Great and Sudden Changes
The dream had returned - a performance of his juggling act for an audience he could never see from a dimly lit stage. Oh, but they were there. Out of the darkness, one by one, balls were tossed up for him to juggle. Two balls… three balls… four balls traveled from hand to hand in a circular pattern through the air. Knowing his limit of what he could master would be eventually reached, panic set in and he lost control. Dropped balls bounced back into the abyss and disappointment woke him.
“Can’t say I’ve ever been comfortable givin’ advice until it’s asked for. ‘Specially when it’s concernin’ family.”
“Oh?” Snagging Boots’ bridle from a post hook, Scott aimed a dubious arched brow over his left shoulder at the bristly-chinned hired hand. “Since when, Jelly?”
“Well, maybe since right this minute considerin’ what person of which family it concerns.”
The only concern currently weighing on Scott’s mind were two letters in his coat pocket: one reading like a boring scientific dissertation outlining gravity’s role when forward motion met an immovable object while the other, no doubt, spun romantic views of lovely, independent females riding gallant steeds bareback. Unfortunately, both correspondences had been in his hands instead of Seth Westcott’s far too long due to Murdoch’s task list devouring the hours between sunrises and sunsets. Upon hearing Jelly’s cryptic hint of a less-than-stellar family situation developing, Scott felt his free time set aside to ride into town and find Ben slipping away. “What happened? Did my cousin punch Sam in the nose for a misdiagnosis?”
Earlier from the stables, a buggy bouncing down the lane carrying Green River’s physician had been spotted. Doc Jenkins’ mission: evaluating Lancer’s latest patient and, with any luck, being offered a freshly brewed cup of coffee complimented by warm honey biscuits on the side.
“Wouldn’t put it past the lil’ sharped-tongued sassy-mouthed, know-it-all chatterbox!”
A grin morphing into a smile spread across Scott’s face. The mention of Kinsey brought out the best in Jelly’s descriptive-laden blustering, although he had to admit, the little man’s expressed opinion possessed some validity which couldn’t be argued. A brain itch kept tickling the notion that Murdoch’s statement I requested Sam add extra layers of gauze. Weigh that girl down so she’ll stay put for a week or two carried more truth than jest. If so, the good doctor and Lancer’s patriarch would be administered a small dose of the young lady’s sassy-mouth.
“Well Jellifer, you’ve never hesitated in the past with providing advice on how I should deal with my cousin.”
“And I wouldn’t be hestaitin’ now ‘cept I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout your cousin.”
Only twice in his life Scott could recall viewing his grandfather’s actions being so completely out of character for the man they had briefly kidnapped the semblance of Harlan Garrett.
At the request to tell her a story, nine-year-old Scott sat by his grandmother’s bed, a place she’d not left for several weeks, and shared the latest adventure from Pirates of the Dark Seas with a kiss on the check ending their visit. Later, realizing he’d left out an important part of the tale, the little storyteller returned to the room to find a man he didn’t recognize sobbing uncontrollably. The night Pearlette Garrett died had been the first time Scott could not readily identify his grandfather.
The second confusing experience occurred a few years later. Settled in his bedroom’s bay window seat, Scott tackled end-of-the-day academics. However, the numbers he currently studied were not from the open mathematics book in his lap, but those chalked by a neighborhood child for hopscotch on the cobblestones below. Like most out-of-place items in the Garrett household, this one would soon be rectified by the housekeeper and her scrub brush.
A man, dressed for the day’s dropping temperature, strode down the walk and stopped at the chalked game as if halted by an invisible barrier. With little hesitation, the gent deftly skipped through the hopscotch pattern, turned and repeated the jig. Scott gifted a nod of admiration for the man’s agility. It wasn’t until Harlan Garrett glanced up before entering the brownstone did his grandson recognize him.
And now, while standing in the hacienda’s kitchen, Scott for the third time in his life struggled to recognize the man he called Grandfather.
“Scotty! Excellent. You can assist me with teaching these two lovely ladies the proper meal preparation for a New England palette.”
Scott’s eyes settled on a man whose voice seemed to belong to Harlan Horacio Garrett, but visual references guided the grandson’s comprehension down a different path which ended at a stranger sporting rolled-up sleeves, loosened tie, unbuttoned vest and a dusting of flour.
Fortunately… or perhaps not, depending on one's perspective, recognition’s failure quickly rebounded by successfully identifying the kitchen’s female occupants. Past military experience insisted the Union lieutenant flank and then disarm the closest combatant. “Maria.”
“So, you are here to also teach?”
“No.” Scott gently removed the knife from the cook’s hand, replacing the carver with a wooden spoon. “Only to lessen the severity of any casualties.”
Less threatening but measurably miffed with a dash of disgust stood Teresa, mixing bowl in hand.
Scott directed a frown toward her held concoction. “What is that?”
Two distinct words slid from the corner of the young lady’s pursed lips. “Spotted. Dick.”
Spotted Dick, a British steamed pudding made with suet, dried fruit and often served with custard, had been one of Winnie’s specialties. However, this version…
Closer scrutiny required Scott’s finger to give the bowl’s contents a poke. The unyielding consistency of the mixture brought about a curious query. “Why is this Spotted Dick so ha-”
“Don’t you dare say it.” The directive filtered through Teresa’s clenched teeth.
“It is indeed a mystery, Scotty, why my Spotted Dick became stiff.”
Female eyes closed as if praying for deliverance.
Rubbing hands together, Scott implemented a decision to retreat. “Cooking class concluded. Sir, let’s go for a ride into town.”
Even though a horse, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, never judged what attire his rider wore, the same could not be said for Harlan Garrett when accompanying his legacy in public. The elder’s silent head-to-toe disapproving inspection of his grandson’s dusty appearance was countered with Scott’s finger swiping a layer of flour from the man’s vested shoulder. Both gentlemen headed to their rooms for a clean shirt.
Striding down the hallway, Scott observed Doc Jenkins backing out of Kinsey’s room with the careful consideration usually reserved for an occupied bear cave. The closing of her door was given similar treatment.
“How’s the young lady?”
“Feisty.” The physician’s countenance suggested he’d been subjected to some of what Johnny called Half-pint’s dingo lingo. “Let’s say that’s a good sign of recovery.”
“Right.” A good sign until she bloodies your nose, Sam.
“I recommended she continue with a few more days of bed rest.” Jenkins sniffed the air. “Do I detect the aroma of Maria’s excellent coffee?”
“You do. Make your way to the kitchen where your presence is always welcomed.” Mischief joined the conversation. “I believe Teresa’s whipping up something special.”
Staring at Kinsey’s bedroom door, Scott pondered Sam’s recommendation to the convalescent which inspired a prediction of what word his cousin would settle on. The Good Guesser knocked once for protocol and entered in step with a foot swinging out from under the covers. “Halt.”
“Doctor Jenkins said recommended!”
“Which has been changed to ordered.”
“This situation is becoming unbearable.”
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. Insightful words from Doctor Frankenstein.” Scott held up Kinsey’s current novel. “Stay put. Keep reading.”
Sad brown eyes flashed a bolt of lightning. “You doctors are all in cahoots!”
“Sorry fella. Looks like I’ll be needing the buckboard instead.” Boots’ obvious disappointment at being left behind matched that of Kinsey’s previously viewed mournful expression upon the stubborn acceptance of her progress with healing.
“Ah, much better.”
In contrast with an earlier encounter, this Harlan Garrett entering the stables could be easily recognized. “We’ll be on our way, sir, in a moment.”
“No hurries, my boy. I only ask one favor once we reach civilization.”
Scott’s grin at his grandfather’s continued reference to civilization dissolved upon hearing the favor concerning an envelope in the patriarch’s hand.
“I wish to stop at the telegraph office. I’ve written a letter to Roberta.”
Indeed, tonight the dream will toss another ball to the juggler performing on the dimly lit stage.