Word count 935
Life was fading. He knew it. Embraced it. And thought it fitting to be here, in this Great Room, where his life really began. Where substance was built. Conversations held. Angers unleashed and friendships, the bonds he had never known the likes of, were born.
The Doctor had suggested he stay enclosed in the four walls of his bedroom. Shut away from the sounds of life of the ranch. He was young, this doctor. The third one who had replaced Sam Jenkins since he had been gone. Old Sam had been nearing 70 and still practicing when they found him slouched behind his office desk.
30 years? Longer…This young one didn’t understand that a man used to living with every fiber just couldn’t linger away closed off from most everything he’d ever known.
Teresa used to think he was crazy. She felt the Great Room, of all rooms in the sprawling ranch, was the loneliest. She didn’t understand the conversations he could still hear coming from the walls. The comfort it gave him. Teresa. She was the first, and the last, to leave Lancer. She married a young banker and moved to San Francisco. He could still remember the wedding held at the ranch. Murdoch walking her down the aisle. They even got Johnny to dance. She returned to Lancer 10…No, 15 years ago. Her bank president husband was killed in a robbery. Poor Teresa. It was years before she could ever talk about him without tearing up. Five years ago he found her in bed, clutching a golden locket in her fist that held their wedding picture. She looked to be asleep but she was so cold.
Murdoch had passed well before Teresa ever came home. One fine early Summer morning he walked to the corrals to look at the new colts. He clutched his chest and was gone before he ever hit ground. Jelly had just hobbled out of his room and saw it happen.
Jelly. The consumption he always worried about had finally caught up to him. He coughed his life away not even a month later.
Then it was just Johnny and him. After the accident that took Luisa, Johnny’s beautiful wife, and left him maimed, Johnny was never quite the same.
He couldn’t say much. When his own wife died in childbirth he was never quite the same either. Oh, there were women. Lots of women. Some he even thought about marrying but something always seemed to happen. His own son was grown and gone. The boy had a head for business and was busy running Garrett Enterprises in Boston. He had more than tripled it in size and fortune since taking over the operation.
Johnny’s two sons? Goodness. Maury was a US Attorney General. There was talk he would be running for President. Joe was a rancher by birth and grace. As good with horses as his father and as shrewd a negotiator as his grandfather. Lancer was in fine hands.
Lancer. Who knew a piece of ground, even the most beautiful, finest ground in all of the World, could tangle itself in one’s soul and become life’s blood?
Lancer. He came 50 years ago out of curiosity to meet a father he had never known. Then found out he had a brother. That he had a life he would have never imagined. And now couldn’t imagine not having. Johnny loved the land as much as he did. It filled a void that both, although so different in upbringing, shared to their very core. It was almost as important to them as having a brother. Having a father. Being a family.
Oh, Johnny…With his past as a gunfighter he never expected to live to thirty. Knew he wouldn’t die in bed. Well, even without use of half his body, it took a dozen guns to bring him down. He took down 6 of them. Wounded 2. They admitted to being hired by a rancher named Gould down near the border that had a long standing grudge.
While Maury was putting pressure on the state Senate to clean up the territories, Joe disappeared for a few months. Word kept trickling through about gunfights and death. Shortly after news came about Gould meeting his demise, Joe returned. Nothing was ever said and life went on.
Scott leaned his head back against the chair. How much time had they spent in this room? Arguing. Conniving. Laughing. He could see his father at the desk, poring over the books. Teresa perched in her soft blue chair, a hank of needlepoint forgotten in her lap as she watched he and Johnny battling over a chess board. Jelly bantering about wrong moves. What was happening? It was all so real and then, one by one, the lights grew dim. Jelly disappeared. Murdoch too. Teresa was gone. Johnny! Where was Johnny…
“Hey, brother, ” the unmistakable lilt of Johnny’s soft voice penetrated his despair. He looked around wildly, feeling immense relief when he saw his brother standing at the door. Young. Fit. Hat in hand and saddlebags over his shoulder.
“Were you sleeping? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. ” The dark haired man grinned. “Come on, time’s wasting. We got to ride.”
Scott was up and halfway across the floor, catching the tan jacket Johnny tossed him. He turned to look back over the room, frowning slightly at the empty shell of an old man dozing in the desk chair.
“Come on, Scott. Murdoch’s waiting!” Johnny headed out the door.
Scott slipped on the jacket, grabbed his hat from the rack. “Right behind you, brother.”
August 2020/Archive August 2022
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