(3rd in the 'Small Matters' Series)
Note: The first two stories of my series were told in Murdoch's POV. However, this is Scott's story to tell and is from his POV.
May 27, 1860 -
As I write this, I am sitting behind my father's big desk. When I told him that I wished to write you, he let me sit here and gave me some very nice stationery and a pen.
He said to tell both you and Ward thank you very much for all the help you gave me to get to Lancer safely.
Father usually sits at his desk this time of day to work on the ranch books, but he is sitting in the chair by the fireplace so that I can write this.
Father wasn't happy when I told him how I got here. After he saw how upset I was, though, he got over his mad. He was frightened because I'd made the trip all by myself, with no one but you and Ward knowing.
I think he may have been secretly pleased, but he wouldn't want me to know it. He already told me that I'd better not try to leave Lancer the same way.
Father says I'm smart, sometimes too smart for my own good. I don't understand that, though. How can a person be too smart?
By now you know that I arrived at Lancer safely. I'm sure Ward told you how he got me to New York safely then helped me get on the clipper ship, The Rainbow.
I was hired on as a cabin boy because I told Captain Bates that I was fifteen. He was very nice to me and took me under his wing. I worked hard, but I liked it because it seemed a little like I was sailing in Boston Harbor.
Captain Bates let me work for my fare and when we arrived in San Francisco, he made arrangements with Mr. Doakes to ferry me to the Port of Stockton.
From there, I took a stagecoach to Morro Coyo and rented a horse from the livery stable. It was very late when I arrived at Lancer and Father was very surprised to see me!
Have you seen Grandfather? I know that he has sent telegrams to Father, but he hasn't told me what they are about. I expect that Grandfather wants me back.
Father said we might have to go to court here if he does, and I might have to testify. I didn't tell him how scared that makes me feel. I love Grandfather but I don't wish to go back to Boston. My father needs me and I want to stay here.
Right now, I am in the Great Room of our hacienda (that's Spanish for estate or ranch.) I'm learning some Spanish; Luis is teaching me.
Luis is my best friend here on Lancer, but you are my best friend in the whole world. Some of the Spanish words he is teaching me better not slip out around my father, though.
Luis is Cipriano's son; he's my age. Cipriano is very important on Lancer, right after Mr. O'Brien. Mr. O'Brien or Paul, is Father's Segundo (or Second) because he is the boss when Father is away.
They call Father 'Patron' here on Lancer. That means “Boss” in Spanish.
Paul has a six-year-old daughter named Teresa. She's okay, but she wants to follow me around all day! I have to try and be nice to her, but she can be a pest!
There is a big arched window behind this desk. I like to look out of it and see our land. Father's ranch is very big, 100,000 acres! I haven't seen it all yet.
Father has very many cows, I mean cattle. I think we have 20,000 head.
My favorite spot overlooks the valley. The land runs all the way to the mountains and it is all our land, as far as the eye can see! I wish you could see it. It is so beautiful!
You should see me now, you would hardly know me. I wear Levi' dungarees, boots, gloves and a cowboy hat. It gets very hot here so I have to be careful to wear my hat all the time. If I don't, I will get a sunburn.
If my hat gets in my way, I can let it hang down my back by the stampede strings. I have chores to do here and Father lets me help out on the ranch. I can't do everything the ranch hands do, but I am busy learning a lot of ranch stuff.
I'm not in school now since I arrived in the middle of the term. Father hired Mr. Kuehl, a retired history teacher, to tutor me. Father wants me to keep up with my studies.
I will have to take a test to see where I place among the students at the Morro Coyo schoolhouse.
You would be very surprised to see it. There is only one room and all the students of each grade are taught together in that one room! It is nothing like the big schools in Boston!
That reminds me, how did you fare during Grade Seven? Did you get good grades? Are you advancing to Grade Eight? I'm sure that you are because you are so smart.
Father let me pick out a new-broke horse and I picked a dapple-gray I named Shadow. I wonder if my first Shadow misses me back in Boston?
I also have a rifle, can you believe it? It is so different here than it is in Boston! It is much more dangerous, wild, and unsettled. I need my rifle for protection when riding out on the range. There are mountain lions and rattlesnakes here.
I am also to use my rifle in case I am in trouble or if someone else is. Father told me that we need to fire our rifles off three times in a row as a signal for trouble.
We are also not allowed to ride out alone and we must let others know where we will be at all times. That's because Lancer is so big that people could ride all over trying to find you in case of trouble.
That is a very important rule that Father set down for our safety. There are a lot of rules on Lancer! I try real hard to remember them all, but it's hard!
You should see the cowboys here at Lancer and in town. They all wear pistols in gun belts around their hips. I find that quite fascinating!
In fact, I begged Father for a gun, but he won't allow it. He said I probably won't get one until I'm sixteen. I don't think that's fair; no one will think I'm grown up if I'm not wearing a gun!
When Father comes home, he always hangs his gun belt on a peg by the door. That's another rule here: NO GUNS ARE WORN IN THE HOUSE!
Another rule that is very important is BE ON TIME FOR MEALS! Father gets very impatient when people are tardy! He has scolded me for that several times. I am trying to get better about that, but we get up really early here. I hate to get out of bed in the mornings!
Anyway, I stand and study Father's gun for hours. I'm never to touch it, though! Father says he will 'wear me out' if I do. I don't really know what he means by that.
Maybe he plans on making me do lots of extra chores to make me really tired. Or maybe he means he will make me run around the compound until I'm very tired.
He doesn't know that I won several awards for being fastest runner back in Boston. He will be surprised!
I did get in trouble once with my father. He doesn't like disobedience or disrespect. He said I have a bad habit that I need to break.
Anyway, he said something I didn't like and I rolled my eyes at him. And you know what he did? He swatted my behind – hard! My father is a very big man and he has very big hands!
Did you know that he came to Boston during my fifth birthday party to bring me back home with him? Grandfather wouldn't let him do that, though. Do you remember the big man we saw at my birthday party and we thought he was a giant? Well, that was my father!
Well, like I said, I rolled my eyes and he grabbed my arm and gave me a swat. I think he would have swatted me again, but I pulled away, turned around quickly, and said, “Lo siento, Papi!” That means “I'm sorry, Papa” in Spanish.
Father had his hand raised, but he looked at me in surprise and lowered it again. I think he started to smile but he didn't want me to know. I must remember to thank Luis for teaching me to say that!
Father is strict, much stricter than Grandfather. To be honest, Grandfather pretty much let me do whatever I wanted. I don't mind, though. Father says he has set clear boundaries for me and if I don't step over them, everything will be all right between us.
Oh, I forgot the biggest news of all and you won't believe it! I have a little brother named Johnny! He is ten years old, but I've never seen him. Father told me he got married again a few years after Mother died and they had Johnny.
But Johnny's mother got mad and left and took Johnny with her. Father is trying very hard to find him. He has hired the Pinkerton Agency to look for Johnny.
I read a dime novel titled, “The Pee Wee Pistolero” about a ten-year-old gunfighter in Matamoros. His name was Johnny Madrid; I think he might be my brother! Father doesn't think so and he doesn't want me reading any more dime novels.
That is another reason why I have to stay here, I want to know my little brother when he comes home! And, he will need me for a big brother so I can help him understand all of Father's rules.
Well, I promise to write more later and I'm sorry I took so long to write to you. It took three months to get from Boston to Lancer and I have been very busy since I got here. Please write me back c/o Murdoch Lancer, Lancer Hacienda, Morro Coyo, California.
Father said that you and Ward are welcome to visit Lancer any time. I hope you will because I miss you so much and you would like it here a lot! Don't worry; there is plenty of room. Our hacienda has 47 rooms!
I think Grandfather would be very surprised. I think he thought Father lived in a little shack in the middle of nowhere.
If you see Grandfather, please tell him that I am fine and very happy. I love him, but I don't want to go back to Boston.
I'm sorry to tell you that because we are best friends and I wish we could be together. I really like living here and Father needs me!
I hope this letter finds you well and that you and Ward did not get in trouble for helping me. Please give my regards to Ward.
Cordially yours, Your friend, Scott
P.S. Do you know children out here call their fathers “Pa?” I want to call my father, Pa, but I can't right now. It sounds funny to my ears.
The court date for the custody hearing has been set for Monday, July 16th. Father has been talking with his attorney, Mr. Bailey, about it. It won't be a trial in front of a jury; Father and Grandfather will appear in front of a judge with their attorneys. They will produce evidence and witnesses at that time.
Mr. Bailey does not know whether or not I will have to testify. I hope I don't have to because Grandfather can make me confused. He might make me say that I want to go back to Boston when I really want to stay here. Mr. Bailey will talk to the judge and try to fix it so that I don't have to testify.
I also don't want to see or talk to Grandfather while he is here. I do love him, but I'm just not ready to face him. Mr. Bailey is going to talk to the judge about that, too.
Father has let Mr. O'Brien take over running the ranch for now. Father takes me riding and I have seen all of Lancer now. He has also taken me fishing, hunting and swimming and spends as much time with me as he can.
He doesn't say so, but I wonder if he is trying to make as many memories as he can in case I have to go back.
The closer we get to the hearing date, the more scared I get. When I get scared, I can't eat. Father and Mia are not happy about that because they both think I'm too skinny. Mia is what I call our housekeeper, Maria. I made up my own nickname for her; she is pleased with it.
Sometimes at night when I'm alone in bed, I cry because I'm afraid I will have to go back. I don't let Father know because I don't want him to think that I'm a baby. I've had nightmares, too, that Grandfather has snatched me back East. I reach for Father's hand, but I am pulled away and I can't reach him.
I get so scared when I have these nightmares that sometimes I go into Father's room and crawl in bed beside him. If he wakes up, he just puts his arm around me and I feel safe. He doesn't get mad or make me go back to my own bed. He just asks me if I've had a bad dream and lets me stay. I always wake up in my own bed in the morning.
It's finally here, the day I'd been dreading. Father has to go to court in Green River to fight to keep me. I know that he is very determined that I be raised with him at Lancer.
But I've lived with my grandfather for all my life. I know that Grandfather is a very determined man and that he doesn't like to lose. He will do everything in his power to keep me with him in Boston.
Father drove the buggy into Green River. I had to dress in my best Sunday suit. Mia is coming with us to keep me company during the day. Mr. Bailey was not sure whether I would be called upon to testify in court. He is pretty sure that the judge would see no reason for me to remain in the courtroom for the entire hearing.
It wasn't even light when we drove through the Lancer arch and it was several hours to Green River. I hadn't slept well the night before and I was very tired. The rocking of the buggy lulled me to sleep and before I knew it, Father was gently shaking me awake. We were at our destination and I had fallen asleep against his shoulder. Because he knew I was tired, he let me sleep all the way to town.
We are going to meet Mr. Bailey for breakfast at the Green River Hotel. He wants to discuss our options before the hearing. We entered the dining room and I ordered eggs, toast, bacon, and a glass of milk. I could only manage a few bites and spent the rest of the time pushing my food around my plate. I was much too nervous to eat.
Mia accompanied Father and me and she frowned because I hadn't eaten much breakfast. I know that Father was concerned, too, but they both understood that I lose my appetite when I'm worried or upset. But, I wasn't worried; I was scared half to death!
Mr. Bailey finished his breakfast and he and Father discussed the hearing. I was very relieved when Mr. Bailey said that I would not have to testify in court. The judge would talk to me in private without Father or Grandfather present to make his decision.
That was a big relief to me and I was able to nibble on a piece of toast and finish my glass of milk.
“Will I have to see Grandfather? I don't want to talk to him; he will make me feel guilty for leaving him. He will confuse me; he might even convince me that the best thing for me is to go back home with him. I don't want to go home with him, I want to stay here....” I trailed off, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill over.
Mr. Bailey smiled at me. “I talked to Judge Barrows about your feelings. He said that you didn't have to see or speak to your grandfather in court if you that is your wish. He feels that it might be better for all concerned if you did, but he won't force you.”
“I love Grandfather, but I don't want to see him right now. Maybe some day, but I can't...I just can't.” I sighed.
Father spoke up, “Son, if you really feel that you can't face your Grandfather, then no one will force you. Just be very, very sure that's what you want.”
“I do...that's what I want,” I whispered, lowering my eyes and staring at my hands that were clenched tightly in my lap.
“Well, time to go,” said Mr. Bailey, as he wiped his mouth, placed his hat upon his head, and grabbed up his briefcase. Throwing some bills upon the table, he said “Breakfast is on me. We must hurry, the hearing starts at 9:00 am.”
Mr. Bailey led us up the steps to the court house. I walked between Father and Mia. I know I'm a big boy of thirteen, nearly grown, but I found myself slipping my hand into Father's hand. He looked down at me in surprise, then gave me a warm smile and squeezed my hand.
My hand nearly disappeared into his big hand and it made me feel safe. Mia must have known how scared I was as she whispered to me “No tengais miedo, pequeno” (Do not be afraid, child) and laid her soft hand on top of my head.
As we walked into the court room, the hallway was deserted, and I breathed a sigh of relief. That feeling didn't last long as Grandfather was standing just inside the court room. He noticed us as we were walking in and ran towards me.
“Scotty, Scotty,” he cried. “There you are! Do you know how worried I've been? How could you run off and leave me with no word? Young man, what were you thinking?”
I drew in a sharp breath and wrapped my arms tightly around my father's waist. I couldn't look at Grandfather and buried my face into the back of Father's jacket. Tightly shutting my eyes, I felt, rather than saw, Grandfather try to duck around Father to look at me, to take hold of me.
Father reached out a hand to stop him. “Harlan, Scott does not wish to see you or speak to you at this time.” he admonished.
“What?!” I heard my grandfather sputter, “What sort of nonsense is this? Scotty is just a child! I'm his grandfather and I have every right to see him and to speak with him!”
Then I heard Mr. Bailey speak up, “You are wrong, Mr. Garrett. Judge Barrows has determined that Scott does not have to have contact with you while this hearing is being held. I suggest you go back into the courtroom and sit with your attorneys until the hearing begins.”
“What are you saying, you odious man?” I heard Grandfather rage.
Then I heard Mr. Bailey yell out, “Bailiff,” and I heard footsteps heading our way. A deep voice rumbled, “Mr. Garrett, Judge Barrows has decided that you are to have no contact with your grandson during this hearing. Scott specifically requested this. If you do not turn around right now, and take your place at your attorneys' table, the Judge will charge you with Contempt of Court!”
Grandfather sputtered, indignantly as Father took my hand and led me away to the Judge's chamber where I was to wait during the hearing. Mia followed alongside of us.
I heard Grandfather raise his voice, “Where are you going? I'm his grandfather, I have a right to see him; you can't keep him from me!”
Father finally lost his temper, and yelled over his shoulder, “Watch me, Harlan. I am his father and you kept him from me for thirteen years!”
I couldn't turn around, but I could picture Grandfather's face turning varying shades of purple. He went silent and stomped into the court room as Father escorted both me and Mia into the Judge's chambers.
As we stepped into the Judge's chambers, a friendly older man clad in black robes came forward to meet us. He told Father that he needed to speak with me alone before conducting the hearing. I didn't want to let Father leave, but the judge assured me that Mia would stay with me during the hearing.
Shaking hands with me, Judge Barrows said, “It is nice to meet you, Scott. I have decided that there is no need for you to testify in front of your father and grandfather. I will listen to their sides, review their evidence, and interview their witnesses before making my decision. However, before I make my decision, I want to come back here to speak with you.”
“I'm afraid it will be a rather long day for your and Mrs. Acosta. Most of the books in my library are boring law journals, but I do have a few of the newer classics that you are welcome to read. “
“You see, I have a grandson named Will who is around your age, and you remind me a lot of him. I keep these books here to entertain him while he visits.”
“You have a grandson named Will?” I asked. “My best friend back in Boston is named Will!” I felt like this might be a good sign.
I thanked him for the offer and walked over to join Mia in one of the upholstered leather chairs. I wasn't in the mood to read at the moment so I spent time talking to her as the judge left his chambers to decide my fate.
Mia must have known that I was distracted, so she told me all about Lancer, my father, and even my brother, Johnny. She had known Johnny's mother and had even helped deliver my baby brother. She said he had dark curly hair, big blue eyes, and was a very happy baby.
She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief when she spoke of the first time they had noticed him missing. She said my father was very sad, just like he was when I was born and taken away to Boston He never even got to set eyes on me. I guess that it was too hard to talk about because she grew silent.
I wandered over to the judge's bookshelves and looked for something to read. He was right, there were a lot of very boring looking law books. I soon found a copy of Oliver Twist and drifted back over to sit beside Mia as I read.
I was able to lose myself in the story when someone knocked on the door. I looked up quickly to notice that the wall clock read “Twelve o'clock.” It was lunchtime already!
The bailiff stuck his head in the door and I looked at him expectantly. He looked back at me, shook his head gently, and said, “The court is taking a lunch break for an hour. You and Mrs. Acosta are free to walk over to the hotel for lunch.”
“Mia packed our lunch,” I replied, hesitantly.
“Well, you can still walk outside and get a breath of fresh air, if you like. It gets stuffy in here.” he urged.
Mia looked over at me, but I shook my head. I did not want to step outside the judge's chambers and take the risk of running into my grandfather. Mia looked at me and I think she understood what I was feeling.
She brought forth a wicker basket and pulled out some sandwiches, cheese, fruit, cookies, and lemonade to wash it down with. She spread down a cloth and divided the food among the two of us.
I picked up a sandwich and cheese, but only nibbled at it. I was too nervous to eat. Mia was never happy when I didn't eat much, but she didn't scold. She didn't even fuss about me not finishing my meal, and let me have a tall glass of lemonade and some cookies. That was about all I could force down.
Then, I needed to go to the privy, but I was too embarrassed to say something to Mia. I think she noticed the discomfort on my face and went to the door to beckon to the bailiff. He was happy to escort me and I felt safer with him beside me as we walked the hallway.
When we returned, the bailiff left, and I picked up the book once more. It was getting warm and stuffy in the room, and I had long ago discarded my good suit jacket.
The next thing I knew, there was a soft knock on the door and I awoke with a start. I must have fallen asleep while reading my book, as I found myself lying on the bench. Mia had covered me with her shawl, and my folded jacket served as a pillow for my head.
I sat up, yawning, and swung my legs over the bench. Wiping the sleep out of my eye, I noticed the judge leaning over me.
“Did you have a nice sleep?” he asked, with a smile.
“Y...yes, sir,” I replied, a little dazedly. I woke up quickly, though, and asked, “Have you made your decision? Am I staying here?...Or do I have to go back to Boston?”
“No, Scott,” he replied. “I have not made my decision yet. There is still some more testimony to be heard and evidence to be presented. I wanted to speak to you first, though, before I can make any decision that will affect your life from here on out.”
He extended his hand to me, and I took it and stood up. He escorted me over to his desk and drew me over to a chair that was situated close to his side. Judge Barrows knew that I was nervous so he talked to me softly while asking his questions.
“You're thirteen now, aren't you, Scott” he asked.
“I'll be thirteen-and-a-half in three days.” I replied
“Oh yes, I forgot how important that half-year is!” he laughed. “Scott tell me about Boston. Did you like living there? Do you love your Grandfather?”
I hesitated, I didn't know what to say. If I told him the truth, would he feel that was where I belonged?
He sensed my uncertainty and assured me, “Go ahead, Scott. You can tell me how you feel without worrying that it will affect my decision.”
“Yes, Sir. I liked Boston. I liked the change of seasons: the snow, the autumn leaves, sailing on the Charles River. I had many good friends there and Grandfather gave me anything I wanted.”
“Did he love you and did you love him?” he inquired.
“Yes, I know that Grandfather loves me...and, yes, I love him, too,” I sighed.
“I see,” he said thoughtfully. “It sounds like you had a nice life back in Boston with a grandfather you loved and who loved you back. Why would you want to leave?”
I hesitated and tried to speak past the lump in my throat. “I belong at Lancer. I want to know my father. I want to grow up in California where I was born, where I know I belong.”
“You see, my mother died shortly after giving birth to me. Father had sent her away for our safety before I was born. He was afraid the land pirates would harm us both. But, I was born early, near Carterville. By the time my father knew and could get there, Mother was dead and buried and Grandfather took me back to Boston. Father never saw me until my fifth birthday...”
“Will you tell me about that?” he asked.
“I just found out that Father came to Boston on my fifth birthday. He came there to claim me and take me back home to Lancer. But Grandfather had gotten custody of me and he was going to take Father to court, maybe force me to testify.”
“Father didn't have enough money then to fight for me. And he didn't want to have me dragged through court for years, having to get up on the stand and testify in front of him and Grandfather. He didn't want to spoil my childhood.”
He rubbed his chin, thoughtfully. “Well, I realize that you had no say in a decision about your life, thirteen...I mean thirteen-and-a-half years ago. Now you are a young man and well able to make a decision about your future. You must have wanted to come here very badly because I heard about your long solo journey!”
“Now I want you to think very hard about your answer. I want you to think about the two men who love you: your father and your grandfather. I also want you to think about your life in Boston and what your life has been like at Lancer for the past several months.”
“Take as long as you like and then tell me: Who do you want to live with; where do you want to live? This may be the most important decision you ever have to make.”
“I don't have to think long and hard about it, Sir. I want to live at Lancer with my father. I want to be there when Johnny comes home!” I stated, emphatically.
“Johnny? Oh, that's your little brother who has been missing for over eight years now. Your father told me about him; that he's trying hard to find him and bring him home. You've never met him, have you?”
“No, Sir,” I answered. “Father will need me there to help him with Johnny. Johnny will need me to help him with Father. “Please, Sir,” I pleaded. “Will you let me stay here with my Father?”
“I haven't made my decision yet, son. However, I will take into serious consideration what you just told me,” he assured me.
He continued on, “I have a question for you. If I decide to let you stay with your father, will you want to see your grandfather to say good-bye? And if I decide to send you back to Boston with your grandfather, will you want to say good-bye to your father?”
I let out a deep sigh. “I hope you let me stay here with my Father. But, if you don't, I want to say good-bye to him. If you do let me stay here, I don't want to say good-bye to Grandfather. I love him; I really do, but I can't face him...not right now.”
The judge looked at me thoughtfully, “I still can't say which way I am going to decide. However, your grandfather deserves a good-bye from you. Would you like to write him a letter?”
I couldn't speak because of the lump in my throat, so I simply nodded my head.
Patting my hand, he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out some stationery, an envelope, and a fountain pen and handed them all to me.
“I will reach my decision soon. I want you to know that whichever way I decide, I did it with your best interests in mind.” He patted me on the head, then exited the room.
I sat at his desk for the longest time, then finally picked up the pen and set words to paper.
If you are reading this letter, it means that Judge Barrows has decided that I am to stay at Lancer with my father.
I love you, Grandfather, and appreciate everything you have done for me in the thirteen years I lived with you. I don't remember ever wanting for anything and I know that you love me.
What I don't understand, Grandfather, is why did you take me away from my home when I was just a baby? You took me away before Father could find me.
I'm sure you felt that what you did was best for me, but was it? I love my Father and I love Lancer and I'm so sad that I didn't grow up there.
I also have a brother, Johnny. If you take me back to Boston, I may never know him. You know how much I always wanted a baby brother and now I have one. I hope that Father and I can find him soon.
I'm sorry that I couldn't tell you good-bye personally, Grandfather. I know that will make you sad. I'm really confused and sad that you lied to me and I just can't face you right now.
Maybe someday I will come back to Boston for a visit or maybe Father will let you visit Lancer.
I love you, Grandfather. Please don't be sad.
Your Grandson, Scotty
P.S. We can always write to each other often.
I lowered the pen and stared down at the letter I had just written. I was surprised to see that it was tear-stained and smudged. I hadn't even realized that I was crying as I wrote it.
It seemed I was always crying, anymore. Maybe Father wouldn't want me, after all. He needed someone who was grownup, not a baby who had nightmares. I was doubting myself again.
I addressed the envelope, slipped in the letter, and left it on the judge's desk.
I walked slowly over to Mia, my head hanging down. She knew something was wrong and she took my chin, raised my head and looked deeply into my eyes. I tried to stop the tears that were flowing down my cheeks, but I couldn't.
Mia must have forgotten how old I was because she wrapped her arms around me, pulled me onto her lap, and rocked me. I would have pulled away, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings. Besides, it felt kind of nice...like she was the Mama I never had.
She crooned to me in Spanish, but I couldn't understand everything she said. I just know that I found the tone of her voice very comforting
“Mi pobre muchaco; mi corazon (my poor boy; my heart) No llores, todo sera para bien, usted vera (Do not cry, it will be all right, you will see,) Tu Papi te ama (Your Papa loves you.) Eres un buen chico, La Senora's hijo (You are a good boy, the Senora's son.)
Once more, I awoke again on a bench to someone shaking my shoulder gently. Had I cried myself to sleep again?
I rubbed my eyes and looked up to see the judge bending over me. “Did you have a nice nap?” he asked me.
I gazed at him blearily and pulled my thoughts together. “Is it over?” I asked, breathlessly.
“Yes, Scott,” he answered. “The hearing is over and I've made my decision.”
I was afraid to ask, but I had to know. “Who...who gets to keep me?” I whispered.
The judge smiled and pointed to the door. “Well, why don't you see for yourself?” he asked.
I was afraid to look, but I had to know. I turned my head slowly and my heart beat wildly in my chest.
My father stood just inside the door and joy bubbled up inside me.
I leaped up and ran to him. He knelt down with his arms held wide open, a huge smile on his face.
I grabbed him around the neck. “Pa...Pa!” I cried. “Is it over? Do I get to live with you? Forever and forever?”
Pa must have also forgotten how old I was because he stood up and held me in his arms. He probably couldn't have put me down even if he'd wanted to; I had his neck in a death grip. He had to loosen my arms a little.
“Whoa, Son,” he chuckled. “Don't choke your poor old father! Yes, you get to come home to Lancer and live with me forever and forever...or at least as long as you want to.” He then gave me a big kiss on my forehead.
I was so excited that I gave him a big kiss on his stubbly cheek and looked into his warm blue eyes. I finally wriggled out of his arms but I wouldn't let go of his hand.
“And...Grandfather?” I asked.
“He was sad to lose and who could blame him? You are a wonderful young man and he will miss you. The judge gave him your letter and he is leaving for Boston. Maybe some day you will want to see him again or he will visit here. That will be your decision, Son.”
I felt a little sad, but my happiness soon crowded that aside.
“Now can we bring Johnny home?” I begged.
“As soon as we possibly can, Scott. I think we are getting close to finding him. But for now, let's go home.”
We walked out the door and down the steps together, hand-in-hand. I looked over at Mia who was walking beside me, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. I smiled at her, took her hand, and said, “No llores, Mamacita. Me voy a casa.” (Don't cry, Mamacita. I'm going home.)
Later, when we drove through the Lancer Arch, I remembered what my Pa had told me earlier. “When you ride through the Lancer arch, you know you are truly at home.”
And, finally, I was....thirteen, no, thirteen-and-a-half years after my birth on a lonely road near Carterville. I was back where I belonged, where I had always belonged – Lancer!
Home is where my heart is and my heart is at Lancer.
Note: Since this story was told from Scott's POV, the details of the hearing were not told to him. Murdoch will relate the details of the hearing in story four of the “'Small' Matters” series.
Note: (I took a little creative license with Scott's Levi Jeans. Levi Strauss & Co. was founded in 1853 when Levi Strauss moved to California during the Gold Rush. In 1873, he and tailor Jacob Davis received a U.S. Patent to make the first riveted mens' work pants out of denim, the first blue jeans.)
Up Next: Another 'Small' Matter To Contend With