Serving Up Trouble
Disclaimer: I don’t have to convince them I don’t own them…they have to convince me I don’t.
Author’s note 1: This story was written in celebration of the Fortieth anniversary of the airing of the first Lancer episode, therefore in the story I have made use of the number forty in a significant way.
Author’s note 2: The plot bunny for this adventure was sicced on me by Kit, who told me, and I quote (actually copy and paste) ‘but I have had this reoccurring vision of Johnny, a tree, a nest of newly hatched baby birds, and something about worms...’
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Cheep cheep cheep
The insistent trilling and chirping of baby birds floated in the bedroom window along with the spring breeze. Their shrill warble disturbed Johnny’s nap. He wiggled and squirmed, shoved his behind higher into the air, wadded his apron cape tighter against his ear and pushed his left thumb deeper into his drool crusty mouth. His eyes fluttered open and he looked around sleepily for the source of the noise that woke him up. He pulled his thumb from his mouth with an audible pop, bringing a string of salvia with it. He yawned deeply and scratched at his mussed hair with his left hand, inadvertently drying his thumb in the silky strands.
Cheep cheep cheep
As he achieved full wakefulness he realized the sound he was hearing was coming from outside Papa’s window. Wobbling on the soft mattress as he stood up, Johnny strained forward to get a glimpse out of the window. His eyesight was extremely keen for a child or even an adult and he was able to spy a bird’s nest hidden amongst the leaves on the tree right outside the window. He saw a big bird dipping its head down into the nest, and every time it did the cheeping got louder. Used to seeing baby chicks peck the ground for food like their mama chickens, he didn’t realize what he was seeing, was a mama bird feeding her babies. It looked to him like she was hitting the little birds in the head with her sharp beak. Fearful that the baby birds were being hurt Johnny sounded the alarm.
“Papa! Ha! Come help Johnny!”
Hearing his grandson’s cries of distress, Harlan flew from his room, where he had been taking an afternoon rest. His swift movements belying his age as he rushed to his youngest grandchild’s rescue. He arrived in Murdoch’s bedroom room in a breathless condition.
“What’s the matter my angel?” Ha inquired as he reached for Johnny, his eyes doing a quick check for visible injuries.
“Look , Ha, look,” Johnny exclaimed as he pointed out of the window. “That big bird is hitting the little birds in the head. Make it stop, Ha, that’s not nice!”
Walking to the window for a better vantage point, Harlan squinted as he tried to find the nest of birds he could hear. “That’s the mother bird, Johnny. She’s not hurting her babies, she’s feeding them.”
“Why the bird don’t let them eat off the ground like other chicks?”
“Because they aren’t baby chicks, they’re baby robins; their mother is a robin redbreast. They live in trees so that’s where the mother bird builds her nest. The babies can’t go get their own food until they learn to fly.”
“Why don’t the mama robin build her nest on the ground so the babies can eat like the little yellow chicks?”
“Robins are wild, Johnny, and small. If she built her nest on the ground other animals could get to it easier and kill her babies.”
“But the babies could run away like the little yellow chicks,” Johnny insisted.
“No, son, they can’t. Baby robins are very weak. They depend on their mothers for everything. They can’t fly or walk yet, all they can do is chirp.
“They chirp loud,” Johnny observed from his perch in his grandfather’s arms, as the two stood watching the mother bird leave to scrounge another worm, and then return to feed it to her hatchlings.
“Why is the mama bird putting her beak in the babies’ mouth?”
“She’s feeding them,” replied Ha, pleased that Johnny was curious about one of his favorite pastimes bird watching.
Johnny’s head whipped around and his brow scrunched down over his confused eyes. He leaned forward and studied the birds. “Feeding them what, Ha?”
“Worms. The mama bird finds worms and she cuts them up in her beak and then drops them into the babies’ mouth,” Ha explained in the simplest way he could.
“YUCKY! Worms…why the mama not fed them milk like Mattie feeds the kittens or mama cows feed their babies?”
Ha began to sweat, unsure how to proceed without confusing Johnny or causing some potentially embarrassing anatomy lessons. “Well, only mothers with breasts have milk for their babies.”
“Don’t she got a breast under her feathers? Ha said she was a redbreast.”
Harlan paled as he tried to reason his way out of the situation he found himself in. Finally he decided the truth would have to do. “She doesn’t have milk to feed her babies because she hatched from an egg just like they did. Animals that hatch from eggs don’t have milk so they have to feed their babies other things.”
“Okay,” Johnny replied, satisfied for now with the answer.
Harlan breathed a sigh of relief. He was off the hot seat for now. Hopefully Johnny would soon forget all about this little conversation. “Now how about we leave these birds to their business? How would you like to go outside and play?”
“Yippy!” squealed Johnny.
Following a quick trip to the bathroom and to the Great room to retrieve a book, Ha and Johnny made their way outside. After the near tragedy several weeks earlier when Johnny went missing while playing, due to the actions of Zach Culpepper, Ha had put in a fenced playground for his grandsons. It was situated so that it ran along one side of the house around to the back, near the kitchen so that the boys could play by themselves and be easily monitored from the house. The playground had a nice grassy area, a sand area the children like to dig in, a sturdy set of swings mounted on beams, a seesaw, and a picnic table. There were two large oak trees with limbs spread wide to provide shade.
A gazebo had been built for the convenience and comfort of the adults. In fact it had become a popular gathering place for many of the residents of the ranch. The women like to sit under the shelter to prepare fresh vegetables for canning or cooking. They often brought sewing and mending projects with them as well.
“Good day, ladies,” Harlan greeted Maria, who was shelling beans for supper, and Selena, who was mending clothes, her newborn resting in a basket at her feet. Harlan chose a spot that afforded him a view of Johnny on the swing.
“Good day, Senor Garrett,” Maria replied. “Johnny is up early from his nap. Is he all right?”
“He’s fine. The chirping of the new robins, outside Murdoch’s window, woke him up. I decided to bring him outside and let him expend his energy, and then maybe he’ll sleep well tonight. The three adults fell into a companionable silence, the only sounds heard were the pop of the bean hulls as Maria opened them and the creak of wood and rope as Johnny swung higher and higher.
“Ha, Johnny thirsty and hungry,” complained Johnny as he jumped noisily up the wooden steps of the gazebo, inadvertently waking Selena’s baby, Pedro.
“Waaaaaaaahhhhhhh,” shrieked the unhappy infant.
“Oops, Johnny sorry. Johnny not know the baby was in the basket like Moses.”
“It’s okay, it was time for him to wake up and eat anyway. I’m sure he’s hungry,” Selena replied, as she laid down her mending, and then stood and scooped up her baby, preparing to go in the house. “I’ll take him in the kitchen and feed him.”
“He’s little,” observed Johnny, “What are you going to feed him?”
Selena’s face colored, announcing her embarrassment over the question as she was too shy to discuss nursing in front of mixed company. She tried to be vague in her answer, “I’m going to take Pedro to the kitchen and feed him something.”
Johnny eyed Selena’s slender form. She had not been very well endowed before her pregnancy, and now that she had delivered and was still wearing the blouses she wore while pregnant she looked somewhat shapeless.
“Oh…did Pedro hatch from an egg cause Selena don’t have breasts?” Johnny inquired curiously.
Harlan’s mouth dropped open and he hid his face in his hands. His conversation with Johnny earlier had just come back to haunt him.
Selena gasped loudly, clutched her baby to her small chest and hurried away to the kitchen, muttering in Spanish, about men being men no matter what their age.
Maria snorted and chuckled, “Niño, why would you think Pedro hatched from an egg?”
“I thought babies drank milk like Johnny used to. Selena said she was going to take Pedro to the kitchen and feed him something and Ha said babies that hatch from eggs have to be fed other things by their mamas because they don’t have breasts to give them milk.”
Mirth twinkled in Maria’s eyes as she turned her attention to Harlan. She raised her eyebrows and cocked her head, her expression asking for an explanation.
Harlan wiped nervously at his beet red face, and then stuttered out his answer. “When Johnny saw the mother robin feeding her babies he thought she was hitting them in the head. I explained why animals that hatched from eggs had to feed their babies something besides milk.”
Biting her lips to hold in the uproarious laughter that trembled in her throat in, Maria finally got herself under control and stated, “I’m sure the Patron will love hearing about this.”
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After returning from picking Scott up from school, Murdoch did find the story quite amusing, especially as it had happened to Harlan and not him. His delight doubled when he realized Scott’s uncontrolled giggling and knee slapping was to hide the fact the little blond, didn’t exactly understand what the adults had found so hilarious. When it was suggested it was time to go in the house both boys begged to be allowed to stay in the play yard.
“Papa, may I stay outside? I’ve been stuck in the schoolhouse all day because Day Pardee was acting up in class and most of the other boys followed him, so the teacher made us all stay in at recess and copy a page of math problems to do for homework. I want to sit at the picnic table to do my math…please. “
“All right, you may, we’ll go over your work after supper to make sure you did them correctly.”
Not wanting to go in if Scott didn’t Johnny turned beseeching eyes on his father. “Papa, can Johnny stay outside?” Johnny begged, his little hands clasped in hope, right under his dirt smeared face.
“May I stay outside?” Papa corrected.
Johnny giggled. “Papa don’t have to ask Johnny if Papa can stay out, Papa’s the boss.”
Scott rolled his eyes and shook his head, wisely informing his father, “Johnny’s just a little kid, Papa. He doesn’t understand things like I do.”
Sensing he was being made fun, Johnny became indignant, his blue eyes turned icy, and he dropped his hands down by his sides in an attempt to make his self look taller. “Johnny’s not a little kid. Pedro in the Moses basket is little. Johnny’s a big boy just like Squat Carrot Lancer,” Johnny sassed angrily.
Afraid that if Johnny flew into one of his famous temper tantrums, they would both have to go in the house, Scott decided to concede the battle so he could win the war. “I’m sorry I said that Johnny. I know you’re a big boy and you can do the same things I do.”
“Absolutely,” Papa agreed, pleased that Scott had diffused a potential Johnny fit by agreeing with his baby brother. “You boys stay in this fenced play yard. Ha will be in the Great room and I am going to work in the forge.” Murdoch waited until Johnny ran back off to play and then added, “Scott, please keep an eye on your brother. Shout if you see him about to get in trouble and I’ll come running.”
Scott worked diligently on his math problems, even though he thought it was awful unfair that the whole class was having to paying for Day’s misbehavior. He never liked Day because he was a loud mouthed bully, and he liked him even less now that his former friend Zach Culpepper had decided to be buddies with him. He was pretty sure the kinds of mean things Day and his gang were pulling would only get worse as they got older; they’d probably all end up in jail one day, or maybe even dead, hunted down and shot by a posse…maybe a posse Scott himself led!
Scott’s day dream screeched to a halt as he saw Johnny running zigzag around the yard chasing Mattie, the cat. Mattie flew by the table, where Scott sat, with something held firmly in her mouth. Johnny was hot on her heels, screaming for the cat to stop. Mattie headed for the gate and slipped through a gap in the opening. Johnny managed to grab her tail and yank. Mattie meowed furiously and when she opened her mouth the bird caught therein escaped, flying away towards the barn.
Fearing Johnny would try to open the gate latch and continue his chase; Scott jumped up and raced to the fence. “Don’t you open that gate, Johnny! You know the rule. We only go through the gate with an adult. The only way you leave the play yard is by going back in to the house so someone will know where you are.”
“Squat, Mattie tried to eat the mama robin. Now she flied away…and the baby birds will be hungry!” Johnny explained with a worried scowl on his face.
Sighing heavily, the put upon big brother offered up some older and wiser brother advice. “The robin will come back later, Johnny, when she feels like it’s safe.”
“But the babies are hungry now! Johnny can hear them.”
“Well, they’ll just have to wait for their mama,” Scott advised. Seeing the petulant look on the toddler’s face he knew he needed to get Johnny’s attention on something else, if he had any hopes of getting his homework done so he could play as well. “Why don’t you help the mama bird by getting your bucket and shovel and digging up the worms for her so she won’t have to look for them when she comes back? You can leave them at the bottom of the tree so she can find them.”
Excited by the thoughts of helping the robin, Johnny whirled around and ran towards the sandbox, within five steps he had twirled around and reversed directions heading back to Scott. “Squat, how many worms does Johnny need to dig?”
Cocking his head and turning his nose up with an intelligent air, Scott raised his right hand and tapped his lips with his index finger. “Well now that depends on how many birds there are.”
“There’s four babies, Squat.”
“I’d say at least ten worms,” Scott replied with a knowing nod of his head.
Johnny studied his brother intently as he handed out his sage advice. “Ten worms? Johnny can find ten worms fast and Johnny can count to ten. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10,” Johnny demonstrated as he hop from one foot to the other as he counted.
Realizing he would never finish his math sheet until Johnny was occupied Scott elaborated and added to his original answer. “No, Johnny, you don’t understand. You need ten worms for each baby.”
Johnny’s happy bouncing ceased, and concern colored his face. “How many worms is that, Squat? Johnny don’t think Johnny can count that much.”
“It’s like counting by ten, Johnny. See my hand, pretend like each finger is worth ten.” Scott held up four fingers, one for each baby, and then began to lower the fingers as he counted them off. 10 20 30 40. You need forty worms.”
“That’s a lot, Squat!”
“Forty is only a lot when it’s in years or dollars,” Scott replied in his best scholarly voice.
“Johnny not know how to count to forty.”
“That’s okay you can count to four and ten, right? So make four piles and put ten worms in each.” Seeing the confusion on Johnny’s face, Scott explained further, “Think of it this way, Johnny. Each little bird should have its own plate to eat from and on each plate will be ten worms.”
Johnny’s eyes twinkled as his sharp little mind quickly grasped the concept. “Ohhhhh…” he exclaimed as he raced towards the sandbox to get his shovel.
Scott watched with a satisfied smirk on his face that he was able to divert Johnny’s attention on to something as harmless as digging worms. He would learn the fallacy of his plan later but for now he sauntered cockily to the picnic table to finish his homework.
Johnny dug in the sandbox for a few minutes, dismayed that he was not finding any worms. He was about to run back to Scott for help when he remembered worms liked to be in wet black dirt. There had been lots of them in the dark soil when he had helped Mamacita dig holes to plant flowers along the back section of the white picket fence surrounding the play yard.
Jumping up, Johnny rushed to the fence, dropped to his knees and began to dig around the beautiful flowers growing along the wooden pickets. He crowed in delight at all the worms he found wiggling amongst the base of the plants. In his vigorous exuberance his little metal shovel cut through tender roots and his hands broke off leaves and blooms as he captured worms, pulling their squiggly bodies from the moist dirt.
Johnny laid the worms to his side as he found them and turned back to his work of unintentionally destroying the flowerbed. When he thought he had enough he turned, preparing to count them, much to his aggravation he saw only three worms. While he had been busy finding them, the ones he had laid aside had been just as busy escaping.
Standing up Johnny stomped his foot, he needed something to put the worms in so they couldn’t crawl away and get back in the dirt. He pursued his lips, dropped his chin to his chest and wrapped his arms around his torso as he pondered the problem. A slow smile inched across his face as the answer became clear. Squat said each baby would need ten worms on their plate. He would go get a plate for each bird and put the worms on them as he found them.
Scott looked up as Johnny raced by the table and disappeared through the kitchen door, and then turned his attention back to his work. He was double checking each math problem as he did them. He wanted to surprise Papa by not having any errors on his paper.
Johnny slowed his steps as he crossed the threshold, mindful of Papa’s rule about not running in the house. The kitchen was empty, but he could hear Mamacita talking with Ha as their voices floated in from the Great room. Since Mamacita was busy Johnny decided to get the plates he needed himself. He walked over to the sideboard and reached for one of the blue and white dishes that they used at all their meals. His hand stalled in midair as he thought how upset Mamacita might be if he took one because she had fussed at him just last week for digging with one of her big spoons, scolding and telling him not to take things from her kitchen that she used every day. Ha had fixed the problem of having something to dig with by buying him and Scott small buckets and little gardening spades to dig with.
Frowning in deep concentration, Johnny tried to work out a solution for this problem. Shifting from one foot to the other, and then rubbing a small dimpled finger along the side of his nose, in an imitation of his father, a cheerful smile split his serious countenance when he spied the answer to his problem. He pushed a chair up to the china hutch and reached for the ornate Minton dinner plates, but changed his mind at the last second and took the smaller saucers instead. These were perfect; they were small and best of all they didn’t use them every day so Mamacita surely wouldn’t mind. Jumping down from the chair, Johnny scurried back outside.
Scott was so involved in his computations he just did register when Johnny ran by headed back to the fence. He didn’t realize the toddler had anything in his hands. He just assumed his little brother had rushed in to the bathroom and was now returning to play.
Arriving back at the fence Johnny set the saucers down in the muddy soil he had tilled while looking for worms earlier. Picking up his shovel he began to scoop out holes in the flower bed looking for worms. His little pink tongue peeked out the corner of his mouth as he concentrated on his mission. His tiny fingers grew filthy from poking into the wet soil to pull out fat wiggly night crawlers. He dropped the worms onto the saucers along with bits of dirt. Pausing every once in a while to wipe a grubby hand across his face leaving smears and smudges of black. When he had worked long enough to acquire a squirmy mass of worms, he plopped down on his behind in the flower bed to begin counting. Noticing how grubby his hands looked, he scrubbed them against his light blue shirt.
“1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10,” Johnny muttered as he pulled worms from his pile and dropped them onto a plate. He frowned as he noticed some of them were stilling crawling away to get back in the dirt. He groaned, becoming frustrated by the problem. He was just about to holler for Squat’s help when he decided maybe if he put some dirt on the saucer too the worms would stay put. Picking up a handful of dirt in each hand Johnny pressed it down on the worms, he smiled as that stopped their escape for now. He quickly counted out the worms for the other plates and tamped them down with soil as well. He was delighted to see he had some left over worms, so he saved them for later by putting them in his pocket.
Johnny studied his culinary masterpieces of mud and worms, now he had a new problem. How was he going to get the four dishes up the tree to the baby birds? The saucers were too big to fit in his pockets and besides he already had the leftover worms in one pocket. He scratched an itch on his neck as he thought about it and that action provided his answer. The dirt caked on his fingers broke loose and trickled past his collar down in to his shirt, coming to rest at his belly button.
Sighing with relief that he had a solution, Johnny unbuttoned his shirt, picked up a plate and pressed it against his torso. He had just enough room to fit a second dish, but he was too small to fit the others on his chest. He didn’t think Scott would agree to help him by putting the plates in his clothes because Scott didn’t like to get dirty. He sat there chewing his lip trying to reason it out when the answer came to him. He could press the other two plates to the backs of the ones already in his shirt. Chortling in delight, Johnny did just that, and then buttoned back up and stood and made his way to the oak tree.
Standing under the tree, Johnny could hear the hungry peeps and trills of the baby birds. He had to find a way to get the food to the babies. He wondered if he could throw the worms to them, reaching in his pocket he pulled out one of the slick night crawlers and tossed it up. The worm went up, up, up, and then came down, down, down, and landed with a plop on the bridge of his little nose. Johnny sneezed as some bits of dry earth went in his nose. Wiping his nose across his sleeve leaving a shiny trail littered with dirt he decided he would just have to climb the tree.
Walking around to the backside of the tree, where a low branch hung down Johnny reached for the limb but he was too short. He needed something to stand on. Spying the bucket Mamacita used to carry water to her flowers, Johnny ran, plates clinking together as he did, and grabbed the bucket. It was full of water so he tipped it over and stood there as it spilled over his boots. When the bucket was empty he picked it up and ran with boots squishing back to the tree. Scott looked up and saw him racing to the tree with the pail. He didn’t think anything of it as they had never been told not to play with it, so he turned his attention back to his work, never dreaming what trouble Johnny would get into with the bucket.
Arriving back at the tree, resembling a mud creature that had just risen from the swamp, Johnny turned the bucket over and stepped up on it. Now he was just the right height to grab the branch. With a grunt Johnny latched onto the limb and pulled his self up. His little legs swung in the air as he fought to get his body up on the branch. Finally he hefted his chest onto the limb, he heard a crack and pop but he thought it was the tree, he didn’t realize one of the plates had broken in two due to the stress of being pressed against the hard oak wood. He continued to struggle, his mouth open and panting as he managed to get his legs straddled over the limb.
Johnny rested a minute before scooting down the length of the branch to the main trunk of the tree where he was able to stand up. The hard part was done he thought. The branches of the tree were plentiful and not spaced very far apart, so he was able to scale the tree limbs like a ladder. He wound around and around the trunk as he looked for the best branches to get to the bird’s nest. Arriving at his destination he lowered himself to straddle the branch. He pulled his bottom along the length of rough bark covered tree as he slowly made his way to the nest.
Peering down into the nest, Johnny smiled at the chirping babies. Their heads were thrown back and their mouths were wide open, as they peeped and bobbed their heads up and down. “Hi birdies,” Johnny said, and then giggled as they chirped even louder. “Johnny broughted some food for you.”
Realizing he would need both hands to unbutton his shirt and get out the plates, Johnny wrapped his legs tightly around the tree and balanced himself. Carefully, with slow deliberate movements he unbuttoned his shirt all the way to his waist. Reaching in he began to pull out a saucer, but much to his displeasure he saw the action was scraping the dirt and worms off. He tried to lean forward so the dirt and worms would fall back into place. The angle was just enough to unbalance him and much to his terror he pitched over and found himself hanging upside down by his legs. He trembled in fright he needed to get back up on the limb. He began to swing his body trying to get his hands up near the branch. As he swung the saucers full of his mud and worms creation slipped from his shirt.
The sound of a crash and shattering glass caused Scott to jerk his head up, glancing all around for the source of the noise. To his surprise he saw something white fall from the foliage of the oak tree followed by two more round white objects he recognized as saucers. The earth bound items struck the roots of the tree and exploded into a cacophony of sound and jagged pieces.
Scott jumped up from the table screaming for his father and grandfather as he rushed to the tree. He was sure Johnny was the cause of the phenomenon of the flying plates.
“PAPA! HA! PAPA! HA!”
Scott’s screams for help were joined by the loud wailing and screeching of Johnny as he fought to right himself.
His boots crunched on the bits of broken dishes as Scott skidded to a stop and looked up into the tree. He saw Johnny swinging upside down by his legs, scrabbling madly to get back on the branch. His eyes widened in horror because it looked like Johnny’s legs were slipping. Holding up his arms as though he could actually catch his baby brother, Scott screamed so loud he was sure it was shaking the leaves off the tree because he felt something land in his hair.
The first call of alarm had Murdoch dropping his hammer and racing towards the play yard, his leather smithy apron flapping around his long legs as they pumped in their galloping stride. In the bathroom, Ha nearly tripped head first into the tub as he whirled around and away from the commode, trying to pull his pants up at the same time. Mamacita was so startled by the eardrum bursting screams she dropped the bowl of cake batter she had been beating with a wooden spoon.
The three adults were on the way to what they were sure would be the rescue of the youngest Lancer since evidently Scott was the one requesting help. Mamacita emerged from the kitchen door as Ha appeared out of the French door. They saw that Murdoch, in his haste to get to his distraught son, didn’t even attempt go around to the gate he merely sailed over the fence in a running jump.
Scott was staring up into the tree looking as white faced as a ghost when his father abruptly stopped by him, further crushing the broken saucers into tinier shards. Murdoch didn’t even have time to ask what was wrong as another distressed shriek rent the air. Looking up he saw Johnny hanging upside down, ten feet above him. In the very next second the toddler was falling headfirst through the foliage of the tree. He landed with a grunt and a plop right in his Papa’s out stretched arms.
The thoughts of what a drop from that high up could have done to his baby had Murdoch squeezing the little one tightly to his chest. Even through the leather apron he wore he could feel a curious squishing and give to Johnny’s chest. Fear coursed coldly through his veins causing him to break out in a cold sweat as he worried that Johnny had done some damage to himself.
Clutching the baby securely to his body, Murdoch turned and marched, with Scott on his heels, quickly to the picnic table, where just as he laid Johnny down Mamacita and Ha breathlessly joined him.
“Is he all right?” the two newcomers asked in unison, having witnessed the spectacular fall and catch.
“I don’t know, his abdomen feels funny,” Murdoch informed them in a trembling voice as he snatched the tail of the toddler’s shirt from his pants so he could pull the unbuttoned shirt all the way open for a look.
“Ewwwwwwwwww...” gagged Scott. “That is gross!”
“What in the world?” queried Ha, as he caught a glimpse?
“Ay yi yi, what has the niño done now?” clucked Maria, in her worried mother hen tone.
The assembled group all stared in disgust at Johnny’s dirt coated with worms squirming in it, decorated chest. Then they noticed the filthy condition of the rest of the little boy. He looked like he had fallen into the hog pen and had been trampled by the pigs, and then rolled in the mud.
“Young man, what have you been doing?” Papa questioned in an exasperated tone.
“Johnny been trying to feed the baby birds,” the youngest Lancer stated happily. He then launched into a recount of Mattie scaring off the mama bird so he had dug the worms for her babies, but he had trouble keeping the worms so he had borrowed the plates, then he counted the worms just like Squat told him, and used the bucket to climb the tree, and that then he accidentally dropped the plates but they weren’t the everyday plates, and then finally how he fell out the tree but Papa caught him.
With each revelation of his adventures, the family’s head snapped from one location in the yard to another. They took in the destruction of the flower beds, the broken and uprooted flowers and the holes pitting the ground. They saw the mini-flood where the bucket had sat before it was emptied and moved to the tree. When Maria spied the shattered remains of the Minton china on the roots of the oak, she threw her hands up, muttering in English and Spanish for the yard to be restored before supper or there would be no dessert for anyone, and then she marched back inside.
The family was becoming quite experienced at shaking off the shock of the minor catastrophes that Johnny managed to get into, it wasn’t so hard to do especially when the toddler made it through unscathed. Tugging Johnny up, Murdoch handed him to Ha.
“Ha, you take Johnny in and give him a bath. Scott, you grab a spade and re-plant the flowers and fill in those holes. I’ll clean up this glass,” Murdoch instructed as he took control by calling the tune.
Before anyone could move, a flash of brown dipped down from the air and plucked a worm from Scott’s golden hair. The robin flew off to her nest much to Johnny’s glee as he announced, “Yippy the mama bird is back, now Johnny don’t have to feed her babies.”
All was right with Johnny’s world again with the return of the robin…or it would be when his family finished repairing the destruction caused by his latest adventure.
September 24, 2008