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Spring Fever by Southernfrau

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 1,540

Spring fever had a tight grip on the occupants of the Lancer hacienda…most especially the youngest Lancer, Johnny.  The annual malady of the vernal equinox seemed to be providing extra fuel for his excessive energy and ability to find trouble.

The day had started off with a bang or actually a protracted series of multiple loud bangs. Johnny had discovered that if he slid down the banister with his legs dangling down he could strike each individual rail with his boot heels and thus produce an explosion of noise that caused a chain reaction of mishaps to the startled members of the house.  In the kitchen, Maria accidentally dropped the whole plate of butter in the frying pan.  Scott having just returned from gathering the eggs for breakfast missed the counter when he turned his head towards the staircase and the noise. The basket landed on the floor, the impact causing the eggs to flip out, cracking and splattering into gelatinous shiny puddles of goop on the floor.  Ha in the process of shaving had jerked so violently he slipped and cut the tip of his nose with his straight razor.  Murdoch, in the act of dipping his pen in the inkwell turned it over coating his hand, shirt sleeve and two pages of work in the ranch ledger.

Johnny’s feet and legs became tangled in the last few wooden spokes and he ended his wild ride hanging upside down.  His indignant screech brought the family rushing to his aid.  Mamacita with her buttery hands, Scott slipping to a stop in egg coated boots, Ha with the tip of his nose bloody and Papa, one large hand stained black.

“Help!  Papa.  Johnny is stucked!” shrieked Johnny, his face crimson red from the blood rushing to it.

“Young man, what have you been told about sliding down the banister,” growled Papa as he untangled the toddler and lifted him up.

Johnny opened his mouth to answer and a series of peeps echoed off the walls of the foyer.  All eyes were glued to the little boy, watching in fascination as his shirt appeared to come alive, moving about the thin chest.

Quirking an eyebrow, Papa settled Johnny into the crook of his left arm, and then with his blackened right hand undid two buttons on his shirt.  Reaching into his clothes he felt a furry presence, gently closing his hand around it he extracted a baby chick, handing it to Mamacita, who put it in her apron.  He did this five more times before he retrieved them all.

“No wonder I didn’t see Mirabel’s babies when I gathered the eggs.  I thought a possum must have gotten them,” declared Scott.

“Johnny Madrid Lancer,” why did you have those chicks in your shirt?”

“Cause the babies was cold, Papa.  They was shaking so Johnny put them in Johnny’s shirt to make them warm.”  Johnny turned wide concerned eyes towards his father.  His earnest look and obvious desire to help made it hard to be angry with him.

“That’s nice you were trying to help, but let’s not put animals in our clothes anymore.  Chicks have sharp beaks and nails.  You could have been pinched or scratched by them.  Scott, would you please take Johnny to return the chicks to the henhouse?”

By the time the boys returned, after several stops to investigate various bits of interest between the house and the chicken coop, Mamacita had finished breakfast and was calling for them to come eat.  Johnny was placed in his high chair and the rest of the family took their places.

“Mr. Garrett, did you want tomato juice with your breakfast this morning?” inquired Maria.

“Yes, thank you, that would be most appreciated,” replied Harlan.

Johnny giggled and announced, “Stop tickling, Johnny.”

 Maria glanced towards Johnny just as she started to pour the juice.  Her eyes widened in shock when she saw fuzzy, greenish black lines crawling out of his shirt and up his neck.  The surprise caused her to drop the pitcher of vegetable juice.  The delicate glass container shattered against the hard oak surface.  A geyser of scarlet exploded over the table raining red splatters and splotches on every shirt…what a day for everyone to have decided to wear a white one.

“Young man what did I just tell you this morning about putting things in your shirt?” questioned Papa as he pulled him from the high chair and strode to the door.  Opening the door he stepped outside, stripped off Johnny’s shirt and brushed the caterpillars off his chest.  A few chickens rushed over, pecking about his feet as they consumed the meaty treat.

“Papa say not to put no more chicks in Johnny’s shirt cause they can pinch and scratch.  This not chicks this caterpillars they just tickle Johnny.”

Groaning, as he redressed the child, with a weary resignation to his voice about the start of the day, Papa replied, “Let me put this very simply, the ONLY thing you should have inside your clothes is you!  Do you understand me now?”

“Yes, Papa,” agreed Johnny, recognizing that his father had on his ready to count and pop behinds face.

Maria insisted they all go change shirts so she could put them in to soak to keep the tomatoes from staining them.

Murdoch grumbled as they all trouped upstairs, “At the rate we’re going it will be lunchtime before we finish breakfast.

“Relax son, spring fever doesn’t last forever,” counseled Ha, “One day you will miss all this.”  Ha smiled despite the incredulous look his son-in-law seared him with.

Thirty minutes later, they ate a cold breakfast in their second set of clothes for the day.  They had all had to change pants by the time they finished drying up the bathroom floor after Johnny went to wash his hands.  He had stuffed the cake of soap in the sink drain to keep from using it, and had then left the hot water running.   Papa had been furious that the whole hot water tank had emptied through the spigot into the sink, and then cascaded onto the floor.  It took five swats to the behind and four large towels before it was all cleaned up, and then four dry pairs of pants.

~*~ L ~*~ A ~*~ N ~*~ C ~*~ E ~*~ R ~*~

After breakfast the boys were turned loose to play, Murdoch rang the fire bell in a series of two rings with a pause, three times to signal to all the workers to be aware Johnny was in the play yard. 

Scott settled in the gazebo with his sketch pad and ruler, planning to design some birdhouse he wanted to build.  Johnny rushed to the flower bed where he saw Mattie and her kittens playing a game of stalk and pounce with each other amongst the floral covering.

All seemed calm and normal (or as normal as things can get with Johnny awake) for the next hour until an unearthly animalistic howl split the air followed by boyish screams.

Four adults hurried to the play yard where they found Scott and Johnny standing on the bench in the gazebo, clutching support posts, pointing at something on the floor.

Borrowing Mamacita’s ever present apron, Murdoch tossed it over the spitting, hissing and convulsing bundle of fur tearing around the interior of the gazebo.  Once the creature was contained and quiet, he peered within the cloth and was shocked to see the family’s cat Mattie glaring back at him, her eyes dilated with rage.  Cooing soothingly to her he removed the apron and discovered the reason for her extreme behavior.  She had a kitten attached to each side, held snuggly in place by a little black belt with the initials JML tooled into the leather.  He quickly unbuckled the belt, and the cats shot off in three different directions.

“Johnny, why in the world, did you tie the cats together?” questioned an exasperated Papa.

“Cause Mattie kept trying to run away from the kitties and they was crying meow to go with her.  Johnny don’t like for Mamas to leave their babies so Johnny fixed it so they could go too.”

Spying the multitude of scratches on the toddler’s hands as he gestured while speaking Ha reached and picked up his grandson.  “I think we better go clean and doctor your hands before you get cat scratch fever on top of your case of spring fever,” Ha chuckled.

“Johnny not sick…Johnny head not hot,” stated the confused child as he felt his head.

Murdoch snorted and retorted as Ha entered the house with the toddler, “When kids have spring fever it doesn’t make them sick…it makes their parents sick.”  Murdoch ruffled Scott’s hair as he stood by him clutching his father’s leg for comfort as he tried to get over his fright.  Looking down at the serious little blond, Papa got a tremulous smile to light his son’s pixie face when he added, “I hope Johnny doesn’t manage to burn the house down getting his hands cleaned.”

Scott giggled, “Maybe the bathroom floor is still wet enough it won’t catch fire.”

Papa groaned…he did that a lot in the spring, it must be a symptom of spring fever.

April 2009

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
Helping Hand
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
Spring Fever
Carving Out Fun
Look Before You Eat
Cover Up (written with Kit)
Go Figure

Carving Out Fun 

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