What Did He Say? Or Murdoch Finds Out
LAST OF THE 3 SIDED DRABBLE SEQUELS
Murdoch reminded himself for the third time that morning, not to interfere. He could hear the boys making their way slowly down the stairs.
“Quite yell’in at me will ya!”
“When you start showing some common sense, I will! And, I’m not yelling, yet!”
“I don’t think so!”
Murdoch chuckled to himself, ‘well he’s got you yelling now.’
The exasperation in Johnnys voice was clear. “If you’d just let me do this my way…”
“Over my dead body brother! I did not drag your worthless butt all the way back here to have you break your equally worthless neck jumping down the stairs!”
Murdoch was listening to all this with a half smile on his face, and a slow shaking of his head. ‘Ah, the sound of sons. Keep out of it old man.’
Sam had finally agreed, after nearly two weeks, to allow Johnny to come downstairs. He’d made it clear, anyway as clear as he could, listing everything he could think of. No going outside alone, and never off the patio! No barn, no corral, because of course you aren’t walking anywhere, no fence sitting, no stone wall sitting, no buggy rides, no bringing a horse from the barn for him to sit on, or go for a ride! No nothing! Just into the study, onto the sofa, butt down, leg up! The end, finis, no more, nothing else was acceptable, that‘s all, that‘s it, do you understand me?!
Johnny had stared at him like he’d just grown two heads.
“Sure Sam.” He’d said nothing else.
Finally, Johnny was settled on the sofa. Teresa had come in with a light quilt and settled it over Johnnys legs.
“It gets chilly in here, especially when you haven’t been moving around much.” She’d explained.
Johnny sat staring at her, unblinking, as he’d tossed the quilt aside. “No.”
Teresa turned and stomped out.
“Now that wasn’t very nice.”
“It wasn’t that rude either, now if I’d a shot her…”
“Shut up, Johnny.”
Their father noticed they were both smiling during the exchange. It was getting hard not to just laugh out loud at them.
Scott had left after finding his brother something he might like to read, and promising to bring in some strip leather from the barn when he returned. Teresa hadn’t come back in, so that left Murdoch alone with his son. For awhile he’d thumbed absently through the book. When Murdoch looked up again, Johnny had fallen asleep. He was slumped to his left, with his neck twisted in a awkward position. With his elbows on the desk, Murdoch rested his chin on his interlaced fingers and contemplated his youngest. With a sigh he rose and approached the sofa. He thought he should get him laid down, the boy didn’t need a sore neck to go along with his sore body. Prepared for what could be a rather sudden wakefulness, he slide one large hand behind his sons left shoulder, and with the other gently lifted his legs off the hassock. Then he eased him further to his left. Gently he’d laid him down on this back, a sofa pillow under his head. Grabbing two more pillows, he placed those under the injured leg. Then he snatched the quilt from the coffee table and lightly covered his son. He sat down on the coffee table, and let out a long quiet breath. Amazing, he hadn’t awaken the boy! Had to be a first for sure.
The great clock chimed the hour. Murdoch had been standing at the window, he turned to see if his son woke. He slept. Returning to his desk, he sat back in the big chair and studied his boy.
‘Lord he looks so much like his mother!’ He smiled with some satisfaction. ‘He does have a stubborn streak, more like mine than hers. His jaw too, like mine. But those eyes, my color maybe, but the shape and those lashes, hers. His stature, hair, his laugh, god even his voice, all hers.’ He stopped himself. This was not fair, he realized, maybe for the first time so clearly, it was not Johnnys fault. He could no more help how he looked or sounded, well, than he could rope the moon.
A sudden sound came from the sofa.
He watched him shift, just slightly. There, a mumble. Murdoch rose and moved quietly toward the sofa.
“Johnny?” He whispered.
Sitting on the coffee table once again, he observed his son. He was plainly still asleep.
He spoke calmly to Johnny. “I know that. It’s alright.”
Mystified, Murdoch replied. “Who Johnny? Who’s gone?”
His son shifted again, it was obvious he was getting agitated. Sam had told them it was going to be awhile this time before he would be himself again. How quickly he tired, and how much he slept was already a testament to that. His ribs and most of the cuts had been healing well, much of the bruising and swelling were gone. Still, the torn Achilles tendon was not sufficiently healed yet to allow his weight on it, and he still had headaches. They were short lived, thankfully, but brutal sometimes in their severity. He also thought Johnny was having some rather strange dreams. He never said anything about them, but sometimes he seemed to want to say something, he just didn’t.
Murdoch straightened up. ‘Lion? No, maybe lying?’
He wondered if he should leave him alone or continue talking to him. Suddenly Johnny spoke again, making up his mind for him.
With some ire now. “Lions!”
“Alright, ok.” He put one comforting hand on his sons shoulder and the other on his chest. He didn’t exactly know what he was doing but he knew he had to calm him down, the sooner the better. He rubbed his shoulder and began making small light circles on his chest. Johnny relaxed.
His mind raced, ‘Ok, so it’s lions, as in lions. Why lions? We don’t have lions here. Cougars, bobcats, some people do say mountain lions, Johnny doesn‘t, he calls them cougars. I think he means ‘lion’ as in African. Why?’
Murdoch regrouped. “Their gone, I made sure of it. No more Lions here, don’t like ‘em, never did.”
Johnny appeared to be thinking on this, even asleep. In a soft slurry voice he said, “Dead?”
“No, no we just chased them away, no ones seen them anymore. They came and went,” He snapped his fingers, “just like that, gone.”
He mumbled, “Sorry.”
“There’s no need. You were hurt, there wasn’t anything you could about them.”
Weakly he spoke, “Tried.”
“I know you did. It’s over now, why don’t we just forget about it?”
Johnny was starting to get upset again. His eyes were fluttering and he tried to sit up. “They, they could hurt someone! Outside, in here…”
“No, no, now listen,” He pushed his son back down on the sofa. “There are no more Lions here, they won’t be back, I promise. It’s all over and done with, and nobody got hurt.” Under his breath he added, “Except you.” Murdoch dropped his head, when he looked back up at his son, Johnny had fallen back into a quiet sleep.
When Scott returned he found his father on the patio. “Don’t tell me he got away from you!”
Murdoch gave him a weak grin. “No, he’s inside. Coming downstairs wore him out, more than expected I think.”
Scott approached, slapping his gloves in his hand. He felt some sympathy for his father. “He’ll be fine, guess it’s just going to take a little time and patience.” He studied his fathers face, something was disturbing him. “Did he have a headache?”
“No, not exactly.” He hesitated.
Scott studied the patio stones. Finally he asked, “How does one, ‘not exactly’ have a headache?”
Murdoch shook his head, how to explain this? “It was more like, a dream? No, he seemed confused. He appeared awake, but he wasn’t. I don’t know what was going on.”
“Confused you say? Do you know about what?”
Murdoch hooked his fingers together and popped his knuckles. He gave Scott an exasperated look. Then decided to spill it.
“He seemed to think, for some reason, there was a Lion, one or more, he didn’t say. Here,” He waved his hand around, “outside, and in the house.” He snapped his head up and tilting it to the side gave Scott a plaintive stare.
Scotts reaction was not what he had expected. He began to smile and under his breath, laugh.
“Ah, so he hasn’t quite let go of that Lion yet.”
“You know about this? Why didn’t you tell me?” Almost losing his patience, “He scared me out of another good couple of years Scott! I thought he was in real trouble again! Good grief!”
Scott backed away, still amused. “I am sorry. I thought he forgot about it. He hadn’t said anything in days now!” Seeing his fathers stress, he came forward and added.
“Look, he just got confused. Anyway from what I can piece together, without talking to him anymore about it.” He realized his father was unhappy about not being told about this. “We only spoke once. He asked me about, well about these lions, and truthfully I just didn’t know what else to do.” He realized he’d better start telling this tale a bit quicker. It appeared Murdochs patience was waning.
“He asked me about them, alright? He thought they were here, and and, had gotten in the house, and you were mad at him about it!”
“What? Why would I be…”
“He just did, ok? Here’s what I think might have happened.”
Murdoch was stunned into silence after listening to Scotts ’theory of the lion.’ He really didn’t know how to feel about it. In some ways it made sense, he guessed. If that wasn’t right, well then, what other explanation was there?
They were sitting on the stone wall, side by side, Scott swinging his legs and letting his heels bounce off the wall.
“I told him I wouldn’t tell anyone about this you know.”
“You haven’t, he did.”
“Ah, no, but, look, you aren’t going to try and discuss this with him are you? I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Murdoch sat resting his forearms on this knees and studied some ants scurrying along on a narrow trail. He sat up and rubbed his face with his hands, then rolled his neck a few times.
“I don’t think I can. Not without looking like an idiot anyway.”
Scott studied him. He still had a question.
His father took his time. “You don’t think he might benefit from your ‘theory of the lion?’
“Maybe.” He sighed, and thought some more.
“I guess I just don’t like him thinking of me like that. A loud, roaring, dangerous ‘thing’ he has to get away from.” His sadness about the thought was apparent.
“Then change it.” The words had popped out of his mouth without thought. Scott cringed. He thought it had sounded like a terrible thing to say.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant..,”
Murdoch held his hand up. “Enough. Maybe you’re right.” He was speaking in a soft, forgiving tone.
“It might be for the best. If he asks again, I think you should tell him what you’ve told me. If he doesn’t, and his lack of knowledge isn’t causing any problems, we’ll just let it go. I think you’re right,” Scotts eyebrows shot up in surprise at that statement. ‘Right? I’m right about something?
“it might be easier for me to change the way I speak to him and deal with him. Than explain why we think he thought there was a lion loose around here. He might believe my actions are sincere if I don’t have any other motive for my change in attitude. What do you think?”
‘Be still my heart! What do I think?
“I agree, let’s just leave well enough alone.”
Nodding their agreement, they jumped down off the wall and headed inside.