Johnny Lancer and the Terrible, Horrendous, Not Fun, Very Bad Day
Disclaimer: I don’t care if they aren’t mine! I don’t care if they are supposed to be looked at but don’t touch! I don’t care what group of acronym letter people thinks they own them; maybe I’ll sue them for neglect!
Author’s Note: This story was born from the miseries of a not very nice week that culminated in a rolled Avalanche and a blown up clothes dryer on Friday, September 21. I had to get my frustrations out or I was absolutely gonna explode, causing my head to become unattached from my body, my blood to rise and gush like a geyser from the gaping hole my missing head left, and then I would spontaneously combust!!!! I was inspired to write away my aggravation while reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good , Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Johnny Lancer, three years old woke up wet, his nightshirt was bunched up in his armpits, his blanket wadded up at the foot of his bed, leaving him trembling in the cold morning air. Next he realized his apron cape was missing. Sitting up he tried to pull his sleep shirt down, and managed to unbalance himself. He pitched forward and cracked his head on the wooden spindles of his crib. He was just getting ready to wail out his frustrations; face pressed miserably against the bars of the crib sides when he glanced down and spied his beloved apron cape on the floor.
It looked like a long ways from his bed to the floor where his apron cape lay, but Johnny was pretty sure if he laid down flat, stuck his hand through the slats, and really stretched his arm, he could reach it. Try as he might, he could not make his small limb long enough to grasp the item. And to make matters worse, his shoulder and arm had become wedged between the mattress, and the side of his bed. He was trapped, he was wet, he was cold and he was without the benefit of his little scrap of security…wwaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Murdoch jerked awake, as his youngest son’s cry split the air. He fought the blankets wrapped tightly about his still sleep befuddled body. Finally freeing himself he had to chuckle, as he was able to focus his attention on Johnny, and could see what a sorry state the toddler was in. He stumbled to the crib to rescue his baby from his latest predicament.
“Oh, Johnny, how do you manage to get yourself in these situations?” Murdoch’s large calloused hands gently prodded and pulled until he had Johnny’s arm loose, he crinkled his nose at the stale urine smell wafting from the little body. “How about you sit right here for a second, and let Papa put on his clothes, and then will go make use of that new bathroom Ha had installed. You can play with your boats in the tub while I shave.”
Dressing quickly, Murdoch then turned his attention to gathering Johnny’s clothes for the day. He hummed softly to himself as he worked; thinking about how convenient the new fangled water closet, Ha had insisted they needed, had turned out to be. It was nice not having to drag the boys out in the weather for bathing and outhouse visits. His happy ruminations were disrupted by Johnny’s loud compliant.
“NO! Papa! Johnny not want those pants. Johnny want brown pants.”
“Your brown pants are dirty. These pants have pockets just like the others; the only difference is they are blue.”
“No, Johnny not like them,” he declared with a petulant pout.
“Little man, if you sass me one more time, you’re really going to have something to not like. Do I make myself clear?” Papa stated, with his eyebrows arched for emphasis.
“This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
Murdoch stifled his mirth over Johnny’s mangled version of Scott’s favorite phrase that he liked to use when he was upset. He lifted the toddler from the bed, and placed him on the floor. Johnny quickly bent over to retrieve his apron cape, pushing on his Papa’s leg as the corner of it was caught under his big foot.
The little boy had become attached to the apron and now toted it like a security blanket. He had even started calling it his wee-wahs. It had taken Scott to figure out that wee-wahs was actually supposed to be the word Maria’s, but it had been muffled and contorted by the presence of Johnny’s thumb in his mouth.
Father and son made their way down the hall to the large tiled bathroom. Murdoch briefly considered moving on further to Scott’s room and waking him, but decided to let him sleep, since he and Johnny were up earlier than needed. He could shave, and get Johnny bathed and dressed before waking Scott for school. Murdoch ran a couple of inches of water into the tub, despite Johnny’s pleas to fill it up to the top, stripped the little one, and placed him in the bath with his boats.
Johnny loved to talk and sing in the new modern convenience; he liked hearing his voice echo off the tiled walls and floor. He enjoyed bathing in the tub, as big as it was, and as small as he was, he was able to swim in it. He especially enjoyed playing with the collection of wooden boats that Ha had spoiled both boys with. However, for some reason the youngest Lancer steadfastly refused to use the commode, preferring to use a chamber pot which was then emptied into the toilet.
What the rest of the family did not know was; Johnny was afraid of the cold feeling commode. The first day the bathroom was ready for use both boys had been eager to use, in fact they had visited the room more times than they actually needed. Johnny had slipped quietly into the room one time, and had inspected every little nook and cranny in it. In his explorations he had climbed onto the seat of the toilet, and stretched until he was able to grasp the chain to the water tank suspended above it on the wall. The roar of the water as it rushed down into the bowl, combined with the rumble as the water flushed from the commode through the valve into the sewage pipe, had startled the youngest Lancer. He thought there was a monster living in the toilet because all the noises, together, sounded like a big bear growling while his head stuck down in water. Since then he had viewed the fixture with a wary eye.
Murdoch moved over to the sink and began preparing a shaving cup of lather, while Johnny splashed happily with his boats, he shaved. He saw Scott, through the view in the mirror, stumble into the room, rubbing at sleep crusted eyes, as he made his way to the commode. The sleepy little blond hiked up his nightshirt and began to empty his bladder. He was still not fully awake, and when he yawned largely, his body shook in response to the action, he lost the grip on his shirt. It fell down, interrupting the stream of urine, causing it to run down his legs. That brought the eight year old wide awake with a whine and a grumble.
“Scott, son, wake up and pay attention to what you’re doing. Get undressed and hop in the tub with Johnny, that’s the quickest way for you to clean up. I’ll go get you some clothes from your room. Keep an eye on Johnny.” Papa instructed as he strode from the room.
Stripping off the soiled clothes, Scott turned to the bathtub when he remembered he didn’t flush. He reached up and grabbed the chain dangling from the water tank and gave it a good tug. The racket from the rush and roar of moving water startled Johnny. His head popped up over the side of the tub, blue eyes wide and frightened, he whimpered and began to clamber over the side, intending to run for his life.
Scott saw the fear on his baby brother’s face; and was confused by it, because he knew nothing much scared the little boy. He pondered on it a second, and decided to find out why he was afraid of the toilet…besides it might be something he could tease him about, after all it was his job as the big brother. A bright smirk crawled across the blonds’ mouth, he could hear Papa and Ha talking in the hall; he had a chance to try before Papa came back.
“You better not get out of the tub, Johnny. You’re supposed to be taking a bath.” Scott climbed in, plopping down in the water with a splash. He frowned at the small amount of water in the tub. He liked the water deep, but if Johnny was in the tub they could only have a small amount because he splashed so much, and they said he might drown. Scott thought that was ridiculous, Johnny swam like a fish in the horse trough.
“Why are you so scared of the commode, Johnny?”
“Johnny not like it, Johnny not scared,” he denied, as he glared at his big brother.
“Then why won’t you use it?”
“Cause Johnny not like it!”
“Well, why don’t you like it?” questioned Scott, his face displaying his amusement. “It can’t hurt you. It’s not alive.”
“Yeah huh…it is alive, it growled at Johnny, and swallowed all the water.”
Glancing towards the doorway to make sure Papa wasn’t coming; Scott decided to have a little fun at Johnny’s expense. He knew he would probably get in trouble, but sometimes the deed was worth the cost.
“No, Johnny, the toilet is not alive. It’s the stinky monster that lives at the bottom of it that’s alive. He’s the one the growls and swallows all the water. You see he eats stinky, and if you don’t feed him some every day he’ll do more than growl at you. He might swim up and crawl out of the commode, and come get you!”
“What the monster look like, Squat?” Johnny inquired, as his faced paled, and he trembled.
Enjoying the look of horror, he was able to draw from his little brother, Scott expounded on the terrifying attributes of the stinky eating monster. “The monster is as long as that big pipe we watched those men put it. It looks like a giant snake, but it has scales like a fish. Its mouth is this big around,” Scott demonstrated, making a large hoop shape with his arms. “He has blood red eyes, and sharp yellow teeth.” Relishing the growing look of wild terror on the little dare devil’s normally stoic face, Scott erred and over played his hand with his next statement.
“He can smell you, and if you don’t take your turn feeding him…he can swim through the pipes, and come up in the tub and get you when you washing, because other than stinky, the only other thing he eats is little boys.” Scott grinned evilly and pulled the drain plug, which cause the water to bubble up, and make a glub glub sound, as it started to slip down the pipe.
Johnny screamed in terror, and madly scrambled to get out of the bath. Scott tried to get hold of his baby brother, but he was wet, and too slick to hold on to. In the chaos that ensued, Johnny used the hot water lever as a hand hold to pull himself up. Scott was in the process of lunging forward to capture him, just as Johnny dropped over the side, the hot water shot from the faucet he had accidently opened. Scott shrieked as the hot water flowed over his hand and arm.
Papa and Ha collided and wedged themselves in the bathroom doorway, as they both tried to rush to the rescue. Johnny’s wet feet hit the tiled floor, and flew out from under him, sending him crashing down. He was sucking in air to holler, when Scott jumped out to avoid the blast of hot water, and landed on him.
A loud grunt, oomph, and pop preceded the release of the bodies stuck in the doorway. Murdoch rushed across the room to his sons. He pulled Scott up and set him back on his feet, and then scooped up the frantic flailing body of his youngest. Ha reached and flipped the lever for the hot water back into the closed position.
“What in the world is going on in here?” Papa demanded, as he cuddled a shaking, crying Johnny to his chest.
Realizing he was most likely going to be in trouble, Scott tried to direct the attention onto Johnny. “Johnny turned on the hot water and burned my hand and arm.”
“Johnny what do you have to say?” Papa questioned, he scowled, as he made eye contact with the still snubbing and hiccoughing little one.
“This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
Ha snickered, Scott snorted, and Papa just rolled his eyes and said, “Well how about before you leave for Boston, tell me what makes this a terrible, horrendous, not fun, very bad day.”
Puckering up with a fresh round of tears, Johnny explained all about the stinky monster. Scott tried to slip unnoticed from the bathroom in all his naked glory. But alas it was hard to blend into the dark blue tiles, even if his normal paleness was tinged with a blush of pink, head to toes, and he was caught before he could get away.
“Stand right there, young man, don’t you move another step!”
The two adults shook their heads over the unfolding tale. While they were proud and pleased that Scott had such a creative mind, they were not happy he had employed it to worry and frighten his little brother. Papa handed Johnny over to Ha, so he could explain all about the commode and how it worked, while he escorted Scott to his room for a talk.
Scott sat pushing his breakfast around his plate. His eyes were red-rimmed, and he sniffed disconsolately, as he thought about the lecture and three pops to his bare backside that Papa had administered for his attitude. Truth be told, his feelings were more hurt than his behind. He had tried to divert Papa’s attention by showing him the arm that the hot water had ‘burned’, but his father wouldn’t ‘buy that line of bull’ cause his skin wasn’t even red anymore.
The noise of Ha and Johnny coming down the staircase singing Jack Be Nimble, and the thump of grandfather’s boots as he landed on the next step every time he said jump, drew their attention to the other two members of the family. Ha and Johnny arrived in the kitchen all smiles and giggles, and Scott felt compelled to frown at his baby brother, as well as stick his tongue out, which did not sit well with Johnny, and he let his displeasure be known.
“Squat, you is a bad carrot. Ha say there not no stinky monster, and he gonna give Johnny a piece of candy every time I use the…the…toe-let.”
“It’s a toilet, dummy, so just shut up,” groused a pouting Scott.
“Scott Garrett Lancer, do not call your brother a dummy, and we don’t tell people to shut up, either. Now get done with your breakfast so you can go to school.” Murdoch ordered, as he filled a plate for Johnny with eggs, bacon, and biscuits, and placed it in front of him.
“Johnny not want this. Johnny want juice and cookies.”
“No sir, we do not have cookies for breakfast,” glowered Murdoch, growing weary of the recalcitrant attitudes displayed by his sons.
Ha in an attempt to smooth things over tried to placate Johnny by promising him a cookie when his plate was empty. So Johnny promptly grabbed the edge of his dish and dumped the food on the table, which earned his hand a pop from Papa.
“This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
“You’re going to go to the corner, if you don’t straighten up and eat your breakfast,” was Papa’s reply, as he filled the plate again.
Breakfast was endured in a less than sunny atmosphere. Murdoch was glad of the chance to get out of the house to take Scott to school. Father and son rushed out the door, when the supply wagon they were taking to town arrived at the back of the house. Ha rose from the table, plopped Johnny on his hip, and strolled to the counter to retrieve the promised treat from the cookie jar.
After a morning of practicing his letter and numbers with Ha, Johnny was allowed to accompany Cipriano to the corral. Cip saddled the boy’s pony, All Mine, and let him ride around the fenced area without a lead. Afterwards he was given the brush and curry comb, and supervised as he groomed his pony. By lunchtime Johnny was too tired to walk all the way back to the house, so he arrived for his noon meal riding piggy back on Cipriano.
Over-tired little boys are sometimes hard to please, and Johnny proved it by being displeased with everything offered for lunch. It was a good thing Papa wasn’t there or he would have fixed his plate, instead of trying to reason with him like grandfather.
Johnny finally agreed to eat some ham and beans, after loudly declaring between disappointed sobs, “This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
Ha smiled and encouraged him to eat his lunch. Thirty minutes later, wearing as much food as he ate, Johnny’s head began to nod, and his body to weave as he fought sleep. Try as they might, Ha and Maria could not get him to wake up to coordinate his limbs enough to drink his cup of milk. Mamacita poured the milk into a bottle and handed it to Ha.
Ha pulled Johnny’s high chair away from the table and lifted the sleepy toddler, and draped him over his shoulder. Warm little arms twined trustingly around his neck, as Johnny snuggled his head near Ha’s face. The feeling in the grandfather’s heart was as light and carefree, as the breath dancing across his cheek from the beloved baby.
Humming softly, Ha walked into the great room heading for the rocking chair. He eased down into the seat, positioned Johnny in his arms, and placed the bottle in his mouth. By the time the bottle was empty, Johnny was sound asleep. Standing up, Ha indulged in another cuddle and hug before he laid the little one on the couch to nap, while he went over paper work at the desk.
Two hours later the little whirlwind was awake. While playing he knocked books off the shelf, bumped his head crawling under the chairs at the table, turned over the ink bottle, ripped a page in the ledger, and pulled the cushions off the sofa. Ha decided it was time to play outside after Johnny grabbed the fireplace poker, brandished it about like a sword, knocking over several glasses on the liquor cart, shattering them.
Settling into one of the wicker chairs on the patio, Ha instructed Johnny to stay within his sight while he played, and then opened the book he had brought outside. Johnny straddled one of the stone benches and pretended it was his horse, and he was chasing bank robbers, shooting them with a stick he had found, that was the basic outline shape of a gun. Growing tired of that game, he placed his gun in his waistband, and made a game of seeing how far out he could jump from a standing position on the bench. He abandoned that game, after the third time his booted feet slipped on the stones, sending him crashing with a bruising landing. He rubbed at his tender backside as he looked from something else to do.
Johnny realized Ha had become engrossed in his book. He wandered to the edge of the patio, and scampered up the bare rose arbor. He was sitting on top, his legs dangling between two supports when the grandfather realized it was too quiet. Ha stood up and scanned the area looking for Johnny, he heard him giggle, and looked up.
“Johnny, how in the world did you get up there?”
“I see that. Sit still and I will come retrieve you.”
“This not a tree, Ha,” stated a confused Johnny
“I meant to say don’t move. I will lift you down from there.”
Ha approached the arbor, and was reaching up to grasp Johnny’s legs, when the little boy gracefully dropped into his arms. There was no hesitation or doubt on his part that his grandfather would catch him.
“I caught you, you little monkey,” laughed Ha, as Johnny snuggled trustingly against him. “Now you go find something else to do that keeps you closer to the ground, little one.”
Johnny ran off in search of new adventures. A glitter and sparkle on the ground capture his attention, and he was thrilled to find it was a marble reflecting in the sun. He promptly slipped it into his pocket after inspecting his treasure thoroughly. He decided to hunt for more prizes, and occupied himself for quite a while, filling his pockets with small sticks, stones, leaves and other tiny debris.
When the call of nature beckoned, Johnny glanced to see what Ha was doing, and then scooted to the edge of the patio where a big barrel shaped, stone planter sat. He quickly watered the zinnias growing in it, as he was pulling his pants back up he noticed a mound of dirt piled against the back of the planter.
Once his clothes were back in place he dropped down to the ground for a closer look. Little rust colored ants were marching in a straight line towards the mound carrying little white things. Intrigued by their busy work, Johnny watched as they climbed over any obstacle in the way. He was curious about what would happen if bigger objects blocked their path, and began placing rocks and leaves from his pockets in their way. He giggled as they merely crawled over the impediments.
Johnny wondered if they could go over his marble, he retrieved it from his pocket and dropped it on the patio, the uneven surfaced caused it to roll away from the spot he intended, right into the edge of the dirt hill the ants were headed for. He reached to pick up his marble, using his whole hand, instead of trying to grasp it with his index finger and thumb. The awkward movement caused the fine dirt he brushed with his fingers to cascade down on to his hand, bringing a swarm of angry devil ants with it.
Shaking his arm to dislodge the insects proved futile, but Johnny was unconcerned until he felt the first stinging bite. He whimpered and jerked, as he got back up off the ground. When the pain intensified, as he received more and more bites, he let loose with a blood curdling scream. He took off running for Ha, who had jumped from his chair and was on the way to the rescue.
Papa and Scott had been passing under the Lancer arch when the first shriek filled the air. Breaking his own rule about not coming into the yard at a breakneck pace, Murdoch sped the wagon up. It came to a stop right next to the patio, in time for him to see Harlan snatch Johnny up and begin slapping at his hands.
“Help me, Murdoch. The baby has ants all over his hand and arm.”
Murdoch raced to the pair, and pulled a kicking and screaming Johnny from Ha’s arms and ran for the horse trough, swiping at the ants, as he went. Arriving at the trough, he dunked Johnny’s right arm in the cold water, all the way up to the shoulder, and brushed at the insects to remove them. The youngest Lancer continued to kick and wail, so much so to the point Papa lost his grip and dropped him in the horse trough.
Johnny popped right back up from the wet depths of the trough, his silky black hair plastered to his head, water running in rivulets down his perturbed face, and growled, “This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
The youngest Lancer climbed over the side of the trough, and landed with a thud in the dry dirt causing it to lift in a filthy cloud and settle on his drenched clothes and body.
Papa shook off his astonishment, and plucked his little one up off the ground. “I was going to ask how your day went, but I’m not sure I want to hear it.”
Johnny shivered as the cool breeze cut through his wet clothes prompting Papa to announce he needed a bath to help him warm up, and to clean-up.
The family trouped in the house, and managed to make it up the stairs before Mamacita could find out about the latest Johnny fiasco. Ha stopped in Johnny’s room to procure a set of dry clothes. Papa, Scott and Johnny continued on to the bathroom.
Papa stood Johnny by the tub, and then turned the water on to get the right temperature flow. Scott went to use the toilet. He was walking back over to his father and brother when Papa began to strip Johnny.
“Johnny you need to open your hand so I can get your sleeve over it,” Papa instructed as he struggled to get relieve Johnny of his wet shirt.
“Look, Papa. Johnny finded a marble,” Johnny revealed, opening his tiny hand to show the glass sphere and two dead ants.
Scott’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open, “That’s my marble. I lost it outside, give it back!”
“NO! JOHNNY’S MARBLE!”
The blond ran towards his brother, he stepped in the growing puddle from Johnny’s dripping clothes, lost his footing and skidded into his father and baby brother. Johnny fell back striking his father’s mouth with his head, which made Papa go limp and sprawl out on the floor. His long legs tripped Ha, who contrary to house rules was running to ascertain what the latest commotion was about. Grandfather tripped on Papa’s legs, accidently knocking the children over. Johnny lost his grip on the coveted marble, and it went flying through the air and landed with a ping in the big claw foot tub, in their crazed scramble to get to the tub, Scott kicked Ha on his temple and Johnny stepped on Papa’s crotch.
Ear piercing loud shrieks of dismay echoed off the tiled walls of the bathroom as the two little Lancers saw their marble twirl around the rim of the drain, and then disappear down the pipe with the steady flow of water from the faucet.
“Look what you did, Squat! You made Johnny’s marble get losted.”
“That was my marble. You know Papa won’t let you have any yet because you put them in your mouth, and throw them. Marbles are for big boys, not babies,” sneered Scott.
“Wwaaaaahhhhhhh,” Johnny cried, “This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
Papa and Ha groaned.
Ha helped Scott with his homework while Johnny took his bath, by suppertime everyone was in a better mood whether they looked it or not. They certainly appeared battle worn, Papa with his lip split by Johnny’s head. Ha with a purple bruise on his temple from Scott’s boot, and Johnny with his hand covered in angry red ant bites. Sitting in the cozy atmosphere of love and togetherness, the family enjoyed their evening meal.
After eating they gathered in the great room and the boys played, while Murdoch and Harlan discussed the day’s events. Murdoch snickered over the antics Harlan relayed from Johnny’s day. He compared the youngest one’s actions to having a wild horse loose in the house, and secretly wondered if they would have him tamed by the time he hit his teen years.
Bedtime was nearing, and in an effort to help the boys wind down, so they would be relaxed enough to get to sleep, Papa pulled Scott into his lap, and Ha pulled Johnny up into the rocker with him, and they asked about their day.
Scott replied he had a nice day. He received his spelling word list and they were all words he already knew. He made a perfect score on his math test. He was reading a story about a horse in reading group that was really interesting, and best of all he beat all the other boys in a footrace at recess.
“And what about you, Johnny, did you have a nice day?” Papa inquired
Johnny dropped his head, wrapped his little arms around his torso and thought for a moment, then raising his head he replied, “Nope, Johnny not have good day. Johnny not have no brown pants to wear. Johnny got stuck in the bed and wetted it. Squat told Johnny a lie bout the stinky monster and scareded Johnny. No have cookies for breakfast, and Papa pop Johnny hand. The ants bited Johnny and Papa throwed Johnny in the water…Johnny’s marble went down the water hole. It not a good day, this a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!”
Murdoch could barely stifle his amusement of Johnny’s edited version of his day. The little scamp had neglected to mention all the destruction he wrought in the great room after his nap.
Ha hugged his baby grandson tight to his chest, and assured him that even if he lived in Boston, sometimes he would still have not good, tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad days.
“Really,” replied Johnny.
“Yes, really, and I would miss you terribly, since I live here now.”
“Hummmm…I think Johnny better talk to Harold about this.”
“Who is Harold?” Murdoch asked, thinking maybe Johnny was talking about one of the ranch hands.
Johnny stared at his family like they had grown two heads each. “Harold is God,” he explained.
“What?” The stunned family shouted in unison.
“Who told you Harold was God?” demanded Papa.
“Papa say God was the father in heaven.”
“Yes, I did, but I never said his name was Harold.”
“The man at church that says the prayers did. Our Father who art in heaven, Harold be they name. That what the prayer is every Sunday, Papa. So that make God name Harold.”
The room vibrated with roaring laughter, sensing they were laughing at what he said, Johnny became indignant. He hopped down from Ha’s lap, with his apron cape dragging on the floor behind him, he stomped up the stairs muttering, “This a tear bull, her end it, not fun, very bad day. Johnny gonna go live in Boston!” The slam of the bedroom door sent the family into another fit of mirth.