Sadly, Southernfrau is no longer with us. Her stories are archived here for her friends to remember her by. Enjoy her legacy to Lancer.
Word Count 3,270
Night had yet to give up the last shadows of its darkness to dawn. The valley and hills were hushed except for the sounds of the rustled dance of the treetops as they swayed to the wind traveling through their mingled limbs.
The white hacienda nestled at the bottom of the hilly land was just beginning to stir to life. In the kitchen, the roar and snap of fire consuming wood as it heated up the big cast iron stove was joined by the crack and splat of fresh eggs as they were broken and then dropped into a large gaily-colored pottery bowl. A brisk whisking and clink of metal against the earthenware dish was joined by the hum of an indiscriminate song as Mamacita Maria started breakfast preparations for her Patron’s family.
Mamacita Maria smiled as she thought of the two ninos that would shortly being clambering nosily down the staircase, tumbling into her kitchen like puppies from a box. Oh how she loved those two boys. The slender, serious eight- year old little blond was so much like his mother, from his aristocratic bearing to his diplomatic character. Catherine for all her high society manners had always strived to treat everyone equally. She missed the grace, beauty and calm that had marked the hacienda when she was alive.
As her thoughts turned to Senor Lancer’s second wife a frown marred her features and the eggs received a vicious beating from the fork clenched tightly in her hand. Maria Madrid Lancer had been a selfish, self-centered moody woman, prone to fits of temper and crying. She never had time for her stepson and so it was no surprise after she gave birth to Johnny that she wanted nothing to do with him either. The woman had fallen into a black mood and had refused to even allow her child to suckle nourishment from her breast.
In a cruel twist of fate, Mamacita Maria had given birth just four days before to a baby boy, a child she and her husband had longed desperately for. The child was so large he had become caught in the birth canal and perished. Mamacita Maria herself had bled heavily from the damage to her body and was told she would most likely never conceive again. Five days after the stillbirth of her child, she unselfishly took the Patron’s new son to her breast and nursed him. In her mind she knew she was just a wet nurse for this child but in her heart all the love she had for her own transferred to the little dark haired cherub and it was no trouble or imposition at all to include the older son as well.
No one was happier to see the discontented Maria steal away like a thief in the night from her small family just after Johnny’s first birthday than Mamacita. The boys never missed her because she steadfastly refused to participate in their care. However the young rancher had loved the aloof beauty. He had for a time mourned her departure until he got his priorities straight and threw himself into raising his boys.
The family had settled into a normal routine over the past two years. Mamacita Maria provided the feminine touch the boys and house needed, while Murdoch turned into the typical protective father. The Patron had never begrudged the childless Maria the affections of his sons, nor did he forbid them from calling her Mamacita. He made sure they knew their parentage but he himself realized that Mamacita would probably be the only ‘mother’ the two Lancers heirs would ever know as he had no intentions of ever marrying again.
Mamacita set the bowl of beaten eggs aside to begin mixing the biscuits. She cut the lard into the flour, added the milk, sugar and egg and then dug her hands into the mixture, kneading it into a ball of dough. As she was rolling the dough out onto the butcher top, she giggled as it made her think of Harlan Garrett or Grandfather Ha as the boys called him.
What a surprise he had turned out to be. He had visited as often as he could when Scott was a baby. He had arrived two weeks after Catherine’s death and stayed three months getting to know his grandson. At first he had seemed stodgy and stiff necked, all proper manners and propriety, but a little blond angel quickly softened that disposition.
The elderly gentleman had been a regular visitor even after Murdoch remarried. And he was just as thrilled at the birth of Johnny as Murdoch and Scott; he always thought of the youngest Lancer as his grandson too. When Maria abandoned the family, Harlan had moved the base of his business to San Francisco and split his time between the ranch and his office so he could help raise the boys. He kept his house in Boston to use when business dictated he go to the East coast.
Mamacita smiled to herself as she cut the biscuits into rounds and placed them on a baking sheet. Briskly rubbing her floured hands on her apron she picked up the pan and slid it into the oven. She paused to compare the family to the biscuits, like all types of bread they were made of a mixture of ingredients and depending on the amounts and combinations of ingredients you got different textured and flavored breads, but all had to have lard to hold them together, to make them solid. Families are held together, made solid by love. It was true they were a different little family, but a family nonetheless, with an unconventional combination of people, some related by blood others by heart, giving them a unique look and flavor, but they had the most important ingredient…love and respect for each other.
Hearing the stirrings of activity from the family awakening coming from upstairs, Mamacita hurried to heat the skillet for frying the bacon. If she timed it right she would be setting the platters of food on the table by the time they arrived in the kitchen.
Murdoch yawned and struggled to open his eyes when his ears detected the sounds of bustling from the kitchen. If he timed it just right he could be up and dressed for the day by the time the food was placed on the table. He yawned again and made ready to stretch but abruptly stopped the motion when he realized there was a weight on his chest.
The rancher’s eyes flickered open and found his vision impaired by a multitude of strands of black silky hair. He chuckled and the breath that huffed from his nose as he did sent the baby fine hair into temporary flight before it settled with a tickle on his nose once more. Murdoch moved his long arms to wrap his youngest son in an early morning cuddle. He did so enjoy the warm little body pressed so trustingly into his chest.
This was becoming a routine morning occurrence since moving Johnny from the crib to a bed. Sometime in the early morning hours his youngest would slip into his room, climb onto the big bed and sprawl bonelessly across his papa’s chest. Murdoch continued to snuggle, pressing his nose into the mop of hair that still smelled of the chamomile soap it had been washed with last night. The small body of his son began to squirm and writhe, his infectious giggle muffled by the rancher’s broad chest. The dark head rose and sparkling blue eyes greeted the doting father’s loving visage.
“Johnny needs to pee pee.”
Prior experience had Murdoch swiftly sitting up, pushing back the covers and swinging his legs off the bed to quickly stand. He dropped his youngest to the mattress and lifted the tiny nightshirt, and with the skill of a seasoned father he rapidly unpinned the thick nighttime diaper. The diaper was slightly damp, but not soaked. His youngest was doing better about waking before he completely flooded. Reaching under the bed he retrieved the chamber pot, with haste he positioned Johnny in front of it.
“Good job, Johnny.”
“Johnny big boy.”
“Yes you are. Now my big boy, let’s get cleaned up.”
The attentive father poured water from the pitcher into the washbasin. He dunked a cloth and then lightly soaped it. Coming back over to the bed he chuckled as he watched Johnny’s tiny body gyrate and wiggle as he tried to free his head of his nightshirt. Finally the little dark head popped free.
Murdoch could see the mischief vibrating off Johnny, with a squeal and a bounce the little guy was air borne from the bed, streaking around the room without a care in the world that he was naked. Shaking with laughter Murdoch lunged across the bed and managed to catch the little exhibitionist on the other side.
“Come here, you little terror.”
Johnny squealed as one of his papa’s long arms hooked around his waist, lifting him like the block and tackle hook raised the hay bales to the loft in the barn. Murdoch transported his youngest to the washstand and stood him on top of it next to the basin. He quickly cleaned his baby’s diaper area of the urine smell. First he soaped the skin and then stood him in the large water bowl to rinse him.
Murdoch grabbed a towel and briskly rubbed the wetness from Johnny’s skin. He wrapped the little one snuggly in the towel and carried him over to the dresser and sat him on top. He pulled opened one of the top drawers, where thankfully Mamacita stored extra clothes for both boys. He swiftly chose underwear, socks, pants and shirt and closed the drawer before Johnny could decide he wanted to choose for himself.
While Johnny was still sitting, Murdoch slipped the tiny socks onto the small feet that peeked out form the edge of the towel his son was wrapped in. Johnny wiggled his toes and giggled as his papa tried to slide the socks on his feet. Once the little feet were covered, Murdoch stood his son up and pulled the towel off. Johnny shivered as the cool air hit his skin.
“Let’s hurry and get your clothes on, before you catch a chill from being completely naked.”
“Johnny not pete naked, Johnny got on socks.”
“Yes, you do!” agreed Murdoch knowing there was no use in trying to reason with his opinionated offspring.
As the amused father dressed his son he was regaled with Johnny’s own unique version of nursery rhymes learned at Grandfather Ha’s knee.
“Oaf King Cold was a married ol’ bowl
Fat married ol’ bowl with a sneeze,
He called for his kite and he called for his gold,
And he called for pickles on his knees.
Little Boy Blue come throw your corn,
The sheets in the meadow, the cows in the morn.
Where’s dat little boy that pretends to eat,
Unner the haystack all last week.”
The door to his room squeaked opened as Murdoch fastened the small buttons on Johnny’s shirt; inwardly he berated the largeness of his fingers that impeded his task. Turning to look, he smiled at the sight of eight-year old Scott, already dressed for the day.
“Good morning, son. Did you sleep well?”
Scott hurried across the room for his morning hug. Murdoch engulfed his oldest in a one armed embraced as his other limb was busy trying to keep Johnny from falling off his perch on the dresser.
“Papa, I’m ready to go.”
Murdoch chuckled at the eagerness vibrating off Scott’s slender form. He picked up his comb and tried to tame the unruly wildness of Johnny’s silky black hair. Murdoch huffed in exasperation as the hair defied his best efforts to make it lay down. He picked Johnny up and moved to the washstand where he dipped the comb into the water and pulled it through the mass of silk this time with better success.
“Scott, first we will have breakfast. We have plenty of time to get to town before the stage arrives. I know you’re anxious to see Grandfather Ha, but leaving now won’t make him get here any quicker.”
Johnny squealed and clapped his hands over the news Ha was coming home today. Murdoch had purposely kept the information from him, as Johnny would have worried his father and brother to death with questions if he had known before hand. The youngest Lancer was quite attached to the old man; in fact he pretty much had him wrapped around his little fingers. Grandfather Ha could be counted on for reading stories and supplying candy on demand, which in Johnny’s eyes made him a saint.
Lifting his youngest and setting him on the floor Murdoch requested, “Scott would you take Johnny to his room and help him get his boots on while I dress and shave?”
“No! Johnny shave too!”
Shaking his head at the look of stubborn defiance on the cherubic face of his son, Murdoch snorted. This was another case of Harlan’s lenient and accommodating attitude. One morning as the older gentleman prepared to shave; he lathered Johnny’s face and gave him a razor handle that the blade had broken away from it, so he could ‘shave’ too.
Now Johnny thought he was suppose to shave every time the opportunity presented itself. However Murdoch had no intentions of nicking his face repeatedly as he fought the little boy for a portion of the mirror to see what he was doing.
“You can shave with Grandfather Ha another day, for now you go with Scott and get your boots on.”
A dark scowl appeared on the angelic face, transforming the good-natured boy into a formidable brat. Johnny’s little body stiffened in aggravation and he stomped the floor in belligerent frustration.
“Yes, Johnny gonna shave, NOW!”
Scott’s eyes widened in distress as he watch the scene unfold. He knew his papa would not tolerate backtalk or disobedience. The concerns had no sooner formed in his mind then his father took action.
Murdoch scooped his angry son up, draping him across one long arm and swiftly applied three firm swats to his behind. Johnny immediately began to wail as though he had been horsewhipped. Murdoch shifted him to be cradled in his arms and gave him a reassuring hug.
“Johnny, Papa loves you, but I will not put up with sassing and defying me when I ask you to do something. Do you understand?”
“Johnny sorry. Johnny not be mean no more.”
Short thin arms twined around the big rancher’s neck and squeezed, as a sloppy wet kiss was planted on his rough stubble covered cheek. The dark moment was soon forgotten as Johnny squirmed and giggled over being tickled. Finally the big man pretended he was dropping his small son, catching him just shy of the floor and setting him down easily.
“Go with your brother and get your boots on, then go downstairs to breakfast. I’ll be there as soon as I shave and dress. And Johnny don’t give Scott any trouble, that means no biting young man or when we go to town to pick up Grandfather Ha you will stay home. Not to mention Papa will tear up your little end for you.”
“Johnny not bite Squat. Come on, Squat, Johnny hungry.”
Scott left the room holding his baby brother’s hand as he stated, “Oh Johnny, you’re always hungry.”
Murdoch chuckled as he heard his youngest son’s reply float back in the door from the hallway. “Johnny not always hungry, sometimes Johnny firsty.”
Scott sighed in puzzled exasperation. What should have taken two minutes had stretched into ten and still he didn’t have both boots on his brother. The boys had literally tripped over one boot as they came in the bedroom door. Johnny promptly dropped down onto the floor and tried to force the wrong foot into the boot. Scott had finally convinced his brother to let him help. Now some ten minutes later they were still searching for the missing one.
The youngest Lancer’s room looked as though the cattle had stampeded through it. It was quite obvious the little boy had once again risen during the night and played, because both boys were required to pick up their rooms before being tucked in at night.
“Johnny, where’s the last place you had your boots?”
“On my feets, Squat.” Johnny replied as he looked at his big brother like he had just asked the dumbest question in the world.
Scott rolled his eyes and slapped his own forehead. Sometimes Scott could just shake his brother, but he never did, usually he counted to ten and reminded himself Johnny was just a baby. This morning it felt like he might need to count to a hundred but before he could get too aggravated; his father saved him.
Murdoch peeked in the nursery door as he walked by because he heard voices. “What are you boys doing?”
“Papa, we can’t find Johnny’s other boot.”
Rubbing his face and arching his eyebrows as he took in the disordered room, Murdoch stated, “I bet not, it looks like someone was playing when he was suppose to be sleeping. I’ll help you find it, but this room will be cleaned up Johnny or you will stay home and do it while Scott and I go to town.”
As his father and brother searched for the footwear, Johnny raced around his room picking up toys and throwing them in his toy box. He scurried about the room with an off kilter gait as he rushed from one spot to another with just one of his boots on.
Johnny was standing in front of his bookcase replacing the books on the shelf when his papa peered under the bed as he searched. Murdoch squinted in confusion. It looked like something was crawling out of Johnny’s chamber pot. He pulled the vessel out and immediately snapped his head back as an over powering scent of urine assaulted his nose and stung his eyes. To his shocked dismay, he saw the pot had the clothes Johnny had worn the day before crammed down into it.
“Johnny Lancer! Why are your pants and shirt in the chamber pot, young man?”
The little boy strode boldly to his papa and announced, “ Cause they gots peepee in them and you said peepee goes in the pot.”
Scott giggled at the look that washed over his father’s face. It almost looked like Papa was in pain. His nose was pinched, his mouth was pursed and his eyes narrowed to thin blue slits. When his father’s lips started moving and no sound came out, he knew papa was counting. Scott was pretty sure he might need to count to one hundred.
Murdoch grabbed a towel from the washstand and rolled the soiled clothes into it. Then he washed his hands thoroughly. “Scott, please open Johnny’s window and let some fresh air in here.”
As Scott pulled back the drapes to lift the window open he stumbled on a lump hidden under the edge and in the folds of cloth hanging at the window and accidentally pulled the curtains off the wall with a crash. He pulled up the window dressing and shouted with joy, “Here’s Johnny’s other boot.”
Murdoch whirled around at the sound of the latest Lancer calamity and shook his head as he stated with a resigned air, “Just another day in the life of the continuing saga of the Lancers.”
The Brat Pack Series AU
Author’s note on the Brat Pack here
My Brother, The Brat
Another Day in the Life
Breakfast: A Proper Way to Start the Day
Taking the Town by Storm
Home Again Home Again
Itching to Break Out
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Gifts of Love
The Easter Bunny Cometh
Just a Victim of Circus’Stance!
Ask and You Shall Receive
The Gospel According to Johnny
Serving Up Trouble
No More Monsters Under the Bed
Wrinkled Potatoes and Old Tomatoes
O Come Let Us Adore Him
Carving Out Fun
Look Before You Eat
Cover Up (written with Kit)