By Cindy Carrier and Kathy K. 

(400 word drabble)


Hands on his hips, Murdoch Lancer slowly surveyed the yard in a vain attempt to process all that lay before him. The alarming sounds of splintering wood, violent crashes and anguished cries, human or otherwise, had reached all the way to the large white house and brought him running, fearful of what he'd find.

The wagonload of needed supplies had disgorged from the vehicle – lumber was splayed like stiff giant fingers, broken barrels of cornmeal and flour mixed merrily with split sacks of grain. Metal chains trapped crumpled linens, and ropes coiled snakelike around dusty, jumbled blankets. Smashed crockery created a curious glittering path through splintered crates of spewed nails and oozing fruit. Loose papers scampered across the chaos, exhalting in their freedom.

But it didn’t stop there. Young Pedro sat dazed in the garden beside a fallen ladder, blinking under an unintended coating of dripping whitewash. Jelly, ankle deep in a puddle courtesy of the overturned water trough, was muttering furiously and wiping mud from his whiskered face and faded shirtfront. And Maria was saying astonishing things in Spanish while gesticulating wildly at her tangled and trampled laundry.

Murdoch’s eyes roved further beyond the wagon tilted on three wheels to find the fourth leaning crazily against the corral fence. The team, free of the burdensome wagon but still harnessed together turned to look at him with rolling eyes, one still kicking and twitching.  And the twenty head of cattle, brought in from the range by his sons in preparation for sale, were scattered into the far meadow but for one that stood blinking in the corral. It lowed now, a mournful sound mixing with the dust sifting through the air.

Stepping ever so carefully, Murdoch made his way through the stunning disarray. His two sons, new to both him and this business of ranching, stood side by side in the middle of it all, looking dazed and confused. Somewhere Murdoch registered the fleeting thought that, based on what he'd seen, the fact they were both still on their feet was significant.

"You want to tell me what went on?"

Sparing a sidelong glance for his silent brother, Johnny offered, "It's a long story."

Murdoch was certain of it and looked forward to the explanation sure to be rendered. Forcing down the smile that threatened to spill out and betray, he kept his voice even. "Well, I got the time."



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