out of the bank.  The pretty blonde was delighted when Johnny practically fell from his father’s arms in a bid to get to her.  She cuddled the little boy to her and nuzzled his neck.

“How’s my favorite little Lancer and where’s Scott?”

“Aggie, let’s just say your favorite little guy is in one piece, I wish I could say the same thing for my mind.  You wouldn’t believe what a Herculean effort it was to even make it out of the house this morning.”

“Johnny peed in the tub and pud muddle.” Johnny announced proudly.

Mrs. Conway’s eyes lit up with amusement as she looked to Murdoch for clarification.  He was shaking his head as he rubbed his own face with a work calloused hand.

“Well the shortened version is we ended up having to take a bath before we could leave the house and Johnny used the tub for a potty.  Then we had to stop on the way for Scott to go and Johnny decided a mud puddle was a good place to go.  Now I’m hanging on to this one while Scott plays marbles with Robert over at the livery.  I’ll give your more details when we all meet for supper later this week.”

One of the Conway Ranch hands pulled up in a loaded supply wagon so Aggie handed Johnny back over to his father after giving him a last kiss and a peppermint stick from her purse.  Murdoch groaned as he watched the tip of the candy disappear into the eager little mouth.  He had no doubt he would soon be wiping off sticky fingers and face, Johnny plus candy equaled a big mess.

Stepping into the bank, Murdoch was greeted by the manager.  Hard work as well as fortuitous opportunities coming along at just the right time had seen the determined rancher build quite a name and bank account for himself.  He was already considered one of the leading ranchers in the area.

“Mr. Lancer, so nice to see you.  I was just going to send word to you that the Army had finally wired the payment for the cattle you sold them.  If you will step in my office we can go over the particulars.”

Before getting down to business, the two men sat Johnny at the secretary’s desk with paper and pencil to keep him occupied.  Johnny entertained himself writing and licking his candy.  He giggled and glanced around to see if Papa and the bank man noticed when he accidentally put the pencil in his mouth and tried to write with the peppermint stick.  The pencil didn’t taste very good but the candy sure left pretty pink lines on the paper.  That held his attention for a little while; pretty soon his hands were so gooey from holding the melting sugary stick until they stuck to the paper.

Papa and the man kept talking and talking, looking at papers and writing things.  This was boring boring boring, He wished he had gone to shoot marbles with Squat, even if they weren’t shooting with a gun.

The two adults were so involved in their conversation they never even noticed when Johnny dropped out of the chair and began to wander around the office.  He left a trail of sticky handprints on every surface he touched.  He got brave and wandered over to the open door.  

Johnny wondered why there was a jail cell in the bank; glancing back to see Papa was busy he quietly slipped behind the teller’s counter and peered through the bars of the cell.  There was a funny big black box and it was full of something.  Being small for his age, Johnny was able to squeeze through the metal bars and walk right to the box. 

Johnny gasped in surprise; it was full of money. / Oh, oh. /  He thought.  / I’ll give this monies to Ha and then he won’t have to go away no more ‘to make money’, cause here is some already maked./  He began to stuff the monetary notes into his pockets.  He crammed it in until they bulged.  When he ran out of space, his intelligent mind quickly found a solution.  He unfastened one button and began filling his shirt.  Some of the greenbacks fluttered to the floor around his feet.  He grew tired of the chore and decided he had gathered enough.

Just as the little accidental thief made his way back over to the barred door, the teller turned around and spied him.  Disbelieving his own eyes, the timid man pulled off his glasses, vigorously rubbed them with his handkerchief and then looked again.  He was met by the same sight as before, little Johnny Lancer was trying to force himself through the bars of the vault cage, with money hanging out of his pockets and shirt, and stuck to his hands.  He looked like a miniature scarecrow stuffed with money instead of straw.

The amused bank employee watched the tiny boy struggle to slide between the sturdy bars then he stepped to the manager’s office and motioned for the two men to join him.  Johnny’s face was red from exertion and determination, but he could not depart the same way he had arrived, he needed help.

Murdoch and Mr. Chase, the bank manager, followed the teller.  Both men slammed to a stop at the sight that greeted them.  Murdoch’s face turned as red as his son’s.  Chase began to chuckle, a series of them that rolled almost silently from him as his body shook.  He had to brace one hand on the teller’s counter to keep from falling over.  Other customers in the bank noticed something was going on and moved forward to see and they began to laugh.

“Papa help . . . Johnny need HELP!”

The unmistakable howl of his youngest prodded Murdoch into motion.  He rushed forward and gently pushed his small son from between the set of iron bars, as the bank manager unlocked the door.  The two men rushed into the cell.

“Johnny Lancer, what in the world are you doing?”

“Johnny get money for Ha so he not go away no more.  See, Ha not need make no more money, Johnny finded some maked.”

A temper tantrum of epic proportions ensued as Johnny was stripped of his ill-gotten gains.  Murdoch tried his best to explain the money belonged to many people and he could not just give it to Ha.  When the last bill was retrieved and counted, it was determined that Johnny had almost walked off with four thousand six hundred ninety-eight dollars.

“Mr. Lancer your son’s sticky fingers are really sticky,” teased Mr. Chase after placing the last note back in the vault and wiping his hands on his handkerchief.  Every piece of money had gummy candy residue on it.

“Mr. Chase, I am so sorry.  I . . . I . . .”

“It’s alright Murdoch.  I have a three-year old grandson.  I know how they are at this age.  Don’t worry about it; no harm was done.”

Since they had actually concluded the banking business, the men shook hands and Murdoch took his leave, face crimson in humiliation.  He held his little delinquent firmly in his grasp.  Murdoch stepped outside the bank and the cool breeze he had enjoyed just that morning, felt colder against the hot flush of embarrassment that tinged his face.

“Johnny Lancer if your behind doesn’t stay out of trouble for the rest of the day, you will not ride your pony for a week.  Do you understand me?”

Johnny stared slack jawed at his Papa.  He couldn’t figure out why he seemed mad.  All Johnny did was try to get some monies for Ha.  He thought he was doing a good thing he was helping, but seeing the angry look Papa’s face made him wonder.

“Johnny be good, Papa.  Johnny not find no more monies.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The next stop Murdoch needed to make was the Feed and Grain to place an order and pay for another.  Since the business was right next to the livery he decided to see if Scott and Robert would play with his rambunctious youngest while he conducted his transactions.  As luck would have it the two older boys had moved their game to the alley in between the buildings where the ground wasn’t as wet. 

Scott Lancer happened to look up and see his Papa striding towards him.  He could tell from Papa’s face that Johnny had been in trouble . . . again.  He stood up as his father reached him.

“Is it time to go get Ha, Papa?”

“Not yet, Scott.  Would you mind letting Johnny play with you while I tend to things in the Feed and Grain?”

“Did Johnny get in trouble at the bank?”

“Only if you call robbing the bank trouble.” Deadpanned Murdoch as he sat Johnny down next to his brother.  “Don’t let him out of your sight and Johnny, you remember what I said about your behind and trouble.”

“Did your Papa just say your brother robbed the bank?  Do you think he really did?” questioned Robert.

Scott studied brother, he had something sticky all his face, pencil lead all over his hands and dirt and smudges on his clothes.  Johnny stared back at his brother, his bright blue eyes twinkling with energy and life.  Scott had to admit he was adorable, as little kids go.  Then he thought about all the things Johnny got into at home.  He turned to his playmate and shrugged.

“Yeah he probably did rob the bank.  Come on lets finish our game.”

The friends dropped to their knees and resumed playing, as if having a discussion on a three-year old bank robber was a common occurrence.  Johnny sat and watched for a bit.  But soon decided this was as boring boring boring as the bank.  Squat and Robert wouldn’t let him hold the marbles because he liked to throw them.  As he sat writing zeros and ones in the sand with a stick, Johnny noticed the really tall stairway on the outside of the building that lead up to the living quarters on the second floor.

Slowly making his way closer to the steps, Johnny kept glancing to see if Squat would say anything.  His brother kept looking up to see what he was doing.  Eventually the little boy made it to the bottom riser and sat down.  After a while Squat was engrossed in his game and had quit looking at him.  Faster than a cat chased up a tree by a dog, Johnny climbed the stairway.  At the top he peered over the edge of the rail at his brother down below.

The friendly game of marbles turned ugly.  Seeing that he was losing too many marbles to Scott, Robert began to purposefully dig little trenches in the sand inside the ring to redirect Scott’s shots.  When the little blond called him on it, he denied it and punched the other boy in the shoulder.  Scott came up swinging and the two boys fell in the dirt pummeling each other.

Johnny grinned; this was his chance while Squat was busy to ride down the longest banister he had ever tried.  He scrambled up the rail and balanced precariously on the four inch wide piece of wood, blissfully unaware the drop over the side was twenty foot down.  This banister didn’t have the same smooth ride the one at home did.  In fact, he had to keep jiggling so that he could slide.  He had wiggled himself to the last four feet when it felt like something bit him really hard on his hinny.  Johnny screamed and tumbled off the banister on to the ground right by the two fighting boys.  He sat up and wailed loudly.

“PAPA…PAPA!”

Inside the store, Murdoch was just finishing settling his account when he heard Johnny holler for him.  The big man sprinted from the building with several others following him.  He rounded the corner and saw Johnny sitting on the ground crying and Scott rolling around in a fistfight with Robert.  Not realizing Johnny was hurt and not upset he went to his oldest first.  He pulled Scott off the other boy and applied five firm swats to his backside.

“Scott Garrett Lancer what is the meaning…..” he never finished his question as it dawned on him Johnny was crying in pain. 

Murdoch picked Johnny up and hugged him to his chest.  When he did, Johnny felt something bite him again, so he shrieked even louder and sobbed until he was practically breathless.  He couldn’t tell Papa what was wrong, Papa had said he’d better keep his behind out of trouble or he couldn’t ride his pony and that was worse than whatever was biting him.

Unable to see any visible signs of injury on his youngest son, Murdoch fought the sense of panic washing over him. He prayed Doc Jenkins was in his office today because that’s where he was headed. He took off at a jog; looking back he called to his oldest.

“Come along Scott, we’ll straighten this out later.”

Sam Jenkins heard the Lancers before he saw them.  There was no mistaking the strident screech of Johnny Lancer.  The Lancers burst into the office, Murdoch wild eyed and harried, Johnny cradled in his arms struggling and hollering, Scott right by his father’s side, covered in dirt, with tears rolling down his grubby cheeks.

Seeing the distress of all three Lancers, Doc Jenkins rushed them right by little Teresa Stacy, who had been brought in by her mother for some rash.  Upon entering the examine room Murdoch tried to sit Johnny on the table but he shot back up screaming and trying to climb his papa.

“Murdoch, what happened?”

“I don’t know, Sam.  All I can tell you is he was outside the Feed and Grain, in the alley playing with Scott and Robert.  I heard him holler for me and when I got outside I saw him sitting on the ground crying as the other two were battling.  I thought he was just upset and calling for me because his brother was fighting.”

“Scott, do you have any idea what happened.”

In between weeps and heaves of distress Scott managed to convey that the last he saw Johnny had been writing numbers in the dirt with a stick.  So as Murdoch held his crying child, Sam tried to inspect his eyes to see if he had perhaps poked himself there with the stick.  This only made the drama increase.  Every time Johnny thought about the trouble his behind was in he remembered his pony and he would become frantic all over again

“Scott, can you be my little man and run down to the depot, it’s about time for Ha’s stage.  Bring him back here, he’ll be worried if someone isn’t there to greet him.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Scott Lancer rushed down the wooden walk to the stage depot.  Papa needed his help and he didn’t intend to fail him this time.  He wished he knew what was wrong with his baby brother.  He felt so guilty, if he had been watching him like his father asked he could have told them what happened or even better he could have kept him from being hurt.

The little blond bravely fought back tears as he kept vigil for his grandfather’s stage.  Scott was glad to be here instead of Doc Sam’s office, he couldn’t stand hearing Johnny scream.  He heard the thundering of hooves, the jingle of harness before he actually saw the stage.  The heavy conveyance slid to a stop spraying mud and water.  The agent from the stage company walked forward with a set of wooden steps and set it under the door before opening it.

The first person out of the stage was Widow Haggis.  Scott grimaced, poor Ha had to ride with that sour –faced lady.  She was awful young to be a widow and Scott thought maybe her husband up and died just to get away from her meanness.  The next person off the stage was the schoolteacher, Miss Bruton, which really put a frown on Scott’s face.  If she was back then winter break from school would soon be over.

Finally Ha poked his head out.  Scott was so relieved and happy to see him, the tears he had so bravely held back burst forth in a torrid flood.  Seeing the reaction of his oldest grandson clued Harlan Garrett in that something was amiss.  Departing the stage faster than an older body should be able, he immediately scooped the distraught child up into his arms.

“What is it Scotty?  Where are your father and brother?”  Harlan’s heart constricted in fear when the mention of Murdoch and Johnny caused Scott to cry even harder.  He soothingly rubbed the slender back until he calmed down.

“Now tell Ha what’s wrong.”

“Papa said to bring you to Doc’s office.”  Tears began to flow again but Scott sniffed them away to finish. “Johnny is hurt and we can’t figure out how and he won’t stop screaming.”

Harlan grabbed his small travel satchel with one hand and Scott with the other hand and raced off for Sam’s office.  There was one thing about having two young grandsons they made sure he got plenty of exercise, kept his joints loose.  He could do without the heart clenching, mind consuming worry when one of them was sick or injured though. 

Garrett’s high society friends in Boston would make him the gossip topic at all the social gatherings if they could see him now  . . . running pell mell down a muddy road, carry his own bag.  Once there was a time when decorum and appearances would have meant more to him than life. However the birth of a little blond angel had changed that, and then the birth of a dark haired cherub sealed his fate.  Harlan Garrett was officially a wishy washy, fuddy duddy grandpa that loved musical giggles, warm hugs, cookie smeared faces and sticky fingerprints on his pants and white shirt.  He could be a shark in the boardroom but when home at Lancer, for that’s how he now viewed the ranch, he was Ha, world’s most bestest Grandfather.

Harlan crashed through the outer office, dropping his satchel as he went and barreled into the examine room, where Johnny’s screeching had given way to inconsolable sobs. He quickly took in the look of harassed fear on the face of the man, who had come to be like a son of the heart to him, Murdoch Lancer. 

“Here now what’s all this fuss about?”

Hearing his beloved grandfather’s voice, Johnny twisted in his father’s embrace and reached for the man that meant fun, comfort and security to him.

“HA!  Johnny’s HA!”

“Come tell Ha what’s wrong.” Garrett lifted the small child easily, and when he hugged him to his chest and rubbed a hand down his back, he could feel the trembling of the little body. 

Johnny wanted more than anything to tell what was wrong, but Papa said if Johnny’s behind got into trouble any more today Johnny could not ride Johnny’s pony for a week.  Then Johnny reasoned it out, Papa told him that but not Ha, Johnny could tell Ha.

Sniffing and wiping his nose on his rumpled and tear stained shirt, Johnny raised sorrowful eyes to his grandfather’s face and asked, “If Johnny’s hinny hurts is Johnny in trouble?”

“What?  Of course not baby. Does it hurt?”  As he asked the question Ha shifted the little boy and when he did his soft accountant’s hands felt what Murdoch’s ranch work roughened ones didn’t.  “Ouch, there’s something sharp protruding from the back of this baby’s pants!”

Harlan held Johnny under the armpits while Murdoch stripped his pants off as far as his boots would let them.  They all gasped when they laid the little guy belly down on the table and saw a three inch long splinter embedded in his buttock.  Before Johnny realized what was happening Sam grabbed a pair of tweezers and pulled the cruel looking piece of wood free.  Murdoch had to hold him down for the doctor to clean the area, but at least the mystery was solved.

Now it all made sense, while Scott and Robert were fighting Johnny had tried to slide down the rough-hewn rail of the outside staircase.  That’s why the little boy had been sitting on the ground, at the landing. 

“Johnny did you slide down the banister?”

“Yes.” He whispered softly.

Schooling his face to a neutral look because he felt like there had been enough drama, Murdoch sat Johnny up and held him as Harlan slipped his underwear and pants back up.

“Why didn’t you tell Papa your hinny was hurting?”

Johnny looked at his father like he had grown an extra head. “Cause Papa say Johnny’s hinny better not get in no more trouble or Johnny can’t ride Johnny’s pony. Ha not say that.”

Forgetting that Harlan would not understand what he was talking about, Murdoch exclaimed, “ I meant no more trouble like when you robbed the bank this morning.”

After a sharp breathy gasp, there was a loud thud.  Poor Ha, hit his head.  But that’s a story for another day.

 

~end~
Jan 2007

Home Again, Home Again

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