“Here, let me show you how to hold it.” Murdoch stood behind Johnny and reached around to take the boy’s hand. Despite the fact he was grown, Johnny’s hand was still smaller than his father’s and the sight and feel brought back memories to Murdoch of holding his new born son and carefully inspecting the perfection of his tiny limbs.
Shaking his head to clear the specters of the past, Murdoch‘s mind returned to the present day. “Now be sure you have it angled like this. That will put a slight curve on it. Hold it here so that you have it lined up just so.”
Johnny held his hand up as his father guided him and he lined up the target in his sights. “Like this, Pa?” Johnny could feel Murdoch’s warm breath on his cheek and even though his father was only trying to instruct him on the proper way to pitch horseshoes, he was enjoying the feeling of being embraced by the big man. They were so close he could feel the steady beat of his father’s heart on his back.
“Yes, Son, just like that. Now, pull your arm down to your side slowly,” Murdoch instructed, his face softening with affection as he felt the soft curls of Johnny’s hair brush the side of his face. The feather like tickle filled his heart and he wanted nothing more than to make this moment last forever. At times he was seized by the overwhelming urge to wrap his arms around his young son and hold on to him and shield him from the world but he was afraid the boy would not be receptive to such a show of affection and so he settled for just being close.
“When you bring your arm back up let go of the horseshoe just about here.” Murdoch guided his son’s arm and when the horseshoe left Johnny’s hand it landed perfectly against the stake with the rewarding sound of a metallic clank.
“See how that little curve you put on it lands it into a perfect ringer?” Murdoch asked quietly in his boy’s ear.
Johnny smiled, knowing that Scott was going to have to work much harder at beating his little brother the next time they played a game of horseshoes. The nearness of his father felt good and Johnny wished he could learn to connect with him. It seemed that he spent most of his time trying to get a rise out of his old man or manipulating him in some way for one reason or another.
Maybe this was connecting. Maybe it was as simple as sharing a game of horseshoes with his father. Perhaps it was just allowing his father to get close and teach him a game. Whatever it was, Johnny didn’t want to end the moment or have his father move away.
“Can we try again, Pa? I want ta be sure that the next time my big brother challenges me to a game that I surprise him with how much I’ve improved.” Johnny turned his face up towards his father and grinned. His smiled widened at the joy he detected on his father’s face. He felt a thrill that he was responsible for putting that happiness there.
Murdoch couldn’t resist giving in to his son’s plea and was elated that his youngest seemed to be having such a good time with him. If only he could figure out how to reach this wild child of his on a daily basis.
Johnny imitated the moves his father had just shown him a moment earlier. Just as he was about to let the shoe fly he gave a slight twist to his wrist that put a slight curve on the launch. The horseshoe landed perfectly against the stake, a solid ring sounded as metal struck metal.
Exhilarated over his success, Johnny practically jumped into his father’s arms. “I did it. Did you see that? I did it by myself!” His body vibrated with excitement.
Murdoch smiled down at the top of his son’s head. His heart felt full and tight in his chest as he realized that maybe he had formed a link with his youngest boy. Johnny had reached out to him and Murdoch had been more than willing to grasp his son and hold on. Father and son had shortened the distance between them today and learned that in order to connect with one another they had to be willing to reach out and receive what the other had to offer. Who knew that just a little twist could put a new curve on their relationship?