Word Count 1,148
(Note: This was written in response to the list of holidays and observances for the month of April 2005 and posted to the Lancer groups on Yahoo. I tweaked it some in April 2014 before adding it to the files for the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook.)
On the twelfth day of April in the year of 1905, showers cast a dreary haze over the valley. The steady drizzle of rain, however, was hardly given a thought by those within the walls of the Lancer hacienda. While the women busied themselves in the kitchen, the men and children gathered around the fireplace in the large parlor.
It was a perfect day for swapping tales of years gone by. The younger generation listened with rapt attention as three elderly men dished out Lancer history with a measure of humor.
“Tell us another story, Uncle Johnny,” said Scott Lancer’s granddaughter, Catriana O’Connel, her big blue eyes focused on Johnny Lancer.
Johnny ran his fingers through his gray hair and slouched deeper into the leather chair that was to the right of the fireplace. He thought for a moment and then grinned. His brother would probably protest the story he had in mind, but Scott had slowed quite a lot over the last few years. There wouldn’t be much danger of payback from him.
“Did I ever tell you about the day my brother was jailed for stealing licorice from the store in Modesto?” Johnny stole a glance at the silver-haired man lounging against the arm of the sofa.
Scott’s chin tipped upward and his voice cracked. “I did not steal that licorice.”
From his seat on the floor next to the sofa, a fair-haired boy twisted to look up at Scott. “Did Papa Murdoch give you a whippin’, Granpa?”
Scott looked at his ten-year-old grandson, Scott Jonathan Lancer, who under no circumstances was to be called Scotty by any member of the family. “No, Little Scott. I did not get a whipping.”
A fleeting smile passed over the thin lips of Murdoch Lancer–Papa to nine grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren.
Johnny grinned. From the glare he could see in Scott’s eye, he was sure that his older brother had noticed their father’s amusement, too.
Jimmy Lancer, a dark-haired three-year-old who was perched on his Grandpa Johnny’s knee, spoke up. “How’d ya get out o’ jail, Unca Scott?”
“The entire incident was a mistake—” Scott replied.
“Ya got that right, Brother . . . but ya did learn somethin’.” Johnny silently chuckled as he remembered the incident that had happened more than thirty years earlier. He never had admitted to sneaking the sticks of black candy into his brother’s hip pockets while Scott was busy paying for the supplies for their return trip home.
“What’d Uncle Scott learn, Gampa?” asked Jimmy’s brother, Nathan, a slender built, eight-year-old boy who was sitting on the arm of Johnny’s chair.
“Oh.” Johnny gave Scott a mischievous glance and returned his attention to Nathan. “He learned never to walk on his wild side.”
Scott snorted softly. “Which is more than can be said for your grandfather.”
Catriana, sitting between Scott and Murdoch on the sofa, brushed a long strand of honey-colored hair out of her eyes and looked straight at Johnny. “What’s a wild side?”
“Yeah, Gampa,” Nathan said, using the shortened form of grandpa that he had used since he first began talking.
Johnny paused to think of the best explanation. Before he could come up with anything, his father answered for him. “That’s the side that gets you into trouble.” Murdoch’s hoarse whisper was a shadow of his once booming voice.
Little Scott scooted closer to Murdoch’s feet. “Did Granpa get up on the wrong side of the bed? That’s what Mama says I do when I get into trouble.”
“Well . . .”
Johnny cut in with a laugh. “Yep. I bet that’s what he did.”
Scott harumphed, his eyelids drooping as his brows pinched together to form a groove above his nose. “Which side of the bed I got up on had nothing to do with it. If my little brother hadn’t been walking on his wild side, I would never have gone to jail.”
“Did Uncle Johnny steal some licorice, too?” Catriana’s eyes opened wider and her voice hitched upward as she spoke.
Johnny grinned at Catriana. “Katie girl, I don’t even like licorice.”
“Neither do I!” Scott’s voice hitched upward in the same manner as his granddaughter’s had.
Nathan swung his legs back and forth against the side of Johnny’s chair. “Then why’d you take some?”
“I didn’t,” Scott replied.
Nathan scowled. “Then how come ya got stuck in jail?”
Johnny’s grin grew wider. “Yeah, Scott, how come the sheriff hauled ya off to jail?”
Scott glared back at Johnny. “Because, somebody put licorice in my hip pocket when I wasn’t looking. The shopkeeper saw it when I left the store, and he called for the sheriff.”
From the heavy emphasis on the word somebody, Johnny figured he was the “somebody” Scott was referring to. A glance at their father’s smiling face told him that Murdoch also knew.
Johnny hid his amusement with a scowl and spoke in a soft, yet demanding tone. “You accusin’ me?”
Scott raised his chin and looked down his nose. “If the shoe fits . . . wear it.”
Little Scott mimicked his grandfather’s tone of voice and mannerisms. “If they don’t fit, give ’em to the orphans. That’s what Mama does when my shoes pinch my toes.”
“Grandpa’s not talking about real shoes,” Catriana said.
Jimmy squirmed on Johnny’s knee. “Are dey pertend?”
Murdoch let out a raspy laugh and his shoulders shook. Johnny tried to hold back his own mirth, but lost the battle and chuckled, too. Then one by one the children giggled, until everyone was laughing.
About the time the laughter died out, Catriana was called to help set the table for supper, and the other children were hurried off to wash their hands. The three eldest members of the Lancer family were the only ones who remained seated by the fireplace.
Scott was the first to speak. “Thanks, Brother,” he said with no hint of gratitude in his tone.
“Anytime,” Johnny replied with a smirk.
Murdoch scowled. “Boys . . . this is not the time.”
“Time for what?” Johnny innocently hunched his shoulders.
“Walking on the wild side.”
Johnny glanced at his brother. “Or talking about licorice?”
“Or talking about licorice,” Scott and Murdoch said in unison.
And so it was that as the three men shared another moment of laughter, their tired voices gained strength and filled the room. The rain stopped and the clouds parted. Then sunlight streamed through the tall arched window as though smiling its approval on the Lancer household.
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