It was a warm evening and Scott Lancer had just left his college buddies and stopped off at the Common. Settling on a bench to relax, he stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned his head back and looked up at the starry night sky as he pondered. He and three friends had spent the evening celebrating their last night of freedom before they left to assume their positions in the Union Army.
It had taken quite a lot of talking and underhanded maneuvering on Scott’s part in order for him to get his grandfather to finally agree to him joining the Army as a Cavalry officer. Harlan had at first refused to listen to any argument but finally when Scott mentioned that he needed a change and perhaps if the army wasn’t to his liking then maybe a visit to California would be another choice. That had done the trick, for some reason his Grandfather wasn’t willing for his grandson to go anywhere near his father. Scott sensed a bit of duplicity there but that was a battle for another time.
Gazing up at the stars, he spent the next hour locating the different constellations. He always enjoyed this small luxury but often thought how much nicer it would be if he could share it with someone. He loved his grandfather and he loved Boston but sometimes there seemed to be a void that he couldn’t fill. Even his closest friends couldn’t reach that empty spot he felt deep inside. He longed to share his interests with someone he could bond with like a younger brother or maybe his own son someday.
Sighing, he squinted as he focused on the white band across the sky, known as the Milky Way, its color and curving line reminding him of the frozen creek he skated on in winter. A steady breeze began to stir, pushing his blond locks away from his face transporting him into a much loved dream of gliding along the Milky Way and reaching for the stars beyond with a dark haired stranger by his side. Scott couldn’t understand why the same image seemed to stick with him but it always gave him a sense of peace and he indulged in his childish fantasy whenever possible.
Soon he be fighting for a cause dear to his heart and he wondered if the stars would hold the same fascination and peace for him then, as they did now. He realized there would be sacrifices made during his service in the army but the one thing he knew he could count on would be that the stars would still shine above him.
L A N C E R
His head resting in his cupped hands, Scott leaned back on his cot. The barred window just above his small bed afforded him a view of the stars that twinkled brightly like diamonds against the black velvet of darkness. He relished this end of the day when all was mostly quiet and there were no demands made on him. He had been in this prison for nearly 9 months now and the days were melding into each other with no breaks in the grueling routine.
He had given up any hope of escaping this dismal place leaving him with nothing to look forward to but the evenings when he could indulge in a time of peace and tranquility. Each night he retreated in his mind to his dream of rising above his earth bound existence and flying to the stars to glide along the Milky Way. It was a simple luxury that even the Confederate Army couldn’t take away from him; they could imprison his body but never his mind.
Scott thought that the stars were just a little brighter but then maybe they seemed that way because the only thing to compare them with was this stink hole they held the Union prisoners in. They were his ray of hope, his point of light in these his darkest hours, anywhere out there no matter how high up would be brighter than here.
Scott lay quietly; his finger in the air following the constellations and thought about the many places he had been in his life. He had always taken a moment at night to indulge in his favorite activity, star gazing, comparing them to all the places he had been. Yes, he thought, these stars are a bit brighter here with nothing to compete with their beauty. Scott soon felt his eyes growing heavy but he strained to keep them open to stare at his beautiful stars. Yes, he felt they belonged to him. God gave them to him as a promise that someday things would be better. One day the stars would lead him home, just as they did sailors voyaging across the oceans. With a sigh, he finally succumbed to the exhaustion that consumed him and slipped away in his dream of gliding along the Milky Way with a dark haired young man. Speeding across the sky, the wind blowing their hair back the younger man turned to him and smiled a contagious grin that he readily returned; heartened at the sense of home it gave him.
L A N C E R
Facing the west, a smile bloomed on his lips as Scott watched the rider coming in. It was late and his brother had sent word with one of the hands that he would be absent from supper because he had found out that one of their neighbors was laid up from an accident and Johnny decided to ride over and check on the older couple. Normally, Johnny’s absence would have set their father off on a tangent but over the year since the boys had come home Murdoch had come to realize that his youngest wasn’t being defiant but rather a concerned neighbor and caring individual.
Scott met Johnny in front of the house and waited patiently while the younger man handed off his horse to one of the stable hands. The smile that graced his brother’s face always pulled at his heart, from the first time he ever saw it, it seemed familiar. No matter how tired or frustrated Johnny was, he always had a smile for his big brother.
“We missed you at supper.” Scott leaned against the wall as Johnny slowly sauntered towards him with such grace he seemed to be gliding. Scott shook off the odd sense of déjà vu it caused.
“Yeah?” It was a typical response. It was as if Johnny couldn’t believe anyone would ever give him a second thought.
“How’s Mr. Martin?” Scott asked. He couldn’t figure out how Johnny always seemed to know when someone was in need of help but the boy certainly had a talent for ferreting out the information.
Johnny took his hat off and let it slide down his back, held only by the storm strings as he rested next to his brother, their shoulders touching. “He’s fine. Busted his leg but the doc told Mrs. Martin he would heal and probably wouldn’t even have a limp.” He turned and smiled again as a breeze caught and lifted his hair from his face.
Scott inhaled deeply when the wind pushed Johnny’s hair back, visions of the dark haired stranger in his dream suddenly having recognizable features. “Your supper is in the warming oven. Maria made sure she saved you something and Murdoch made sure you had an ample piece of chocolate cake ready when you finish eating your supper.” Scott knew the cake would definitely get his brother’s attention.
“Guess I better go in and get at that cake then,” Johnny announced, heading for the door; rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the chocolaty confection.
“Murdoch said no cake until you eat your supper. I’m sure he’s waiting for you inside so I suggest you wash up and not argue over the green beans if you want that cake.” Scott smiled to himself because even if he couldn’t see his brother’s face he could picture the pout that was forming at the mention of the beans, which were Johnny’s least favorite vegetable.
As his brother disappeared inside Scott moved over to the bench that sat just to the left of the door. He settled down and stretched his long legs out in front of him and leaned his head back. As he gazed up into the sky he thought of all the nights he had watched the stars over his life time.
At one time, he thought the stars were brighter while he was in Libby Prison but now he couldn’t quite decide if that was true or not. The sky out here in the West seemed so much more expansive and yet somehow the stars seemed bigger and closer. He often found himself reaching towards them as if he could pluck them out of the sky. He doubted any diamonds that adorned a woman’s neck could ever compare to the beauty and brightness of the stars scattered across the black California sky at night.
With a peaceful sigh, Scott began to pick out the constellations. It wasn’t long before he was joined by his brother. Johnny sat down next to him with a huge piece of cake in his hand and a glass of milk in the other.
“Whatcha’ doin’?” Johnny asked around a mouthful of cake.
“Enjoying the evening and looking at the stars.” His answer was concise and to the point. Something that Scott had learned from his brother. Sometimes too many words could cause you to lose the joy of the simple things in life.
“I noticed you do that a lot. You do that while you were in Boston?” Johnny’s tongue darted out; trying to snag a crumb of chocolate that was lodged on his upper lip.
Staring into the brilliant blue eyes of his little brother, a young man who was once a dark haired stranger on the stage, Scott replied, “Yes, actually I did. Often it was one of the few things that I really enjoyed indulging in that had no real purpose. I’d imagine myself gliding along the Milky Way, reaching for the stars; finding the constellations and following them home.”
Johnny looked over at his brother for a moment wondering if he was ok. He had never thought of being among the stars before. In his world he mainly dealt with logic and being able to walk or touch something in the sky didn’t quite fit into that.
Both boys sat in companionable silence for a while; Johnny licking the last of his cake from his fingers. He carefully set his empty glass down on the bench next to him and then looked up towards the heavens and began to really study the stars. He noticed that they seemed very bright tonight. After a moment he asked his brother about a word he had used earlier.
“Hey Scott, what are con sta la tions?”
Scott smiled to himself. He relished any time he was able to share something with his brother. Johnny was curious, he soaked up knowledge like a sponge did water; he was an excellent pupil. He caught on quickly and always amazed Scott at how astute he could be. His logic was sound even though he didn’t always express himself quite as elegantly as some of the more learned scholars that Scott had encountered.
“Constellations are the formations of the stars.” Scott pointed towards the constellation known as Taurus. “See that group of stars right above the top of that tree over there. That is Taurus.” Pausing to look at his brother, his young face turned up to the sky in rapt attention, Scott continued, “Sailors use the stars to find their way home.”
“Yeah, you ever do that, brother?” Johnny asked, his blue eyes glittering in the starlight.
His heart swelling with peace and contentment, Scott confessed, “Not just home, I used them to find my brother.”
The brothers turned to face each other and nodded, no words needed at that second to express their feelings.
For the next half hour Scott and Johnny sat side by side, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, looking up into the sky, one listening and learning while the other schooled. The lesson was simple as the bond between brothers grew just a little tighter. It dawned on Scott that the void that had once been constantly present was totally gone now. He had found that someone to share his interest. Once again he was gliding along the Milky Way but now the stranger by his side had a name, Johnny. He had found a family and most importantly a brother that wanted to know the things he knew and so they would share a lifetime of discoveries, one starry night at a time.