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Lucas Learns a Lesson
Written Donna Hume

Chapter I

They were sitting at the table just staring at each other over coffee. There were tears in her eyes as she stared at the clock; it was after two in the morning. As they heard the rapid pounding of horse hoofs racing to the front door he covered her still soft yet old and wrinkled trembling hands with his weathered leathery hands as he stood and nodded his head indicating he would deal with this problem tonight.

She rose from the table but Lucas stumbled in the door before she was able to withdraw into the other room. “What, waiting up for me again? I’m a grown man, I don’t need my mommy and daddy waiting for me to get home at night” Lucas spewed the words with the venom only a malicious drunkard could do. His father tried to hold him up before he fell on his face but Lucas saw it as an attack and drew his fist back to strike. “Lucas” screamed his mother and his father let him fall to the floor. Lucas lost consciousness and they covered him and left him laying there, vowing to address the situation in the morning.

Chapter II

Pa, Pa, wake up Pa. How come you’re sleeping on the floor Pa? C’mon Pa, I want to play with you; I haven’t seen you in almost forever. Where have you been? Have you been with Ma? Where is Ma? Is she coming back too? Pa, are you listening to me?

Lucas was holding his head, it hurt from drinking too much; it hurt from losing his beloved Margaret. How was he supposed to raise this boy alone? Where were his parents? They knew he was counting on them to help with Mark, where were they?

As he stood up the pain in his head hurt even more and Mark clung to his leg for dear life. Lucas managed to find his way to the coffee pot and get a cup of coffee with Mark still clung to his leg, when he sat at the table, Mark climbed up into his lap.

”Pa, you gonna stay home with me today? When are we gonna go to get Ma? I sure do miss her but I’m happy that you came back to be with me. Gramma and Grampa are nice but they are pretty old and they seem like they are afraid of everything. Hey Pa, are you listening to me?”

Lucas just wanted to put his head in his hands but Mark was not going to let him off that easily, “Yes Mark, I am listening to you. Do you know where your Grandparents are?” “Sure I do Pa, they are out in the barn. Grandpa wants to talk to you. He said you should go out there when you wake up. But how come you were sleeping on the floor?” Mark smiled up at his father. Lucas looked into the gentle eyes of his three-year-old son, “I think your Grandpa is going to tell me that. You wait here for your Grandma” and he sat Mark on the chair and kissed him on the top of his head before he walked out the door, his head hanging low as he walked out to the barn.

Chapter III

As Lucas walked into the barn, Martha stopped talking mid-sentence and said “Father, I should go into the house and tend to the dishes” and as she passed Lucas she would not even look at her son. “Lucas, you and I have much to discuss” and Frank reached up to put his hand on his sons shoulder, directing him to sit on a bale of hay. “Look Pa” Lucas started to say but he was interrupted by his father. “No Lucas, you look. I know it has been hard on you since Margaret died.” Lucas stood up in rage, “You don’t know anything about it old man, you still have your wife and you are at the end of your life. Mine was just beginning and everything was taken away from me, now get out of my way.” Lucas walked around his father, quickly saddling his horse, deliberately not making eye contact with his father and rode out of the barn and back into town, not wasting any energy looking back towards the ranch or anyone who was there..

Frank walked back into the house to find Martha sitting in the rocking chair with Mark on her lap, “I am sure you did nothing to make him ride away, he will be back soon, I promise” she soothed as she tried to keep her tears from dropping on his head. Frank made some excuse as to why he had to ride into town but Martha knew the real reason and she just nodded while she continued to rock Mark. “Is Pa gonna bring Ma home? Is that why he left?” Mark kept crying to her. “He still wants to be my Pa, right?” he would sniffle. Martha had all she could do not to sob right along with him, her heart ached so much. She raised her son to be better than this, she knew he hurt but so did this little boy.

By the time Frank got to town, Lucas already had downed 5 whiskeys and had just ordered another. Frank told the bartender that Lucas had enough and it was time they went home. Lucas turned from the bar, “I thought we already decided that I am old enough to decide for myself what I do,” the words sounded deadly as they came from Lucas’ mouth. Frank walked up to him and asked him if they could sit at a table and talk, looking around the saloon at all of his parents friends; Lucas thought sitting and talking would probably be the best thing to do under the circumstances.

“What is it you want from me Pa?” “For starters, I want you to come home and talk with your mother and me” Frank did not get to finish his sentence before Lucas exploded at him again. “You just don’t get it do you? You have your nice little house, your wife, your barn, your land. You have absolutely no idea what it is like to raise a boy without his mother. What do I have? My wife is dead, DEAD. I have nothing. Now go away and leave me alone.” And Lucas walked back to the bar, refusing to look at his father. Before Frank left he walked up to the bar and touched his son’s arm and spoke very softly but very firmly. “If you plan to come home this evening, drunk and ready to strike me again, do not bother to come home at all. It hurts me very much to say this but it must be said.” Lucas turned his head to look at his father, as though he were talking in some foreign language, “When did I ever try to strike you?” “Last night, just before you passed out on the floor. Why else did you think you awoke there this morning?” Lucas scratched his head, trying to remember but everything was blurry in his mind. “But that is not the whole of the story, Lucas” Frank stood his ground next to Lucas and though he was a foot shorter than his son it did not deter him from his course. “You just inferred that neither your mother nor I know anything about raising a child without his mother but I beg to differ Lucas, your mother and I do know what it is like to raise a boy without his mother, or his father. We have been doing both for the last month while you have been out getting drunk every night ignoring him. Tell me, what did he say to you this morning when he found you laying there on the floor? Was it easy for you to walk away from him again? “ and with that, Frank walked out of the saloon and headed back home.

Chapter IV

Martha had finally soothed Mark into a restless sleep when Frank had returned home. She was still crying at the table and the look in Frank’s eyes gave her little hope of good news. As Frank told her of the events which had taken place in town, she stood to get them each some coffee, knowing they may never see their son again but believing they had to do what was best for Mark. He had been through so much; they would not allow their son to make him endure any more.

Lucas had stopped drinking after his father left. The sting of those words resounding in his brain would not quit. Over and over, they kept replaying in his mind like some horrible nightmare that would not quit. “I beg to differ Lucas, your mother and I do know what it is like to raise a boy without his mother, or his father. We have been doing both for the last month while you have been out getting drunk every night ignoring him. Tell me, what did he say to you this morning when he found you laying there on the floor? Was it easy for you to walk away from him again? “ But it was not a nightmare, he was awake and still the words would not go away, especially that last sentence, “Was it easy for you to walk away from him again?”

Chapter V

All the way home, the words were like arrows in his heart. Not the words of his father any more, the words of his son wanting to know where he had been. Wanting to know if Lucas still loved him. How could he have been so stupid as to not realize that Mark was hurting too? He let Margaret down, he let his parents down. Worse, he let Mark down.

He arrived home just after dark, riding in very quietly and right into the barn. He took care of the horse and then very quietly walked into the house with his head held down. His parents were at the table, Mark was already asleep. “May I sit down?” he asked.

Both his parents invited him to sit and his mother went to pour him a cup of coffee. As she placed the cup down in front of him a teardrop fell upon her hand as he was reaching out to her, “I am so sorry for what I have done to you, both of you.” Martha wrapped him in her arms just as she had done earlier that day with Mark and Frank reached out for his son’s hand. “I was so blinded by my own pain and pity, I couldn’t see past it, not even for my own son.” Frank said nothing, knowing Lucas had more to say but needed to talk in his own time; this had been a long and difficult month.

They talked the entire night with Lucas asking questions about how to tell Mark that his mother would not be coming home and that his father had been stupid. Frank advised against telling Mark the stupid part and that brought a bit of laughter to the mostly somber table. While they talked, they would also read different sections from the Bible, Frank had always taught Lucas that he could always find his way through the Bible, if he would keep his mind open to the answer. Lucas was looking for a lot of answers this night and knew he needed all the help he could get.

Mark was early to rise, just about the same time as the sun and he came bounding out of his room. When he saw his father sitting at the table he screamed with delight and ran to his father’s lap, “Gee Pa, you gonna stay home today? I sure do miss you when you go away. You still love me, right Pa?” Lucas stopped him, “Hold on there for a minute, let me answer some of those questions before you ask me if I’m listening. Yes, I am going to stay home today. I miss you when I’m away too, I just didn’t realize how much.” Then Lucas stood up and popped Mark up into his arms, Mark wrapped his legs around his father’s waist and Lucas said, “I love you more than anything. I will never leave you again.” Both Lucas and Mark kissed each other on the cheek while Frank and Martha stood looking on together at their son and grandson. “Looks like maybe we found some answers after all.”

to be continued.....

The Partnership of Lucas & Mark McCain

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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