Johnny Madrid 'Drabbles'
was a boy with raven hair, skinny and needy, wanting and desiring, but for
what he did not know. He stood on the ravine's crumbling edge framed by
dust, cactus, and crawly things. The sun was retiring behind his back,
yielding to the full moon's siren song. Sunlight was climbing up the sides
and it caught on the metal on the ledge across from him. Scrambling down,
he jumped the small trickle of water, and raise himself up to grab it –
a treasure, his future.
Praising Dios, he raised high his gift, the skeleton gunfighter's prized gun.
With bare feet dancing across the sand in sheer delight, he kept the rig draped across his skinny shoulder. Through the generosity of the dead and Dios, who had led him to the ravine, he had a gun, a way to take care of himself in an inhospitable and cruel world. He'd walk tall and graceful among others and he would prevail. He vowed to not let the gift be in vain, but to use it to advance his future. He knew where he'd go and what he'd do and no one would stop him on his journey.
Hunger and anger equals willpower and he had plenty of all. Free as a cat, he questioned not his lot in life. He would raise himself and survive. Not afraid of hard work to achieve what he wanted, he'd hide from the rurales and peasants. Stroking his gun gave him peace, but that would not achieve his goal, a focus fueled by love of mother and anger toward father. He practiced early and late and learned to school his face. What he lacked in experience, he would make up in grit and determination. Fast reflexes were his edge.
One day it came, the practice was finished and the butterfly emerged from the cocoon. He knew he was fast and cocky, but he was no fool. Survival was for the fittest and he had more learning to do. So he tamed a wild horse and rode for the border towns where the latest action was exploding. For his charismatic grin, the old lady embroidered his clothes for his peacock tastes. He'd wanted to stand out in the crowd. He stood quiet and at ease in the middle of town facing down his opponent in his first dance.
Before, Johnny had pieced it out, his lack of close kin and meaningful life. He wasn't dumb. He knew gunfighters were all young. He would die without mourners, but not this day. The braggart before him wasn't ready to dance into the limelight and Johnny was. Shots fired and when the smoke cleared, Johnny gazed without emotion at the dying man. Hard cases came up, pounded him on the back, and sung his praise. He had arrived and when asked his name, with tightened lips and narrowed eyes he thought long and hard. “Johnny Madrid's my name.”
Madrid gathered new experiences from one border
town to another, perfecting his techniques, his drawl, and his stance,
learning how to pit one man against another to start the range wars. Studying human nature and male egos, he stayed apart from the
rest of the desperadoes, until he met Day Pardee.
'Ole Day Pardee was a scoundrel without heart and soul, a thinking man, fast of speed. With beatings from father in his past, he had no compulsions to feel for others. Leading with an iron fist and humor, he saw a kindred spirit in the youthful Madrid.
Two lost souls with different thoughts, one a leader, one in training. Johnny was well liked from the followers many and had a high reputation, with a few quirks. He would let his dance partner take the first step, he never left a job unfinished, and he had high regard for women. Then one day the unthinkable happened and a woman lost her life to Day. Madrid went dangerously cold, but never made the dance. He was cold-cocked and spirited away by friend Val. Upon awakening, Val shoved sense into Madrid and he vowed to get Pardee another day.
Val and Johnny rode together for a time. They cemented their friendship as they went and saved each other many times over. At a ranch, during a dispute between two cattle barons over water rights, they stood on a hill overlooking the valley and explored their thoughts on life. Johnny had a cavalier attitude and figured to have fun while he could. Val was older and had searched his soul arriving at a conclusion that this was not the path he wanted. Sadness filled the air when they viewed the fork in the road and each would travel alone.
Val went north and Johnny traveled south, fording the river splitting countries, and entered the land of his mother's. For a time, he enjoyed being a hero to peons and soiled doves bowing as he strutted by. The day came when he viewed the treatment they received by rurales and his soul cried out for justice. Madrid was the man who dropped his price to fight and accepted a bowl of beans and tamales. Through a cowardly man's weakness, he was caught and sentence to a firing squad. Tired and jaded, he welcomed old friend, Death, but was spared.
It was bribery, plain and simple, that the Pinkerton man offered, from an absent father in name only. But a job is a job and Madrid was curious. He cursed the day when his horse fell lame, so he freed the animal, threw his saddle over his shoulder and walked. The stage was coming and he hitched a ride, harassing a dandy for fun. He was headed for Lancer to see the man, the father he didn't remember. It struck him funny when Lancer's ward, Teresa, revealed the dandy was his brother, another ignored son, this time from Boston.
She told the story of a proud old man and the injury he'd received, of the empire he'd built, and the love of his sons. She showed them the ranch called Lancer, as far as the eye could see. It was an oasis in a lifetime of desert, a promise of the best in life, proclaimed by an arch. He had a suspicious nature from a life of dog eat dog, his Madrid gunfighter's mask was tight when he walked behind his brother into the hacienda to face down the stoic and giant of a man named, Murdoch Lancer.
He said, "You drink, don't you?"
I couldn't believe the stupidity of this man.
He wanted to drink with the hired help, before planning the details
of the contract! When I told him only with those that I knew, he accused me of
having my mother's temper. Now
that was striking below the belt. What had she seen in this man?
I watched his interaction with my brother. Brother. Dios sent me a dandy for my hermano. God sure has a big sense of humor. Oh, so Scott has a temper too. So, where did we get our temper?
Murdoch waved a carrot before us, his sons, a tin soldier from Boston and a gunfighter. For 1/3 of the empire, with him having final say, we had to give arms, legs, guts and kill the man that put a bullet in his back. My skills will give us a chance. Strange that I'll go up against Pardee again. I'll better play my part well. Day's men will watch closely. They don't trust their own mothers, but I guess I shouldn't have trusted mine. There was a ring of truth in what Teresa told me about her running away.
I woke up to an audience. Dios, why are they here? Memories return. I know Pardee is dead with Scott's rifle shot, such good shooting. I re-adjust my weaken body with its shooting back pain and hear my labored breathing. They reach to help, but I can't let them. That would mean I would have to trust and Madrid trust no one. Scott and I gave all that Murdoch demanded in the fight to save Lancer and now I wonder what comes next. I've earned my listening money and the Palomino horse I broke. I've the means to leave.
Why do they want me to stay? The job is over, I'm healed, I can take care of myself, and I feel fine. Why can't they believe my lies? I've threaten them and gave them my gunfighter stare. They ignored it. An eastern greenhorn should quake in his boots and Murdoch knows I first came to kill him, so why aren't they afraid? It's crept upon me slowly and I think hard staring out my window. I want their approval as a Lancer. I said, "Let it stand" and signed my birth name on the contract for Lancer.
I'm scared. I keep having these strange impulses - sliding down the stair railings, walking fences around the corrals, taunting a bull, chasing children, chasing a goose, racing to see who jumps in the pond first, fishing with my gun, dunking Scott into the water trough. I'm even looking at the young ladies in a different ways. I feel butterflies in my tummy when I'm around them. They say I'm shy. Me, Madrid? What's happening to me? Could it be that I'm finding Johnny Lancer? Our new handyman, Jelly, thinks so. Strange that I can tell him so much.
a part of me, a man who's had to survive.
He's alive whenever my family is threaten. All it takes is a gun barrel jammed into my old man's neck,
two gunfighters sneaking into the hacienda to take out my father, threats
to my brother, and seeing a young man walking the same path I took in my
I've acquired something I've never had - a family, a home and I've got feelings that have awaken in me. I've left before to protect them and yes, in anger, but it didn't work, so Madrid's here to stay.
He was churning through his food, a habit he never broke, but his ears were open to the gossip he overheard in the cafe. The ladies either didn't care or got carried away. He turned his bright eyes onto me and made a promise. "Murdoch, I could work faster and have time to help them out, or at least until he can walk again. They have no foreman and she's due any day." My son had compassion and I couldn't deny his plea. It was the first of many I agreed to throughout the year. My reward? His smile.
a beer with Johnny at his corner table, we watched as the gunhawk slipped
in. He was gunning for Johnny
Madrid. Bartender Sam
scratched his head and rubbed his temples.
"Don't rightly know a Johnny Madrid. Now we've had a rash of baby boys born in the last year, and
a lot of them been named Johnny. There's
Johnny Smith, Johnny Doe, Johnny Williams, Johnny Mann, Johnny Cunningham,
Johnny Depp, and even a girl, Johnnie Branson."
forget it!" The teen
desperado slammed the batwing doors as he left.
Val snickered. "Been
"Lancer's my name."
been five years. Johnny Lancer entered the gun shop. He later rode home, stopping on the knoll above the hacienda
the home, he journeyed to his bedroom.
Taking the new rig out of his saddle bags, he wrapped it around his
waist and checked the gun's placement. It felt good. Carefully, he cleaned, oiled the skeleton gunfighter's prized
gun and placed it in the back of his top drawer.
Leaving, he sighted Madrid on the bed with ankles crossed, arms behind his head, and hat pulled down.
Madrid's ghost winked. Madrid would relax now.
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