“There Are Hungry Children in China!” by Vicki L. Nelson

Word Count 2,220

(Small Matters Version of Raian’s “Food Is Made To Play With)
Many thanks to my beta, Raian, for her invaluable input!

When all was said and done, neither of them could recall exactly who started the fight, but they knew who stopped it: their father, Murdoch Lancer!


14th in the Small Matters Series

The morning began as every other morning at the Lancer breakfast table. However, Murdoch had a sneaking suspicion that his two boys were at odds. Before he could question them both, there came a knock on the door and someone called out his name. Opening the front door, he saw his Segundo, Paul O’Brien.

“Murdoch, I need to talk with you…outside.”

Calling over his shoulder to his sons, he said “I’ll be back in a moment. Behave yourselves.”

Murdoch’s hunch was correct: Scott and Johnny were having a spat.

“You’re so fickle, Scott. I seen you cozying up to the new girl. What’s the matter? Did you get tired of Laura Murphy?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, Little Brother, but Raian is the new girl at school. I was merely taking her under my wing so she could learn all about our school and the area. I was just being a gentleman; in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Quit calling me Little Brother; you know I hate that!” Pausing for a moment, Johnny continued on, “Scott and Raian, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g…”

“Shut up, Johnny!”

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Scotty in the baby carriage!”

“I said ‘Shut up Johnny! ‘If your ears were as big as your mouth, you’d have heard me the first time!” Pausing for a breath, Scott continued on in a sing-song voice, “Little Brother, Baby Brother, Baby Brat of a Brother…”

Then the food fight was on! Breakfast food flew everywhere and the boys were well in the middle of their battle royale when their father returned.

Murdoch stepped into the big room to discover Johnny with an overturned bowl of porridge dripping off of his head. Scott had scrambled eggs sticking to his shirt front and was wiping grits off his face. Breakfast food was all over the table, the floor, the walls, and both his sons.

Striding to the table, Murdoch bellowed, “What in blazes is going on…” His sentence was cut off as he slipped in a puddle of spilled orange juice and sat down with a thump. Scott and Johnny were horrified!

Staggering to his feet with a sticky seat of his pants, he didn’t bellow, he didn’t shout, merely said in a very low voice, pointing to the floor in front of him. “Front and center, both of you!”

His sons scrambled to do his bidding. They knew the danger sign when their father talked very low. They were both in Big Trouble.


Scott and Johnny gaped at each other, then each pointed to the other. “He did!” “It’s Scott’s fault; he’s the oldest! He should know better!”

Murdoch felt a headache coming on. “I don’t care who started it; I’m stopping it!” Looking at Johnny, he added. “John, you both are old enough to know better.”

Glaring at his boys, he said, “I want this mess cleaned before I get back. Thanks to the both of you, I have to change my trousers!”

The boys didn’t dare complain but got busy cleaning up the huge mess they had created. When Murdoch returned, having purposely taken his time, the room was spotless and both his sons were fairly clean: a point in their favor, though that didn’t let either of them off the hook.

Murdoch returned. Towering over them, he hissed “All right, SIT! I see you cleaned up the room and yourselves. Now, we’re going to have a discussion about what just happened here.

Breakfast is for eating, not for throwing around. There are hungry children in China who would love to have this food!”

Scott was tempted to tell his father to send it off to them, but he wasn’t ready to die at fourteen years of life.

Murdoch then continued, “Okay, now I want you to go into the kitchen and apologize to Mia. She works very hard at cooking for us and feeding us, only to have you two waste all her hard work.”

Scott and Johnny looked at each other. That hadn’t occurred to them.


Wasting no time, the boys hurried to the kitchen, only to greet a very upset Maria, i.e. Mia. To their dismay, her arms were akimbo with the dreaded wooden spoon in her hand, tapping her toes and glaring at the both of them. It was rare to see Mia angry at them; she loved them as if they were her own sons and Murdoch frequently complained that she spoiled them.

“We’re sorry, Mia!”

“We didn’t think!”

“You worked really hard to make us a good breakfast and we wasted it; we’re really sorry!”

“Yeah, we won’t do it again!”

“Chicos traviesos. Me avergüenzo de vosotros dos por vuestra estupidez. Ahora regresa con tu padre ya que estoy seguro de que no ha terminado de hablar contigo!” (Naughty boys. I am ashamed of you both for your foolishness. Now return to your father as I am sure he is not finished talking with you yet.)

Scott and Johnny turned around quickly, but not quickly enough to avoid a pop to their bottoms.

“Ouch…Mia!” was heard in unison.

Murdoch smirked as he heard the two sharp whaps and the complaints from his sons. Mia might spoil his sons, but she did not put up with foolishness. As his sons reentered the room, they came to stand before him.

“We’re sorry, Father. We were foolish.” Scott stared down at his boots.

“Yeah, Pa. We’re sorry,” said Johnny, looking at the ceiling.

The two of them looked up at him, hopeful expressions on their faces. However, their father was not through with them. There were consequences for bad behavior and they both knew it.

Crossing his arms and glaring down at his sons, Murdoch said, “I’m going to step outside for a moment so that I can cool down before I kill the both of you. You must be punished, but I’m going to let you choose your punishments.”

Scott and Johnny turned to gape at each other, then turned back with puzzled looks on their faces.

Murdoch went on, “You can either come with me to the barn for a ‘discussion’ or you can be responsible for clearing the dinner table, along with doing the dishes by yourselves.”

“How long?”

“One week. When I return, I want your answers.”

After Murdoch exited the house, the brothers turned to each other and asked the question, in unison.

“What are you gonna pick?”

Johnny went first. “I pick the discussion. I know it’ll hurt, but the sting in my britches will mostly disappear by the next day. Doing the dishes will take a lot longer!”

Scott replied, “Even so, I’m going to pick the dishes. I’m fourteen, I’m too old to get a tanning.”

“Hmmph, I don’t think Pa thinks that,” replied his eleven-year-old brother.

Scott frowned. “Maybe so, but if I pick the ‘discussion’ in the barn, it will hurt my pride a lot more than my posterior.”

Johnny rolled his eyes and snorted. At that moment, Murdoch returned, wanting their answers.

After informing their father of their decisions, he said, “All right. Scott, you will clear the table and do the dishes, starting now.”

“Washing and drying?” Scott said, unsuccessfully keeping the whine out of his voice.

“Yes, both. Do you still want that punishment?” Scott reconsidered for a moment before nodding his head in the affirmative.

“All right. Johnny, come with me.” Johnny turned to look over his shoulder, grimacing to his brother. Scott felt sorry for him, but Johnny had a choice of punishments and he picked a trip to the barn. Scott, meanwhile, was free, at least until dinnertime.

When Johnny returned from the barn, looking worse for wear, he headed up to his room for the rest of the evening. Meanwhile, his big brother stood at the sink, wrapped in one of Mia’s frilly aprons and up to his elbows in soapy water. Scott let out an agonized sigh and rolled his eyes. Luckily, Murdoch didn’t catch him at it.

After Johnny was sent to his room, Murdoch looked in on Scott. “How’s it going, son?”

“Fine,” mumbled Scott, not turning from the sink.

Murdoch smirked; his boy didn’t sound too convincing. Heading for the Great Room, he instructed Scott to head up to his room after he had finished up. Since Johnny had been sent to his room, it was only fair that Scott was too.

At breakfast the next day, Johnny seemed to have trouble sitting down as well as at school. True to his word, Johnny was much recovered while Scott was stuck doing dishes for six more dinners.

Now that Johnny was feeling more like his old self and done with his punishment, he felt he could torment his big brother. He had taken to sauntering into the kitchen and dirtying up as many dishes as he could and plunking them in the sink in front of his brother. Scott couldn’t help but notice Johnny’s smirk every time. Scott had gotten his eye rolling routine down pat with all his practice. He could only hiss at his brother under his breath as he didn’t want their father to catch the two of them in another epic battle.

Finally, it was the last night of Scott’s dishwashing punishment and Johnny was still throwing extra dishes in the sink.

Scott had reached the end of his rope and this last dish was the straw breaking the camel’s back. Whirling around, he snatched up his apron, threw it in Johnny’s face and hissed, “That’s it, Johnny! I’ve had enough of your crap!”

Johnny retaliated by head-butting Scott in his stomach. “You said ‘crap.’ Pa’s gonna wash your mouth out with soap!”

“Ooh, that’s it!” yelled Scott as he snatched up a pan of soapy water and threw it at Johnny.

Unfortunately, Johnny was quick and wiry and ducked. It was unfortunate timing on all their parts when their father walked into the kitchen and got a face full of tepid, dirty dishwater.

Scott and Johnny’s eyes were as big as platters and they both stood stock still and waited for the eruption. They were not disappointed. Wiping the water out of his eyes, he bellowed, “Scott Lachlan Lancer, John Fraser Lancer! Apparently, you did not learn your lesson the first time.


A little while later, both Scott and Johnny both stood at the kitchen sink wrapped in frilly aprons. All their efforts had proven for naught and Scott was taken to the barn for a “discussion” and Johnny would be doing the dinner dishes for the next week. There was nothing heard for a time but the rattle of dishes. Johnny began to snicker.

Scott stared at his brother like he had lost his mind. “What’s so funny? I’m standing here with an ache in my backside and you’re stuck doing dishes for the week!”

“I know; I know…but I can’t help thinking about the look on Pa’s face after he slipped in the orange juice!”

Scott looked at him, stupefied, but started to snicker.“I know. I wanted to laugh so bad even though I knew he’d kill us. I bit my lip so hard, I nearly bit it in half.”

“I know; I know. I had to stare at the floor so I wouldn’t laugh, either!”

“Then the look on his face after I threw dirty dishwater at him. It was supposed to be you!”

“Yeah, I know. He looked surprised, then his face turned as red as Santa’s suit! I wanted to laugh, but I knew we were both in for it!”

“I know. He nearly melted our ears when he bawled us out. You know, I think I got it figured out. Parents only give their kids middle names so they know when they’re in trouble!”

Bumping shoulders, the brothers couldn’t stop guffawing. Neither were aware that their father had come to check on them. Catching their conversation, he nearly reprimanded them for being disrespectful but reconsidered. Giving them a few seconds, he stuck his head in the kitchen.

“Boys, when you’re done with the dishes, head upstairs.”

There was a deafening sound of silence from his boys. Heading for the bar, he poured himself a hearty portion of Glenlivet; it had been a long week for all concerned.

Taking his drink over to the sofa, he sat down and stretched out his long legs. “I suppose they were being a bit disrespectful, but now they’re finally getting along together. Lifting his glass, he made a toast. “Here’s to your common enemy, my sons.”

At dinner the next day, Scott had trouble sitting comfortably and Johnny had to clear the table and wash and dry the dishes. Murdoch sat and watched them with a slight smile on his face.

“Clean your plates, boys. There are hungry children in China who would be grateful for it.”

The brothers looked at each other across the table and struggled to contain their eye rolling.

The End
April 2022


Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Vicki directly.


6 thoughts on “ “There Are Hungry Children in China!” by Vicki L. Nelson

  1. That’s so nice to hear. I’m going to continue my ongoing story “Return To Sender” and hope that my muse wakes up and gives me some more story ideas. I enjoy the young Lancers


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