If Ezra Standish knew nothing else, he did know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was a dead man! 'Don't be late.' Those were the last words Chris Larabee had uttered as Ezra headed out the door from work. They were also his first conscious though, after waking to see his alarm clock flashing '12:00 . . . 12:00 . . .12:00'. That was well over 2 hours ago. How was he to know, the storm the night before would have disrupted the power? Surely Chris couldn't fault him for that.
To make matters worse, the Jag would choose to get a flat tire on the way to the ranch. "When it rain, it pours," he muttered, looking at his far from immaculate hands. Buck would never believe he had actually changed the tire himself, rather than be even later waiting for the automotive roadside service he normally used.
Mending fences was not one of Ezra's favorite weekend tasks but since Chris and Buck were kind enough to board his trouble making 'mule' of a horse, it was the least he could do.
So, over an hour late, he finally reached his destination. Parking the Jag, he noted there was no sign of his two friends, which didn't surprise him. They would have headed out at the designated time. It seemed he was destined to play a game of 'catch-up' along with 'eating a little crow' as Buck so quaintly put it.
There was only one . . . no make that two, other obstacles left to evade before beginning the day's task. 'Too late for that,' Ezra thought, as he heard the squeals and laughter as twin cyclones came barreling around the corner of the house, straight for him. "Uncle Ezra! It's Uncle Ezra!" the dark-hair child yelled. Ezra knelt down and braced for impact as the two small bodies came flying into his arms. Returning the tight hugs, he quickly dropped a kiss onto first the dark, and then the blonde mop of hair pressed firmly to his chest, wondering why he had ever wish to avoid these two dynamos.
"How are my two favorite nephews on this fine spring day?" he asked, a twinkle in his eyes.
JD stepped from his uncle's arms and said very seriously, "Uncle Ezra, you know there ain't no other nephews!"
"Are no other nephews." Ezra corrected, without censure. "However, were there said nephews, I can state unequivocally that you would be my favorites." He reached out and ruffled JD's already unruly hair.
Turning his attention to the other youngster, Ezra noted that the quiet, more introverted of the two boys, seemed about ready to 'pop'. "Young Master Vin, it would appear that you have some news you wish to impart?"
"Casey comed over to watch us and she says we're old enough to color eggs for the Easter bunny, " Vin told his uncle in amazement.
"Color eggs?" Ezra said in mock wonder. "I thought the Easter bunny laid his own eggs."
Ezra's statement brought a fit of giggles from the two boys. "Bunnies don't lay eggs," JD informed. "Ya put 'em in a basket and the Easter bunny hides 'em, then he leaves ya candy in your basket. Chocolate eggs, marshmallow chicks, and maybe a big chocolate bunny, if yous real good."
Vin, always sensitive to those around him, caught the hint of sadness that momentarily clouded his uncle's features.
"Well, JD, I don't seem to recall ever coloring or hunting for Easter eggs. Do tell me more about this basket of goodies."
The boys each grabbed a hand and began to pull their uncle toward the house. "You can help us, Casey won't mind," Vin suggested, as JD continued to recite the assortment of gooey treats the Easter bunny might bring.
The door slammed shut as the three entered the kitchen. A young woman stood by the kitchen table; a table covered with plastic, layers of newspaper, six glasses, and a spoon for each.
"Casey, Uncle Ezra comed to help." JD chirped.
Ezra was prepared to refute JD's claim, until he noticed the look of unbridled anticipation in both boy's eyes.
"Is that so?" Casey's voice held a lilt of laughter. "Well, I was just ready to call you in. We need to get the dye ready and by then the eggs should have cooled sufficiently."
"Ya gotta cook'em first," JD explained, seriously, "in their shell."
At Ezra's questioning look, Casey opened the refrigerator door, revealing a bowl full of egg whites and yolks. "You would think I'd have learned by now, never to turn my back on those two. They decided to get a head start while I was getting things from the pantry," she shook her head. Turning to the eager youngsters, Casey pointed to two, obviously adult-size tee-shirts on the chair, "First things first, put those on. I don't want you ruining your clothes." Disappearing into the laundry room, Casey soon returned with what appeared to be an old shirt of Buck's. "You might want to cover yourself up too," she suggested, handing the shirt to Ezra.
The three 'boys' all took seats around the table as Casey poured first a measured amount of water, followed by a splash of vinegar into each tumbler. "Aunt Nettie swears that the vinegar helps set the color, and who am I to argue with success." The girl explained as she opened the box of Easter egg dye to reveal a clear 'crayon' and 6 colored tablets. She handed Vin and JD one little disk apiece.
Vin's face fell. "Don't forget Uncle Ezra, he needs one too," the boy's plea was echoed by the nodding of JD's head.
Casey solemnly handed the man a red tablet, merriment dancing in her eyes. "Okay, on three you drop them in the water."
"One, two, three." They all counted. A chorus of small 'plops' could be heard and then a 'fizzing' sound as the pills began to dissolve, turning the liquid yellow, blue, and red, respectively. Then, the ritual was repeated again with the remaining color tablets.
Soon, the little disks had dissolved completely. Casey placed a container of boiled eggs on the table. Two small, and one distinctly larger, hands reached out to take one of the slightly warm eggs.
Vin and Ezra were slowly lowering their eggs into the dye when Casey's voice rang out, "JD! Not so . . . high." The girl's voice trailed off as JD dropped the egg into the awaiting tumbler with a splash, liquid raining down on the table and on his unsuspecting uncle.
JD and Vin's eyes both moved from the now rather damp and blue speckled sleeve to their Uncle's face. Both were well aware of Ezra's penchant for always looking immaculate.
Ezra's face lit up in a grin, "Well JD, I guess we know NOT to do that again," and he ruffled the boy's hair.
Uncle Ezra was quickly elected to write everyone's name on an egg with the 'special' crayon. Naturally, Vin requested to do his father's egg and JD worked to make Buck's extra special by placing it in every color available. The outcome proved to be a rather muddy gray-green.
Laughter rang through the kitchen, as encouragement was give, and suggestions made among the group. Casey made sure to get a few candid shots on her camera of the creative endeavors of the little troupe. She was sure Chris and Buck would want to see what they had missed.
Finally, the last egg was dyed and Casey chased the 'boys' off to the den to watch the tapes she rented of 'Peter Cottontail' and 'It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown', while she cleaned up the kitchen.
"Hell, the Jag's here, so what happened to Standish?" Chris' voice could be heard before he even opened the kitchen door.
Before Buck could respond, Casey stopped the two men with a 'shushing' noise and a solitary finger held to her lips. "I think you'll find that Mr. Standish was hijacked. If you don't believe me, go look in the Den."
The two men moved stealthily through the house, only to stop outside the double doors of the large room. The television was playing and Snoopy was frolicking across the screen, tossing colorful Easter eggs to and fro. However, it wasn't the image on the screen that stopped the two men. No, it was the sight of their normally impeccable colleague leaning back in the large recliner, wearing one of Buck's old shirts, which now appeared festooned with colorful handprints and splotches. A similarly dressed and decorated young boy tucked snuggly under each arm and all sound asleep.
Casey walked up behind the two and whispered, "Don't worry, I have pictures of everything!"
Buck turned and followed Casey back to the kitchen. Chris, about to join them, heard a noise and stopped. If would seem that Vin had 'sensed' his dad's presence. He carefully climbed out of the recliner, in an attempt not to wake Ezra or JD, and ran into the waiting arms of his father.
"Did you have fun today?" Chris looked into the serious eyes of his young son.
Vin looked toward the recliner and then grabbing his father's hand, pulled the concerned man away from the open door.
Chris knelt down and place a hand on the serious boy's shoulder, "What is it, Cowboy?"
"Dad," Vin's voice came out in a whisper, "do you think Uncle Ezra could hunt eggs with us tomorrow? He never got to hunt Easter eggs when he was little, just like me 'fore you found me."
Chris heart went out to the compassionate youngster, who had lived such a hard life in his short years. "I think that can be arranged . . . is there something else?" Chris asked when Vin seemed to be avoiding his gaze.
Nodding his head, Vin continued, "Do you think the Easter bunny would mind if I let Uncle Ezra have my basket this year?"
Chris couldn't remember when he had been prouder; He looked up and thanked the 'powers that be' who had brought this 'light' into his life.
Wiping the escaping tear from his eye, he regained control of his 'run-away' emotions. There was a little boy waiting for an answer.
Chris scooped his son into his arms, "I don't think he would mind at all, Cowboy, but I have a feeling the Easter bunny just might bring your Uncle Ezra a basket of his own this year."
And he did. . . Chris made sure of it!