Conversation With My Father
This was originally written I response to a ‘challenge’ ; a happy story for Johnny a task completed and maybe even praise from Murdoch all with a 1,000 word limit. I had to do some heavy editing to get down to that, so here is the original.
All the usual disclaimers apply, everyone knows what they are.
Once again I would like to thank my beta and friend Karen for her contribution. I did of course fiddle after it came back. This was Johnny’s fault, he wanted to say a bit more.
Conversation With My Father
The last piece was finished. Placing it on the table, Johnny unbent from the desk he’d been using as a bench and cracked the knots out of his neck. He rolled his shoulders, lifting his arms high above his head, fingers linked and stretched. A good yawn and few more stretches just about did the trick and he rose to make his way downstairs where he hoped Murdoch would still be up. He turned as he reached the door, looking back at his handiwork and smiled in satisfaction at a task completed. When he’d started out he hadn’t intended to go so far, things just kept popping into his head but now there could be no additions. He’d missed so many Saturday nights in town with his brother the last few months but Johnny had to admit, it was all worth it.
Murdoch was sitting by the fire sipping a scotch when Johnny entered. Looking up over the rim of his glass, Murdoch smiled.
“Taking a break?” he asked.
“Nope, finished.” Johnny grinned, triumph shining in his eyes. “Want to see?”
There was a note of hesitancy in Johnny’s voice. He’d put so much of himself into the project and he was half afraid his father wouldn’t think it good enough. That was the reason he’d waited till Scott and Teresa had gone to the dance in town, he wanted to be alone with Murdoch to gauge his father’s reaction. As far as Johnny knew, they had all respected his wish that no-one should go into the loft while he was working on his project.
Murdoch didn’t hesitate, putting his glass on the table and following his son out of the great room and up stairs.
Johnny opened the door and Murdoch
He knelt and opened the back of the hacienda, marveling at the intricate work of the rooms with miniature furniture. The interior of the barn had individual stalls, just the right size for the model horses. He picked up one of them and marveled at the expression on the animal‘s face; the forelock and mane appeared to be moving; the carriage of the head and tail convinced Murdoch it was Barranca.
“What you think? Will the kids like it?” Johnny asked his father. “I was gonna take it to the orphanage tomorrow.”
“Johnny, this is incredible! Where--how did you learn to do work like this?”
“Long story,” Johnny responded quietly.
Keeping hold of ’Barranca’ in his left hand, Murdoch put his right arm round Johnny’s shoulders, steering him towards the stairs.
“We have the rest of the night; son and you aren’t getting away with that sort of answer this time. You have a real talent; I’d like to know who helped you to develop it.”
They descended the stairs side by side, matching step to step, returning to the great room. Murdoch topped up his own glass and poured one for his son and indicated they should sit down. Johnny grabbed a cushion from the sofa and threw it on the floor next to his father’s chair. Murdoch had only two lamps lit, most of the illumination was from the fire which threw dancing shadows on the far side of the room.
Johnny sat on the floor, his back against his father’s chair swirling the scotch around his glass and watching the light from the fire as it filtered through the glass scattering into a rainbow and blurring as it passed through the liquid. The hissing and crackling of the flames were the only sounds in the room and soothing to his soul.
“You’d a liked ol’ Seth,” Johnny began, “he was bit like Jelly only more ornery an’ we shared a cabin one winter. I musta been around fourteen I guess, just started out as a pistolero and could only afford some jug head horse that was stupid enough ta break its leg. I was wanderin’ round in the mountains gettin’ colder an’ colder….I’d a froze ta death if he hadn’t took me in. Musta been the first human he’d seen in a long time…never stopped yakkin’ even in his sleep. If shootin’ ya host hadna been a bad thing ta do I probably woulda done it . I lost so much sleep, tried puttin’ my head under the pillow…nothin’ worked. Got used ta it in the end though. Anyways, weren’t much ta do ‘cept whittle and talk; oh an’ try ta get something for the pot.” He smiled as the memories came flooding back. “I told him things I’d never told anyone before, or since. How much I hated ya for what ya done ta me an’ mama an’ he said ta me ‘John, ma boy no point in grievin’ over ‘might a beens’ gotta go with what is. Never trust anyone till they proved they’re worthy of it an’ when ya find someone who does, treasure ‘em more’n the biggest vein o’ gold ever found.’ He also told me ta remember there was least two sides ta every story an‘ that if I was ever ta meet up with ya, ta at least listen ta what ya had ta say ‘fore I put a bullet ‘tween ya eyes.” Johnny took a sip of whisky.
“It seems I have much to than Seth for.”
“Told ya ya’d like him!” Johnny looked at his father and smiled.“It’s what I’ve found here; people I can trust absolutely and I know what ol’ Seth meant.”
“That isn’t a long story, Johnny.”
Johnny looked up over his shoulder, mischief and firelight glinting in his eyes.
“Sure was a long winter though,” he grinned. “That day I came here, I wondered what ya thought of me. Scott had the fine manners an’ could talk right. Me…heck I just found out I had a brother! Mama never said nothin‘ about a brother an’ from the look on his face, Scott sure had no idea about me! Mama said you was a big man, jus’ never how big. I wanted to keep hatin‘ ya, wanted ya ta be sorry fer throwin‘ us out, wanted ya ta like me, knew ya’d never be proud a me, knew ya could never love me…”
“Scott is a fine young man and any father would be proud to own him as a son but he had the best of everything and he took advantage of it. You give of yourself without asking anything in return and that smile of yours…so like your mother’s.”
“So I don’t just have her temper then?”
Murdoch sighed.“You know I handled that meeting so badly it‘s a wonder either of you stayed! I‘d practiced what I was going to say but I never expected you to arrive together. It threw me. I admit it took quite a while to come to terms with the fact I‘d sired a famous gun fighter and I didn’t think you’d either stay or adapt to this kind of life. You proved me so wrong.”
“Ya aint ashamed of me any more?”
“I was never ashamed of you Johnny. Nervous, yes, your reputation as Madrid is still fearsome. But never ashamed, on the contrary I’m proud to have such a remarkable young man as my son.”
“Madrid is part a me. He’s never gonna go away completely.”
“I have to accept that, but I can’t pretend to be happy about it. The ones we love come as a complete package, we can’t pick and choose the bits we approve of and those we don’t. You’d know I was lying anyway; I’d lose your respect and, just as important, your trust. We’ve worked hard to get where we are. I can’t lose you again.”
Johnny nodded,“Thanks for bein’ honest with me ol’ man.” The challenge was gone from the phrase, now there was genuine affection. “I was wonderin’ if ya’d like ta give me a hand tomorrow.”
“I assumed you’d want Scott…”
“Yeh, an’ Teresa too but I’d really like you there.”
“Thanks Johnny that means a lot to me.” There was genuine emotion in Murdoch’s voice.
“Means a lot ta me too; that I have a home an’ a family, that we finally got through the past an’ mama’s lies. When I was growin’ up I knew I wasn’t accepted by either Mexicans or gringo but hated by both. Now I feel, no, I know I belong somewhere at last.”
Murdoch gently placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. Johnny knew the warmth spreading through him had nothing to do with the whisky or fire.
He was home.