Cold November Rain
By Wendy K.
Scott Garrett Lancer was having, quite possibly, the worst day ever. It all started when he’d overslept and missed breakfast. He’d been up late the night before reading the book his Grandfather had sent him. Jules Verne’s A Journey To The Center Of The Earth. The book had been published during the war, while Scott was in prison, and he had simply never gotten around to reading it. The young man had been so caught up in the amazing tale that it was well past midnight before he’d finally fallen asleep. The next thing he knew, a crabby Murdoch was banging on his door telling him to get his butt out of bed and over to the east meadow. Those stream beds needed to be cleared...right now.
Scott had scrambled into his clothes and gone through the kitchen on his way out to the barn. The breakfast dishes had long since been cleared away and there was nothing left to eat. Teresa apologetically explained that she had set aside some biscuits and a few strips of bacon for him but Johnny- after consuming a full breakfast, mind you - had grabbed them on *his* way out to the south mesa, claiming he was still hungry.
With a sigh, Scott had hurried out to the barn and saddled his horse, Hannibal. Stomach grumbling, the blond Lancer had ridden out to the east meadow. It hadn’t rained in quite a while so the water level in the streams was low. But the rains were due any day and the channels needed to be cleared of all the bracken and other debris that might impede the flow of water. It was tough, muddy work and Scott was soon covered in sweat and grime, making his skin itch fiercely.
To make matters worse, Scott’s trousers had gotten snagged on the root of one particularly stubborn branch, causing a tear in an embarrassing spot. The former Bostonian had cast his eyes skyward and wondered what else could possibly go wrong.
After several more hours of toil, he found out when Jelly rode up.
“The Boss wanted me ta remind ya that yer supposed to go into Green River and sign those papers at the bank this afternoon.”
Scott straightened from his labors and glared at the whiskered man.
“I’m a little busy, Jelly. Tell him I’ll go tomorrow.”
The older man shook his head vigorously. “Boss said to tell ya it had ta be done today.”
With a frustrated growl, Scott climbed out of the gully and headed towards the shady tree where his horse was tethered.
“Fine, I’ll head back to the house, grab some lunch and a quick bath before I go.”
“There ain’t time,” Jelly informed him. “The bank closes early on Wednesdays, remember? If ya leave now, you’ll only just make it.”
Scott removed his hat and used his forearm to wipe the sweat from his brow, leaving a muddy smear. He silently counted to ten and then did it again because he knew if he opened his mouth right now, he would say something he’d later regret.
He counted to ten a third time before he finally gritted out just one word.
Placing his hat firmly back on his head he climbed onto Hannibal and turned his mount towards Green River.
“What is it now, Jelly?”
“Do ya know that ya got a tear in yer britches? It’s, um, on yer backside. I can see yer long johns.”
“Yes, Jelly,” Scott sighed. “I’m aware that I have a hole in my pants. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it would seem I have an appointment in town.”
Scott was late getting
into Green River. The bank was closed and the shades drawn when he arrived. The
cranky, muddy blond banged on the door to the bank until the manager, Hiram
Spencer, popped his head out to see what all the racket was. Spencer, being
something of a stickler for details, wasn’t all that thrilled about letting
Scott in. He started to tell the blond rancher “We’re closed. Come back
tomorrow” but found that he couldn’t do it. Murdoch Lancer’s oldest son was a
sorry looking mess. His shoulders were slumped with fatigue, he was covered in
mud and, quite frankly, he smelled.
Ushering Scott into his office, Hiram produced the paperwork and Scott quickly signed his name. Mission accomplished.
With a softly murmured “thank you”, Scott slowly turned and trudged out.
“Mr. Lancer,” Spencer hesitantly called after him. “Do you know that you have a hole in your trousers?”
Scott paused but didn’t turn around. He nodded once and continued on without saying a word.
Back out on the boardwalk, Scott decided to head over to the saloon and see if he could get himself a cold beer and maybe a little something to eat. Harry usually kept a pot of stew on in case any of his patrons wanted something more substantial than alcohol. Being a saloon keeper and not a cook, Harry’s stew was usually watery and flavorless with tough chunks of greasy beef and a few desiccated vegetables floating in it. But at this point, Scott didn’t care. It would be better than going hungry….well, maybe.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance to sample Harry’s stew. Before he could enter the saloon, not one but two very drunk cowboys came sailing through the window with a glassy crash. One more was shoved out the batwing doors by Johnny’s friend, Val, the sheriff of Green River. This man landed in a lump at Scott’s feet where he lay, moaning pitifully.
“Hey, Scott,” Val exclaimed. “What’re you doing here?”
“I had some business to attend to at the bank for Murdoch. What’s going on?”
Val hauled the wobbly, green-around-the-gills cowboy up and held onto his arm to keep him from folding back onto the ground.
“Oh, not much,” Val replied with a laugh. “Just a few rowdies that need to sleep it off in the jail. I guess they took exception to Harry’s stew and started bustin’ up the place.”
“Harry’s stew, huh? So I take it there’s none left?”
“Nope. The pot got tossed against the wall. Harry will be a few hours cleaning up the mess.”
Not sure if he was relieved or disappointed, Scott sighed heavily.
“Well, I guess I’ll just head on home then.”
But before the weary blond could move, the drunken cowboy next to Val let out a loud “URP” and tossed up the contents of his stomach…right onto Scott’s boots.
Beyond caring at this point, Scott sighed heavily yet again and headed for his horse.
the scruffy sheriff called after him. “Did you know you have a rip in your
Keeping a watchful eye on the ominous clouds looming in the west, Scott figured he would get home with enough time to have a nice soak before dinner. Well before the rain arrived. It looked like the approaching storm would be a real soaker. Giving Hannibal a quick nudge, he urged his mount to hurry.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get very far before the horse threw a shoe and began limping.
Sighing heavily one more time, the beleaguered blond dismounted and began the long walk home, Hannibal trailing along behind him. He was still several miles from his destination when it began to rain. “Well,” a resigned Scott muttered. “At least it will wash off the mud.”
It was a very wretched and forlorn Scott Lancer that finally limped into the hacienda courtyard two hours later. He was cold, tired, wet and hungry but felt duty bound to see to Hannibal before seeking his own comfort. The lean blond wearily led his horse into the barn and got him fed and bedded down for the night. He would talk to Luis, the ranch’s blacksmith, tomorrow about getting Hannibal a new shoe.
Leaving the chestnut gelding happily munching on his hay and oats, Scott plodded slowly through the rain and into the house. Upon entering the Great Room, he beheld paradise.
The lamps and the crackling fire cast a honeyed glow over the toasty room and its occupants. Johnny and Jelly were playing a game of checkers in front of the fire. Teresa was intent upon her needlework and Murdoch was reading the paper while he puffed contentedly on his pipe.
Scott simply stood there, absorbing the warm domestic scene, too tired to think.
He must have made some small sound, though, because Teresa looked up and her eyes went wide.
“Oh my goodness! Scott!”
Three other pairs of eyes all turned to look at the bedraggled figure standing in the archway.
Murdoch stood and hurried over to the exhausted blond, Johnny right behind him.
“Son? You all right? What happened?”
“You okay, Boston? You look like ten miles of bad road.”
Shivering and dripping on the tile floor, Scott nodded wearily.
“I’m f-fine,” he chattered. “I’ve j-just had-d a really, r-really b-bad d-day.”
“You poor thing,” Teresa fussed. “Johnny, get Scott some dry clothes. Murdoch, throw another log on the fire. Jelly, go get some blankets from the closet.”
“And just what will you be doin’, Missy?” Jelly asked huffily.
“I’ll be fixing him a big bowl of stew and some nice hot coffee. Now go get those blankets!!”
Within a matter of minutes, Scott was ensconced in front of a roaring fire, dressed in clean dry clothes and swaddled in a thick, soft blanket. Before he could wrap his head around the fact that he was no longer cold or wet, a steaming mug of whiskey laced coffee was shoved under his nose.
“Here,” Teresa commanded. “Drink this.”
Cupping the beverage between his still chilled hands, Scott brought the cup to his lips and took a sip. He “mmm-ed” in satisfaction and took another, bigger, swallow. Oh boy, that hit the spot. The whiskey and the coffee quickly warmed his insides and he began to feel pleasantly mellow.
When the cup was empty, it was removed from his grasp and replaced with a hearty bowl of stew. Tender chunks of chicken, potato, carrot and pearl onions floating in a creamy, golden gravy. There was even a fluffy dumpling or two. He began to eat. Before Scott knew it, he was looking at the bottom of the bowl and he made a small sound of distress at this horrible development. The empty bowl disappeared and a new, full one took its place. Scott gave a small “ah” of satisfaction and resumed eating.
The process was repeated one more time before, finally sated and feeling more human, he leaned back in his seat and took a good look around. There were four faces looking back at him. Teresa’s face was filled with loving concern. Murdoch looked worried. Johnny’s countenance was suffused with amusement and Jelly appeared surprised.
“I cain’t believe you ate all that!” the bewhiskered man exclaimed. “You ain’t never eaten that much all at once before.”
“It’s been a very long day,” Scott replied, with a tired smile. “Plus, I missed breakfast and lunch.”
Johnny had the good grace to flush at that comment. “Sorry, Boston.”
“Why don’t you lay down, Son?” Murdoch suggested. “Relax here in front of the fire for a while.”
Several sets of hands helped Scott stretch out on the sofa, producing pillows and a few more blankets. Sighing contentedly, the blond’s eyes drifted slowly shut.
The rain pattering on the windows was hypnotic and he could hear the crackle of the fire and the soft conversations of his family around him. After the day he’d had, it felt wonderful to simply lay there and do nothing but soak up this warm, cozy atmosphere. There were no pressures. There were no demands. He could simply be. Such a feeling of peace and well-being washed over him that Scott felt a lump form in his throat. This place and these people spoke to his soul in a way that was profoundly satisfying.
There was no place like home.
- end -