Response to an ‘Easter’ Challenge
Word count: 2,000
Johnny rode into the courtyard, handing Barranca over to Frank. He eyed the tables set out with dozens of brightly colored eggs.
Smiling, Scott greeted him. “Well, might know you would show up after all the work is done, little brother.”
Confused, he questioned his siblings. “What the heck are y’all doing?”
“Teresa and I have just finished coloring the eggs for the Easter celebration tomorrow, Johnny.”
Still confused, Johnny looked again at the tables laden with colorful eggs. “We ain’t gonna have nothing but fancy colored eggs to eat?”
Teresa could not hold her laughter. “No silly. The eggs are for the Easter egg hunt tomorrow.” Seeing that her explanation did not help, she tried again.
“We hide all these eggs and each child is given a basket. They then find and collect the eggs. There are small prizes for the boy and the girl who collect the most eggs. Johnny, didn’t you celebrate Easter when you were little?”
Teresa’s face reddened as she realized her error and hoped she did not hurt Johnny’s feelings. She knew Johnny had a very hard childhood and most of the towns he lived in were very poor.
Johnny who snagged and peeled an egg thought about the question. After eating the egg in two bites, he spoke to his siblings.
“The towns where Mama and I lived were mostly of the Catholic faith. Everyone went to mass on Good Friday. I remember the crucifix on the altar was covered in a black shroud. Mama would always take me to that mass when she was feeling well enough ‘and sober‘. On the Sunday after, everyone would attend the Easter mass. The black shroud was removed as a sign of rebirth. At least that is what the Padre told us. After the mass, everyone visited in the mission courtyard to greet each other for a while but there was no real celebration. Everyone seemed a little kinder on these days. Even a Mestizo was not turned away on these holy days.”
With tears in her eyes, Teresa went to her brother and hugged him. “Johnny I am so sorry. I did not mean to bring up old memories.”
Kissing her cheek, Johnny hated to see his sister sad. “I am fine Querida. And now I have Easter egg hunts to add to my list of new customs I am learning.”
Johnny decided to lighten the mood. “So let me get this straight. We have to hide all these fancy eggs around the celebration area so the children can hunt for them, right? What about the little bitty kids? They won’t be able to find many since the older kids are faster.”
Smiling, Scott tossed Johnny another egg. “Don’t worry little brother. We have a special section for the very young ones, and we will put the eggs in very visible places, so they will have a chance. There will be prizes for the little winners as well.”
“Alright now Johnny, Teresa and I have to go to Aggie’s and Widow Hargas to pick up the rest of the eggs and the baskets for the children. We will hide the eggs early tomorrow morning. Stay out of the eggs. Knowing how you love boiled eggs, we will have nothing left to hide. Be good!”
“Sure brother. Tell the ladies I said hello.” Johnny watched his siblings as the wagon left the courtyard.
Unbeknownst, Murdoch stood in the shadows of the large door in the great room. It overlooked the courtyard, and he heard Johnny ride up earlier. Knowing it is wrong to eavesdrop, he wanted to see his “children” as they joked and then as they tried to explain Easter egg hunts to his son. It made him sad to think of how much Johnny missed out on growing up. His childhood was non- existent. His life was not one a child should have had. “Why, Maria? Did you hate me that much, that you made our child suffer?”
Sadly he returned to his desk to work on the ledgers.
Johnny stood at the tables, and then he got a gleam in his eyes. As a smile grew, he thought to himself. ‘Hey this sounds like fun. Why should the kids be the only ones to find Easter eggs. I bet some people I know would like to find some of these eggs too.’
Checking to be sure he was not seen, he got a bowl from the table and filled it with some of the eggs. He was making his plans for the night.
Maria was his first target. After she had gone to her home, he sneaked into the kitchen. ‘got to be careful in here. If I make Maria too mad, she won’t feed me’. He decided to bless her with two eggs.
Next target was Jelly. ‘Oh boy, am I gonna have fun with Jelly‘. Second victim handled.
Teresa was next. He had a little trouble in the hen house. “Chicken, If you peck me again, you are gonna be dinner”.
He needed to be creative with Murdoch’s “gift”. He finished Murdoch’s surprise, smiling as he thought ‘If he comes after me I can outrun him’.
Laughing, he cat footed out of the great room, up to his room. He was saving Scott’s surprise for the morning. Pleased with himself, he fell into a contented sleep.
Early morning brought surprised family members.
Maria came into the kitchen to start breakfast. As she tied her apron on, she felt something in her pocket. She reached in and found a brightly colored egg. She headed toward the table and found another egg nestled in her bowl of fresh picked peppers. Smiling, shaking her head, she uttered “Nino, do not play in my kitchen.”
Jelly was roused by a loud honking from Dewdrop. The goose was in his box Jelly made him to sleep in. Dewdrop was honking and flapping his wings as he sat in his straw lined box.
“What is it boy? What’s got you in such a state?” Reaching over to pick his pet up, Jelly noticed a brightly colored egg, under Dewdrop! “That boy is at it again with his tricks. Gonna have to cut me a switch.”
As he reached for the egg, Dewdrop became agitated, even flapping his wings and hissing to ward off Jelly. “Give me that egg. You can’t even lay eggs. You are a gander.”
Teresa grabbed her basket to collect the morning eggs. “Good morning ladies. Let’s see what you have for me today.” Going to each nest to collect the eggs, she finally got to Gladys. Reaching under an indignant hen, she pulled out a brightly colored egg. Laughing, she knew who the culprit was. “Oh Johnny, you sure do make the days exciting around here.”
Murdoch decided he would get some work done at his desk before breakfast. He pulled out his chair and was just about to sit down when he noticed it. His hat was in his chair on the crown. In the crown, was a straw nest, and a brightly colored egg. He had to laugh as he put the hat, nest and egg included on his desk. ‘Son, you are very lucky I did not sit down on my hat, or you would not be sitting down at all. I don’t know how that boy thinks these things up’.
Maria entered the great room with coffee. Seeing Murdoch’s hat, she laughed, showing him the egg in her apron pocket. “Patron it seems we have a young Easter bunny among us.”
Johnny was up early for a change. From his room he could hear Scott going to the facilities to shave and prepare for the morning. Johnny sneaked into Scott’s room and left the final egg for Scott. He then waited at the bottom of the stairs.
Scott, who was running a bit late, finished dressing and grabbed his boots. As he jammed his foot in the left boot, he heard something crunch. He then felt something unpleasant and wet on his foot. Taking his boot off, he looked inside.
The bellow would put Murdoch to shame. “Johnny Lancer! Why is there a raw egg in my boot? When I catch you, you will be very sorry.” Taking the steps two at a time with his long legs, he was gaining on Johnny.
‘Oh shit, he’s pissed‘ Johnny made a break for the kitchen, stopping briefly at the door. All of his other victims were already at the table wondering what he did to Scott, as the blond came barrelling into the kitchen in his socks.
Murdoch’s saying his name was enough to get his attention. “JOHN”.
“What? Um, I ran out of boiled eggs? Oh gotta run. We got eggs to hide.”
Grabbing a biscuit from the table, he almost made it to the back door before his father’s long arm snagged him by the collar.
Murdoch frog marched him into the great room, all the way trying to keep Scott from getting to Johnny. “SIT” was the command from the tune caller as he plonked his youngest in the chair..
Scott was pacing the room. “I am going to kill him, Sir, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop me.”
“You can’t kill your brother. Val won’t like it.”
“Start explaining young man. Don’t leave anything out. And Scott sit down.”
“Well Pa, it’s like this. I just learned about Easter egg hunts. I figured if it was that much fun for the kids, why couldn’t adults have fun finding hidden eggs. So, I hid eggs for each of you. I hid two for Mamacita since she always feeds me. I guess I miscounted, and realized I used up all the eggs I took from the table before I got to Scott. I went to the kitchen and got one for him, but I guess it wasn’t boiled. I’m sorry Scott.”
Scott still seething did not accept the apology. “You are not sorry you did it, you are sorry you were caught. Sir??”
“Simmer down Scott. I will handle your brother”. Johnny was not liking the turn of events at all.
“Son, I am glad that you are becoming more relaxed and finding pleasure in learning new things, such as the Easter egg hunt. But you seem to go too far at times. You don’t know when enough is enough. I have often seen these little pranks you and your brother pull on each other. I believe this is one of them. As a part of your punishment, you will clean the egg out of Scott’s boot; all of it. You are restricted to the ranch for the next two weeks, and finally you, young man, will be in charge of the small children during the Easter egg hunt.”
“Aw, come on Pa. Two weeks? And I have to corral those little crying, screeching kids? That’s not fair.”
“Would you like it to be one month plus a trip to the woodshed, my Son?”
Johnny crossed his arms working on a pout. “No sir.”
“Sir, are you sure you want this child in charge of the other children?”
“Shut up Scott. I’m gonna go take care of your boot. We still got those eggs to hide. Can I go, Pa?”
“Go, Son” Murdoch watched as his pouting son made his way to the stairs. He could not help but laugh, trying to hide it from Scott.
At this point Scott was no longer mad. He noticed Murdoch trying to hide his laugh, and Scott joined in with him.
Laughing, Scott remarked “Life is never boring with that boy around, but I do love my little brother. I think I will go get my other boots. I am sure it will take him a while to clean out that egg. I have to change socks anyway.”
“You are a great big brother, Scott. You should consider yourself lucky. After all your little brother could have had a twin. Two Johnny’s.”
Scott processed that bit of information until the thought settled. “Is it too early for a drink, Sir?”
Happy Easter to all!
April 7, 2020
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Barbara directly.