He called it a Haley’s Comet Encounter: witnessing an event which happened so infrequently it gave the impression of only occurring once or twice during a lifetime. Scott’s list of these rare phenomenons included:
Teresa uttering bastard.
Jelly lacking opinions.
Murdoch reading Dickinson.
Johnny minus spurs.
And recently added… Kinsey promoting speechlessness.
Therefore, considering his cousin’s dumbstruck expression which currently created the room’s silence, broken only by the sound of an occasional drip from the boiler’s faucet, Scott estimated Haley’s Comet should be streaking across the heavens momentarily.
Also worthy for consideration - cooling bath water and its eventual effect on a gentleman’s anatomy thus inspiring a clearing of the throat to gather attention regarding the impending situation.
“Kinsey?” A few blinks of the young lady’s brown eyes suggested a mental return to her surroundings. “You will keep quiet about our soon-to-be visitors until I speak to Murdoch. Understood?”
“Yes. Of course.” A sly smile crossed the little matchmaker's face. “Uncle Harlan and Seth’s mother. Travel com-PAAAN-uns. And I know what you’re going to say.”
“Well, wouldn’t it be grand -”
“Best dust off your tarot cards, little one. That’s not even close. No. Not grand. Nothing’s grand. So bounce that idea right out of your noggin. And while you’re at it, bounce your backside off that stool and go to bed.”
As the intruder’s behind slid off her perch, an eyeroll ensued. “Honestly Scott, you have no vision regarding possibilities.”
“Not true.” A thoughtful brow raised. “It has been said revenge is a dish best served cold… much like the present temperature of my bath water due to the shenanigans of a little girl.” A soapy finger pointed to his pondering persona. “So, at this very minute, I’m envisioning a wide range of possibilities on how to thank her.” Scott’s smirk grew as Kinsey’s faltered. Planting the seed of retribution and watering it with a young lady’s vivid imagination always proved fruitful. “Good night, Freckles. Sleep well.”
With chore-stink expunged and Maria’s antidote for skinny devoured, Scott made his way to the Great Room in hopes of finding his father in good spirits. If not, some would be poured.
Seated at his symbol of authority, the carved oak desk, Murdoch’s focus appeared lassoed by the never-ending paperwork an expansive ranch could generate. Scott took note of the reading spectacles balanced on the bridge of his father’s nose. The increasingly necessary glasses were called to duty with the same reluctance as the cane.
The room’s other occupant appeared to be a Green River Gazette sprouting concho-covered legs and wool-socked feet, one with a big toe poked through.
Although firmly denying it, Johnny had become an avid reader of Gossip from Around the Globe - a feature Editor Will Jenkins adopted from some of the more cosmopolitan newspapers. He called it his professional obligation to keep the fair town of Green River well-informed. In Scott’s opinion, cosmopolitan and well-informed would be the last words describing the stories. However, he had to admit reading a political editorial took on a different perspective when his little brother’s sporadic vocal enlightenments were inserted:
A View From Sacramento
The time has come when Don Juan Bidwell who turned renegade to the United States to gut a ranch-
Listen to this, big brother. Man Eaten by Cats. Helluva way to go if you ask me.
-should withdraw himself or be withdrawn by the Dolly Varden State Central Committee from his position as-
Monkeys Fight Duel to the Death. Yeah, I guess that’d work. They got trigger fingers.
-a nominee for the Governorship of California-
Whoa. Octopus Grabs Eight Skinny-Dippin’ Females. Lucky Bastard.
Neither patriarch nor sibling acknowledged the few steps that brought the room's latest arrival to the liquor cabinet. Customarily, father-son discussions would initiate and then be gauged on the necessity of a drink. With hands on hips, Scott scrutinized the various decanters before selecting a lead cut-glass stopper guarding the good stuff. If there was ever a conversation bucking protocol, it was the upcoming one regarding house guests.
Hand and stopper hovered above the decanter as an over-the-shoulder glance showed Murdoch’s concentration had gone no further than his desktop. However, as Scott’s eyes drifted to the overstuffed chair, a folded Green River Gazette revealed a bemused Johnny.
The held cut-glass sentry to the scotch, raising slightly in time with a cocked eyebrow and nod, silently asked the little brother - care for a drink? An imaginary tip of the hat, accompanied by a slow Cheshire Cat smile, replied why not.
Amber nectar from the gods splashed into three snifters. With two drinks in hand, Scott’s feet carried him toward the closest to serve - Johnny. As an arm extended bearing refreshment, a rumbling voice echoed down from Mt. Olympus.
“If a man’s private stock is being poured without his permission, he should at least be served first.”
Brothers’ chins dipped as grins were exchanged. Their father’s eyes, never leaving the tasks before him thus appearing unaware of his surroundings, gave the impression someone else had spoken the opinion. Only the familiar voice of Zeus proved otherwise. A wag from Johnny’s thumb signaled he’d fetch his own drink.
With few additional strides taken, Scott brought a snifter to reside near the outskirts of the desk’s paper pasture before settling in a nearby chair that matched his brother’s. Chances were served first also included the first sip. Patience stepped in as the waiting game began.
Much like mashing a political editorial with globe gossip, Murdoch’s random comments spurred by whatever correspondence briefly held his attention created a disjointed mumbling monolog.
“The association should’ve never handed the books over to Stuart. Man doesn’t know a dime from a plug nickel… Methodist women requesting pie donations again for their charity ball… Old George at the feed mill needs to keep his damn foot off the grain scale…”
If it wasn’t for the fact his father was intentionally stalling, Scott would’ve found the situation more amusing. Finally, after sharing his thoughts on the need for a second undertaker in town, Murdoch settled back and pointed to his drink. “Should I partake now or later.”
“Grandfather is arriving at the end of the month for an extended holiday.”
Now or later. Scott decided it didn’t really matter.