Word Count 6,329
It was a beautiful spring afternoon and Johnny Lancer was enjoying the wind whipping through his hair, as he raced his horse against his friend, Wesley. He knew that if his father was to catch him, riding this recklessly, he would be in for one of Murdoch’s famous lectures and he would, possibly, be sent to bed, early, for a week, but right now, he didn’t care. Johnny preferred to live for the moment, and right at this moment, he was winning a race, and felt that he was on top of the world.
Suddenly, that world came crashing down on top of him, as his horse stumbled, tossing Johnny from its back. The boy landed awkwardly, twisting his ankle, and he lay on the ground, trying to get his breath back, as it had been knocked out of him, by the impact of the fall.
Wesley brought his horse to a halt, and was soon at his friend’s side.
“Are ya okay, Johnny?”
“Well, that’s a pretty dangfool thing to ask me, ain’t it?” replied Johnny. “Iffen I was okay, I wouldn’t be lying here, in the dirt. Go fetch my horse, will ya? I’ve gotta get home, before the Old Man starts yelling ‘bout me being late, again.”
“Since when did you care what he thinks?” said Wesley. “Ever since you’ve come to live with him, I ain’t ever seen you bothered about his feelings. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s warned you about getting home on time, and doing your chores, and you very rarely take much notice.”
“Well, I guess I don’t care, really,” said Johnny. “I mean, for eight years he never showed any interest in me, so I don’t see why I should care about the way he feels. But I do like Scott, and he asked me to be home on time, today. Seems he’s got something he wants to tell me.”
“Are you gonna be able to ride?” asked Wesley, as he brought Johnny’s horse over to him.
“Oh, I reckon so,” said Johnny, and he attempted to stand. “Ouch, maybe this ankle was hurt worse than I thought. Will you help me get up into the saddle?”
Wesley did so, and soon Johnny was on his horse.
“Thanks, Wes. Best be on my way. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sure thing, as we still ain’t settled which of us has the fastest mount.”
“Of course we have, it’s me,” said Johnny, with a devilish grin on his face. “I was miles ahead of you when my horse stumbled.”
“Neither of us crossed the finishing line, so the race wasn’t completed,” said Wes. “Therefore, we havta do it all over again.”
“Okay, but I’m still gonna beat you,” said Johnny, and the boys went their separate ways.
By the time he got home, Murdoch had just about worn out a track in the carpet, where he’d been pacing up and down, looking out of the huge window, to see if Johnny was in sight.
“Where have you been, John?” demanded Murdoch.
“No where special, just out,” said the boy, with a shrug of his shoulders.
“How many times do I have to tell you, son, that when you are planning to go off, somewhere, you should let me know where you are going? This is a big country and one small boy could easily get lost, especially as you haven’t lived here that long, and don’t know your way around, that well.”
“I ain’t a small boy, and I’m used to being on my own, so can take care of myself,” said Johnny, angrily. “And I couldn’t tell you where I was going, cos I didn’t know, until I got there. I’m not much for forward planning, never have been.”
“As far as I am concerned, at eleven you are still a small boy, but I wouldn’t have you speaking to me, like that, no matter how old you were. And now that you are living here, you are going to have to learn to do things as we do them, and that means telling me where you are going, before you leave home. Now, please hurry up and see to your horse, as Scott wants to tell us something.”
As Johnny went to leave the room, Murdoch noticed that the boy was limping.
“What have you done to your leg?” he said, catching up to his younger son.
“Oh, nothing much, just twisted my ankle, a bit,” said Johnny, preparing to walk on.
“That seems to be more than nothing much,” said Murdoch. “Come and sit down and let me have a look at it.”
“It’s fine, and I need to take care of Scirocco,” said Johnny, trying to get past his father.
“One of the hands can see to your horse,” and Murdoch scooped the boy up, in his arms, and deposited him on the settee. “Now, stay put and let me check your ankle.”
Johnny wasn’t happy, but knew that he would have to do as his father instructed him to do. So, he allowed Murdoch to remove his boot and soon had his foot and lower leg, immersed in a bowl of water.
“This is just the type of thing I am talking about, when I say it isn’t safe for you to go off and not tell me where you will be,” said Murdoch. “Suppose this injury had been even worse and you had been unable to get home? We wouldn’t have had any idea where to start looking for you.”
“It wasn’t worse and I did get home, so quit fussing, will you?” snapped Johnny.
“I am warning you, boy, for the last time. Do not use that tone of voice when talking to me. I am your father and it is disrespectful of you to speak to me, like that.”
“Sorry, but I ain’t used to having a father, so don’t know how to talk to one,” said Johnny.
“Just because you haven’t had a father, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know how to talk to one. You should speak to me in the same way that you should speak to any adult, and I am sure that you have come into contact with quite a few of those, in your life.”
“A few, but the ones I knew lived mostly in places you’ve only heard about, but never dared to visit,” said Johnny. “They were hardly human, and they sure didn’t deserve to be talked to, respectfully.”
Whenever Murdoch tried to correct Johnny on his manners, he often found himself at a loss as to how to carry on with his lecture, because the boy frequently dumbfounded him, with the memories of his past.
For eight years out of the eleven, since he’d been born, Johnny had lived with his mother, Maria. She had led a very nomadic existence and the boy had lived in some of the worst towns along the Mexican border. Maria moved them, often, always hoping to improve their lives, but never quite succeeding.
After leaving Murdoch, when Johnny was only two, Maria had lived with several men, none of whom had treated her, or Johnny, particularly well. By the time she was killed, by a former lover, when Johnny was ten, they had moved too many times for the boy to be able to keep count.
It meant that the Pinkerton agents, whom Murdoch hired to find his wife and son, were always several moves behind them, and Maria had been dead for more than six months, before they finally caught up with Johnny, and brought him to the ranch, to live with his father and brother.
“Well, now you do have a father, and I am telling you how to speak to me, with less sass and more respect, all right?”
“All right,” said Johnny.
The boy stayed on the settee, soaking his ankle, while Scott told them his news.
“When school starts back, after the Spring break, you’re going to be able to come with me, Johnny. There are more children in the area, now, so they are taking on another teacher, and there will be a place for you. Isn’t that great?”
Johnny wasn’t sure that he shared his brother’s enthusiasm for going to school, but he was pleased that he would be able to attend the same one as Scott. His father had talked about him going, but nothing definite had yet been arranged. While living with his mother, he had hardly ever gone to school, as they moved around too much, but he’d learned to read and write, and could do basic arithmetic. However, he knew that he was no where near as well educated as his fifteen-year-old half brother was. Scott had spent the first five years of his life living in Boston, with his maternal grandfather, after his mother died, giving birth to him. It wasn’t what Murdoch wanted, but at the time, things had been very unsettled on the ranch, and it was deemed safer for the little boy to live in Boston. As soon as things settled down, and Murdoch was more secure, financially, he’d travelled east and brought his son home to Lancer. From that time onwards, Scott had received a decent amount of schooling and the plan was that once he was old enough, he would go back east, again, to finish off his education, at Harvard.
Scott was waiting for Johnny to respond to the news that he would be able to go to school with him.
“Yeah, that is great, I guess. I just hope I don’t let you down. I mean, I’m not as clever as you are and I don’t want you to be embarrassed by having a dumb brother.”
“You’re not dumb, Johnny, far from it,” said Scott. “You just haven’t had the chance to go to school, like I have. Once you’ve been going for a while, you’ll soon catch up. And I could never be embarrassed about having you as a brother, so don’t think like that.”
Johnny smiled at Scott, grateful for his brother’s love. In the short time Johnny had been living at the ranch, the two boys had formed a close bond, and it was almost as if they had been raised together, from birth.
When Maria, their housekeeper, announced that supper was ready, Murdoch dried off Johnny’s foot and soon had the ankle bandaged.
“The swelling has already gone down, pretty much, so a day or two, resting it, should see it right,” said Murdoch.
“It’ll be fine, in the morning,” said Johnny. “I ain’t wasting two days sitting around on my butt, twiddling my thumbs; I’ve got things to do.”
“What things have you got to do?” asked his father.
“Oh, just things,” said Johnny.
“Well, those things are going to have to wait, until that ankle is fully healed,” said Murdoch. “And when you are well enough to go off and do those things, I want to know where it is you are doing them, understood?”
“Understood,” said Johnny, although just because he understood, didn’t necessarily mean he was going to do as his father said.
Early the next morning, Johnny was dressed before anyone else in the house. He tried to convince himself that his ankle was fine, but it was still hurting him, although not as much as the day before. It took a lot of pulling and pushing, but he eventually managed to get his foot into his boot, and he was soon out at the barn. In no time at all, Scirocco was saddled and Johnny rode off to meet Wes. He had to wait for quite a while, as Wesley didn’t have to sneak out of his house and so did his chores, and ate his breakfast, before leaving.
“’Bout time you got here,” said Johnny, as his friend rode up to join him.
“I’m here around about the same time as we always meet,” said Wesley.
“Well, I had to leave the house afore anyone else was awake, or I wouldn’t have been able to come,” said Johnny. “The Old Man made such a fuss about my ankle and said I was to rest up for two days. Now I know I’ve gotta go to school, after the Spring break, I sure don’t wanna waste time sitting at home, doing nothing.”
“If your ankle’s that bad, maybe we oughta not race, today,” said Wes, not wishing to take advantage of his friend.
“It’s fine, I tell you. It’s just the Old Man who’s bothered about it. I’ve had much worse and still been able to get around. Now, let’s get to the course and I’ll show you who owns the fastest horse.”
The two boys rode off, and were soon at the spot where they held their races.
Johnny’s ankle was aching, a bit, but wearing his boot helped give it support, and he felt fine about taking part in the race. This time, there were no mishaps, and Johnny won.
“See, I told you, this horse of mine can’t be beaten.”
Wes was a gracious loser.
“It sure is a fine animal, Johnny, and you beat me, fair and square.
Exhilarated by his success, Johnny rode back to the ranch, having forgotten that he’d left, against his father’s wishes.
As he rode into the courtyard, Scott was there, saddling up his horse.
“I was just about to come and look for you, little brother. Pa’s about ready to burst a blood vessel. Where the hell have you been?”
“Tut, tut, big brother, you shouldn’t use such words in front of an impressionable youngster like me. Ain’t that what the Old Man told you?”
“Never mind about my language, where were you?”
“I said I had some business to take care of and now I’ve done it,” said Johnny, dismounting, but not able to hide the wince, as his bad leg, hit the ground.
“Pa told you to rest that ankle, and it’s obvious, by the look on your face, that it’s still not healed, so why didn’t you do as you were told?”
Johnny shrugged his shoulders and grinned at his brother, the way that he often responded to Scott’s questions.
“Just ain’t that good at staying put, I guess,” he said.
“Well, you’re going to have plenty of time to learn how to stay put, boy,” said Murdoch, as he came out of the house, with Teresa in tow. “You are restricted to the house and the yard for the rest of this week. And if you so much as set one foot beyond the yard, before your restriction is lifted, you are going to be over my knee, receiving a painful lesson in what happens to little boys, who disobey their fathers. So, take this as your very last warning. Now, get into the house and rest that ankle, like I told you to, yesterday.”
Johnny thought it wise not to make any more smart remarks and did as Murdoch told him to.
And, for the next couple of days, he continued to obey his father, but once his ankle was better, he started to get itchy feet, and was anxious to be off on his own, again.
His chance came when Murdoch and Scott went to town and Teresa was in the kitchen doing some baking with Maria.
‘I reckon I can go and do a spot of fishing and be back in time to do my chores, before the Old Man gets home,’ thought Johnny, but, unluckily for him, Murdoch and Scott returned to the ranch, earlier than expected.
As Murdoch entered the house, Maria came out of the kitchen, speaking rapidly, in Spanish. Murdoch knew the language, but he did find it hard to keep up with what she was saying, when she was upset. Teresa, who was behind her, could tell that was the case, and so the little girl began to explain.
“Johnny’s gone, again,” she said. “Maria and I were baking and I brought some cookies in here for Johnny to taste, and I couldn’t find him. I looked everywhere, even the outhouse, but no Johnny, then I looked in the barn and his horse was gone, too. Do you think he’s all right?”
Murdoch could see that the six-year-old was close to tears, and so he picked her up and gave her a cuddle. Since Johnny had come to live at the ranch, Teresa had adopted him as her hero, and she followed him around, as much as he would let her.
“I’m sure he is fine, sweetheart, but that will change once I get my hands on him,” said Murdoch.
“Are you gonna spank him, Doc?”
The little girl’s bottom lip began to quiver, at the thought of Johnny being in trouble.
“Yes, darling, I am, and he deserves it, as he’s been a naughty boy and disobeyed me, and he knows he’s not supposed to do that, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, I guess he does,” said Teresa, looking up at the man, who was like a second father to her, and whom she’d christened Doc, from when she was tiny and couldn’t say his name, properly. “But Johnny don’t mean to be bad, Doc, he’s just, well, he’s just Johnny.”
Murdoch smiled at the child, knowing just what she meant.
“Yes, I know he’s Johnny, but he’s also a Lancer and my son, just like Scott is, and we all have to live by certain rules, don’t we?”
Teresa nodded, as Murdoch continued.
“If your Daddy or I tell you to do something, then you know you must do it, don’t you? And you know that if you don’t do it, you will be in trouble. And it’s the same for Scott and for Johnny.”
Teresa did understand and said no more, she just gave Murdoch a hug and a kiss.
It wasn’t long before Johnny came back, and he found four angry people waiting for him. Even Maria and Teresa, his two staunchest supporters, were cross that he had worried his father.
“Hi, all,” said Johnny, trying out his cheekiest grin.
“I made cookies, but you’re not having any,” said Teresa.
Murdoch was relieved to see that the boy was safe, but his anger now took over from his concern.
“Don’t you ‘hi’ me, young man. Get to your room, right now, and I will be up to deal with you, shortly.”
“Calm down, it’s no big deal,” said Johnny, rather worried by how angry his father was, but hoping to diffuse the situation. “I just went and did a spot of fishing, caught enough for supper, too. I’ll go do my chores, now.”
“You will go to your room, like I told you to, unless you want me to deal with you, here, in front of everyone,” shouted Murdoch.
Johnny could see that there was no way he was going to be able to talk his father out of this, and so, finally, he did as he was told.
After giving them both time to calm down, Murdoch went upstairs to talk to Johnny.
“You are given chores to do, like everybody else who lives on this ranch. They are things that have to be done, on a daily basis, and when you are put in charge of animals, who depend on you for their food, then you must see to it that they are cared for, as a priority. Anything else that you might want to do, has to wait until after you have completed your chores. However, as you are on restriction, at the moment, there was nothing else that you should have been doing, except for your chores. I can understand why you have been finding it hard to accept the rules that we live by, here on the ranch. It is not the way you have ever had to live and it was bound to take you a while to adjust. That is why I have been lenient with you, so far. But I cannot continue to allow you to flout those rules; otherwise you will never learn to fit in.”
“Well, mebbe I don’t wanna fit in,” said Johnny, keeping his back towards Murdoch. “Mebbe I liked living the way I was living, afore you kidnapped me and brought me here.”
“Turn around and face me, when you speak to me, please, John. I didn’t kidnap you, son, I just brought you to your rightful home. After your mother died, I was the natural choice to continue to raise you, as I am your next of kin.”
“I was doing fine, raising myself, thanks,” spat out Johnny, but he did turn around and face his father.
This wasn’t strictly true and they both knew it, but Murdoch didn’t think that this was the time to argue the point.
“Johnny, you are only eleven and while I know that there are lots of children making their own way, at that age, they do so out of necessity. But it isn’t necessary for you to live like that. You have a father, a brother, and a sister, in Teresa, who all love you and want to care for you. You can be assured of three good meals a day, so you no longer have to steal, or rummage around in trash cans, to find something to eat. You have your own room and a nice house to live in, plus the chance to go to school and make something of your life. Is the price we are asking, too high, for all that we are offering?”
“What do you mean by the price I havta pay?” said Johnny, his curiosity aroused, by his father’s words.
“All we ask from you is that you abide by the rules of the family, and treat us with the same love and respect with which we treat you. Oh, I know that living on your own means that you are free to come and go as you please, to eat when you want, to go to bed whenever it suits you, and you don’t have chores to do, or anyone else to worry about. But I also know that giving up that kind of freedom for what is on offer here, is a pretty good deal, as it can be a very lonely life living the way you have been, since losing your mother.”
At the mention of his mother, Johnny looked down at the carpet, not wanting Murdoch to see the tears forming in his eyes. Even though it was almost a year since her death, he still missed her, very much. He now knew that she hadn’t been completely honest with him, when she’d told him that Murdoch had thrown them out. He knew that she had been the one who decided to leave, feeling that the ranch was far too confining for a free spirit such as her. He also knew, if he was being brutally honest with himself, that she hadn’t always been the best of mothers, but she was still his mother and the only parent he had ever known. He didn’t count any of the men she had taken up with, as parents, even though a couple of them had insisted that the boy call them Pa. None of them had cared anything for him, and only tolerated him being around, because they wanted to be with his mother, and she refused to abandon Johnny. Maybe it would have been better if she had, as he’d suffered some pretty bad beatings at the hands of those men. But at least she always left them, once she discovered what they had done to Johnny, and then it would be just the two of them, for a while. And he wouldn’t have wanted to miss those all too brief times that he spent with Maria, as they had been the best moments in his life, so far.
Perhaps he was just too much like his mother, and not cut out for a life on a ranch, anymore than she had been. He really did want to try and make things work with his father and Scott, and felt that he was succeeding, on some levels. But he was finding it really hard to accept the rules that Murdoch set for him, and it was causing a lot of conflict between him and his father. So far, Murdoch had dealt with Johnny by just lecturing him, and giving him extra chores to do, when he’d been disobedient. But his father had warned him that if he messed up, one more time, then he was in for a spanking, and the boy was really scared. Just how far was his father likely to go with his punishment? No one had ever disciplined the boy, in a loving, fatherly way. He had only known beatings and harsh words. Although he knew that Murdoch wasn’t like any of the men who had hurt him, in the past, he still wasn’t sure that he could trust him, enough, to discipline him, without it completely changing their relationship.
In a voice scarce above a whisper, Johnny said, “Living on my own wasn’t much fun. I was hungry and cold, most of the time, and I never had a bed to go to, so couldn’t have a bedtime. I used to look in the windows of houses in the towns I was passing through, and see families sitting down to eat supper, together, and kids kissing their folks, goodnight, before heading off to bed. Iffen anyone had asked me if I wanted that kinda life, I probably would’ve said ‘no’, cos you learn never to show your real feelings, when you’re living on the streets, but I did, really. But I never thought I’d have it, cos I had no one to care for me. I never even gave you a thought, cos I’d grown up thinking that my father was ashamed of me, being a half breed an’ all, so I just carried on, trying to care for myself, the best way I could, and I didn’t plan any further than how I would get my next meal. It is better having people around who care about you, but I guess I’m still a bit scared to accept this new life, completely. You see, if anyone hit me, before I lived here, it was always out of hatred and cos they were just violent men, who liked hurting folks. But you talk about hitting me, cos you love me, and want to raise me properly, and to teach me right from wrong. Now, I think I understand that, but I’m still not sure if I can completely trust you.”
At these words, Murdoch was very tempted to pull the boy into his arms, hug him and forget about the punishment. However, he knew that if he and Johnny were ever going to be truly father and son, they had to get past this obstacle.
He said nothing, for a few minutes, but then he had an idea.
“Before we go any further with this, I think it might be a good idea if you spoke to Scott. So, you wait here and I will go and get him, okay?”
Johnny was rather surprised by his father’s reaction to his words, but decided it was best if he did as he was told, and so he waited for Scott.
Murdoch quickly explained to his older boy what had taken place between him and Johnny. He then put forward his idea on how to make Johnny understand what Murdoch was trying to do.
Scott was more than happy to help, as he was desperate to have his father and brother enjoy the kind of relationship that he and Murdoch had.
“I’ll do my best, sir,” said Scott, and he went upstairs, to Johnny’s room.
He knocked on the door, but didn’t wait for a reply, just opened the door and walked in.
“Hi, little brother, how’s things?”
“Could be a lot better, but at least I’m still alive,” said Johnny, managing a small smile, for his brother.
“Well, I didn’t hear any yelling, so I assume your hide is still intact?” said Scott, putting his arm around the young boy, and leading him over to the bed. “Let’s sit and talk, for a while.”
“Yeah, my hide’s fine, thanks. Well, at the moment it is, but the Old Man has promised me a licking, so I guess I won’t be in one piece, for much longer.”
“Johnny, are you scared of Pa?”
The directness of the question took Johnny by surprise and he didn’t answer, immediately.
When he did, it was rather hesitantly.
“Well, yeah, kinda, that is, no, not really, well, I don’t know, Scott. I don’t think I am, but then he’s never promised me a licking, before.”
“Johnny, you know that I love Pa, don’t you? Now, he’s spanked me, in the past, and will no doubt do so, in the future, but it sure won’t stop me from loving him. I might not like him, very much, for a day or so, afterwards, but I know that he’s just about the fairest and kindest Pa anyone could ever have. And I’m not scared of him, because I trust him to deal with me, fairly.”
“I know you love him and I know he’s punished you, sometimes, but it’s different for me,” said Johnny. “You’ve never had someone beating up on you, to the point that you can’t walk for days after, have you? Or been dumped in a cupboard and left there, without food or water, for a couple of days. I’ve had that, and worse, and just the thought of someone beating me, well, it turns my stomach.”
Scott put his arms around the boy and hugged him close, for several minutes. He found himself unable to speak, as the images of what his little brother had been subjected to, ran through his head. He’d heard the stories of how Johnny had been mistreated, in the report that the Pinkerton agents had compiled and given to his father. However, actually hearing Johnny talk about it, made it seem even worse, if that was possible.
Scott gently let go of Johnny and said, “There is a huge difference between what you suffered at the hands of those men, and how Pa disciplines me. For a start, you couldn’t call it a beating. It’s a spanking, and if you use that dictionary that I gave you, you will be able to see that the two words don’t mean the same, at all. A spanking is a slap with the hand, administered by a caring parent, usually to the backside. It’s loving discipline, whereas a beating is a lot more violent, and is supposed to leave the victim battered and bruised, and feeling totally defeated. Pa gives me lots of warnings before spanking me. And he uses it as the last resort, in order to reinforce his words and make me aware of what I have done wrong, and he won’t be any different with you. He would never do anything to you, like those men did. He’s your father, your flesh and blood, and it’s just not in him, to hurt you that way. Trust me, on this, Johnny, and trust him, too. Pa’s a good man and he loves you, very much.”
Johnny took in all that Scott had to say, then he took a deep breath and stood up.
“Thanks, Scott. I guess I’m ready to accept some of that loving discipline from our father, now. I know you wouldn’t lie to me, and I guess I know he wouldn’t, either. It’s just that so much has happened, in such a short time, and I get kinda mixed up, in my head, you know?”
“Yes, I know,” said Scott. “I was a lot younger than you are, when I first came to live at Lancer, but I was old enough to have memories of life with my grandfather. In all of my five years with him, he never smacked me, so it came as a bit of a shock when Pa did, for the first time. We were making our way home to the ranch and I threw a tantrum about something and nothing. Pa warned me to stop, and said he would spank me, if I didn’t. I chose to ignore him, and the next thing I knew, he landed a swat on my backside. I jumped clear into the air, but it stopped the tantrum, and from then on, I knew better than to ignore his warnings. Of course, I’m not saying that I never disobeyed him, again, but at least I knew where I stood with him, and I still do. So, now, if I get the urge to disobey him, I weigh up whether I think it’s worth facing the consequences, before I do it. I might go ahead and hope that I don’t get found out, or decide that maybe it’s not worth it, after all. So, you see, I still have the freedom to act as I want to, but I also know where my actions will lead me.”
“That makes a lot of sense, Scott. I guess it’s not as much of a prison, here, as I thought it was. I knew that I was doing wrong, when I went fishing, instead of doing my chores, but I kinda hoped I’d still have time to do ‘em, before the Old Man found out. My luck ran out, and he got back sooner than I expected him to, so I guess I gotta pay for my crime.”
“I’m afraid you have, little brother, and one more word of advice, before I go. I wouldn’t let Pa hear you referring to him as Old Man. I don’t think he’d like it; he would look on it as being disrespectful.”
“Yeah, I guess he would,” said Johnny. “It’s what most of the people I used to hang around with, called their fathers, and I ain’t found anything I feel right with, yet, to call him.”
“Why not call him Pa, like I do?”
“I dunno, I might. You’d better go, Scott, I can hear our father coming up the stairs.”
“Yes, I do have to go, as I have chores to do, but I hope I have helped,” said Scott.
“Yeah, you have,” said Johnny. “See you later.”
Murdoch entered the room, as Scott left it, and father and older son smiled at each other.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you, before,” said Johnny. “I know it was wrong to go off, like I did, without doing my chores. Scott’s had a talk with me and I think I understand things, a bit better now.”
“Thank you for apologising, and I’m glad to hear that Scott’s been able to explain things to you,” said Murdoch. “Right, we only have the matter of you breaking your restriction to deal with, and then the slate will be clean. Come here, son.”
Murdoch sat down on Johnny’s bed and once the boy was within his grasp, he held on to him, and positioned him, over his knee. With his large, work worn hand, Murdoch delivered half a dozen solid swats to Johnny’s backside. They were not excessively hard, but just enough for Johnny to know that Murdoch meant the boy to learn his lesson.
As soon as the spanking was over, Murdoch helped Johnny to his feet, and then stood up, himself.
“You may stay in your room, until you feel ready to come downstairs and be with the rest of the family, son. But, please don’t take too long, as you still have those chores to do, before we have supper. I hope I don’t have to repeat this lesson, again, John, but I will not hesitate to do so, if I think you deserve it. Never forget, though, that no matter what you do, I will always love you, and even if I am cross with you, for a while, I will never deprive you of my love.”
Johnny had said nothing, since the spanking, and as his father was talking to him, he rubbed at his eyes, with the backs of his hands, to try and prevent his tears from falling. However, he wasn’t that successful, and as he raised his head, to look at his father, the tears could be seen, running down his face. He wasn’t crying out of pain, but because he was angry with himself. He hated the fact that he had made his father that cross with him, that Murdoch felt it was necessary to spank him. At that moment, too, Murdoch felt like the worst person on earth, but he was determined to remain firm, or else there would have been no point to the punishment.
“I’ll see you, downstairs, in a little while, Johnny.”
“Yes, sir, and I’m sorry for making you mad at me,” said the boy. “I’ll try and be good, from now on, honest I will. And Papa, I still love you, too.”
These words were spoken so softly, that Murdoch wasn’t sure he had heard them, right, but one look at his son’s face told him that he had.
The patriarch of the Lancer family covered the distance between him and Johnny, in two strides, and engulfed the boy in a hug. No more words were necessary, as it was obvious that father and son had made enormous progress with their relationship and things could only get better, from now on. And Johnny now knew what to call his father, and it wasn’t Old Man.
Lancer lives on!
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