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 4,170
Lancer Brat Pack Universe
Disclaimer: There are those that think I suffer from multiple personalities (some with violent tendencies) and delusions of Lancer ownership…I laugh at their assumptions…bwahahahaha…oops that sounded maniacal.
Author’s note: I tried to choose phrases that were appropriate to the time period of the Lancers. I did rush the invention of one item but it’s nothing of any importance…not something that changed the world in an earth shattering way.
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“Papa,” Scott whined, exasperation pitching his voice to a skin crawling tone, as he stomped into his father’s room. He paused, catching his father’s eye in the reflection of the mirror the big man stood before, and forced himself to wait; trying hard not to fidget. Papa preferred shaving at the basin in his room, away from Johnny. It was, he said, safer that way.
With his mouth pursed in a grimace as he was in the middle of the process of removing the shaving lather from just under his bottom lip, Murdoch didn’t answer right away. The scritch of his straight razor and Scott’s huffing and sighing were the only sounds as he finished his shave. Quickly rinsing the lather from the razor, he dried it with the hand towel before replacing it on the shelf, and then used the same towel to wipe the last specks of the foamy soap from his face.
Seeing his father was done, Scott rushed into the reason for his early morning appearance in his papa’s room. Twisting the sleeve of his night shirt into place as he reported, “Johnny needs to go potty and he won’t quit playing long enough to go!”
Gently running a work calloused hand over his son’s fine blond hair, still mussed from his slumber, and schooling his face to a patience he was sure would be rapidly retreating before the planned trip to town was over, Murdoch replied, “Maybe he doesn’t need to.” He paused at the signs of irritation and rebuke forming on Scott’s face, and added, “I believe we had this discussion the other night about letting Johnny be responsible for his actions.”
Crinkling his nose up in a display of disgust, Scott protested, “But he does need to go! He keeps …you know passing wind… and it smells like when he used to have it in his diaper.”
“I see,” Papa responded as he strode for the door, his longs legs quickly out distancing his son.
Trotting to keep up, Scott revealed, “I even tried to scare him into going to the bathroom by reminding him that you said next time he messed his pants because he was too busy playing you would pop his behind.” Grabbing his father’s hand and pulling him to a stop, indignation shook the little boy’s body as he continued, “And do you know what he said? So, Papa will just get poop on Papa’s hand!” Scott’s eyes narrowed. “And then he laughed, Papa.”
Exiting his room, Ha’s steps stalled as he came upon father and son and their discussion of Johnny. Seeing the irritation beginning to build on his son-in law’s face, Harlan decided to intervene. Holding out his hand, Ha stated, “Come along, Scotty. Let’s go draw your bath and I will assemble your clothes while your father tends to Johnny.”
“Thank you, Harlan,” Murdoch commented, patting Scott’s shoulder before continuing his march down the hall.
Entering his youngest son’s room, the big man sucked in an annoyed breath, closed his eyes, slapped his hand against his forehead, and then pulled it down his face. When his eyes opened the scene had not changed. Johnny’s toys and books were scattered all around the room, as were most of his clothes. Johnny was balanced precariously in his small rocking chair, which he had pulled to the front of his dresser and was flinging clothes right and left as he emptied the top drawer.
Unaware his Papa had entered the room, Johnny crowed in delight when his hunt finally turned up his favorite red shirt. Mamacita had declared it too ragged for town wear and had moved it to the play clothes drawer. Still standing in the rocker, Johnny fought for balance as he struggled out of his nightshirt and donned the beloved red shirt.
Snorting softly, Papa begin to ghost up on his little one. Just as he stepped up behind the toddler, the rascal managed to wiggle out of his night-time diaper. The flannel dropped to Johnny’s ankles and he lifted his right foot out, with his left foot he sent the diaper flying so that it skidded under his cedar wardrobe and disappeared from sight.
Bending over, intending to lift the baby out of the chair before he managed to up end it and land on his head, Murdoch gagged as the imp lifted his right leg and passed gas, long and loud. Well, Scott was absolutely right, a certain someone definitely needs to sit on the potty.
“Eeeeeeeeeee…” Johnny squealed, as he was abruptly lifted, “OUCH,” he protested as his bare bottom received a smack. He blinked in surprise as he was all of a sudden flipped, raised and staring into Papa’s displeased face.
Speaking straight into his toddler’s face, Papa announced, “Young man I sent you down here to clean up your room while I got ready. If you want to go to town with us this morning you are going to go sit on the potty, get your bath, dress and then put everything up in this room and make it sparkly clean!”
Putting on his best hang dog eyes and pushing his bottom lip out into the beginnings of a spectacular pout, Johnny wisely consented. “Yes, Papa. Johnny want to go to town, Johnny gonna do everything Papa say.”
Though his heart was melting like summer butter at the cherubic little face, Murdoch maintained his stern expression. “That’s my boy; let’s get this day on track.” Standing the toddler on the dresser, he began removing the shirt, announcing, “First things first, this shirt comes off, it’s fine to play in but not fit for town.”
“Awwwwww…” Johnny moaned with disappointment as he watched the red shirt disappear back into the drawer.
“Off to the bathroom with you, Papa will be right there as soon as I gather your clothes.” Grabbing the little one by the arms, Murdoch swung him upward and dropped him gently to the floor.
Johnny’s discontent vanished as he was lifted and placed on the floor; the only thing he loved more than candy was being naked. “Wheeeeeeeeeeeee,” he sang out as he took off like a shot, streaking from his room and down the hall, enjoying the feel of the air rushing against his skin. He didn’t even slow down to make the turn into the bathroom.
“Potty first, Johnny,” Murdoch shouted from the bedroom, and then cringed as he recalled having corrected the boys just last night about shouting from one room to another instead of seeking out the person they wished to converse with.
“Okay,” Johnny shouted back, as he veered course and headed to the commode instead. “OOOOOOOOOOOO,” Johnny panted as the back of his legs contacted the cold porcelain.
“What’s wrong, Johnny,” inquired Scott as he strolled into the bathroom, wearing his night robe to cover his modesty.
“Nuthin’,” Johnny replied, his face turning a mottled red as he strained. Snickering, Johnny’s mouth curl into a devilish grin and his eyes twinkled as he held out his hand and requested, “Hey, Squat, pull Johnny’s finger.”
Openly inspecting the pudgy little finger first since Johnny was known for putting his hands in the most disgusting places, Scott ascertained the digit was clean, before grasping it and tugging.
A muffled whimper sound issued from the bowl, followed by a plop and splash. Beating his heels against the commode in delight, Johnny chortled as his brother grasped his nose and pinched it closed.
Scott’s face contorted in revulsion, as he shrieked, “Ooohhhhh, sometimes you are so disgusting.”
The little blond stomped towards the tub, stopping to remove and place his robe on a stool. He climbed into the tub and before he could turn and sit in the water Ha had run earlier, he was attacked by a wave as Johnny landed in the water, having used the stool as a jumping off point.
Grabbing the sides of the bath to keep from falling, he started to lower himself into the warm water when he realized what Johnny had just done. “DISGUSTING!” Scott screamed as he scrambled over the rim, “You just got in the bath without wiping,” his nose crinkled as he sniffed, “or flushing the toilet!”
Entering the bathroom, Johnny’s clothes clutched in his hand, Murdoch assessed the situation: one child laughing and swimming in the bath, the other standing naked beside the tub, in a puddle of water. “What’s going on here,” Papa demanded.
Pointing a skinny finger at his baby brother, Scott replied, “Johnny jumped in the tub right after he used the potty and he didn’t even wipe or flush.” His face darkened with a blush of embarrassment.
Surfacing, Johnny’s head popped up over the side of the tub; water gushed in an arching stream from his mouth like a fountain. “So Johnny can clean Johnny’s butt in the tub.”
Murdoch resisted the urge to pull his hair out in clumps. If he survived raising the little pistol in the tub he would probably be bald or completely gray.
“I’m not washing in that water,” Scott vowed, snatching up his robe; putting it on and then plopping down on the stool; crossing his arms across his chest with a huff.
Dropping Johnny’s clothes into Scott’s lap, Murdoch stepped away and flushed the commode. Coming back to the tub, he instructed, “You sit right there, I’ll bathe Johnny and run fresh water for you; and while you wash up Johnny can clean his room.”
Despite Johnny’s pleas to clean himself, Murdoch soaped a cloth and made quick work of the chore. Johnny reverted to a silent pout as he was lifted from the tub, dried as the water drained, and then dressed as another bath was run for Scott.
Turning the toddler about to inspect him, Murdoch dipped his hand into Scott’s bath water and then tried to smooth one of Johnny’s unrulier curls into place; it popped right back up in defiance. Pointing the little one towards the door, Papa swatted the tiny backside and asked, “Do you remember what I told you to do in your room?”
“Put everything up and make Johnny’s room sparkly clean,” the toddler replied, poking out his lip as he rubbed his bottom.
“See that you do! And do it quickly, no playing around if you want to go to town,” Papa called after the speedily departing child.
Rushing into his room, Johnny began kicking toys and clothes under the bed. He gasped as he suddenly recalled Papa’s words. Papa had said to put everything up, under the bed was down. Crawling under the bed, he retrieved the items, up would be on the bed. Dashing about the room, the toddler picked up play things and his clothes, tossing them onto the mattress.
Soon the floor was bare except for his scatter rug. Looking about Johnny realized he needed to shut all his dresser drawers. Pushing the last drawer shut, he turned and leaned on the dresser as he inspected his handiwork. Picking at his bottom lip with his right index finger he viewed his room with a critical eye, something seemed wrong, he gasped aloud as he remembered and muttered to himself, “Papa said the room had to be sparkly.” He knew just what to do.
Creeping into the hall, Johnny stopped to make sure Squat was still in the bathroom. He was, because he could hear him singing the song Papa had taught them, ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’.
“Oh blow the winds o’er the ocean, and blow the winds o’er the sea, oh blow the winds o’er the ocean, and bring back my Bonnie to me,” Scott sang out, the words trilling loudly in the tiled room.
Slipping into his brother’s room, Johnny approached the desk set up for his school work. Pulling open the drawer where Squat kept his supplies, he spied what he was looking for; a satisfied smile coming as he grabbed the small glass jar. Proud that he would be doing exactly what Papa had told him, he banged the drawer shut and trotted back to his room.
Entering his room, he walked to the middle and struggled a minute with the jar’s cork stopper before it finally came off. The force he used to remove the lid caused his arms to fly outward when it popped off. The open jar released its contents while his arm was in motion, golden glitter floating down and coating everything in its path. The sun streaming in the window showed every shiny metallic particle.
Johnny sighed in relief. He could go to town, everything was up and the room was sparkly. Hearing his Papa and Ha in the hall Johnny called to them. “Papa, Ha… come see.”
The two men entered the toddler’s room. Murdoch’s mouth open and shut like a fish out of water and he was actually gasping for air. Ha grinned at his son-in-law’s reaction and turned his attention to Johnny, knowing the little boy thought he had done something good by the excited twitch of his little body.
“SURPRISE!” Johnny maked his room just like Papa say. Johnny put everything up,” he pointed to the clutter lying atop the bed, “and Squat’s glitter maked it sparkly.”
Murdoch groaned and scrubbed his tired face with a shaky calloused hand.
Patting his son-in law’s shoulder, Ha, in his irritatingly benevolent attitude towards his precious grandsons, especially the baby, whispered in his ear, “Just be glad he didn’t think you said sparky or we could be ringing the fire bell right now.”
“What’s wrong with Papa,” Johnny asked as his father continued to groan.
Lifting the little one into his arms, and then placing him on his hip, Ha explained, “Papa is just tired and hungry,” he said solicitously. “We need to eat breakfast; and then he will be fine, just fine.” Well, he could hope the man would be fine.
Snorting, the tall Scot rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t be so tired — in mind and body,” he muttered, “if I didn’t have to continually walk on eggs shells around you know who.” He gestured to the toddler with a tip of the head and raising his eyebrows.
“YUCK! Papa,” Johnny squealed, “Walking on eggs would break them and make a big mess,” Johnny advised with all the wisdom of a knowledgeable three year old, who had actually tried the feat.
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Miraculously, the family made it through breakfast with no major mishaps or delays; and forty minutes later they were on the road for town. Maria had even chuckled when warned what condition she was going to find Johnny’s room in.
“What has you so quiet, son?” Harlan inquired upon noticing the serious expression on Murdoch’s face. Johnny shifted on his lap to look at his Papa as well. Scott sat in the back quietly singing ‘You take the High Road’.
Briefly taking his eyes off the road to glance at his father in-law, Murdoch replied, “Just thinking about how I pay through the nose for replacement wire to keep in my cattle. Maybe one day someone will invent a better, stronger wire that doesn’t break so easily or one that deters cows from leaning against it.”
Johnny’s head tilted one way and then the other as he considered what Papa just said. Did money come from noses? Johnny’s eyes widened as he remembered how Cipriano had pulled a penny from his nose one time. If he had another penny up there he could buy all the lemon drops he wanted. Cramming his index finger up his nose, he burrowed and searched each nostril until his eyes watered.
Disappointed when he came up empty handed, Johnny peered at Papa. Papa has a big nose, that’s why Papa has much monies.” Slipping off Ha’s lap, he stood on the bench seat, Ha’s arm still wrapped securely around him. Looking up into Papa’s nose he thought he saw something. Quick as a flash, he rammed two small fingers up Papa’s nostril.
“Arrrrrrrr,” Murdoch protested the discomfort of something plugging his nose. It felt like a fence post. His arms jerked, the wagon swerved, the tack and harnesses jingling loudly as the wagon bounced over uneven ground until Murdoch brought it back under control.
Pulling to a stop, he grasped Johnny’s wrist and removed the two offending digits. “What in the world are you doing, Johnny?” he groused, rubbing at the side of his stinging nostrils.
“Johnny lookin’ for monies! Papa say he had monies in his nose,” the toddler explained, as he stretched up on tip toes for a better look.
Chuckling, Ha pulled the baby back in his lap, squeezing him affectionately. “That’s just an expression, little one. Your Papa was just being silly saying he had to pay through the nose.”
“Oh,” Johnny mumbled, disappointed there would be no money. Cipriano had said it was magic, maybe only Cipriano could get pennies from noses. Lost in his thoughts on shiny pennies and snuggled against his grandfather’s chest, the stillness luring the little one into an impromptu nap.
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The wagon taking the slight turn into town, along with Harlan wiping the drool from around his mouth woke Johnny. Struggling to stretch and sit up at the same time, he exclaimed, “Yippy,” in a voice muffled by a yawn.
Spying newly elected Mayor Percival Higgs strutting about like he owned the town, Harlan huffed in disdain, “Mr. Higgs was insufferable and full of himself before he was elected; now I dare say he is all bloated ego.”
Grunting as he jumped down from the seat and lifted Scott from the bed of the wagon, Murdoch commented, “I thought you said the election process was the cornerstone to civilization.”
Skewering his son-in –law with a look that clearly ordered a silent, respect your elders, my boy , Harlan retorted, “Who in their right mind would think that buffoon to be civilized? Besides I still haven’t forgiven him for calling my grandsons holy terrors,” handing Johnny over to Murdoch he added, “If I were a violent man I would march right over there and punch his lights out.”
Did Ha just say he was going to punch Mr. Higgs? That worried Johnny, because that man was big and fat and he might hurt Johnny’s Ha.
Setting Johnny’s feet on the ground Murdoch laughed. He extended a hand to the older man, “Like it or not he won fair and square.” Tongue in cheek, he remarked, “I need to chew the fat with him before you punch him. He wants to start a branch of Cattle Growers here.”
Johnny’s eyes widened in delight. Goody, Papa is gonna get that mean fat man. Papa is bigger than Ha, Papa can beat everybody up.
The Lancer family strolled towards the Mayor, Murdoch and Harlan adjusting their stride and pace to accommodate the children. There was little sound except their booted feet thudding against the puffy sand. That changed as they got closer to the mayor, Scott’s pocket full of marbles making a clicking sound as the boy nervously stuffed his hand into his pocket and began to juggle the glass globes. Scott didn’t care much for Mayor Higgs and, young as he was, he knew the feeling was mutual.
The three men quickly fell into a discussion of the improvements the first ever Mayor of the town planned to make. Scott crouched in the sand beside his father’s foot and entertained himself with a solo game of marbles. He tried to entice Johnny to join him but for some reason the toddler was content to stand and alternate his stare between his father and the Mayor.
This is boring boring boring, Johnny thought. He didn’t understand most of what the men were talking about. Suddenly Mayor Higgs cackled in laughter, so loud even Scott looked up from his game.
“I’m telling you it was so funny, I laughed my head off,” the Mayor declared, his jowls quivering in remembered mirth. Feeling a tug on his coat tail he looked down into the confused face of little Johnny Lancer. “What is it child?”
“How did you put it back on?” Johnny asked, his sand crusted hand still clutching the man’s coat.
Frowning in annoyance, Higgs asked, “Put what back on?”
Undeterred by Higg’s terse attitude, Johnny replied, “Your head, you said you laughed it off.”
Pulling the tail of his coat from Johnny’s grasp, the Mayor snapped, “Don’t be ridiculous, a person’s head can’t just fall off.”
“Oooooooooooooo…you tolded a lie, you said it did,” Johnny admonished, his head shaking from side to side in censure.
Unaware he could not win an argument with a three year old, Mayor Higgs dug the hole of misunderstanding a bit deeper with his next remark. “I don’t want to be the one to let the cat out of the bag on express…arrrrgghhh,” the big man exclaimed as pain shot up his leg, backing up and bending over he rubbed his abused shin.
“JOHNNY!” Murdoch shouted as he pulled the toddler back before his little booted foot could connect with Higgs’s leg again. “Why in the world did you kick, Mayor Higgs?”
Johnny’s eye’s glittered with anger, and he pointed a diminutive accusatory finger at the groaning man as he declared, “He a mean man he say he had a cat in a bag and he won’t let it out.”
So outraged he spit as he spoke, Higgs protested, “Would someone explain what an expression is to the little devil!” He shook a meaty finger at the child. “I do not have a cat in a bag!”
Leaning back against his Papa’s legs Johnny tilted his head back, looked his father in the eye and demanded, “When are you going to bite him, you said you were.”
“WHAT?” Murdoch’s surprise pitched his voice higher, “I never said I was going to bite anyone.” He picked the toddler up and settled him on his arm so they could see eye to eye.
“Yes, Papa did, after Ha said he wanted to punch him Papa said he was going to chew the fat and him is fat,” Johnny stated, his face contorted with a scowl.
Scott glanced up and giggled as the three adults all started mumbling and stuttering at the same time. Johnny seemed to have that effect on people. He knew what it felt like because sometimes his baby brother sure embarrassed him, in fact he had already decided he never wanted kids of his own because it looked like Johnny was never going to grow up.
Harlan’s silver tongue untangled itself first. “Children,” he laughed, “they certainly have a propensity for repeating things in their own unique way.”
Though it pained him to do it, Murdoch knew he needed to set an example for his boys. “I’m sorry, Mayor Higgs, we’ll do our best to explain things to Johnny so we can avoid any future occurrences of misunderstandings.” Jiggling the toddler sitting in the crook of his arm, Murdoch instructed, “Johnny, you need to tell Mayor Higgs you’re sorry for kicking him.”
Staring the man up and down, Johnny’s lips puckered in distaste as though he had measured the man and found him lacking. “Are you sure you not got a cat in a bag?”
Lifting his empty hands the man shrugged, “I don’t have a bag or a cat.”
Wiggling to be put down, Johnny’s feet hit the ground and he placed his little fists on his hips. “Alright, Johnny sorry he kicked you,” striding forward he warned, “But if you ever do put a cat in a bag,” he stopped, chewed his lips as he concentrated, Hummm…Papa calls Johnny a young man but him not young, “FAT MAN, Johnny gonna come back and kick you again,” he threatened. Spying Aggie Conway coming out of the dress shop restored the toddler’s sunny disposition and he took off at gallop, giggling in delight when she crouched and spread her arms wide in invitation. “Miss Aggie!”
The three adults shook their heads as they watched Johnny fling himself into Aggie’s embrace. Mayor Higgs commented, “Where did that one get his temper from?”
Gathering his marbles and dropping them in his pocket, Scott stood and remarked, “Not from Papa. He still has his temper. I guess he got it from Ha because he never gets mad.” Scott skipped off to join Johnny and Miss Aggie, he liked the blonde lady too.
“Kids, go figure them out and it might scare us more to actually understand their thoughts,” Murdoch remarked.
An awkward silence fell between the three men and they were saved from trying to get past it when a shrill shout from Scott called for their presence.
“PAPA! HA!” Scott called out as he pointed to a stricken looking Aggie and a coughing Johnny.
Waving bye to Higgs as they rushed to help with the latest calamity, they arrived to find Johnny spitting on the ground, Scott shaking his head and Aggie in tears.
“I’m so sorry…I had no idea…” she turned sorrowful blue eyes toward the men.
Seeing that Johnny was in no imminent danger, Murdoch asked, “What happened?”
“Miss Aggie gave us each a penny and said it was for candy and Johnny ate his,” Scott informed his father, rolling his eyes as he had seen his father do quite often.
“Johnny, for heaven’s sake, why would you eat money?” Ha questioned as held the little one and rubbed his back.
Pausing to feel around his mouth with his tongue, Johnny finally answered with a shrug of his tiny shoulders, “Well Miss Aggie said it was candy money but it didn’t taste like it.”
Chuckling, mostly with relief and affection, Murdoch scooped his youngest from his grandfather’s arms. “Son, your bedtime story tonight is going to be a long discussion on expressions, until then just to be on the safe side you’re gonna ride Papa’s arm today.”
“Giddy-up,” Johnny ordered, his boot heel digging into Papa’s ribs.
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The house was quiet except for the tick of the Grandfather clock, the thud of Murdoch’s boots descending the stairs and the clink of the scotch decanter against the crystal tumbler as Harlan poured drinks.
Shuffling across the room from the staircase, Murdoch dropped with a tired plop into his leather arm chair. Breathing in deeply he sighed and gratefully took the glass Harlan offered him.
“Well, how did the talk go?” Harlan inquired, as he settled on the couch with his own drink.
Rubbing his chin with a calloused hand, Murdoch related, “I’m sure Scott understands…Johnny, let’s just say he’s aware now of quite a few common expressions, but we may find ourselves in the position of having to explain others as they arise.” He sipped his drink, savoring the peppery burn.
Despite biting his lips together, Harlan was unable to stifle his chuckle. Finally with breathless mirth, he admitted, “It is so very wrong of me but I’m not sorry Johnny kicked that windbag Higgs.” Taking a sip of his own libation, he muttered, “The fool called my grandbaby a little devil.”
Warmed by the clear affection of the older man for his grandchildren, Murdoch’s eyes fluttered closed and he relaxed deeper into the comfort of the overstuffed chair. Covering his mouth, he yawned, and then confessed out loud, “I am so tired but to make up for the day long trip I guess I need to burn the midnight oil.”
Having been a scamp himself as a child Harlan could not resist the temptation, “Will the fire be very big?” he asked in a sotto voice.
Murdoch’s eyes flew open, the glass in his hand shook, spilling a bit of amber liquid on his leg. Shaking his head, his smile bloomed as he spoke, “Big enough to see to knock the fool out of you!”
The clock tolled announcing the time as eight o’clock and all was well or as well as they could be until Johnny and the sun rose tomorrow.
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)