What Matters Most (by Betty Sue)

Summary:   Some say silence is golden, but not Daisy.
Category:  Laramie
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  669

“Don’t expect us for dinner tomorrow, Daisy,” Slim had to raise his voice to be heard over the hullabaloo emanating from the living room. “Jess’n I are gonna move the cattle up to the ridge.”

“Alright, I’ll be sure to pack you a lunch,” Daisy promised, then asked, “What time do you plan to leave?”

Slim set his coffee mug in the wash basin as he pushed away from the counter and bent over Daisy’s shoulder. “What?” he queried loudly.

“I say, what time do you plan to leave?” The slight, blond housekeeper repeated as loudly as she could.

“Just a minute.” Slim strode to the doorway leading from the kitchen to the living room and surveyed the scene disapprovingly from his lofty height.

Jess and Mike were rolling about on the floor, knocking into chairs and creating a ruckus loud enough to wake the dead as they tickled each other unmercifully. Occasionally one or the other would find an especially ticklelish place and take advantage of it until the other wrenched himself from his tormentor, laughing until the breath was gone and the muscles were weak. Then he would go after his torturer and do his best to repay in full.

As Slim watched, Jess pulled himself from Mike’s unpitying fingers and lay, spread-eagled on the floor, trying to pant and laugh at the same time. Mike took advantage of his helpless state and launched himself at the older man’s midsection. Jess curled up and caught him midair, turning over and pinning the lad and tickling until the little boy howled for mercy.

Slim shook his head despairingly and waded into the mêlée. Grasping his friend’s shoulder to pull him off the boy, the staid blond rancher suddenly could not resist the temptation, and thrust wiggling fingers under Jess’ arm. The slight cowboy let out an ear splitting whoop and twisted onto his back, pulling Slim down on top of him with a thud that shook the house and rattled the windows and proceeded to return the favor.

Mike chortled with glee and flung himself onto Slim’s back, latching his arms around the big man’s waist and tickling away. The added weight forced Jess’ breath from him with an ‘oof’’, and Slim, under the new barrage, pushed at the nearby wall until he was free of Jess and twisted to deal with the pitiless menace on his back.

Jess lay still for a moment to catch his breath before piling back into the scuffle to attack both his partner and his ward, and received just as good as he got.

In the kitchen, Daisy raised deep blue eyes to the ceiling, just to be sure it was still intact and not about to tumble down as her men folk seemed to do their level best to bring it down about their ears. She smiled as she peered around the doorway in time to see the cause of a mighty thud, as Slim flipped Jess over his head and Mike pounced on Slim, prostrating him from his knees to the floor.

Some minutes later the hearty whoops and window shaking laughter began to fade, and at last the three boys lay flat on the floor, too spent with laughter to do anything more than just lie there and soak in the good, homey feeling of safety, love, and friendship. Soon Daisy appeared, breaking their repose but adding to the homey mood, as she bore bowls of steaming potatoes, piping hot beef, and warm, melt-in-your-mouth rolls to the table.

Her boys quickly rose and lent a willing hand, then seated themselves around the table and bowed for the grace Daisy offered sincerely, adding silent thanks to the loving Father of all for the gift of three hale, hungry boys to make her own, to feed and mend and clean for, and for the family they had made.

***The End***

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