Word Count 1,392
This was originally written April 30, 2006 in response to the May list of holidays and observances and posted to the Yahoo Lancer groups on the following day. I made some minor revisions in April 2014 in preparation for adding to the files at the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook.
On the first day of May in 1871, Jelly Hoskins stormed into the parlor of the Lancer hacienda. He swept between the matched pair of blue armchairs–the floor lamp wobbling in his wake–and tottered to a halt in front of Johnny Lancer, who was leaning back against a small table.
Jelly’s chest heaved and he gasped for breath as he spoke. “There’s a huge . . . bird in the . . . horse trough.”
The corners of Johnny’s mouth twitched as he glanced at his brother, who was sitting in one of the blue chairs. “How huge?” he asked, looking again at Jelly.
“Huge!” The whiskered man’s arms spread wide, one then rising straight up.
Johnny covered his mouth and chuckled. He didn’t want to out-right laugh, but the story was ridiculous. No bird could be taller than a man, even if Jelly was on the short side.
Scott Lancer rose to stand beside Jelly. “That is a monstrous bird.”
Jelly glared at Scott. “Didn’t say nothin’ ’bout a monster. It’s a goose. The biggest you ever saw!”
“A goose?” Scott’s voice pitched upward.
Johnny decided to keep quiet and watch the fun.
“Yes! A goose.” Jelly seemed to have gotten his wind and was now shouting.
“Now, Jelly . . . you know a goose can’t possibly be six feet tall,” Scott calmly replied.
“You accusin’ me of lyin’?”
“Of course not. I–“
Jelly’s face turned red, and he crossed his arms–hands balled into fists. “Then whatcha call it, seein’ you don’t believe me?”
Johnny figured thunder and lighting might strike at any moment if he didn’t step in. He laid a gentle hand on Jelly’s shoulder and softly drawled, “Now, Jelly, ya know Scott wouldn’t call ya a liar.”
“Sounded like it to me.”
“He just meant nobody’s ever seen a goose that big before.” Johnny looked at his brother. “Ain’t that right, Scott?”
Scott gave a quick nod. “That’s right, Jelly. I never intended to question your honesty.”
“But you don’t believe me. I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. I can see it in your eyes. You think I was seeing things.” Jelly lifted his chin. “Well . . . why don’t you just go take a look for yourself?”
Footsteps sounded in the entry hall. “Take a look at what?” a deep voice asked.
Johnny looked toward the arched doorway to the left of the long dining table. Murdoch Lancer’s tall form filled the opening as the man passed through.
“Jelly saw a giant goose out by the water trough,” Johnny said.
Murdoch stroked his chin and walked closer. “Oh?”
“Go ahead and say it.” Jelly twisted his feet toward Murdoch.
Jelly’s back stiffened. “Same as your boys are sayin’. You’re thinkin’ it . . . so you might as well say it.”
“Out by the water trough, did you say?” Murdoch moved toward the nearest set of French doors. “Come on boys, let’s go take a look at this paragon of geese before it flies away.”
Scott followed Murdoch outside. Before tagging after them, Johnny tugged on Jelly’s shirt sleeve. “You comin’?”
Jelly muttered something under his breath, but Johnny ignored him and pulled harder on the sleeve. “Come on, Jelly. You don’t wanna miss the look on the ol’ man’s face when he sees that bird, do ya?”
Murdoch and Scott were approaching the barnyard by the time Johnny, with Jelly at his side, caught up to them. “It was right over there,” Jelly whispered, pointing at the long, wooden trough on the far side of the corral.
“I don’t see anything now,” Scott replied.
“Maybe it moved,” Murdoch whispered.
The men spread out to search the area. While the others checked inside the barn and barnyard, Johnny went around the guard house to the backside of the corral. Keeping close to the building, he took his time and slowly crept forward. He didn’t want to startle the bird.
Johnny shook his head in disgust. What bird? Scott was right. No goose could be taller than a man. Jelly had to have been seeing things.
As expected, Johnny made it to the back of the corral without sighting anything out of the ordinary. He drew in a deep breath, looked heavenward, and then continued on along the fence and that side of the barn. This was ridiculous, but he couldn’t give up too soon. Jelly would be hurt.
The giant bird was nowhere to be found. Johnny was sure it had never existed in the first place, not that he would ever admit that to Jelly. The man was going to be feeling bad enough as it was.
Murdoch and Scott met up with Johnny behind the stable, which was attached to one end of the barn. Apparently the results of their search hadn’t been any better. Both shook their heads in answer to his unspoken question.
The Lancers quietly returned to the corral where Jelly stood dejectedly in the center. “Looks like your bird got what he came for and left,” Johnny said.
Jelly let out a soft huff. “It was right there beside the water trough. I saw it. I know I saw it.”
Scott clapped a hand on Jelly’s shoulder. “I’m sure you did.”
“Then you do believe me.”
“Off course we believe,” Murdoch said.
Johnny squinted at the sun that was dropping behind the western hills. An idea formed in his mind. “Maybe, he left some sign. You know . . . a feather or . . ..”
“Johnny’s right,” Scott said. “Maybe we should take a closer look around the water trough.”
Murdoch reached the trough several strides ahead of the others. “Anything?” Scott asked, upon catching up to the older man.
“How about on the other side?” Johnny asked.
Scott walked around the end nearest the barn. “No . . . I don’t see–. Wait! Maybe . . ..” His voice trailed off as he leaned over.
Johnny hurried to his brother’s side. “Whatcha see?”
“I’m not sure . . . but it looks like–“
“Looks like what?”
Scott answered with a grunt. Then he slowly stood upright, his hands cradling the biggest egg Johnny had ever seen.
“Wow! Is that what I think it is?” Johnny asked.
Jelly bumped into Johnny’s arm. “It’s an egg,” he said, his voice filled with wonder.
Murdoch crowded against Johnny’s other side. “It certainly is.”
“Jelly . . . do you know what this means,” Scott asked.
“We have been visited by none other than . . ..”
Johnny felt a surge of impatience at Scott’s hesitation. “Than what?”
The corners of Scott’s mouth twitched. “Why, Mother Goose, of course. No other goose could have laid such an enormous egg.”
Jelly’s eyes filled with awe. “You really think it was Mother Goose?”
Murdoch ran a thumb down one side of his nose and cleared his throat. “You did see a big goose right here, didn’t you? And that is an egg, so . . . it stands to reason that what you saw was not a gander.”
Scott clapped a hand on the whiskered man’s shoulder. “So, you see, Jelly, it had to be Mother Goose.”
“Guess that makes ya pretty special,” Johnny said. “Why, I bet there ain’t a . . . handful o’ people that can say they’ve seen her.”
“Yeah.” Jelly hooked his thumbs beneath his suspenders and arched his back. “Yeah. Just wait’ll I tell the bunkhouse boys.
Scott offered the egg to Jelly. “Better take this,” he said.
“You really believe a goose laid that egg?” Johnny asked once Jelly had walked away.
Scott arched his brows. “Something had to.”
Johnny had to agree. An egg couldn’t simply appear out of nowhere. “So why not Mother Goose, right?” he said and grinned.
“Right,” Murdoch and Scott replied in unison.
And from that day forth, the first day of May was called Mother Goose day at Lancer.
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