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Summery: H/C. Response to Grandmother Challenge
Disclaimer: The Characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell. But the memories
belong to me.
Dedicated to my Grandmother, Eugenia Evans, October 1914-May 2001. Rest in
HM Murdock paced the floor of his room at the VA hospital. He had heard
from his best friend, Face, early yesterday afternoon. Face was arranging to
get Murdock out of the hospital for the weekend, and Murdock was excited. He
had already made a mental list of all the things that he wanted to do,
knowing Face would take him where-ever he wanted to go.
He just hoped his best friend had enough hamburgers, hot-dogs, and chili
in whatever house he had been able to scam. Murdock really wanted a chili
dog, stacked high with onions and jalepeno peppers. He grinned when he
imagined Face's reaction to that. But Face always gave Murdock what he
wanted to eat also. Like he was an overindulgent uncle.
Soon, he heard Face's footsteps coming down the corridor to his room.
Murdock looked out the small window in his door, surprised that Face wasn't
wearing a disguise. He also noticed Face was looking very pale, as if he
hadn't slept properly last night. A red flag went up in Murdock's mind. His
friend was in trouble. And it was up to him, HM Murdock, to get him out of
It never ceased to amaze Murdock the relationship he had with Face. Most
of the time, Face was like a caregiver to Murdock. The conman visited him
here at the hospital, sometimes bringing him comic books for his collection,
and listening to Murdock for hours on the phone whenever the pilot had a
nightmare and needed someone to talk to. He would break Murdock out of the
VA hospital on occasion, and take him up the coast so that the two of them
could talk without being interrupted.
But once in a while, Face would "run out" of energy with being the
caregiver. Only Face would never admit that anything was wrong, and that's
when they reversed roles. Murdock knew how to get his friend to talk about
whatever was bothering him. He just had to be very careful with doing so.
Face could be as tightlipped as a clam and as stubborn as a mule at times.
"Hiya, Facey!" Murdock exclaimed happily, embracing his friend as if it
had been months, not days, since his last visit. This was what Murdock and
Hannibal both called the "frontal assault." Face hated public displays of
affection, but he tolerated it from Murdock. He wouldn't tolerate it very
well from Hannibal or BA though.
Face returned the hug, momentarily holding on longer then he usually
would have. Murdock knew then that something was very wrong with his friend.
Face didn't cling to him unless he was really hurting inside.
Finally breaking contact, Face stood back and put on a
"I-feel-like-shit-but-everything-is-really-fine" smile. "Ready to go?" the
"Sure thing, Faceguy!" Murdock answered. *You can only hide from your
feelings so long, Faceman,* he thought.
"So, what do you want to do today, Murdock?" Face asked as he turned away
from Murdock, heading for the door.
To anybody else, it would have seemed casual. But to Murdock, he knew
that his friend was trying to avert his gaze. *You can run, but you can't
hide, Facey.* "I really want a chili-dog! Can ya take me to get a few,
Faceguy? Canya, canya, canya, canya, canya?"He said out-loud.
Face winced, but nodded. He hated chili dogs, but this was Murdock's day.
And if Murdock wanted chili dogs, he was going to get chili dogs. As the two
men went out into the corridor, both Face and Murdock looked around for MP's.
Face was a fugitive, and was facing twenty to thirty years at a military
prison if he was caught. But these weekends with Murdock meant as much to
Face as they did to Murdock. To be by his best friend, Face would go through
every roadblock in the country if Murdock needed him.
Murdock casually put an arm around Face's shoulder, wanting to hug the
younger man to him. But until Face decided to open up to him, Murdock could
just let him know he was there for him. He kept his arm around Face's
shoulder until they reached Face's car. Then Murdock got into the passenger
side, and Face got behind the steering wheel.
"I heard of a new place that's supposed to have wonderful fast food,"
Face said. "Rachel said they have wonderful Black Cows there too, whatever
Murdock looked at his friend. "You don't know what a black cow is?"
Face shook his head, paying attention to the traffic. "Why it's a root beer
float! You put vanilla ice cream and root beer in a tall glass. Oh, Facey!
Let's go there! It's been YEARS since I've had a black cow!"
"Don't worry Murdock. We'll be there soon."
The rest of the drive to the drive in was quiet. When they got there,
Murdock started tapping his foot to the beat of the music. He started
singing along with Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who were singing "That'll be
the day." Face smiled at his friend. He was glad that Murdock seemed to be
having a good time.
When their waitress, a young woman in her late teens or early twenties,
skated up, she took their orders and skated off. Face watched her go. "A
little young for you, Faceguy," Murdock commented.
"What? Oh no, Murdock, I wasn't thinking that. I was wondering how
people stay on those things."
"Oh, it's easy, once you learn how. Didn't you have roller skates or a
skateboard when you were a kid?"
"No, I didn't. Got a set of roller skates once. But the wheels were
busted off or loose."
The two men were silent for a few more minutes. Murdock was now singing
along with Elvis Presley, singing about the Heartbreak Hotel. Face looked at
him, a questioning look on his face. "Do you know every song there is,
Murdock?" he asked.
"Na, just quite a few. I always liked this type of music. Didn't you
listen to this when you were a kid?"
"Certainly not. At the orphanage, this was music of the devil. If
anyone was caught listening to it, they were put in the closet until they
repented and said a few Hail Mary's. Then they were forced to go to
confession, and say even more Hail Marys."
Murdock nodded. He remembered back in Vietnam, and Face's reaction to
some of the music that was played. Face had liked it, but often acted like
he was going to be punished for liking it. It took a long time before
Hannibal and Murdock were able to convince Face that he wasn't going to be
punished for liking rock and roll.
Their food arrived, and the two men ate in companionable silence.
Murdock had two chili dogs, french fries, and a "black cow." Face settled
for a chicken sandwich, fries, and a "black cow." He decided that he liked
them too, but he wasn't going to let Murdock know that.
After finishing their meal, and listening to Ricky Nelson singing about
the benefits of being a traveling man, Face and Murdock went to Face's new
"home." It was a beautiful beach house, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
Murdock sighed. He hoped that he and the ocean were able to help Face. The
ocean had always had a soothing effect on his friend.
"What do you want to watch, Murdock?"
"The Blue Max. The guy in the lead role looks so familiar for some
The two men settled on the couch, a bowl of popcorn on the coffee table.
Face had left the doors to the ocean open, and they were able to hear the
waves rolling up onto the beach. Murdock put an arm around Face's shoulder,
and Face leaned into his side. All too soon, Face had fallen asleep on
After the movie was over, Murdock gently shook Face awake. "Facey, time
to go upstairs to bed," he said gently.
"Uh-uh. I'm comfortable," Face said, still half asleep.
Knowing that his friend wasn't going anywhere, Murdock decided to do some
gentle questioning. "What's wrong, Facey?" he asked softly.
"Nothing, nothing is wrong." Face said, now fully awake and trying to move
Murdock would have none of it, however. He had to pull Face out of this
funk he was in. Otherwise, it was going to ruin their time together. "C'mon
Face. It's me, Murdock. I know that something is bothering you, muchacho.
Tell me what it is. Maybe I can help."
"I don't think anybody can help, Murdock. It's more feelings then
Murdock nodded his head. Face could talk Eskimo's into buying a freezer,
but he could never deal with his emotions very well. It was a trait that he
shared with their leader, Hannibal Smith. Even BA was better at showing what
he felt then Face did. And unlike Face, he didn't feel guilty about having
the emotions either. "Then at least tell me what you're feeling, even if you
don't know the reasons why you're feeling them. Maybe it'll help."
Face sighed. He knew that he wasn't going to get away with the
"everything is fine and dandy" scam with Murdock. He never was good at
conning any of the members of the A-Team. Especially Murdock, who sometimes
seemed to know Face better then Face knew himself. And the remarkable thing
was, to Face anyway, that Murdock still liked him despite it all. "You
Murdock thought back to the time, a few months ago, when Face was
reconciled with his old orphanage friend, Barry. The reunion had been
bittersweet for Face. Especially after he found out that some people who had
originally wanted to adopt Face ended up adopting Barry instead. Face had
conned some concert tickets off of Barry, and had conned himself out of
having a family in the process.
"Yeah, Face. I remember."
"I saw Barry yesterday, just after I called you. I asked him how the
hunt was going, but he didn't answer. Instead, he looked at me and started to
cry. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that his grandmother was
"Oh, that's rough. I understand."
"No, you don't, Murdock! It was his ADOPTED GRANDMOTHER! The one who
should have been mine! But all I could do was sit there and listen to him
talk about her, trying to comfort him when what I really wanted to do was
scream at him! And after he left, I felt horrible that I couldn't be a true
friend. Instead, I was jealous of something that happened over fifteen years
ago. I am a real bastard!" Face said, his voice full of self-loathing.
Murdock hugged his friend close. "Facey, it's OK to feel jealous. It
wasn't easy to see Barry a few months ago, and find out that he was adopted
instead. You gave comfort to him when he needed it. You were a friend when
he needed it. You have got to remember that."
"But the way I felt..."
"Is the way you felt. It's normal to feel the 'if onlys' right now. The
revelation that Barry was adopted shook you to your very core."
"It's not just that, Murdock. I sometimes feel jealous of you, Hannibal,
and BA. And I have to bite my lip from saying anything, because I don't want
to hurt you."
"Because you have a history. Because you have a family. Especially you.
I mean, your Mom died when you were a kid, but you still had your dad and
"Yeah, I had a dad when he decided to come around."
"But you know where you came from, Murdock. You know who your parents
were. I don't even know my real name, or even when I was born. I would have
liked to have some history, even if it was from an adopted grandmother. And
I can't help feeling angry that Barry had that, even if it was for a short
Murdock hugged his friend tighter to him, trying to think of a way to
comfort Face. It was true that Murdock's father hadn't been a good parent.
In fact, Murdock thought of Hannibal as more of a father figure. But Murdock
knew that his father, like Face, had also been orphaned at a young age. He
had been raised in orphanages and foster homes too, never staying very long
anywhere. HM's father had grown up emotionally detached, like Face had been.
The only person that his father had ever felt anything for was HM's mother,
who died when HM was 5 years old. HM had been raised primarily by his
Then it hit him. He couldn't give Face the security of a home that he
craved. But he could give a piece of his grandmother to Face. Gently
stroking Face's hair, he started speaking.
"I never really told you much about my grandmother, did I?" Murdock felt
Face shake his head. "Well, I'll tell you some stories that my grandmother
"My grandmother was born in the early 1900's, on a farm close to the
Arkansas border. Her father was also very active in the local politics at
the time. So the first few years of Grandmother's life, she lived a great
"Like most little girls, Grandmother was a Daddy's little girl. She
adored her father. On her eighth birthday, she got not one, but TWO
porcelain dolls. One day however, she was running to greet her father, a
doll tucked under each arm, when she fell. Both the doll's heads were
shattered, and grandmother remembers her father picking her up and holding
"Oh, that's sweet..."
"Yeah, I thought so too. Many years later, my Mama took a ceramics class
and made her a doll. Had hazel eyes and red hair just like my grandmothers."
Face snuggled closer to Murdock's shoulder. He was really enjoying this.
And he was very moved that Murdock would share part of his family with Face.
Murdock went on with his story. "Sadly, the happy times came to an end
when my grandmother was 10. One day, while cleaning a rifle out in the barn,
her father shot himself accidentally and died. Suddenly, my grandmother's
childhood was over. In order to keep a roof over their heads, my
great-grandmother had to go to work, and my grandmother had to take care of
everything at home. My grandmother always remembered going into the local
grocer to get food and being told that the grocer couldn't put anything else
on my great-grandmothers bill."
"What about food stamps? Or some other form of assistance?"
"What you've got to understand, Face, is this was before the Depression
and FDR's New Deal. I'm sure that there were some organizations to help
people, like St. Vincent De Paul. But most people didn't want to go get
charity. It was a matter of pride, I guess. It was basically pull yourself
up by your bootstraps and get on with your life."
"Oh," Face said in a small voice. Thinking a moment, he asked a
question. "What's your fondest memory of your grandmother?"
"There are a few, I guess. Grandma used to rub my back all the time.
But I guess that my favorite memory is the orange juice."
"Yes, my grandmother always made sure that there was orange juice in the
house. And grandmother would fill a glass of orange juice, and bring it to
me every morning. Then she would hold it to my lips, saying 'take two or
three little sips first' so that I wouldn't shock my stomach. Then she would
give me the juice." Murdock smiled at the memory. In his minds eye, he saw
his grandmother wrapped in a bathrobe, her gray hair in curlers, holding a
glass of orange juice to his lips. He was unaware of the tears that ran down
his face. "I've drunk a lot of orange juice over the years, but none ever
tasted so good as what my grandmother gave me."
The two men were quiet for a while, both thinking of a woman who had made
an impact on Murdock's life, and to a lesser degree, Face's. Face broke it
with a loud yawn. Looking up at Murdock, he simply said: "thank you."
Murdock kissed his friend on the forehead. "Your welcome, Facey.
For a long time after Face went to his room, Murdock sat on the couch and
thought of his grandmother.
The next morning, Face came down to find Murdock already in the kitchen
making breakfast. "Sit down, Face. Your omelet will be ready in a moment."
Face sat down and reached for the newspaper. But before he could open to
the financial page, Murdock was by his side, holding a glass of orange juice.
Face started reaching for it, but Murdock pulled it away. Instead, he held
it to Face's lips. "Take two or three little sips first," he said gently.
Face did so, and Murdock gave Face the glass.
After Face was done, Murdock asked him how he liked the juice. Face
looked up at his friend, with tears in his eyes. "It was the best orange
juice I've ever had."
Nothing else needed to be said. Murdock turned back to the stove, and
Face started to read the paper.
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