Lancer Brat Pack AU Story 8
Disclaimer: I admit nothing…I claim nothing…therefore they have nothing to refute!
Author’s note: This is for Teresa, who would avenge every slight against Johnny.
Sun streaked through the window and lit upon the relaxed face, the brightness of it caused tired eyes to twitch behind the lids. Murdoch Lancer fought the revelry call of the new morning. Repeated disturbances of his sleep during the night prevented him from greeting the just lightening gray wash of dawn with his normal enthusiasm. The brilliant light finally pierced deeply enough into his slumber deprived mind to cause him to stir restlessly.
Murdoch forced his sleep crusted eyes open, blinking rapidly, and then finally digging the crusty matter from the corners of his eyes with large fingers. Yawning and stretching, he sat up, and then grimaced, lips flattening into a straight line when he realized how late it had to be for his room to be this light. His frown quickly morphed into a smile, as he turned his head and viewed his youngest, still asleep in his crib.
Pushing the covers aside, he forced his sleep heavy legs to drop softly off the edge of the bed. Murdoch’s toes curled against the coolness of the hard wood floor, but he did not stop to slip his feet into his bedroom shoes. He cat-footed silently, with a grace that belied his size, to the side of the crib, and indulged in the pleasure of watching his baby sleep.
Murdoch knew as a father, he was most likely biased, but he was of the opinion that his sons were physically, perfection personified, even though they were so dissimilar in looks. Scott was a golden child, with his topaz colored hair, streaked with lighter strands kissed by the sun until it shone like honey. He was tall for his age, his slender limbs remarkably coordinated, making him agile and athletic.
Johnny was cherubic in looks. His tanned body still retained the satiny softness of infant skin. His hair was so black the highlights were bluish, which only accented the sparkle of his azure colored eyes. He was continually in motion. He was small for his age, and people who didn’t know of him were always surprised to find out he was three.
If Murdoch were truthful with himself, he had to admit he rather enjoyed Johnny’s smaller stature; he loved the tiny babyish perfection of him. Scott was his little man, and seemed to be on a course of being tall like the Lancers, however Johnny was his baby; and as irrational as it may be, he always wanted to be perceived as big and strong by his youngest.
The enthralled father slipped his hand into the crib, and reverently stroked a long finger over the sleek smoothness of the chubby cheek, grinning when Johnny nuzzled his face trustingly against his hand. Murdoch’s heart constricted with a pleasant fullness over the joy the simple gesture gave him. A smile bloomed on his face, as he watched Johnny’s eye lashes flutter, as he struggled to wake up. The little eyes finally opened, and the perpetual motion kicked into gear, with a squeal and a bounce, Johnny was standing in the bed holding his arms up to be lifted from his nightly prison.
Murdoch chuckled as he grabbed the little one under the arms, pulling him up out of the crib and then tossing him in the air. Excited peals of laughter echoed in the room as the toddler soared towards the ceiling, and then floated downward his nightshirt billowing out like a building fluffy white cloud.
"Again…higher," he breathlessly called, as Papa’s strong hands stopped his plummet towards the hard floor. Not an ounce of fear was apparent on his small body, as he had all the faith in the world his papa would always catch him.
Up he flew again, arms flailing like uncoordinated wings, feet kicking wildly inside the nightshirt puffed up with air. His trajectory for the floor was once more interrupted by his soft landing in his father’s arms.
Johnny’s excited squeals were abruptly ended, as he grabbed himself and with wide concerned eyes, whimpered, "Uh oh, Johnny needs to peepee."
Experience had Murdoch running for the bathroom with Johnny clutched under the arms and held out in front of him just in case they didn’t make it in time. His rapid footfalls vibrated in the hall, his nightshirt flapped about his long legs, sounding like a flag in the breeze. Thankfully the bathroom was unoccupied.
"Hurry, Papa!" Johnny grunted uncomfortably.
Standing the toddler in front of the toilet, Murdoch quickly divested him of his nighttime diaper. Lifting the little boy up he sat him backwards on the commode, as he tended to fall in if they sat him front ways.
"Whew…" Johnny sighed over the sounds of a strong urine flow. He giggled infectiously when he passed gas.
"I think you need to sit awhile, it sounds to me like you have another job to do. I’ll be right over here at the sink shaving." Papa moved to the sink, took his shaving cup and began mixing his soap. Before he could lather his face his oldest appeared in the bathroom.
"Papa, something is wrong with my boots they hurt my toes." Scott half whined his complaint.
Turning from the sink, Murdoch took note of his eldest, his shirt sleeves just did cover his wrists, and the hem of his pants leg came nowhere near hiding his sock covered ankles. His little boy was definitely going to inherit the Lancer tallness. Here lately, Scott had so many growth spurts he had barely managed to get a worn look to his clothes before they were too small. Crouching down next to his older son, Murdoch press the toe of boot with his thumb, sure enough he could feel the little toes jammed to the very end of the boot.
"Well, it looks like we need to make time to go clothes and shoe shopping today. Let’s go see if we can’t find you some clothes that fit a little better. Maybe you can wear your church shoes to town. I think they are slightly larger than these."
"Papa, I don’t want to wear church clothes on Saturday, if my friends see me they’ll laugh at me."
"Johnny, I’ll be back in a minute." Murdoch’s retort to his other son floated back into the bathroom as he and the little blond crossed the hall to his bedroom. "Well son, you have a choice, wear your church clothes or go to town in clothes too short, and wear boots that pinch your toes with every step."
If Murdoch had realized it would take so long to find a suit of clothes that didn’t make Scott look like a cast off orphan, or how much trouble Johnny could get into in the few minutes he was gone…he would have never left the toddler in the bathroom alone.
Johnny sat on the commode swinging his legs. He was tired of waiting for Papa to come back, so he decided he would take care of things. He couldn’t reach the chain to flush the toilet unless he stood up on the rim. The problem was Papa had told him he had better not stand on the potty anymore, leaving those black marks from his shoes.
"Huffffffff…" Johnny sighed in exasperation. He shifted uncomfortably, and shivered when his bare foot touched the cold porcelain. He giggled as he realized he didn’t have on shoes, so he couldn’t leave marks on the seat. Papa didn’t say he couldn’t stand on the commode with his bare feet.
Johnny struggled to draw his legs up so he could get his feet under him. Finally he was standing with one foot on either side of the toilet seat. He stretched mightily to reach the chain, lost his balance, and his right foot splashed down into the water, the tail of his cotton nightshirt dipped into the commode as well.
"Yucky," Johnny muttered as he grabbed the big pipe on the wall and pulled his self up. He shook the excess water from his foot. He stood on the back edge of the toilet and eyed the chain, once again he struggled to grasp the chain, and finally he jumped, caught hold of it and pulled. When he landed his wet foot slipped off the seat, and he ended up sitting in the flushing bowl of water.
"Oh Oh," Johnny exclaimed, this water was cold. He floundered a bit but was finally able to get himself out of the toilet.
There was still no sign of Papa, so Johnny decided to investigate Papa’s shaving cup. He carefully made his way to the sink, his head turned towards the door watching for his father’s return. He was unaware of the slippery trail of water left by his dripping nightshirt. Nor did he realize there were streaks of his morning constitution smeared all over the back and the hem of his nightshirt. With his head turned to the door, he didn’t realize he had reached the sink until his small head cracked into the hard marble surface.
"OUCH!" Johnny rubbed his temple. He was getting ready to sound the alarm that he had an injury that needed immediate attention…until he realized this was the perfect opportunity to shave. Papa had left his cup and razor on the sink top. Johnny knew he could do it; he shaved with Ha all the time.
The sink was too tall for him to stand at, so he took the cup and razor and headed back to the commode, there was plenty of water there. He sat his purloined items on the rim, took the brush and dipped it in the soap and lathered his face good. He coughed and gagged when some of that nasty soap got in his mouth. He tried to put the brush back in the cup as he was coughing, and accidentally knocked both into the commode.
"Uh…oh!" It was a good thing he was done with those two things. He picked up the razor. He didn’t have a mirror to look in so he carefully laid the sharp metal against his jaw line. He started to drag the razor towards his chin, being the uncoordinated three-year old he was, he turned his head at the same time his hand began to move.
Johnny’s eyes grew wide, and his mouth dropped open…it felt like something bit his face. The razor fell from his shaky hands, and he swiped at his stinging skin. He looked at his lather covered hand and saw blood mixed with the suds. Usually he liked to look at blood, it was just the kind of gross yucky thing little boys found fascinating, but that’s only if the blood was coming from some source other than him. He needed Papa…or Ha …or Squat…right now, and he knew the quickest way to get them.
Even with his head stuck in between the clothes hanging in Scott’s wardrobe, Murdoch heard his youngest son’s cry of pain and distress. Father and son were tripping over each other as they raced for the bathroom, and the screaming little boy.
Murdoch was shocked to find his baby with a soap covered face, blood oozing from the foamy suds, his nightshirt dripping steadily into a growing puddle on the floor, and a smell like a nasty diaper emanating from him.
"What in the world happened in here?" Murdoch questioned as his dazed eyes took in the shiny, wet, water trails leading from the commode to the sink and back again. He stepped forward to pick Johnny up, and clenched his jaw when he spied his shaving cup and brush in the toilet bowl. His razor lay beside the commode. Putting two and two together, he now understood what had occurred.
Holding Johnny securely in his arms, Murdoch grabbed a wash cloth to wipe the lather from his face so he could see what kind of damage Johnny had done to himself this time. He ignored the fact the drenched nightshirt was slowly soaking his own, he was more concerned about the emerging bruise on the little one’s temple, and the long scrape across his jaw line from the razor.
"Oh, yuck…Papa, Johnny has poop on his clothes and on his foot…that is so nasty! Scott squealed in disgust.
Johnny’s squalls calmed to snubbing, he turned watery blue eyes to his Papa and explained. "Johnny flush the mode but Johnny falled in, then Johnny’s head got hit on the sink. Johnny tried to shave like Papa but the shaving stick bite!"
Groaning tiredly, Murdoch strode to the tub, stood Johnny in it and began to strip him. He muttered, "If I get this child raised I’ll be bald or totally gray one." When his muttered rant was finished, he scolded out loud, "Young man you know better than to bother the shaving stuff, you’re lucky this scrape on your chin isn’t worse. In fact, you’re lucky you didn’t manage to cut your throat…or seriously injure yourself.
Murdoch threw the soiled nightshirt aside. He reached and turned the water on, holding his large hand under the stream until the temperature felt right. He pulled Johnny close to the spigot and held his foot under it to rinse the fecal matter off. With that accomplished he plugged the drain to fill the tub, in preparation to bathe the toddler.
"Scott, go change out of those clothes, put on your Sunday things."
Scrunching up his face, Scott showed his displeasure with the situation, but the tight set of Papa’s jaw, and that nervous twitch at the corner of his eye, convinced him that now was not the time to argue. "Yes sir," he agreed sullenly, as he hastily exited the bathroom.
Ha entered as Scott left, calling good morning to his oldest grandson in a cheery manner, only to be given a curt morning in return.
Noting the perturbed countenance of his son-in-law’s face, and the condition of the bathroom, Harlan figured a certain three-year old whirlwind had been busy. "Do I even want to know what went on this morning?"
"Probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway just to get it off my chest. Not that you’ll find it all that terrible since you have a terminal case of proud Grandfather syndrome, and simply refuse to acknowledge Johnny can be an unholy terror!"
"Now, Harlan," Murdoch interrupted. "Take a look around. In the span of the few minutes I was right across the hall helping Scott find something to wear that was not too short, your baby angel fell in the toilet, which means he had to stand up on the seat again, he managed to smear fecal matter on his clothes and foot, he left a trail of water around the bathroom, acquired a bruise on his temple, dumped my shaving cup and brush in the commode, scraped the skin off his jaw with my razor, and Lord only knows what else he might have done that just hasn’t been found yet!"
Ha chuckled in that calm way he had, that irritated the mortal piss out of Murdoch, because he himself was prone to spectacular fits of temper.
"Son, go shave and get dressed. I’ll bathe the little one, and get him ready for the day. Perhaps we’ll all be in a happier frame of mind after breakfast."
While Ha washed Johnny, singing nursery rhymes and entertaining the little one, Murdoch grabbed a towel and dried up the floor. He retrieved his shaving accoutrements, and took them to the sink, washing them thoroughly in the hot water. By the time he was prepared to shave, Ha was wrapping Johnny in a fluffy towel, and then striding from the bathroom, down the hall to the nursery to dress him.
Breakfast was sedate after the turbulent start to the day. Both boys were too preoccupied with their meal of pancakes and sausages to cause any trouble at the table. While they ate Murdoch informed Harlan they needed to make a trip to town, as Scott was in need of boots and clothes again.
Mamacita had served breakfast, and then went out to work in her little vegetable garden right outside the kitchen door. She came in and caught the tail end of the conversation about Scott’s growth spurt, and informed them she had planned to speak to them about acquiring new clothes, as she had noticed the need as well.
"Maria, how are Johnny’s clothes fitting? Is he in need of a larger size?"
"No, Senor. The niño has not grown out of his things, but he could use some new pants as he has worn holes in the knees of his."
"Are his shoes still fitting?"
"Si, they are scuffed but that is easy to fix with polish."
Murdoch shrugged and shook his head as he sipped the last of his coffee, and then replied, "These boys are as different as night and day, in so many ways. One grows out of his clothes before he can wear them out, and the other wears them out before he out grows them."
"Is there something wrong with Johnny?" Scott mumbled around a mouthful of sausage. "Teresa Stacy’s little brother is the same age as Johnny but he is way bigger than Johnny."
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with your brother. People come in all sizes, look at your father, he’s younger than me, yet he is much taller. The important thing is Johnny is healthy and happy," Harlan’s displeasure over anyone thinking his grandbaby was less than perfect was displayed in the scowl on his face. "Besides I seem to recall, young Mister Stacy is spectacularly lacking in verbal skills, the child talks like his tongue grew in backwards. Where as Johnny has an extensive vocabulary."
The ‘perfect child’ in question, sat calmly in his high chair, face smeared with maple syrup, white milk mustache decorating his lip, and a sausage dangling from his mouth like a cigar. He wasn’t too sure what the conversation was about but he heard his name so he added his thoughts on the subject with one uttered word, "Yeah," followed by an enthusiastic nod of his head.
Maria’s bark of laughter over his antics, as she headed towards the youngest Lancer with a wet cloth to wipe him up, set the rest of the family off into suppressed giggles.
"Let’s all take a few minutes for our breakfast to settle while I check our accounts in the ledger, and then we’ll head to town. Scott, please go and ask one of the hands to get the surrey ready. If you boys play outside don’t get dirty. I don’t want to have to give baths or change clothes before we go."
Having issued his instructions Murdoch strode to his study, followed by Harlan who had a few papers to look over himself. Scott and Johnny followed Mamacita out the kitchen door. Scott ran to the barn to pass along his father’s orders. Johnny stayed with Mamacita.
Maria cautioned Johnny to just stand and watch, as she worked in the vegetable patch. His little body twitched as he watched her walk among the growing plants pouring some brown liquid, from the bucket she carried, in the ground around their roots.
Mamacita soon traveled back to a wheel barrel loaded with horse manure, she removed a shovel scoop of it and placed it in her bucket. She added a bucket of water to that and then stirred it with a stick. Johnny watched curiously, he knew the stuff in the wheelbarrow was poop, he just couldn’t understand why Mamacita was putting it on the plants.
"What Mamacita doing," Johnny questioned.
Maria continued to stir her concoction as she explained, "I’m making plant tea with horse manure. It makes a good fertilizer."
"What is fert her lies her?"
"Fertilizer, niño. It’s something that helps things to grow. I want these plants to grow bigger, and bear food, so I help it by giving it extra nutrients found in the horse manure."
Maria could just about see the wheels in Johnny’s agile mind turning. She smiled when she saw the light of understanding shine in his eyes. She chuckled when he laughed and stated, "Horse poop makes things grow big like horses."
"Something like that," she agreed with a smile.
By some miracle, when Murdoch and Harlan strolled out the door to round up the boys, they found Johnny had managed to stay clean. Murdoch quite mistakenly thought that meant the rest of the day would go smoothly.
After a quick trip back in the house to retrieve Johnny’s apron cape, that he insisted he could not go to town without, the family loaded up in the surrey. Before taking off Murdoch informed Maria they would eat lunch in town, and most likely not return until suppertime.
The ride to town had been relaxing and fun. Johnny and Ha had set a jovial mood with their chatter and singing, even enticing Murdoch and Scott to sing along. However, the happy moods would evaporate as soon as they entered the General store, and Scott’s fastidious nature reared its stubborn and persnickety head.
Scott Garrett Lancer was as fussy and finicky about what he wore as his mother, Catherine, had been. The child was extremely neat in his appearance, and would only agree to wear certain colors, most of them muted. Johnny preferred brown pants, but loved brightly colored shirts.
Upon entering the store, Johnny had quickly chosen several pairs of brown pants. The clerk had asked if they wanted them longer than necessary so they could be cuffed, and then let down as he grew into them. Murdoch and Ha laughingly informed the employee they would be lucky if Johnny got three good wearings out of them before the knees needed patching.
"Perhaps, I have a solution for you gentleman, if the young man is so rough on clothes."
The clerk turned to a closed cupboard, opened it and rummaged around. When he turned around he held up a pair of child-sized buckskin chaps with fringed sides.
"I think these are sturdy enough to protect his knees as he plays."
"Now why didn’t we think of that before?" inquired Murdoch of Ha.
"Oh my, it is the perfect solution. Johnny, how would you like a pair of real cowboy chaps?" Ha motioned at the item.
Johnny squealed in delight and insisted on trying them on. They fit perfectly, and once he had them on he refused to take them off again. And of course Ha indulged him, he also purchased a larger pair for Scott, who appeared from the dressing room, in another pair of pants he was finding fault with, and announced he wanted a pair as well.
Once Johnny had the items he needed he was ready to go. However, the hard to please Scott was still trying on pants. They had not even looked at shirts yet. So Johnny, under strict instructions to stay in the store, began to wander around and inspect other things in the store. There was a bell mounted over the door, that rung every time the door was opened and brushed against it, so Papa and Ha felt sure Johnny could not get away from them, and go find trouble. They didn’t stop to consider there was plenty to be found in the store.
The bell over the door jangled loudly, Murdoch and Ha rapidly turned to look making sure Johnny was not leaving. It was the sixty-year old spinster Bernice Fitch coming in. Realizing they did not see Johnny anywhere Murdoch and Harlan stood up from their crouched position of inspecting Scott’s pants and called for him.
"Johnny, where are you?" called Ha.
"And more importantly, what are you doing?" demanded Papa.
Johnny’s head popped up from behind a display counter, "Johnny here. Johnny find something. Johnny want this."
Much to the embarrassment and chagrin of the two men and the spinster, Johnny waved a corset with whale bones stays, and rows of lace around the top, for all to see. The spinster Fitch gasped sharply, and then whirled on her heel and swiftly exited the store, fanning her bright red face with a delicate lace hanky.
"Johnny! That’s a ladies’ undergarment! What possible use could you have for it?" Murdoch exclaimed, as he snatched the apparel from Johnny’s hand and gave it to the clerk to put away.
"Johnny could use it to walk Patty Pat. It’s a big collar to go around Patty Pat’s tummy."
"I don’t think your dog would appreciate being trussed up like that," Papa informed him with a resigned shake of his head.
"Johnny could use it to tie Squat to a tree."
"Oh, no you won’t," squawked Scott. "Besides you don’t even know how to tie."
Johnny stomped his foot, and changed directions, looking for something else to get into while Papa and Ha helped Scott find some shirts. He found the sewing thread display. Rows upon rows of colorful thread filled spools were arranged so that the different shades of each color represented were grouped together, making it easier for the customer to find the specific hue they needed. Johnny slowly and methodically rearranged the spools so that the display now resembled swirls of the multitude of colors. The ugly black ones he threw under the display cabinet.
"OH NO," shrieked the harried clerk when he saw what Johnny had done. He dreaded having to try to straighten out the mess.
"Johnny, come away from there," Ha ordered as he took the toddler by the hand. "I am so sorry," he apologized to the clerk.
The store employee swallowed back his aggravation and plastered on a smile. After all he didn’t want to offend these people, he worked partly on commission, and they were making a rather large purchase. "It’s quite all right," he placated, "Perhaps the young man would like some candy?"
"Yippy!" Johnny hollered as he ran for the candy counter, the fringe on his new chaps dancing wildly about with his rushed movement.
The clerk patiently showed Johnny scoop after scoop of the candies. The uncharacteristically indecisive toddler sucked a lemon drop as he tried to make his choice. Finally he settled on a scoop of peppermints when he accidentally sneezed on them, his half-melted lemon drop shooting from his mouth and landing in the middle of the serving.
After sacking Johnny’s candy, and preparing a bag of licorice drops for Scott while he changed out of his Sunday clothes into one of his new outfits, the employee tallied up the Lancer bill. He was grateful for the nice size commission the large sale would give him. He was pleased to see the rambunctious toddler depart the store, though he did feel sorry for the shoe cobbler, who would be receiving them next.
Murdoch almost felt giddy with relief, when Scott spied the boots he wanted sitting in the store window before they had even set foot in the building. The boots were smooth black leather, with a white bull’s head in the middle of the shaft. They looked expensive, but after the ordeal of trying to find the hard to please child some shirts and pants that met his requirement, Murdoch was willing to pay the price to avoid any more difficulty.
As luck would have it, the boots came in Scott’s size, and he had a thumb’s width of space in the toe box to grow in. Murdoch’s elation increased as he realized the boots were not as expensive as he thought; not to mention this chore was almost finished, which left just the trip to the bank. The sense of euphoria over this shopping expedition soon being over came to a screeching crash of a halt.
It had taken so long in the General Store, it was now approaching lunchtime. Johnny was getting tired and hungry, which lead to being cranky and unreasonable. He had decided he wanted a pair of the bull’s head boots. When Papa tried to explain he didn’t need them, his shoes still fit, the little one had a conniption fit.
True to his nature, Ha quickly dried the tears and brought back the infectious smile to the cherubic face by announcing he would buy the boots. All was well until they realized the boots did not come in a small enough size for Johnny. This set off a new round of hysterics, and they ended up buying the smallest pair available, telling Johnny he would have to grow into them.
Scott decided to wear his new boots, so Johnny wanted to wear his. Papa was going to say no until he realized the only way Johnny could walk in them would be to shuffle his feet, which meant he would be slowed down, he couldn’t run off. A sly smile morphed his stern and weary face as he gave into Johnny’s demands, all the while gloating about his ulterior motive.
The family left the shoe store, and stored their purchases in the surrey. They shuffled along the board walk slowly as Johnny struggled to keep his new boots on. Arriving in front of the bank, Ha sent Murdoch in to do the banking while he sat outside with the boys. Scott’s friend Robert saw him and came over and engaged him in a game of marbles in the alley beside the bank. Johnny dropped off the board walk and squatted on the ground in front of the hitching post, using a stick he found to draw pictures. The Reverend strolled over from the church. He sat next to Harlan and they became engrossed in conversation.
Every time Johnny tried to move from one spot to another he ended up falling, tripping over his too large boots. It was really beginning to aggravate him, and it was making sore spots on his heels. He wished his feet would hurry up and grow bigger. No sooner had that thought crossed his mind, when a passing horse made a deposit on the dirt road. Johnny’s eyes lit up as he remembered what Mamacita had told him about horse poop being ‘fert her lies her’.
Johnny scooted in the road long enough to scoop up a mass of the excrement. He hurried back to the front of the board walk and plopped down on the ground, so that just the top of his head was visible to Ha. He took off his boots, and began to fill one with the manure. He packed it into the toe of the shoe and then tried it on. He giggled in satisfaction, now it fit just right. He swiftly completed the task on the other one, and pulled it back on.
Looking down at his hands, Johnny wrinkled his nose in disgust over the mess on them. He didn’t want to wipe them on his new chaps, so he scrubbed his hands in the dirt. That got most of it off. He climbed the stairs back up onto the board walk and went to stand by Ha, while he talked. He saw the edge of a handkerchief sticking out of Ha’s side pocket so he pulled it out and wiped his hands. It cleaned them some, but not enough. What he needed was some water, then he remembered the horse trough, he pushed Ha’s hanky back in his pocket, jumped down near the hitching post and walked the few steps to the horse trough.
Plunging his hands into the cold water, Johnny rubbed them vigorously together, and then dried them on the front of his shirt. Just as he was climbing up the stairs again Papa came out of the bank and announced it was time to go to lunch.
Strolling sedately along the walk, Papa and Ha kept an eye on the boys as they skipped a few steps ahead.
Scott slowed his pace and sniffed the air, his nose crinkling, giving a sour look to his face. "What is that stinky smell?" he asked as he turned to gaze at his little brother.
Johnny’s dark little eyebrows arched up over his eyes, and then he inhaled deeply, gave his brother a curious look and announced, "Horse poop."
Scott stopped as they had reached the end of the board walk, he carefully turned his right foot to the side, and then his left foot, sure enough he had manure on the bottom of his boot. He scraped it off on the edge of the step. Satisfied he had cleaned it off as well as he could, Scott grabbed his little brother’s hand and helped him down the steps, and up the next set, and then proceeded down the boardwalk.
Papa and Ha saw Scott’s action and realized what he was doing. Therefore, when they caught up to the boys in front of the Country Kitchen Café they thought nothing of the fact that they could detect the scent of horse manure.
The family entered the restaurant, passing right by Rossfield Culpepper and Zachariah eating their midday meal. The only empty table was the one right behind them; thankfully there was a high chair available for Johnny.
Murdoch pulled the baby seat to the table, and set it by Ha at Johnny’s request. He lifted the little boy into the chair, when he did he caught the strong scent of excrement. Leaning over he whispered in Johnny’s ear as he settled in the seat, "Johnny, do you have poop in your pants?"
"No, Papa," he replied sincerely, because indeed it was not there.
Thinking perhaps he was detecting the scent from Scott’s boots, he asked to see the bottom of them. They had been scraped off thoroughly. He surreptitiously canted his own boots and checked them, but they were clean.
At Ha’s befuddled look, Murdoch shook his head and mouthed, "I thought I smelled something."
The waitress came and took their order, and from the odd way she tried to school her face, Murdoch could tell that she had caught a whiff of the same thing he had. As she walked away, discreetly fanning her nose, he leaned forward and again questioned Johnny, "Young man if you had an accident in your pants tell me now!"
"Johnny not, Papa, Johnny promise," he assured his father as he sat chewing a roll, happily swinging his feet to and fro.
"Ha, do you have a handkerchief?" Scott inquired as he felt a sneeze coming on from the smell.
Grandfather reached into his pocket, grasped the square of white cotton cloth and passed it to Scott.
"Yuck," Scott exclaimed in a shrill voice, "There’s something nasty on this."
"How in the world did that get there?" asked a stunned Harlan.
Papa, Ha and Scott stared at the soiled linen, unsure of how to dispose of it. Johnny was busy glaring at Zach Culpepper, as he was making ugly faces at him. The youngest Lancer began to swing his feet harder and faster. All of a sudden one of the too big boots slid from his foot. It flew in a graceful arch right towards the Culpepper’s table.
End over end, the little boot tumbled, until the manure packed in the toe dislodged just as the boot flew over Rossfield’s plate. Bits of manure landed on the fork full of food he was just placing in his mouth, and then a large clump right into his plate. The boot traveled on until it hit Zach in the face, splitting his lip, and then plopped with a big splash into his bowl of chicken soup, sending the hot liquid all over his face.
Realizing he had just put food in his mouth containing excrement, Mr. Culpepper gagged, and then violently vomited all over his son. Zach jumped up so rapidly he knocked his chair over and ran screaming from the restaurant, in his haste he ran right off the board walk and landed in the horse trough.
Rossfield turned on the bewildered Lancers and ranted about Mexican half breeds, and then snatched Harlan’s handkerchief from Scott’s hand and wiped furiously at his mouth. He turned to storm off, and whirled around and shouted, "I’ll just keep this fine linen handkerchief. It’s the least you owe me.
A sharkish grin split Harlan’s face as he dryly replied, "Please do keep it. You deserve it."
The customers in the restaurant were as silent as the church in prayer on Sunday. They watched with undisguised interest as Murdoch Lancer scrubbed in wild agitation at his face.
"Johnny, why were your new boots full of horse manure?"
"Horse poop makes things grow Papa, it’s ‘fert her lies her’. Papa said Johnny needed to grow into the boots." Johnny smiled brightly, reached in his shirt and pulled out his apron cape. He popped his thumb in his mouth, and then laid his head down on the tray. He drifted off to sleep to the sounds of the uproarious laughter vibrating in the eatery, and Papa banging his head on the table.
Between two evils I always pick the one I haven't tried.