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Community Service by Sharon

Word Count 5,790

This is another one of the “gift stories” shared amongst a small circle of Lancer fans. It was our good friends Vickie B. and Chris W. who coordinated the gift exchange; Chris passed away unexpectedly in the fall of 2006 and we all still miss her very much.  She had a wonderful sense of humor and a lively enthusiasm for Wayne Maunder in both his “Custer” and “Scott Lancer” roles. This story was first published in the October 2006 Boston Homecoming Magazine and is rededicated to her.
The recipient of this gift was asked to provide some hints about what she would like to see in a story. “Community Service” was one of the titles she suggested for a story incorporating the following requested elements: dancing and moonlight, babies and buckboards.  It wasn’t easy, but this is what I came up with:

He wasn’t going to get out of it this time. 

Looking up into the steely gaze, Johnny Madrid Lancer could see no hope of escape. The firm grip on his shoulder confirmed the stark assessment. Sighing in resignation, Johnny reluctantly complied with the demand that he raise his left hand.

“Sure hope T’resa gets out here pretty quick,” he grumbled.

The edges of the blue eyes crinkled in response. “So do I.”

So maybe there was a chance, after all . . .

“Let’s wait for her then,” Johnny suggested, but instantly Boston was all business again.

“The hands should be clasped loosely,” his brother instructed. “Your right hand rests on your partner’s waist—no, slightly to the back. Good. Now, step forward with your left foot.”

“You gonna move out of the way?”

“Yes, your partner always reacts to your movements. When you step forward, she’ll step back. Now, just do it the way we’ve been practicing.”

Until now they’d been practicing side by side with imaginary women, which had been a hell of a lot less awkward. Johnny had seen men dancing together plenty of times, up in the mining camps for instance, but those miners had probably known each other a whole lot longer than he’d known Scott . . .


He’d met people from “Back East,” but never anyone from Boston.  It hadn’t helped when Scott had explained that it was in some place called “Massah-chuz-its,” but then he’d pointed it out on a map and it looked to be about as far East as you could go.

That’s where Scott had been raised, by his grandfather—his wealthy grandfather.  So it was pretty unlikely that his half-brother’s upbringing had anything in common with Johnny’s own childhood, much of it spent as a border town brat.  As a kid, he’d often had to fend for himself, while his brother had grown up with a bunch of servants, a housekeeper, a cook.

Scott probably hadn’t ever missed a meal, except maybe during the War. Assuming he’d actually seen any fighting.

Well, that wasn’t right, and Johnny knew it.  He’d had plenty of doubts about the City Boy back in the beginning, before they’d gone up against Pardee. But it had been clear once the shooting started that during his days in the cavalry Scott had been something more than just a pretty uniform on horseback.

Still, back in Boston, Scott had apparently spent lots of time wearing fancy clothes and attending what he called “deb-u-tahnt” balls—some kind of dance where the ladies wore white dresses and carried cards where they wrote down who it was they were going to dance with next. Talk about having your fun organized for you . . . Scott said the men all wore gloves, white ones, and tails.  Johnny’d been sure Boston was pulling his leg with that bit about the tails, so of course he hadn’t asked, but Teresa hadn’t been able to get enough of it, peppering Scott with all sorts of questions.

Then, to be fair, she’d asked him if he’d gone to lots of festivals and fiestas down in Mexico.

Well, moving from town to town the way they had, he and Mama hadn’t always felt welcome at the local celebrations. And later on he’d learned that gunfighters weren’t exactly well received at church socials. Not that that had stopped him; he expected people to recognize the name Johnny Madrid, he’d damned well earned it. If he felt like putting in an appearance, he’d walk in anywhere with his head high.  Which was different from Scott, who had that easy confidence that came from knowing he’d always be accepted no matter where he went.

It came from growing up rich since, in addition to taking it for granted that you’d have a roof over your head and three meals a day, you also got to wear decent clothes and go to school. No doubt Scott had everything he’d ever needed just handed to him.  So it had been a surprise when his brother had been so willing to pitch in right alongside the hands; not being used to the hot weather, Ol’ Boston worked up more of a sweat than most.  Getting dirty didn’t seem to bother him much— though he was pretty partial to taking long baths. 

Anyway, while they were talking about celebrations, Teresa had asked about birthdays. Johnny’d answered honestly—he’d never had a party or anything, but Mama always made sure he had some favorite food and a present, like maybe a new shirt she’d made, decorated with embroidered designs.  Scott had been listening and when Teresa did what she usually did and turned the same question on him next, Boston seemed oddly reluctant to answer. He said that sometimes his grandfather had made a big deal about his birthday and sometimes not so much, though Johnny had his doubts about that last part.

Scott did admit that one year his grandfather had given him a pony.

And that kind of showed the difference between them. It was a good thing Teresa hadn’t asked, because the first horse Johnny had ever called his own, he’d taken from someone he’d out gunned; after all, the man hadn’t needed it anymore. 

It wasn’t the kind of story he was eager to share.  Though come to think of it, neither one of them had volunteered much about the past, just answered Teresa’s questions—and listened pretty hard to what each other had to say.  Judging from the look on Boston’s face sometimes, Scott could maybe get to feeling sorry for him pretty easy, and Johnny didn’t need that. So, when Teresa asked why he didn’t dance, it had been easier to shrug and say he’d just never taken time to learn.

He hadn’t expected Lieutenant Lancer to make it his personal mission to teach him.  


“A Service to the Community” he’d called it, doing his duty to make the ladies happy. According to Scott, they’d all been seriously disappointed when Johnny Lancer mostly avoided taking the floor at the gathering Murdoch had hosted to introduce his sons to the locals.  Well, Teresa had badgered him into a few dances and he’d done okay he thought, managed to step along with her and a couple of her friends too. But he’d been recovering from a bullet in the back, so he’d had an excuse.

Murdoch had only been good for a few turns himself; while playing host, the Old Man had still been leaning pretty heavily on that cane.  And so Scott got to complain long and loud—straight faced, but with that gleam in his eyes—about how he’d had to dance with every single female present, doing all the “heavy work” since his father and brother weren’t able to pull their weight.

Well, he sure had pulled his weight today, and so had Scott; it had been an especially long, hot, dirty one. Scott, as usual, had washed up and put on clean clothes before supper and Johnny’d done the same.  Maria had served up a good meal, with spicy Mexican style chicken instead of beef for a change.  After a few bites Scott had said he wasn’t very hungry, but Johnny had tucked right in, eating enough for both of them. He was looking forward to relaxing on the sofa, now that they each had a glass in hand.

“It’s time for your dancing lesson.”

Johnny pulled a face, but, before he could say anything, Scott reminded him that he’d lost the bet. Murdoch, who was already settled in his big leather chair, looked up from his book with a curious expression. Fortunately the Old Man didn’t ask—-the bet had been over what Murdoch’s first words would be when they got back from their day’s work. Even though Johnny had lost fair and square, he was too damned tired to do anything except maybe lay on the sofa listening to Scott read aloud from Oliver Twist.   Or take his brother on in a game of chess.  Murdoch had taught him to play while he was laid up with that bullet, and Johnny liked that there was a lot more to it than checkers.  He’d beaten Murdoch once or twice, but not Scott yet, though Scott seemed to like playing against him anyway.  Boston said that Johnny forced him to think hard and move carefully, complimenting him on his “unique strategies.”

Well, he sure wished he could come up with one to get out of dancing, but a bet was a bet. Johnny reluctantly trailed Scott through the kitchen where Teresa was helping Maria with the supper dishes. Hearing Scott invite Teresa to join them when she was through didn’t make Johnny any happier; he figured the fewer witnesses the better. 

Once they got outside, Scott set his glass on top of the adobe wall. The yellow glow of the sun was low in the sky but hadn’t fully set yet. The pale new moon was already rising opposite. It was pretty quiet; most of the hands were probably in the bunkhouse, smoking and playing cards. A good thing, since he needed that kind of audience even less.


Johnny let go of Scott and hastily stepped back when Teresa burst through the kitchen door.

“Scott, I have a music box!” She was carrying a shiny wooden box in her hands.

“And what does it play?”

She wrinkled up her forehead and her smile slipped a bit.

“Well, I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s dancing music. Listen.”

She wound it up with a key on the side and then proudly set the box on the bench. As the three of them gathered around and stared down at it, the key turned and a tinkling little tune came out.

Johnny wasn’t impressed, but Scott stood with his hands on his hips, looking pleased.

“It’s a waltz.  ‘ An der schönen blauen Donau’ . . . ‘By the Beautiful Blue Danube’ composed by J ohann Strauss. It’s a fine waltz for practicing.”

Scott grinned like this was the best thing that had happened all day. ‘Course, the kind of day they’d had, maybe it was. For him, anyway.

When the little box finally stopped making noise, Teresa wound it right back up.  Scott extended his hands and she moved happily into his arms; she had to reach up a ways to put her hand on Scott’s shoulder. Johnny ambled over to retrieve his drink and leaned against the wall to watch as they moved smoothly within the small enclosed area.  Most men just stomped their feet while they swung the ladies from side to side; Eastern style dancing was more complicated, but of course Scott made it look easy.  What really impressed Johnny was that his brother was carrying on what appeared to be a pretty entertaining conversation the whole time he was dancing Teresa around.

When the musicbox started to wind down, Scott slowed his steps to match, making Teresa laugh harder. When it finally stopped, instead of enjoying the quiet for a bit, she hurried to start it up again, and Scott came over to take his place holding up the wall.

“Your turn.”

After one last swallow, Johnny set his glass down. It looked like he didn’t have any choice except to give it a try, but dancing seemed even less like fun now that he’d had a taste of the “proper” way to do it.  Of course, it would have been a lot easier without Teresa giving him that encouraging smile and Boston looking like he was expecting great things.  Johnny took Teresa through some mechanical steps shuffling back and forth, while Scott kept saying things like “move with the music.”  Johnny couldn’t wait for the silly box to run down.

In the blessed silence, you could finally hear the night sounds: one of the horses nickering in the stable, cattle lowing in the distance, faint voices from the bunkhouse. It was pretty dark now, though they could see well enough in the moonlight.  Scott explained how you could move around more by changing the size of the step and its direction, and Johnny easily got the hang of that, as long as the music wasn’t playing. He was concentrating so hard that he hadn’t noticed Maria slip out of the kitchen and settle on the garden bench to watch, not until Scott asked her to get the little box going again.

“Senora Maria, could you wind that up for us, por favor?”

Maria held up the musicbox and named it. “C aja de música.” And she wouldn’t touch the little key, not until Scott got the pronunciation of that word right too. 

“¿Senora . . . puedo tener . . . yo este  . . . baile?” 

Johnny was surprised to hear Scott ask Maria to dance; she must have taught him that line for Murdoch’s party.  With his Eastern accent no one was going to mistake Boston for a local anytime soon, but Scott was doing okay.  He kept trying, anyway.  The next thing Johnny knew, Scott and Maria were dancing around the garden, the Senora with a smile as wide as the Rio Grande. 

Even after the music wound down, Scott didn’t let her go.  Using just sounds instead of words, he started “singing” something faster and he and Maria were at it again.

“What was that?” Teresa asked, clapping her hands for them when they finally finished.

“The schottische,” Scott said, in between breaths.  He escorted Maria back to the bench and then actually bowed. “Muchas gracias, Senora.”

Maria was still smiling, fanning herself with her apron. Then she let loose a torrent of Spanish that Scott didn’t have a prayer of keeping up with. It was clear from his expression that he’d only maybe caught a word or two, and he looked to Teresa for help.

“She’s listing all the Mexican dances you’ll have to learn before the next fiesta,” Teresa explained. Maria nodded emphatically.

“Well, I’m . . .  looking forward to it,” Scott assured her.


The big draft horses pressed forward, the only sound the steady clop-clop of their feet as they moved in tandem.  They were kicking up a good bit of dust, though nothing compared to the billowing cloud trailing the buckboard.  Scott was holding the reins, ramrod straight and silent, while Johnny lounged on the seat beside him.

They hadn’t done any dancing for a couple days now and Johnny expected that Scott wouldn’t be in a hurry to get back to giving lessons any time soon.  His brother was moving stiffly this morning, no surprise after being dumped off his horse the previous day.   Some joker had stuck a tack under the saddle, setting Brunswick to bucking with a fury as soon as Scott climbed aboard.   Because he was a better rider than most, Scott managed to hang on quite a while before finally landing hard on his rump in the corral.  Cipriano had hurried to help him up, even though Scott was waving him off. Scott guessed right away what the problem was, angrily stripping off saddle and blanket as soon as he had the animal calmed down, searching til he located the cause.  A few of the men watching had laughed, but as far as Johnny knew, no one had taken credit yet. It wasn’t unusual for a greenhorn to become a target, and it wasn’t the first time Scott’d had some trouble in front of a less than friendly audience—-though being the Boss’s son and one of the owners besides had likely spared him the worst of it.

Somehow Boston made it through the rest of the day, but there’d been no dancing lessons or anything else last night. Scott had turned in early, after barely touching Maria’s extra spicy beef enchiladas– leaving Johnny to a long evening watching Murdoch turn the pages of his book. Teresa had found a picture in a magazine, a drawing of a gentleman wearing one of those tall hats and a jacket with two long pieces hanging down the back—“tails” she’d called them, and asked if he couldn’t just imagine Scott all dressed up like that. Well, it weren’t that hard to picture. It was even easier when she showed him another drawing, of a man and a woman dancing. The lady was wearing a fancy dress that was cut as low as anything Johnny’d seen in real life.  It wasn’t like his brother not to mention something like that; he’d have to remember to ask Scott about it.

Not right now though. Scott had to be feeling pretty sore at the moment; you never knew the real damage until the next morning. From the way Scott hadn’t looked at him when the Old Man announced they were heading into town today instead of going out again with the work crew, Johnny guessed his brother thought he’d had something to do with the easier assignment. Johnny’s money was on Cipriano.  Of course, maybe the reason Scott wasn’t talking to him was because he was wondering if Johnny might know anything about that tack under his saddle.  He didn’t, though he suspected he and Scott had narrowed down the names to the same short list.

Johnny slid down lower on the seat and adjusted his hat so that it covered his face.  Might as well rest his eyes, and it didn’t look like he was going to miss any conversation if he somehow managed to doze off. Not that he’d said more than two words to Scott either, except when they’d passed some people walking in the opposite direction.  Johnny had pointed out how much dust they were having to eat when the buckboard passed. Scott turned around to see for himself and then got that irritated look on his face.  Johnny knew by now that the expression meant the man was displeased with himself rather than anyone else. Since then, they’d passed an old codger on a mule and a few folks plodding along on horseback, and Scott had reined their own animals right down to a walk each time.

The wagon was slowing again, so Johnny lifted his hat up to see who or what they were passing now. A young Mexican woman, with two little kids, a boy maybe four or five and a girl younger. They were walking towards town, real slow on account of those little legs.

When they came up alongside them, it turned out the little mamacita was carrying a baby too.

“Good morning. Could we offer you a ride?”

Despite Scott’s formal, polite tone, the dark-eyed woman gave a worried little glance their way, shook her head and kept on walking.

“It’s really no trouble; we’re heading into town ourselves.”

After snubbing Scott a second time, she started to look a little nervous about the wagon rolling along so close beside them and pulled the little boy over to her other side.

Johnny leaned past Scott and asked in Spanish if they were going to Morro Coyo.  When she said “si” he pointed out how tired the little nina was looking, then he smiled and assured her that the gringo driving the buckboard was mostly harmless.  The woman relaxed pretty quickly after that, smiling when they exchanged names and even rolling her eyes in amusement when he referred to Scott as “mi hermano.” And she didn’t argue when Johnny jumped down from his seat and started lifting the kids, Eduardo, nicknamed Lalo, and tiny Rosalita, into the back.  He scooted up onto the wagon bed and told Francisca Ruiz to sit up on the seat beside Scott. 

When the Senora started walking around the vehicle, Scott slid over to Johnny’s vacated spot and climbed down on the other side, obviously still intent upon being mannerly.  Johnny murmured another reassurance and she let Boston give her a hand up.

“This here’s Senora Ruiz. I don’t think she understands much English, Scott.” Johnny said once everyone was settled and they were back underway.

“So what did you say to change her mind?”

Johnny grinned. “Told her you weren’t as dangerous as you look.”


When they pulled up in front of Baldemerro’s store, Juan Baldemerro himself was out front arranging a few items on the board walk. He hurried right over to help Francisca down from the buckboard while Johnny got the kids out of the back.

After that, Baldemerro’s attention was all on Scott. Boston was a good customer, probably one of the best, since he was always ready to spend cash money instead of putting things on account.  After what had happened the first time he’d tried to shop in the store, Senor Baldemerro had to be grateful that Scott was still willing to trade with him. Scott handed the shopkeeper their list and Baldemerro headed back inside. Johnny perched on the back of the wagon while Senora Ruiz and the kids were saying “gracias” for the ride into town.

“¿Quién es esto, Paquita? ¿Dónde está su marido?” 

A hulking man with shaggy black hair loomed over them, loudly demanding to know where Francisca’s husband was and startling the two little kids into clutching at their mama’s skirts.  Scott immediately positioned himself in between Big Shaggy and the Ruiz family, while Francisca calmly explained that her husband, Miguel, was still sick.  Then she started moving the kids further down the boardwalk. 

But the man-mountain, who Senora Ruiz called “Luis,” started pointing at Scott and shouting some crazy questions about was this how she was supporting her family, selling herself to some rich gringo? Scott firmly stood his ground in the face of Luis’ angry yelling and Johnny moved up beside him, gun drawn.

“So what’s he saying?”

“Something insulting.  Get ‘em inside, Scott.”

Scott gave him a look but no argument, just took Senora Ruiz by the arm, indicating with a nod of the head that they should go inside the store.  Despite the gun pointed at his sizable gut, Luis kept shouting and Scott was careful not to completely turn his back on the man.  Even though Luis didn’t make any move to follow, Johnny still positioned himself in front of the entrance, just in case.  He used the cold, quiet Madrid voice that usually worked so well, but the big man just wouldn’t listen.

It wasn’t long before Johnny heard the door open again and someone stepped out behind him; he hoped it was his brother and not one of  Luis’ amigos.  Loud-mouth Luis wasn’t wearing a gun, but he had a sizable knife attached to his belt, so Johnny didn’t want to take his eyes off him.  It was a relief to hear Boston ask a question in that dry tone of his.

“We’re still not finished here?”

“Nope. He ain’t apologized yet.”

Then Luis snarled something in Scott’s direction, and again there was at least one word his brother recognized, “gringo.”

With a sigh, Scott reached up with one gloved hand and moved his hat so it sat back further on his head. “You know, I am getting tired of being called that.”

Even though he hadn’t spoken a word of English, Luis understood well enough, because he smiled, showing them a row of big tobacco stained teeth. Then he turned to Johnny and asked in Spanish if Paquita Ruiz was the gringo’s woman now, calling her a “puta” and a few other choice names.

Out of the corner of his eye, Johnny saw it coming—Scott looked down for just a moment, and then he came up swinging, one punch sinking deep into Luis’ abdomen, the second catching him square on the jaw.  Luis went down hard and stayed there, dazed, on his back, taking up the whole width of the boardwalk. Scott looked thoughtfully down at the smear of blood on his glove, then glanced at Johnny’s drawn gun.

“Why don’t you put that away—help me move him to one side.”

Johnny holstered his weapon. “You know, you’re wearing one of these too.” 

Scott studied him speculatively. “You’d shoot a man for an insult?”

“It’s been known to happen.”

Scott shook his head doubtfully, but didn’t bother saying anything about “the Code of the West”; he just bent down and picked up one of Luis’ arms. Johnny grabbed ahold of the other side and they sat Luis up against the building, his legs straight out in front of him, still not really leaving much space for anyone walking by.  Johnny scooped up the big man’s hat and tossed it onto his head.

“You do have good aim,” Scott observed with a smile.

As he slowly leaned over to pick up his own hat, Scott looked under Luis’ brim. Although Johnny thought the man’s eyes might still be rolling in his head, he kept his gun hand ready just in case.

“You need to apologize to the lady. Comprende?”

Luis gave Scott a little nod. With a bit of an effort, Scott straightened, and then eased his own hat onto his head.

Back inside the store, the Ruiz kids were hanging onto each other while their mother was walking around in a little circle trying to soothe the crying baby.

“Scott here’s decided to do his fighting outside today,” Johnny informed Senor Baldemerro, since the older man looked worried.  Johnny made sure to make that announcement in English, and Scott bowed his head, trying to hold back a grin. 

The shopkeeper didn’t seem to think it was all that funny, and went to the door.  Baldemerro cautiously looked out, exchanged a few words with someone, then came back smiling, going on in rapid Spanish. Johnny quickly translated.

“He says Luis told him to say he was sorry. He’s happy that Luis is walkin’ the other way.  And now Senor Baldemerro would be very happy to fill our order.”

Scott nodded and, before Baldemerro hustled off, mentioned that he’d appreciate it if the shopkeeper would include another pair of work gloves. Then Scott turned towards the kids, reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a couple coins, but when he crouched down in front of them, the little girl scurried back behind her mother’s skirts. Her big brother Eduardo cautiously stood his ground but looked mighty relieved when his mama stepped nearer.

Scott held out one hand with a penny and a three cent piece resting on the palm. “Pour  . . . les enfants,” he said, looking up at Senora Ruiz. “For . . . candy.”

Well, that was one English word Lalo Ruiz had no trouble understanding. He snatched those coins with one hand and grabbed his little sister with the other and the two of them marched right over to where the jars of penny candy were lined up and stood staring. Francisca Ruiz smiled down at Scott and said “Gracias, Senor.” Scott slowly stood up again and politely removed his hat as he smiled down at her, then turned to Johnny.

“Johnny . . . maybe you should tell her—”

“That we’ll be givin’ her a ride home.”

Scott nodded. “I’ll talk to Senor Baldemerro.” 

Johnny chatted with Senora Ruiz, half listening to Scott telling the store owner that when it was time to fill her order, he should increase the amounts, since she had transportation. It turned out that the reason loud-mouth Luis had called her “Paquita” was because he was family, a cousin to her husband, so it was a good thing Johnny hadn’t had to shoot the man. She spoke with Senor Baldemerro and then went off to run a few other errands, toting the baby.  Her two kids trailed after her, both sucking on peppermint sticks. 

When he and Scott started carrying things out, loading up the buckboard and saving space for passengers, it was pretty noticeable that Boston was moving more and more slowly, though even with a sore back the man was still too stubborn to avoid his share of the heavier boxes and barrels. Johnny guessed his brother’s hand probably hurt some now too, but he thought he might know a cure; they were entitled to a trip to the saloon, once they finished. But when he suggested it, Scott looked surprised.

“It’s a little early for that, isn’t it?”

Johnny shrugged. “Don’t know what time it is; don’t carry a watch.”

“Well, I do.” Scott pulled a fine looking gold timepiece from his waistband pocket and flipped open the cover.

“Never needed one to tell me when it’s time for a drink.”

Scott studied the watch face for a moment, then looked up. “Point taken.” He snapped the cover closed. “Next time I’ll defer to your better judgment.”

They strolled down to the saloon, passing the Ruiz family along the way. Eduardo and little Rosalita chorused a cheery “hola” with big sticky smiles; the big brother adding a “Gracias, Senor,” for good measure. Francisca told them Luis had apologized again, in person this time, and that he was very much afraid that Miguel would hear about what he’d said.  That gave Johnny pause— wondering how big her husband was— then he reminded Senora Ruiz that they’d meet up with her and the kids back at Baldemerro’s.

When Johnny pushed through the batwing doors, he stopped just inside to give his eyes a chance to adjust to the dim interior, but Scott was following too close behind.  The pattern of light told Johnny his brother was holding one door open, and he was aware of Scott reflexively removing his hat, could feel it brushing against his back. Johnny sighed and kept moving.

The place was almost empty, but not quite.  Johnny had just about reached the bar when he noticed Luis sitting sullenly at a table towards the back, with a couple of friends.  That could’ve meant trouble, but when Johnny fixed him with a cold glare, the big man looked away.

“What’ll it be?” Pete the bartender asked.

“Two tequilas.”

Scott came up beside him, dropped his hat on the polished surface and started working off his gloves, one finger at a time. “And I’ll have a whiskey.”

Johnny shot his brother a look, but Scott’s attention was still on those gloves of his; he couldn’t even be sure if Boston had noticed that Luis was nearby.

The barkeep poured their drinks. Scott lifted his brow at Johnny’s two glasses of tequila. “You might send one of those over to our . . . friend.  That is, if you can spare it.”

Since Scott was probably paying anyway, Johnny pushed one glass back towards Pete.  “For Luis.” The barman looked surprised, then shrugged and tossed a towel over his shoulder before heading off to make his delivery.

“So . . . what was that ‘poor lezenfanz’ stuff you were saying back at Baldemerro’s?”

Scott looked surprised, then a bit sheepish. “Oh, just another language that doesn’t work out here.”

They watched to see if Luis accepted the tequila, then lifted their glasses towards him when he did, just to show there were no hard feelings. Scott turned his attention to his whiskey.

“So how’d you know those words he was usin’?”

Scott gave him a sideways glance. “I’ve heard ‘gringo’ a time or two,” he said dryly. 

“No, I mean those other words, like ‘puta’ and the rest. Senora Maria didn’t teach’em to ya.”

Even in the dim light, Johnny could see Scott flush a bit. “No, she didn’t. She just  . . . translated.”

Well, there was a story there, and Johnny thought he could maybe guess at what had happened. Scott sure wouldn’t be making that mistake again. 

“What does . . . pah-key-tah mean?”

“Paquita? Oh, that’s just a nickname for Francisca.” Johnny finished his drink. “What’d you think it meant?”

Scott tossed back what was left in his own glass.  Pete had left the bottles close by and Scott just reached for the whiskey without answering the question.

It was a good thing Ol’ Boston seemed to be a pretty quick learner, since he was learning new things every day out at the ranch. Scott hadn’t understood a word of Spanish when he arrived, couldn’t have had much idea of what it would be like living out here. He hadn’t known anything about herding steers or roping calves; Scott didn’t know much about cattle, period.  But that didn’t stop him from watching and asking questions to try to figure out how to do things the right way.  And when he missed the mark, he’d keep at it, give it another try.  

Well, except for the tequila. Looked like Scott wasn’t about to try that again.


Another moonlit evening, after another grueling day.  Instead of stretching his weary body out on that plump cushioned sofa in the Great Room, here he was back out in the garden, all because tomorrow night there was going to be a dance in town.

“So why’s this so important to you, anyway?” Johnny couldn’t help asking.

Scott grinned widely. “Now, I already told you, Brother: ‘community service.’ It’s my civic duty.”

“Yeah, like you really minded having all those women to yourself.”

“Oh, it was tiring,” Scott assured him, looking more pleased with himself than ever. “Trust me.”

Well, the thing was, that he did, pretty much.  Had for a while now. Still . . .

“Got to be more to it than that, you’re so set on it.  Maybe you’re thinkin’ you’re gonna civilize me or something.” 

Well, there it was. Johnny was too done in to keep the irritation—or the challenge— out of his voice. Scott’s smile disappeared.

“No . . . it’s not that,” Scott said slowly.  He crossed his arms over his chest and looked off towards the roofs of the outbuildings. “I guess I have been pushing too hard.”

Scott stepped back over to the adobe wall to collect his drink. “It’s been a long day,” he said apologetically. “We can do this some other time.”

Johnny sighed. “I’m just too tired to feel foolish trying to do something I can’t.”

Scott looked down at the drink in his hand, nodding in agreement. “I know the feeling.”

And that’s when he realized that maybe Scott just liked being the teacher for a change. Of course, Johnny could have pointed out that he’d already learned a thing or two from the man.  He could even have offered his brother some encouragement, told Boston how well he was doing.   But it was easier to just stay out here practicing in the moonlight, dancing with their imaginary ladies  . . . and getting Scott to tell him all about those very low cut dresses.




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