#2 in a quadrilogy of stories:
Word count: 687
Today was Johnny Lancer’s birthday. Usually that meant a party at Lancer with dancing, pretty girls, and lots of good food. But not this year. This year Johnny didn’t want a party. Oh, he knew that Teresa and Jelly would insist on celebrating with a cake and presents, but his heart really wasn’t into celebrating. How could it be when Scott had left Lancer for good?
Two months before Scott had been called to Boston to visit his dying grandfather. He hadn’t returned. Johnny understood Scott’s thinking, but it still hurt deeply.
“Johnny!” Teresa yelled to the young man. “Come in now. It’s time for your cake and presents.”
Johnny shook off his sadness and prepared to enjoy himself–at least for Teresa’s sake.
“Sit down and close your eyes.” Teresa, Johnny and Murdoch were gathered in the dining room. “Now, Jelly!”
Jelly carried in a huge cake and placed it before Johnny. “Open your eyes and make a wish.” As he did so, the other 3 began to sing, “Happy Birthday”. Jelly’s gruff voice could be heard above all the others. When all the candles flickered out together, everyone sighed with relief because they knew what Johnny’ wish would be.
“Teresa, it’s beautiful. Let’s just hope it tastes good”. After cutting huge slabs of cake for all, Johnny complimented Teresa “It’s really delicious. Hardly burnt at all.”
Teresa gave him a playful swat. “I do not burn my cakes.”
“No, how about that one for Jelly last year?”
“That was an accident. I got distracted.”
Everyone laughed and continued to finish their cake.
“Now it’s time for the presents. ” Mine first”, insisted Teresa. Her gift was in a big box with a red bow.
“Teresa, did you make this?” The sweater was hand-knit and obviously done with love.
“It took me several months, but I wanted you to have something to keep you warm out there on the range.” Johnny leaned over and gave her a kiss. “Thanks. I’ll think of you every time I wear it.”
Clearing his throat, Jelly murmured, “Might as well open mine next.” The box jingled.
“Jelly, it must be bells. How thoughtful!”
“Consarnit, them’s not bells. Just open the darn thing.” The present turned out to be new spurs and a bridle with “J.L.” on the sides.
“Thanks, Jelly. They’re great. Much better than bells.” Jelly looked quite pleased with himself.
“Uh son, I couldn’t wrap your present, but I hope you’ll like it.” Murdoch’s gift turned out to be a new saddle with Johnny’s initials and the Lancer brand tooled into it.
“Murdoch, it’s magnificent. Thanks so much. I can hardly wait to try it out.”
“Why don’t we all go down to the stable and see how it looks, ” suggested Teresa.
Just as the 4 headed out the door, up rode a young lad named Danny Evans.
“Johnny, Sam asked me to bring this out to you. It came in on today’s stage.”
“Thanks, Danny.” Johnny took the package. Murdoch handed the boy a tip before he rode back to town.
“Maybe it’s from Mary Henderson?” teased Teresa.
“No, it’s not,” whispered Johnny. He had recognized the handwriting.
Johnny walked slowly into the living area. Opening the package, he found a wooden carving; it was a mare and her colt. He stared at it for a second then opened the enclosed note:
“Happy Birthday, Johnny! This carving reminded me of Catherine and Madrid. I forgot to tell you that I had intended to name the colt Madrid, but you can change it if you want. Take care of yourself. Scott“
Johnny Lancer handed the note to Murdoch; but he kept the carving as he walked into his room, closing the door.
After about 20 minutes, Murdoch knocked on Johnny’s door then entered. Johnny sat on the edge of his bed staring down at the lovely carving.
“Are you alright, son?”
Johnny nodded and then looked up at his father. “Murdoch, can you spare me for awhile?”
Murdoch hesitated for a moment. “Sure. I’d go with you but…..”
“I understand. I’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
To (The) Journey —–>
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