Word count 9,800
“Seems there’s someone new in town,” Teresa said slyly as Scott and Johnny carried her packages into her bedroom.
“That so?” said Johnny. “That reminds me. Scott, did you see that new bull that Felix Gallegher just got in?”
“Yesterday,” Scott responded.
“What did you think?”
“Felix will have a very strong line if that bull produces for him like he wants.”
“A little competition for Lancer, right?” Johnny laughed. “Here, Teresa, I think this is the last of your stuff.”
“A lot of packages there; what’s in them?” Scott asked.
“Nothing special, just some new clothes. Aren’t you interested in who . . . “ Teresa tried again.
Johnny backhanded Scott in the stomach. “What do you say to a few hands of killer gin on the porch before dinner?”
“You’re on, brother!”
The two men ran into the hallway and raced each other down the stairs. Teresa called after them from the top of the stairs, “Don’t you want to know who’s new in town?”
“Yeah, we saw the bull, thanks!” Johnny’s voice called from the front door.
Frustrated, she yelled, “It’s not a . . . “ The door slammed and they were gone.
– – – – –
Teresa knew she had big news about someone new in town, and she figured she’d have better luck getting everyone to listen to her news at the dinner table.
But she was wrong.
“Seems there’s someone new living in town,” she tried again, less sly this time.
“Oh yes, I heard about that!” Murdoch said, twisting his fork in the air.
“You did?” Teresa said.
“How did you find out?” Johnny asked.
“Felix stopped in here on the way back to his ranch with the news. Have either of you managed to see it yet?” Murdoch asked his sons.
“No, it’s not a dumb . . . “ Teresa started to get frustrated all over again.
“Of course we did!” said Scott. “Competition, you know.”
“It’s a good animal,” Johnny added. “Felix did all right. The lines are good, it’s got strong, solid muscles.”
“And it’s still young,” Scott added, “with an even disposition, which I understand is important in breeding.”
“Yes, son, it is,” Murdoch said.
“Oh, for God’s sake! Is that all you care about – Felix Gallegher and his dumb bull?! I’m going to get the dessert!” Teresa left the room in a huff.
“What’s wrong with her?” Scott wondered.
“No idea,” said Johnny. “Maybe the cake she made fell or something.”
Murdoch studied the situation. “Something’s upset her. Let’s just make sure we tell her how much we like the dessert when she comes back.”
The three men continued talking about Felix’s bull and Teresa returned in a few minutes with a dessert dish and four plates and forks.
“Smells delicious,” Murdoch lied.
Teresa was confused. “No, it doesn’t. It’s raisin pie. I know nobody likes raisin pie, but something happened when I was in town today and I completely forgot to pick up the apples and peaches I was going to get. We’re out of sugar, too. All I had to work with tonight was raisins.” She began to dish out a piece for everyone. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Oh.” Murdoch looked at his piece of raisin pie. “Well, I’m sure that . . . it will be . . . “ He bit into the raisin pie. He somehow managed to swallow his bite. “ . . . as good as . . . “ It went down hard.
Scott stared at his piece, drew upon the heroic tendencies the Cavalry had honed in him, and took a bite. “Oh, yes, Teresa, this is . . . so . . . “ He made a face, even though he hadn’t intended to.
Johnny stared at his piece of raisin pie and was fairly certain that it was telling him ‘raisins do not belong in pies. Apples and peaches belong in pies.’
“Well,” Teresa said grudgingly, “if you don’t like it, don’t eat it. Maybe the men in the bunkhouse might like it. I guess.”
Johnny recognized that he wasn’t as brave as his father or brother and he had to come up with a reason for not eating dessert. Oh, yes – earlier Teresa was talking about something. What was it?
“Oh! Teresa!” Johnny said, “What was that you were saying about someone new in town?”
“It’s about time someone started listening to me! I’ve been trying to tell you someone new has moved in to town.”
Suddenly, this was an extremely interesting subject. Plates with raisin pie on them got pushed to the side so everyone could concentrate on what Teresa had to say.
– – – – –
She was petite and well-rounded and pretty and had a slight Southern accent that in fact beautifully accented her general appearance. She had big blue eyes and long blond hair that she kept arranged with flowered pins on the top of her head.
Johnny longed for the opportunity to see those big blue eyes up close and Scott imagined what that long blond hair would look like when unpinned.
Her name was Margie and both the Lancer boys were in love with her. And they hadn’t even met her yet.
“I told you there was someone interesting new in town,” Teresa said smugly as they left Morro Coyo the next day.
“You didn’t tell us soon enough,” fumed Johnny from the back of the wagon.
“He’s right, Teresa,” Scott agreed. “I would have appreciated knowing about Margie as soon as possible.”
“Ha!” Johnny scoffed. “You wish you would have met her first before me, that’s all!”
“Well, what difference does it make?” Teresa asked, clearly not seeing the whole picture here. “I mean, I told you about her as soon as I could – or should I say, as soon as you’d let me. I mean, I only just met her yesterday when I came into town to get a few things . . .”
“Which you forgot,” Scott unhelpfully pointed out.
“Who needs peach pie when you have Margie?” Johnny mused dreamily.
“Well, look at it this way,” Teresa harrumphed. “If I hadn’t forgotten to buy the peaches and apples – and been forced to make raisin pie! – you wouldn’t have met her because we wouldn’t have had a reason to come back into town today.”
A sound that was clearly reminiscent of the thought of raisin pie came from the back of the wagon.
“I’m sorry, Teresa,” said Scott. “I didn’t mean to be ungracious. After all, I am very grateful to you for introducing me to the woman I’m going to marry!”
“Forget it, brother!” once again came from the back of the wagon, which apparently had a lot to say. “The best you can hope for is sister-in-law!”
Scott laughed. “Oh, I don’t think so, Johnny. You’re forgetting about the Garrett charm!”
“Yeah, that’s easy to forget about,” the back of the wagon pointed out.
“Don’t tell me the two of you are going to fight over Margie!” Teresa said. “You both only just met her!”
“Looking that way.” Back of the wagon.
“No, Teresa,” Scott said while looking at his brother. “Johnny and I are brothers, and brothers do not fight over the same woman.”
“Unless the woman is Margie!” Wagon back.
“No, not even if the woman is Margie. We have to consider, Johnny, she might even be married . . . “
“She’s not,” said Teresa.
“Or she might have a boyfriend . . . “
“She doesn’t,” said Teresa.
“How do you know all this?” Johnny called.
“When I was in town yesterday, I spent most of the day at her new dress shop. That’s why I ended up with so many new clothes. And Margie and I got along like wildfire. We’re best of friends now! I only hope she can forgive me for introducing her to you two hoodlums today,” she added with a snicker.
“Well, Scott, anyhow,” Johnny said.
“Tut tut, little brother! I’m already formulating wedding plans in my head.”
“Not if I formulate eloping with her first!”
“Boys! Stop it! And I do mean boys!” Teresa said. “She didn’t mention to me if she was even interested in either one of you! Don’t rush her – she only just bought the shop and moved to town. I think she’s concentrating on that now. I don’t think she’s interested in getting married for a while!”
“Let’s find out!” Johnny said.
“Yes! Let’s find out! I finally agree with you, Johnny. Teresa, let’s invite her over for a meal and she can see the ranch and get to know me – I mean all of us!”
“I’m way ahead of both of you,” Teresa said smugly. “She’s coming Sunday night for supper!”
– – – – –
Teresa was fairly certain that Margie was going to be attending the Sunday morning church service, and, by sheer coincidence no doubt, both Johnny and Scott were also very interested in attending the Sunday morning church service. Murdoch pointed out that his sons never ceased to surprise him with their (what he meant was ‘antics,’ but what he generously said was) interests.
That Sunday morning there was no yelling up the stairs for anyone to “Get up!” and no pointing at the clock repeatedly, and no need to threaten missing breakfast if certain parties didn’t “get a move on!” Scott and Johnny were both wearing their very best clothes and waiting in the buggy, surprising Teresa perhaps but not Murdoch with their enthusiasm.
The Lancer family was one of the first to arrive at the church that Sunday morning. Murdoch ushered Teresa inside. When he asked if his sons were going to come in right away with him and Teresa, Scott said, “I think I’ll linger outside for a few minutes before going in.”
“Save a place for us, Murdoch,” said Johnny.
“Of course I’ll save a place for you. And,” Murdoch added, winking, “I’ll save a place for Margie, also.”
As he left to enter the church, both his sons gave him a look of appreciation and then turned to each other and changed their expressions to ones of rivalry.
Margie was actually one of the last to arrive at the service. Johnny and Scott each grabbed an arm and somehow they managed to walk uncomfortably three abreast as they headed for the front row, where Murdoch had saved three seats.
Murdoch had neglected to mention that Margie would be sitting between himself and Teresa, and Johnny and Scott would be sitting on the other side of him. Not an ideal situation, but both brothers were happy to at least be in the same building again with Margie. They were unable to exchange any whispered conversations with Margie during the service, and they noticed, with perhaps just perhaps a touch of jealousy, that Margie and Teresa whispered things to each other several times.
The pastor apparently was also happy to see the Lancer brothers sitting in the front row, and he often looked right at them as he delivered his sermon. And raised the volume of his voice in direct proportion to the amount of nodding head-lowering that he observed in Johnny.
Both brothers therefore were able to grasp the value of that Sunday’s Words. But no Words struck them as more important than the ones the pastor ended the service with.
“And I’d like to make an announcement,” said the pastor in closing. “Next Saturday, at noon, we will be having a picnic right here in the church yard. All church members, in fact everyone in town, is invited. Bring your own box lunch. Picnic tables will be set up and there will be games for the children. It will be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to mingle and to meet the newer members of our community.”
Both Johnny and Scott perked up at the idea of a picnic and mingling with certain newer members of the community.
The pastor continued. “And then at two o’clock, we will be capping off our picnic with a pie auction. Because our little town is growing, our church is in dire need of more Bibles and hymnals. I would like to send an invitation to all the lovely ladies of the congregation to put on your aprons and bake up the best pies you’ve ever made, and donate them to the church next Saturday. At 2 pm we will auction off all these mouth-watering pies to the gentlemen, and all the proceeds will be used to provide the needed books for the church. Ladies, be sure to make your pie as beautiful and tasty as you can, because all these pies will be auctioned off anonymously! When the bidding for the pies has finished, you lovely ladies will please step forward and deliver your pie to its lucky winning bidder, and kindly enjoy the dessert with him! And, if you have a suitor, don’t let him know which pie is yours ahead of time! And, gentlemen, since you won’t have any idea which pie your favorite lady has baked, be sure to be very generous in your bidding! I hope to see each and every one of you here in our yard next Saturday!”
This prompted a general happy murmur amongst the congregation. Everyone stood and started to leave. Scott and Johnny were forced to the aisle as Murdoch was right behind them. When they looked back for Margie, she was gone.
The Lancers were swept along with the crowd and paused at the doorway to praise the pastor for his wonderful sermon. The pastor asked Johnny which part he had liked best and Johnny, who had been thinking about Margie and not actually listening, said “that part about original sin” and the pastor, who had not been talking at all about original sin, said, “That’s what I figured.”
As the Lancers moved along, Johnny asked Murdoch if he knew where Margie and Teresa had gone.
“Horton Janus’s son Donald just returned from college, and they’ve gone off to talk to him.”
Scott and Johnny exchanged a look. Donald Janus? A young man new to town. About Margie’s age. And Margie was talking to him, not them.
Murdoch seldom missed anything. He correctly read his sons’ minds. “Don’t worry about it, boys. Margie will be joining us for our evening meal at Lancer tonight. Teresa wants to flirt with Donald for a few minutes, and then she’ll be spending the day with Margie baking and doing needlework. They’ll ride to Lancer late this afternoon. I’ve been told that Margie will be bringing a pie for our dessert tonight! Let’s go home, boys.”
– – – – –
The Lancer sons bided their time at the ranch that Sunday afternoon. It would be several hours before Teresa would be bringing Margie back with her for the evening meal, and both Scott and Johnny spent most of those hours thinking of ways to eliminate each other from Margie competition. It may have appeared to be a peaceful afternoon, but Murdoch did not miss the ominous little smiles Scott and Johnny gave each other occasionally. Murdoch theorized that every smile represented one brother thinking of some new insidious method of removing the other brother from Margie’s favor.
And, as always, Murdoch was right.
He considered stepping in and reminding his sons about how they were brothers and how they should not fight and how important family and brotherly love were and all that; but Murdoch Lancer did not like wasting his breath and he knew that’s exactly what he’d be doing.
– – – – –
Teresa spent some time flirting with Don Janus after church while Margie looked on. When Don’s family requested he rejoin them, the women walked to Margie’s house. These two new friends spent the walk enjoying a deep discussion of the various local menfolk and their diverse physical attributes.
“ _________ is good-looking.”
“In fact, there are a lot of good-looking men in this town.”
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”
“I wonder if _________ is a good dancer.”
“Or kisser!” Giggle giggle.
“_________ seems so sure of himself around other men.”
“But there’s us women to contend with!” Giggle giggle.
“And I forgot about ___________. Maybe he’s good husband material.”
“Hmmm. I don’t think so, but sometimes men can surprise you.”
Giggle giggle giggle giggle.
Once at Margie’s house, the two women traded walking for needlework, but the deep discussion continued. Most of the men in town, married or not, were mentioned at some point. Midway through the afternoon, Margie remembered she had volunteered to bake a pie for the Lancer dinner that night, and the discussion turned to pies. There weren’t really any men left to discuss anyhow.
Margie was not experienced at or particularly interested in baking and Teresa had to explain the basics so Margie could make a single-crust pie to take to the Lancer supper.
– – – – –
Margie’s apple pie was not the quality of pie Teresa might have made. Teresa had, after all, been cooking and baking all her life, and Margie . . . well . . . hadn’t. For one thing, it was only a single crust pie without the lovely lattice top crust Teresa always added to hers. For another thing, it was just a little too tart. And for another, the apples on top were burned. Black.
But none of these things mattered to the Lancer men. The younger Lancer men weren’t particularly aware of what they were eating anyhow as their entire attention was drawn to the beautiful Margie rather than her pie, and the older patriarch appreciated the fact that a dinner guest was willing to bring a dessert to add to the meal.
“Margie,” Murdoch said as the family was finishing dessert, “you’ve been a lovely addition to our dinner table. And I’d like to thank you for taking the time to bake a pie for our dessert.”
Margie blushed, which both Scott and Johnny found incredibly delightful. “Oh, I know it’s not that good,” she said. “I’m not a very good cook, I’m afraid. I pity the poor man if I ever do get married.”
“I don’t,” said Johnny.
“Nonsense,” said the more articulate Scott. “Margie, you’re a welcome guest at Lancer, and we are grateful you joined us for dinner. And the donation of your time to prepare for us the final course of our meal demonstrates your generous nature and your inner beauty as well. I’m sure I speak for everyone here in expressing our thanks for this delicious apple pie!”
All the Lancers agreed and Margie blushed even more. She turned to Teresa and said, “Teresa, let me help with the dishes and the cleaning . . .”
“No!” said pretty-much every Lancer. “No,” Teresa continued. “You’re a guest. I’ll take care of the cleaning up and you enjoy the evening on the porch.”
Scott and Johnny, who had been sitting across the table from Margie, ran around to pull out Margie’s chair for her, stumbling over Murdoch on the way. “Oh, sorry,” said Johnny. “Uh . . “ said Scott. The patriarchal stumbling block aside, they both arrived at Margie’s chair at the same time and both pulled it out so fast that she barely had time to set down her coffee cup and both offered her an arm which, if she had taken both, would have pulled her backward over her chair. Margie intelligently made the decision to take only one arm until she was standing, after which the other arm hurried around her chair so quickly that she was forced to take that one as well. Murdoch watched until Scott, Johnny and Margie reached the front door, curious to see how they would exit the house three abreast. It was apparent to the threesome that it was not possible, so the Lancer boys yielded to the lovely guest, who preceded them, and the two of them ended up exiting the house side-by-side.
Smiling, Murdoch assisted Teresa in the kitchen.
Teresa laughed. “Scott and Johnny are both sweet on Margie.”
“I believe I noticed something like that.”
Out on the porch, Johnny was apparently quicker than Scott and managed to seat himself next to Margie before his brother was able to. Scott quickly pulled up a chair and set it in front of Margie, rather closely, in fact.
“Scott! Move your chair aside,” Johnny commanded. “Let Margie enjoy the view!”
Scott never missed a beat. “It’s only fair,” he crooned, never taking his eyes off Margie. “After all, I am certainly enjoying the view from my angle!”
“Are you two always like this?” Margie wondered.
“Like what?” Scott fairly breathed.
Johnny leaned in closer to Margie. “You have beautiful blue eyes,” he said in his lowest, sultriest voice.
It would be unfair to Margie at this point to say that she had no idea what was going on, because she knew exactly what was going on. “So do you,” she replied impassively.
Scott quickly moved his chair behind the two of them and leaned forward between them. “You have exquisite blond hair,” he said softly to Margie.
“So do you,” she replied coolly.
“Scott!” Johnny protested. “Move!”
“I have a request,” Margie said. A request from Margie was met with such Lancer eagerness to fulfill that the brothers rammed into each other to hear her. “Anything!” “Your wish is my command!”
“I wonder,” she said, “if it would be possible for the two of you to move back a little. I would like to be able to breathe, you know.”
– – – – –
Murdoch and Teresa enjoyed washing the dishes together, and when the job was finished they noticed that it was beginning to get dark. Murdoch decided that it would be in Margie’s best interest if Scott and Johnny (or just one of them, if she had a preference) should escort her safely back to town.
“Besides,” he told them, “this young lady has a store to open tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, thank you, Mr. Lancer,” Margie said, with more than a hint of gratefulness in her voice. With the assistance of Murdoch’s hand, she stood. Rather unsteadily, as she had to maneuver between the Lancer chairs and sons.
Scott grabbed her other hand. “Margie, please allow me the honors,” he said.
Johnny deftly replaced his father’s large hand with his own. “You’ll be safest with me, ma’am.”
“Something tells me that’s not true,” she said softly.
“I agree,” Murdoch said. “The two of you hitch up the wagon and you can both escort her back to town.”
This was met with 1) scowls and groans, and 2) Teresa saying, “And I’m coming along too. As a chaperone!” and 3) More scowls and groans.
– – – – –
But the ride back into town was jovial and semi-friendly, with the Lancer brothers, superficially at least, putting aside their competitive feelings. (Probably because Teresa was along.) The Lancer boys sat up front and Teresa sat in back with Margie. The foursome talked about the Lancer ranch and Margie’s dress shop and then the conversation got around to the upcoming pie auction.
“What kind of pie will you be making?” Johnny asked Margie, all innocence.
“Yes,” Scott said, “do you have a specialty?”
“Stop it, you two!” Teresa scolded. “You know perfectly well the ladies are not supposed to let on what kind of pies they’re making. You men aren’t going to know ahead of time who made what pie! It’s the only fair way!”
Scott was going to counter with something very Scott-ish, but Margie said, “Oh, I doubt if I’ll make a pie at all. I’m not a very good baker. That pie I made today – that was the first time I ever tried baking one.”
“Nonsense!” said Scott. “It was very good! And – considering that it was a first effort – it was nothing short of wonderful!”
Teresa rolled her eyes.
“You’re being kind,” Margie said, neatly avoiding the use of a more accurate adjective, “but I really don’t think I’ll bake a pie for the auction.”
Johnny turned around and leaned toward Margie. “Margie,” he said smoothly. “You be sure to let me know if you do, OK?”
“No, no. We women must have our secrets.”
– – – – –
The pie auction conversation continued on the way back, after Scott and Johnny had both seen Margie to her front door and even lingered a minute after she had safely gone inside.
The ride back was fairly quiet. Teresa suspected the brothers were thinking of Margie and, more specifically, what they each had to do to eliminate the other brother from Margie’s interest.
But Teresa had something she wanted to discuss. “Don Janus . . . “ she started.
“That’s right!” said Scott. “I forgot about him!”
“What’s he doing in town, anyway?” Johnny said with scorn in his voice.
“Well . . . he lives here. What’s wrong with you two? He went away to college and now he’s back home.” Teresa couldn’t understand the brothers’ resentment.
“Why didn’t he stay away at college?” Johnny mused angrily.
“I told you,” Teresa tried to explain. “He lives here. Oh, I get it! The two of you think Margie and Don are interested in each other!”
“Well?” Johnny said.
“Aren’t they?” asked Scott. “You and Margie were talking with him this morning. I saw you introduce them.”
“No, they’re not interested in each other! I’m the one who likes Don. Margie didn’t seem interested in him at all. And by the way, she hasn’t expressed to me any interest in the two of you, either.”
“Nonsense,” said Scott.
“She hasn’t gotten to know me yet,” said Johnny.
“Once she knows you, she’ll come running to my arms,” Scott laughed.
“Forget it, Scott. You don’t have a chance.”
“Margie’s not your kind of woman, Johnny.”
“Every woman is my kind of woman, Scott.”
There was a sudden silence as the two of them mulled over their next thought. Teresa realized she finally had a chance to speak and was about to do so when both brothers turned to her and yelled at the same time, “Teresa!”
“Oh! Oh, what?”
“Find out what kind of pie she’s going to make!” “For the pie auction, Teresa. Find out what pie Margie will be bringing!”
“You two know – that’s not allowable! Besides, maybe she won’t even bring a pie! She doesn’t like baking.”
Scott was driving and reined the horses to a stop. He and Johnny turned in their seats to face Teresa. “Find out, Teresa!” said Scott. “We’ll do anything you want!” said Johnny.
Teresa got indignant. “Why are the two of you ganging up on me? It’s just a simple pie auction!”
“Because it’s a pie auction that will give me the rest of the afternoon alone with Margie once I outbid Johnny for her pie,” Scott pointed out.
“Don’t be so sure of yourself, brother. I’ve been saving my wages, too, you know,” said Johnny.
“Just this one simple favor, Teresa. Please! Find out what pie Margie is bringing,” Scott pleaded.
“We’ll do anything you want,” Johnny repeated.
They both looked so pitiful that Teresa found herself taking them seriously. She thought about their request for a moment. Then it occurred to her that she might just be able to turn this into a mutually satisfactory proposition. “You’ll do anything?” she asked.
They both shook their heads anxiously. “Anything!” Scott ascertained.
Teresa mulled it over while both Lancer brothers anxiously studied her face. In a moment she came to a decision. “All right,” she said. “I want you to talk to Don Janus and see if you can find out what kind of pie is his favorite. And, in return, I’ll find out if Margie is going to make a pie for the auction.”
“That’s not good enough,” Johnny said. “I can’t bid on a pie if she doesn’t make one.”
“He’s right, Teresa,” Scott pointed out. “I – we need you to convince her to bake a pie and contribute it. Use your influence with her. Convince her to bake a pie; tell her it’s for charity.”
“That’s all it’ll take,” Johnny added. “She’s real sweet and I know that just a word from you will convince her how important it is that she be a part of the auction. Tell her how important she’ll feel when men start falling all over each other for the chance to win her. Uh . . . her pie.”
Teresa was picking up the slight aroma of a rodent. “But you two won’t even know which pie is hers.”
Scott responded, “That’s where you come in, Teresa. A slight suggestion that she would make one of her hosts from this evening deliriously happy with a mincemeat . . . “
“Peach!” Johnny corrected.
“Oh, no!” Teresa’s suspicions were confirmed. “That would be cheating!”
“Noooo,” Scott said soothingly, placing his hand on Teresa’s arm. “It’s not cheating at all. It’s merely offering a suggestion and then comforting support to aid her in making her final (correct) decision.”
“And her pie,” Johnny cut in.
Scott ignored him. “Teresa, it’s not cheating at all. In fact, it’s quite akin to the favor you are asking of us – to determine which pie type is Don Janus’s favorite and then to impart that information on to you.”
By now, the whole rat was making its appearance, and it was nibbling on pie.
Teresa was skeptical. She ran her hand through her hair. “Well . . . I suppose you’re right, Scott. I mean, after all, wives already know what their husbands’ favorite pies are, don’t they? And husbands will be there bidding, too.”
“So true, so true. So, you see, it’s not cheating. We discover your potential beau’s favorite pie and impart that information to you, and you in turn convince Margie to make a pie and let it drop that my favorite type is mincemeat.”
“Drop, is right,” said Johnny. “My favorite is peach. Although I’d bid on any pie Margie makes.”
Teresa still looked at them skeptically. The rat nibbled happily.
“And the best part is that no one loses!” Scott added quickly. “Johnny and I can outbid the living daylights out of each other for the chance at Margie . . . uh, Margie’s pie . . . and Don Janus will happily bid for your pie, and all the profits will go to the church fund. Sweet charity!”
“See, Teresa, no one loses!” Johnny repeated.
“Well . . . . OK! I’ll do it!” Teresa apparently saw the logic in Scott’s argument and the lack of harm in it as well. Suddenly it seemed like a great idea.
Everyone was happy. The rat went back where it came from, dragging pie with it.
– – – – –
Life at the Lancer Ranch went on normally for the next few days, with the addition of Johnny’s and Scott’s constant verbal jabs at each other regarding Margie. Each was certain he would be able to recognize Margie’s pie and outbid the other for it.
Part of the ranch duties the brothers performed included visits to Felix Gallegher to have a good look at his new prize-winning bull. This was strictly business as far as Johnny and Scott were concerned, but, while there, Felix brought up the subject of the pie auction.
“He’s the best bull I’ve ever had,” Felix said. “The best bull I’ve ever seen, in fact. He’ll be bringing in a very tidy profit in no time at all! I’ve been thinking of adding to the ranch in another way, too. Boys, I’ve been thinking of taking on a wife!”
“Congratulations,” Johnny said.
“Very nice, Felix!” said Scott. “Who’s the lucky woman?”
“Well, I’m not sure yet. But the leading contender will be whoever’s pie I win at the auction on Sunday.”
Scott and Johnny looked at Felix – at his bald head, sagging mustache and abundant portly areas – and Scott said, “Best of luck to you, Felix!”
Johnny turned his head away and said under his breath, “And to her.”
Their next stop was the lawyer’s office in town. Horton Janus was the local lawyer and now that his son Don had graduated, Horton was bringing Don on with him as another attorney. Scott and Johnny congratulated Don and spent a moment chit-chatting about law (Scott) and guns (Johnny) and college life (Scott) and food (Johnny) and this led to the specific question, “What is your favorite kind of pie, Don?”
The answer amazed both Lancer brothers and only Scott was able to remember it when it was later conveyed to Teresa.
“French apple pie with nutmeg sauce,” Scott reported.
“French apple pie with nutmeg sauce?” Teresa was stunned. “I’ve never heard of it. I have no idea how to make such a beast.”
“It sounds rather daunting,” Scott agreed.
“Forget it, Teresa,” Johnny said. “You can do better than that Don Janus. He’s a mush-mouth if ever I saw one.”
“Johnny!” scolded Scott.
Teresa was instantly indignant. “Oh! And I suppose the two of you discussed Don, and Scott agrees with you? Well, I don’t care! It just so happens that I see a lot more in Don Janus than the two of you do! And I’m going to make that French apple pie with nutmeg sauce and he’s going to win me – my pie – at the auction Saturday!”
And that was that.
– – – – –
On Friday, Teresa grabbed a ride into town with Jelly so she could visit with Margie while Jelly enjoyed his day off in town. On the way in, she explained the pie auction to him but Jelly said he wasn’t interested in bidding on any pies. The delicate way he put it was, “I just don’t want no meddlin’ female complicatin’ up my life, pie or no pie!” Teresa giggled and said she understood, which she didn’t.
Before she went to Margie’s store to visit with her, Teresa stopped at the home of a French couple. The wife, Elise, was a good baker and certainly knew how to make a good apple pie but had never heard of French apple pie with nutmeg sauce. But she did at least know how to make a sauce out of nutmeg, so she showed Teresa how and gave her the ingredients.
Teresa then went to Margie’s store and spent a good half hour trying to talk her into making a pie. Margie really wasn’t all that interested in baking and professed little ambition in that area. But Teresa emerged victorious when she reminded Margie of the need for the church hymnals and how she could contribute to the betterment of her new community.
A customer then came into the store and by the time Margie had finished waiting on her, she had once again soured on the idea of baking a pie. Teresa could only get Margie to agree to participate by reminding her of those pie-baking pointers she had shared with her friend last Sunday.
“I know, Teresa,” Margie said. “But you saw how my pie turned out. Burnt on top and raw in the middle. Who’s going to want that?”
Tongue in cheek, Teresa replied, “I can think of one or two men, at the very least. Anyhow, I’m not going to tell you what kind of pie to make tomorrow morning, but I will give you a few pointers you can use with any pie, and these will help you avoid burning or underbaking.”
Margie listened politely, but Teresa wasn’t sure she had gotten through to her friend.
– – – – –
Teresa baked her pie for the auction on Saturday morning. It took a little longer than she wanted because she didn’t seem to be able to keep any of the Lancer men out of the kitchen while she worked on it. Johnny and Scott obviously knew what kind of pie she was making since they had found out what Don Janus liked, so that was by default. But the aroma of fresh-baked apple pie was too enticing and the brothers kept making appearances and bothering Teresa for a taste. Even Murdoch showed up, and finally Teresa had to shoo everyone out of the kitchen by flapping her apron and saying, “The sooner you all leave me alone, the sooner I can finish this pie and pack it in a box to take it there. And don’t forget I still have to put up picnic lunches for us all! Now get out of my kitchen or we’ll never get to that church picnic!”
Teresa was prophetically correct. The Lancers were among the last to arrive at the picnic. As soon as their buggy came to a stop, Scott and Johnny jumped off and went in search of Margie. Murdoch took the family’s picnic lunches to an empty table, and Teresa checked her pie in with the pastor’s wife. Teresa’s pie had a number attached to it and she, like all the bakers, was given an identical number to hold and told “don’t let any man see it!” Teresa’s pie was put on a long table with lots of numbered pies on them and a couple tablecloths thrown over the top to thwart peeking pests, both insects and men.
Scott and Johnny were disappointed to find Margie sitting at the pastor’s little table, along with his wife and an elderly couple. They decided to eat with their family instead.
“Doesn’t matter anyhow,” said Johnny. “She’ll be mine the rest of the day.”
“I have to admire your optimism, brother,” Scott said. “However unfounded it may be.”
Most picnickers finished eating around the same time and began to intermingle. Murdoch and some of the other ranchers began discussing Felix Gallegher’s new bull with him, which, of course, Felix was only too happy to brag about. Teresa sought out her friend Margie and was about to ask her if she had in fact relented and baked a pie, but Scott and Johnny showed up at the same time, so she held her tongue. Johnny came right out and asked her and Margie said, “I’ll never tell.” Teresa laughed. Scott and Johnny did not.
After eating, the various children ran off to play some of the games that the pastor and his wife and some of the parishioners had provided. Everyone was in a good mood, everyone was chatting, and everyone was giddy with anticipation for the upcoming pie auction.
Around 2 o’clock, the church pastor announced the auction would begin shortly. He said all the women who had baked pies should stand over here, and all the men should stand over there. Scott and Johnny watched carefully to see if Margie went to stand with the pie-baking women and she did! They happily punched each other in the shoulder. “We’re over the first hurdle!” Scott said. “No more hurdles,” Johnny said self-assuredly. “She’s mine now.”
Before the men and women had separated into those two distinct groups, it was noticed that some of the married men were attempting to wile last-minute pie-type information from their wives, and likewise the younger dating or engaged men from their girlfriends. But all the women were following the rules and not giving out any information except looks that said you better figure out which pie is mine or else!
There were all ages in the men’s group, including a couple old-timers and a couple teen-age boys. As a group, they seemed nervous, pulling at collars and shifting positions. They spoke very little. The women’s group, conversely, were all smiles and chatter. Turning to each other, they pointed to the men and giggled. Clearly they were having a good time. Their generally raucous mood was at least partially inspired by the loudest member of their group, Cherry Canberry, the owner of the local brothel, Cherries. (Her appearance as a pie-baker may have been in part responsible for the collar-tugging behavior on the part of the married men!)
Murdoch was pleased to see Teresa in such a good mood. He nodded to her and she beamed and waved back. Scott waved to Margie, who ignored him. Johnny threw her a kiss and she ignored that, too. If they’d been paying attention, Scott and Johnny would have seen several other young women in the group noticing and responding to their waves and kisses. But Scott and Johnny were focused on one thing: Margie. And outbidding each other for her pie.
“Will you be able to figure out which pie is hers, brother?” Scott asked.
“Oh, yeah!” said Johnny. “And – no – I’m not going to tell you!”
“No matter,” Scott replied. “I’ll just bid on the pie you bid on.”
Johnny hadn’t thought of that. “Well, I will just bid on everything then.”
“A noble gesture, I’m sure. But remember, brother – you can only win one pie!”
Johnny hadn’t thought of that, either. He’d better make sure he won the correct pie.
The pastor cleared his throat and raised his voice to get everyone’s attention. Although that method didn’t always work in church, the crowd was excited for the auction to begin, and this time they quieted down.
He removed the tablecloths that had been placed over the pies. There were twenty delectable-looking desserts on it. Each pie had two plates and two forks and two napkins next to it. Everything was in readiness for the pies to be won by eager menfolk. Johnny called them “meet, greet ‘n’ eat pies.”
“Plenty of delectable-looking pies there, folks!” called the pastor.
The women all wore big smiles. The men started showing a little impatience, eager to begin the auction. (Or to get it over with, depending on how well they thought they knew who had baked which pie.)
“OK, men, here’s how it’s going to work!” the pastor called. “Each pie has a number on it. You’ll bid on them one at a time. You just call out your bids until the pie has a winning bidder. Once you’ve won a pie, men, you can’t bid on any others! One to a customer!” (Here the pastor chuckled.) “Ladies, you remember which man won your pie. At the end of the auction, ladies, you each take your number and your pie and match them up with the gentleman who won it. And then the gentleman has the right to share the first piece of his pie with you while the two of you . . . uh . . . mingle.” (The pastor wasn’t really sure which word would work here, but ‘mingle’ seemed to be innocuous enough.)
“Everyone understand?” he yelled.
There were no questions and the men and women all seemed to be anxious, so the pastor picked up a pie and held it up for all to see and said, “Looks like this is pie #18. It’s pretty, isn’t it? It’s got a double crust so I’m not exactly sure what kind it is, but I think I’m smelling some delicious apples in there! Sure looks good! All right now, I’m going to start the bidding at fifty cents! Who’ll give me fifty cents?”
“Me!” The blacksmith raised his hand. The pie looked like the kind his wife might make, so he figured he’d better not take a chance.
“Seventy-five cents!” came from the banker. Across the way, the banker’s wife frowned.
“One dollar!” yelled Johnny. When Scott gave him a questioning look, he grinned and said, “Just thought I’d make it interesting!”
“Two dollars!” yelled the blacksmith. He was pretty damn sure that was his wife’s pie.
“Two twenty-five!” called the banker.
A booming voice said, “Three dollars!” Everyone turned to look at Murdoch Lancer.
“I never said I wasn’t going to participate,” he explained to his sons with a sheepish grin.
Scott laughed. “Three and a quarter!” he yelled, raising his hand.
Silence. No one else bid. Oh oh. Scott was almost certain that wasn’t Margie’s pie – based on his limited experience with Margie’s pies. If he won that damn pie, he was out of the running! “Bid, Johnny!” he whispered to his brother.
And then the cavalry arrived. “Three fifty!” yelled the blacksmith and glared at the other men to make sure they wouldn’t keep bidding. Scott visibly relaxed.
“Three fifty once. Three fifty twice. Sold! Pie #18, whatever it is, to George Smithson, our esteemed blacksmith, for three dollars and fifty cents!” For never having been an auctioneer before, the pastor was doing a wonderful job, and enjoying himself in the process. The blacksmith beamed.
“OK, now, here’s another one,” the pastor continued, picking up another random pie from the table. “This is pie #4. Got another two-cruster here, but I think I am smelling peach. Whatever it is, it sure smells good, and I think you have to agree with me that it’s a nice-looking pie, too! We’re going to start the bidding at fifty cents again. Who’ll give me fifty cents?”
“Fifty cents!” Johnny called loud and clear.
Uh oh. Peach pie. Could it possibly be that Margie took Johnny’s suggestion seriously? Scott couldn’t quite believe that, but it could be true. Margie might just have preferred Johnny to himself and made Johnny’s favorite, peach. Scott found it hard to believe, but . . . he realized he’d better not take any chances. “A dollar!” he called.
Johnny grinned. “Dollar fifty!”
An older man called, “Two dollars!”
Johnny didn’t miss a beat. “Two fifty!”
“Three fifty!” Scott yelled.
“Four dollars!” Murdoch called. Both Scott and Johnny glared at him.
“Murdoch, stop bidding!” Johnny fiercely whispered.
“Free country, son,” Murdoch said gently.
Johnny turned back to the auctioneer. “Five dollars!”
“Five fifty!” Scott yelled.
“Six dollars!” the older bidder called, but it was clear he wouldn’t be able to go much higher. Johnny assessed the situation. Unfortunately, he still had his brother – and his father, for God’s sake – to contend with.
“Seven dollars!” Johnny called, his grin disappearing.
“Seven fifty!” Scott yelled, grinning at his brother.
“Eight dollars! Nine dollars!” Johnny had no intention of losing that pie. The pastor/auctioneer was laughing happily and all the ladies were talking and having a good time at Johnny’s literal expense.
“Ten dollars!” Scott yelled.
Johnny pulled his money from his pocket and studied it. He had enough to bid higher, but he had wanted to take Margie dining and dancing after the picnic and buy flowers for her and that would take the rest of his money. He looked at Scott, who looked ready to counter any bid he might make. He weighed the situation carefully. Winning the afternoon with Margie was important, but keeping her away from Scott and his charms was even more important.
“Ten dollars going once . . . “ said the auctioneer.
Johnny felt the money in his hand. He just couldn’t let Scott win that peach pie!
“Ten dollars going twice . . . “
“Twenty dollars!” Johnny called for all he was worth.
Everyone oohed and aahed and the ladies all started giggling and talking all over again, and even some of the men exclaimed a few things.
“Twenty dollars going once . . . “
Johnny turned to Scott and measured the look on his brother’s face. Scott was smiling. He turned to Johnny and opened his mouth to say something.
“Twenty dollars going twice . . .” called the auctioneer.
Johnny gave Scott a don’t-you-dare look, and then Scott said something.
He said “Congratulations, brother” at the same time that the auctioneer said, “Sold! Pie #4 goes to Johnny Lancer for twenty dollars!”
Johnny couldn’t believe his luck. He was finally able to relax. Murdoch said, “Congratulations, son” to him and he barely heard. As Johnny thought about it, he could remember gunfights he’d been in that had been less stressful than this auction. He stood weakly in place with a wide smile on his face. All he had to do now was wait until the auction was over and then watch as the lovely Margie picked up pie #4 and brought it to him and the two of them found an out-of-the-way place to enjoy their dessert and each other. He wouldn’t have the money to show her a good time that evening, but he knew there were plenty of ways to show her a good time without money.
Although Johnny wasn’t particularly aware of it, the auction continued.
“Well, that was exciting, folks!” the pastor said. “Let’s see if we can keep that excitement going. Here is our next pie. This is pie #15 up for bidding now. This one smells like a mincemeat pie! I’ll have to be honest with you – it’s a little burned around the edge – but, by God, it sure does smell good! Like with the others, let’s start the bidding at fifty cents!”
“Fifty cents!” yelled one of the men.
“One dollar,” called Scott.
Scott’s voice snapped Johnny out of his reverie. What was that the pastor just said? A mincemeat pie? And burned on the edge? Oh no – it couldn’t be! Johnny just paid an exorbitant price for a peach pie because Margie knew that was his favorite, and here was a pie that sounded a lot more like something she would have made – it was burned! And it was mincemeat – Scott’s favorite! Could Johnny have mis-calculated?
He snuck a glance over at the beautiful Margie and she was smiling at him. She wasn’t smiling at Scott, she was smiling at him! And that was really the first time she had ever really smiled at him. He smiled back. No, he figured – he had made the right call.
“Forget it, Scott,” he whispered to his brother. “You’re wasting your time. And money.”
“One fifty,” said the other bidder.
“Two dollars!” Scott called, ignoring Johnny.
“Three dollars!” Murdoch yelled.
Both his sons turned to him. “You’re wasting your time, Murdoch,” Johnny said. “What are you doing, Murdoch?” Scott scolded.
“Just trying to get a little more money for the church, boys. Not really looking to win anything. Just having fun.”
“Three fifty!” yelled the other man.
“Five dollars!” Scott called in a loud clear voice. Apparently that was enough to stop the bidding (or the burned parts might have been enough, too), because there were no more bids.
“Five dollars going once, five dollars going twice, Pie #15 goes to Scott Lancer for five dollars.”
Scott beamed and looked plenty pleased with himself.
“Congratulations, brother,” Johnny laughed. “You got yourself a bargain pie. Probably made by that woman over there who needs two chairs when she sits!” Johnny enjoyed his laugh until he looked at Margie who was still smiling. But now she was smiling at Scott!
Johnny swore under his breath. Women were so confusing. Now he wasn’t sure which of the two of them had actually won Margie’s pie. And, to make matters worse, Scott was beaming like he knew he had won the lovely Margie for the afternoon. Johnny looked back over at Margie; she was still smiling at Scott. Johnny began to seriously entertain the possibility that he had wildly overpaid for a pie that someone else had made. He was not happy.
The next pie, pie #1, was a lemon pie. Or so the pastor surmised. The bidding was fierce between a couple of the ranchers, aided occasionally by Murdoch. A rancher named Fletcher ended up winning the pie for eight dollars. When Johnny looked back over at Margie, she was smiling at Fletcher! Johnny came to the grudging conclusion that Margie smiled at everyone who won.
Nice smile. But for someone else, apparently. What the hell was Johnny going to do with a $20 peach pie made by God-only-knows-who?
“Eat it,” Scott said.
Startled, Johnny looked at his brother. Not only had Scott probably won the lovely Margie for the afternoon, but now he was a mind reader as well! Scott chuckled. “Sorry, Johnny, it was just easy to follow your train of thought. I think we both know I got the correct pie!”
“I’m going to kill you, Scott,” Johnny growled.
Scott laughed and turned back to the auction. There were a number of pies left on the table, all kinds of pies – cherry, pear, pecan, blackberry and a few unidentifiable ones. Teresa’s French apple pie with the nutmeg sauce was one of several apple pies left. It was the most interesting-looking pie of the lot. But they all looked and smelled delicious.
Teresa’s pie was sold next and the auction continued for another half hour. Finally there was only one pie left. The pastor made a tactical mistake in leaving the worst-looking pie for last. It was brown and not identifiable and it even seemed to be burned around the edges.
And there was only a handful of men who had not yet won a pie.
The pastor said, “Pie #13. It’s the only pie left, fellows! If you haven’t already won a pie and would like the chance to spend the afternoon with one of our lovely ladies, this is your last chance!” He looked at the pie again, searching in vain for something nice he could say about it. It was black and soggy and dismal-looking in general. Definitely unappetizing.
The pastor held it high. “Last chance! What am I bid for pie #13?”
No one said anything.
“It’s your last chance,” the pastor reiterated. “Last chance to enjoy a . . . uh . . . homemade dessert!”
Still no one said anything.
“Fifty cents?” the pastor called. “Start the bidding at fifty cents?” He didn’t mean it to sound that way, but it came out as a pleading question.
“What kind of pie is it?” someone yelled.
The pastor looked at it again. He did not enjoy looking at it. “Well . . . uh . . . well, what difference does it make? It’s a pie made by one of our lovely ladies. And it’s the last pie! Come on, men, let’s get some bidding going here.” He could not keep the pleading out of his voice.
“Five dollars!” Murdoch Lancer called.
– – – – –
There were twenty couples scattered throughout the yard, claiming for themselves the tables that had earlier been used to feed hungry families picnic food. The children and most of the non-couples had gone home, apparently bored by the quiet laughter of the (generally) lovey-dovey couples enjoying pie. George Smithson, the blacksmith, was obviously one of the happy pie-enjoyers; he had in fact correctly figured out which pie his wife Amy had made, and the big smile on his pie-eating face gave a hint as to the secret words she was now whispering in his ear.
Cherry Canberry, perhaps predictably, had made a latticed-crust cherry pie. She was also wearing a low-cut cherry-red dress and holding a lacy red parasol over herself and her winning bidder, Don Janus. Don Janus was enjoying his pie more than anyone had ever seen anyone enjoy pie before, and the more pie he ate, the bigger his smile became. Cherry, you see, was whispering things in his ear as well.
Across the yard, at a small table for two, Johnny Lancer was enjoying his twenty-dollar favorite-flavor peach pie. He had to admit it was worth the twenty dollars because it was absolutely delicious. And it was absolutely delicious because it had been made by someone who had been perfecting the making of pies her whole life: 81-year-old Elda Baker. She grinned roguishly at Johnny and he grinned back. He tried to imagine Margie’s face underneath that gray bun with the gray hat pinned to it. He couldn’t, but he was having fun trying. And the pie was fabulous! Johnny felt like a winner.
The table next to them was occupied by Scott, his mincemeat pie, and eight-year-old Millie Dalrymple. Also Millie’s middle-aged mother, because she was the one who had told Millie how to bake the pie and had overseen the assembly of it. Mrs. Dalrymple felt she had the right to be there and announced herself as a “chaperone,” which was all right with Scott, who couldn’t escape the thought that if someone older or fatter or balder or poorer had won the pie, Millie might have been on her own.
And that scraggly-looking burned pie that was dead last? What kind of pie was it that Murdoch won, anyhow? Murdoch only bid on it because no one else would, but both Johnny and Scott felt he had hit the jackpot because he was now sitting with the exquisite Margie at a table-for-two. Margie was feeding him her pie with her own hand because Murdoch seemed to keep forgetting to eat it. She assumed it was for the same reason that men always acted goofy around her – her beauty. But she was wrong.
Margie had made a raisin pie.
The man who had won Teresa’s painstakingly-made French apple pie with nutmeg sauce had thoughtfully moved their table and two chairs slightly away from the crowd so they could have a little privacy. He was taken with Teresa’s loveliness, and when he didn’t win Cherry’s cherry pie or Margie’s unidentifiable pie, he couldn’t believe his luck in snagging pretty Teresa’s pie. He was grateful to have this time alone with her and he planned on making the most of it.
Teresa, on the other hand, stared daggers all the way across the yard at Don Janus, who obviously wasn’t as excited about her as she’d thought, and apparently wasn’t all that fond of French apple pie with nutmeg sauce because he’d never even bid on her pie. She sighed deeply, and not with pleasure. She looked over the crowd jealously because most of them seemed to be having a good time, even Johnny and Scott. But Teresa was miserable.
She sighed again, aware that her mind had been wandering while her pie-buyer had been talking. She was being rude, she figured. So Teresa gathered her courage and made a concerted effort to listen to Felix Gallegher as he talked about his new bull.
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16 thoughts on “The Pies by goldieasj”
Enjoyed this. Your stories are always so visual it’s easy to picture what’s going on. They all put such a lot of effort in and none of them got what (or who) they wanted. Ironic that Murdoch should end up with a raisin pie. Very amusing.
Thank you for your lovely gracious review. Glad you enjoyed.
This was real fun to read, so much humour. And in the end no one had what they wanted ! Well done.
So glad you enjoyed! Thanks for taking the time to read and review!
It was great .i enjoyed it so
much. Thank for writing it.
I’m so happy you enjoyed it! Thank you for letting me know.
Hey there, goldieasj!
This story was hilarious! The lovely Margie, in my humble opinion, wasn’t too bright, but to each his own… The two most eligible bachelors in the San Joaquin were falling all over her, and she couldn’t have cared less. Love the line: As Johnny thought about it, he could remember gunfights he’d been in that had been less stressful than this auction. Laughed out loud over that one. I did feel bad for Teresa, though- going through all the trouble to find out Don Janus’ favorite pie, then winding up with Felix Gallegher, listening about the bull, was unfair! Loved the name you picked for the brothel owner- Cherry Cranberry! I’ll be reading this one again!
Thank you so much! And it’s always nice for authors to hear the lines that their readers found the most interesting to them. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!
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this was hilarious. I loved it.
Thanks, Charlene. So glad I was able to make you smile!
I appreciate you taking the time to read the story and leave me a comment. Glad you enjoyed!
Cute and fun.
Thanks so much for letting me know you enjoyed the story!
Everyone got their just desserts,great tale!
Just the way life should be, right? Glad you enjoyed!