When Push Comes to Shove
Not mine; Sam Peeples created the boys, wished he would have written more of the shows. And shame on Fox for not putting the series on DVD’s!
This is a Johnny muse. Lot’s of cussing. No sex; just Johnny being Johnny.
When Push Comes to Shove
I’m in the hallway, heading for the front door, just reachin’ for my hat. Don’t matter none that the Old Man and me just got back and he said to come to him in the Great Room, or that Maria’s fixin’ lunch. It’s been a bad day, Teresa hollerin’ about my tore up shirt, Scott all over me about that busted window; and if I don’t get outta here, it ain’t goin’ to get any better. Hell, it’s been a lousy week, truth be told. The headache doesn’t help, either.
“Where do you think you’re going, John?”
I can feel his hand on my right arm, his fingers diggin’ into the muscle just below my shoulder. Christ, who’da thought the Old Man had that kind of strength! It’s like a band of steel, wrapped around my skin; tyin’ me to this place, this fuckin’ room.
“Out!” If he thinks I’m gonna look at him, he’s crazy. I ain’t explainin’ myself to no man. Told him that when we left town. Didn’t tell my Mama what I was doin’, where I was goin’, or when. Not that she’d a given a damn. Too many of my uncles around to keep her busy…
Shit! He’s gonna yell. That’s okay, though; I can handle the yellin’. Even without lookin’ at him, I can see his face. He’s got the look goin’ again, the one that’s tellin’ me I’ve screwed up. Scott uses that look -- fact is, big brother is sometimes better at it then the Old Man.
I try to pull away. Big mistake. Those long fuckin’ fingers just dig in deeper, and now he’s movin’ in closer, comin’ up so he’s right in front of me. I can feel his breath across my cheek; warm, smellin’ of pipe tobacco. He’s so fuckin’ tall! Blocks out the light from the windows, makin’ it as dark as if someone had closed the drapes.
“We’ve already discussed this, son. After that little fiasco in town, there is no way I’m going to allow you to leave.”
Fiasco. Fiasco! It was a fuckin’ fight! Not the gun kind, though it coulda ended up that way if the sonofabitch had kept pushin’. Tossed ol’ Howie Jacobs right through that plate glass window at the Silver Dollar. Sailed right after him, too; kicked his sorry ass into the waterin’ trough and climbed right in to pound on him some more.
That’s when Val hauled me outta the water. Didn’t give a damn when I told him the fight wasn’t over; still needed to get a few things straight. Hauled me right off to his jail, too. I lift my left hand to my face, feelin’ the cut at the corner of my mouth; tryin’ to hide the smile. The Old Man hates it when I smile about somethin’ he doesn’t think is funny. Didn’t think havin’ to bail me out and pay for the damages was funny, either.
“Look at me, John.”
Sounds like an order. That makes me smile even more, and this time I don’t care if he sees it. I keep this up, he’ll finally start yellin’; wavin’ his arms around. Tellin’ me I have my Mama’s temper, and I need to learn how to control it. “Nope.”
He’s still got a hold on my arm; still tight enough it’s beginnin’ to hurt fierce, that deep tinglin’ hurt like when you smack your elbow into somethin’ hard and your fingers go all numb. Not a good thing for Johnny Madrid.
“That was the third fight you’ve gotten into this week, John.” He raises his right hand, holding up three fingers. “Three trips to town, three fights.”
I shrug. Try to, anyway. Ain’t no easy thing when you got a grizzly bear hangin’ on like he’s plannin’ on lunch. “Let me go, and I can make it four!”
He’s gettin’ mad! I can feel the heat in his fingers. Just need to keep pushin’. I reach up with my left hand and start peelin’ away at his fingers. “I told you to let me go, Old Man! I got some unfinished business to take of, and I’m goin’ back to town!!”
His fingers relax; not much, but I can feel it. I try to pull away.
“Not this time, Johnny.”
The fingers are tight again; real tight. He’s turned away from me, but he’s still hangin’ on; pullin’ me towards the stairs.
“The only place you’re going, young man, is up to your room!”
I can’t fuckin’ believe it! He’s got me by the collar now, along with a good hand full of hair!! Hurts like a sonofabitch, too. Got no choice but to move right along with him. Those fingers are like a bear trap. I reach up with both hands, grabbin’ at his wrist and tryin’ to shake free. It ain’t workin.’ “Let go of me, Old Man! Goddammit!! I said let go!”
Top of the stairs now, in the hallway. He still hasn’t let go, and it’s pretty damned clear he isn’t going to. I can see him reaching out with his free hand, opening the door to my room. Next thing I know, he’s pushed me across the threshold, and he’s draggin’ me straight for the bed.
He sits me down, hard. I feel is his breath against my cheek again; not hot, not cold. He’s still got a hold of my collar; I’m still hangin’ on to his wrist with both hands. I hear a sound then; the sweet sound of metal against leather.
He’s got my pistol. He’s got my fuckin’ pistol!! Took it outta my holster slick as a reg’lar gun hawk. Never saw it comin’.
Finally, he lets go. I watch as he lays the pistol down on the table next to my bed; next to the wash basin. He’s pourin’ water into the bowl, pickin’ up the washcloth.
“You’re lucky you don’t need stitches.”
Shit! He’s soapin’ up the rag; usin’ that damned perfumed crap Teresa’s so fond of. Goin’ sting like hell, and I pull away. He grabs my chin. Already dabbin’ at the cut beneath my eye, and not exactly bein’ gentle about it, either. The cut on my forehead next; then the tear at the corner of my mouth. I can taste the soap. Finished, he stands up straight and dries his hands; catches me takin’ a quick look at the open door.
“Don’t even think about it, John.”
He takes my chin in his hand again, turning my head side to side, makin’ sure he’s got all the damage taken care of; then makes that little grunt, the one that says he’s not too happy, but he’s done whatever he could do.
“You’re going to stay here in your room, Johnny. You’re going to take some time to rethink your recent behavior, and what you’ve been told about the fighting and the drinking. I’ve fired men for such foolishness, and I certainly have no intention of allowing my son to engage in that type of conduct.”
The words just pop out; sort of a whisper, more of a dare. “Then fire me.” Whoa. Open mouth, insert foot; boot, spurs, cow shit and all.
He leans forward suddenly, one arm on either side of my body; his hands beside me on the bed. Grizzly bear paws. “Would you care to repeat that, John?”
What was that someone said once? Fools rush in where angels fear to tread? Yeah, it was Scott. Just before I punched ol’ Howie through that window.
“What?” Whisper soft.
Shit, shit, shit! This is goin’ someplace bad, slidin’ down hill real fast, and I don’t think I’m gonna like what’s at the bottom. What the hell. Too late to put the brakes on now. “I said fire me.” I can see his fingers flex, ball into fists as they curl around the blanket right next to my ass.
He pulls himself erect, rubbing a bit at the ache in his back; the place where Pardee’s first bullet hit. Then he crosses his arms, the same way Scott does when he’s trying hard not to take a swing at me. Push come to shove, if it was me, I’d have already got in a punch or two.
Not ol’ Murdoch, though. He has to think things through. I can see it; all that thinkin’, him workin’ it over in his mind. His eyes go all narrow, and he stares off a bit; his jaws workin’. Won’t be long now before the fireworks.
“I’ve had all of this foolishness I’m going to take, John. The getting drunk. Your propensity for getting into trouble; of looking for trouble. Provoking fights. The staying out late, failing to show up on time for meals. The chores you’ve left undone. Your bad manners.”
Where the hell are the fireworks? No shouting, and all I’m gettin’ here is a list of…whatever. And as for my manners? Okay, so a couple of girls at the Silver Dollar had to remind me to say thank you when we were done havin’ fun, but -- what the hell -- it’s not like they weren’t gettin’ paid. Never heard any of my Mama’s men say thank you. Or her for that matter. She’d just tell whoever it was to leave the money on the dresser and get out.
Maybe I should share that with the Old Man. “Girls at the Silver Dollar don’t have no trouble with my manners.” I look up at him and smile; that cocky half-smile that drives him crazy, “and Mama...”
Oh, oh. Stepped in it now.
“We are not here to discuss your Mother, John.”
He raises his hand, a pretty good sign I should shut up. Like that would stop me. “Sure we are! You’re about to rag on me about my temper, about how I got my Mama’s temper…”
He moves close to me again. “This has nothing to do with your Mother’s temper, John. And I don’t want to hear one word about how you’ve taken care of yourself, or how long you’ve been on your own. This is about today; what you did, what you’ve failed to do.
“There are rules now, John. My rules, and you are going to learn to obey them.”
He might as well have waved a red flag in front of me. “Told you when I first came here, Old Man. Don’t like rules, and I’m not much good at takin’ orders. I’m a man, Murdoch. Full growed. I’ll do what I damned well please!”
There it is. That set to his lips that makes him look like one of those drawin’s in those history books him and Scott find so interestin’; like that Roman general, Julius Fuckin’ H Caesar. All tough and proud. Wish he’d bust loose and start shoutin’. Don’t like all this quiet.
“You are a boy, John. A nineteen year old boy, and you’ve got a hell of a lot of growing to do before I consider you a man!”
I’m done. “Fuck you, Old Man! Nobody -- nobody -- calls me a boy, I don’t care how fuckin’ old I am!” I start to get up. He pushes me back down onto the bed. That ain’t gonna fly. I buck away, standing up and grabbing for my pistol.
Another big mistake. He grabs my wrist, and I hear the pistol fall to the floor. Next thing I know, he’s got my arm up behind my back, and I’m headin’ for the bed again; only this time, on my belly, with my face buried in the pillows. He pulls me up, just enough for me to turn my head and catch my breath.
There’s another sound now. Leather again, not like before when he took the pistol outta my holster. Different, leather against cloth; then a whoosh as something cuts through the air.
¡Dios maldice! God damn! Didn’t expect that. Smarts like hell. Next one ain’t much better. I try to get away; from the Old Man, from his belt. It’s not happenin’. The more I try to fight him, the tighter he hangs on; and he ain’t holdin’ back. A picture flashes in my mind; Murdoch in the forge, bendin’ iron.
Lost count after five. Gave up fightin’ him, too. No point. He sure in hell isn’t as old as I thought.
It’s over. He lets go of my arm, but I’m not goin’ anywhere. I feel the bed shift as he stands up; can hear the sound as he threads the belt back through the loops. Same swish as before, when he took it off. Ain’t gonna forget that sound; not for a long time. I hear the soft groan as he bends over to pick up my pistol, the other sound as he stretches against the pain in his back.
“You’ll stay in your room, John. You’re not to come downstairs until I send for you. And I will have an apology. Understood?”
Kinda hard to answer when you’re pressin’ your kisser into a pillow. Best I can do is nod my head. Sure in hell don’t want him to see the tears.
“I asked you a question, John.”
I turn my head, just enough to be able to answer. “Understood.” And then, because I know he’s still waiting. “Sir.” I hear him as he leaves; listen as he pulls the door shut, and then his footsteps as he heads down the hall and on down the stairs.
It’s quiet now. Quiet enough that I can think about what just happened. Got knocked around plenty when I was a kid; Mama slappin’ me across the mouth when I said somethin’ outta line. Her men always handy with their boots or their fists; the ones that didn’t toss me two bits to get lost. Learned to duck real fast back then; good practice for later.
Only had one other whuppin’. When I was ridin’ with Val, and I mouthed off to him in front of a crew. Had that one comin’. This one, too, I guess. Kinda knew I was pushin’ it when I told the Old Man fuck you. Won’t be doin’ that again any time soon.
I hear someone knockin’; that polite, oh so proper tap. Scott. “Yeah?”
He comes in, careful to shut the door behind him. I’m still on my belly when he comes up beside the bed. He holds out a glass; lemonade, with chunks of ice from the ice-house, like he knew I was goin’ to need somethin’ cool. I roll over on my back. The whistle comes before I can stop it.
“Are you all right?” Scott hands me the glass and pulls the chair close to the bed.
“Been better.” I roll the glass back a forth across my forehead.
Scott rinses out the washcloth Murdoch used to wipe up the cuts. He dunks it a couple of times to get rid of the soap, handing it to me; taking the glass of lemonade so I can mop my face. “I could hear it downstairs,” he says.
I’d forgot Murdoch hadn’t closed the door. “Everything?”
Scott smiles, and hands me back the glass. “Well, the fuck you, old man, was pretty loud. I thought Teresa was going to faint. And Maria…” He shakes his head. “She’s probably going to wash your mouth out with soap when she gets her hands on you, and then beat you with that spoon.”
It’s pretty hard to get comfortable on the bed. “Better that fu.. damned spoon, then the Old Man’s belt.” This old mattress ain’t as soft as it used to be.
“I tried to warn you, little brother.” Scott’s face is serious now. It’s almost as if he’s trying to apologize. Guess he figures it’s his job as Big Brother to keep me from gettin’ my ass whupped.
“When you told me I needed to quit pushin’?”
He nods. “It’s that old saw, when push comes to shove. There’s a big difference between giving someone a little nudge, and using both hands to give them a big shove.
“You shoved, little brother.”
It was time to sit up; or to try. Kinda hard to drink a glass of lemonade when you’re flat on your back. My ass is on fire. “He said I have to apologize.”
The smile again; the one Scott always gives me when he thinks I’m goin’ ‘fess up for makin’ a mistake.
“You owe him one, Johnny. And not that lame ‘me disculpo’ (I apologize) you toss around so lightly. You know, the one where you’re apologizing for getting caught.”
He actually had the nerve to laugh. But he was right. “You’re getting’ to know me too good, Boston. You figure out all my secrets, I’m gonna have to shoot you.”
More laughter. “That could be difficult. Imagine the whuppin’ you’d get for that! Besides, Murdoch locked your pistol up in the gun cabinet.” He cants his head, his eyes gettin’ all warm again.
I like that look, even when I know he’s goin’ start teasin’ me. I finish the glass of lemonade, sucking a piece of ice into my mouth; wishin’ I had a block of ice for under my butt. “It hurt like Hell, Scott. He didn’t hold back nothin’.”
Scott nods. “Did you really expect him to, Johnny?” He sighs. “This has been coming for a long time, little brother. It started day one, and you really haven’t let up. You need to learn to pick your battles.”
He’s always saying that. Must be because of all that time he spent fightin’ in the War. “You sayin’ it might happen again?”
“I’m saying that depends on you, Johnny.”
He lifts his hand, finger combing hair that just naturally falls back into place; blond as mine is black, always lookin’ like he just stepped out of the barber shop. “Too many rules, Scott.”
He thinks about it for a heartbeat, but not too hard. “Let’s see. Don’t get drunk.” He raises one finger. “Don’t go out looking for fights.” Finger number two. “Be on time for meals.” Three fingers. “Don’t run Barranca once you’re inside the arch.” Number four. “Watch your mouth.” Five. “Do your assigned chores.” Six. “Don’t swear in front of Teresa or Maria.” He’s shaking his head. “Strike that; it falls under the ‘watch your mouth’. Ahh… That’s six rules, Johnny. Less than the Ten Commandments, although those are pretty good, too.”
Nothing like having a big brother that’s a smart ass. “You forgot the one about watchin’ my temper.”
He slaps my leg. I think he was aimin’ for my ass.
“Still less than the Big Ten, little brother.”
That laugh again; that soft chuckle that always comes when he’s laughin’ with me. One thing for ol’ Scott. He’s never laughed at me. Still… “This ain’t funny, brother. Wait until it’s your turn.” Like that’s ever going to happen.
He arches an eyebrow. God, its funny how he looks so much like the Old Man sometimes.
“I choose my battles, Johnny. And I’m not about to throw kerosene on a lit fire. You need to learn to think before you speak, before you act, when you’re dealing with our father. It’s all about consequences. Murdoch’s told you that more than once. You should listen.”
Sermon time. Fuckin’ thing is, he’s right. I lay down again and turn over on my right side. Doesn’t do much for the sting on my backside, though, but I want to see his face. “That book of rules you’re always talkin’ about. The Big Brother rules? You told me once there’ s a rule in there about you watchin’ my back.”
Scott rubs his hand across his face; trying to hide the smile. “Yes.” He raises his right hand. “As your older, wiser, better looking brother, it is my solemn duty to always watch your back.”
Right about now, a nap seems like a pretty good idea. I yawn, politely, like Boston taught me. Taking the hint, he gets up. He hesitates, remembering the empty glass, and then heads for the door.
He turns, his hand already on the door knob. “Yes, little brother.”
“About that book of rules…”
“Think you need to add another one, big brother.” This time the yawn is real.
“And that would be?”
I can actually hear his smile! “Don’t know the number. Let’s make it number one, okay?”
“I’m waiting, Johnny.”
I can tell he’s still smiling.
“Rule #1. Always watch your baby brother’s…backside.”