Word Count 634
(Note: This is another short story that was inspired by the monthly lists of holidays and observances. I originally posted it on August 26, 2005 to the Lancer groups on Yahoo. I tweaked it some before adding it to the files of the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook. Hope you enjoy this bit of fun.)
August 19, 1871:
Murdoch Lancer slid back his chair and settled his tall frame onto the green brocade, padded seat. As he scooted the chair forward again, he looked down the full length of the table. Something didn’t seem quite right.
While Murdoch tried to puzzle out what was wrong, the sweet voice of his ward Teresa O’Brien, who was seated on his right, asked him if he would like some mashed potatoes.
The big rancher gladly accepted the offered bowl. He was starving after the long ride to check on the grass up Willow Creek in the foothills of the mountains to the east.
Immediately another dish was handed to him from the left. This one was balanced on the long, slender fingers of his elder son. “A baked potato, Sir?” Scott politely asked.
“Thank you.” Murdoch reached for one of the spuds. The brown skin burned his fingers, and he dropped the piping-hot potato down beside the fluffy, white mound on his plate.
Another voice blended with the plop of the baked potato. “Ya want some of these fried taters, too?”
This latest inquiry came from the younger of his two grown sons, and Murdoch scowled. More potatoes?
Seeing the dish in Johnny’s outstretched hand, Murdoch refrained from stating his concern about the abundance of potatoes on the night’s menu. It wouldn’t be polite to refuse what was being offered. The boy might feel slighted.
Murdoch mumbled his thanks and added the golden brown chunks to his plate. He was about to ask for the meat when another bowl was presented–this held in the work-roughened hands of his hired man, Jelly Hoskins, who was practically part of the family.
“Better have some of this potato soup, Boss,” Jelly said. “It’s mighty good.”
As Jelly set the large china serving dish down, Teresa snagged the small bowl next to Murdoch’s plate. “Here . . . I’ll ladle some out for you.”
Again, Murdoch wondered where the meat was. So far potatoes were all he had on his plate.
Noting the serving dish farthest down the table, Murdoch asked to have it passed to him.
“That’s for desert,” Teresa said. “It’s sweet potato pie.”
Murdoch scowled. “Aren’t we having anything besides potatoes?” He liked potatoes well enough, but an entire meal of them was another matter.
Jelly emitted what sounded like a snort. “Of course not,” he said. “Today is Potato Day in case–.”
“There’s biscuits. Ya want one?” Johnny lifted another plate and held it out to Murdoch.
Murdoch suspiciously eyed the plate of biscuits. “What kind are they?” he hesitantly asked.
“Potato!” rang a chorus of voices from around the table.
With slumped shoulders, Murdoch ate his meal in silence. Why hadn’t he remembered that his family had agreed to honor Teresa’s Irish heritage by having nothing but potatoes on the nineteenth day of August? He could have gone to Green River for supplies or found an excuse to visit Aggie. At least then he could have had meat with his meal.
Scott’s voice broke through Murdoch’s thoughts. “More potatoes, Sir?”
Sensing that all eyes were on him, Murdoch bit back a sharp “no” and nodded instead. It was bad enough to be deprived of his customary meat. He certainly wasn’t going to go hungry in the process.
One thing is certain, he told himself. Next year I’ll be anywhere but here on Potato Day.
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