RATING: G - this is family fare
CATEGORY: OW -
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Ezra, Buck, JD, Josiah, Chris, Vin, Nathan and just about everyone else.
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended.
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments are greatly appreciated.
SUMMARY: Ezra gets an orange crate
DATE: August 24, 2001
When Life Gives you Oranges
Winner of the 2002 Gold Ezzie Award for Old West Fic - General - Short
By NotTasha - mmm... oranges
"What you got there, Ezra?' Buck asked as he strode toward the southerner. The stagecoach had arrived earlier that day, depositing a handful of weary passengers, the mail, and one crate. The intriguing box had been lugged across the street and was currently situated beneath the gambler's feet, as he leaned back in his chair outside the saloon. Something interesting had to be in there. In a small town, on a slow day, any distraction was welcome.
"Come again, Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra drawled. "What do I 'got' where?"
Buck tapped his foot against the side of the box. It thudded dully. "In there, smart-guy."
Ezra tilted his head to examine the box as if he was seeing it for the first time. "Oh, my mother saw fit to grace me with a present," Ezra replied. The crate was at the perfect height, and Ezra seemed quite comfortable in his current position, one foot resting atop the other on the box.
"What's in it?" Buck tried to find any markings that might indicate its contents, but Ezra's feet hid the only writing on the box.
"Oranges from Mexico," Ezra responded. "Apparently the climate is perfect at the moment to allow for shipping to this rather..." He looked about with a long-suffering expression. "...inhospitable environment."
"Ya don't say," Buck said, grabbing Ezra by one of his boots and lifting the blocking foot out of the way. He dropped the foot unceremoniously to the ground once it had cleared the box.
Ezra did nothing to either assist or obstruct the ladies' man as the other foot was pushed aside in the same manner. He adjusted to a less comfortable position and pulled his pocket watch from his waistcoat, snapping open the lid and then flipping it closed again with an easy movement. He yawned as he placed it back into his pocket.
Wilmington pulled away the loose top and revealed the oranges within. He sighed deeply at the sight. They were so perfect and beautiful in that box, carefully lined up and packed with excelsior to cushion them. The fruit looked like brightly painted little orbs.
"Lordy!" Buck declared. "I ain't seen the like of them for years. Surprises me that they made it this far without rottin'."
Ezra shrugged. "Mother has her ways of accomplishing things."
Buck turned his head, regarding the contents with one eye. "You must have a couple dozen in here."
"Whatzat, Buck?" JD asked, appearing beside Wilmington on the boardwalk. He had just emerged from the jailhouse and had seen Buck pestering the gambler. Bored, he figured that he might as well join in.
"Our friend here got a present from his mommy," Buck replied, smiling smugly.
"Really, Ezra?" JD asked earnestly. "Is it your birthday?"
Ezra sighed. "No, Mr. Dunne. There was no occasion to celebrate. My mother saw something she thought was agreeable and sent it to me post-haste. Is there anything wrong with that?"
"No, Ez," Dunne replied. "Just don't remember her sendin' you anythin' before. Oranges!" JD finally was able to peer inside the box. His eyes grew large in delight. "Gee, I used to get those in Boston sometimes."
"A sight for sore eyes," Buck declared, squatting by the opened container and deeply breathing in the fragrance. "Ah, nothin' like the smell of 'em." He twitched his mustache.
JD sat down beside Buck and sniffed as well. "Reminds me of the market near where my mom used to work. I'd help her go shoppin' sometimes. I sure loved it when the fruit vendors got in a shipment of oranges. They'd give me one sometimes…when I was a kid."
"Yeah, kid," Buck winked. "My Ma used to get me one for Christmas," he confided, smiling at the memory.
"Me, too!" JD added. "Used to eat it Christmas mornin' after breakfast."
The two looked up at Ezra. He watched them indifferently and they returned the gaze with puppy-dog eyes.
Ezra sighed with mock exasperation and said, "Be my guest."
"Thanks, Ezra!" JD cried, reaching for the biggest orange he could see.
"Yeah, Thanks, Ez." Buck grabbed the brightest of the bunch and sat down beside JD on the boardwalk. The two instantly dug their fingers into the skins and began peeling. The oranges sent out little geysers of juice and the sweet smell filled the air. The two chuckled as the fruit was quickly skinned. Ezra rubbed his nose as he continued to slouch down in his chair. JD paused to remove the whitish membrane beneath the peel, but Buck just plunged ahead.
"Do I smell oranges?" Josiah's voice boomed. He appeared from across the street and looked in disbelief at the crate by Ezra's feet. He felt himself transported back to the time he spent in India, where the tropical fruit thrived. He had been a young man, full of vim and vigor, and a religious zeal. "Oranges. Here?" He watched Buck and JD tear into their fruit as he came closer.
"Yup," JD replied. "From Ezra's Ma."
Ezra raised a hand in invitation and the big man bent down to choose one. He picked up several, one at a time, finally deciding on the heaviest of the group. He straightened and leaned onto one of the roof supports to peel away the skin. "Like manna from heaven," he muttered as the peel fell to his feet.
"Man, this is good!" JD professed, shoving another section into his mouth.
"Mmmm, tasty!" Buck said as he licked his fingers.
Ezra watched them as they ate. The three men seemed to be aware of nothing outside of what was in their hands. They paused a moment to look at each other, nod like idiots, and return to eating. The gambler looked up when he noted the approach of two more of their group.
"What are they eatin'?" Vin asked as he strode over. "I could smell it all the way over by my wagon."
Chris walked along with him, a curious look on his face. "Couldn't be anything but oranges," Larabee replied and then noted the crate. "A whole box of oranges."
"Ezra got 'em from his ma," JD informed them as he pulled off another section. "They're really sweet."
Buck reached into the box and tossed one to Chris. "Better than the ones we had back in Mexico before the War, cowboy."
Chris held the fruit in his hand, smiling slightly, remembering a youthful journey with Wilmington. They had been little more than kids, sowing wild oats and raising all sorts of hell. His smile broadened at the memory.
Larabee turned to face Vin and saw a perplexed look. Tanner's brow was furrowed as he watched Josiah bite into another juicy section. "You never had an orange before?" Larabee asked.
"Cain't say I have," Vin responded. He observed the others, as they continued to eat the aromatic fruit. "Looks sorta like lemons." Of course, when the fruit reached the Potter's, the fruits were usually ghosts of their former selves. The Potters always preferred to carry lemon essence for lemonade, but sometimes the actual fruit could be obtained.
"Oh, these ain't lemons," JD declared. "Nothin' like 'em."
"They're in the same family…" Ezra started to explain.
"Hell, if they're related, then they're distant cousins." Buck guffawed. "Puttin' these in the same category as lemons is a crime, Ezra. These are like candy."
Vin looked impressed. "Might be good," he decided. "They smell real nice and they look pretty, too."
"By all means," Ezra said. "Please, indulge all your senses."
Buck tossed another and Vin easily caught it. He peeled it as he had observed Chris and the others do, and smelled his hands before he dropped the peel to the ground. "Do they call 'em oranges because they're orange colored?" he asked.
"Seems like a logical thing," Josiah replied, wiping his chin with his hand.
Vin still looked skeptical, until he tore off a piece and bit off one end. The tracker smiled. "Hell," he said. "These are better than candy, Buck." And he quickly shoved the rest of the segment into his mouth.
"They're good for lots of ailments," Nathan declared as he hurried down the stairs. He had smelled the bewitching fragrance from the clinic as he sat at his desk, studying his books. After trying to force himself to continue his reading, he gave in. No, he couldn't stay away. The fragrance reminded him of a quiet night during the war, when the surgeons had acquired a supply of oranges and everyone sat around in grateful silence, eating the precious commodity. How, exactly, they had come to be in possession of the fruit was never asked. "Keeps ya from scurvy and colds and the like."
"I wouldn't want you to fall prey to such diseases, Mr. Jackson," Ezra allowed and the healer was the next to obtain a fruit.
The six men said nothing for several moments beyond the soft grunts of appreciation. They tucked into a small semi-circle around the box and gave it longing glances once their hands were empty. Ezra twitched his nose and then gestured again to the box, allowing for seconds. JD tossed the fruit into awaiting hands. Standish tipped his head down, keeping slumped in his chair.
"Are those oranges?" Mary Travis asked. She had noted the crowd at the front of the saloon and came immediately to see what the ruckus was all about. Billy was tugged along with her. She couldn't see what the box held, but the scent was a dead giveaway. She grimaced when she saw the peels that littered the boardwalk.
Ezra, now in the presence of a lady, finally sat up. "Please, dear Mrs. Travis and Master Travis," he said, nodding. "You must indulge as well. There's plenty for everyone." Buck graciously handed them each an orange.
Billy looked skeptical, rolling the fruit in his hands like a ball. Vin showed him how to peel the skin away to get at the fruit. "Real, tasty," he told the boy in a confidential tone. "Squirts a bit though. Best shut your eyes."
Ezra smiled as he watched the boy attempt to peel the fruit without looking at it. Mary was obviously fighting with herself as to whether or not to help him as she ate her own orange. More than once, she made a movement toward him, but checked herself, deciding to let the boy try it on his own. Still she glanced furtively at him and had to keep herself from assisting him when he struggled with the underlying white membrane. Finally, with the orange free of the skin, he tore off a big hunk and tried to shove it into his mouth. Buck and Josiah laughed. Chris just smiled warmly, remembering another time and another small boy.
Standish looked up when he noticed two women exit the mercantile, carrying a heavy load. They set their boxes into the back of their wagon, but the younger one never took her eyes off the mob. The girl scrunched up her nose in confusion, and finally, after ensuring that her burden was safely deposited, she headed in their direction.
Whatcha, doin', JD?" Casey asked, lingering back a few paces. "Somethin' gone wrong?"
"Ezra's got oranges!" Dunne said, rubbing his sticky hands on his pants. "Ya want one? He's givin' 'em out. There 'bout the sweetest things there are." He blushed, wondering if he should amend that statement, but figured that he didn’t want to say anything about Casey bein' sweeter in front of the guys.
"Dunno," she replied. "Ain't ever had one before. They look kinda funny."
"Oh, Casey," Nettie shouldered her way into the group. "Don't be afraid of something you ain't tried b'fore." She nodded to Standish who returned the gesture. "Don't mind if we try a couple of these, do you, Mr. Standish?"
"By all means," Ezra smiled pleasantly. "Please do."
Mrs. Potter and her children had followed Casey and Nettie out of the mercantile with the rest of their purchase, and were drawn in as well. Katie and Paul, having grown up around a store, were well acquainted with the rare fruit and eagerly accepted what was handed to them.
Inez stormed out of the saloon, annoyed to see the opening to her business blocked, but a fresh orange quelled her anger. She smiled at childhood memories of her mama as she accepted the peace offering.
"Mary?" Orrin Travis strode up to the group. He looked skeptically at the lawmen who lounged about, licking their fingers and the women and children who were tucked in around them. "What's going on here?"
Ezra sighed and shook his head at the Judge's abrasive tone. What was wrong with a soiree on the boardwalk? Hopefully there wasn't a law against it. Lord, it would do no good to be incarcerated on charges stemming from citrus incitement.
"Oranges, Judge," Mary said. She laughed as Billy squeezed his eyes shut and bit into a segment.
"My Lord, I thought that's what I had smelled. I didn't think it was possible." The judge sighed. "Oranges. I haven't had one since San Francisco."
"Please, Honorable Judge," Ezra made a small bow from his sitting position. "Partake as you please."
Travis regarded the gambler with a careful eye. "Why, thank you, Mr. Standish. I think I will," he said and JD handed him a fruit.
"Perhaps you will remember this transaction in the future," Ezra said leadingly, garnering a scowl from the judge.
But the scowl turned into a knowing smile as he felt the weight of the orange in his hand. "Don't think I can be bought off so easily, Mr. Standish."
Ezra shrugged. "One must try," he said quietly.
After the judge had taken his first bite, he shook his head and muttered, "Might have to rethink that. A fruit as sweet as this might be worth the perils of perjury."
The mob smacked and chewed, slurped and squirted, peeled and bit and swallowed, devouring whatever they could get their hands on. JD dove his hands into the crate again, fiddling with the excelsior that had cushioned the fruit, pushing away the distracting bits of peels, but finally ending up with a distressed expression. "They're all gone," he moaned pitifully.
Ezra pulled his watch from his pocket again, noting that little more than twenty minutes had passed. He chuckled as he replaced the timepiece.
"Pity," Josiah said with a sigh.
"Thanks, Ez!' Vin said. "I think I like those oranges."
"Damn good," Chris declared. He offered Ezra a smile as he touched the brim of his hat. "A fine thing."
"Brother, you should tell your mother to send you gifts more often," Josiah rumbled, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. "She has mighty good taste."
"Thank you, Mr. Standish," Billy said, after being prompted by his mother. And the Potter children chimed in with their own thanks.
"Yes, thank you, Ezra," Mary agreed. "That was very nice of you to share."
"It was wonderful, Mr. Standish," Mrs. Potter declared as she hustled her children away.
"Good eatin'!" Casey declared. "Mighty fine."
"Goes to show, ya should try new things," Nettie said with a wink and then nodded her thanks to Ezra.
"Thanks, Ezra." Nathan said, giving Ezra a slap on the shoulder. "Think I kept that scurvy off for a while yet."
"Señor," Inez said softly. "You should block my door more often." And she slipped back into the tavern.
"A delectable treat, Mr. Standish," the judge stated. "But don't be looking for any favors anytime soon."
Ezra sighed and shrugged. "Worth the attempt," he murmured.
Travis tipped his hat and, gathering his small family together, headed back toward the Clarion.
The group quickly dispersed, wandering off to wherever they had been headed in the first place, before they had been diverted. Finally, only Buck and JD remained.
Buck shook his head looking at the peels strewn about the boardwalk. He picked up a handful and dumped them into the empty crate.
"That was a right fine little party, Ezra," Wilmington said.
"Yeah," JD agreed. "Should do that more often."
Buck grinned and glanced to Ezra. Standish was slumped back again, trying to get comfortable in his chair. He hadn't really moved at all during the entire impromptu gathering. When Buck realized that, something else came to mind. "Oh, dang," he muttered. He rubbed his forehead, distraught.
"What's wrong?" JD asked, dumping a double-handful of peels in as well.
"Dang it, Ezra!" Buck declared. "We ate 'em all and you didn't get nary a one!"
JD froze when he realized the truth in that statement. "Oh, jeez, Ezra. I'm sorry, I didn't know. Man, I had three of 'em."
Ezra tipped his head back again and smiled. "Gentleman, I don't care for oranges."
"You don't?" JD questioned.
"I haven't been able to stomach that particular fruit since I was a child." He grimaced at a memory. "They make me rather...nauseous."
"Oranges can't make you sick," JD declared as he picked up the last bits of peel. "Nate says they make you feel better. I could eat 'em all day."
Ezra sighed. "Unfortunately, I was in that exact circumstance. I had nothing but oranges to eat for several days." He shuddered. "They lose their magic after a time. I find them unpleasant now."
"Really, Ez?" JD asked in disbelief.
Buck looked perplexed. "Now how the hell did that come about?"
Ezra furrowed his brow. "Poor planning on my part," he responded. "But it's behind me know, leaving only a rather strong and long-lasting aversion to the fruit."
Buck glanced at the lid, where the crate had been addressed to Ezra Standish in Four Corners, from his loving mother.
"Your mom know 'bout this 'aversion' of yours?" Buck asked in disbelief.
Ezra smiled at Buck's question. "She forgets." He shrugged. "At least she thought of me." He gestured broadly. "And I was able to share the wealth with others."
JD shook his head. "You're mother's crazy, Ezra."
Ezra laughed loudly. "Oh yes, Mr. Dunne. I couldn't agree more."
Buck fit the lid back onto the crate. "I think I'll see if Meyer wants the peels for his hogs. Might make 'em smell a bit better if nothin' else."
"Ya think?" JD asked brightly. "Those pigs sure could use somethin'." He rubbed his nose. "They stink somethin' awful."
"Anything could help," Wilmington muttered. "When the wind's comin' from the right direction…look out! Lord, I'd spray 'em with toilet water if it'd do the trick."
"Toilet water?" JD looked concerned.
Buck sighed expansively. "It's like perfume, kid."
Buck was stooping to pick up the box when Ezra spoke, "Would you do me a favor, Mr. Wilmington?"
"Sure Ez," Buck replied. "I 'spect I owe ya one now."
"Could you return the crate to me after you've disposed of the remnants?" He made a fastidious gesture with his hands. "I'd prefer not to handle the peels. You understand."
"Sure," Buck said with a shrug.
"What do you want with a crate?" JD asked. His face took on a troubled expression as he thought of something. "You don't need it for travelin', do you? Ain't thinkin' of leavin', are you?" Why else would the gambler want a packing crate?
Ezra was surprised by the worry that tinged Dunne's voice. He glanced to Wilmington and saw the ladies' man looking at him in shock.
"Why no, Mr. Dunne," Ezra consoled. "I just wanted it as a memento, I suppose. It isn't often that my mother sends me something."
Buck didn't know if he should laugh or cry, wondering how a mother could go through the trouble of sending her son something that he obviously disliked -- surprised that Ezra would want to keep something as insignificant as the box for a souvenir. "Sure, Ez," Buck replied. "You can store your spare jackets and such in it. Could keep it at the foot of your bed, I reckon."
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Please, Mr. Wilmington," he groaned. "If I wanted a trunk, I would purchase a reputable one -- one with some style." He glanced at the crate. "... any style. I simply want to keep the box here by my chair. It's the perfect height for a footstool."
Buck shook his head in amusement and grinned. "I'll bring it right back," he promised. He held the nearly empty crate easily with one hand as he grabbed JD by the elbow. "Come on kid, let's get rid of this stuff. I seen Meyer at the saloon earlier. We can just dump this stuff in his wagon. Shouldn't be too hard to pick his out."
JD wrinkled up his nose at the thought.
Ezra continued to slouch down in his seat, watching as Buck shoved JD forward, heading off to find Meyer or his odiferous wagon. He scratched his elbow absently and rested one foot on top of the other again. He certainly could use a footstool -- damn thoughtful of his mother to send one.
THE END - by NotTasha
I would love to hear your comments.