In response to the Lancer Writers 2021 ‘The Movie Scene Challenge’
Thanks to Rob and Sandy for the beta. The name of the movie is at the end of the story.
Okay, so maybe watchin’ the kid won’t be so bad. Go inta town an’ get some lunch, maybe stop ta see the girls at the Angel’s Nest… Shit, not with the kid…
Ever since Teresa met Daniel, the Lancer household turned upside down in her efforts to make things perfect. The floors had never looked so polished, and dust had no chance to settle on any surface. Johnny was fairly certain that even the little cobweb in the corner didn’t have a particle of dirt hanging from the silken threads. Daniel was the man his sister set her eyes on, and that wasn’t a bad thing, except when he and Scott were designated to watch the boy for a few days while Murdoch accompanied Teresa and her beau into Sacramento to tie up a few legal details.
Daniel Mackenzie had a son from a previous marriage, and when the wife passed unexpectedly, Daniel knew that Tommy needed a mother. When Teresa and Daniel met for the first time, it had flamed into immediate love, just like the flare of a match. He was a good man, and Murdoch couldn’t be happier for his ward and knew that if Paul O’Brien were alive, he would have welcomed this young man as his son-in-law.
So, babysitting detail was delegated to the future uncles. With Scott along to watch over them, Murdoch was confident that things would be alright while they were gone. Johnny, well, maybe not so much. His younger son would keep the lad safe, no doubt about that, but there was bound to be some kind of trouble along the way if Johnny was involved. But with both brothers together, Tommy would be in safe hands.
Green River was quiet as Scott, Johnny, and Tommy, riding his new pinto, a gift from his uncles, rode down the street.
Scott aimed for the diner, but Tommy spoke up, voicing his want to eat ‘over there!’ His small hand pointed toward The Angel’s Nest.
“Kid, that’s a saloon; we ain’t takin’ you in there!” Johnny shrugged and looked to Scott for support.
“Tommy, I think we’d be better off going to the café…” Scott could only imagine what the Widow Hargis would say if she saw them enter the saloon with this boy in tow! Her store was directly across the street from those swinging doors; the woman missed nothing that went on in town and would surely send Murdoch a detailed report should she happen to witness his sons contributing to delinquent behavior.
“They have food in there,” pointing again to the saloon, “don’t they?”
That face. It was pitiful. How could he say no? Scott sighed, then looked down and contemplated the situation. It was early, too early for trouble, most likely. And Val was in town, so what could go wrong?
Scott met the grin on his brother’s face that said Hell, Boston; he’s gotta learn sooner or later.
“Alright, but don’t tell your father, or Teresa! We’ll order a quick meal; then we’re going home before your Uncle Johnny can find any trouble to get into!”
The nerve of Boston insinuatin’ I get inta trouble!
Scott quickly glanced toward the Widow’s store. She was not standing at the door or windows that he could see. The coast was clear.
Johnny stopped at the batwings before pushing them open into the dark interior, then found a table off to the side. He settled down and relaxed, tipping on the chair’s back legs, then caught the bartender’s eye. “Coupla beers, Henry, an’ somethin’ for the kid!”
“Comin’ right up, Johnny!”
Scott and Tommy sat at the table, the boy safely tucked between his new uncles. His eyes were as big as dollars as he looked, taking in everything around him. Already a thin veil of smoke hung in the air attesting to a healthy business so early in the day. And here he sat, in a saloon with Scott and Johnny! Boy, they’re the best uncles ever!
Henry made his way to the table with the beers and a glass of sarsaparilla for the youngster. “Here ya are, boys! Getcha anything else?”
“Yeah, what’s Sally got cookin’ taday?” Sally did have a way with steaks… Johnny could only hope.
“Oh, said somethin’ ‘bout steak an’ potatoes.” Henry smiled at the light in Johnny’s eyes.
“Well then, make it three, huh?”
“Only be a few minutes, boys!” and Henry left the table.
So far, so good! Scott thought.
Soon, the meals arrived, and the three began to dig in. The meat was tender, and the potatoes, crispy on the outside, filled the empty bellies.
Well, almost done and no trouble! Scott breathed a sigh of relief.
Until voices from outside spilled into the saloon, and four young rowdies jostled into the room looking for trouble. Laughing and pushing at each other, making off-color remarks, and worse yet, they all had their guns tied low on their hips and had ‘trouble’ written all over them.
Too good to be true… This could turn very bad, very fast. Scott could only hope they would get out of there unscathed.
Johnny watched through his lashes as one approached their table. The Rowdy spoke. “Hey, old man,” he laughed, “how’s that steak? Gimme some!” and reached out to take a piece of meat off Johnny’s plate.
Damn, we got the kid here… can’t be no trouble… Oh, hell, ain’t no way around it… Wait! Did he just say ‘Ole man’?
“Hey, Scott— don’t want the kid here ta grow up like these jackasses…” Johnny smirked.
The Rowdy stopped in mid-reach as shock flooded his features. “What’d you say… old timer?”
Scott paled. Uh, oh…
Johnny sighed, doing his damnedest to keep it civil. “We’re busy, boy. Go away.”
Rowdy snorted, not believing the ‘old man’ had guts enough to say anything. Then he repeated: “What’d you say?” and he lowered his head to sneer into Johnny’s face and crowd him.
Johnny turned to Scott, then Tommy. “See, this’s a perfect example of what I been talkin’ about. Since this boy’s been suckin’ on his mama’s tit, he’s been given everything but discipline. An’ now his idea of courage is gettin’ tagether with his jackass friends an’ annnoyin’ good-natured folks, thinkin’ that good nature’ll keep ‘em from puttin’ a stop ta any trouble.” Johnny’s tone belied the eruption boiling over inside him.
Rowdy was indignant! “Hey, who do you think you are, huh?”
Scott sighed loudly and leaned over to Johnny. “Just don’t kill him, alright?” Then got up from his place at the table and left the saloon. Tommy stared, wide-eyed and worried, stunned at the happenings while minding their own business!
Now it was Johnny’s turn to shrug. He stood slowly as Rowdy’s chin dropped to his chest and spied the rig strapped around Johnny’s hips and the menacing Colt on his thigh. Rowdy had a split second to breathe before Madrid’s hand shot out and clamped on his neck with a vise-like grip.
Rowdy’s friends were stunned as they watched the ‘old man’ tear into their friend.
“Boy, I fought in the Mexican War, stood my ground in fronta a firin’ squad without pissin’ myself. I faced down four gunfighters at one time an’ survived capture by the Apaches. I been in love so hard, my heart ripped in two, an’ lived after being locked in a Mexican prison with nothin’ ta eat but rats an’ maggots. That’s who I am!” Then Johnny gave the kid a shove across the floor to crash into the friends behind him.
Tommy’s eyes widened as Rowdy shot to his feet, tore the jacket from his shoulders, and threw it to the floor. Rowdy’s enraged scream tore from his throat.
“Let’s show these old bastards who’s tough! Get your knives!” And with a chorus of “Yeah, we’ll show ‘em!” all four had the weapons in their hands. Yeah, they’d teach these old men who was tough alright! Their emotions high; it bubbled in their veins and heightened their confidence as it ran wild, unchecked, and stupid.
Until the pump of a shell into the barrel of a shotgun and leveled at their bellies broke through their enthusiasm. Scott stood in the saloon aiming the Widow Hargis’ gun, ready to pull the trigger.
“Now, boys, you think you can take my brother, but those empty brains of yours are going to do nothing but get you into trouble,” Scott’s calm words hit home as the four knives thunked to the floor.
Johnny huffed. “Scott, did I ask you ta butt in?”
Scott shook his head. “Johnny, you’re not healed from that bullet yet. Doc Jenkins hasn’t released you.”
“Damn, Boston, there’s only four of ‘em…”
Scott acquiesced. “OK, Johnny, you fight this one first,” and he moved the shotgun barrel to indicate Rowdy, “then you can take care of the rest.”
The huge smile crawled across Johnny’s face as the smile that had been fixed on Rowdy’s face disappeared. He flexed his fingers and nodded at Tommy, “Yeah! You watch this, kid!”
Scott turned to look at Rowdy. “You’d better pick up that knife, kid, because you’re going to need all the help you can get!” Then he laughed and backed up, giving Johnny more room to fight. He glanced at Tommy, then gave him a reassuring smile, knowing the lad was scared stiff.
Rowdy held the knife in a downward slash motion and advanced on Johnny. Madrid easily grabbed the arm with the knife and quickly relieved the boy of the weapon, and shoved him once again into his friends. Then Johnny held the knife in his hand, demonstrating a jab move, and gave the rowdy instruction.
“You’re holdin’ it wrong, son. Not like this,” again he demonstrated, then changed his hold. “Like this! Ya always do it like this— smooth!” Then he tossed the weapon back to the astonished kid. “C’mon, do it again…” he said calmly.
Urged on by the shouts of his companions, Rowdy came at Johnny again… and Johnny quickly disarmed the boy a second time but twisted the arm until an audible pop sounded in the room, then tossed the knife to Scott.
Deftly catching it out of the air, Boston pierced the blade into the worn tabletop, where it quivered, then stilled. He then looked up at the other three troublemakers. “You’d better get in there and help your friend!” He said in a casual tone.
Rowdy was again thrown into his friends. The tallest of the three lunged forward and took a swing at Johnny’s head; Johnny easily avoided the blow when he stepped back. Then he brought up his knee and successfully made contact with the attacker’s belly. The younger man doubled over and dropped like a sack of manure to sprawl on the floor.
The third man took a sloppy swing that Johnny blocked, twisted the arm out of the socket, and then slammed the kids’ head into the bar. The fourth man was punched and skidded over the top of the table, taking Johnny’s lunch with him to the sawdust-covered floor.
Suddenly, Johnny was grabbed from behind; the attacker’s arms wrapped around his chest, thinking he had the old man now. But Johnny raised his arms, throwing off the grip, then launched his elbow into the unprotected jaw behind him. One idiot came off the floor, and Johnny grabbed him around the neck in a headlock, and held him tight, then grabbed a beer off the bar and poured it over his captive’s head.
Once afraid for his Uncle Johnny, Tommy was now grinning ear to ear as, one by one, the rowdies were dispensed single-handedly by ‘an old man’ and made them look bad to boot!
Boy, he’d have a great story to tell his father when he got home! But knowing he couldn’t betray the newfound alliance with his uncles, he vowed to himself not a word of this incident would escape his lips, ever!
Scott returned the Widow Hargis’ shotgun and was surprised when she said, “A boy’s gotta learn sooner or later,” and promised that Murdoch Lancer would hear nothing from her lips. She was secretly happy young Tommy would be under the tutelage of Scott and Johnny Lancer as he grew.
They rode out of town toward home, and Johnny couldn’t help but smile. Ol’ man, huh, boys?
From the movie ‘Secondhand Lions’
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