Summary: Murdoch’s surprise gift to his sons, in this Mother’s Day tribute for the women who gave life to Scott & Johnny
Usual Disclaimers Apply
Word count: 2,886
Johnny softly caressed the now warm golden metal he held between his fingers. He rubbed the delicately etched flourishes and intricate scrolls with the pad on his right thumb circling round and round the metal case, almost unconsciously as if he was in a trance, his thoughts worlds away from the Lancer Great Room. His eyes closed tight while in his other hand he held one of Murdoch’s crystal Waterford tumblers filled with a clear concoction that he now rubbed across his forehead, erasing the lines of worry that had creased his brow only moments before. The other occupants in the room watched and waited for some other type of reaction, neither had expected this dead silence.
Johnny had thought he would never again see this timepiece. It had been missing for more than a month. He not only had tossed the contents of his room, several times in a frantic search for the watch but had tore apart most of the barn, the kitchen, the bathhouse and anywhere else he recalled being in the past month. He had all but given up hope of ever finding the missing watch and had not yet mentioned it to his father, not knowing how Murdoch would receive the news. For it was his father who last year gave him the watch in one of their rare moments of togetherness when one was not biting the other’s head off the other person’s shoulders.
Johnny had been deeply touched by the simple gesture, not that he told his father that. Murdoch had not made much of the offer, other than for Johnny to keep track of time for when he was to return to the hacienda for another job assignment. Deep down Murdoch wanted to tell him the history of the watch, passed down from his father to him when he left Inverness to seek his fame and fortune in the New World but Murdoch held back not wanting to display any sentimentally to his rash young son. He simply did not know how Johnny would perceive it.
Shortly thereafter, within hours of receiving the watch Johnny rode away from Lancer, his home and his newly forged family, for better or worse be that as it may to ride off with his old pal Wes, who knew all too well how to pull Johnny’s strings, playing him to follow his bidding with the lure of the open road waiting for them. In Johnny’s mind it was forever when he walked out the door of his father’s estancia. But life is filled with ups and downs, good and bad, irony and balance; you never know what each day will bring as later on Wes took a risk and that gamble, based upon utter stupidity struck out.
Wes always had been one of those wandering neerdowells, who roamed around, looking for his best shot, where he could expend the least amount of effort and receive the maximum amount of reward. He had foolishly spent their entire grub stake that Johnny had received from the stableman for his watch. The money was to have been used to pay their way, until they could earn more by selling their guns to the highest bidder in a distance range war, where they were headed.
Johnny had wrestled with his emotions over selling the watch, after all Murdoch had given him a piece of Murdoch’s past to be his legacy. It had not been an easy decision to part with the watch, one he regretted as soon as the deal was made, a bit like selling one’s soul to the devil. It felt like salt had been rubbed in an open, festering wound and the choice did not sit well. He brewed upon it, causing him a great deal in emotional turmoil to the point of needing real estate between himself and Wes’s “life of the party” approach at the Red Dog Saloon. He took refuge to wallow in his solitude in the confines of the dark, musky stable where he was lost to his own painful thoughts about “pride cometh before the fall”, not realizing how close he was to that actually occurring.
Later on in the wee hours of the morning, Wes had been too drunk to know what he was doing when he attempted to break that wild black stallion that had been the source of Murdoch and Johnny argument. And Johnny was never one to be backed into a corner had simply walked away from the clash that had mounted to what ultimately was more important to each of the proud, stubborn Lancer men. Murdoch, the unyielding tune caller, had demanded that his son make a solid commitment to Lancer while Johnny was prone to quick, hot-tempered decisions made the choice to hold tight to his freedom and his wild stallion refused to back down to any man. A decision that truth be told neither party could live with, but neither knew how to bend or was willing to give in to the other, a quagmire to be sure, that even Scott in his role as peacemaker and negotiator couldn’t crack.
When Johnny could not find his timepiece he felt as if a part of his heart had been cut away. He could not bring himself to let even his brother know that his pocket watch was gone as he continued searching high and low wherever he was. Had Johnny mentioned it he would have discovered that not only was his watch missing but so was Scott’s. Now here is was, back in his hands, like Scott’s. Both had looked with wonderment as Murdoch gave them each flat boxes with the name of a San Francisco jeweler inscribed on the box.
“What’s this Murdoch? Presents? What’s the occasion?” asked Scott as he accepted his box, putting down his after dinner drink.
“Yeah Murdoch? What’s up? Ain’t our birthdays,” Johnny grinned crookedly as he too accepted the gold-foiled box.
“I uh…well boys, I know you have been wondering what happened to the watches I gave you…and I uh…,” he started.
Scott grinned, noting how uncomfortable Murdoch was, which in itself was a rare moment to observe, he decided to rally round his father to get him out of his quandary, “Just get it said, sir. It will be easier.”
Murdoch looked slightly sheepish, continued, “Yes, well I guess honesty is the best policy. Anyway, as I was attempting to say, I borrowed your watches,” he finished.
“What? I’ve been searching high and low for my watch! I thought it was gone.” Johnny said with a perplexed look etched upon his sun-kissed face, his eyebrows arched in the familiar pattern that Murdoch did when questioning his sons’ rationale over their latest escapade. Tables were turned as he was now left to wonder about Murdoch’s reasoning.
“I know Johnny. I’m sorry to have not mentioned it earlier, but I wanted to do something to surprise you and your brother. So I couldn’t really tell either of you that I needed to borrow your watches without explaining my reasons. I hope you will be pleased with the outcome.”
Scott turned the box over in his hand, tapping it lightly against his open palm, “Sir, I’m sure we’ll appreciate it, but it wasn’t necessary.”
“Nonsense, Scott. It was crucial, at least to me,” Murdoch said as he searched his sons’ eyes.
Moments like this were still prickly for them, displays of sentiment was not any of their strong suits. But his sons had been home for more than a year now and last year had been their period of transformation as they learned to live with each other and a father, discovering what made each of them tick, similar to the insides of a watch. One had to be vigilant to not wind either son too forcefully, or not an inadequate amount, they like the watches had to be treated with respect and cautious measure to receive the paramount results instead of a sprung spring or worst yet a jammed one.
So it was that this year Murdoch had decided was the proper time to make this gesture to his sons, to let them know just how much each of their mothers had meant to him. There was no better time than the present, the eve of Mother’s Day to bestow these gifts upon his sons. He had weighed this plan in his mind a hundred times, maybe more as to how his sons would accept his gift to them. He was optimistic that they would value the symbolism of his efforts.
“Go ahead. Open them up,” he directed while his throat constricted with sentiment. He drained the contents of his glass to fortify his nerves.
Scott and Johnny exchanged looks before they placed their glasses down. Scott opened his box first and pulled out the watch that was resting upon a red silk liner. The gold shone with brilliance as the soft glow from the lamps and firelight reflected off the highly polished gleaming surface. He picked it up to stare at the front case before he turned it over to examine the elegant flourish inscription on the back of the watch, reading it out loud:
Scott Garrett Lancer
In honor of his mother,
Catherine Garrett Lancer
May 9th, 1872
Scott gulped as he looked at Murdoch searching his father’s bright blue eyes that were glistening in the corners, he felt his own eyes pooling with water. “This is handsome, Murdoch, the workmanship is simply beautiful.”
“I’m pleased you like it Scott.”
Both men looked at Johnny who had stood by wordlessly watching while Scott unwrapped and inspected his watch. He remained silent as his brow crinkled with lines and he ran the tumbler over his forehead. He didn’t realize that his brother and father were scrutinizing him, as lost in his own thoughts about his mother as he was.
“Open it up, Scott,” Murdoch said as he cleared his throat.
Johnny was not aware that he was gripping tautly to his box, so tight that the blood in his fingers had drained as his fingers took on a pale white appearance to his usually brown skin tone. He could hear his heart beating in his ears as he watched his brother closely examine his pocket watch.
Scott pushed the plunger down on the top of the timepiece to reveal the interior of the watch. A secondary cover had been added to protect the watch’s glass face. On the initial interior oval displayed in miniature was a family picture that had been taken last year in honor of their signing the partnership agreement. Murdoch was in the middle with one hand resting on each son’s shoulders, a simple gesture for sure, but with a deep sense of fatherly pride felt in the touch. They were dressed in their finery, trying to look appropriately somber for the occasion, except for the slight grin on each pair of lips, the soft twinkle in each pair of blue eyes, displayed their shared joy at the life altering event. Murdoch had a larger copy of this photograph framed on his desk.
Scott looked up and smiled at Murdoch before opening the right-sided lid that displayed the Lancer Circle L engraved on it. Upon opening the cover, Scott’s eyes widen as he took in not only the time piece but the only photograph Murdoch had of his mother, the one Murdoch kept inside the top drawer of his desk was replicated on the interior lid, staring up at him. Scott loved this portrait of his mother, which was done in her wedding gown. She looked so joyful and positively appeared to glow, so lifelike Scott felt he could reach out to touch her and she would smile at him.
Scott smiled with gratification as he looked down into the likeness of his mother, before turning his eyes back at his father, “Murdoch, I don’t know what to say, other than thank you. This is something I’ll prize for the rest of my life.”
Murdoch visibly relaxed while he sipped his drink, “You are welcomed my son. Your mother was quite the lady, a blend of charm, manners, education with a steel disposition and a temper that while slow to boil, remained steadfast in her convictions. You are like her in so many ways Scott that sometimes I feel Catherine is right here in this room, speaking her thoughts directly through you.”
Scott gulped as the words registered in his heart, reached over to shake his father’s hand, “I appreciate you doing this and for talking about my mother. I know it can’t be effortless.”
“On the contrary, Scott, talking about your mother is easy. It was me who was wrong to tell you both that the past is over and done with; the past lives on within you both, as it does with me. It’s high time we stopped living with ghosts and remember the best of them. Johnny, what about you, son?”
“What about me, what?” he asked.
“Are you going to open your box?”
Johnny looked down at the box in his hands, not sure if he could open this in front of his father and brother. He twisted and turned the box over and over and over and over in his hands, anxiety clearly written across his face as he worried over making this decision.
Scott watched with concern about his brother’s impasse, wondering what he could say to help his brother.
But Murdoch beat him to the draw; he stepped alongside his son, rested his hand upon Johnny’s shoulder, “Go on, Johnny. Remember the good times you had with your mother. Those are meant to go back and relive all those particular memories you and your mother shared, forget about the bad and what could have been, let those go. We can’t change them, but we can let them turn into ashes.”
“Murdoch, I don’t know…” he started.
“But Johnny, I do know. I revisit all the times when your mother’s smile brighten this room, how she rode a horse like you do with such abandoned joy and freedom. Her nursing you each morning and night, swaddling you with such tender, loving care, as she softly cooed you to sleep at night, singing sweetly. She loved you very much, my boy, as do I. Those unique moments are what permitted me to carry on when I wanted to give up my quest for you and your mother.”
Johnny looked up at Murdoch; both their eyes glistened with moisture. Johnny’s fingers fumbled with the ribbon wrapped around the box before he too took out his pocket watch, rubbing the scrolls before turning over the piece to read the inscription with a hitch to his voice:
John Madrid Lancer
In honor of his mother,
Maria Consuela Lancer
May 9th, 1872
“It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever own Murdoch,” Johnny said, his eyes locked on the watch, afraid the tears he held back would fall if he dared lookup.
“Open it, son.”
“Un minute, papa,” he said as he rubbed the cool tumbler across his forehead, forcing his emotions to settle down.
Scott watched, held his breath, wanted so much to fling his arm across his brother’s shoulders but waited.
Murdoch waited too until his son’s own breathing settled back into relaxed rhythm, similar to the ticking of the grandfather clock as the seconds passed.
Johnny pushed the plunger down to stare at the photograph of his father and brother, the Lancer L brand to remind him that no matter where he journeyed, he had a home where he was loved and needed. His thumb clicked the interior oval opened to reveal his mother as a young bride looking stoically at what had to have been a confusing time. Young, pregnant with him, she looked regal in her formal dark dress, her hair the coloring of his, dark, jet black and her cheek bones like his, her temperament like his.
Johnny’s face quirked into a tight smile as he searched the photograph for the traces of the young girl she once was, before life became bitter and harsh. He thought momentarily about how her life had ended. He knew that Scott had had similar thoughts a few minutes ago, he never knew his mother at all, while Johnny had spent ten years of his life with his mother. He shook the less than pleasant thoughts from the recesses of his mind, Johnny realized that Murdoch was right; he would carry this watch and think about the good times he had shared with his mother. It would bring him a pocketful of memories.
Looking up, he smiled wide at his father, despite the single tear that rolled down his cheek that he hurriedly wiped away, “Mucho gracias, papa.”
“De nada, my boy, de nada,” said Murdoch as his hand squeezed Johnny’s shoulder. “Your mother, both your mothers would be very proud to see what fine young men you have become.”
Scott stood beside his father and brother, “I do believe a toast is in order to acknowledge the wonderful ladies our mothers were to have known you Murdoch.”
Johnny grinned, “Yeah and to have still married you, old man!”
“I am a blessed man my sons, a very blessed man, indeed.”
Patti – May 8, 2010
Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful ladies!
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Patti H. directly.