Chapter Forty-six

Thad lifted the heavy pot of potatoes onto the stove while Jordan stoked up the fire.

“Let’s get out of here before it gets any hotter,” Jordan suggested. He waited patiently for his partner to gather up the items he needed for his next chore.

“I’m right behind you,’ Thad chuckled. “I just have to grab my kit. A couple of the guys are getting antsy and tired of lingering around to get their hair cut.”

“Tough! They’ll have to linger a little longer ‘cause I’m first!” Jordan confidently declared. “It’s only fair as I would have been first had ya done it on Saturday.”

“It so happens you’re one of the guys I’m talking about,” Thad informed him and laughed at the eye-rolling.

Minutes later, they joined the group of men waiting for them in a shaded area next to the mess hall.

“The barber shop is now open!” Thad announced as he approached them and placed his supplies on the makeshift table. He was surprised to see so many men in camp at this time of the day.

“It took you long enough,” Seth griped without looking up from where he was playing a game of solitaire. “It’s almost three o’clock and some of us have other places to be.”

“Yeah, like we all know you’re in a fucking hurry to get to the construction site,” Spyke scoffed. He wasn’t too happy about Aiden’s insistence he keep up his arithmetic and wasn’t above letting his exasperation display itself.

“It sure as hell beats doing school work,” Seth heartlessly rubbed it in. “Or taking care of the livestock.”

Larry barely managed to prevent his younger partner from retaliating. “Just ignore him or you’ll find yourself in trouble.” He knew Spyke was finding it a challenge taking over the chore that used to be Kelby’s.

“So, who all are here for haircuts?” Thad threw out the question in hopes of forestalling any further arguments. The heat had a way of deteriorating already frayed tempers.

“I need to get mine done, Thad, and I’d really appreciate being first as I have to get back to the site.” Larry looked around to see if there would be any objections.

“It’s okay; I’ll be second,” Jordan kindly relinquished his turn and walked over to sit near Spyke.

“I’m not getting mine cut at this time. Are you, Galen?” Brodie asked and received a negative headshake as Galen concentrated on not dropping the freshly laundered bed sheet they were folding.

Larry moved over to the stump in front of their barber and sat down. He accepted the large towel handed him and wrapped it about his shoulders. “Remember, Thad; real short please!”

“You guys seem to have a lot of extra laundry there, Brodie,” Thad commented as the scissors in his hand clipped away at a steady pace.

“Yeah, with Dallas and Kevin having been ill, Lakota wanted all their linen washed. Of course there would be a lot more clothing as well if Brock and Aiden didn’t wear only loincloths.” Brodie’s response had everyone laughing.

“I sure w-wouldn’t m-mind seeing Thomas in a loincloth,” Galen murmured wistfully. He giggled when Brodie disturbed his daydreaming by throwing a clean shirt at him with orders to fold it.

“By the way, Brodie, how are your hands doing?” Larry inquired; sincere concern evident in his voice.

“They’re all healed up,” Brodie answered, holding up his hands for all to see.

“Bet Yancey wasn’t too pleased to see those splinters you managed to pick up,” Seth spoke up, genuinely interested.

“No, he wasn’t.” Brodie grimace as his bottom clenched at the memory of the sound spanking he had received as a result of his disobedience. “But it was my own fault. I should have been wearing gloves while handling those rough planks.”

“There you go, Larry,” Thad said, whipping the towel from around the ex-marine’s neck and shaking it out. “Jordan, you’re up next.”

“Thanks, Thad. It feels good.” Larry wiped a hand over the back of his neck as he stepped up beside Spyke. “You keep practising your numbers while waiting your turn to have this mop taken care of.” He teasingly ruffled the young man’s hair before kissing him on the cheek.

“This is so unfair,” Spyke griped as his partner headed down the path leading to their soon-to-be home. “Two months with hardly any classes and I still have to study.”

“You’re n-not the only one, Spyke,” Galen reminded him. “Kevin is m-making Dallas catch up his reading n-now that he’s feeling b-better.”

“I wonder who’s gonna help us with our maths now that Kelby is gone?” Jordan asked, trying to glance up at his partner. A sharp rap on the head had him quickly facing front again.

“I think Quentin is,” Brodie answered quietly. It still hurt to talk of their lost friend. “I saw Troy talking to him, and then Quentin carrying some books and stuff back to his storage tent.”

“Quentin told m-me he w-was going to be helping Nathan too,” Galen softly shared this bit of information. “It will keep him b-busy and that is just what he n-needs.” He smiled as others nodded their agreement with that observation.

Thad swallowed the lump in his throat. “I ah, overheard Walker telling Thomas he was going to write a letter to Kelby’s family and let them know what happened. He says he’ll send it out on the supply ship that’s due sometime around the beginning of October.”

“That’s just over two months from now,” Spyke murmured, having named off the months on his fingers.

“From what I heard, his old man won’t care anyway,” Seth spat out. The thought of someone not caring about Kelby hurt him and caused him to use a façade of anger in order to hide his true feelings. He petted the small dog on his lap, still wondering what he had done to deserve such a gift from Quentin.

“All done, babe,” Thad whispered in Jordan’s ear.

“I just hope no one has to write a letter like that to my mother,” Jordan’s voice was almost inaudible as he stood up from the stump he had been sitting on and exchanged seats with Spyke.

“Smarten up, imbecile. Your old lady can’t even read. Besides, she probably isn’t at the whorehouse you last saw her at. After all, she was already past her prime and hardly able to attract enough men to earn her keep.” Unable to deal with the negative emotions assailing him, Seth took out his frustration on the one he thought least likely to defend himself.

Jordan glared at his tormentor for several moments in the uncomfortable silence that followed Seth’s uncalled-for outburst. Too wounded to respond to the taunting, Jordan folded his arms on the crate and put his head down but not quickly enough for Thad to miss the tears shimmering in his eyes.

“You are one real fucking asshole,” Spyke hissed at Seth and was pleased to see the other man’s face flush with shame before trying to hide against the soft fur of his new pet.

“Here’s your clean clothing, Seth,” Brodie spoke brusquely, dropping a pile of folded articles in front of the man. “Galen and I are going to distribute the rest of the laundry to the proper tents. See the rest of you guys later.”

Galen picked up the clean linen. “I’ll get these to the infirmary,” he murmured, only too happy to be escaping the oppressive atmosphere.

“Sure, later,” Thad mumbled through pursed lips. He tried to keep up small talk while cutting Spyke’s hair and simultaneously plotting how to get even with Seth for hurting one of his lovers.

Seth’s haircut was last and it was hard to tell who was more relieved when it was over and Seth walked away, leaving Thad to comfort his partner.

Spyke and Jordan exchanged looks before they both broke down in hysterics. They had seen what Thad had done to Seth’s hair. While the front looked perfectly groomed, the back of his head was a mess. Thad had cut some patches extremely short and left others untouched. The resulting disarray was rather comical looking. 

“W-what’s so funny?” Galen queried; he and Brodie having just returned from their self-appointed delivery rounds.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Spyke could barely get the words out, he was laughing so hard.

For the second day in a row, Wes took advantage of a little free time to go to the swimming hole. Today he had the place to himself. Of course he was under strict orders not to dive when alone, but then so was everyone else. He sighed with contentment as he let his body sink into the cool water. He manoeuvred around until his back was against the waterfall and his head was directly under the spray of water. This was his favourite spot, but it was better when Nathan came with him.

He immediately got hard as he remembered what Nathan did to him when they sneaked away together.  Sometimes Nathan made love to him slowly. Other times, Nathan just yanked down his pants and took him from behind. Those times, the sex was rough, urgent and exciting.

Wes groaned as he pictured Nathan thrusting inside him. His hand slipped down and circled his erection. He began to gasp and jerk as he reached a climax. His hand pumped steadily until he was spent, then he dreamily lay back against the rocks, sated and relaxed.

“And was that good?”

Wes’ eyes flew open in a panic. “Hendrik! How long have you been standing there? Are you spying on me?”

“If you consider walking up in broad daylight spying, then I guess the answer would be yes.” Hendrik said with a laugh. “Relax, we’re all men here. There’s not a single person amongst us who hasn’t done what you just did.”

Wes flushed as he watched Hendrik casually strip off his shirt.

Without any embarrassment, the ex-cowboy peeled his pants down as well and flung both articles of clothing over a low branch. “Mind if I join you?” he asked with a smile. Without waiting for an answer, he stepped out of his underwear and straight into the shallow pool. “Aaah, this is just what I need for a break from a long, hot afternoon working on the lodge.”

Hendrik dunked his head into the water, and then brought it up with a smooth flick of his head. Water droplets flew, catching the sunlight and gleaming with the colours of the rainbow. He winked at Wes. “Not wetting you, am I?”

His tone was friendly and his banter infectious. Hendrik totally lacked any self-conscious and was unabashed by the fact that both of them were naked and soaking in the same pool of water. Wes grinned at the other man and found himself relaxing. 

It was nearing the dinner hour and Gille was heading back to the main camp with the rest of those who had been labouring at the site. He had been working there most days recently and had learned a lot about carpentry from Mitchell. It gave him a sense of satisfaction to be contributing something substantial to the community. 

He was still feeling a bit unsure of himself with some of the younger men. Lakota had been encouraging him to try and get to know them better and spend some more of his leisure time with them. Levi had been so kind about helping him with his reading and writing. They had shared a few good laughs together so perhaps he thought to himself that they could go fishing together. Goodness knew Walker was always happy to have fresh fish to put on the table. If they got up early enough, they might be able to provide some for the next morning’s breakfast. 

When he arrived at the campsite, Gille headed straight to the wash-up stand. The day of building had left him hot and sweaty. Stripping down to his skivvies gave him a moment to reflect on how being exiled here had truly benefited him. On arrival to this island, the only clothing he’d owned had been a few badly worn, tattered and poorly mended pieces. Now he proudly wore the simple sturdy clothing he’d been provided with, which included several pairs of soft decent underwear. He washed his hands and found another sliver that he’d have to get Lakota to pull tonight. There was one advantage to being the doctor’s lover; he didn’t have to stand in line with the others after dinner waiting to get their injuries tended. He would just wait by the fireside until Lakota was finished, then get the loving personal attention he so enjoyed. There was nothing nicer than having your slivers pulled out by someone who provided wonderful passionate kisses to make you feel better.

He quickly finished washing and then headed into the mess tent. Levi was sitting alone reading by the small corner library. Troy was nowhere in sight.  

“Excuse me, Levi; I hope you don’t mind me interrupting you?” Gille asked as he took a seat beside the young scholar.

Levi looked up and gave Gille a smile. “No, not at all, Gille; to be honest this book is a bit boring. Troy wanted me to find him a new novel to read aloud tomorrow night at the fireside. But this one just won’t do unless he wants to provide sandman service and put his audience to sleep.”

Gille laughed. “Troy has such a soothing voice when he does the readings, I can’t seem to stay awake no matter how good the story.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. His speaking voice is wonderful and he can sing beautifully as well.” 

“I know I’ve heard him when we sing at the campfire. He makes most of us sound like frogs,” Gille replied.  “Levi, I was wondering; do you like to fish?”

“Yeah, I love it. We used to go fishing all the time. There is a lake on my father’s estate. Troy would take me fishing as a treat if I’d completed my studies,” he answered a bit sadly. “That seems so long ago.”

“I thought it would be a nice to go fishing tomorrow at dawn; thought maybe we could put some fish on the table for breakfast. If you’d like to go, that is?” Gille asked shyly.

“Sure, I’d love to!” Levi replied enthusiastically. “You want to go to the little lagoon?”

“Yeah, most of the guys have said the fishing there is the best.” 

The two men had the details for their excursion worked out just in time to hear Walker ring the supper bell.
Top of Form

“Did you get to swim after all, Minx?” Nathan asked as he gently trailed a finger down Wes’ face.

“Yes, that’s the only way to get through some of the afternoon on my own,” Wes responded lightly.

“How was the pool?” Nathan deliberately avoided bringing up his partner’s earlier unhappiness. The mess tent was filling up as the men arrived for the evening meal and Nathan didn’t want to publicise the re-occurring discord in their relationship.

“Refreshing, but you should have been there,” Wes grumbled, but not too obviously.

“I wish I could have been. Once I’m done with this lot, I promise we’ll go together.” Nathan bent down and kissed Wes lightly on the nose, while his hand squeezed a butt cheek. “I missed you,” he murmured into Wes’ ear.

Wes smiled suggestively at him. “How about a stroll after supper?”

Nathan paused and then regretfully shook his head. “I promised Walker I would help clean up the kitchen tonight to give Thad and Jordan a well-deserved break. You helped last night remember? So now it’s my turn.”

“How about afterwards? I’ll help out so we can finish faster. It won’t be too late,” Wes asked hopefully. He really missed Nathan and wanted so badly to spend some time alone with the man.

“Wes, sweetheart,” Nathan sighed. “I know we’ve not been able to spend as much time together as we’d like, but such has been the same for nearly all of us. Many of us, myself included, are just getting plain worn out. Would you mind very much if we just relaxed a bit by the fire and then hit the hay a little early tonight? Maybe we can find some private time this weekend.”

Wes snapped. “Don’t bother; I may no longer be in the mood then!”

Nathan resisted the urge to swat Wes right then and there. He understood the younger man’s frustration but he wasn’t about to accept Wes’ outburst. Still he didn’t want to create a scene in the mess tent. “Let’s get some food,” he said tersely.

 Wes glared at Nathan once and then without a word stalked off to the other end of the tent.

Nathan pressed his lips together and shook his head. He fought back the urge to follow his initial instincts to go after the young man and haul him out of the tent for a badly-needed lesson on manners. Getting his irritation under control, he served himself and sat down next to Quentin.

Seeing Nathan settled down with Quentin instead of coming over, Wes continued to fume. He almost missed the excitement that took place a few minutes later.

Seth couldn’t figure out what was so darn funny. It seemed as if everyone was doing a double take when he walked by them. He glanced down at himself and couldn’t see anything amiss but still the snickering and whispers continued.

He filled his plate, politely accepted a cup of coffee from Walker who was working so hard not to laugh that his eyes were tearing up, and made his way over to sit next to Preston.

‘For shit’s sake,’ he thought as he stared back at his partner who was staring at him. ‘Even Preston is acting weird.’

“What the hell happened to your hair?” the big woodsman loudly blurted out. “Why would you want it cut that way? The back looks like rats have been gnawing at it.”

“Huh?” Seth lifted his hand, felt back of his head and blushed with mortification when he discovered what had been done to him. He turned and glared at Thad; his anger fuelled by the look of satisfaction on the other man’s face. He jumped to his feet, knocking over his seat as he attempted to get at Thad. It was only Preston’s tight grip on his shirt that prevented him from attacking their smirking barber.

Correctly guessing trouble was brewing, Walker softly suggested. “Preston, I think it would be best if we took these two gentlemen outside to get to the bottom of this.”

 As the four men left the tent, Seth smirked at Thad. He was confident he was the injured party and that retribution was at hand.

Thad, having seen the stern expression on Walker’s face, finally took a moment to rethink his actions and realised what he’d done did not put him in a very good light.

By the time arguments from both sides had been heard, there were two young men wilting under their partners’ glares of disapproval.

“If you’ll kindly excuse us, Thad and I have some additional words to exchange.” With that ominous statement, Walker took hold of his partner’s upper arm and began steering him towards the shore.

Preston grunted in reply and continued to stare down at Seth. “You can wipe that smirk off your face, young man! You are far from being an innocent participant here. What you said to Jordan was not only uncalled for, but nasty and vicious. I’m ashamed to think you’d allow your emotional turmoil to hurt another in that manner.”

Seth’s eyes filled as the older man’s words of disdain washed over him. “I’m so sorry, Preston. I shouldn’t have said it, I know. But how do I take it back?” He looked up as tears of remorse rolled down his face.

“First, my love, you are going to apologise to Jordan.” Preston pulled his distressed partner into his arms and gently rocked him.

“Are..are you gonna spank me?” Seth whimpered into the broad chest. He knew the decision was Preston’s and trusted him to take care of the situation.

Preston ran his hand over the deliberately botched haircut. He knew how important appearances were to the young man and how embarrassed he must have been when being talked about and laughed at. “Not this time, sweetheart, but you are going to have lines to write that will hopefully imprint upon your mind the need to treat others with consideration even when feeling poorly yourself.”

Seth winced and nodded his head in acceptance of the older man’s pronouncement and wiped his face on Preston’s shirt.

Thad slowly plodded along behind the larger-than-life ex-magistrate. At least, at the moment that was how Walker appeared to the younger man. Thad cringed at the thought of what he had done in a moment of anger.

So deep was he in self-recrimination, he failed to notice Walker had stopped walking and collided into his partner. 

Glancing up, he was surprised at the lack of reproof on Walker’s handsome face. Despite that, Thad chewed worriedly on his lower lip until it was gently removed from between his teeth.

“Talk to me, Thad,” the older man kindly instructed.

“I-I’m really sorry for behaving in such a despicable manner, Walker, and for giving you just cause to be ashamed of me.”

“I could never be ashamed of you, my love. However, I am rather disappointed in how you reacted to Seth’s unacceptable method of dealing with his hurt and anger. Although he had no reason to attack Jordan like he did, it in no way exonerates you, does it?”

The young man sadly shook his head. Walker was not saying anything Thad had not already reprimanded himself for. “I know,” he whispered. “I let myself down by failing to meet my own expectations where my profession is concerned. Up until now, I have always prided myself in doing my best. My actions were unforgivable.”

“That is not so, Thad,” Walker firmly stated. “True, they were objectionable but not irredeemable. You will apologise to Seth. Then you will make right the unruly mess you made of his hair. I trust there is something you can do about it, isn’t there?”

“Yes, I can make it presentable.” Thad’s subdued response clearly indicated his inability to put an end to the guilt still festering within.

Walker nodded and resolutely announced. “Then there is only one thing left to take care of.” He sat down on a nearby log and summoned Thad with his finger. “Lower your trousers and underwear, Thad,” he softly directed. Once his orders had been obeyed, he settled his partner face down over his lap.

This was the first time Walker would be spanking Thad and even knowing it would in all likelihood not be the last, he still harboured the hope that it would be. He started off rather lightly, but once his partner stopped squirming, began spanking in earnest. It was only when the once pale bottom was red and very sore that the punishing hand stopped falling.

Thad remained where he was, sobbing as the circles being soothingly rubbed over his back helped in calming him down. Once under control, he pushed himself up and wrapped his arms around his chastiser. ‘And to think I thought Jordan was exaggerating when he said how much this hurt,’ was Thad’s first coherent thought.

“It’s over and done with, Thad. All is forgiven,” Walker lovingly assured his lover.

“But-but what if Seth doesn’t….”

“Then it will be his problem; not yours, my love. However, I think it unlikely that he’d hold a grudge as he will no doubt be seeking forgiveness himself from Jordan.” Walker’s unfaltering self-confidence communicated itself to the uncertain man and put to rest all feeling of doubt and self-reproach. The big man smiled as a sigh of contentment exuded from the man in his arms. He rolled his eyes when a snotty nose and tear-streaked face was wiped over his shirt.

“Time to head back to camp, sweetheart,” Walker insisted several minutes later. “You have things to take care of.”
Top of Form

The next morning, the first paling of the eastern sky found Gille and Levi seated on rocks alongside the small lagoon. A bucket of minnows they caught upon arrival sat between them, along with the lantern they’d used to find their way before dawn. There was also a basket with three freshly caught cod. They hoped to catch at least one more so that everyone could have some for breakfast.

“This was a great idea, Gille,” Levi enthused. “Thanks for asking me.”

Gille was feeling very happy that the other man was enjoying their time together. Maybe making friends was as easy as his lover often said. “Yes, we should do this more often. Most everyone likes fish and it is fun doing something different than the usual chores around camp or at the site. Lakota told me that we also need to catch a lot of fish over the summer and salt it, so we’ll have it with our winter provisions. If we did this a couple of times each week, we could really contribute to that.”

“I’d really like that. Having fun and contributing to the community at the same time; what more could we ask?” Levi replied.

A tug on his line captured Gille’s attention. “I think I got something!” he called excitedly as the pole was yanked hard. “Gimme a hand!”

Levi grabbed onto to makeshift pole with a tied-on line and helped fight against the catch. The two young men struggled to pull in what could only be a whopper of a fish when the line snapped and the two went sprawling backwards. 

“God damn it to hell!” Gille cursed. “Not only did we lose the fish but there went a hook too.”

Levi patted his friend’s shoulder. “These things happen, Gille. We’ll get another fish and Quentin said the supply of hooks was pretty good. We just have to watch we don’t lose them due to carelessness.”

Having regained his footing, Gille looked longingly for the lost fish. “Hey Levi, what does that look like to you?” he asked, pointing out over the water to about twenty feet from the rocky shore they stood on.

Squinting his eyes, Levi thought he could make out a shape. “Looks like a crate, doesn’t it?” 

“It sure does and it’s not in very deep water either. Let’s go in and check it out.” Gille was already pulling off his boots and trousers as he spoke.

“I don’t know, Gille. Do you think we should go in?” Levi asked nervously.

“Course we should. It’s not deep or far out, so it’s perfectly safe.” By this time he’d stripped off all his clothes. Gille was not shy about his body but he certain was appreciative of the decent clothing he’d acquired since coming here and he wasn’t about to ruin anything by getting it wet in salt water. “You coming?” he asked.

Sighing deeply, Levi fought against his better judgement and stripped down to follow his friend into the chilled morning water. “Damn, Gille, it’s cold!” he yelled, stepping in off the rocks. “This better be worth it.” He followed his friend out until the water was up past their waists.

Both men had goose bumps and chattering teeth by the time they stood beside the crate. It wasn’t very large; only about an eighteen inch cube, but it had obviously been in the ocean for some time as it was half covered in sea weed. 

Gille bent over and dunked his head under the water to try and lift it. Unfortunately, between the water and its contents the crate was too heavy for him to rise up. He straightened back up and wiped his soaked curls off of his face. “It’s too heavy. You’re gonna have to help me.”

“Okay,” Levi replied with little enthusiasm.

“On three, we go under, grab it and lift; okay?”

Levi nodded. 

“One, two, three!”

The two friends sucked in deep breaths then dunked under the water to pull the crate from the lagoon floor. After tugging for as long as they could, they both came up panting for air.

“I felt it move. If we try a couple of more times, I’m sure we’ll get it,” Gille said, while rubbing his chilled hands together.

After the fourth attempt the crate came loose from its resting place. They carried it slowly towards the shore, finding it grew somewhat lighter as the water poured from between the spaces in the planks. They placed it on a rock and scrambled out of the water, moving around briskly in the early morning sun. They were too wet to put their clothes back on. 

“Let’s see if we can get it open. Whatever’s inside is pretty heavy.” Gille was excited about this find, hoping it would be something useful.

The old wood was water logged and soft so pulling together they were able to get the top off in short order and look inside.

The straw that had been pack in the case had long since gone to slime. “I hope whatever it is survived better than the packing.” Levi grimaced at the sight.

“Only one way to find out,” Gille said as he dug his hands into the muck. He pulled off a layer of the rotted material and there beneath it, with more of the packing around each one, were twelve glass bottles; each corked and sealed with wax at the top. Gille gingerly lifted one of the bottles up to inspect it. The paper label had long since disintegrated, but the liquid content seemed unmolested by its time under the sea.

“W-w-what do you think it is?” Levi asked, his teeth chattering as he rubbed his hands up and down his wet arms trying to both dry and warm himself.

“We’ll know soon enough,” Gille replied. He went to his pile of clothes and pulled a small pocket knife from his trousers and cut away the wax, then carefully worked the blade into the cork. After a bit of effort, he was able to free the stopper from the bottle. The smell of the contents was both familiar and heady. “Rum!” he announced.

“Rum! Are you sure?” Levi questioned.

“I worked all kinds of odd jobs over the last ten years, several times as the dish washer in one of the saloons. I know rum when I smell it.” Then with a grin, he tipped the bottle back and took a small sip. “And when I taste it,” he replied, coughing over the burn in his throat.

“I never had rum. My mother always called it the demon drink. Father drank Brandy and sometimes Port but I don’t believe we ever had rum in the house,” Levi explained.

“Wanna try?” Gille asked, offering his friend the bottle.

“I don’t know, Gille. I’ve never had much alcohol,” Levi replied, shaking his head.

“I never had much either; never had the money for it. But sometimes the bartender would give me a drink at the end of the night. He said it would keep me warm. I guess he knew I slept out in the back alley. And he was right; it always made me feel warm when I was chilled. We’re both pretty chilled right now after being in that cold lagoon so a couple sips should warm us up,” Gille reasoned.

Levi was chilled and the thought of something warm was pretty tempting. “Okay, I guess it wouldn’t hurt.” He took the bottle from his friend and took a taste. After the coughing stopped, he did feel warmer. “You’re right, it does help.” 

“Gimme a bit more; I’m still pretty cold.” Gille drew another mouthful from the bottle, this time not choking so much. “Tastes pretty good, huh?”

“It’s kinda sweet,” Levi said as he pulled another swig.

“Oh, that’s on account of they make it outta the sugar cane,” Gille explained, gulping down some more rum. “The bartender told me all about it. He said he’d worked in the islands of the Caribbean when he was young and that’s where they make the stuff.”

“You know, Gille, you’ve told me a few times how smart I am and that you wish you’d had my education, but you’ve had an education too. You’ve learned about so many real life things that I know nothing about.” Levi took the bottle and had another swallow. 

“Well maybe we could teach each other?” Gille offered.

The two young men sat talking, sharing stories and sipping from the bottle for almost an hour. They were warmed by the sun as it rose higher in the sky and by the heat of the rum in their bellies. Their conversation was interrupted by the distant sound of a bell.

“Wassat?” Gille slurred.

“Sounds like a bell to me,” Levi laughingly answered.

“Oh shiiit, I think is the breakfast bell and our be-e-eautiful fishies didn’t get cooked,” Gille said sadly.

“Well now, that’s a… that’s a…cata..cata……real shame. We’ll hafta cook ‘em our own selves.”

Lakota walked into the mess tent anticipating he’d find his partner there, having returned from his fishing trip. However, there was no sign of Gille or Levi. He spotted Troy at the stove talking to Walker. “Good morning, gentlemen,” he greeted the two. “Did Gille and Levi bring back their fishing bounty yet?”

Troy had a frown on his handsome face. “No, Walker here was just saying he hasn’t seen either of them this morning. I think we’d better head down to the lagoon to check on their whereabouts.”

“Gille told me they intended to bring back whatever they caught in time to have it prepared for breakfast,” Lakota said unhappily, “which means, they should have been back an hour ago.”

The two worried men said their good-byes to Walker and headed toward the lagoon. As they got close to their destination, they could hear voices raised in song. The two exchanged perplexed looks as they hastened their pace towards the sound. The words of the song became clear as they approached.

“The cabin boy …the cabin boy… the filthy little nipper, He filled his ass with broooooooooken glaaaaaaas and circumcised the skipper…”

Troy and Lakota’s mouths hung open in shock as the two vocalists came into view. Not only were they singing a rather questionable sea shanty but they were doing so stark naked! 

“Levi Joshua Harris!” Troy’s voice rose above the singing. “What in the name of heaven are you doing?”

Gille turned his attention to the two men who had joined them. “We got commmmpany, Levi!” he sang out.

Levi looked up into the very displeased eyes of his rather large husband. “Hi ya, Troy !” he said with a huge grin.

Lakota spotted the bottle sitting between the two. He snatched it up and took a single whiff of the contents. “Rum!” he said to Troy in disgust.

Troy checked out the open crate and was relieved to see that there was only one bottle missing. “Levi, where are your clothes?” he asked sternly.

Levi looked from left to right to left again. “They’re…they’re…well, I know they’re here. We didn’t wanna get ‘em wet,” he offered, thinking that to be a perfectly logical explanation. 

“They’re over here!” Lakota called from the water’s edge. He came back carrying both Levi and Gille’s discarded clothing. 

“What do you two think you’re doing…” Troy began what he planned to be a scathing lecture but Lakota interrupted. 

“My friend, they’re too drunk for this to do any good. Let’s get them dressed and back to the camp. Once they’ve slept it off, they’ll be more receptive to being dealt with.” 

It took some time to get the younger men back into their clothing as they had a serious tendency to laugh and break out into song every few moments. 

Levi attempted to retrieve the partially empty bottle of rum only to find his hand firmly smacked. 

“Don’t even think about it!” Troy ordered. He looked at Lakota as they began the walk back to the camp. “After they’re settled, I’m going to come back here and dump every bottle into the sea!”

“No, a supply of alcohol for medicinal purposes will be useful. We simply need to lock it up with the other medicines,” the doctor replied.

Troy was not a drinking man and would rather have seen it dumped, but he wouldn’t argue with the doctor. He only knew that as long as he was in charge, Levi would not have another sip of the poison. 

They made their way back to the camp with the two revellers singing once again. The smells wafting from the mess tent caught Gille’s attention. 

“Levi! Damn it! We left our fishes back at the lagooooon. Best we go get them before they spoil in the sun.” The young drunk attempted to turn back from where they’d came but Lakota’s strong arm stopped him. 

“Only place you’re going, young man, is to get something to eat, some water to drink and then to bed to sleep this off,” he said as he steered him into the mess tent.

Levi attempted to protest for his friend and himself but before he could utter the first word, a strong swat was applied to his bottom. 

“The same goes for you, Levi!” Troy emphasised his point with a second swat. “It so happens I’ve got your catch with me.”

That evening, shortly before supper, would find two very sober, very sore-bottomed young men sitting in the mess tent, writing out letters of apology to the rest of the community for having had to miss a day’s worth of work due to their foolish behaviour. They were to read them aloud to all at the fireside later and make an offer of restitution by doing the laundry for the next two days. It would prove a rather painful lesson that neither would soon forget.


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