It Started Out A Good Idea
#1 in the February Observances series
A story for Library Lovers Month
Word count: 1,030
Johnny’s morning had been busy checking the fence line but at least he hadn’t found any breaks. He was relieved he would be able to sit down for a lunch of Maria’s tortillas instead of on the ground eating a sandwich. Poor ol’ Boston was stuck at the hacienda doing book work, Johnny hated being stuck indoors so he felt he came out better on the deal.
After he took care of Barranca he headed for the hacienda. Maybe talk Murdoch into giving Boston a break from the books.
When Johnny entered the great room he noticed Scott and Murdoch going over some papers spread out on the desk. “What y’all doing?” Johnny asked as he moved to peek over Scott’s shoulder.
“Well, little brother,” Scott stood up. “February is Library Month so Murdoch and I decided it was time to expand your knowledge base.” He raised his hand to stop Johnny’s comment. “We…” Scott pointed to himself and then Murdoch. “We have selected a list of books for you to read this month.” Scott nodded toward Murdoch.
“So son, after supper every night this month you will read. You can read aloud to us or to yourself, but you will read.” Murdoch stated firmly then stood and walked over to Johnny and patted his son’s shoulder, “And you will be questioned on the content.”
“What?” Johnny was shocked but it quickly turned to anger, “What do you mean?” He frowned at Murdoch and then Scott. Johnny was feeling picked on and he didn’t like it, not one bit.
“It means son, we expect you to read all the books on this list.” Johnny turned back to his father. Murdoch held up the aforementioned list. “We will be asking you questions about what you read…”
Scott interrupted, “The questions are just to see if you…” Scott fumbled for words.
Johnny scowled and wrapped his arms around his chest and lowered his voice, “I know y’all think I’m stupid ‘cause I don’t have much schooling, but I can read.”
He turned to leave but Murdoch grabbed his arm.
Johnny spun around his hand going to his hip, “Let go ol’ man.”
Murdoch recognized Madrid and released his son’s arm, “I’m sorry Johnny, we don’t think you are stupid but some of the books we selected, I mean the language may be unfamiliar to you…we…” He belatedly realized he had inadvertently hurt his younger son, again. Frustrated he dropped the list to the desk.
Scott took over hoping to defuse the situation, “Johnny, some of the books are written in a classical style and since we want you to enjoy reading…” Scott hesitated, “If you have any questions we are here to help you.” Scott saw the hurt in Johnny’s eyes.
“Thank you Scott,” Murdoch nodded to his older son. Embarrassed he faced his younger son, “I’m sorry Johnny, I didn’t mean for it to seem like we would be questioning you to make sure you read the books. Like Scott said we want you to enjoy reading and we tried to select books we thought would appeal to you.”
What had started out as a plan to share a love of reading and encouraging Johnny to use the library had turned into a disaster. Murdoch and Scott watched and waited. They hoped that their explanation had made up for hurting someone they both dearly loved.
The great room fell into an uneasy silence. Johnny had returned to his arms around the chest and head bowed position. Murdoch and Scott hated that pose and knew they were the reason Johnny was pulling into himself. They stood quietly side by side and continued waiting, not sure for what but they wouldn’t rush him.
Finally, Johnny took a deep breath. He couldn’t blame them for wanting him to be book learned so they didn’t have to explain things to him all the time. He knew he must be an embarrassment to them and he was sorry he overreacted.
“Yeah, I’m sorry too.” Johnny kept his head bowed. “Look, I wish I could be more like Scott, wish I was educated so I’d like reading like you two.” Johnny raised his head and looked at Murdoch. “Sorry you have to be ashamed of me.”
Murdoch gasped then went to his son and pulled him into a hug, “I am not ashamed of you, I’d never be ashamed of you. I just want to share something with my younger son.” He pushed Johnny to arm’s length, “Don’t ever believe I think less of you than I do of Scott. I love you both.” Johnny lowered his arms and looked into his father’s eyes.
Scott, came out of his shock of Johnny’s confession, moved next to Murdoch and pulled his brother into a hug, “We only wanted to share something other than ranch interests. Please believe us Johnny.”
Throughly embarrassed by all the hugging going on, Johnny pulled back, “Okay, y’all can quit the hugging shit, I’ll read the damn books.” He grinned when he heard Murdoch clear his throat at the cussing. “Hell,” he aimed his grin at Murdoch, “maybe I’ll learn some cuss words you like in them books.”
Murdoch let the laugh out and shook his head, “I’m sure you will son.”
“Should you need help finding them I am here to offer my services.” Scott used his best big brother voice.
Murdoch sighed, “I hope I won’t be sorry about this.” He went to his desk and picked up the list. “Here son, I hope you like our choices, if not we can offer some other suggestions.”
Johnny looked at the list and shrugged his shoulders, “Never heard of any of these.”
Scott took the list and pointed to the top entry, “I would suggest starting with the Leatherstocking stories.”
A relieved Murdoch watched his boys go to the bookcase, he went to the drink cart and poured a scotch. He took a sip, moved to his leather chair, and waited to see which book would be chosen.
Scott retrieved The Deerslayer and turned to face Johnny, “I prefer chronological order by Natty’s age.”
“Not even gonna ask Boston, just give me the book.”
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(Here is the list Murdoch and Scott picked for Johnny:
Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper (Chronological by Natty Bumppo’s age-youngest to oldest) – The Deerslayer, The Pathfinder, The Prairie, The Last of the Mohicans,
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift—Johnny will like the horses
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Murdoch wanted to add Shakespeare but Scott convinced him to wait, Johnny needed to work up to play form.)
Scott Is Not Happy
#2 in the February Observances series
February 7 is “Wear Red Day”
Word count: 330
Lancer Ranch – breakfast in the kitchen February 7th, Wear Red Day
“Aw come on Scott, you’re the one always wantin’ to celebrate these weird holidays and today is wear red.” Johnny held up and waved a red shirt with black embroidery. “Maria made this for you.” He grinned at his brother’s shocked expression. “Hey, you ain’t gonna hurt her feelings are you?” Johnny turned on his disappointed little boy face, “I can’t believe a fine gentleman like you would hurt a sweet lady like Maria. You ain’t being a good example to me.”
Johnny turned toward Murdoch and almost whined, “Hey Papi, Scott ain’t being a good example for me. Think ya need to talk to my big brother.” He threw in a pout for good measure.
Murdoch loved it when his sons acted like little boys, especially Johnny. He cleared his throat, “I do believe your younger brother is right Scott.” He took a sip of his coffee to cover a smile. “You should show your appreciation for Maria’s hard work to make you a very lovely shirt.” He tried to keep a straight face but failed so he cleared his throat again, “Since this is wear red day I expect you to wear that shirt.”
Scott wasn’t happy and he wondered why Murdoch wasn’t wearing red but knew better than to ask.
“Yeah big brother.” Johnny didn’t even try to cover his victory smile. “I’m wearing my red shirt.” Johnny brushed his hand against imaginary lint.
Scott glared at Johnny, “You always wear bright colors and that shirt is pink not red.”
“It’s red, just a little faded.” Johnny pouted.
“Enough, Scott put on the shirt.” Murdoch tried to sound angry but his grin gave him away, he was enjoying being in on the banter with his sons.
Scott frowned at his father and glared at his brother but gave up and grabbed the shirt and headed for the back stairs. Not to give in completely he called over his shoulder,
“Fine, but I still say Johnny’s shirt is pink.”
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Payback For Scott
#3 in the February Observances series
February 11 is Wear A White Shirt Day
Word count: 620
Lancer Ranch – breakfast in the kitchen, February 10th.
Johnny was frowning, Scott was smiling, and Murdoch was trying not to laugh.
Maria kept her back to the men to hide her smile and stirred the eggs.
“Just call it payback, Johnny. You made me wear red so now it’s your turn to wear white.” Scott was enjoying himself, “Tomorrow is wear a white shirt day.”
“Yeah, but it’s plain white, at least you had some decoration, this is just…”
Johnny tossed the offending shirt on the table. “Plain.”
Scott was on a roll getting even with Johnny, “At least there’s no lace or ruffles, I could have ordered a formal dress shirt for you.” He laughed, “I think little brother you would be very pretty in lace and ruffles.”
Suddenly Scott realized that last remark might have been too much because Madrid just entered the kitchen.
Murdoch saw the change and started to intervene but Johnny spoke first.
“Boston,” Johnny’s eyes turned cold and dark. “I didn’t try to embarrass you.”
“I’m sorry Johnny, I would never do anything to…” but before he could finish Johnny stomped out of the kitchen, slammed the door, and headed for the barn.
Murdoch shook his head and Maria scowled and smacked her wooden spoon against her palm.
Scott knew Johnny had not tried to embarrass him, the shirt was tastefully done, and was a maroon shade instead of bright red. Scott liked it after he tried it on and thanked Maria for the beautiful job she had done.
Scott was miserable and afraid he haddamaged the relationship they had formed. Could make amends, “I guess I shouldn’t have teased about lace and ruffles. Calling him pretty was uncalled for and the laugh…” Scott shook his head, “I am so sorry.”
“I know son, but I also know you didn’t mean to hurt your brother’s feelings.” Murdoch walked over to his son and placed a hand on his shoulder, “I have an idea.”
Lancer Ranch, February 11th, Wear a White Shirt Day
Johnny woke to a cold morning. He was still mad that Scott would want him to dress up like some Eastern dandy. What really hurt was being called pretty and his brother laughing at him. Johnny rolled on to his back and rubbed his eyes. Well, might as well get it done, Murdoch would be mad if he didn’t wear the damn white shirt. He had to admit Scott did wear the red one so he guessed he owed his brother, and at least it was just a plain shirt. “Guess I should be grateful no lace or ruffles,” he grumbled to himself.
He threw the quilt back, sat on the side of the bed, and looked for his pants. Then he noticed they were neatly folded on his chair as was the white shirt. Johnny sighed, walked over to the chair and picked up the shirt. He smiled.
The shirt was embroidered in the same style as his red shirt only the thread was sapphire blue that matched his eyes. He easily recognized Maria’s handiwork.
Scott and Murdoch were sitting at the kitchen table anxiously waiting for Johnny. Maria was at the stove, she was also waiting to see her nino.
All three were relieved when they heard jingling spurs instead stomping boots coming down the back stairs. A smiling Johnny, wearing the white shirt, entered the kitchen. He walked to Maria and kissed her cheek, she smiled and patted his chest. Murdoch grinned and nodded his approval as his younger son sat at his place at the table. A very nervous Scott waited but Johnny smirked at his brother and put his arm over Scott’s shoulder.
~ end ~
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