Word Count: 700
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…’
In the silence of night within the Lancer hacienda, Johnny paused and stifled a weary yawn. He felt dog-tired and didn’t relish the thought of having to wade through the thick volume held in his hand. How was he supposed to understand what it was all about when some of the vocabulary was already alien and incomprehensible to him? However, a couple of weeks ago he’d made a promise to finish the story, and no matter how long it took, he stubbornly decided to carry on and fulfill his undertaking.
From the light of the oil lamp by his side, page after page was slowly turned. Occasionally he’d shift body weight on his chair, pick up a whiskey glass and take a sip, all the while his eyes never leaving the printed words in front of him.
The downstairs clock chimed midnight and still Johnny forced himself to continue, until eventually in the early hours of morning, not long before the break of dawn, the final paragraph was read.
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’
Heaving an exhausted sigh of relief to have finished, Johnny hugged the treasured first edition tight against his chest. Now he better understood why Scott had pushed him aside and acted as a shield; his selfless action meant he’d taken the killer’s bullet meant for him.
With an inner trembling, Johnny recalled that day in the aftermath of the violent shooting, sitting at his brother’s bedside and watching his life ebb away. The doctor had done his best and removed the slug. However, a shake of the head and a consoling hand on Murdoch’s shoulder once he’d finished was a clear indication he didn’t expect his patient to pull through.
As he’d listened to Scott’s labored breathing, it was hard for Johnny to accept his brother, usually so full of zest and humor, was seemingly within a short while of gasping his last breath. “Why, Scott? Why’d you have to go do such a damn stupid thing for my sake?” he’d whispered with a look of incomprehension etched on his face and tears unashamedly brimming.
Scott was pale, near death, and knew he had little time left. Though weakened from loss of blood and barely conscious, he’d managed to raise a shaky finger, however, and pointed towards the top of the dresser where a single book lay. He painfully croaked out his final wish. “Read…help make sense.”
Waiting until he saw a nod indicating the pledge was made to comply with his simple request, Scott then slowly sank back into the pillow contented, and closed his eyes as though for a final time.
Johnny swallowed hard at the memory while absently smoothing the cover of the self-same book in his hand. Although it had been at times a difficult read, Scott’s action did indeed now make sense, and he could accept a simple fact. He was still alive because his brother loved him enough to think nothing of making the ultimate sacrifice.
The silence in the room suddenly changed when a figure stirred from slumber and his voice, quiet but with noticeable strength returning, spoke. “I was only expecting you to read it if I was dead.”
Johnny turned to stare over towards the bed, the faintest of smiles curving his mouth as he rocked back in his chair. For against all the odds, Scott had pulled through. “Well, I tell you, brother, I’m hoping that ain’t gonna happen for at least another fifty years. Didn’t figure I could wait that long.”