Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters, make no profit from the story, and borrowed the poem at the beginning.
Note: I read the poem Little Boy Blue in a book of poetry my neighbor gave me when I was about 15 – hard to believe that was over 40 years ago. I memorized that poem that afternoon and have never forgotten it through all these years.
After I started writing a few Lancer fanfiction pieces, I thought it would be a good basis for a short piece, but I just couldn’t get my muse to cooperate until now.
This is not betaed so any and all mistakes are mine. Comments and constructive criticism (but please no flaming) are welcome.
L L L L L L L L L
Note: I believed that Maria left with Johnny at night and took only a few articles of clothing – whatever she could fit in a single carpetbag – and Johnny’s toys and other possessions were left behind. Eugene Field’s poem Little Boy Blue inspired the following piece. Thankfully, “an angel’s song” didn’t awaken Johnny; but after not being able to find his wife and child for a long time, I’m sure Murdoch wondered if that wasn’t what happened to his son.
Eugene Field. 1850–1895
Little Boy Blue
THE little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
The little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddlng off to his trundle bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue--
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.
He had stood in the doorway watching his wife and baby many times. He remembered how her raven hair obscured most of her face as she leaned forward to lift the infant from the cradle. A tiny fist would poke out from the blanket then open as she ran a finger over the back of the baby’s hand.
His chest had swelled with pride when he would look at his son. He’d been so eager to show the baby off. He remembered the christening and how so many of his friends and neighbors had attended the party held at the ranch afterwards. He’d walked among the guests, his son cradled in one arm and his wife holding the other. It had been a wonderful day.
He thought about times when his son was crawling around and then walking. Johnny had transitioned from one to the other so quickly. He would scoot through a room so quickly once he’d started crawling. It was a battle to keep him away from the fireplace, doors, and the other places a small child could get hurt or in trouble. Once Johnny started walking, that task was even harder. It didn’t help that Maria no longer seemed to want to look after her child.
It was with the intention of keeping the child entertained or occupied and out from underfoot that Murdoch had bought him a toy soldier, a stuffed dog, and had carved a wooden horse. Johnny was content to play with his toys in the corner near the fireplace while Murdoch worked on his ledgers or reviewed contracts.
Then one day Murdoch woke to find his wife gone, and more devastating, she had taken Johnny with her. Murdoch had searched for them himself for nearly six months before deciding to hire the Pinkerton Detective Agency to search.
Murdoch refused to allow the women to clean the room that once had been his younger son’s. It had not been so with the room that had been designated for Scott; but, after all, Scott had never occupied that room. There were no memories to recall in that room, no time that a little boy played with toys or took naps there. No, Johnny had played and slept in the room. He felt if the women cleaned, put away the toys, or moved things about, he would not be able to hold onto the memories; would not see his boy in his mind as clearly as he did when he looked at the chair in the corner and saw the cherished toys exactly where the child had set them that last night.
Teresa had wandered into the room once when she was very young. Paul had stopped her just before she had picked up one of the toys from the seat of the chair. She had cried for a short time, but Murdoch promised to buy her a new toy when he went to town later that day.
The room was locked after that day. It had remained locked until Murdoch had gotten word from the Pinkerton agency that his son had accepted his offer and would be coming to Lancer. The toys were still on the seat of the chair. Teresa had the chair taken to the attic; the toys were put into one of the trunks that were used to store items they were no longer using. Murdoch had watched as the rooms that had been designated for his sons’ use were cleaned and aired out in anticipation of the arrival of each.
Johnny had accompanied Scott to the attic to search for some of the crates of Scott’s belongings that had been shipped from Boston by Harlan. There were numerous crates and trunks, some small pieces of furniture, chairs, and even a cradle stored in the attic. Items were carefully placed and arranged to allow easy access to all. Johnny would open a crate or trunk and examine the items that were topmost in it. He was on the opposite side of the attic than Scott and often called out comments about what he found. Scott realized it had been a few minutes since Johnny had said anything and he made his way to the side of the attic where his brother had been searching.
The dark-haired young man was staring at something inside a trunk; he had a puzzled expression, but Scott didn’t see anything unusual from where he stood.
“Johnny, are you okay?”
“Everything in all these trunks and crates are clean – at least clean as they could be for something in storage, but these toys ain’t. They are so full of dust, like they were left on a shelf and not touched for years. The stuffed dog is so dusty and faded looking, and the tin soldier is rusted. I can’t imagine Teresa or Maria letting something go without being dusted in this house for any amount of time.”
“They were asked not to touch those…” Johnny and Scott had both turned when they heard Murdoch’s voice. Neither had heard him come up the stairs or enter the attic. “They were on the chair in the room you slept and played in as a toddler. I couldn’t bear to have someone move them. I felt I could imagine you being here if everything in your room stayed where it was on that last night – the night before I discovered you and your mother were gone.”
The three men found the crate Scott had been looking for, taken the contents to Scott’s room and went to the great room to talk.
“I took you to Morro Coyo to get some toys that would keep you occupied. The stuffed dog was the only thing you showed an interest in when we were in Baldemero’s. When we went to eat at the cantina, the owner’s sons were playing with some tin soldiers at one of the tables next to us. You wandered over to them and started to play with one, as well. You didn’t want to give it back when we were ready to leave. I bought the toy soldier from the boys as there were none at Baldemero’s. The horse was modeled after one of the first palominos I purchased for the ranch…I carved it myself.
“You would put the toys on the seat of the rocking chair in your room before being put to bed every night. You could see them from the baby bed – the last thing you saw at night and the first thing you saw in the morning.”
“I can’t believe that Teresa or Maria didn’t move or clean those things for so long.” Scott smiled, imagining Teresa chafing at the bit because she wasn’t allowed to clean a spot of the house that she took pride in helping to keep spotless.
“Well, I guess it helped that I locked the door and kept the key hidden all that time.”
All three men chuckled at that remark.
“Can I clean them and put them in my room?”
“I don’t see why not, Son, after all, they are yours.”
Murdoch peeked in his younger son’s room and watched as the boy cleaned the toys and then carried them over to a table near the corner of the room. Johnny could see them from where he lay in the bed… last thing he would look upon tonight, maybe the first thing he’d see tomorrow morning.
June 9, 2014 12:24 AM