RATING: G ...nothing to be ashamed of here.
CATEGORY: Challenge - OW 
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.
NOTE:  June 2002 Magnificent 7 Challenge, Offered by Christine Jeffords: "Assuming that the Seven get together in the 1870's: Write a story in which one or more of the guys encounter a historic figure. This may be a Wild West character, a Civil War figure, anyone who would fit into their timeline. The encounter can take place before or after the group comes together, whatever works for you.
SUMMARY:  Here we go... a famous person from the OW era.  General Tom Thumb 
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments are greatly appreciated.
DATE: June 6, 2002

Rule of Thumb
By NotTasha...who thumbs her nose at just about everything

JD followed Ezra into the luxurious room in the Briarwood Hotel.  He eyed the rich woods and well appointed furnishings in disbelief.  The room was dim and cool, refreshing after their long ride.  Two beds were covered in rich comforters, complementing the upholstery of the chairs and the draperies.  "Gosh, Ezra," JD said, as he set down his luggage.  "This is a nice place."

"Best in town," Ezra responded, appraising the surroundings.  "You see, my friend, this is what it's like to live in the lap of luxury, the sort of style we deserve."

The young sheriff sheepishly touched the lace-draped table.  He'd grown up in and around one of better homes in Boston.  He'd seen rooms like this…he just never expected to sleep in one. "Think we can afford it?  I mean, Chris just wanted us to stop over and pick up those papers once the train brought 'em."

"He knows we're stayin' the night."

"Yeah, but I don't think he meant for us to stay so nice."

"The fair town of Four Corners pays our room and board," Ezra responded.  "It's no expense to us."  He regarded himself in a gilded mirror, rubbing at his dusty chin with a frown.  "Besides, we have an excellent excuse, Mr. Dunne.  It's the last available room in Ridge City."  He poured out a bit of water from the ewer and proceeded to wash his face in the basin.

"We didn't check everywhere," JD commented. "Never got past Upland Street.  I saw more places down First Avenue."

Ezra grimaced as he splashed his face.  "The streets were too crowded to continue our search and certainly, the coffers of Four Corners can afford to house two of their most valuable peacekeepers in a suitable habitat.  We are, at least, sharin’ a room to cut down on the expense.  And, if we were to spend the night in one of those First Avenue establishments, the cost would only compound as we would be forced to purchase salves and ointments to cure ourselves of whatever might be currently catching in those facilities."  He picked up a towel from the stand and daubed himself dry.

JD smiled lopsidedly at that comment.  "Why you think it's so crowded on the streets?  It's like folks have come to see a show.  I don't think everyone's here for the train.  They seem to be lookin' for somethin'."

"It's hard to say.  Perhaps someone's cow gave birth to a two-headed calf and they're all in a dither over it."

"Ya think?"  JD asked and then saw Ezra's grimace.  Well, he thought.  That'd be somethin' to see.  He made his way through the opulent room.  "Hey, it's got a balcony!" he cried.

"But of course," Ezra responded.  "I hope that it wouldn't overlook the train tracks or view the station.  Such things are meant to be seen only when they're necessary."

JD smiled and pushed open the doors, leading onto the deck.  The sounds of the street below filled the room.  People chattered and bustled about.

"Oh!" Dunne exclaimed once he stepped outside.  A child sat at the opposite end of the balcony, outside the room that shared the overhang.

The child turned to him, smiled congenially and waved a cigar at him.  "Good afternoon," the boy piped.

"Ah, hi," JD said, frowning as he noticed the kid had a full beard and had a bottle of scotch by his side.  "Sorry," Dunne muttered and stepped back into the room.

Ezra gave Dunne a puzzled glance when the young man returned.  "Is someone enjoying the late afternoon on the veranda?"

"Ah," JD's frown deepened. "There's a kid out there who's…" he paused, trying to understand exactly what he'd seen.

Ezra shook his head patiently, and then tried the door himself.  He stepped onto the balcony and smiled his patented 'trust me' smile and nodded a greeting to their neighbor.  "Good day to you," he said brightly.

"Good day, sir," the stranger answered, in a high voice.

The southerner's eyes widened in recognition as JD came up behind him.  "Do I have the pleasure of addressing General Tom Thumb?  Or do you prefer Charles Stratton?"

The little man laughed and jumped down from his chair.  He walked as regally as a prince toward them, dressed as finely as any king.  He was no bigger than a child, standing little more than three feet tall.  "You can call me Tom.  I've lived with that name for so long, I can hardly recognize my own."  Ezra went down on one knee to meet him at eye level, and Tom shook Ezra's hand as firmly as his tiny appendage would allow.

Ezra's smile never dipped.  "And I am Ezra Standish, at your service.  This is my associate, Mr. JD Dunne."

JD's mouth was open, as the little man turned toward him.  "JD is it?"  Tom said, ignoring the dumbfounded look as if he'd seen it a thousand times.  He extended his arm.

"Mr. Thumb!'  JD declared, kneeling down as well and taking hold of his hand and shaking it carefully.   Now that Tom was closer, JD could see that the little person was a grown man, older than either of them.  “I've heard all sorts of stories about you,” Dunne continued. “ I saw a picture postcard once with your wife and baby.”

The little man smiled.  "Ah, Lavinia, the loveliest creature on this planet."  He winked and leaned closer to the young man. "Let me tell you a secret, son.  The child was never ours.  It was a prop used for the sake of the photograph."

"Ah, a bit of showmanship on the part of Mr. Barnum?"  Ezra commented.

Tom took a draw from his cigar. "He's the best, you know."  He gestured to the chairs at his side of the balcony.  "Please, let's be comfortable.  There's no sense in you crouching like that all afternoon."

JD and Ezra stood and made their way to the other side of the balcony.  They sat as Tom made the climb back onto the chair.  He picked up two more glasses from table beside him, and poured scotch for the other two.  Every movement had a deliberateness to it, as he moved items that were too big for his grasp.

Ezra sat forward and took the glasses, realizing that Tom wouldn't have been able to hand them over himself.  Once he handed JD his drink, Ezra sampled the single-malt, "Ah," he stated. "Excellent, sir.  You are a man of taste and refinement."

"I've learned to expect only the best." Thumb crossed his feet in front of him, having no chance of setting them on the floor from his perch. His delicate little boots shone from a recent polish.  He looked too tiny to be real, like a doll left behind by a child.  His eyes twinkled like a mischievous elf.

"So, Mr. Thumb," JD started. "What are you doing way out here in Ridge City?  I thought you'd be in London or Paris or New York at least.   I heard stories of you goin' all over the place. You're famous."

The little man laughed.  "Yes, sir.  I've traveled around the world and have seen more crowned heads that nearly any American living."  He smiled, adding, “I've held audience with the royalty of England, France, Spain and Belgium.  All in all, I've probably kissed more than two million ladies, but I love only one. I've visited presidents and heads of state, and performed in the best theatres worldwide.  President Lincoln received Lavinia and I at the White House during our wedding trip.  I am world renowned.”

JD laughed.  "Wow," he stated, not knowing what else to say.

"So," Ezra said with a convivial smile.  "That only makes my friend's question more interesting -- 'what in God's green earth are you doing here?'"

The little man cocked his head to one side.  "Hiding," he replied.

"From what?  From who?"  JD quickly responded.

Tom sighed and waved one hand.  "My public."  He took another drink and said, "I'd hired a train coach and hoped to take it across the country to see the Wild West.  My Lavinia has been urging me to do so, but the little dear hasn't the fortitude to attempt the journey herself.  It's an enjoyable way to see the world.   Unfortunately, the stove in the coach has been insufferable, smoking and hardly heating the area." He waved at the cigar smoke around his head.  "We had to unhitch here, in this forsaken place, and await repairs. We've been here for two days already, and I'm afraid we might have to wait a week."

"God forbid," Ezra responded.

"I thought, perhaps, I could move through this town unknown."  He shrugged.  "I have a low profile, you know.  But, I'm too much of a curiosity.  My fame has even managed to spread to these far ends of the earth.  My traveling companion, Mr. Gleason, was able to find us a room at this establishment, but I haven't been able to budge from this place since then."

"Why not?" JD asked.

"If I even step into the lobby, I am accosted by well-wishers and fanatics. And they seem to growing thicker by the moment."

"Ah, the riggers of fame," Ezra said.

Tom harrumphed.  "Consider what it would be liked to be mobbed when one is only waist high."

"Oh man," JD shook his head in commiseration, imagining a sea of hips, thighs, knees and buttocks.  "That's tough."

"Oh, I love my public," Thumb continued.  "But they all seem to treat me like a child -- squeezing my cheeks and trying to pick me up.  It is, well, demoralizing at times."

"An understandable sentiment," Ezra said.  "I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you, existing in a world of giants."

"Oh, don’t get me wrong," Thumb continued.  "I am happy to be who I am.  How else could I have seen all the wonders of the earth?  It's amazing really.  Because of my size, I'm accepted by everyone -- instantly brought into confidences -- treated as kin.  Everyone knows me."  He smiled again.  "Everybody loves me.  It's a good life," Tom commented.  "I have everything I need:  a lovely wife, a household set to my smaller dimensions and all the money I could hope for."

He refilled the glasses, noting that JD had only sipped at his.  He'd have Gleason bring something else around for the young man -- beer maybe.  "You see," Thumb continued.  "I've decided that one must take what life offers you.  When I was five years old, I was an embarrassment to my family, a thing to be shunned and locked away.  I had no future, nothing.  And then I came across a man named P.T. Barnum and my future opened up for me."  He lifted his glass.  "To Barnum."

And the three toasted the entertainer extraordinaire.  JD coughed and Thumb wondered if he should have Gleason bring some milk.

"And so, I turned a detriment into a benefit," Tom continued.  " I wouldn't change my life for anything."

"That's great, Mr. Thumb…General…" JD commented.

"Tom," the small man corrected. He turned as he heard the door to his room opening.  "Ah, Walter," he called as his traveling companion entered the room.  "I'd like you to meet our neighbors."

The amiable looking man stepped out of the room and onto the balcony.  Tom climbed down from his chair and made the introductions.   "Walter, these are our new neighbors, Ezra Standish and JD Dunne.  And this is Walter Gleason, a good friend."

Gleason nodded and smiled and shook hands, greeting these strangers.  Finally, when the proper motions were finished, he turned to his companion.  "Tom," Gleason stated.  "The stove’s fixed and the coach is ready to go.  A train's about to pull in, so we can hitch up if you're ready to go."

"Where's it headed?"  Thumb asked as he set down his glass.

"San Francisco, eventually," Gleason returned.

"Ah yes," Ezra commented.  "We're here to meet that very train."

"We're picking up a package and going home tomorrow," JD included.  "I've heard all sorts of great stories about San Francisco."

Thumb smiled.  "Very well then, we'll be off." He slapped his hands together in anticipation. "It was a pleasure meeting you both," Thumb said. "I'm beginning to regret that this little stop wasn't longer."

"Truly, a pity.  I enjoyed our discussion," Ezra said.  "It was delightful to hear about your views and your life."

Tom laughed.  "I did do all the talking, didn't I?  I suppose that can't be helped.  Entertaining is my livelihood."  He shrugged minimally.  "Still, I’m certain you have tales worth telling and I'm sorry to have missed them.  I do want to thank you for taking the time to listen.  It's not often that I find listeners who are not all agog at my fame, who truly listen to what I have to say."

"It was a pleasure, sir," Ezra responded.

"Yeah, it was nice."  JD set down his unfinished glass.

Thumb shook both their hands and smiled.  "I'm afraid I must be on my way.  San Francisco awaits."

Gleason looked a little nervous.  "Tom, I hate to say it, but a group of people followed me back here from the station.   They were poking around your coach, peekin' in.  They saw what was inside."

Tom sighed and turned to his new friends.  "I live in a doll house.  People find it a curiosity.  They saw me earlier in town, so undoubtedly they're on the look-out." He straightened his jacket and said, "Well, Walter, I suppose I should go meet my public.  The quiet was enjoyable while it lasted."

"Mr. Stratton," Ezra said stepping forward.  "If you'd prefer to make a clean getaway, I might have an idea. If you don't mind a little play acting…"

Tom smiled widely, "Mr. Standish, I have lived most of my life on stage.  What do you have in mind?"


JD accompanied Walter Gleason back to the station, where the private coach was already latched to the end of the train.  The young sheriff wandered through the car, looking about in astonishment at the tiny chairs and tables, the counters set to child's height.  The full-sized tables and chairs looked mammoth next to them.   A half-sized wardrobe sat beside a tiny bed.  A little washstand completed the scene.  It was all too precious for words.

The locomotive chuffed in the station, taking on water and passengers.  A sharp whistle announced that they'd be soon underway.

Gleason looked alarmed.  "Think there's a problem?  Tom isn't here."

"Naw," JD responded, looking at the little desk, but avoiding the desire to open it up and look at the tiny drawers, wondering if they contained tiny little letters.

"Tom's gonna be late. He'll miss the train!"

"Naw, Ezra's just gettin' everything right."  JD moved toward a window and pulled up a blind, startled to find people just outside the window, eager to peer in.  They rushed to the window once they realized it was opened and fought for a good position to peer within.   They gaped at JD as if he was on display as well.   It's like living in a fishbowl, Dunne thought, stepping back.

He caught sight of his friend moving through the crowd.  Ezra's black hat and red coat were difficult to miss.  Standish was smiling congenially, as he led his niece through the crowd.

“Give way, please,” the southern accent cut through the murmur. “Please, I must get this young miss to her coach.”  The mob parted as the gambler steered the little girl through. She wore a full skirt, a dozen petticoats and a bonnet that hid her face.  The group looked disappointed as he brought her to the coach.

"Hey," someone said.  "I thought that Tom Thumb was on that car!"

"Apparently not," Ezra replied as he helped her up the rear stairs.  "It's just this traveler and a companion."

"You mean, that special car is just for that girl?"  someone else asked as JD opened the door and stepped out, letting the little person moved past him.  Tom smiled at him from beneath the bonnet.

"Seeing is believing," Ezra replied and stepped back so that JD could descend.

"But folks were sayin' that General Tom Thumb was in town!"

"I seen him!"

"I come all the way into town to get a look at him."

"I've been waiting here all day."

"Tom Thumb!  Where is he?"

Ezra shrugged as JD came to stand beside him. "You must have gotten your information from incorrect sources. Idle gossip is the work of the devil."

The locomotive whistle blew again and the train started moving. The crowd began to slink away in disappointment. JD watched as Tom turned and came back out onto the rear platform of the train.  It was picking up speed as he pulled off his bonnet and threw it at the gathered crowd.  He laughed uproariously.

"Tom Thumb!  Tom Thumb!'  They shouted.

"I knew it!"

"There he is!"

Someone grabbed the bonnet and they all hooted gleefully, running after the train to catch a glimpse of the famous little person.

Tom continued to laugh and posed uproariously in his dress, making the followers laugh and stumble until the train picked up enough speed to leave them far behind.

Ezra and JD chuckled as they turned from the train.  JD carried the package that they’d been sent to retrieve.  "Gee, Ezra," JD said, that's the first time I've ever met someone that famous.  He seemed like a good guy."

"Indeed." Ezra nodded.  "It's amazing to think that if his fate had turned differently, he might have ended up locked away and forgotten, an unwanted twig on the family tree. Yes, he took a bad situation and turned it to his advantage.   It's a good lesson to follow."

"A rule of Thumb?"  JD asked and laughed.

Ezra rolled his eyes.  "Please, JD.  You're puns are abominable."

“Come on, Ezra, it was such a small joke, just a tiny pun.”

Ezra groaned and JD continued to laugh as they continued to make their way back to the hotel

THE END - by NotTasha

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