(or, The Uninvited Passenger)
and Johnny's thoughts as they ride, side by side, on the road to Morro Coyo.
Scott Lancer rode in the close quarters of the small, rickety stagecoach, he
felt every hole and bump in the road. Road?
No, it was more like a dirt path, and he could see the discomfort in his
fellow passengers as they dealt with the rough ride as well.
considered the other passengers on the stage.
The man sitting next to him was a monk. Brother Simon was his name.
He was a pleasant enough fellow, and he and Scott had exchanged some
pleasantries just before, and shortly after, entering the stage in Green River.
But as monks go, Brother Simon become quiet and meditated, lost in his
three people sitting across from him were an exciting bunch. Two older women, and an older man with a long, gray beard.
Scott learned, from what he heard from their short conversation among
themselves, that one of the women was the man’s wife; the other was his
they entered the stage in Green River, Scott politely acknowledged them, smiling
a pleasing smile. He was rewarded
with six eyeballs staring at him in a way that would freeze fire.
Oh well, he surmised, maybe they were on their way to a funeral or
something, and didn’t want to be bothered.
So he wouldn’t bother them anymore.
was actually glad this group of passengers was a quiet bunch. For he had time to consider what would take place in the next
few hours. And he wanted some
solitude for the next hour or so to
consider how he would handle the
situation? He was meeting his
father, Murdoch Lancer, for the
first time. Ever. So yeah, it was a situation.
decided he would be polite and non-judging toward his father. A few minutes of niceties.
He was sure his father would inquire about his trip, and Scott would
advise it had been pleasant. He
made a mental note to thank his father for the first class accommodations he
provided. Well, first class until
Green River, anyway.
would comment on the ranch, and his father's home.
Or would he? Well, it
depended on how grandeur it really was.
And if offered a drink, he would accept it graciously. Maybe. Or maybe
not. It would depend on his
feelings at that moment.
the niceties, the real questions would start.
The questions Scott had wondered for so many years.
About his mother and her life with him.
Had they been happy? Did she
really want to come out west? And
why, oh why, daddy dear, didn't you ever contact me?
A letter or birthday card? A small Christmas present?
and if these, and so many other questions,
were answered, Scott would accept the $1,000 bribe, as he thought of it,
and use it on his return trip, whenever he decided that would be.
Back to Boston. Civilization. Where
grand carriages rode on cobblestone roads.
Where dust in your face and your mouth from dirt-covered roads was
unheard of. Where talk of cowboys and gunfights and horse thieves were the
things left to the cheap dime novels that little boys read in secret.
Boston. Where life was easy.
when he felt another bump and the stagecoach shake, Scott Lancer decided that
was enough. Morro Coyo couldn't
come, or go, fast enough.
tried to read the novel which had riveted him since he bought it in Chicago, but
with the roughness of the stagecoach, the words jumped at him and he realized he
had read the same sentence three times. So
he decided he would just sit, quietly, next to Brother Simon, who was still deep
in meditation, and try not to make eye contact with “the eyes” across from
him. And he realized those three
people hadn’t said one word to one another
since their initial short conversation.
was a few minutes when Scott noticed the stage stop suddenly and he heard voices
outside. He peered out the small,
glassless window, and commented, more to himself then anybody, “Seems
we’re picking up another passenger.”
watched as the door to the stage opened and a young man entered, then stopped
halfway, surveying the seating situation. Scott
knew where the young man would sit. Between
him and Brother Simon. There was no
other place but there.
before Scott or the monk could move to make room for this uninvited passenger,
the driver started the coach up, abruptly.
“Hrrrrummp!” Was the
shout from the driver, and the young man fell, literally, almost on Scott’s
a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye, the young man looked at Scott.
“Didn’t mean to ruin your outfit,” he offered, and slightly brushed
off Scott’s jacket.
be helped,” Scott said, rolling his eyes.
was annoyed. Who was this person?
A cowboy, he marveled. A
real-life, living, breathing, cowboy. Complete
with gun belt and holster, which stuck Scott in the thigh, dusty clothes, hat
with a drawstring, and the audacity to hitch a ride on an already crowded stage
that the passengers had paid good money to ride.
Well, Scott naively thought, maybe he’ll pay for his ride
when we get into town.
cowboy squirmed and got as comfortable as possible, squeezing Scott and poor
Brother Simon against the sides of the coach.
Brother Simon didn’t seem to mind as he was brought out of his
meditation long enough to voice some pleasantries to the young cowboy.
cowboy eyed the three old people across from him.
He tipped his hat, and in a quiet, inviting voice, drawled, “Ladies.
Nice day,” and smiled a smile that could light the darkest night.
to Scott’s utter amazement, the two women smiled warmly and blushed as they
acknowledged his comment. Then to
the old, bearded man, “Rides a little rough,” to which the old man replied,
“Definitely not good for my back.” And
the three old people laughed.
couldn’t believe it. This cowboy
had been on the stage no more than a minute,
had engaged Brother Simon in conversation, and charmed the pants off of
“the eyes” that Scott had tried to earlier, but failed.
in a casual manner, the young cowboy lowered his hat over his eyes, stretched
out his legs, folded his arms across his chest, and fell asleep. Of all the nerve, Scott thought. He disrupts the stage, takes up all the room, and has the
nerve to fall asleep. And what
was more amazing, the old people shifted their feet and legs to make room for
the cowboy’s legs as he stretched them across the small stage.
looked out the glassless window. And
rolled his eyes.
Scott wondered again. And
as he felt the right arm of the cowboy pressed up against his left arm, Scott
thought about his boyhood fantasy of being a cowboy.
And wondered if that was part of the reason for wanting to meet his
Madrid may have seemed to be asleep, but he was very much aware of his
surroundings. He knew where he was,
and who he was with. He knew the
man to his left was a monk, and the man to his right was a dandy from back east.
And the people across from him were certainly no threat.
Hell, they were too old to do much of anything but sit.
he finally had a minute to catch his breath.
The past several days had been hectic for the young gun hawk, beginning
with his last-minute rescue from certain death at the hands of the Rurales, to
fleeing Mexico, to taking back control of his life.
So this quiet respite, in a crowded stagecoach on the road to some god
forsaken place called Morro Coyo, was welcomed by Senor Madrid.
he relaxed with his hat over his eyes, he felt the presence of the individuals
around him, particularly the dandy to his right.
Their bodies were touching each other and it was very awkward; Johnny
could feel the uneasiness from the young man.
And he could smell him as well—smell the “pretty smellin’ stuff”
that his type of man wore. Probably
his wife or girlfriend gave it to him so he’d smell pretty, Johnny
for some reason, the young man in the fancy clothes intrigued the gunfighter.
He had caught a look at him when he entered the stage, and remembered
thinking he wasn’t a bad looking fellow—just get him in some real clothes
and he might be all right.
he relaxed between the dandy and the monk, Johnny thought about what the next
few hours would bring. Money.
A thousand dollars, to be exact. And
he thought about the person from whom his sudden good fortune would come.
His father. Murdoch Lancer.
He would be meeting him for the first time in his life.
And the only time, as far as young Madrid was concerned.
decided he wouldn’t be particularly nice to the man.
Why should he? What did he
ever do for Johnny, except ruin his life—and his mother’s life as well?
Well, s’pose I could
thank him for his good timing in saving me from the squad.
Nah. Wasn’t his doing. Just
luck, Johnny told himself.
would accept the money, or bribe, and wait out the requested one hour.
Hell, he’d sit and twiddle his thumbs if need be.
Anything to get his money and be on his way.
Johnny would thank the old man, though, for the fine reputation he’d
gained as a gun hawk. And for all
his past wounds and scars. And, for
his mother’s death. And he
wondered if Murdoch Lancer even knew that his wife. . .the wife he kicked out
twenty years ago, was dead. Boy,
I’ve sure got some stories to tell him, Johnny smirked.
stage hit a bump, jolting Johnny out of his thoughts, and pushing him further
into the young man to his right. And
he wondered why the man was on the stage, and why he was going to Morro Coyo.
Hmmm, maybe goin’ to a funeral or somethin,’ Johnny surmised.
S’pose I could ask him. Nah.
He probably wouldn’t tell me anyhow.
could feel the pressure from Johnny push against him.
I wonder where he’s going, and what happened to his horse.
And what was he doing in the middle of nowhere, Scott wondered.
I suppose I could ask him. No.
He probably wouldn’t tell me anyway, Scott concluded.
could sense the stage would be approaching the ‘bustling’ city of Morro Coyo
soon, so he brought his legs back to a sitting position and lifted his hat off
his face. He perused the other passengers, and wondered who they were. As
he looked at “the eyes” across from him, Johnny put on his best innocent
face, and smiled that little boy smile. One
of the old women asked him, “Would you like a peppermint, dear?”
ma’am,” he answered enthusiastically. As
he took the peppermint offered to him, Johnny replied, “Thank you ma’am.
I’m a might hungry. Haven’t
eaten since lunch time yesterday.”
you poor dear. Please, take the
whole bag,” she insisted.
obliged,” he said, tipping his hat. As
he popped a peppermint in his mouth, he offered one to Brother Simon.
“No thank you, young man. I’m
fasting,” was the monk’s reply.
Johnny said, a bit amazed. Then he
turned to Scott, smiled, and offered him a peppermint.
Scott politely answered,
“No thank you.”
Johnny thought. Then he bit down, rather loudly, on the hard piece of
peppermint in his mouth. Just to
bug you, he slyly thought, as he spied Scott from the corner of his eyes.
returned a look from the corner of his eyes as well, then continued his glare
out of the glassless window. And
rolled his eyes.
in the devil will we get to Morro Coyo? Scott sighed.
stagecoach continued on its dusty path, with the six unlikely passengers in tow.
Scott considered the young cowboy next to him.
Did he have a family? Parents,
girlfriend, wife maybe? Somehow, he
didn’t think so. He seemed too
independent, too wild, if you will, to have roots.
And he thought about the vast differences in lifestyles of the reserved
easterners as opposed to the uncultured way
leaving Denver, Scott had noticed the difference, and wondered if he could ever
fit in—that is, if he decided to stay. But
that thought was dismissed. He
would be returning to Boston, after the curiosity of his father’s existence
was satisfied within him.
was lost in thought, too. As he
savored the peppermint candy in his mouth, he eyed the fancily dressed, blonde
man next to him. Johnny decided he
was probably a spoiled rich kid, used to getting everything from his mommy and
daddy. And he wondered again why
someone like him would be going somewhere like Morro Coyo.
Scott continued looking out the window, he began to see the emergence of a town.
There were people. And buildings, if they could be called that.
So this is Morro Coyo, he sighed.
I wonder how far my father’s ranch is from here.
the stagecoach slowed down, Johnny announced to the passengers, “If y’all
don’t mind, I’ll be leaving first.
I’ve crowded y’all in enough already.”
passengers nodded in agreement. Scott
rolled his eyes—again. And as the
coach stopped, Johnny rose, opened the door, jumped out, and quickly looked
around for someone—a man who looked like he could be his father.
followed suit, which surprised the young Bostonian.
Normally, he would’ve allowed the two ladies and the elderly gentleman
to exit before him, but right now, Scott just wanted an escape off that stage.
After all, he was beginning to feel numb from being squeezed against the
stagecoach by that.. . . .cowboy.
he, too, gave a quick glance at his surroundings, also looking for someone who
looked like he could be his father.
the thoughts of both young men toward the other were quickly forgotten.
Johnny retrieved his gun and meager belongings, and Scott retrieved his trunk
and numerous bags, neither man noticed the young, brown-haired girl in the
bonnet staring questioningly at them. And
they had no way to know that, with her two words, their lives would be forever
entwined. And a family would be
born. . . . .
Mr. Lancer?. . . .”