By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 16

Things went along normally the next week until Sunday morning came again.  Lazarus and Lucas were going to the ship for the arrival of Captain Jones for his weekly checkup and for him to lay before the Kryscellians.  Lucas already told them about the Captain Long and Captain Jones conceiving a bairn and they were all excited to check things out for Arlen and the young fetus.  Lazarus and Lucas were in great spirits as they waited for him.  Lazarus allowed the boys and Ox to join them.

When Arlen came through the portal he was alone.  He’d left Bryce to take care of the Raven and see to more collections.  Right away Lazarus could tell something was wrong.  Arlen looked terrible.  His face was drawn and there were rings under his eyes.  His skin had a lackluster pallor to it.  He wasn’t moving as sprightly as before.  Lazarus and the boys greeted him, but he didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm.  

“My, God, brother, what’s wrong?  You look terrible.  What’s going on?”

“Aww, h’it ain’t nothing.  I think I’m having a little harder time adjusting to being pregnant this time,— ‘at’s all.  Thank God you boys mixed me up a gallon of yore’ special milk or I wouldn’t a’ made it through the week; however, I had such a craving for it I drank it in the first three days.  I think I might need two gallons per week.  I was doing all right until I ran out of milk.  Then all hell broke loose.  I been sicker’n a dog for the last few days.  I’m sure it ain’t nothing.  I’ll adjust soon enough.”

“Look, I ain’t even gonna’ have Cable and the med bots run no test until after you lay before the Kryscellians.  They should be able to tell us what’s going on.  Can we get you anything beforehand?”  Lazarus asked concerned.

“Yeah,— gimme’ a few minutes to lay down with Garron and have some of his milk.  I’m sure it will make me feel better.  I ain’t been able to keep nothing on my stomach in two days.  I’m s’damn hungry I could eat a cow.”

The boys excused themselves because they knew Lazarus and Ox would be busy with Captain Jones.  They wished him well and returned to the ranch.  Lazarus took Arlen and Ox to Ox’s stateroom on the ship and had Cable follow with an anti-grav Gruney.  Arlen lay next to Ox and sucked his warm, flavorful milk directly from his tit.  Ox was in heaven and couldn’t help but sing to his Godfather.  It was as natural as a big cat purring because he was comfortable and happy.  After a while, Arlen seemed to be feeling better and some of his color returned to his cheeks.  He was able to get up and lay on the Gurney Cable provided for him.  Cable helped Arlen off with his clothes and had him lay naked on the Gruney.  He positioned him before the case which contained the Kryscells, and the men left him alone.  He would signal them when he was finished.

He lay exposed to the Kryscellians for a little over an hour and then notified Lazarus, Ox and Cable he was ready to be removed from the Gurney.  Cable helped him dress.  All the while, Arlen didn’t say anything, but he had a strange grin on his face.  Lazarus was about to chew nails he was so concerned for his mate.  His mind ran through the worse case scenarios imaginable, but what he was to find out was nowhere near what he conjured up.

Arlen suggested they go to the galley for coffee.  Lazarus agreed and the three of them went.  Arlen decided to have hot tea instead of coffee and Cable got it for him.  David and Jonathan joined them and were busy getting some treats ready for the men.  Lazarus couldn’t wait any longer.

“Did the Kryscells have an answer?”

“Yes, indeed, they’re very good.  Told me exactly what’s wrong with me.”

“My, God, what is it, bubba?  Can they help?”

Arlen kept smiling.

“Ain’t a thing wrong with me, but we got us a problem.  There was a reason for going through my milk in three days, feeling washed out and sicker than usual.”

“You’re being obtuse, Arlen.  ‘At ain’t like you.  Now, tell us afore I turn you over ma’ knee.” demanded Lazarus with concern.  Arlen laughed at his mate.

“Well, I ain’t never heard of it happening before, but something happened with Ox’s proto-embryo, — it split in two.”

“You mean,— ?”

“E’aup, I’m carrying twins.”

“Hoe-lee she-it!  I ain’t never heard of that happening before,— have you, Son?” Lazarus asked his Godson.

<< Only in Volgoron matings, Dad.  Never before in Volgoron, human mating, and never with a proto-embryo.  It may be something for the medical records.  You may want to get in touch with the fleet docs and ask their opinion.  Can Dad Arlen give birth to twins?  Is he gonna’ be able to carry both to term?  >> asked Ox.

“I don’t know, Son.  It’s something we gotta’ consider.  Do you think you can have both or should we consider aborting one?”

“Are you kidding?  You’ll have to kill me before you abort one a’ them boys.  ‘At’s jes’ plumb crazy talk, Lazarus!  I won’t hear of it!  The Kryscellians gave me a ninety percent chance of having both with no complications.  I’ll take them odds; however, they reminded me of new medical techniques what can be downloaded into our med base for birth complications.  I might not even have to go through giving birth.  They can be beamed out of me and their placenta remove manually.  I’d be more worried whether Garron can handle twins in his pouch.”  

<< I can, with no problem.  I’ll stretch, Dad Arlen.  If you’re worried about me, I know someone who can carry them.  >>  Ox projected to his Godfathers.

“Strom?” Lazarus asked Ox.

<< Yes, Sir.  He’s a good deal bigger’n me.  He wouldn’t have no problem a’ tall.  I could help feed. >>

“As many young’uns as we’re gonna’ have around here, it might not be a bad idea to ask his help, Son.”

“Well, then, we ain’t got us no problem.  Let’s jes’ make sure them boys make me up two gallons of their special milk.  Since I had the raw lummox milk them boys settle right down.  I feel fine now.  I could eat something.  The Kryscellians said they’re both fine and have equally strong heartbeats.  So, congratulations, Dad.  I don’t know how you done it, but you got identical twins on the way.  I got me an idea it was that hot fuck you threw into me the evening after I conceived with Garron.  I think it was too much genetic information for one embryo, so it decided to split in two.”

“Look, I only wanted one kid, now you tell me you’re gonna’ drop a litter?” Lazarus laughed.  “What the hell,— the more the merrier.  Cheaper by the dozen,— right, cowboy?”  

Arlen laughed at his mate and they shook hands.  Ox had a big smile on his face.

“Dayamn!  Now I gotta’ think up another name.  I never liked twins what names rhymed or sounded alike.” Lazarus complained.

“Since I’m their other parent, don’t I rate billing.  I was hoping they might be called ‘Long-Jones.’” complained Arlen.

“I ain’t got no problem with that.  It has a better ring to it than either name by itself.  Sort of reminds me of them snooty British names.  I jes’ had an idea for another name, ‘Arlen Beaureguard Long-Jones.’”

“Two strong Southern names.  I like it.  Angus and Arlen,— Jubal and Bo.  Sounds like they might fit the two ‘Long-Jones’ boys jes’ fine.” Arlen allowed.

The men at the ranch were amazed to hear the news Arlen was going to have twins.  Waco was beside himself with the prospects of another little brother.  He and Lucas were high-fiving each other.

Arlen stayed around for dinner and the Sunday afternoon football game.  He really seemed to be feeling better and enjoyed himself.  He and Lazarus managed to sneak off to the ship by themselves a little early to say ‘goodbye.’  This time Arlen carried with him two gallons of cow fortified with lummox milk.  It was easier for the boys and a bit more sanitary when Ida Mae managed to get them a breast pump to milk their lummox.  They made sure Captain Jones’ milk was considerably heavier fortified than the milk they provided Mary Gibbons and Elsie Jessup.  The Kryscellians told them the percentage should be upped for Arlen’s boys to at least twenty-five percent.  Arlen never had another problem after that.    

* * * * * * *

Time begin to fly by.  Ping estimated the time of delivery of all four boys would be approximately within weeks of each other; however, after Arlen's boys were transferred to a Volgoron, no matter how they were born, would have to remain another four to five months in his pouch.  

Strange things began to happen between the four babies.  Mary and Elsie’s boys were conversing with each other and both were connected to the boys Arlen was carrying.  It seems the Kryscellians had a great influence on the mental development of the fetuses and were helping them learn while they were developing.  They were making minor corrections weekly to the four boys.

Arlen’s boys regularly sent messages to their father and anyone else who would listen about their situation and what they wanted to be fed.  They were fussy and demanding.  They had strong likes and dislikes about certain foods.  Lummox milk was a must and they would get grumpy if Arlen was late consuming it.  He told Bryce more than once how pleasant he was as a wee bairn compared to the two he was carrying.  Arlen told Bryce he never gave him a minute’s trouble and was an easy birth for him.  He expressed his concerns these two boys might not be so easy.  He was going to try to have them naturally for their sake as well as his, but he wanted to be on the Bandersnatch in case there were complications.

Mary didn’t want to go to her regular doctor in the small town, but she made a monthly trip to keep up appearances.  Elsie certainly didn’t care to go to the vet doctor for her baby.  Even though he was one of the best, she trusted Lazarus and his medical staff more.  Besides, Elsie and her mistress giggled like school girls and confided in each other they got the extra added benefit of getting to look at Captain Long’s fine looking, naked androids every time they visited the ship.  Most of the time Lazarus wasn’t on the ship when they were scheduled for a checkup and a visit with the Kryscellians; however, Cable, David and Jonathan treated them with the utmost courtesy and respect.  Neither woman ever felt intimidated or embarrassed by one of them.  There was just something comforting about being examined by a fine looking, naked medical staff.  The androids went out of their way to see to the women’s comfort.

* * * * * * *

Christmas came and everyone was busy with the holiday.  It was a big event around the ranch.  The Goodnight family gathered at Charlie’s ranch.  Not only was it his turn to have Christmas, it was the old family homestead and had a lot of memories for the older brothers.  There were no excuses for not attending the family Christmas function for the younger brothers other than severe illness or a death in the family.  Besides, things seemed to be happening at Charlie’s ranch that were unusual.  Jessie, Dermont and their families found them interesting in a detached sort of way; however, they made absolutely no connection between the strange stories and Charlie’s new ramrod, Lazarus Long.  They found him pleasant and charming enough but somewhat of a bumpkin.  Lazarus was pleased with that description.

Charlie and Angus went all out for Christmas and no expense was spared to ensure everyone had a good time.  Most of the folks Charlie and Angus had come to think of as their extended family were there, including the sheriff and his family.  Charlie suggested Lazarus invite Captain Jones and their boy Bryce for a couple of days.  Arlen and Bryce were thrilled to be included and gratefully accepted.  Everyone in the know were wowed to find out Arlen was carrying twins.  There was all sorts of laughter, back slapping and raucous jokes that went over the heads of those folks who didn’t understand the situation.

Lazarus tried to get Lucas to tell him what he might want for Christmas, but he insisted he had everything he needed.  Since a slave wasn’t suppose to own anything, he had no need for much other than his clothes and what books he could borrow to read.  Lazarus was at a loss as to what to get him.  The kid had become more than just a slave to him and the rest of the family.  He was quickly becoming one of the most important members of their extended family.  Certainly Arlen and Bryce were taken with him and each brought him gifts.  Cotton and Hoot were in love with the boy and told Lazarus they would train him for free as a courtesy to him and the boy.

After much discussion with Charlie, Ida Mae, Hank, and a few other folks, it was Waco who came up with the best idea for a present for him.  He suggested Lazarus get Lucas his own pony to care for.  It would be something Waco’s slaves had for themselves and would give him an even greater sense of belonging.  It would provide him with a responsibility other than having Lazarus become his complete focus in life.  It made sense to Lazarus, and he liked the idea a lot.  He bought a handsome, well trained, pinto gelding roping pony from Cotton Daniels.  Cotton and Hoot brought the pony with them Christmas day.  Lucas was thrilled.  He was just beginning to learn to ride and to have his own pony was wonderful.  The sheriff surprised everyone when he brought Lucas a junior saddle one of his boys had outgrown.  It was just sitting in his tack room gathering dust.  Lucas was overwrought with emotion.  He couldn’t thank Sheriff Lassiter enough.  

Christmas day was a wonderful time for everyone.  It seemed like every gathering of their extended family bonded them together into a single purpose.  They weren’t sure what the future would bring, but they had hope since Lazarus came among them.  They didn’t look to him to solve all their problems, but began to form stronger ties with each other with the idea, if they worked together and supported each other, they would survive no matter what.

* * * * * * *

Lots of things were happening around the ranch during the time the babes were gestating.  Waco’s pony, Ranger, was growing into a fine looking stallion and had become the pet of the ranch.  Most of the time he was with Waco, Ox and the boys because he could communicate with them.  He just felt like he was one of the boys and joined in most of their activities.  He was a regular at the Sunday afternoon football games and got as excited as the men watching.  The boys would all come to him and pet him for good luck.  He just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to go into the houses with them.  Waco had to sit down and explain to him how much smaller spaces they were than a barn, and they weren’t built to accommodate horses, especially one as large as Ranger.  

Ranger was growing in intelligence as well as size and strength.  When he reached his full growth he was going to be a big stallion.  He allowed the boys to climb all over him, and he loved to have them show him attention when they fed and cared for him.  Sometimes they would ride their ponies over to Ranger Gibbon’s ranch instead of using the gate to deliver their milk and Waco would ride Ranger bareback.  Ranger was constantly worried Waco might fall off and hurt himself so he was extra careful every step he took so he wouldn’t unbalance Waco.  They formed a wonderful, loving and trusting friendship.  Ranger still missed his mother, but he talked less and less about her as time went on.  He was slowly transferring his love to his new friends.

He grew to love Ox as much as the boys and when he got big enough had no problem having Ox on his back.  Most of the time Ox would run along side the ponies, but once in a while, if Ranger offered, he would climb on his back and accept a ride.  Ox was most grateful and made Ranger feel like a hero every time he was given a ride.  Waco told the Kryscellians about his wonderful horse and companion, and showed them mental images of Ranger.  They were enthralled.  They’d never seen or heard of such large magnificent creatures.  They expressed a desire to see one for themselves.

Waco, JR and his slaves were each appearing before the Kryscellians weekly.  Naturally, the Kryscells were tweaking each boy to have his body and his brain perform at its peak performance.  They were like a crack pit crew for the five boys and the unborn infants.  The boys were improving in their school work by leaps and bounds until the four of them were at the head of their classes in all subjects.  A couple of their teachers thought they might be cheating, but the others knew them too well and vowed the boys were just experiencing an intelligence growth spurt they’d witnessed in other serious students.  They never gave any of their teachers any problems and were always polite and well mannered in class.

* * * * * * *

When Ida Mae Wallace first came to the ranch to work as a cook and housekeeper for the Goodnights, she was a young woman approaching middle age who had been out into the world just long enough to get battered around a bit by a couple of unscrupulous men.  They took her for everything she had and left her high and dry.  She was in a terrible bind when she applied at the ranch for a job.  She was a large boned woman, plain but not unattractive.  She came from a poor family and was happy to find such a good job since she was untried as a domestic and had few references; however, Anne Goodnight was a shrewd judge of character, and she was rarely wrong.  Ida Mae felt fortunate the Goodnights gave her a chance.  Hank Morgan didn’t come into her life for another three years after she came to work at the ranch.

During that time, she worked hard and kept to herself.  She grew terribly lonely until one day she discovered a mature male dog who, by the looks of it, had been terribly abused.  It was caught in a mesquite thicket a good ways away from her small cottage.  She swore she could hear whimpering and the  low wailing sound of a dog in pain.  She began to look for the animal who was making the awful, doleful sound.  She wasn’t concerned it might be a coyote, because it didn’t make the same kinds of sounds.

It took her one whole afternoon in the heat of the West Texas sun to find the poor animal.  It was a handsome, mature male Border Collie.  Ida was immediately taken by its soulful blue eyes.  She had never seen a dog with blue eyes before.  By the looks of it, someone mistreated it, drove it to the most remote area they could find and dumped it to fend for itself.  Domestic animals abandoned to the wilds never last long.  The coyotes gang up on them and kill them if they don’t starve to death or die from the heat and lack of water.

Its thick coat was caught in the underbrush and it couldn’t get free.  When it heard Ida coming, then caught sight of her, it panicked and tried to free itself to run away.  Its frantic actions only caused it to get more tangled.  It was hurt and bleeding in a couple of places from the mesquite thorns.  It looked at Ida Mae with the greatest fear and desperation in its eyes.  It was so hurt and frightened it began to wail.  The sounds of the poor dog stabbed at Ida’s heart like a knife.  She tried to talk gently to the animal to soothe it, but Ida decided, if she was going to help it, she had to offer it something to gain its trust.

She left and returned the half mile or so back to her cottage.  She found a clean quart Mason jar and a small bowl.  She quickly filled the jar with clean fresh water and looked into her cabinet for something to feed the animal.  She imagined it was starving.  Ida didn’t have anything but a tin of Scrapple her mom gave her when she first moved into the cottage.  She didn’t know if it was still good.  She quickly opened it and smelled it.  It didn’t seem to have gone bad.  Ida got a small stainless steel mixing bowl and added it to her things to take back with her.  She found her garden gloves and pruning shears she used to help Mrs. Goodnight cut back her roses every fall.  She added those to her small basket of things.

Ida Mae set out and found the animal still caught in the mesquite bush.  She sat near the dog, but he moved as far away from her as he could.  He couldn’t move too far because he was bound fast by the bush.  She removed the stainless mixing bowl and poured fresh water into it from the jar she brought along.  She poured it slowly so the dog could see what it was.  She set the bowl on the ground and slowly pushed it toward him.  She could tell it was dehydrated and began to encourage it by speaking softly.

He wasn’t having any of it at first, but the thought of a cool drink of water overcame its fear and he finally reached over and began to drink.  She let him drink for a while then pulled the bowl back.  She was worried it might try to drink too much too quickly and become sick.  Next she got out the Scrapple, put about half of it into the other bowl and pushed it toward the dog.  He gratefully accepted it, wolfed it down, then looked at her as if to ask if she possibly had more.  She smiled, told him she did, and he was welcome to it.  She put the rest of the tin of Scrapple into the dish and the dog ate it just as fast.  She offered him more water, and he took a few more drinks.

Ida took out her gloves and put them on and got our her pruning shears.  She slowly began to cut the dog out of the mesquite brambles.  As she was cutting she thought the poor dog must have been starving to death.  It ate the whole tin of Scrapple.  She thought that would make a good name for him,— ‘Scrapple.’  It took her a couple of hours to slowly and meticulously cut the dog from his bindings.  She talked gently to him the whole time.  She could tell he was intelligent.  When she got to the pieces causing him the most pain and discomfort, he seemed to understand she was trying to help him.  Once she was done, he turned to Ida and licked her hand in thanks.  She tried to pet him, but he was still wary and backed away.

She put her things away in her basket and stood.  The dog was free now, shot past her, and it ran off into the thicket.  For all her hard work she didn’t get to offer it a place to stay and recoup.  She tried to call to it to follow her to no avail.  She reckoned he was long gone by now.  Ida didn’t even know if the Goodnights would allow her to have a dog anyway.  She wearily made her way back to her house in the oppressive heat.  When she got to the back porch she had a thought, left the stainless steel bowl by the steps and poured the rest of the water into it.

She cleaned up and went about her duties.  She was late getting to the front house, but she felt Mrs. Goodnight would understand.  When she told Mrs. Goodnight about the dog, Anne warned Ida Mae to be careful because the dog might have rabies.  Ida promised she would be careful, but expressed doubt she’d ever see the animal again.  Anne Goodnight laughed.  She knew animals had a way of knowing who would be good to them and she knew there would be no one on the planet who would be better to him than her Ida Mae Wallace.  Anne thought to herself, maybe that’s what Ida Mae needed was a companion.  She said a prayer for the dog and for Ida.

Ida Mae cleaned up the kitchen after fixing supper for Mr. and Mrs. Goodnight and returned to her cottage.  She noticed the water was gone from the mixing bowl.  She smiled to herself.  She saved some table scraps from supper just in case.  She got the other bowl, left the scraps in it, and refilled the water dish.  She went back into the house but came back out later to check.  Sure enough, the scraps were gone and more of the water was missing.  She was thrilled.  Maybe there was a chance she could befriend the dog.   

Slowly but surely, Ida Mae won the dog’s heart.  It started waiting for her to return from the big house, because it knew she would always have something for him.  Ida decided she wasn’t going to push him.  She would let him come to her.  Charlie and his wife were following Ida’s involvement with the dog.  Charlie told her he’d seen it several times and allowed if it was cleaned up it might be a right handsome dog.  He was sure it was living under Ida Mae’s back porch.

All through the months of July and August the dog got more used to Ida Mae coming and going.  He still ran from Charlie or any male who tried to approach him and would hightail it to his safe hiding place under the porch; however, he would sit within reach of Ida Mae while she was sewing on the back steps, but he still wouldn’t let her pet him.  She bode her time.  Ida knew eventually he would come around.

It was the second week in September, and it was beginning to get cold.  Ida asked Charlie if she could have a couple of handfuls of hay to put under her porch for ‘Scrapple.’  Charlie smiled.  He knew it was getting serious when Ida Mae named him, but he refused to call the dog ‘Scrapple.’  He just referred to him as ‘Scraps.’  Finally, Ida Mae started calling him ‘Scraps.’  She thought to herself, ‘After all, what is ‘Scrapple’ but scraps of pork offal and cornmeal mush with seasonings.

One night there came one hell of a West Texas thunderstorm.  It was one of the worst storms anyone could remember.  The heavens opened up and poured forth its bounty while it gave a fireworks show not to be rivaled.  Ida Mae was concerned for Scraps and went to her back door.  There he was, scratching on the lower wooden part of the screen door and whining softly.

She opened the door and let him onto the porch.  He was cold and soaked to the bone.  She went to get a towel and was going to get him an old blanket to lay on.  Scraps had other ideas, slipped past her into her cozy house and headed straight for the fireplace.  She laughed and closed the door.  Ida got an old towel and went to him.  She sat by him and slowly began to dry him. That’s all it took.  Scraps was all over his benefactor with grateful thanks.  He couldn’t lick her enough he was so happy to be out of the storm in a warm, dry place and sharing it with someone he had come to love and trust.

It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that lasted many years.  Scraps never left Ida Mae’s side after that.  He would follow her everywhere she went and would protect her with his life if need be.  He would sit outside the door to the big house while Ida was there.  She started letting him onto the back porch in colder weather and finally he worked his way onto a small pile of rags next to the backdoor.  He never strayed from his place the whole time she was in the house unless she called to him.

He even became tolerant of Charlie and Mrs. Goodnight.  They didn’t try to pet him, but always had a good word to say to him.  He seemed to readily accept Mrs. Goodnight’s young boy.  Waco was just a toddler.  He was barely walking and Scraps took it upon himself to herd Waco where he should go.  He also acted like training wheels for a not too sure footed little boy.  As he learned to walk, Waco was always putting a hand out to balance himself with Scraps.  Waco would use Scraps to get on his feet.  He would grab a handful of fur and pull himself up.  Ida and Anne knew it had to be uncomfortable for the dog, but he never made a move to correct Waco.  He knew the discomfort would be short lived when Waco was on his feet.
One warm afternoon in late September, Ida Mae and Anne Goodnight were in her backyard trimming back the roses and Waco was playing in the lush St. Augustine grass they kept watered all summer.  The women didn’t worry much about Waco because Scraps was always right there with him herding him away from the flowerbeds and anything Scraps thought might hurt him.

The women took a small break.  Mrs. Goodnight stood to stretch her legs and Ida Mae joined her.  They were looking at Waco playing in the deep grass.  Scraps was about ten feet away from him laying down watching him closely when all of a sudden he jumped up and ran at Waco as fast and hard as he could.  He threw all his body weight in to what looked like a dog version of a halfback doing a full body block on a lineman, knocking Waco up and backwards about three feet.  Ida and Mrs. G. were stunned and started running to scold Scraps.  Waco was screaming and crying at the top of his lungs.  The women got almost to Waco and stopped dead in their tracks when they heard a rattling sound.  They watched Scraps pick up, what looked like a large piece of rope, and toss it high into the air.  Anne Goodnight screamed.


Ida Mae ran to Waco, scooped him up in her arms and took him to his mother.  In the meantime, Scraps caught the snake in his mouth behind its head before it touched the ground and snapped its neck.  He let it go and it began to writhe about in its death throws.  Ida Mae called to Scraps, and he ran to her open arms.  After she petted him, told him what a good boy he was and called him a hero, Anne told Ida to check him for bites.  Sure enough, the snake bit Scraps on his lip and right paw before Scraps could kill him.  Ida Mae was beside herself with fear and grief.  She was sure she was going to lose her wonderful companion she had come to love in such a short time.

“Don’t worry, Ida, we can save him!” said Anne Goodnight, “Run to the kitchen and bring back that big bowl of fresh butter we churned this morning.”

Ida didn’t question her mistress, she ran as fast as she could and brought  back the butter.

“Set it in front of Scraps.  Let him eat all he wants.  He’s gonna’ git powerful sick, but as long as he has the butter on his stomach, the poison won’t kill him.  It’s an old trick my grandmother taught me on the ranch.  The dogs and cats were all the time getting bit by rattlesnakes.  She kept a big bowl of fresh churned butter in the cooler at all times.  The bitten animal would eat it and several hours later puke up the most awful green bile you ever saw.  It was the snake’s venom.  Scraps will be all right but stay with him and after he throws up offer him more butter.  It may take him several times, but he’ll live.”

Ida almost couldn’t believe what Anne was telling her.  Anne Goodnight petted Scraps and urged him to eat all the butter he could.  He ate a bait of it and finally couldn’t eat anymore.  Then he began to get really sick and lose his balance.  About that time, Charlie came up to see what all the screaming and hollering was about.  He was wowed when the women told him Scraps saved his son’s life.  Charlie walked over and took a look at the rattler and whistled.

“Darn big snake.” allowed Charlie, “He probably had a lot of venom in him.  You think we should take Scraps to the vet?”

“No need, Darlin.’” assured Anne,  “That’s why we got the butter out here.  He ate a bunch of it.  It’ll do the trick.”  Charlie shrugged.  He’d never heard of such a thing.

After about an hour, Scraps tried to stand but couldn’t.  Ida Mae helped him, and he began to puke.  Mrs. G. was right.  All the butter Scraps ate came back up, but it was a bilious green color and stank.  When Scraps couldn’t seem to puke anymore, Charlie began to wipe his face with a warm wet rag he got in the house.  Anne offered Scraps more butter and urged him to eat.  The dog seemed to realize what the butter was for and ate another big helping.  They repeated the routine with him four times until the last time he vomited, it came up almost clear butter.
“He’ll be all right now, Ida.”  Anne Goodnight reassured her, “Just take him home, keep him warm and let him eat more of the butter until he can keep it down.  I don’t think he’ll throw up again.  He’s gonna’ be sick for several days.  He won’t be able to follow you around for a while so when you leave him make sure you leave a door open so he can get out to do his business.”

Scraps didn’t throw up again and ate the last of the butter as a treat.  For weeks, Scraps was the hero of the ranch.  Anne Goodnight was fully convinced Scraps knew he would probably be killed by the snake, but was ready to give up his life for Waco’s.  Many humans aren’t that brave or selfless.

Scraps proved Mrs. G. wrong.  He followed Ida Mae to the big house the next day, but he had to take it real slow.  He’d walk three or four steps, stop and lean against Ida’s leg.  Ida Mae was patient with him.  She was right there by his side gently urging him on until he could make it to the back steps.  Charlie came out and lifted him to the porch and helped him get about that day.  After that he was fine.

When Anne Goodnight lay dying and Ida Mae was in the big house working and taking care of her, Scraps was right by Anne’s bed the whole time.  If Anne needed anything, all she had to do was tell Scraps to get Ida Mae for her, and he was away to let his mistress know she was needed.

When Anne Goodnight passed away, Scraps was as devastated as the rest of the family.  When the family went to the graveyard to lay her to rest, Snaps tried to jump into the limo Ida Mae, Charlie and Waco were in.  Ida Mae told him ‘no’ he couldn’t go, but Charlie told her to let him.  He had become a member of their family and deserved to go along.

At the cemetery, after all the songs were sung, the scriptures read, all the prayers said and the casket lowered into the grave, everyone began to leave to return to their cars.  Only the immediate family remained.  They left and it was only Charlie, Ida Mae and Waco.  They turned to leave and Ida called to Scraps to come with them, but he refused.  He kept standing by the grave looking down at the casket and then back to Charlie with a questioning look like he couldn’t leave Anne behind.  The look in his eyes was asking Charlie why they were leaving Mistress Anne in this hole?  He knew it wasn’t right.  He was going to stay with Mistress Anne.

Charlie hadn’t shed a tear during the funeral and the trip to the family cemetery.  He wanted to be strong for his family.  Cowboys don’t show a lot of emotion, and he was a cowboy.  It was his duty to be the stalwart man, a paragon of strength for those he loved even though his gut churned and his heart felt like a lead weight inside his chest.  He sometimes wondered if he could take his next breath.   

He stood and looked back at Scraps and in that moment he knew he would have to be the one to go to the animal and explain why they must leave their beloved family member behind.  Charlie would have to tell the faithful animal he must come with them.  Scraps was a part of their family, and they couldn’t do without him.  Charlie walked over to Scraps and knelt down.  He took him into his arms and couldn’t contain the flow of his tears any more.  He unloaded all his sorrow and grief onto Scraps who seemed to sense why Charlie was so sad.  He tried to lick away Charlie’s tears as if to say he understood, and he felt the same way.

When Charlie got himself together enough to speak, he patiently explained to Scraps why he must come with him.  He didn’t talk to Scraps like he was an animal, but like he was an old friend.  It was like Charlie knew Scraps would understand every word he was telling him.  They must leave this place, and leave Mistress Anne behind with their sorrow.  Charlie stood and took Scraps by his collar and gently led him away.  Every few feet, Scraps would stop, turn and look back to the grave, but he allowed Charlie to take him to the Limo.  He jumped inside when Ida Mae called to him.

When JR came along there was some concern Scraps might be jealous of him.  Ida Mae knew better.  She knew her buddy too well.  Scraps adopted JR as quickly as he did Waco and became his shepherd.  Ida Mae never worried about JR when Scraps was on duty, and that was all the time.

Now, Scraps was getting older and Ida Mae, JR, Hank, Charlie and Waco couldn’t bear to see him deteriorate.  Naturally, Charlie and Waco had a deep love for the old dog.  You couldn’t be around him and Ida and not know there was something special between them and the family she loved.  She put it off, and put it off, but finally, after hearing the wonders of Captain Long’s ship and the miracles he seemed to be accomplishing, she thought she would ask his help.  One evening before supper, Ida asked if she could have a word with him in private after he finished his meal.  

“Shore,’ Ida Mae,— be happy to.  Where shall I meet you?”

“The boys said they’d do the dishes for me this evening.  If you’d be so kind as to stop by my cottage, I’d be most grateful, Sir.”

“I’ll be looking forward to it.” Lazarus said with all his considerable charm.

Lazarus was quiet during supper.  He reckoned Hank and JR knew Ida Mae asked to talk with him.  Even Charlie intimated he knew she asked.

“Do you think there’s anything you can to do for the old fellow, Master Long?” asked Hank.

“Probably, unless he’s got some strange Cancer or something like that.  We’ll see.  We may be able to get a few more years out of him, but I won’t try if I think he’s gonna’ be uncomfortable for that time.  It wouldn’t be right to extend an animal’s life if they’re only going to live in pain.”

“We understand.  It’s jes,— mom loves Scraps so much.” added JR.  “We’d appreciate anything you can do.”

“I’ll do my best, gentlemen, but I cain’t promise anything.”

After supper the boys cleaned up the table and headed for the kitchen to do the dishes for Mrs. Wallace.  Hank Morgan sat having another cup of coffee with Charlie.  Lazarus excused himself and left by the back door.  He walked the short distance to Ida Mae’s cottage and knocked on her front door.  Ida came to the door to let him in.  She led him into her small kitchen and asked if he had dessert and coffee.

“No, ma’am, Ms. Ida.  I left Hank and the boss man drink’n their coffee and finishing up their desserts.  I figured I’d better get on out here to have a chat with you.”

“I appreciate you coming, ramrod.  How ‘bout a piece of German Chocolate Cake and a cup of coffee?  I jes’ made some fresh.  I’ll join you.”

“Sounds good, Ms. Ida.  I like yore’ German Chocolate Cake.  Best I ever et.”

Lazarus could see Scraps in his bed next to the back porch all curled up, but he wasn’t asleep.  Someone new was in his space, and he wanted to make sure they were ‘all right.’ Lazarus could see the old dog recognized him.  He went to him and saw his tail start to wag.  Lazarus offered the back of his hand for Scraps to smell to identify him.  He sent a message to him with his mind.

<<  Howdy, Scraps.  Jes’ come out to visit with you and yore’ mistress  for a spell.  May I put ma’ hand on you, pardner? >>

Scraps was beating his tail on his bed and looked bemused.

<<  Is that you what’s talk’n to me, ramrod?  I hear you in my head, but ‘chore lips ain’t moving. >>

<<  Ain’t them boys been talk’n with you, Scraps? >>

<<  Naw, Sir.  I’m old and don’t get around like I used to no more.  They pretty much ignore me.  I hear ‘em talk with each other once in a while, but I ain’t never said nothing to ‘em.  Please, be gentle when you pet me, Sir. >>

<<  Always, Scraps.  >>  Lazarus reached out and gently made contact with the old dog.  Scraps seemed to appreciate his touch as Lazarus gently scratched behind his ears and rubbed his sore neck for him.

<< Mmmm, ‘at feels mighty fine, ramrod,— thanks.  >>

<< Any time, Scraps. >>

“He don’t let many folks get close to him any more.  He’ll let Hank and JR pet him a bit, but he mostly prefers to be left alone.  I’m surprised he let you pet him.” allowed Ida Mae.

“I asked permission first, Mrs. Ida.  I’d never touch an animal without ask’n proper-like.”

“I forgot,— you got the same gift Waco and ma’ boy has.” Ida commented as she sat a huge slice of cake in front of him and poured him a hot cup of coffee.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I know how busy you are, Mr. Long, with work’n here at the ranch and all the responsibilities you have with your other work.  Don’t seem right for me to add to your burden.”

“Nonsense, Ms. Ida.  If there’s anything I can do for you or someone you love, all you gotta’ do is ask.  I’ve eaten too many fine meals prepared by yore’ hands, and I ain’t never had me a bad one.  I always pushed back from the table satisfied in ma’ gut as well as my spirit.  You always get a good scald on ever’thing you cook.”

“Thanks, ramrod.  Ain’t heard that phrase since my granddaddy used to say that to my grandmother.  She told me it was the highest compliments a woman could get for her cooking.  I don’t wanna’ be a bother to you, but the light in my friend’s eyes seems to be dimmer the last few days, and I’m so worried about him.  I’m afraid he’s about to give up on life, and I don’t know if’n I can,— .” Ida Mae pulled her apron to her face with both her hands and wept into it.  Lazarus continued to eat his cake until she got herself together.

“I know.  It’s hard to say ‘goodbye.’  How do you tell someone you love as much as Scraps, ‘goodbye’?  You want me to see what I can do for him, Ms. Ida?”  Lazarus asked quietly.

Ida dropped her apron, but didn’t try to hide her red eyes.  She looked at Lazarus’ cup and got up to get him more coffee.

“I’d be in your debt, Captain Long.”  

“Enough to allow yore’self to be examined and to get a longevity shot like the rest of yore’ family?” Lazarus smiled at her.

“I been think’n on it a lot, and I don’t see no reason not to.  If it means I can be with Hank, watch JR grow up and have grand kids for us to spoil, I want that chance,— even if it never comes true.  I still ain’t real sure it’s for real.  I’ve been lied to so much in my life and had things promised what never came about.  I think that’s why Hank and I understand each other so well.  We live from day to day and never expect nothing from tomorrow.”

“We’ve all lived with disappointment, Ms. Ida.  As many years as I’ve lived, I’m still disappointed with folks sometime, and I’m always left asking myself,— ‘why’?  This won’t be no disappointment, Ms. Ida.  H’it’s the real thing, but you can only know by experiencing it for yourself.  I can promise you ‘til I’m blue in the face, but there’s still gonna’ be a nagging doubt.  I can live with your honesty.  I’d rather deal with a man or woman what’s got the gumption to look me in the eye and tell me they think I’m full a’ beans, than to have them disagree with me and say so behind my back.”    

“Do you think there’s anything you can do for Scraps, Captain Long?”

“Don’t rightly know, Ms. Ida.  I need to examine Scraps and talk with him a bit.  I need to see if he understands what’s happening to him and whether he wants my help.  Sometimes when the end is in sight for an animal they accept it more gracefully than we do, but not because they ain’t as smart as us.  Any man what thinks he’s above the intelligence and feelings of a fine animal is a fool.

I told Hank if’n I thought Scraps was gonna’ have ta’ live in pain or discomfort jes’ to extend his life for our benefit, I wouldn’t try.  So, it will depend on several factors.  I’ll be happy to examine him this coming Saturday morning after breakfast, if you like.  I’ll take him, you and Hank on board my ship, and we’ll see what we can do.  Will you be comfortable having Hank along?”

“Of course, Captain,— Hank’s ma’ husband.  I’d feel more comfortable with him along.”

Ida didn’t elaborate.  Lazarus realized they weren’t married, but he knew she wasn’t lying either.  Hank Morgan was her husband in her eyes and heart, just like Arlen was his mate.  Many relationships are sacred in the eyes of God whether they’re approved of by a church or not.  Churches are run by men, not by God.  Be very suspicious of any man who tells you God has spoken to him directly.  There was a time, not so long ago, someone spouting that kind of nonsense would be slapped in the looney bin.  Today, they make him our leader.    

“I think it would be a nice gesture if’n we invite our boss.” added Lazarus.

“I agree, ramrod.  Mr. Charlie is like a big brother to me.  I know I get paid well for my work, but I think on Mr. Goodnight and Waco as part of my family.”

Lazarus was about through with his cake and coffee.  He turned to look at Scraps, and spoke out loud to him for Ida’s benefit.

“You’ve heard our conversation, Scraps.  Do you know what’s happening to you?”

<< I think so, ramrod.  I learnt what dying means when Mistress Anne stopped breathing.  I watched the part of her what was her leave her body.  She smiled and spoke to me then departed into a bright light.  I don’t think the humans in the room could see her.  They didn’t say ‘goodbye’ or nothing.  I didn’t wanna’ leave her at the cemetery until Master Charlie explained to me she was gone, and it was only her body we was burying.  I’m getting older, but I don’t think I’m gonna’ live much longer. >>

“That’s right.  Your specie lives shorter lives than humans.  We live about seven years to your one.  It’s a rotten system, I’ll admit, but I didn’t make the universe and all the critters in it.  Yore’ mistress is worried about you and wants me to see if I can do something for you.  First,— I wanna’ know if you want me to fix you up?  Do you want to live longer?”

<< Not like this, Mr. Long.  I don’t have no energy no more.  I ache all over.  My legs and neck hurt me some’um fierce sometimes, and I have a hard time doing my business outdoors once in a while.  I’m to the point, I think to join Mistress Anne would be a blessing for me and Ms. Ida.  I wouldn’t hurt no more, and she wouldn’t have to worry none about me.  I hear humans talk about an afterlife.  They say that’s were Mistress Anne went when she passed away, but I don’t never hear ‘em talk about animals going there.  Why is that, ramrod? >>

“Stupidity, Scraps!  Arrogance, stupidity and a wagon load of hubris.  We’s animals jes’ like you, my friend.  Most men wanna’ set themselves apart from our animal brothers by claiming we’s smarter and know more.  It just ain’t true, Scraps.  I know’d a lot of animals smarter’n most men.  Know’d a few a damn sight smarter’n me.  Man wants to think he ain’t a part of nature, he tells himself he’s special ‘cause he has a soul and he’s above nature, but he really ain’t.  He has to eat and do his business jes’ like you do, buddy.

Do you think if’n there’s a God in the hierarchy of things he’d deny a life-force as good as yours, as fine and devoted a companion as you’ve been to Ms. Ida and her family all these years?  Do you really think, if’n he’s good and kind, he wouldn’t find you a small corner in his vast kingdom somewhere for you to dwell in peace?  It says in our holy book he knows when every sparrow falls.  If he’s that all knowing and all powerful, do you think for one minute he’d forget about you?”

<< I guess not, Captain Long.  I jes’ ain’t never heard ‘em say nothing about there being room for critters like me.  If’n I can’t be with my mistress here anymore, I’d love to join Mistress Anne until Ms. Ida could be with us. >>

“To be honest, Scraps, no man can guarantee you or anyone there’s an afterlife.  It can’t be proved one way or the other.  A man can thump his bible as hard as he wants ever’ damn day of his life and tell you, you must believe because it says so in the good book; however, the naked truth is,— it’s just hearsay.  The argument wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.  Then they tell you to believe on faith.  You have ta’ have faith.  Well, if that’s true, then it must mean, if I have faith and I’m a good human, for my final reward, I’ll have ta’ go where all them self-righteous, holier than thou, organized religious folks think they’s going.  Why, in the world, would I wanna’ go where them boring hypocrites are going without my animal friends I’ve know’d and loved over the years?  Hell,— I want ‘em all with me.  Jes’ like Ms. Ida wants you to be with her a little longer in this life.”

<< I suppose Mistress Ida was right.  The light does seem to be going out in my eyes, and it’s growing weaker in my heart at the same time.  I ain’t got me the will to keep on going much longer, Sir.  I can feel it, Mr. Lazarus.  It’s almost like I can hear voices calling my name from far away,— calling me to come home to them.  I ain’t afeard of ‘em, Sir.  I know they’s good voices.  To be honest, I been look’n for a good time to tell my beloved mistress ‘goodbye’ and slip away so’s she won’t have to watch me go. >>

“No, no,— don’t never do that, Scraps.  That would kill her.  It would break her heart in two.  You mean far too much to her.”

Lazarus told Ida what Scraps said, and she started sobbing.

“Listen to Captain Long, sweet heart.  He’s right.  If you thought you’d be doing me a favor by crawling off and dying by yore’self somewhere, it would break my heart.”
“If I could make you feel better, do you think you’d like to live a while longer?  I don’t think anyone here at the ranch is ready to let you go.  You’re a solid member of this family and we love you.  Our boss, Master Charlie, is worried about you, so’s them boys and all a’ them cowboys.  I don’t think I’m ready to let you go, Scraps,— but chu’ gotta’ wanna’ stick around for a while.  You heard me tell Ms. Ida I wouldn’t let you hang around if’n I weren’t pert-damn sure I could do some’um for you, but I ain’t even gonna’ try unless you wanna’ stick around for a while longer.”

<< I’d love to stay with my mistress, Sir.  If you could help me, I’d be most grateful. >>

“Okay, ‘at’s all I needed to hear, Scraps.  I’ll look forward to taking you, yore’ mistress, Hank and Master Charlie to my ship Saturday morning, and we’ll see what we can do.”

<< Thank you for caring, Master Long, and tell’n me them things.  I’m glad to know there’s a human I respect what think’s us animals is important. >>

“You’re certainly welcome, Scraps, and you’re very important to us.  I know your mistress will be thrilled, and you’ll set a number of other folk’s minds at rest.” Lazarus chuckled.

Ida got a big smile on her face.  She gleaned enough from Lazarus’ side of the conversation she knew Scraps was willing.  She was thrilled.  They heard Hank come in the front door and holler to them.

“We’re in the kitchen, Hon.  Come on back.”  Ida Mae hollered back to him.  Hank stopped at the door.  Lazarus stood and Ida walked to him.

“Can I have a hug, Captain Long?”

“Of course, you can.”  Lazarus opened his arms and enfolded a teary eyed Ida Mae.  “This is medicinal, Hank,— you understand.”  Lazarus chuckled.

Hank rolled his eyes and grinned.  “In that case, can I have one, too?”  

“Take a number and have a seat.”  Laughed Lazarus.  Then he gave Hank a big hug.  “Hell, as healthy as you are, I should a’ jes’ told you to take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”  they shared a laugh.

* * * * * * *

Charlie was flattered Ida Mae requested he accompany them to the ship.  He told Lazarus he would wait in the galley while they tended to business, and Lazarus laughed at him.

“You won’t be lonely, boss.  I’ll be right there with you.  You don’t think I’m gonna’ examine Ms. Ida, do you?  That’s what I got them med bots and Cable for.  It will all be handled with the greatest respect to Ms. Ida.  Hank already done warned her about my naked androids.  I think she’s interested to meet them.”

The four humans walked down to the old barn followed slowly by Scraps.  Hank offered to carry him, but he refused.  He told Lazarus he wanted to make it on his own.  They respected his wishes and were patient with him.  Ida and Scraps were a little taken aback by the portal which sprang up in the barn behind the bails of hay stacked almost to the loft.

“Why don’t you go through first, boss, to show them there’s nothing to be afraid of.”  Lazarus suggested to Charlie.

Charlie didn’t hesitate and disappeared through the dark blue veil of energy.  Ida looked down and spoke to Scraps.

“We don’t have to do this if’n you’re afraid, old friend, or Hank will carry you through.”

<< Please, tell my mistress, I’ll go wherever she goes, ramrod. >>

Lazarus told Ida what Scraps said.

“I love you, Scraps.  C’mon, let’s us go together.”  and they slowly walked through the portal and stepped into sickbay on the Bandersnatch.  Hank and Lazarus followed close behind.

“See, nothing to it.” said Hank to Ida Mae and Scraps.

“It’s amazing.” said Ida.

Lazarus introduced Ida and Scraps to the med bots, and especially Cable, David and Jonathan.  Ida was speechless, and Scraps was impressed the androids took a special interest in him to welcome him.  They shared with him the reason they didn’t smell like humans was because they were made of different stuff.  He wondered about that.  As old as he was, there was nothing wrong with his sense of smell.  He was impressed with them and immediately trusted them.  They didn’t do anything they didn’t first explain to him.  Ida Mae didn’t seem to be bothered in the least by the naked androids.  She even joked with Lazarus about trading Hank in on a newer model.  That endeared her to the androids.  It didn’t do much for poor Hank, but he had a good sense of humor.  Hank knew Ida Mae loved him without question.

“Cable, let’s get Scraps scanned first and Ms. Ida can see his condition for herself.  Then afterwards we’ll take him to visit with the Kryscellians for an hour or so, and we can scan Ms. Ida.  Then she can visit with the Kryscellians for a while.”

Lazarus, Charlie, Hank and the boys already told her about the wonderful Kryscells on board Captain Long’s ship.  She was anxious to meet them.

“Did Ping and Pong manage to get the longevity serum modified for Canis lupus familiaris?” Lazarus asked Cable.

“Yes, Father, they completed their work last evening before returning to the ranch.  They’re on board now if you wish to speak with them.”

“No, that won’t be necessary unless they’d like to check in on us.  We’d be happy to have them observe.  Ping sometimes catches things we miss.”

“You’re right.  I’ll relay your message to them, father.”

Ida smiled at Cable calling Lazarus ‘father,’ but she didn’t comment.  It didn’t pass Scraps’ attention either.  Cable came to him and asked his permission to lift him onto a Gurney.  Scraps made an attempt to lick Cable’s hand, but it tasted funny, like food stored too long in plastic containers.  Cable took that as an affirmative and gently lifted Scraps to the comfortable anti-grav Gurney.

“Don’t be frightened, Scraps,” Cable said gently, “this table floats on a magnetic field and doesn’t require wheels to move it about.  Since there’s no friction, it’s easy to move you from place to place without putting you through any discomfort.  Now, if you’ll lay there for a while, we’ll get this done quickly, and it will all be over.  You can take a nap if you’re comfortable enough.”

That sounded like a good idea to Scraps.  He was tired from the walk to the barn.  He lay his head between his paws and closed his eyes.  Cable moved his Gurney into a small room off the main room in sickbay.  He told Scraps he was going to leave him for a while, but he’d return in a few minutes to see to him.  Scraps was already drifting off on the comfortable Gruney.  The strange machines began to whir and hum.  All around the control room next to the small room where Scraps lay were huge screens that showed every detail of Scraps’ body.  Ping and Pong joined Lazarus and Cable to see the scans of Scraps.  They were pointing out certain things to Lazarus, but the others couldn’t hear their conversation.  Finally Lazarus spoke.

“Well, it’s mostly good news, Ms. Ida.  There ain’t nothing really wrong with Scraps except he’s jes’ worn out.  We can fix that; however, he’s got a lot of bone calcification causing him a great deal of pain in his joints.  We can take care of that, too, but he will need several visits to the Kryscellians to help him get rid of it and heal properly.  With the adjusted longevity serum I’ll give him, he should return to a middle aged animal for a couple hundred years or longer.  He still won’t live as long as you, but he’ll live a hell of a lot longer than most humans.  Is two or maybe three hundred years long enough for you?” Lazarus joked with Ida.

Ida Mae threw her arms around Lazarus, hugged him and sobbed.  Lazarus smiled down at her and winked at Hank.

“There, there,— he’s gonna’ be fine.  It says something about the good care you’ve given him all these years he’s in such good shape.  He jes’ needs a tune up.  There’s one small lump on his right side.  Nothing to worry about, it ain’t Cancerous.  I’ll have the Kryscellians check it out.”  

Cable, followed by the others, took Scraps on his Gurney into Ox’s stateroom to lay in front of the Kryscellians.  Lazarus explained to Scraps what was going to happen.

“Are you comfortable on the Gurney, Scraps?”  he inquired.

<< Yes, thank you, Captain Long,— very comfortable. >>

“I want you to lay here in front of these beautiful crystals in this cabinet.  They are a race of folks.   We’re animals, but they’re another life form.  They’re capable of healing animals like you and me.  I want them to sing to you, and they will repair your body.  Just answer their questions if you can understand them.  You’ll be able to, I have no doubt.  They’re gonna’ love you.  You’re a new life form for them, and they’ll wanna’ know all about you.  Tell them about yourself.  You’ll feel the glow of their light shining on you.  Don’t be afraid.  It’s the rays of their light what will help you.  Don’t try to jump down from the Gurney, you may hurt yourself.  I’ll check back with you every fifteen minutes or so to see if you’re doing okay.  When they’re through visiting with you, they’ll let me know and we’ll come back in to get you.  Do you have any questions?”

<< Will I feel better afterward, Sir? >>

“Yes, Scraps, almost immediately.”

<< Thank you, Captain Long. >>

“You’re welcome, Scraps.  Now, relax and enjoy your visit with the Kryscellians.  They’re a wonderful race of beings.  I think you'll like them.”
Scraps could see the beautiful glass things through the glass of the cabinet and lay his head down between his paws again.  The humans left him alone.  He wasn’t afraid.  He trusted Captain Long and he trusted his mistress.  They wouldn’t put him in harms way.  He could feel the rays of light beginning to penetrate his fur and skin.  They tingled and made his spine shiver several times.  Funny, each time it moved it hurt less and less.  

Scraps lay in front of the Kryscells for an hour and thirty minutes.  They didn’t want to let him go and made Captain Long promise he would bring him back.  They had more to do to help Scraps, and they wanted to know so much more about him.  Lazarus promised they would see Scraps once a week for several weeks.  They were satisfied.  They told the Captain the lump on Scraps was a cactus thorn that had been in him for sometime and scar tissue grew around it to protect him.  They managed to loosen it, and all the Captain’s med bots had to do was remove it and sterilize the wound.  It was immediately taken care of by Cable.  Lazarus made sure Cable gave Scraps his longevity shot, and he was through in sickbay.  He joined the men in the galley where David and Jonathan had a couple of healthy treats for him and some special sweet milk for him to drink.

Ida Mae was being scanned while her companion lay before the Kryscells.  The men were looking at the screens and Ping was pointing out certain things to the Captain.  He was translating for Cable and his staff.  Finally he spoke to Ida through the speaker system.

“How long have you had that small lump under your right breast, Ms. Ida?”

“I jes’ discovered it about a week ago.  I was gonna’ ask if you think I should see a doctor?”

“The answer is ‘yes,’ but you’re seeing one right now.  It’s Cancerous, but it’s very small.  It ain’t had a chance to grow or spread.  I ain’t gonna’ have my staff remove it.  I want to see what the Kryscellians can do for you first.  If they can kill it and cause it to be absorbed by your body, ain’t no need to cut on you.”

“Thanks, Captain.  I’m afraid of being cut on.”

Ida lay before the Kryscellians for a little over an hour.  She was amazed she slowly began to understand what they were singing to her.  She found herself singing along and back to them as she answered their questions.  She was fascinated by them.  She could feel them healing the lump in her breast.  They told her it would take several followup visits, but they killed the majority of the growth.  It would be absorbed into her system and passed as waste.

Ida’s greatest thrill was after Cable and his men got her dressed and she joined the Captain, Hank and Charlie,— Scraps bounded over to greet her like he was a much younger dog.  She knelt, held him, petted him and cried.  He was so much better, and he was happy to be alive.  Ida thanked and thanked Lazarus.

“One more thing, Ms. Ida.  Our agreement,— remember?”  he smiled.

Cable was standing by ready with her shot.

“You sure that’s the human longevity serum, Son?” Lazarus winked at Cable.  Cable looked a little hurt, but figured out it was a joke.

“Absolutely, Father, you know I wouldn’t make a mistake like that.”

“Good.  I wouldn’t want you giving Ms. Ida the same serum you gave her buddy.  She might develop strong urges to bury bones in her backyard.”

All the men roared with laughter at Lazarus’ joke.

“Oh, I don’t know,” mused Ida Mae, “I enjoy having a big bone buried in my backyard ever’ now and then.” then she giggled like a schoolgirl.

Hank turned a brilliant shade of red.  Charlie and Lazarus laughed their ass’s off at him.  Ida Mae couldn’t help but laugh as she reached up and stole a kiss from the big cowboy.

Cable gave the shot to her in her arm.  She didn’t complain and was surprised there was no pain.  Lazarus set up appointments for her and Scraps to come aboard the Bandersnatch the following Saturday morning for a followup visit.  There would be three more visits for each of them.

The boys were waiting for them when they returned from the barn and came running across the compound.  Scraps looked up at Ida.  She smiled at him.

“Go.” she said to him.  Scraps was away to meet the boys in the middle of the compound.  They were so happy to see him feeling better and more active.  He still wasn’t up to a hundred percent, but they knew he soon would be.  They were all sending him mind messages at once.  He was thrilled he could hear and speak with the boys.  Lazarus was afraid he might over do.

“Let him.” said Ida Mae, “He may have to pay for it tomorrow with some sore muscles, but that’s okay.  I know he’ll rebound.  For right now, he ain’t felt that good in long time.  I’ve got my buddy back again.  I can’t thank you enough, Captain.”

Ida and Scraps continued their visits on the Bandersnatch until they were both given an approval from Captain Long and his staff they were sound again.  Scraps was returned to the health and active ability of a mature dog in his prime years.  He couldn’t do enough for Lazarus and always made it a point to go to him and greet him every time he came around.  He would thank him for his renewed self and saving his mistress from almost sure death from Cancer.  Lazarus was never too busy to acknowledge him and have a good word for him.  However, unknown to everyone, the Kryscellians had done something to Scraps they only shared with him.  They tweaked a couple of his minor homeotic genes to give him a gift he wished for.  They sang to him of his life and how brave and good hearted he was.  If they could reward him with one wish, what would it be?

“To be able to tell my mistress how much I love her for saving my life and giving me the best home I could ever have.  I can send messages to Captain Long, the boys and their lummox, but I can not speak.”

They told him they fixed his vocal cords and in a matter of weeks they would rearrange themselves so he could speak.  They would tell him when to start practicing.  After his fourth checkup on the ship, they told him his new vocal cords were developed enough.  He started practicing with Cable, David and Jonathan.  They were thrilled with his progress and promised to keep it a secret from their father.  Scraps would sneak off in the afternoons and go to the old barn where he would activate the portal to the ship himself and go through to sickbay.  Cable would always be waiting for him with a treat and some special milk.  Scraps loved the milk.

“Good afternoon, Scraps.” Cable would address him.

“Gooot affer-none, Kay-bell.” Scraps would reply.

“Close enough, friend.” Cable would complement him.  David and Jonathan would be all over him.  Scraps would spend about an hour every day with the androids.  They looked forward to his visits.

One afternoon the Captain arrived unannounced and found Scraps and the androids laughing together.  He raised an eyebrow and was about to scold the androids for taking the liberty of bringing Scraps on board the ship without his permission.  Scraps read his mind, went to Lazarus, looked up at him and spoke.

“Not Kay-bell, Daw-vid, or Gon-a-tons falt, Kaab-tin.  I open gate.  I come visit.  Wan su-prise miz Eye-da.”

Lazarus knelt down to pet Scraps with a big smile on his face.  

“You clever scamp.  You’re doing fine.  How long have you been able to speak?”

“I done know, Sir.  How many, Ka-bell?”  Scraps turned to look at Cable.

“He started practicing with us about a month ago, Father.  We didn’t tell you because he swore us to secrecy.”

“Then you did the right thing, gentlemen.  When a friend asks you to keep a secret, it’s part of being his friend to respect his wishes; however, you must be selective.  This secret was a good one, but I hope you’re aware there are bad ones.”

“Yes, father, we’re aware.  We would never withhold anything from you that might endanger us or cause emotional harm to anyone.”

“Good.  So when do you plan to surprise yore’ mistress, Scraps?”

“I done know, Misser Long.  You think I ready?”

“You shore’ ‘nuff surprised the hell out of me!” Lazarus laughed, “I think yore’ ready, good buddy.  Did the Kryscellians do this for you?” Lazarus knew better than to ask, but he wondered if Scraps knew.

“Yes, Sir.  The singing glass friends grant me one wish.  I wish to speak to tell mistress how much I love her.  They fix Scraps to speak.”

“Well, I’ll be damned!” exclaimed Lazarus, as he slapped his knee and laughed.  “I’ve heard so many awful ‘talking dog’ jokes in my life this is truly a reward after suffering through them and laughing when I didn’t want to.  Them singing glass friends is amazing ain’t they?” Lazarus asked Scraps.

“They good to Scraps.  They like Scraps, and Scraps like them.  They sing pretty songs and make Scraps feel better.  Now Scraps can tell you how much he love you, Kaab-tin Lazy-us.”

“Close enough, Scraps.  Good boy.  I love you, too.  You’ll get better in time.  You remember how long it took our young’uns to talk?  You’re doing jes’ fine.  Dayamn!  Ms. Ida’s gonna’ be floored.  Them boys and my boss is gonna’ shit their pants.”  

Lazarus and Scraps left the ship together.  Scraps said ‘goodbye’ to Lazarus and ran to join the boys playing ball.  He’d run from one to the other trying to get the ball.  Finally Waco tossed it to him and Scraps caught it in mid-air.

“Good catch, Scraps.” the boys complemented him.  He was in heaven.  He decided, with the Captain's help, tonight was the night.

Lazarus walked away toward the foreman’s house whistling an old cowboy tune.  He spotted Hank coming up from the slave quarters and motioned for him to join him.  He had to tell someone and who would appreciate it more than Hank Morgan?  He invited Hank to set in the swing with him on the porch.  He recounted his visit to the Bandersnatch and what he discovered.  He had Hank in tears he was laughing so hard.

“Yore’ shit’n me, ramrod!  Scraps?  A talk’n dog?  Ain’t no way.”

Lazarus was having a hard time being straight with him because Hank was laughing so hard.

“I shit you not, brother!  If’n our boss-man and the boys don’t crap in their Wranglers tonight I’ll be surprised.”

“I jes’ may myself.” Hank laughed again shaking his head.

“Not a word to yore’ wife, crew leader.” Lazarus winked at Hank.  Hank appreciated the sentiment.

“I don’t know nothing, boss.  I appreciate you tell’n me.  I’ll be prepared.  I usually ain’t.  I’m usually the last to know around here.” Hank complained, but laughed at his silliness.

That evening at supper the boys cleared the main dishes and Ida was serving dessert.  She made a wonderful fresh peach cobbler from peaches they grew on the ranch.  She served it with vanilla ice cream.  It was one of Charlie and the boys favorites.  She was trying to get through to get out of the kitchen early.  The boys volunteered to clean the kitchen for her that evening.  After she served everyone, Lazarus stood and ask all the men if’n they enjoyed their meal.  They all agreed, applauded and complimented Ida.

“Sit down here and join us for a minute, Ms. Ida.  Son,” Lazarus spoke to Lucas, “git Ms. Ida a dessert and a cup of coffee.”

“Yes, Sir.” Lucas was up and away.  In a minute he returned and brought Ida Mae a big piece of cobbler, some ice cream and a cup of coffee.  She thanked him.  She was looking at Lazarus and Charlie funny.  Hank kept looking down at his dessert and wouldn’t look at her.  She knew something was up.  She slowly ate her dessert and enjoyed her coffee.  She joined in the conversation and was enjoying herself in spite of her wariness.  Finally, she got up enough nerve to question Charlie.

“What’s this all about, Master Charlie?  I don’t never have dessert with you men.  Ain’t because I don’t want to, it’s jes’ I’m all the time too busy to take the time, and I figure you need yore' privacy to talk man stuff.”

“Don’t look at me, Ida Mae.  I ain't got no idea what’s going on.  I’m as much in the dark as you are.  I ain’t got no clue.”

“T’ain’t nothing on our part, Ms. Ida.  We’s jes’ trying to show you our appreciation for yore’ fine cooking and taking good care of us.  Ain’t ‘tat right, men?”

All the boys and Hank agreed.  They applauded for her again.

“However, there’s someone else here what has some’um to say to you,— Scraps,— where are you, boy?”

Scraps appeared at Lazarus side, and he petted him.

“Now’s the time, Scraps.  Go for it, tiger.”  Lazarus said gently.  

Scraps turned and looked into Ida’s eyes and spoke,

“Mzz Eye-da, Scraps love you.” There was a dead silence in the room.  Charlie and the boys mouth's dropped open.  Hank stifled a laugh.  Ida Mae’s eyes grew real big.  Lazarus was grinning from ear to ear.

“Go on, you’re doing fine, Scraps.” Lazarus urged him gently.

“You save Scraps’ life two times.  You take Scraps in and love him like he never been loved before.  Scraps ask glass-people to make him speak so I can tell you how much I love you.”

Ida Mae lost it and broke down in sobs.  She got down on her knees and hugged her beloved pet.

“Oh, God, I love you, too, Scraps.  I thank God for all my blessings every morning when I wake up and every evening before I go to sleep, but I say an extra thanks to him for Captain Long and you.  You’re the most wonderful friend and companion anyone could have.  We all love you, Scraps.”

Charlie threw up his hands and shook his head.

“I’ll be damned!  Never a dull moment around this place, but I  guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.”  Then he broke up laughing and shook Lazarus’ hand.  “Well done, ramrod.” he allowed.

“Don’t look at me!  I didn’t have nothing to do with it, boss.  The Kryscells offered Scraps one wish, and if it was within their power they would grant it.  It just so happened his wish was within their abilities.  He wanted to speak so he could tell Ms. Ida how much he loves her.  Unbeknownst to me, he’s been going to the ship ever’ day on his own and practicing with my androids for over a month now.  I caught ‘em this afternoon, and he asked me if I thought he was ready.  I told him to go for it.  Hell, he speaks better’n some of them cowboys down to the slave-quarters.” Lazarus laughed.

The boys were flabbergasted.  They were next to congratulate him.  They each had to take Scraps in their arms, pet him and tell him how wonderful they thought he was.  Once he got over his shyness, he began to speak more freely.  He made mistakes, but no one corrected him.  He got better and better as time went on.  Now he could holler at the boys to throw the ball to him.  The only drawback was, now he didn’t sound like a dog when he tried to bark.  He sounded like a human trying to imitate a barking dog.  He vowed to work on that.  He remembered he had a good strong bark that would get anyone’s attention.

* * * * * * *

After seeing the miracle the Kryscellians did on Scraps, the boys were interested in helping them more.  Waco, Lucas, Travis, Little Bear and JR talked with Lazarus.  They wanted to know how they could arrange it so the Kryscells could experience Waco’s pony, Ranger.  Lazarus grinned real big.  They were really serious.  He knew between the five of the boys, they should be able to come up with some good ideas on their own.

“I tell you what,— you men are old enough now to have some ideas of yore’ own.  I want you to come up with some ideas and tell me how you would go about getting the Kryscells to Ranger or Ranger to them.  You’ve got one great resource of information about how things work on the ship.  That would be yore’ lummox.  He’s practically their god.  He rescued them and saved their lives.  They know he ain’t a god, but they treat him with the utmost respect and affection.  They won’t do nothing without discussing it with him first.  Ox is a fount of knowledge and he knows what I’ll go along with and what I won’t.  He’ll be happy to work with you.  I’ve often thought about getting the Kryscells more mobile so they could experience more of the universe for themselves.  Work on it and think on it.  I know you young’uns can come up with some new innovative ideas.”  

Lucas had fully earned himself a respected position with the boys.  His life was a little different having to take care of his master; however, Waco and his crew had their responsibilities to Charlie and the ranch.  Waco was the undisputed Master and leader of his slaves, but he took a tip from Captain Long and his own dad, Charlie.  Waco ran his crew like a benevolent monarch.  He never tried to tell his little brother, JR, what to do.  JR was always willing to do anything to lend a hand to Waco, Travis or Little Bear.

Since Scraps was feeling better, he became bored just laying around all the time and asked Ida Mae if she minded if he went with the boys sometimes.  He told her he still wanted to visit with his friends on Captain Long’s ship.  Ida was so thrilled he was feeling better she couldn’t tell him ‘no.’  She was glad he felt like being up and around.  It made his life so much more rich and interesting.  She also noticed whenever Hank and she wanted to make love, Scraps would leave his bed in her bedroom a go sleep in JR’s room.  JR loved to have Scraps sleep with him.  He would let Scraps sleep on his bed.  Scraps would keep JR’s feet warm during the winter.  Ida finally asked Scraps if Hank and her making love bothered him.

“No, Mz Eye-da.  Scraps give privacy.  Now Scraps feel better, listening to you and Misser Hank, makes him wonder what he miss.  Scraps not ungrateful.  He have wonderful life with you, Ms. Ida, but Scraps never,— .”

“Oh, dumplin' dog,— I never stopped to think about that.  How stupid can an old woman be?  Of course it would make you wonder.  It’s only natural.  Not to worry.  I’ll have a word with Master Charlie and Captain Long.”

Ida talked with Lazarus and Charlie.  While they were concerned they had a good time razzing Ida Mae for being naive, and yet, being such a wonderful friend to Scraps.  The men knew just who to contact to make life a bit more complete for their buddy Scraps.

End of Chapter 16 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2006 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com