Word Count 1,336
Battle lines had been drawn and the two opposing factions were about to start what had become a daily skirmish. The two warring generals were already muttering under their breaths abut how this time they were going to be the one to emerge as the victor. In the midst of it all, was one, lone figure, who was sitting on the fence, when it came to deciding which side to be on. He felt there was right on both sides and as he cared for both of the protagonists he found himself in a very awkward position; between a rock and a hard place.
Scott Lancer sighed, as voices around him were raised and the supper table, once more, became a battle field. Ever since his younger brother, Johnny, had returned to live at the family ranch, with his father and his 14 year old brother, Scott’s previous, peaceful life had been turned upside down. Not that he regretted, for one minute, the fact that his ten year old brother had been found and was now where he should have been, all along. Scott relished his new role as a big brother and had embraced it as though he had been doing it all his life. But he did have to admit that Johnny didn’t give him an easy ride.
‘My little brother is so stubborn,’ thought Scott. ‘I just wish I could make him understand that there is no shame in backing down, sometimes. It makes sense to give in over the little issues and save your energy for the bigger ones. But I have as much chance of teaching Johnny that, as I do Pa. Those two are cut from the same cloth, both as stubborn as they come.’ Despite the angry voices surrounding him, Scott chuckled. ‘Guess I am cut from that same cloth, too, although I was lucky, as I got a fair amount of my mother’s good sense, as well.’
Scott helped himself from the dishes on the table and tried to enjoy the wonderful meal Maria, their cook, had prepared, as the battle continued to rage around him.
The three Lancers had been living together for several months now and Murdoch had decided it was time for him to step up and be a proper father to his younger boy. For eight long years, he had been denied the opportunity, after his second wife, Maria, left him, taking two year old Johnny with her. But now the boy was back home and they were past the stage of being strangers and were beginning to become a proper family. So Murdoch felt it was necessary to introduce Johnny to the rules of the house. He prided himself on being a fair, but firm, employer and felt he was the same kind of father. Scott, his son from his first marriage, had lived with him for the last 9 years and the two of them had a very good relationship. Scott was growing into a fine young man. He was kind and caring, but did not suffer fools, gladly. Typically for his age, there were times when he and his father butted heads. But,ultimately, Scott had enough sense to realise that although he didn’t always agree with his father’s decisions, they were always made with Scott’s best interests in mind. As Murdoch was fond of saying, he called the tune, as he was the father and Scott was the child.
However, young Johnny Lancer was finding the rules much harder to accept. It seemed that he was determined to fight his father over every little thing. The current battle was over Johnny’s eating habits. As fas as Johnny was concerned, what he ate was fine. According to Murdoch, and to Maria and the family doctor, Sam Jenkins, there was plenty of room for improvement. When Johnny first arrived at the ranch, it was obvious that he was severely malnourished. He had spent years existing on a very poor diet, resulting in him being small for his age. Between them, Murdoch, Maria and Sam had devised a diet of the kind of foods Johnny needed to eat in order to give his body the best chance to reach its full potential. The three of them agreed it was the best for Johnny, but he didn’t. He flatly refused to eat vegetables and as Murdoch was equally determined that he was going to, supper time became a daily war zone.
For the past week, Murdoch had placed a spoonful of peas, carrots, or cabbage on Johnny’s plate and requested that Johnny ate them. And for the past week, Johnny always refused to. No amount of cajoling, pleading or threatening seemed to work. However, Murdoch’s latest threat, of forbidding a morsel of sweet stuff to enter Johnny’s mouth, until he capitulated and tried the dreaded vegetables, was beginning to have the desired effect. Johnny’s sweet tooth had already become legendary on the Lancer ranch and the little boy was suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, having been denied any cake, pie or candy, for several days.
Scott’s patience, although it took longer than his father’s, was also wearing thin.
“For pity’s sake, Johnny. Pa isn’t trying to poison you. He just wants you to eat a balanced diet. Eat the peas and then we can have dessert.”
“If y’all would jest stop fussing, so much, over what goes in my mouth, I would eat a balanced diet. A piece of cake in this hand and a bag of candy in this one,” and he held out his hands, palms up, as if ready to receive the goodies.
Despite trying not to, Scott began to smile and Johnny was quick to spot it.
“See, you agree with me, doncha, Scott? All this vegetable stuff ain’t necessary.”
Murdoch glared at Scott,effectively wiping the smile off the boy’s face.
“Whether Scott agrees with you, or not, is immaterial, young man. I am your father and I call the tune around here. And I say you need to eat vegetables, as well as the sweet things you enjoy. I am not saying you can’t have those, too. I am just saying you need both to grow properly. So, we are all going to sit here until you eat those peas. Do I make myself clear?”
Scott groaned as he realised his father was serious and intended for all three of them to remain at the table until the peas were consumed. He kept shooting imploring glances at Johnny, who ignored his brother and began whistling, tunelessly, while pushing the peas around his plate, with his fork.
After what seemed like forever, but was actually only twenty minutes, Scott was ready to literally stuff the peas down his little brother’s throat. However, it was Maria who broke the deadlock. She arrived from the kitchen, carrying a large cake, covered with cream frosting. She placed it in the centre of the table and then returned to the kitchen, saying nothing, but winking at Murdoch, as she passed his chair.
Johnny held his resolve for about another minute. Then, he took a deep breath, scooped up the peas on his fork, and swallowed them, washing them down with the rest of the milk in his glass.
“Finished,” he declared, triumphantly, and he helped himself to a huge slice of cake.
Scott said nothing until Johnny had eaten his dessert. Then it was his turn to look triumphantly at his little brother.
“Do you realise what you have just eaten, Johnny?”
A confused look flashed across Johnny’s face, as he replied, “Of course I know. It was cake and it was delicious.”
“I think that what your brother means, Johnny, is what kind of cake was it?”
“Not sure, Papa, never tasted one like that, before, but it was real good.”
“It was carrot cake, little brother,” and Scott couldn’t hold back his chuckles any longer.
Lancer lives on!
June 17th 2017
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