Word Count – 2,213
It was Friday and the boys finished their work assignments early. It had been an exhausting day and an embarrassing one for Scott. They’d decided to go into Green River to cut loose since it was the closest town to their work site.
“Didn’t they teach ya how to count at that fancy school … what is it, Harvard?’ Johnny laughed just like he always did. “Maybe it’s not too late for your grandpa to get his money back.” Johnny leaped off Barranca still chuckling. He hadn’t noticed the scowl on his brother’s face or the fact that Scott hadn’t dismounted yet.
“Come on, Scott.”
“Do you ever get tired of making fun of my education?”
Johnny thought for a moment and laughed again. “Nope, Boston, I don’t.” Johnny took a couple of steps toward the saloon.
“Well, I do, Johnny. I do get tired.” With a frown on his disappointed face, Scott turned to ride away.
Johnny stood with his hands on his hips watching his brother ride away. He scratched his head trying to figure out what just happened. He turned to see Val walking down the boardwalk coming his way.
“Hey, amigo. Where’s your brother going?”
Johnny shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Ah, come in and have a drink with me anyway.”
Johnny nodded, smiled, and looked back down the road one last time before he followed Val into the saloon.
Scott plodded under the Lancer arch around five-thirty. He was tired and disappointed. He had hoped that Johnny would’ve come after him to work this out. He was also relieved not to get into it with his brother. He had voiced his feelings and now he could let it go.
Jelly looked up to see Scott ride up to the hacienda. “Hey, Scott! Where’s Johnny?” Scott looked up, but didn’t answer him, then thought better of having to listen to the old man rant. “Johnny’s in town.” Question answered succinctly.
“Why aren’t you there?” No reply from the blond. “Oh, I get it. You two had a falling out, again. Did Johnny do something to ya?”
“Jelly … shut up.” Scott didn’t realize he had said it out loud. Usually he kept that thought in his head.
Jelly’s mouth hung open like a fish gasping for air. He turned abruptly around and strode into the barn.
“Jelly, wait. I’m sorry.” Scott stared at the little man’s back as he walked away. This day just keeps getting better and better.
Jose came up to take Charlie into the barn for a rub down and some feed. Scott hadn’t even noticed Jose walk up. I wonder if he heard that conversation?
Scott quietly closed the front door after he entered the house.
“I’m surprised to see you home on a Friday night.” Murdoch waited for an answer even thought he hadn’t asked a question.
The oldest Lancer son had hoped that his father wouldn’t be in the great room when he entered. His luck was running on par today. He really didn’t want to get into it with his father today, too.
Scott stopped in the middle of pouring a drink. “Just had a tough day today and wanted to relax at home.”
“I’m glad you’re home, son. Where’s your brother?”
Here it comes. “Johnny decided to go to town.”
“OK. You might as well go get cleaned up for supper. Let Teresa know to set a place for you.”
“Yes, sir.” Scott threw back his drink and turned to go to his room. He ran into Teresa at the bottom of the stairs. “Oof. Sorry, Teresa. I wasn’t paying attention. Are you OK?”
“I’m all right, Scott. I didn’t know you’d be here for supper. Is Johnny with you?”
“No, he decided to go to Green River.”
“Why didn’t you go? I thought you were looking forward to a night out. Did you two have a falling out?”
“No, Teresa. I just had a tough day and wanted to relax at home. Why would you ask if we had a disagreement?”
“Usually you two are inseparable. Well, unless, you’ve had an argument.”
Scott thought about it for a moment. “Johnny and I are fine.” He smiled at his sister trying to hide his current feelings about his brother.
Dinner was delicious: Chicken and Dumplings. “Is this the normal fare on Fridays or was this a special meal?”
“Nothing special, Scott. It just sounded good. A change of pace,” Teresa laughed, “besides one of the laying hens had lost her usefulness, so we didn’t want her to go to waste.”
“Do we need to worry about what will happen to us when we loose our usefulness, sir?” Scott looked to his father with a gleeful smirk.
Murdoch’s laugh rumbled from his chest. It’s so pleasant to have my family together. Well, at least one son. I wonder what Johnny is doing tonight?
“I hope you two aren’t too full. I made apple crisp for dessert.”
“I’m sure glad I decided to not stay in town tonight.” Whoops! Maybe they didn’t notice his slip.
“Did you go to town?” Teresa jumped on it with both feet.
“Yes, we finished early and rode into Green River. I decided not to stay and Johnny decided … to stay.” Scott calmly looked at Teresa and then turned to Murdoch.
“Well, I for one am glad to have you home, son.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The trio enjoyed their apple crisp with cream, then adjourned to the great room for a quiet evening. Teresa worked on some mending, while Scott and Murdoch chose reading material to while the hours away.
Johnny had only been sitting alone in the saloon for a few minutes when some ranch hands from Lancer and neighboring ranches came in. Val had left his friend to make his rounds.
“Hey, Johnny! What’re you doing sitting alone? Where’s Scott?”
Johnny hoped that he wouldn’t have to answer that same questions all night. Does everybody think me and Scott are joined at the hip? “You get just me tonight. Come over and sit. Let’s get a poker game started.” Three hands came over to join Johnny at his table.
Within the next hour, Johnny counted three more people who asked about Scott. That’s five people. Johnny was tired of being reminded that Scott wasn’t with him and truth be told, he kinda missed his big brother.
Val rejoined Johnny at his table after his rounds and the sheriff was having a profitable evening. Johnny’s poker luck, on the other hand was non-existent tonight.
“Well, gentlemen, I think it’s time for me to head on home.” Johnny proclaimed as he stood up and stretched his back.
“What?” voiced several ranch hands.
“That sounds like something Scott would say,” commented another.
“Johnny-boy, you tired of losing to me tonight or do ya just miss your brother?”
Johnny wanted to answer a little of both to Val. “Nah, just had a hard day and want to sleep in my own bed tonight. Night.” Johnny waved as he left the drinking establishment. Barranca was waiting patiently at the hitching rail. Johnny tighten the cinch, jumped into his saddle, and spurred his horse toward home. He had a lot of thinking to do before he faced his brother. He dreaded this conversation, but knew it needed to be done, tonight. He hadn’t enjoyed his night and he didn’t want to ever spend another night having to answer questions about Scott.
The grandfather clock struck nine as Johnny entered the house. All eyes turned to see the youngest Lancer son make his way to stand in front of his brother on the sofa.
“You’re home early.” Teresa chirped.
“We didn’t expect you until tomorrow. I thought you’d stay over tonight.” Murdoch interjected while looking at his youngest face. Johnny looked very serious.
Johnny didn’t answer either of the comments made. He just looked down at his brother. “Scott, I think you and I need to have a little talk.”
Murdoch shivered remembering hearing that phrase spoken from Scott not too long ago. It didn’t go well then, but he hoped it would go better with his sons now.
Scott looked up at his brother’s tense face. “All right, Johnny. How about my room?”
Johnny nodded and turned, heading toward the stairs.
Scott quietly closed his book, bid all a good night, and slowly walked to the stairs following his brother.
Johnny waited for Scott to enter his own bedroom first before following him inside. Scott went to sit in the chair by the window. Johnny paced back and forth. Scott wasn’t going to make this easy for his brother, so he just waited for Johnny to speak.
“I don’t get it. It was just a joke. We’ve laughed about it for a long time – ”
“No, you’ve laughed about it for a long time!” Scott interrupted.
“Why now? Why didn’t you say something earlier?” Johnny stopped pacing and sat down on the bed facing Scott.
“I don’t know. I guess it was the final straw. I kept hoping you would see I didn’t enjoy the joke. It’s very belittling to something I am very proud of. I guess it didn’t help to hear some of the hands start to say it too.”
“Boston, you’re not usually thin-skinned, but I’ll ask them not to joke about it any more if you want me to.”
“No, it’s not just that. I’m very proud of my Harvard degree. It means a lot to me.” Scott stopped to think about his final years there. How do I help Johnny to understand why this is so important to me? “Johnny, going back to school after being in that prison camp was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. It took me almost six months just to get my strength and energy back and another six months to get used to living in Boston among normal people. I had no ambition. No drive. I took the easy way out. I started drinking, gambling, and spending time with the ladies.”
Scott looked up to see understanding in his brother’s face and something else: compassion.
“Grandfather got tired of paying the bills for all my carousing. He got tired of the complaints from friends that I’d changed. He sat me down once night and told me ‘enough was enough.’ He told me I needed to finish my degree at Harvard. I started to argue that I didn’t see the point after what I’d seen and lived through. ‘Garretts always finish what they start’ he said. He even went so far as bribing me that I could choose any Garrett company I wanted to work for anywhere. I finally gave in. If Grandfather felt that strongly about it, then I could do it. I only needed two more years. I could do anything for two years.”
Scott got up to get a glass of water. Johnny never took his eyes off his brother. Scott sat back down and continued.
“Harvard wasn’t the same fun-loving time it was before the war, but it did help to bring me out of my blues. It was so great to immerse myself in something I enjoyed doing … learning. I pride myself at being a life-long learner. I always want to know more. I guess that’s part of why I wanted to stay here. Well, besides getting to know you and Murdoch. I guess the biggest reason I’m proud of my Harvard education is … I don’t know where I’d have wound up if I hadn’t finished it. There were days that I didn’t want to go on any more.” Johnny quietly gasped. “Having something to get up for. Something to get excited about. Something to live for. That’s what Harvard did for me and it hurts every time anyone puts it down or makes fun of it. Harvard is something I’m very proud of. It’s part of me just like Madrid is part of you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Johnny had tears in his eyes. His brother had opened up to him. He felt bad about all the times he had made fun of Scott. To be truthful, sometimes he did it to make himself feel superior to Scott. He never realized what it meant to his brother.
“I’m sorry Scott – ” Scott started to interrupt, but Johnny stopped him. “No, let me talk. I’m sorry for making fun of your schooling. I’m sorry for using it to make me feel smarter than you. I’m sorry for never noticing how it made you feel. Thank you for … setting me straight and for opening up to me. I never wanted to hurt you.”
Scott smiled at his brother. “Apology accepted. Our talk went much better than my talk with Murdoch.” Both laughed.
“Hey, what’d ya have for dessert tonight? I’m starved.”
Johnny and his one-track mind, Scott thought.
“Apple crisp with cream. It was delicious. Do you want to go see if there’s any left?”
Scott and Johnny stood and walked toward the bedroom door. Both brothers simultaneously wrapped an arm around the other’s shoulders. They smiled as they wandered down to the kitchen.
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