Summary: A “Peril of Johnny” Story
Usual Disclaimers Apply
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When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.
Readers Note: Lyrics by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr. and set to the music of Enerst Ball for Olcott's production of The Isle O' Dreams. The music was published in 1912. ‘Tis to be sure that the lyrics and tune were published post Lancer, however for this little story the tune kept playing over in me head...perhaps yours too by the end...
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Murdoch and Scott had already sat down to enjoy a traditional Irish breakfast that Teresa had insisted upon preparing for St. Paddy’s Day. Johnny had yet to make his appearance; probably the late night celebrating at the Painted Lady in Green River with Scott and their drinking buddies had something to do with that.
“Where’s your brother now?” complained Murdoch as he took a spoonful of oatmeal. His coffee cup was steaming with a hot liquid only not his typical strong, dark blend of coffee, but a blend of Irish tea.
Scott looked up from his plate of rashers, bubble and squeak which was something very green and unappealing this early in the morning, along with the kippers and kidneys and two of the runniest eggs that seemed to be weeping as they stared back at him. He wanted to weep too as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, yawned, and rubbed his stomach that was churning at the mess on his plate, “I didn’t realize that I was my brother’s keeper, sir.”
Murdoch gave him a stern look, pointed his fork towards Scott, “Now you listen here, young man...”
An all too familiar distinctive whooshing sound was heard from the hallway; Johnny’s behind sliding down the banister.
Then nothing...just a deadly silence resounded through the hacienda, which was neither normal nor good.
Shocked looks of surprise exchanged while chairs legs were pushed back in haste, scraping the adobe tile flooring as Murdoch threw his napkin onto the tabletop. Maria’s hand flew to her mouth in distress while Teresa’s eyes grew as large as saucers as she looked towards the hallway.
“What has your brother done now?”
“How in the hell am I suppose to know!” Scott threw back.
“Don’t you dare use that tone of voice with me young man!” snapped Murdoch as he and Scott attempted simultaneously to navigate through the entryway from the kitchen to the stairwell, two pair of muscular shoulders jamming together in the process.
Murdoch used his larger frame to push through the entryway first, saw his boy on the tile floor, rolling side to side his hands clamped against his rear. He and Scott knelt alongside Johnny while the womenfolk followed.
“Son, what happened?” asked Murdoch. “Did you break anything?”
“My ass,” croaked Johnny.
“What? You broke your what?”
“Not broke, somethin’ jabbed me clean through,” he gritted through his teeth in evident pain.
“Move your hands,” directed Murdoch. He heard a snicker from Teresa turned his head to stare up at her.
Scott and Maria heard the snicker; they too looked at the girl who had now clasped her hands over her mouth as her body shook in mirth at Johnny’s latest predicament.
“Maria, take her out of here, NOW!” ordered Murdoch as he viewed an exceedingly large splinter sticking up and out of Johnny’s rear.
“Johnny, this is going to hurt, but I’ve got to remove this.”
“JUST DO IT, OL’ MAN! IT ALREADY HURTS! LIKE FUCKIN’ HELL!”
“Scott, hold your brother’s legs still. I don’t need him sticking me with those damn spurs of his.”
Murdoch looked at the splinter, pursed his lips together and nodded to Scott, “On the count of three, ready?”
“DIOS! JUST GET THE FRIGGIN’ THING OUT!”
“Shut-up Johnny,” said Scott as he clamped his brother’s legs harder.
“One – two,” counted Murdoch as he pulled the chuck of wood free from Johnny’s backside.
“YEEEOWWWWLLLL! DAMMIT ALL TA HELL MURDOCH YA SAID ON THREE!”
“Sorry son I didn’t need you clinching your butt together. Upstairs, I need to take a better look at the damage. Scott, help your brother. I’ll be along with the kit. Johnny, do not rub that.”
The brothers climbed the stairs; Johnny in obvious pain favored his right side, held his rump, while Murdoch watched them go. Shaking his head, wondering when his young son would stop having minor accidents returned to the kitchen.
Teresa was stirring the pot of oatmeal, grinning ear to ear. Maria had already pulled out the medical kit they kept on hand and used with regularity now that the boys were home. She handed it to Murdoch.
“I keep the food hot.”
“Gracias, Maria.” His eyes remained focused on his young ward. He sensed something was afoot.
“Teresa there’s nothing funny about what just happened to Johnny.”
She looked up from her stirring, her eyes laughing, her mouth fighting not to beam, “Sure, of course Murdoch, nothing funny at all. Tell Johnny I’ll bring him some hot oatmeal shortly.”
Murdoch looked hard at the girl, who dropped her eyes, returned to stirring the oatmeal. He turned on his heels, leaving the kitchen. Climbing up the stairs he ran his hand over the top of the smooth varnished finish of the railing, near the top of the stairs he stopped to investigate as his hand touched a rough area of the rail. Bending over to look closely, he noticed that the wood had been deliberately gouged in three spots. Two of the three gouge marks had the beginnings of wood splinters pointing upwards, while where the third one had been there was a noticeable section of missing wood running at least two inches.
Murdoch ran his hand along the previously even surface and determined that someone had taken a sharp object to make the marks. It was then that he realized that Teresa had done the deed. Lately she had been more and more distance towards Johnny, ever since he had ducked her Valentine’s Day party, refusing to meet any of her new friends from the Morro Coyo Ladies Social Society.
“Well, Miss Teresa O’Brien, after I tend to Johnny’s rear I’ll tend to yours, little lady. He won’t be the only one nursing a sore ass,” mulled Murdoch.
In Johnny’s room, Johnny was face down on his unmade bed with his britches bunched down around his knees.
“Hold still, brother,” Scott gritted through his teeth as he pressed a wet cloth against Johnny’s bare skin.
“SHIT, BOSTON THAT HURTS! STOP PRESSIN’ SO FRIGGIN’ HARD!”
“I’ll stop when you stop moving around and allow me the pleasure of getting your blood to stop flowing.”
“Johnny,” cautioned Murdoch who reached the bed. Johnny didn’t always obey his father’s orders but there was a tone that Murdoch would employ when he really meant business. His tone was indicative that he meant business, Johnny stopped tossing.
“Much better, son,” said Murdoch as he pressed his hand gently onto Johnny’s shoulder, followed by rubbing small circles along his back to settle him down.
“Didn’t know I needed an audience ta check out my ass,” he grumbled from the depths of his pillow that he held tightly onto.
“Johnny, when you figure out how to check the condition of your ass out by your lonesome, let me know. Until that time someone’s got to look at it...you prefer I call Maria up here?”
Johnny gave in by releasing his hold on the pillow, “’kay Murdoch, just git her done, will ya?”
Scott removed the cloth and Murdoch got his first decent look at the deep score that had penetrated his boy’s skin.
“Okay Johnny, let me make certain that no wood remains inside, then I’ll dress it. You’ll be pretty sore but in a few days as good as gold.”
Murdoch probed the flesh and out popped another piece of the splinter, which he held up to exam more closely. Scott handled Murdoch the bottle of iodine and a clean white cloth. He liberally soaked the cloth before handing the bottle back to Scott to stopper. Using his head and eyes he gave Scott silent directions, Murdoch indicated for him to once again hold Johnny’s legs still. Scott had neglected or not had the time to remove Johnny’s boots. No difference as Murdoch was not in the mood to have him or Scott get injure once the iodine hit Johnny’s open wound.
“YEEEOWWWWLLLL! DIOS! YIKES! HOLY SHIT! SONOFABITCH!”
“JOHNNY HOLD STILL! “
“GODDAMMIT MURDOCH THAT HURTS! YA KEEP STILL!!”
“Johnny, I have got to get this wound cleaned so you don’t get blood poisoning.”
“HURRY UP, WILL YA?”
“Going as fast as I can son, stop bucking.”
“Next time, warn someone what ya up ta, for christsakes!”
“Next time?” questioned Scott as he held Johnny’s legs in place. “You’re going to slide down a banister again after this?”
“Just a little more,” said Murdoch as he held the cloth down. At least the blood had stopped flowing. Murdoch saw that the wound while deep was not wide. He fanned the area with the cloth to make certain that the iodine was completely dry before placing a thick bandage over the area.
“Okay Johnny, all done, ease up a bit. Let Scott and me help you with those tight britches. They’ll at least hold the bandage in place. I’ll want to change it tonight and make sure that no infection has set in.”
“I can handle it,” he complained as he swung his legs off the bed and elevated himself to standing. He winched as his pants rubbed against his butt.
Scott looked at Murdoch and laughed, “Well sir I guess from here on out, we should be sure to give Johnny an Irish blessing the night before he celebrates St. Paddy’s Day.”
“What are ya talkin’ about Boston?”
“The Irish are never at a lost for any situation. There’s a blessing that is oh so perfect for you, little brother. It goes like this, Johnny. “As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way. “ Guess I should have blessed you last night. Maybe you wouldn’t have had your latest folly.”
“Oh you’re so very funny, Scott, ha ha ha,” Johnny said as he gingerly touched his sore spot.
Murdoch laughed to some extent along with Scott, “Only in this case, boys, the splinters had some guidance from a certain young lady about to get her comeuppance in a similar fashion.”
“Murdoch, what are you talking about?” Scott queried.
“Huh?” asked Johnny as he looked at Murdoch.
“I checked the banister. It was deliberately tampered with, there are a few other splinters pointing the wrong direction, just waiting to jab you Johnny. Don’t know when Teresa did that but she probably figured today would be prefect after you boys celebrated in town and came home in the wee hours of the morning.”
“How did ya know?”
“Son, I heard the jangling of your spurs, the hushed whispers and the sounds of two young men slightly off kilter in their cups as they climbed up those stairs. I believe that one of your hands would have grabbed hold of anyone of those carefully placed splinters, climbing up those stairs at 2:00am. But since you didn’t, I remembered that Teresa left the kitchen for several minutes under the pretense of an outhouse visit, before you came downstairs Scott. I thought it was odd that instead of using the kitchen door she went the direction of the Great Room.”
“Just wait until I get my hands on her,” grumbled Johnny.
“No, Johnny, not you. This is something I’ll take care of; her punishment will fit the crime I can assure you. You boys go enjoy your breakfast, while Miss O’Brien and I have a private discussion.”
Johnny grinned, knowing full well what a “private discussion” meant with Murdoch, he had endured a couple of those discussions, and he always lost, ending up with a sore ass. This was something unheard of, Teresa and Murdoch in a “private discussion.” Scott pulled at Johnny’s shoulder, dragging him out of his room.
“Come on Johnny, let’s go. We’re not needed here. Murdoch will handle it.”
Murdoch walked to the backstairs and bellowed, “TERESA! UP HERE NOW! YOUNG LADY! DON’T MAKE ME WAIT!”
Johnny and Scott entered the kitchen passing by the scene of the crime in time to see Maria prodding Teresa towards the backstairs. Teresa was wide-eyed with a look of alarm upon her face as she grabbed hold of the railing to bar herself from being pushed upstairs to her waiting doom.
“No, I didn’t mean to cause any harm. It was just a joke,” she tried reasoning with the older woman.
“The patron wants you upstairs. Upstairs you go.” Maria smacked her wooden spoon on top of Teresa;s fingers to get her to release her hold on the railing.
Maria prodded Teresa up the staircase similar to a man being forced up the gallows stairs to meet his maker, with each step climbed Teresa was nearer her destiny. A few steps from the top Murdoch grabbed her by her upper arm at the top, escorting her to her bedroom.
“Never thought this day would come, Boston,” smiled Johnny as he helped himself to the food that Maria had kept warm on the top of the range. He braced one foot up against the brick wall of the oven and scooped up his food with relish forgoing his seat at the table. Scott looked on in amazement as his brother ate even the green bubble and squeak that still made his stomach roll.
Upstairs, Teresa’s door was firmly shut as Murdoch guided her face down across her bed. Maria lifted the kicking girl’s long skirts; her white ankle-length pantalettes framed the intended target. Murdoch not wanting to use his hand picked up the girl’s hairbrush. “Perfect for the job,” he remarked as he tested it once against the palm of his hand. “This will get her attention.”
“Teresa O’Brien, any reason why you did what you did, knowing full well that it would harm Johnny?”
“Oh Murdoch,” she sniffed, “Please don’t do this. Don’t spank me.”
“Teresa, I asked you a question. I expect an answer, young lady.” He smacked the brush against his hand a second time. Teresa jumped at the noise.
“I...I...I...I...only wanted to teach Johnny a lesson,” she wailed.
“A lesson is it?” Well, this will be a lesson that you have earned.”
Downstairs Johnny finished his meal and helped himself to another serving, grinned as the whacks were heard, each followed with the girl’s shrill protests.
“Hey Scott, any more of those fine Irish blessings you can think of for Teresa in her time of need?”
Scott took a sip of the Irish tea, which had grown bitter stewing in the pot, “No, not a blessing perhaps in this situation a curse would be more appropriate, which our dear Teresa is already experiencing from the sounds of things.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“Increasing calamity to her.”
“Well, I hope both Murdoch and Maria will be able ta hear after the she stops all her shriekin’. Boy, she’s loud.”
“One thing is for certain. Today’s one day that her Irish eyes aren’t smiling,” smiled Scott.
“Yup, I’ll betch Murdoch ain’t paintin’ her ass any shade of green.”
O’Patti of Irish descendent via the Pattersons, Greys, Lanphiers, Goins and Kyles of County Tipperary, Ireland - March 12, 2010
And a Happy St. Paddy’s Day ta y’all! Here’s my Irish Blessing to one and all: “May the leprechauns dance over your bed and bring you sweet dreams.”