Chapter Nineteen

Dallas was due to be discharged tomorrow. It had been a long, hard struggle, but the young man was finally on the mend. Kevin looked over at him as the Dallas reluctantly allowed Lakota to take his temperature and generally check him out. Kevin eyed the nightshirt Dallas was wearing which had been washed just the day before. By the time the doctor had finished his examination Dallas was exhausted and fell asleep almost immediately.

Although mainly looking after Dallas, Kevin had occasionally joined the men around the fire while the younger man slept. He needed to talk to Nathan about getting some clothes for Dallas to work in.

As Kevin approached Nathan, he noticed one of the twins was there but didn’t know which one

“Hi Nathan,” Kevin greeted the tailor and smiled at the twin who was looking through a stack of shirts. “I’m Kevin by the way. Which one are you?”

“I’m Wes.” The young man shook hands and went back to examining the articles of clothing.

“How do you do, Kevin? Is there anything I can do for you?” Nathan returned the greeting.

“I’ve been looking through my clothes and I’ve found a couple of shirts and a pair of dungarees which I can do without. The thing is, I want Dallas, the man recovering in the infirmary, to have them for work but I’m six-foot and he’s five-foot-ten.” Kevin shrugged his shoulders, his lazy smile lighting up his face.

“Do you require the pants to be shortened or were you looking to have them and the shirts actually cut down to size?”

“He’s lost a lot of weight while he’s been sick, but I guess as the clothes are going to be for work it won’t matter if they’re a bit loose. He’ll probably be putting weight back on when he’s better and I guess the field work we’ll be doing will put some muscle on him. It’s not a fashion show and at the moment he doesn’t really want to stand out. He is due to be released from the infirmary tomorrow.” Kevin looked at Wes speculatively “I guess there’s enough gossip going around about him as there is.”

Wes glanced up but didn’t respond.

“Although the majority of the men are aware of the situation, to my knowledge very little has been spoken of it,” Nathan assured the concerned man. He smiled and kindly suggested, “why don’t you bring me the items you want altered and I will make every effort to have an outfit ready for the morning. It’s the best I can offer at the moment, as there are at least three other young men also in desperate need of more clothing.”

After Kevin had thanked the tailor and left, Wes casually remarked, “you know, that was not really the truth; what you said just now.”

“How’s that, Wes?”

“Well, a lot has been spoken about it but in private.”

“Aside from the first evening when Dallas was taken to the infirmary I myself have heard only the odd comment here and there. Of course, this is a very small community and I guess there’s bound to be some talk, so you probably have something there.”

“It was not in malice! It was just talk; it wasn’t meant to hurt anyone!”

“Hey, it’s okay, Minx. There’s been no harm done,” Nathan gently placed a hand on Wes’ shoulder and soothingly offered assurances. “No one is making accusations so there is no need for you to go on the defensive, is there?”

“No, you’re right. Anyway, I think there’s something here we can use. Look, if you can mend the tear here, don’t you think Dallas can wear this. It’s a work shirt, isn’t it? What do you think?”

“I think you are absolutely correct. Thank you for noticing that.” Nathan smiled as Wes moved on to search through another pile of clothing. He observed Wes secretly for a while, feeling suddenly proud of the younger man. Beneath the careless and selfish attitude, Nathan caught a glimpse of genuine kindness. 

Meanwhile, Dallas opened his eyes to find he felt much better. ‘Better being a relative term,’ he admitted to himself. He panicked slightly when he didn’t see Kevin. During the past nightmarish week, he’d relied on Kevin to be there for him. Dallas admitted to himself that he’d fallen for the older man. It was a strange feeling and Dallas wondered if this was what love felt like. Then he dismissed the thought. He’d forgotten how to love; it had been so long since he’d either given or received it. He angrily choked back his tears of self-pity and was glad when Kevin reappeared and made him drink some water before urging him to go back to sleep.

Lakota sat at his makeshift desk and began to transcribe Yancey’s notes from the last physical he had performed.

Brodie Baker, age twenty-two, a quiet, studious young man, though apparently somewhat accident-prone. Yancey treated him recently for a badly bruised thumb, which he had struck with a hammer. Other than his thumb, Brodie is in excellent health and quite fit.

‘It is Brodie’s fascination in my nurse that I find most interesting as the young man is obviously very taken with Yancey and flirts shamelessly with him. I can see however, that Yancey is well trained in professional behaviour and he pretends he is unaware of the situation. To the untrained eye Yancey appears uninterested but he doesn’t fool me. I can see the dilated pupils and increased respiration. He is quite attracted to this lad and I will have to see what I can do to encourage him. It would do my nurse good to have an interest outside of his work.’ These thoughts ran through the doctor’s mind as he updated his records.    

Sensing another’s presence, Lakota glanced up from his notes to see Raythe peering tentatively through the flap of the infirmary tent.

“Come on in,” the doctor warmly invited. “Raythe, right?”

“Yes, sir!” The young man nodded, keeping his eyes averted. He had mixed feeling about being here and was slightly relieved that the decision had been taken from him. After all, he had a problem and embarrassing as it was, he needed medical help before it drove him insane.

“Thank you for remembering your appointment. Please take a seat on the table, Raythe, and I’ll fetch my nurse. Yancey is just in the other area behind this curtain. You may remove your shirt while you’re waiting.”

Sitting as per the doctor’s instructions, Raythe openly surveyed the small room. He had never been in a medical facility before and discovered to his amazement that he was more curious than frightened. He took off the article of clothing as requested and placed it beside him, then sat absently scratching between his legs.

“Itchy, Raythe?” Lakota softly inquired, having quietly re-entered the room without his patient noticing.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, just a bit.” Raythe quickly removed his hand. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to deal with the problem head on. Hoping to divert the doctor’s attention, he asked, “what all does a physical entail?”

“Well, first I will ask you some questions so that I can get a general history of your past and present health issues or concerns. Then I will begin to examine you physically.” The doctor went on to explain all the basics of the exam.

“Okay, I understand.” Raythe was far from pleased with what was about to happen but was nevertheless resigned to the inevitable. ‘I just want to get this over with,’ he reminded himself.

“How old are you, Raythe?” Lakota asked, making a mental note of the man’s height and weight.

“I turned eighteen the end of January.”

“Thank you,” he softly replied, again mentally storing the information until later.

The procedure was going along smoothly until the young man removed his trousers to facilitate the doctor’s examination of his patient’s genitals. It was then Lakota discovered a serious problem and pointed it out to his nurse, who nodding knowingly.

“Do you know what you have here, Raythe?” Getting a shy shrug in response to his inquiry, Lakota continued his line of questioning. “Do you know what crabs are?”

“Ah, not exactly, but someone once told me they were miserable little buggers that liked to take a bite out of your balls and run up your ass-hole to eat it.”

Lakota hung his head and fought down his laughter while Yancey turned away to hide the uncontrollable urge to grin.

Regaining his composure, the nurse turned back to their patient. “How did this happen to you, Raythe?” he asked in a voice showing concern and totally devoid of accusation.

“I’m not sure. I think it was probably when I traded sex for a bottle of whiskey during the voyage here. I’ve been trying to keep myself clean by striping and swimming in the ocean several times a day, but the itching keeps returning.”

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but swimming in the ocean will not free you from this infestation. The crabs, as they are called, attach themselves to the course hair around your genitals and feed on your blood. The best way we have to eradicate them is to shave off the hair in that area and have you wash several times a day with soap and warm water,” Lakota explained.

“Wait a minute! I don’t want to be shaved down there! Isn’t there anything else you can do? You’re supposed to be know-it-all medical people so what’s so hard about you coming up with another solution?” Raythe demanded in a surly, disrespectful manner.

Both care-givers saw beyond the offensive and churlish facade. They instinctively picked up on his fears and insecurity. They understood this young man’s feelings of vulnerability and his need for someone to remove the overwhelming burden of fending for himself. They also realised how fortunate Raythe was to have survived long enough to be among those exiled.

“We’re afraid not, Raythe,” Yancey gently answered to show his support of the doctor’s remedy. “And all your clothing and bedding will have to be completely disinfected. You cannot use any of them until we are sure they are insect-free.”

“And you’re expecting me to run around stark naked for how long?” Raythe’s lip curled in disgust.

“I will lend you some of my clothing, Raythe,” Lakota generously offered. “That way no one need know of your problem. I will go get you a clean shirt and a pair of pants while Yancey takes care of things here.”

Raythe blinked in surprise. No one had ever been this kind to him, especially folks he knew were from a higher station in society than he was.

“After we are finished here, we’ll gather everything up to be washed and exchange your pallet and linen for new ones.” Yancey continued to talk steadily and soothingly in an effort to take the young man’s mind of what was being done to him. Raythe’s arms were bent across his face but in actuality hid very little, and the nurse was saddened by the tears of mortification rolling down their patient’s blushing cheeks as the entire area below his waist was shaved and thoroughly cleansed with soap and warm water.   

Fifteen very long minutes later, Yancey lightly brushed the long black hair back from Raythe’s forehead and kindly suggested his patient lower his arms from where they had been keeping his face covered. “We’re all done now, Raythe. Here are the clean clothes Lakota is lending you. You may put them on while I clean up these supplies. As soon as you are dressed, I’ll help you clear out your sleeping space in the tent you share.”

Sometime later, Lakota leaned back for a moment as he slowly savoured his herbal tea. Sighing, he put down his cup, straightened up and began writing out the last report of the day.

Raythe de Torgul: age eighteen years, six feet in height and lanky; reasonably healthy given his background.

The doctor sadly shook his head as he allowed his imagination full reign and pictured the hardships this very young man had had to endure. ‘Barely three months older than Galen,’ Lakota though, ‘and he has been trying to survive on his own for far too long. A lad that age should barely be out of his mother’s arms and to think this youngster was surviving by selling himself.’ The good doctor sent up a silent prayer of thanks that Raythe had survived for as long as he had. He then turned his thoughts back to the matter at hand and continued his notes.

During the examination of this patient, one minor concern presented itself in the form of healed rectal scaring due to extremely rough anal sex. There was also a much more serious problem consisting of the infestation of pubic lice known as Pediculosis. Care included the shaving and washing of the patient’s entire pubic area and the hot water laundering of all his clothing and bedding. Yancey was able to get the distasteful experience accomplished swiftly, thus causing the young man as little distress and awkwardness as possible.

Infestations are a concern that will have to be addressed within this community. Both pubic and head lice as well as Aassarcoptes Scabiei (scabies) could easily run rampant if not kept in check. 

It was late afternoon, and with the day’s field chores behind them, the planting team was gathering wood for that night’s campfire and the next day’s cooking needs. The logging crew would be returning within the hour, in time for the evening meal. The routine was comforting to the men after weeks of upheaval and uncertainty.

Unmindful of the commotion going on around him, Galen huddled on a log in middle of the mess hall with his chin resting on the palms of his hands. He was brooding about what to do with the puppy that Wayne had taken and of he himself having aided in keeping the stolen animal hidden. He wanted so badly to tell Thomas about this miserable situation he found himself in. ‘But I’m too afraid,’ he silently admonished himself. He sighed with mixed feelings when Thomas entered the tent and walked over to him. He looked up to see his mentor smiling at him.

“Why so sad, Galen?” Thomas gently asked, squatting down next to the young man.

Getting only a shrug and seeing Galen chewing on his lower lip, Thomas steadily pressed on. “You know, my friend, I’m always willing to help you. Right now, it looks to me that you are in need of something. What could that be; a helping hand or a listening ear? You have to tell me because I can’t read your mind.” This was true, but Thomas could read the expressions on Galen’s young, troubled face.

‘Maybe because Thomas asked, it won’t exactly be tattling for me to tell him,’ Galen thought, and the idea slightly relieved the burden he was carrying. “I know w-where Kelby’s p-puppy is and I w-was w-wondering if you’d come w-with m-me to get him.”

The smile left Thomas’ face. “How do you know where the puppy is?”

Seeing the unhappy look on the other man’s face, Galen tentatively requested, “do you think w-we can go get the p-puppy first and then I’ll tell you as m-much as I can?”

“Of course! How far away is it?” the older man asked.

“It’s only about ten m-minutes away; doesn’t take long at all,” Galen assured him, getting to his feet. He walked out of the tent and headed toward the trees.

“Ten minutes away into the woods and you’ve been going there how often?” Thomas asked with surprise.

“I’ve b-been coming out here a couple of times a day for over a week now to feed the p-puppy,” Galen answered, not considering for a moment the rule of him going into the forest and not checking with Thomas beforehand.

Thomas decided to hold off the discussion of Galen’s trips into the woods without informing him first. It was obvious Galen was feeling very anxious about this and he wanted to understand the details of how the young man became involved with this puppy in the first place.

Galen led the way along the path he and Wayne had spent the last several days trampling down, with Thomas following closely behind. “See?” Galen lifted the branch and pointed to the small animal sleeping beneath it. “It’s copper-coloured just like Kelby said his w-was.”

Thomas bent down and lifted the small bundle of fur into his hands. The puppy appeared to be healthy. “I don’t understand, Galen, how you came to know this pup was here and why you didn’t tell Kelby right away?” he inquired.

“I only guessed for sure the day b-before yesterday that it’s Kelby’s and it w-was only a few days b-before then that I even knew the p-puppy w-was here."

Thomas gave Galen a stern look. “A week is a long time, Galen. What possible reason would you have for keeping this hidden for that long?”

‘Oh boy, this is where it gets tricky.’ Galen thought. He took a deep breath and gazed uncertainly into Thomas’ face. “I saw someone taking the scraps I collect for the m-mama sows. I followed him here to see w-why he needed them and then I p-promised not to tell anyone.”

“Who is this someone?” Thomas asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” Galen murmured and lowered his eyes.

Thomas’ lips thinned. “You won’t tell me is what you mean,” he said unhappily.

“It’s b-bad enough that I already told you about the p-puppy, Thomas. I’m n-not gonna squeal on who took it.”

“I take it this person exacted a promise from you not to say who he was. Galen, I cannot fault you for wanting to keep a confidence, but this person has stolen that which did not belong to him and this puppy must be returned to its rightful owner and the thief should be punished.”

“I w-want to return it, Thomas. That’s what I w-wanted your help w-with, in case Kelby gets really angry about it. I thought it w-was a surprise p-present for someone,” Galen explained before forlornly adding in a small voice, “only it w-wasn’t.”

Sighing deeply, Thomas looked at the large sad eyes beseeching him. “We’ll return the pup to Kelby now. He’ll be very relieved I’m sure to have the dog back in his care. Then you and I are going to discuss keeping ill-considered promises and about you coming into these woods again without talking to me first.”

Galen nodded reluctantly, gave the small creature in Thomas’ hands a gentle pat and turned to lead the way back to camp.

They located Kelby and gave him his pet along with an apology from Galen for not getting it back to him sooner. Kelby was so relieved to have the missing puppy returned, he didn’t even mind Galen not explaining how he came to be in possession of it.

Their actions did not go unnoticed. Wayne could only stare as the scene before him unfolded. ‘The little rat tattled on me,’ he thought. Panic immediately set in and all he could think to do was find Samuel.

“At least Kelby’s happy now,” Galen commented as he watched the excited pet owner run off to share the good news with Quentin.

Thomas took Galen’s hand into his larger rough one. “Let’s take a walk, Galen. We need to talk!”

“Hmmm, m-maybe I should go take care of the livestock, Thomas.” Galen tried ineffectually to pull away.

“It can wait. This can’t, I’m afraid,” Thomas replied, holding Galen’s hand more firmly.

Galen pressed his lips together and silently trudged along behind the older man.

They walked in the opposite direction from the way of the new settlement and Thomas found a small grassy clearing at the side of the stream. He sat down and pulled the younger man down beside him. 

Galen sat with his shoulders hunched and head down. He nervously plucked blades of grass out of the ground and twisted them around his fingers while waiting for Thomas to speak.

“Galen, I am quite unhappy with you for going against what we discussed. You clearly promised me that you would not go off into the woods again without talking to me first, but for a number of days you have gone a good way into that forest with not a single word to me about it.”

“B-but I seldom w-went alone, Thomas, as I w-was usually with someone older. I couldn’t tell you after I had p-promised not to tell anyone.”

“As I recall, you told me you wanted the boundaries we discussed. You also informed me that you followed this mysterious someone into the woods the first time to see what he was doing with the scraps you feed to the sows.  You had no idea at that point where this person was going, how far they would go into the forest or what kind of dangerous activity they might have been engaged in, did you?”

“N-no, sir.” Galen groaned inwardly as he gained an understanding of Thomas’ perception of what he had done. “I’m sorry, Thomas,” he mumbled. “I didn’t stop to think of those things.”

Thomas drew a deep breath to steel himself for what he knew he must do. “Galen, when we discussed consequences for actions, one of the things we said was that endangering yourself was to be taken very seriously and repeating an offence for which you have already been warned was even more serious. I know you are sorry, lad, but I will not allow you to go on doing things that could lead you to harm. Undo your overalls please and lower them down.”

“P-please, can’t I have another chance?" Galen pleaded. He remained right where he was, not at all in any hurry to follow the other man’s directive.

“Galen, you can either undo them yourself or I’ll do it for you,” Thomas replied firmly.

Galen’s eyes filled as he rose up and slowly undid his overalls and let them fall to his knees. He sat back on his heels and waited.

Thomas bit back a smile when he saw the lad was once again not wearing underwear. He gently but firmly drew the younger man across his lap. He’d made sure the grass was soft where the upper part of Galen’s body lay, and he pulled the slightly shaking figure close to him with his left arm wrapped securely around Galen’s waist. He lay his right hand on the firm butt and then drawing it back quickly, he brought it down hard, leaving a red outline against the pure white skin

Galen quietly cried right from the first spank, not as much from the physical discomfort as from the emotional pain due to his belief that Thomas was angry and disappointed with him.

“I care for you too much to allow you to come to harm at your own doing, Galen. I hope this is a lesson you will remember!” Thomas scolded as he rained down two dozen more slaps against the quivering skin. Galen’s bottom was an even rosy red when Thomas stopped. He took the same hand with which he’d punished the lad and used it to rub comforting circles on his back.

Realising the spanking had stopped; Galen scrambled off Thomas’ lap and rearranged his clothing while trying desperately but unsuccessfully to get his crying under control. He sat back with his hands folded meekly in front of him and looked around uncertainly through tear-filled eyes, wondering what would happen next. He shifted uncomfortable as his pants rubbed against the burning flesh.

Thomas reached for Galen’s hand and tugged him into his arms, watchful of the sore bottom. “Shhhh. It’s over now, honey,” he whispered softly as he held the sobbing boy. “All is forgiven.”

“You-you’re not still m-mad at m-me?” Galen hitched, snuggling into the big man’s chest.

Thomas pulled back slightly so Galen could see his face as he spoke. “I was never mad at you. I care about you, Galen, and I want you to learn not to do things that could lead you to harm. I won’t say I could never be mad at you; we’re all human and that can happen, but I will never punish you when I’m angry. Okay? It will always be for you to learn from, not for me to take out my anger on you.”

Galen read Thomas’ lips and saw the caring concern in his eyes. The truth behind the words was easily recognised and provided the assurance the young man needed. He relaxed into the comfort offered by the strong arms tightening around him. He lost track of time as he slowly calmed down and the fire on his backside became slightly easier to tolerable.

Eventually, Thomas’ quietly spoken suggestion to return and wash up for supper had the two men walking hand-in-hand back to the campsite. They arrived just as a very angry young man burst out of the woods on the other side of the clearing and bore down on them.  


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