was the same question each member of the family asked as they sleepily paraded
down the stairs to breakfast.
was Teresa’s day off so she had not been near the kitchen all morning. Instead, she spent two wonderful hours simply lying in bed,
listening to the activity outside as the ranch came to life for another day, and
the smells of Maria’s cooking wafted up the stairs, finally coaxing her out
from beneath the warm covers. Life
was good. Sometimes it was just a little better.
collapsed into the kitchen chair, red-eyed and tired as a dog. He had been hornswoggled into playing poker with Jelly and
some of his cronies until long after midnight and regretted every dollar he lost
and every drink he drank.
his mood solemn as usual this time of morning, simply shrugged. “He said he
wasn’t hungry and headed for the stables.”
not hungry?” Scott asked around a
mouth full of scrambled eggs.
what he said. I figured he joined
you and Jelly in your late night card game and was nursing a hangover.”
He eyed his oldest son with a raised eyebrow.
“Nursing one yourself, I see.”
ignored the jibe, “No, as a matter of fact, Johnny went straight to bed when
we finished work last night. Didn’t even take time to eat.”
mean Johnny missed two meals?” Teresa put down her fork and looked at everyone
sitting around the table, “And that doesn’t worry any of you? Johnny never misses a meal. Something must be wrong.”
Maria said as she brought in a fresh pot of coffee, “something is wrong with
Senior Johnny…the poor chico has dolor del diente.”
in the tooth,” Teresa translated. “Johnny has a toothache.”
muy malo…very bad. The tooth, he
needs to be tiron…yanked.” She
patted her cheek, “Poor chico…muy malo…muy malo…”
told him that?” Scott asked
incredulously. Johnny would be
running for the hills by now.
It is the truth. Tiron is the only way. I
give him willow bark for the pain, he puts it so…” she took an invisible
pinch of willow bark and stuffed it in her mouth… “The pain will be better.
But just for today, tomorrow. But next day…She headed off to the
kitchen still talking… “Muy malo…next day…muy malo.”
watched Maria disappear into the kitchen, “Come to think of it he was acting
kind of off yesterday. “ Scott remembered. “Hardly said two words all day. I
figured he was still mad about going to Sonora tomorrow. He had a date with
Bessie Friday night.”
work comes before dates.” Murdoch groused.
“In any event, you’d better have a look at your brother.
Toothache’s can be a serious matter if they’re not taken care of.”
nodded and hurriedly finished his breakfast and made for the stables. This was
one confrontation he wasn’t sure he was ready for.
found Johnny brushing down Barranca, something he did when he was troubled or
bored. Since it was too early in
the morning for boredom, Scott opted for troubled.
little brother, we missed you at breakfast.”
He jumped up on the stall and sat watching. “Not hungry?”
shook his head.
should eat something, we’ve got that culvert to clear out this morning.
That little trembler we had the other day was just enough to dislodge
those rocks. I’ll tell you, I
don’t think I’ll ever get use to these little earthquakes around here.
Never felt one in Boston.”
frowned when he didn’t get a response. He remembered how Johnny had howled
with laughter at Scott’s reaction to the small earthquake, telling him he’d
better get used to them. It was a
way of life in California, then sneaking into his bedroom later that night and
shaking the bed until Scott was half way out the door with only his nightshirt
on. Johnny had laughed so hard he
had nearly choked.
bothering you Johnny? Want to talk
only a shake of the head. When
Johnny wanted to be stubborn there was none better at it.
suit yourself.” Scott sighed, “Be ready to ride in an hour.”
nodded and Scott jumped down from the stall, shaking his head. It was going to be a long day.
Teresa was at the kitchen door waiting for him, “did you find anything
wouldn’t say a word.” Scott
noticed Murdoch was standing by the stove pouring himself another cup of coffee.
The old man was worried. Something
he would never admit to. “I think
Maria may be right about a toothache.
know, a dentist just opened an office in Green River last month.” Murdoch
said, handing Scott a cup of coffee. “Maybe Johnny should go see him.”
luck getting Johnny within a hundred feet of a dentist’s office.” Scott
snorted. “You can barely get him to see Doc Jenkins when he’s half dead.”
know, but if he’s as miserable as you say he is…”
is. And then some.”
we are going to have to get him into that dentists chair somehow. Even if we
have to hog tie him and drag him in there.”
I don’t think that will be necessary…” Teresa said coyly, “I think I
have an idea.”
raised an eyebrow at his young ward, “What kind of devious plan do you have
floating in that pretty little head of yours?”
see,” she smirked. “You’ll
hardly said three words throughout the entire day as he and Scott cleaned out
the culvert. The few words he did say were more growls than intelligible words,
and Scott took the hint. He sure hoped whatever Teresa had in mind worked…and
fast. Another day of this and he would end Johnny’s misery and his with a
solid left hook to Johnny’s chin.
next morning the plan was set into action.
Teresa had made all the preparations and sat smugly at the table waiting
for everyone to arrive for breakfast. Scott and Murdoch knew what they were
supposed to do, so did Maria and Jelly. It
all hinged on Johnny being Johnny.
minutes later Johnny came bounding down the stairs, sliding into his seat and
gulping down half a glass of milk before grinning.
“Boy am I hungry. I could eat a whole cow and still have room left
you look like you’re feeling better little brother,” Scott observed.
I do, Boston. Just a little off my
feed yesterday. But now I’m raring ta go. Thought we could tackle that section
of fence by Placer Point.”
like a plan.” Scott agreed as
Teresa placed a hearty steak topped with eggs in front of him.
you two had better eat a good breakfast,” Teresa said as she placed a steak in
front of Johnny. “You especially
Johnny, I don’t want you passing out from lack of food out there in the hot
Johnny grinned as he cut into the steak, “with this under my belt.”
was half way through his steak when Scott suddenly yelped in surprise and pain.
Johnny jumped out of his chair reaching for Scott.
tooth,” Scott cried in surprise, looking at the steak, “I think I broke my
tooth.” He wiped at his mouth and
produced a nasty piece of bone Teresa had palmed in his hand before breakfast.
Scott, I’m sorry!” Teresa ran around the table.
“Let me see.”
let me have a quick look.”
on, Boston,” Johnny urged, “Teresa’s just trying to help. Be a good boy
and open wide.”
gave him a look that would have killed and looked up toward Teresa, opening his
doesn’t look good, Scott. That tooth is cracked right in half.”
leaned over her shoulder to take a look too.
“Nasty.” he agreed. “I
heard a dentist opened up in Green River last month, maybe it’s time he met
one of the Lancer boys.”
don’t know, Murdoch,” Scott mumbled through his hand clenched tightly
against his mouth. “Going to a dentist in Boston is one thing…but out
on Scott, he can’t be all that bad. I
bet he’ll fix ya right up.” Johnny
tried to keep a straight face, but the corners of his lips kept twitching.
that or I can get the pliers and pull it myself right now.” Murdoch offered.
eyes widened. “No…no thanks
Murdoch, I think I’ll take my chances with the new dentist, thank you
the way to go, Boston. I’m proud
of you.” Johnny smirked.
him alone, Johnny, he’s in pain..” Teresa scolded.
“Would you mind taking us into town, Murdoch?”
would love to honey, but I’ve got a meeting here at noon and I just can’t
get away. Johnny…would you mind
taking Teresa and your brother into Green River?”
no problem, I can find somethin’ to do while Scott’s in the dentist’s
scowled at his younger brother and mumbled through is hand, “You’ll pay for
this little brother.”
grinned and headed for the door. “I’ll hitch up the team.”
the door closed behind him, the room fell into a strained silence until everyone
erupted into fits of uncontrollable laughter.
“You are good, son,” Murdoch laughed, dabbing at the tears in his
eyes. “You are really good.”
used the napkin to dry his eyes, “I’m glad he left when he did, I was about
to burst out laughing. Did you see
the look on his face, I do believe the boy was enjoying himself at my
patted him on the shoulder, “Well, the shoe will be on the other foot in a
little while. Here,” she produced a wad of gauze, “stuff this in you cheek.
There,” she looked at Scott, his right cheek bulging like a
chipmunk’s with a nut in his mouth, “you look the part.
Now remember, you’re in pain.”
smile faded and he lowered his head, a heartfelt moan of pain bringing forth
more giggles from Teresa.
long trip into Green River turned out to be far more painful for Johnny than he
expected. The delight at the
prospect of Scott sitting in a dentist chair was soon stilled by the return of
the throbbing pain in his own tooth. It
had reared it’s ugly head more than once in the past few months, but this was
the worst. He knew if he could just ride it out it would go away again, like it
always did. But, boy or boy, this was the worst it had ever been.
He cursed each rut and hole the wagon wheel hit and he tried to steer the
horses around the worst of them. He glanced beside him and saw Teresa, lost in
deep thought. He sighed in relief
that she was not in a talking mood.
sat in the back of the buckboard, noshing on the unsavory gauze in his mouth.
He looked up over his shoulder and saw the strained lines of pain on
Johnny’s face again. The toothache was back. He noticed when Johnny helped him
into the back of the wagon that his brother’s hands felt overly warm and
sweaty. The boy had a fever. Well,
if all went according to plan, in a few hours the tooth would be gone and Johnny
would be madder than a drenched cat.
they finally reached town Johnny pulled in front of the dentist’s office.
Scott reluctantly climbed out of the back of the buckboard. Looking at
the officious lettering on the door. ‘Dr. Nathaniel Bower. D.D.S.’ he
Johnny smiled, his voice slightly slurred from his own bad tooth, “It’ll all
be over before you know it.”
thinking maybe I should have taken Murdoch up on his offer. He could have pulled
it last night.”
on, you’re here now, ya might as well get it over with.”
have an idea.” Teresa offered. “Johnny,
why don’t you take Scott over to the saloon and have a drink to calm his
nerves. I’ll let the dentist know that we’re here and he’ll be ready when
you get back.”
nodded with agreement and grabbed Johnny’s arm before his brother could say a
far so good, Teresa beamed. Poor
Johnny, he didn’t know what he was in store for.
and Johnny sided up to the bar.
a whisky and a tequila por favor, Scott needs some liquid courage.”
bartender grinned at Scott’s swollen cheek.
“What ya doing Scott, storing nuts for the winter?”
funny, Tom. Just pour the drinks.”
headed over to that new dentist in town?”
saw him myself,” Tom said as he poured Scott a glass of whiskey and then
poured a glass of tequila from a bottle he had under the bar for Johnny.
“Not bad once you got over being tied down in that chair of his.”
down?” Scott looked toward his
brother appealing for mercy. He found none.
threw his head back and downed the tequila in one gulp trying to keep it from
touching his throbbing tooth. Scott
sipped at his whisky, finding it hard to swallow with the gauze in his mouth.
quick and fair thought.” Tom added.
minutes later Scott was still nursing the whiskey.
“Ok Boston,” Johnny smiled, “you’ve stalled long
grabbed the bar as the room suddenly spun violently.
He watched in disbelief as Scott smiled and pulled a wad of gauze from
his mouth and downed the rest of the whiskey before grabbing his arm as he slid
toward the floor on legs that turned to butter.
Someone else grabbed his other arm and he was dragged out the swinging
doors across the street toward Teresa who was standing in front of the
dentist’s office with a pleased grin on her face.
know,” Teresa said as they
maneuvered him through the reception office and into a waiting dentist’s
chair, “you didn’t want to come here…” her voice was full of compassion,
but tinged with a hint of laughter, “but, you have to have that tooth looked
put something in my drink.” he accused, his voice sounding hollow in his head.
a mild sedative.” Dr. Bower said, “A highly unorthodox way of getting a
patient into my chair, but I was assured it was the only way. Now, help him into this chair right here.”
found he had absolutely no strrenght in his arms or legs to fight off Scott
and…Murdoch’s smiling face wavered before him.
son, it was the only way.” Together
he and Scott got Johnny into the chair and stood back as the dentist opened
my, yes. That is a nasty tooth Mr.
Lancer. I’m afraid it will have
to come out.”
last thing Johnny remembered was something sweet and syrupy drizzled down his
awoke to find himself lying in his own bed, his clothes gone, replaced by a
nightshirt and an ice pack cooling
his throbbing cheek.
didn’t think you were ever going to wake up.” He heard Scott’s voice to
moved his head only slightly but the room spun wickedly and he decided against
said you’d feel better in a few days. He
had a devil of a time getting that tooth out. By the way, he said we got you
there just in time. That abscess was moving into the bone.
You may be feverish for a few more days, that infection got a good hold
on you. Dumb move, little brother,
you know people die from a bad tooth like that.”
tried to open his mouth to yell every obscenity he could think of at his brother
but his mouth was too swollen to even part his lips.
awake.” Teresa said with delight. “How
do you feel?” She leaned down and
stroked his hair, “You poor thing. Next
time you’ll know better than to hide a toothache like that.”
glared between the two of them. He
motioned that he wanted paper and pencil. Scott
grinned and returned a second later from his bedroom with a pad of paper and a
are in big trouble Boston. He wrote.
Scott snorted, “Don’t look at me.
It was all Teresa’s idea. She set everything up. Right down to spiking
your tequila in the saloon.”
looked up into her innocent face, but the blush on her cheeks told him that it
were not about to go to the dentist on your own.
Oh Johnny, I’m sorry to have tricked you, but you left us no choice.
You know, you can be the most stubborn man on this earth, besides Murdoch
I hear my name used in vain?” Murdoch
demanded as he walked into the room. “How
are you feeling son?” he asked.
malo. He wrote.
sure you do. But that won’t last
long. In a few days you’ll feel
like your old self again.”
closed his eyes. He couldn’t
believe what they had done to get one miserable tooth pulled. The thought struck
him that they must love him to go to that much work. A slight smile would have
played at his lips if it could. He
felt Teresa pull the covers up over his shoulders and kiss him lightly on the
forehead and drifted to sleep. At
least he would get a few days vacation….