Word Count 10, 032
“Now what did you bring us, dog?” Johnny leaned down to pick up a newly-placed-at-his-feet furry brown object.
“Eeeew! It’s a dead rat!” shuddered Teresa. “Throw that thing away!”
“Nah. He’d just bring it back again.” Johnny placed his dog’s latest gift on the pile of other canine offerings next to him. The dead rat joined a couple of pine cones, the small leafless branch, a ball of twine, a leather strap and hammer from the barn, and the bird carcass with minimal feathers. Had the house door been open, one of Murdoch’s boots would be there, too.
“That’s quite a collection he’s amassing,” Scott pointed out.
“Yeah. And I think he’s amassed enough now. Come here, Johnnie.” Johnny called his dog to him, and little Johnnie jumped in his lap. “Let’s just relax for a while, OK? You might’ve been sleeping all day, but we’ve been working and just want to sit on the porch for a while, OK?”
Little Johnnie woofed and gave his master a delicious rat-flavored kiss on the nose.
“Eeeew,” Teresa said again. “That’s it! I’m going in to make dinner.”
Scott watched her leave and then said, “You should be ashamed of yourself, Johnny – making Teresa leave like that.”
“Either one. You’re interchangeable.”
Johnny shrugged. “Her choice.” He closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the railing, beautifully balancing the chair as his fidgety dog settled in his lap. “I just want to rest a few minutes.”
Scott stared at the pile of useless dog-collected junk. “Johnny, I just thought of something.”
“Uh oh,” said Johnny (not quite) under his breath.
“Now, don’t be so quick to judge.”
“Scott, every time you’re thinking, I end up doing.”
“Hear me out. That pile of objects reminds me of a scavenger hunt I was on once, in Boston.”
Johnny opened one eye. “You hunted in Boston?”
“Sure, a scavenger hunt! It’s a game! We had fun! We should have one here at Lancer!”
“No, thanks. I just want to sit here for now, Scott.”
“That’s fine. This game takes forethought – you have to plan ahead. Really, it’s fun.”
Scott’s enthusiasm mildly piqued Johnny’s curiosity. “Did you play this hunting game as a child?”
Scott chuckled. “As I recall, we were all a little inebriated.”
“Just answer the question. Did you play it as a child?”
“Uh . . . no.”
“All right, then,” Johnny said lazily. “I like hunting. As long as I don’t have to move from this spot for a while, I’m in.”
“Good!” Scott jumped up, startling the dog. “I’ll go get the ball rolling.” He ran into the house.
Johnny suggested to his agitated dog that a nap might be in order for the two of them before dinner. But little Johnnie was too excited – he was waiting for the rolling ball.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Dinner that night was delicious because it involved no dead rats. Scott made sure to bring up the subject of the scavenger hunt. No one else was excited about it except Johnny, but he lost interest when he discovered that he didn’t need a gun to hunt scavengers – that in fact hewould be a scavenger! And then he decided it would be too dangerous. Scott was frustrated.
“Actually, boys,” Murdoch encouraged, “a scavenger hunt could be fun. It’s not for me, but why don’t the three of you – and Jelly – participate?”
“No, thank you,” said Jelly. “I’m with Johnny. I’m not having anyone hunt me!”
“Scavengers are just people who look for things, that’s all,” Scott pointed out. Someone makes out a list of things to find, and the first person to find everything wins a prize.”
Jelly pushed out his hands. “Still not interested, thank you very much.”
“How about you, Teresa?” Scott asked.
“Well . . . I really don’t want to play, but . . . I suppose I could make up a list of things for you. Then I don’t have to actually look for them.”
“Good idea,” said Murdoch. “And I could be the judge of whether or not the objects collected adequately reflect the list.”
“All right! Thank you, both of you!” Scott said, getting enthused. “And Johnny, how about you? Jelly doesn’t want to play, and, after all, I do need some competition.”
Johnny wasn’t excited about the idea of playing a seek-and-find game. But clearly his brother wanted to play the game. Johnny loved his brother and didn’t want to disappoint him.
But being a scavenger! . . . well . . .
After a moment, he said, “I’ll play under one condition.”
Johnny turned to Teresa. “I want frosting on my prize!”
And Scott had himself some competition.
– – – – – – – – – – –
It was decided that Saturday would be the day of the scavenger hunt. Scott and Johnny would not have to work that day, so they could take all day to find the items if they wanted. It was decided the prize would be a home-made cake of their choice for dinner that night, compliments of Teresa. That seemed to be a small inducement, particularly for Johnny, who told her what flavor cake he wanted. Scott, not to be outdone, told her what flavor cake he expected. Teresa said, “Uh huh. One of you has to win first.” “Don’t you worry about that! You just remember my favorite flavor!” Scott said.
On Saturday morning at the appointed time, Teresa handed each of the participants an identical list of items to find. “There are only eight things; I didn’t want it to be too difficult. Can you both read my handwriting?” she asked.
“Let’s see,” said Johnny. “It says: flat stone, blue flower, bread basket, gold buckle, gingham cloth, rolling pin, marble, and red candle. This stuff looks easy to hunt up! Wait a minute . . .” He looked at Scott. “. . . What the hell is ging – ham cloth?”
“Well,” Teresa explained. “It’s like that blue-and-white checked shirt that Murdoch wears sometimes. That’s gingham. But before you get too excited about how easy this stuff is going to be to find, you need to know the rules!”
“Bring on the rules!” Scott’s enthusiasm was not about to be squelched.
“For one thing, Murdoch’s shirt is off-limits! You can go anywhere to get anything, but you cannot go into Murdoch’s room, my room, or the kitchen! You have to agree to that!”
“The kitchen?” Johnny was confused.
“That’s right – you can’t go into any of those three rooms. There’s a couple items on the list that could be found there. And I want you to really work to find these things! This is a hunt, remember.”
“Understood!” said Scott. “See you later, brother!” And Scott was gone.
“You agree, Johnny?” Teresa persisted.
“Sure. No problem.”
“I mean it. You’re on the honor system. I’m not going to lock my door.”
“Our doors don’t have locks,” Johnny pointed out.
“Promise, Johnny. You won’t go in Murdoch’s room, or my room, or the kitchen.”
Johnny raised his hand. “I promise I won’t go in Murdoch’s room, or your room, or the kitchen.”
Teresa, apparently satisfied, left. Johnny stared at his list for a few minutes. In his opinion, Scott was jumping the gun. He decided the list needed some scrutiny, a little planning. After all, this was a serious competition and Johnny fully intended to . . . let his brother win!
After a while, Johnny called his puppy and the two of them left to halfheartedly scavenge.
– – – – – – – – – – –
The first thing Johnny saw when he went outside was Scott mounting his horse.
“I’m already one up on you, brother,” Scott said with a smile. Then he rode off.
Johnny sat down on the bench and little Johnnie rummaged around the yard. Apparently you can never have too many dead rats.
“I’ll bet he’s got the first item on the list already,” Johnny mused to his dog. “And it only took him a few minutes.” He looked at the list. “The flat stone. There’s not many stones in this yard. You know what, Johnnie? I’m glad Scott got lucky. He probably found a stone that got flattened by a heavy wagon or something. For us, I’ve got a better idea. Come on, dog!” Johnny grabbed his puppy and the two of them rode his palomino away. Not the same direction Scott had taken.
– – – – – – – – – – –
The pond where Scott and Johnny liked to go fishing and swimming wasn’t very far away. And Johnny fondly recalled skipping stones across the pond with his brother in a different kind of competition. Dismounting Barranca, he had no trouble finding a flat stone. There were several, in fact, so he put a few more in his pocket before spending some time practicing his stone-skipping. When he spotted his dog having fun in the water, he removed his clothes and jumped in with him. Little Johnnie dog-paddled over to him and the two of them had a good time dog-paddling together. Johnny spent some time trying to teach his dog the backstroke, but little Johnnie was perfectly happy with his dog-paddle. After a while, Johnny remembered the scavenger contest.
“Come on, dog, we should probably go!” Johnny put his arm around his dog and used his other arm to swim the two of them to shore. “Guess it’ll take some time to dry off!” Completely naked, he ran along the shore, waving his arms in an effort to dry off more quickly. Johnnie ran after him, barking and occasionally shaking water right back on his master.
“OK, OK, enough! Stop shaking!” Johnny, tired of running, sat on the grass. Away from his pup, who by now was eating the grass. After a few minutes, Johnny was dry enough to put on his clothes. He wrapped his rain slicker around his dog, mounted Barranca, put Johnnie safely and dryly in his lap, and headed out to his next destination, Morro Coyo.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Scott, meanwhile, was already in town. His second acquisition had been a blue flower, a California bluebell, which he procured from a wildflower patch he had discovered off-trail a couple weeks ago. He was fairly certain Johnny did not know about these flowers, so he gloried in the likelihood that he continued to be ahead of his brother. He stuck the pretty little blue flower in his pocket.
Scott smiled at his own ingenuity. Yes, he thought, winning a competition like this would indeed take cunning, and he was absolutely the man for the job. Although he had it memorized, he checked the list. The next item on the list was the bread basket. Simple!
Except Miss Flora at the bakery didn’t want to sell Scott a bread basket. “We need it,” she said sternly.
“You’ve got three baskets that I can see, and maybe more in back. You could put these rolls here in a bowl or something. No one would ever know the difference.”
“Besides, I’ll bring it back in a day or two. I don’t plan on keeping it.”
“You want to rent a bread basket?” Miss Flora asked suspiciously.
“Yes, that’s right. I want to rent a bread basket.”
Scott wasn’t about to tell Miss Flora that it was important to win his competition with Johnny and that bread basket was an integral part of his win. He knew that Johnny had charmed Miss Flora enough to earn free doughnuts every time he stopped in. “Does it matter? I’ll bring it back in a day or two.”
“No,” she said flatly.
Smugly, Scott pulled a dollar bill from his pocket and held it out to her. “A dollar to rent a bread basket for just a couple days will work for you, I think.”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Frustrated, Scott said, “All right, what will it take? What will it take for you to rent me a bread basket for a couple days?”
“Five dollars,” said Miss Flora without flinching.
Scott worked hard at keeping his expression even. In his mind (only), he was screaming, “Are you insane!? Five dollars?! Are you certifiably insane?!” And a few other words, too. He slowly pulled a five dollar gold piece from his pocket and wondered why it seemed not to want to leave. He tugged it out and laid it on the counter. “My bread basket, please,” he said through clenched teeth.
Miss Flora grabbed a bread basket, unceremoniously dumped the rolls into another basket, and handed Scott his prize.
As Scott was stepping outside, he heard her call after him, “Come again!”
– – – – – – – – – – – –
The two Johnnies had had a nice refreshing swim in the pond to start their day. As they rode along, the puppy was drying nicely. Johnny reveled in the beautiful day. He absently looked for blue flowers now and then, but, seeing none, he did not worry. He had an alternate plan, and, besides, he was hoping his brother would win anyway.
He was hungry so his first stop in Morro Coyo was the bakery. Miss Flora, as always, was happy to see him. Today she offered him blueberry muffins. And, of course, Johnnie the puppy got some cookies.
As Johnny munched on the blueberry muffins and washed them down with the free coffee Miss Flora also provided, she mentioned that his brother had recently been in.
“Scott? Oh, yeah? I’ll bet he wanted a bread basket.” Munch munch.
“Say, Johnny, that’s pretty good. How did you know?”
“Oh, it’s some game Scott wants to play. He wants us to find bread baskets. Did you give him one?” Munch munch.
“I gave him the pink one with the gingham lining.”
Johnny gulped. “You gave him a bread basket and a ging – ham cloth?” He pulled out his list and looked at it.
“Yeah. That a problem?”
Johnny chuckled. “Nah, not really. It’s Scott’s game. I’ll let him win.”
“Well, if he’s playing against you, I’d rather have you win. You want one of my bread baskets?”
Johnny flashed her a smile with a single blueberry involved. “You got an extra?”
“Sure, for you, Johnny. As many as you want.”
“One should do it, Flora. You got any more with that ging – ham cloth?”
“Nope, sorry. No more cloth, just baskets.” She dumped more rolls on the counter and handed Johnny the basket. “I hope this helps. Oh, and . . .” Miss Flora put some oatmeal cookies in a napkin and added them to Johnny’s basket. “Here, you take these, too!”
Johnny and Johnnie stood up. “Thanks, Flora, you’re a doll.” Johnny grabbed the bread basket and put his arm around Miss Flora, as far as it would go, and gave her a peck on the cheek. As the Johnnies were leaving the bakery, Miss Flora said, “Come again.”
This time she meant it.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Scott saw the gingham cloth inside his bread basket and got excited at first. Two for the price of one! Actually, for the exorbitant price of five dollars, he should have probably have been given all eight items on the list! But, Scott being Scott, his conscience started bothering him. It really wouldn’t be fair to use one item as a claim for two items. It wouldn’t be fair at all to Johnny, and Scott prided himself on his fairness and integrity. And after all, Scott suspected Johnny was playing the game just to make him happy. “Nope,” he said, shaking his head. He put his basket on his arm and headed over to a dry-goods store that he knew sold cloth.
“Hello, Scott,” Mr. Morton the owner greeted. “What can I do for you today?”
“Today I need some gingham cloth,” Scott said.
Mr. Morton looked at Scott’s pretty pink bread basket and said with a smile, “Would you like it to match your lovely basket?”
“My what?” Scott was confused.
“I can get you pink or green or blue. Got it in just yesterday. Got enough so you can make yourself a whole suit if you want!” He started laughing.
Scott turned red. Which actually matched his bread basket gingham lining. “Never mind, Morton. Just give me a little cloth, that’s all.”
Mr. Morton laughed as he cut off a yard of pink gingham. “There you go, Scott. That should match pretty well. I’ll just put it in your basket, shall I?”
“How much do I owe you?” Scott said with his teeth together.
“That’ll be sixty cents. It’s a nice fabric. You’ll find it comfortable.”
Scott pounded the coins on the counter. “Thanks,” he said, without meaning it.
As he turned to leave, Mr. Morton said, “Seriously, Scott, what are you going to do with that cloth?”
Scott turned back and, without cracking a smile, said, “I’m getting it for Johnny.”
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Johnny was a little concerned about that red candle. Red wasn’t a popular color for candles at Lancer or even in Morro Coyo. Johnny wasn’t sure why Teresa would put red candles on the find-it list. All the candles he could think of were white or beeswax color. But she must have had something in mind. Johnny being Johnny, he figured he’d deal with it later.
And Johnnie being Johnnie, all the dog wanted to do was play! Here he was, obediently at his master’s side as they walked down the street, listening to his master say pointless things like “red candle” and wishing he would say things like “let’s play.” Clearly his master would not recognize a play opportunity if one came up and bit him. But little Johnnie would (recognize a play opportunity, not bite his master!).
Johnnie spotted a couple boys playing marbles off a side street. Playtime! He broke away from his master and ran over to the boys. They seemed happy to see him until he gobbled up one of their marbles.
“Hey!” said Davy. “That’s my aggie!” He grabbed Johnnie and forced his mouth open until the marble fell out. Johnnie scooped it up again.
By this time, Johnny had arrived. “Dog!” he instructed. “Drop it! Now!”
Johnnie dropped the aggie reluctantly. Johnny picked it up and handed it back to Davy. “This yours?”
“Yeah. This dog yours?”
“Yeah,” said Johnny.
The other boy, Corky, said, “I think your dog wants to play marbles with us.”
“Nah, you don’t want to play with him,” Johnny said. “He cheats.” The boys laughed at his little joke but something suddenly occurred to Johnny. ‘Marble’ was on the scavenger list. And here, right in front of him, was a whole bevy of marbles.
Johnny kneeled down next to the boys. “Say, guys, I need a marble. Would it be all right if I took one of yours?”
“Uh uh,” said Davy. “You don’t take marbles! You have to earn them!”
“Oh yeah? How do I do that?”
“Didn’t you ever play marbles when you were a boy?” asked Davy incredulously.
“Nah, we didn’t play marbles where I grew up. How do you play the game?”
Corky and Davy were only too eager to show Johnny, the obviously underprivileged, how to play a game of marbles. But, although he had been raised marble-deprived, Johnny had become very agile and competitive as an adult. Johnny won and got all the marbles.
Davy and Corky looked at each other. “Are you really going to take all the marbles, mister?”
Johnny smiled. “Nah, you keep them. I just want one. Which one should I take?”
“Take one of Davy’s,” Corky suggested.
“Here,” said Johnny. “How about if I take this little mibsy? I know it’s not worth much.” He stood up with his marble, his scavenger prize. Then he handed the boys all his cookies.
Davy and Corky allowed that he was generous man – taking a worthless mibsy and leaving them all the rest of the marbles (along with cookies), but curiosity got the better of them. “Why do you want a marble, mister?”
“It’s for my brother.”
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Scott was well aware that there were no gold buckles at Lancer. Except one. And that one was in Murdoch’s room. It was on a leather belt that Murdoch saved to wear only to church.
And Murdoch’s room was off-limits. So for all intents and purposes, there were no gold buckles at Lancer. There were silver buckles and brass buckles and maybe even steel buckles. But no gold buckles.
Scott checked his list. He still needed that gold buckle, but he also needed a red candle, a rolling pin, and a marble. He anticipated that these would all present a problem but that red candle would be the hardest of all. Like Johnny, he knew that there just weren’t any red candles in the area. Nobody used red candles. Scott wasn’t even sure if for some reason it might just be illegal to possess red candles in Morro Coyo! Diabolical Teresa!
Lost in red candle thought while walking, Scott spied a couple of boys playing marbles! What luck!
He went up to them. “I used to play marbles when I was a boy,” he said by way of introduction.
Without looking up, Davy said, “At least somebody did!”
“May I play with you?” Scott crouched down.
“You got a dog?” Davy asked.
“Well, no,” said Scott in confusion, “there’s a dog where I live, but he’s not with me now.”
“We only play with guys who’ve got dogs,” Davy said. And that settled that.
Scott stood up again. He needed one of their marbles, but buying a dog on the spur of the moment seemed a somewhat drastic way to go about it. “Well, I’m sorry,” he said. “Can I buy one of your marbles then?”
Davy and Corky looked at each other. They smiled wordlessly.
“Which one do you want?” Corky said slyly.
“Any marble you can do without.”
“How much will you pay us?” Davy asked.
Scott smiled. “Twenty-five cents! Twenty-five cents for one marble!”
They shook their heads no and went back to their game.
This was infuriating! “All right, fifty cents then! But that’s my highest offer!”
The boys looked at each other. Davy picked up a small marble and held it tantalizingly in front of Scott. “One dollar,” said Davy. “And that’s our lowest offer!”
This was insane. Apparently something had gotten into the water that the good people of Morro Coyo were drinking! Scott growled and snatched the marble from Davy’s hand. He seriously considered running off with it, but that annoying streak of integrity he possessed squelched that idea. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a dollar bill. He tore it in half and gave one half to each of them.
“Thanks,” said Scott without meaning it.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Johnny wasn’t nearly as excited about the scavenger game as his brother was, and frankly, he was truly hoping Scott would win. But he knew he’d disappoint his brother if he didn’t at least try to find the scavenger things. He pulled out the list and looked at it. It seemed he still needed a blue flower, a rolling pin, a red candle, a gold buckle, and that ging – ham cloth.
He looked down the main street of town and saw Scott walking away from the marble boys. He looked angry, thought Johnny. Maybe he was having a hard time finding the items on the list. Johnny was puzzled. He knew that these items wouldn’t be hard to find at all, if you had a little ingenuity. And he figured Scott had plenty of ingenuity.
Johnny grabbed his dog and shrank back into the shadows so he could observe his brother unseen. He watched as Scott tramped into Oliver Banner’s jewelry store. “He’s going to buy that gold buckle!” he said to his dog incredulously. “Can you believe that?”
Johnnie woofed no.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
Johnny hit the nail on the head, all right. Scott did indeed buy a gold-plated buckle from Mr. Banner. Mr. Banner only had one in stock and his price was a little high. Scott and Mr. Banner spent a fair amount of time haggling back and forth until they finally arrived at a price acceptable to both – $15.
Truth be told, it was a lot more acceptable to Mr. Banner than it was to Scott, but nonetheless, Scott had his gold buckle, as well as the knowledge that there wasn’t another one in Morro Coyo.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
By the time Scott was leaving the jewelry store and heading for what he hoped would be a source for a red candle, Johnny and Johnnie were long gone. They were already heading back to the ranch so Johnny could pick up everything else on the list there. On the way to the ranch he picked a white flower. It wasn’t blue, but at least it was a flower.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Since he knew there absolutely weren’t any red candles at Lancer, Scott decided to press his advantage. He was still in town, so he did have one very good possibility. Scott was friends with Gustav Werner, and Gustav’s wife Dorothea made candles! Scott’s hopes began to rise.
A few minutes later, Scott was sitting in the Werners’ parlor, discussing the fine points of candle-making. Dorothea said, yes, she would be happy to make a candle for him. “I have always melted wax ready, you know,” she said, pointing to the stove. “Red I cannot do, though.”
Scott’s hopes began to fall. “No red? Can’t you put something red in the wax? To make it red?”
Dorothea and Gustav both thought about it. Then Gustav said, “Wir haben rote Blumen!”
“Yeah! Yeah!” Dorothea said, and she ran outside.
– – – – – – – – – – –
When the Johnnies got back to the ranch, the first thing little Johnnie did was run into the kitchen to spend quality time with his food and water bowls. Johnny himself headed for Murdoch’s desk. He stole a piece of blotting paper from the top drawer and laid his white flower in the middle of it. Then he dipped the quill pen in the blue ink and dribbled some ink on the flower. The little white flower turned blue instantly but it shriveled up. Johnny maneuvered the petals back into a vaguely flower shape with his fingers and closed the paper over it to press and dry it. His fingers were blue but he was satisfied that he had a nice blue flower, albeit a fake one. This blue invention gave him another idea.
He grabbed a white candle from another drawer. “Come here, Johnnie!” he called to his dog. Little Johnnie came running and jumped up on his master. Johnny hadn’t expected it, so he said, “Whoa,” grabbing his puppy and leaving blue marks in his white fur.
And now yet another idea occurred to Johnny. “Is there anyone in the kitchen?” he asked his dog.
Blue-and-white Johnnie cocked his head.
“No, I bet not,” Johnny mused to himself. “Or I would have heard Teresa talking to you. And Maria’s not here this time of day. Listen, dog, I want you to do me a favor.”
Johnnie licked his master’s hand. Ick. Inky.
“Come here.” Johnny walked over to the kitchen and pushed the door open with his hand. “Listen, dog, I can’t go in the kitchen, but you can. See that rolling pin sitting on the counter?”
Johnnie looked and saw a floured dough ball sitting on the counter.
“Yeah, that’s it. I want you to go over there, get the rolling pin, and bring it back to me. Can you do that?”
Of course little Johnnie could do that! It was exactly what he had in mind! He bounded into the kitchen, jumped up on a chair, and grabbed the dough ball.
“No no no! Leave the bread dough! Just bring me the rolling pin!”
His master’s words were unclear but Johnnie got the idea that something was wrong. But how could his master not like the idea of an entire big ball of food? No, Johnnie figured he was doing the right thing. He turned and dropped the dough ball on the floor, knocking the rolling pin down to the floor with it. He jumped off the chair, picked up the dough ball, and proudly trotted back to his master with it.
“Yeah, OK, thanks,” Johnny said half-heartedly. “Now I want you to go back over there and pick up that other thing that smells like dough, OK?” Johnny pointed and pushed his puppy over the threshold.
Sure thing. But that rolling pin, Johnnie discovered, wasn’t quite as easy as the dough ball. He didn’t seem to be able to sink his teeth in it. The handle was smaller and he could grab that, but it was so heavy he dropped it. He looked to his master for guidance.
Which Johnny provided. “Push it! Push it with your nose! It’ll roll!”
Well, no help there; his master was speaking human again. Johnnie barked at the rolling pin. As he did so, his nose hit the rolling pin and, true to its name, it rolled a little. Johnnie barked again. More rolling. He looked up at his master and wagged his tail.
“Yeah, that’s it! You’ve got it now!”
Apparently this was what his master wanted, so Johnnie barked and rolled all the way over to the doorway, when his master picked up both him and the rolling pin and praised them both. Johnny then told his dog to meet him by the front door and he picked up the dough ball, rolled out the teeth marks as best he could, and deftly threw it on the counter, where it landed nowhere near its original spot.
Johnny joined his dog by the front door, lamenting the floured dog tracks through the living room, but it was for a good cause, Johnny reasoned. All of this was to make Scott happy.
– – – – – – – – – –
Scott was afraid he might have to wait while his red candle was being made, but that didn’t prove to be the case. Dorothea added the petals she had picked from the red flowers she’d planted to the hot wax in a Mason jar. The candle wasn’t technically red, but the petals were profuse and lent some color. She wanted to put a wick in the center, but Scott argued that he didn’t have enough time to wait while the candle sat to harden with the wick in place.
So Scott gave Dorothea forty cents to pay for the wax and more flower seeds, took his white-with-red-specks wickless candle, screwed the top on the Mason jar, and left.
One more thing eliminated from the scavenger list! Scott was very proud of himself.
– – – – – – – – – – –
In the barn, Johnny scouted around until he found a can of red paint. He pulled the white candle from his pocket, lamenting the fact that it had broken in two (“It’s still a candle,” he reasoned) and dipped it in the red paint. The paint didn’t want to stick very well to the slick wax, so Johnny first had to scrape deep gashes in the two halves with a nail so the paint could sneak in there and dry.
The wick which ran through the center of the candle still was connected, and it allowed Johnny to hang it over Teresa’s clothesline to drip-dry.
Then he went back to close the can of paint and found that Johnnie had managed to stick his tail in it.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Scott secured his red jar candle in his saddlebags and checked his list for the last time. He figured there was only one item left and – yes, there it was! – the rolling pin. The kitchen was off-limits, but he figured Maria had one at her house, and it was on Lancer property, right on the way home!
No, wait a minute. Scott logically figured that either 1. Johnny had already gotten to Maria, or 2. Maria didn’t want to give up her rolling pin. Or even 3. Maria didn’t even own a rolling pin. At any rate, Scott would be rolling-pin-free if he depended on Maria. Therefore . . .
– – – – – – – – – – –
Since little Johnnie was now red, white and blue, his master carried him through the house and up the stairs to his room. He grabbed a towel and cleaned Johnnie’s four feet of flour and his tail of red paint. Unfortunately the blue ink had dried, but Johnny reasoned that there really wasn’t all that much. Besides, when you looked at Johnnie, you’d see his red tail first, anyhow. Small consolation.
Once again carrying his dog, Johnny rapped on Murdoch’s door. No answer. He then rapped on Teresa’s door. No answer. “Teresa?” he called timidly. Still no answer.
He set Johnnie down on the hall carpet and scrutinized it to make sure there were no telltale dog tracks of any color. “OK, boy,” Johnny said. “Now do what I say . . .” he gingerly pushed open Teresa’s door . . . “for once,” he added for Johnnie’s benefit. “Now, do you see that dress? That ging – ham dress on that hanger? On that rack by the window?” Johnnie woofed in anticipation. “Good. Now I want you to bring that ging – ham dress back to me!”
Johnny bent down and set his dog in Teresa’s bedroom. He gave him a shove and said, “OK, go!”
Enthusiastic Johnnie knew he was supposed to do something but had no idea what, so he ran over to the window, put his paws up on the sill and looked out. He turned back to Johnny and barked.
“OK, good. You’re close. Now grab the dress, Johnnie. Bring it here!”
The only word in that command Johnnie understood was his name, so he dutifully jumped on the bed.
“No! No no no! Get off the bed!”
The intensity of that command was quite clear so Johnnie jumped off the bed and awaited further nonsense commands.
“Now grab the dress! Grab the dress!”
Johnnie put his paws on the window sill again.
Johnny the human was frustrated. “Mmmmm . . . how can I . . . “ he said to himself. Then he had a brilliant idea! Johnny grabbed a bullet out of his gunbelt and threw it hard at the dress. It made a noise as it connected with the cloth and the dress billowed out a bit. Johnnie figured it was an intruder and growled at it.
“Get it! Get it!” Johnny yelled.
Johnnie the patriotic dog grabbed the dress and pulled it off the hanger. He shook it violently.
“Now bring it here, boy! Bring it to me!”
The ging – ham dress was a large vicious intruder and little Johnnie had trouble bringing it all the way across the room because he kept shaking it and stepping on it, but in a minute he was able to drop it at Johnny’s feet.
Johnny picked it up and praised his dog. He said, “Good boy!” several times, until he saw the teeth marks in the skirt of Teresa’s dress. He groaned. “Guess I’ll deal with that later.” He closed Teresa’s door.
He walked a few feet to the door of Murdoch’s room and opened it. No Murdoch. “OK,” he said to his waiting pup. “This is the big one. The piece of resistance, as Scott would say. I can’t go in this room either, so you’re going to have to help me again. OK, Johnnie?”
Johnnie! Finally a word he understood. Johnnie barked.
“I want the belt on top of that bureau, Johnnie. Bring that belt to me. You can do it. Go, boy!” Johnny pushed his dog into the room and pointed to the bureau.
Eager to please his master again, Johnnie ran over to the window and put his feet up on the sill. He saw a horse outside and barked at it.
“No barking, now. Just move a little to the left . . . just a little to the left. To the bureau, boy.”
Johnnie continued to bark at the horse.
Johnny knew he was getting nowhere with his dog. He also knew that the only horse Johnnie barked at was Murdoch’s. That meant Murdoch had returned and time was running short. Very short.
Johnny thought quickly and ran to his own room. He rolled together a pair of his socks and tied them inside a kerchief. He ran back to the door outside Murdoch’s room and threw the sock/kerchief combination accurately on top of the belt on the bureau. This quickly got the dog’s attention. Johnnie left the window, jumped on the bed and put his paws on the dresser.
Johnny heard the front door downstairs open. “Johnnie!” he said more quietly than before. “Bring me the sock! Bring it here, boy!”
Johnny heard Murdoch’s voice call out from downstairs. “Anyone home?”
Little Johnnie probably heard the voice, too, but he was having too good a time trying to figure out what his master wanted, and, having finally done so, bringing him the sock/kerchief.
And the belt, which he had also grabbed!
The Johnnies heard Murdoch’s heavy boots on the first steps. He was coming upstairs!
Johnny grabbed the belt and his dog and whispered, “Good boy!” Quickly perusing Murdoch’s room to make sure nothing looked amiss (other than a slightly rumpled bedspread), Johnny then noiselessly ran into his own room and shut the door. He set Johnnie on the floor and said, “Ssh!”
The dog woofed quietly.
Johnny threw the belt with the special gold buckle on his bed and then realized he had left the balled up socks/kerchief out in the hall!
He opened his door, stepped out, bent over to pick up the socks/kerchief, and when he straightened up, Murdoch was standing right in front of him.
“Hello, son,” he said. “What’s that you’ve got?”
“My socks,” Johnny said without thinking.
“It looks more like your kerchief,” Murdoch postulated.
“Yeah. Well . . . it is.”
“Did you hear me when I called from downstairs?”
“Well, I was playing with this. I mean, I was playing with Johnnie.” On cue, Johnnie barked from inside the room.
“I see,” said Murdoch, not seeing. “I saw some white dog tracks downstairs. I think your dog got into something white.”
“See if you can clean it up before Teresa gets home, all right?”
“Yeah. Good idea.”
“How’s the scavenger hunt going?”
Johnny perked up. “I’ve got everything on my list.”
“Good for you. How’s Scott doing?”
“I don’t know where he is,” Johnny said truthfully. “But I hope he gets back soon. I want to see who wins.”
Murdoch chuckled. He was used to the competitive attitude between his sons, but he had no idea that Johnny actually was hoping his brother would win this contest. Partly because Johnny loved his brother and partly because it was Scott’s game but mostly because he couldn’t have cared less about the scavenger hunt.
Once Murdoch went inside his room to clean up, Johnny lingered outside the door for a moment to hear of any possible canine-caused ramifications. When Murdoch said nothing, the Johnnies ran back downstairs. Johnnie ran outside to play. Johnny grabbed his candle off the clothesline. It was dry already, mostly because the majority of the red paint had dripped off. It looked like a white candle with red stripes.
Back in his room, he spread the dirty towel out on the bed. On it he placed the candle, the belt with the gold buckle, the rolling pin and the ging – ham dress. He gathered everything up in the towel, grabbed the socks/kerchief, and went out to the barn. There he retrieved his bread basket and placed the new scavenger items in it, along with the others already there. He brought the bread basket over to the bench. The floured dog tracks then got a half-ass-attempt at eradication.
Then he and Johnnie played a game of socks/kerchief fetch outside until Teresa came home to start supper. Johnny hoped she would not go up to her room and if she did, not notice that her dress wasn’t on the hanger any more. But Teresa did go up to her room. She came downstairs to start supper and apparently hadn’t noticed anything was amiss.
Another catastrophe avoided! Johnny sat on the bench to wait for his brother. “Damn nice day, wasn’t it?” he said to his dog. “Can’t wait to see the expression on Scott’s face when he wins!”
– – – – – – – – – –
Scott wasn’t all that far away. After he made the decision to charm the rolling pin away from the owner of the Home Café, Mabel Robinson, Scott followed through on his hastily-made plan. He went through the restaurant, passing several tables, and entered the kitchen. Mabel was cooking, stirring pots full of (apparently) boiling water. She did not see him.
Scott quickly surveyed the kitchen for a rolling pin. He saw none. Just then Eddie, the boy who cleaned the tables and took orders on Saturdays because it wasn’t a school day, rushed through with dirty dishes.
“Mr. Lancer, what are you doing back here?” he asked, surprised.
“Hi, Eddie. I’m waiting to talk to Mabel.”
On hearing her name, Mabel looked up. “Why, Scott, what are you doing out here?”
“I need something, Mabel.”
“Oh yeah?” She put her spoon down, wiped her hands on her apron, and headed over to Scott. She was inclined to give Scott Lancer just about anything he wanted. “What can I do for you?” she asked provocatively.
“A rolling pin, Mabel. I need a rolling pin.”
“No. I just need it for a little while.”
Mabel smiled. “Well, that makes sense, I guess. Nobody uses a rolling pin for a real long time. They’d wear out!”
Scott tried to smile and hoped he was able to accomplish it. “No, no, it’s just something I . . . well, I just need a rolling pin. Have you got one?”
“No? This is a restaurant and you don’t have a rolling pin?”
“Oh, we have one, all right, but right now it’s at the bakery. Flora needed it for a special order so I lent it to her. Hers broke.” She nudged Scott in the arm and winked. “If you ask me, it broke when she wrapped it around Clem! Ha ha!”
Scott didn’t know or care who Clem was but he knew who Miss Flora was, all right. He groaned.
Before he could say anything, Mabel continued. “Head on over there now; I’m sure she’s done with it. Just bring it back to me whenever you’re ready.”
“All right, I will,” said Scott, trying to think of some alternative.
“Better hurry now, before she closes,” Mabel added as she went back to her boiling pot. As she watched Scott offer a quiet “thanks” and dejectedly leave the kitchen, she said to herself, “Good man like that should always get anything he wants.”
– – – – – – – – – – –
The bakery closed earlier than most businesses in Morro Coyo and Miss Flora was in the process of covering the baskets when Scott came in.
When she saw who it was, she said, “We’re closed.”
“I won’t take much of your time,” Scott said.
Miss Flora put her hands on her hips. “What do you want this time?”
“Mabel Robinson sent me over to pick up her rolling pin.”
(Scott was getting tired of hearing that.) “No, I’m not kidding. Can I have it please?”
“Oh, I don’t know where I left it,” Miss Flora said carelessly. “Check the back. Probably there somewhere. Why couldn’t she have sent Eddie?”
Clearly she had no intention of helping him, so Scott headed into the back room, cursing the bad luck that caused the rolling pin to be in Miss Flora’s jurisdiction rather than Mabel’s friendly territory. It was dark back there and of course he wasn’t familiar with the room. Miss Flora seemed to be staying out front, so Scott knew he was on his own. He saw a sliver of light coming from the back wall and figured it was a door. Cautiously he stepped over to it and lifted the latch. When he opened the door, he admitted light and a very large tomcat.
“Nooooo,” Scott managed to say before the tomcat ran between his legs and caused him to fall. To right himself, he grabbed for anything he could get hold of, and that happened to be a large container of sugar. The container of sugar did not break his fall, but it broke in half itself and sugar went flying everywhere. Just before he hit the sugared floor, Scott’s left leg managed to kick a large container of flour also, and the flour whooshed out the top of the container like lava from a volcano.
On the floor, Scott tried in vain to stand, grabbing on to a shelf that turned out to be merely a loose board. It broke free and all the jars on it fell to the floor, most breaking. The ones that broke held ingredients like molasses.
“Oh, for God’s . . . “ Scott had just gotten to his feet when he took a step, slipped on the sugary molasses, and went down again. The tomcat, meanwhile, was running around the back room, leaving sugary molassesy pawprints on everything. It was about to run into the front room when Miss Flora appeared in the doorway, arms crossed and the rolling pin in one hand. The tomcat took one look at her, screeched, and ran back outside. Scott used his right foot to kick the back door shut.
“It’s OK, he’s gone now,” Scott said feebly.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
The first thing that Johnny noticed when his brother rode up to the house was the smell.
“You smell sweet!” said Johnny with a smile.
“I am sweet,” Scott said, in a distinctly un-sweet tone of voice. Scott slowly dismounted (because he was stuck to the saddle) and undid the bread basket from the pommel. Johnny watched enviously, noticing the ging – ham lining of the basket and figuring Scott had everything that list wanted him to have. Real stuff, too – not half-ass red candles or stolen dresses. “Good luck, brother,” Johnny said genuinely.
Scott glowered at him. Little Johnnie came over and licked Scott’s pant leg.
– – – – – – – – – – –
The judging of the contestants’ scavenged items had to wait until Scott had the chance to clean himself up. That took a little while since he was fairly well covered in molasses, sugar and flour, and possibly also even a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Little Johnnie was willing to lend a paw but Scott disrespectfully declined.
Johnny, Murdoch, Teresa and Johnnie patiently waited on the front porch for Scott to join them with his bread basket full of goodies. There was much discussion about Scott’s unexplained sweet condition as well as more than a few jokes during the wait. But eventually Scott emerged, wearing different clothes and smelling like his old self.
He set his bread basket on the bench and held up his hand. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Teresa hid a smile and Johnny smiled broadly. Murdoch put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “That’s all right, son. We all have days like that. Shall we do the judging now?”
“By all means,” Scott said enthusiastically. Johnny agreed, placing in the back of his mind the thought that he absolutely was going to get Scott to talk about it later.
“This is exciting,” Teresa said.
“Who wants to start?” Murdoch asked.
Scott waved his hand, politely deferring to his brother. “Start with the youngest,” he said.
“No, Scott, it’s your game – you should go first,” Johnny allowed.
Scott secretly had been wanting to be the one to start. “All right, then.” He removed his scavenged items, one by one, and set them on the bench. Murdoch unfolded his copy of the list and picked up each item individually, comparing all with the list.
“Let’s see now,” Murdoch drawled. “Your bread basket is good, of course. What’s all this? Cloth? Why did you get extra cloth, Scott? You could have used the gingham inside the basket.”
“Well, no, I . . . really?”
“That was dumb, Scott,” Johnny pointed out helpfully. “You didn’t pay for that, did you?”
“Of course I paid for it! Sixty cents!”
“Good!” said Teresa, grabbing the cloth. “I was hoping one of you would get some gingham. I want to put a lining in my sewing basket.”
“Help yourself,” Scott said magnanimously.
“Let’s see now,” Murdoch continued, half to himself. “Here’s the flat stone – OK. The gold buckle – OK.”
“Let me see that,” Johnny said, grabbing it out of his father’s hand. He whistled low. “Oooh, I bet this cost you a pretty penny, too!”
Scott said, “Mmmmm . . . “
“Scott, you didn’t spend a lot on this, did you?” Murdoch asked.
“Well, no. Just . . . fifteen dollars.”
“Oh, my!” said Teresa. “I thought you guys were just going to find things that were free!”
“So did I,” Scott said under his breath. He grabbed the gold buckle away from Johnny.
Murdoch was venturing on. “Here’s the marble . . . can I assume this was the blue flower, Scott?” He held up a small blue wad.
Scott had never considered that the little blue flower might not fare well in his shirt pocket. It certainly was prettier when he had just picked it, and it was still molasses-free then. “Well . . uh . . . yes, I guess so.”
“Hmmmm . . . “ said Murdoch. He picked up the Mason jar. “What’s this supposed to be?”
“Whatever it is, it’s pretty,” Teresa offered helpfully.
Scott grabbed the jar away from his father and removed the lid. “It’s a red candle, see?”
“Now that smells like flowers!” Johnny said unhelpfully.
“Oh, it’s a candle, son? I don’t see a wick.”
“Well, no, there wasn’t time to . . . well, what I mean . . .”
“Why didn’t you put your blue flower in there?” Johnny asked. “You’ve got all those other red ones crowded in there. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded.” Scott scowled at him.
“Well, son, I’m sorry,” Murdoch said to Scott, “but I can’t really give you credit for the candle. This couldn’t be used as a candle if there’s no wick.”
“No . . . I suppose not.” Things weren’t going quite the way Scott had envisioned.
Murdoch handed the jar back to Scott and Teresa intercepted it. “I think this would make a nice mantle decoration. Scott, do you mind?” Scott just shrugged approval.
Murdoch looked around. “All that’s left on the list is the rolling pin. Where is it, son?”
“I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a rolling pin? It’s on the list.”
“Well, I had one. But it broke.”
“Well, I didn’t break it. Miss Flora from the bakery broke it. She . . . treated it rather badly.” Without realizing he was doing it, Scott rubbed his left shoulder. Johnny was the only one who noticed and he had a pretty good idea what it was about. He smiled and looked down.
“Miss Flora broke your rolling pin?” Murdoch was confused.
“Yeah,” said Johnny. “Flora doesn’t really have a good track record with those things.”
Murdoch sighed. “Well, I’m sorry, Scott, but I can’t give you credit for the candle or the rolling pin, but you do have the other items. I’ll take your word for it on the blue flower.”
Slightly in shock, Scott sat down on the bench next to his bread basket.
Trying to console him, Teresa said, “The basket is so pretty, Scott. May I have it?”
“Uh . . . no. It’s rented. I have to return it.”
Johnny smiled. “You rented a bread basket? For how much?”
“Five dollars,” Scott said in a tiny voice.
“Ooooh,” said Teresa. She sat down next to him and put a consoling hand on his shoulder. He winced.
“Well, you might as well check my things, Murdoch,” said Johnny. “But they’re not as good as Scott’s.”
Murdoch stole a look at Scott, who seemed to be in shock. “Are you all right, son?”
Scott waved a hand in acknowledgement but said nothing.
“Here, Murdoch.” Johnny handed his basket to his father. Johnny’s dog noticed Scott was sad and sat down next to him. And licked his pants leg. But these pants weren’t as tasty as those earlier pants.
“All right, Johnny, let’s see what you’ve got,” Murdoch said. “The basket is good . . . What’s this? A dress?” He held up Teresa’s dress.
“Oh!” Teresa made a sound between a shriek and a swear word. She grabbed the dress. “That’s my dress! And it was in my room! And you weren’t supposed to go in myroom!” She punched Johnny in the shoulder.
Johnny grinned. “I didn’t go in your room! I promise!”
“Then how did you get mydress?” Teresa folded her arms and waited.
“I was in the hall outside your room. I called it and it just . . . walked out to me.” Johnny laughed. Everyone, including Scott, turned to look down at Johnnie. The dog woofed.
“I see,” said Teresa. And unfortunately she did. “And I suppose you can explain this?” She held up the bullet Johnny had thrown at the dress.
Johnny looked at it closely. “Yes. That’s a bullet.”
In spite of himself, Scott chuckled. That made Johnny happy, but the look Teresa gave him cancelled it out.
Keeping order in his own way, Murdoch said, “Let’s press on here. Now here’s a rolling pin.” Murdoch held up the rolling pin for everyone to see. Scott groaned.
Teresa made the same sound she had made a minute ago. She grabbed the evidence. “This is my rolling pin! And the kitchen was off-limits! Johnny, you promised!” Once again, arms crossed. Waiting.
Johnny laughed. “I didn’t break my promise! I stayed out of all the rooms I was supposed to stay out of! Honest! Ask Johnnie!”
“Johnny, you’re incorrigible!” Teresa shook her head. Then she made that same sound again. “Oh! It’s got teeth marks in it!”
Murdoch gave Johnny a warning look. He pressed on. The next thing he dug out of the basket was the blotting paper. When he opened it, the little blue flower appeared. It had dried and it really did look like a flower, although not a California bluebell. Murdoch looked askance at Johnny and said, “This might explain your blue fingers.” Johnny shrugged.
Murdoch rummaged around in the basket and came up with the marble and the flat stone. He acknowledged both and then pulled out the towel Johnny had wrapped around his candle. Unfolding the towel, Murdoch said, “Oh, this is your red candle.”
“It’s broken,” Scott said half-heartedly.
“Yeah, it broke,” Johnny agreed.
“No matter. I can see it’s a candle,” Murdoch said. “But, Johnny, it’s not red. It’s just got red paint in the cracks.” Murdoch turned to look at the dog. “I expect this explains the pink tail on your dog.”
Johnny whistled and his pup bounded over to him. Johnny looked at his tail. “I expect you’re right,” he said, smiling widely. Johnnie licked his pant leg, but there just weren’t any molasses pants anywhere around anymore.
Murdoch was going to make another color comment but he looked in the bread basket and saw the final item. He turned redder than Johnny’s candle.
“This . . . is . . . my . . . belt!” he bellowed. “I distinctly remember Teresa saying my room was off-limits as well!” He was going to ask “how did you get this?” but realized the answer was obvious and sitting at Johnny’s feet.
Johnny looked a little sheepish, but when Scott started laughing a little, Johnny joined in. In a minute, Scott was laughing uncontrollably, and it wasn’t long before everyone else was, too.
– – – – – – – – –
Teresa had made two cakes for dessert that night, one with Johnny’s favorite flavor and one with Scott’s. She had prepared for either winner. Unfortunately Murdoch had declared that in fact there were no winners because neither of the contestants satisfied all the requirements of the scavenger hunt, and there was a distinct possibility that there might have been a wee bit of cheating. It was a draw – they both lost. And the cakes were served anyway.
Johnny wanted to reward his dog for helping him out so he requested a beef bone from the kitchen from Teresa, who said, “NO!,” so when she wasn’t looking, he stole one. And put frosting on it.
Scott was a little depressed over the outcome and a lot depressed over his encounter(s) with Miss Flora. Johnny figured it was his job to cheer up his brother so after dinner he sat down next to Scott on the couch to have a private talk with him.
“You sure were a mess when you rode in earlier,” Johnny said, in what was probably the worst attempt ever made by someone who was trying to cheer someone up.
“Mmmm,” said Scott.
“I’m thinking your condition and the broken rolling pin both had something to do with Flora and her bakery.”
“Mmmm,” Scott said again, but this time he nodded sadly.
“Wanna tell me about it?”
“No! In fact, I don’t ever want to think about it again!” He rubbed his shoulder.
There was a moment of silence, then Scott ventured, “Who’s Clem?”
Johnny laughed. “I’ll tell you who Clem is if you tell me what happened to you today!”
“Never mind! I don’t give a damn who Clem is anyway!”
More silence, longer this time.
Then Johnny said, “You know, Scott, my dog helped me cheat a little. And I sweet-talked Flora . . .” (Scott flinched.) “ . . . and I used short-cuts. To my mind, you were the winner.”
Scott looked up, a little spark in his eyes. “You mean that?”
“Yeah, I mean it, brother. It was your game and you were the real winner.”
Scott smiled. He didn’t say anything but his whole attitude changed. He relaxed and leaned back on the couch.
Mission accomplished! His brother was happy again! Johnny was delighted. He leaned back also. Milking the moment, he said, “Scott, how much did you spend today on this game?”
Scott chuckled. “All told, thirty-nine dollars and eighty-one cents!”
Johnny whistled. “I guess the bakery didn’t go too well.”
“No, the bakery didn’t go too well,” Scott laughed.
They sat quietly for another minute, then Johnny said, “Got any more ideas for games, brother?”
“Well, actually . . . “
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