Chapter Thirty-seven

Walker and Jordan returned from the building site in time to see Yancey and Brodie watering Walker’s small garden with the dirty wash water. Walker strolled over to have a few words with them while Jordan ran to their tent to remove his shirt. It was going to be another hot day and he was already overheated.

Jordan could not believe the sight that greeted him. He looked around in shock at the devastation. ‘Who would have done this and why?’ he wondered. “Walker!” he hollered and waved his oldest partner over.

Walker stepped cautiously into their sleeping quarters. “What in the name of God!” he exclaimed, completely stymied by the mess surrounding him. “Spyke?” he questioned uncertainly.

“Maybe, but why?” Jordan stared back, wide-eyed.

“I would not even hazard a guess,” Walker muttered. “Come, we’ll see if Thad has any ideas.”

“Have either you boys had a disagreement with one of our tent-mates?” Walker asked minutes later as he glanced sternly from one partner to another.

Thad seemed to be at a total loss.

“Well, I kinda teased Spyke when he got his haircut yesterday,” Jordan admitted. “But it was all in fun, Walker; neither of us took it seriously. At least, I didn’t think we did,” he added in an undertone.

Seeing the trepidation in the younger man’s eyes, Walker pulled Jordan close and whispered. “There is nothing you could have said to warrant this type of reaction, my little mouse.” He kissed his young partner’s head, gave him a loving hug and set him from him after a light swat on the seat of his pants. “You help Thad with dinner while I track down Aiden and inform him of what has taken place,” the ex-magistrate calmly suggested. 

Thirty minutes later, two extremely annoyed men stood side by side surveying the upheaval.

“And ye have reason to believe that wee rapscallion of mine may be responsible for this wilful demolition act?”

“It is a weak assumption at best, Aiden. I’ve checked with my partners and neither was involved, which is a good thing or rest assured the guilty party would be eating his next meal standing up.”

“Aye, ’tis sure I am that there’s a verra good explanation for all this; though mind, it escapes me at the moment,” Aiden grumpily commented. “All will shortly be arriving for the noon meal and I have every intention of getting to the bottom of this.”

“That’s a first-rate pout you got there, Slick.” Preston chuckled in a lighthearted fashion as he slid in beside his partner at the washstand. “Pass me the soap, please,” he politely requested, turning serious. “As soon as I’ve cleaned up some, we’ll go into dinner and you can tell me what’s bothering you.”

“Nothin’s bothering me!” Seth grumbled into the towel as he dried his face.

“Your expression tells me otherwise, Seth. There is no use bottling it up, you only end up regretting it.”

“Okay then, I’ll tell you now.” The disheartened young man leaned against an upturned crate and watched the older man lather up his hands. “I think it is pretty small-minded of someone to assume that my gambling in the past means I’m dishonest and can’t be trusted,” Seth murmured and hung his head in order to hide the tears of hurt filling in his eyes. 

“Who has accused you of being untrustworthy, sweetheart?” Preston questioned sympathetically. After drying his hands, he wrapped a beefy arm around his partner’s shoulders and pulled him into a warm hug. “Hmm?”

“Well, no one came right out and said it but Wayne kinda insinuated such was the case. I don’t know what got him so pissed off. Wes and I were just joking around. Wes was telling me about….ah, I can’t tell you ‘cause it’s a secret. Anyway, I’m not even able to guess at what Wayne thought we were talking about, but he sure lit into both of us. He told me to get lost and as soon as I was sure Wes would be alright, that is exactly what I did.” Seth relaxed into the security of his lover’s embrace as the negative emotions washed over him and slowly began to drain away.

“Obviously something is troubling Wayne and he is erroneously taking out his frustration on others. Just give him some time to work it out, love.” Preston’s deep voice rumbled over Seth’s head and had a calming effect on the younger man. Feeling an agreeing nod against his chest, Preston waited a few more minutes before suggesting they go eat. He chuckled when Seth’s stomach rumbled out a sign of agreement of its own.

In a somewhat happier frame of mind, Seth swung Preston’s large hand as they leisurely strolled towards the entrance of the mess hall and gazed up enquiringly at the big man. “Say, Preston, how about tonight you and I having some one-on-one time; you know, finding some place real private like?”

Preston raised his brows quizzically. “You got something in mind?”

“Yeah, sorta,” Seth said with a gurgle and sidelong glance. “Actually, I wanna test your sexual prowess.”

“Just how do you propose to go about it, Slick?” Preston grinned down at the young man walking beside him; “and more importantly, why?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe I heard of someone who apparently can climax five times in one night,” Seth challenged Preston with a look, before continuing in a sexy growl, “and I just wondered ...”

“Wondered what?” Preston bent and whispered in Seth’s ear.

“If you were up to it?” Seth looked so cheeky that Preston broke out in a loud laugh. 

“We just might give it a try, love. Yep, we just might give it a try.”

The tension Seth had been feeling dissolved completely as his snicker bubbled up to become a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Preston followed suit and the two men entered the communal tent, drawing attention with their merriment.

Spyke gaped open-mouthed and wide-eyed, trying to come to terms with the disarray surrounding him and his oldest partner. He had been on his way to the mess hall in anticipation of a hot meal to fill the gnawing hollow in his stomach. Instead, he was waylaid by a heavy paw on his shoulder and marched into their sleeping quarters.

Aiden immediately recognised his youngest partner’s innocence. “Do ye have any thoughts on who may have done this, lad?”

“None at all,” Spyke murmured. “How the hell could a tornado touch down, cause havoc and disappear without taking the entire tent with it?” He suddenly turned on the older man as an idea hit, his eyes narrowing. “It’s probably yours or Walker’s fault!” he staunchly declared as he stood with his hands on his hips and glared up at the big Scot, not at all intimidated by the fact that Aiden towered over him by good number of inches.

“And could ye be telling me how ye came upon that conclusion?” Aiden bit back a smile to hide his reaction to the scolding he was apparently on the receiving end of.

“Well neither of you are too damn shy about swatting some of us when the notion takes ya,” Spyke indignantly pointed out. “Ya know you’re both getting some not so nice reputations. Maybe one of ya smacked someone and he decided to get even. And I for one wouldn’t blame him, so there.”

“Ach, my wee toerag, ye could be giving lessons in cheekiness,” Aiden mused with a slight shake of his head. “Yer accusations are highly unlikely.”

Meanwhile, Larry had spent the morning going about his duties with something nagging at the back of his mind. He’d just about get a handle on it when it would slip away; once again leaving him with a worried impression that something was amiss. As noon approached, the grumbling in his stomach overtook his misgivings. He dropped what he was doing and made his way in search of Spyke and Aiden. He was looking about the dining hall when Thad quietly stepped up beside him.

“Hi, Thad, what’s for lunch? Whatever it is, it sure smells good.” Larry grinned at the other man.

“Larry, do you know what happened back at our tent? It’s complete chaos; it looks like a hurricane found its way through,” Thad excitedly shared the news.

“Oh shit!” Larry exclaimed as his actions this morning while trying to find his journal came rushing back. He realised in his relief at discovering Galen had it that he’d completely forgotten to go back and clean up the disorder he had left behind.

“Actually, it was a tornado of sorts…” 

Thad glanced up in confusion at Larry’s unfinished statement but waited patiently for the ex-marine to continue.

“And its name is Larry. You see in my haste to find something I lost, I kind of made a real mess and I guess, no I don’t guess, I know I forgot to clean it up.”

“Well you better prepare yourself for explaining that to a certain disgruntled giant,” Thad warned. “When I last saw him and Walker, Aiden was fit to be tied.”

Larry knew the grumbling in his stomach was no longer from hunger but from apprehension. Still, he didn’t shirk his responsibilities. He knew what he had to do. So after thanking Thad, Larry made his way to their tent where he found Aiden conversing with their younger partner. 

Aiden looked up at Larry’s entrance and by the look on his oldest partner’s face, knew immediately that Larry was the culprit.

“Uh Spyke,” Larry softly requested as he approached his two partners. “Would you leave Aiden and me alone for a bit, please? There is something I have to discuss with him.”

Seeing the trepidation in Larry’s blue eyes, Spyke wrapped his arms around his partner and trying to lighten his spirits with a touch of humour, loudly whispered in his ear, “don’t worry, Larry, Walker’s food sometimes tastes better standing up.”

Despite himself, Larry gave a small chuckle and returned the hug before gently pushing Spyke away.

Aiden gave Spyke one of his infamous looks that told the young man he’d better get while the getting was good, so Spyke merrily obeyed the unspoken directive and left the two men alone.

“Well lad, I take it ye have something ye wish to discuss with me?” Aiden asked in a stern voice.

“Aiden, let me start by apologising. It was I who made such a fiasco in our tent. In a moment of panic while looking for my journal, I kind of went a little berserk.”

“Only a little, Lawrence? ’Tis that your explanation for what took place here?”

“Well, Sir, it’s the best way I can explain my actions as a result of not being able to find my journal. Then, when I learned of its whereabouts, I was so relieved that this situation went clear out of my head.” Larry swept his arm around the area. “I am so very sorry.”

“Larry, ’tis no upset I am at the untidiness as I am at yer disturbing the belongings and property of others.”

“I know, Aiden, but…” Larry stopped himself. He was mature enough to come to his own deduction that the big Scot was absolutely right, and mere words would not wipe away his error in judgement. “I understand, Aiden. I had no right to do what I did and I am prepared to do whatever you think is necessary in order to make amends.”

“’Tis glad I’m to hear that, lad.” Aiden’s voice was softer now. He was an experience enough man to know when it was time to move on to the next step and not belittle or nag his partner, especially after the fact that Larry had already admitted the wrongdoing. He placed a comforting hand on Larry’s shoulder and led him outside.

“Now despite Spyke’s erroneous jump to the conclusion that I am going to spank ye, ’tis not so. However, I fully expect ye to perform the following. After ye have cleaned up this disaster, ye’ll write letters to Walker, Thad and Jordon, apologising for going over to their side of the tent and searching through their personal possessions,” Aiden stated calmly as they walked towards the mess hall. “Next, ye’ll write me an essay on each the following topics; keeping yer property safe and secure, the consequences of what happens when ye go into panic mode and finally, respecting other people’s privacy. ’Tis all understood, Lawrence?”

Larry stopped and threw his arms around the big man’s neck. “Oh, Aiden, I’m so sorry and I fully understand what I have to do. You’re sure you’re not going to punish me further?”

“Wheesht, and just what else would ye have me do?” Aiden’s eyes gleamed with delight as he teased his young partner. “Because if ye want a skelping as well as the writing assignments, I just might consider obliging ye.”

“No! No!” Larry almost shouted. “The expectations you laid out are fine with me.”

“Aye, ’tis as I thought it might be.” Aiden laughed as he pulled Larry close for a hug and a kiss. “What ye did is no a spanking offence. Besides, ye did the right thing and admitted yer error. But if it were to happen again….” Aiden didn’t have to finish the sentence because Larry was in no doubt of what next time would bring.

“Alright, now that we understand each other let’s get some food in ye to build up yer strength for the long housekeeping task ahead of you.”

Taking Aiden’s hand, Larry gave it a squeeze as he laughingly answered with a resounding “Yes Sir!”

It was mid-afternoon and Walker was whistling a merry tune as he entered the provisions tent. He had come to get the daily ration of sugar allotted to the group as a whole. He was thankful for the discovery of beehives as the honey augmented their supply of needed sweets. He smiled at the memory of some of the men’s excitement when Thomas mentioned the possibility of tapping into the maple trees come next spring when the sap was running. Maple syrup would make a welcomed addition to their food supply.

Glancing around the tent, Walker noticed a number of changes. Barrels had been relocated and a made-up pallet was rolled out on one of the larger crates. He turned as someone stepped up behind him.

“Quentin, nice setup you’ve got here,” Walker teased. “And to think we’ve all been under the impression that you actually worked on the inventory records when you were in here. Who’d have thought you were napping on the sly?”

The ex-magistrate’s light-hearted manner became serious when he saw the other man had not so much as cracked a smile. “Anything you’d care to talk about, Quentin? You seem to be carrying quite a burden. Maybe sharing will lighten it and make it easier to bear.”

“Thank you, Walker, but I don’t want to take up any of your time,” Quentin quietly declined. “I know how busy you are.”

“I am no busier than the next man,” Walker assured him. “Besides, at the moment my mess hall is overrun with Kelby and Troy’s students, so I essentially find myself with time on my hands. Noisy bunch they are.” Walker grinned unrepentant at his feigned grievance. Everyone was well aware of how much the ex-judge love being around the younger men and watching them learn, especially his two partners.

Quentin pulled up a couple of barrels and after offering one to Walker, sat with a heavy thud which accentuated his mood.

Walker waited patiently for his friend to begin. Several moments passed before Quentin finally looked up from the floor and sadly began his explanation.

“The reason I’m sleeping here, Walker, is that I feel too uncomfortable sleeping in the same tent with Kelby because of what I unknowingly allowed to happen between the two of us.”

Walker didn’t question what Quentin was referring to, instinctively knowing the shopkeeper would enlighten him in his own good time.

“You see,” Quentin continued with a self-depreciating sigh, “through no conscious fault of my own, I somehow gave Kelby the impressing there was more to our relationship than just friendship. He needed someone to be there for him, to help him through the adjustment of settling here on the island and I gladly took on that role. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise soon enough that his expectations were poles apart to mine. I had planned for a different life here than I had in the past where partners are concerned.”

Walker put his hand up to stop Quentin so he could ask a question. “Do you think you could better explain that, my friend?”

“Yes; at least I’ll try my best to. I was a highly respected member of the business community back home. As such, I had to hide my sexual preferences. If my customers had even suspected I was attracted to men, it would have been the ruin of me as well as the business I had worked so hard to develop and maintain. At community functions and the like, I always had a beautiful woman on my arm and I openly flirted with all the other women present. I was known as a real ladies man and dating the daughters and sisters of highly-placed men led to great connections in the business world. What no one knew is late at night I would sneak out of town and make my way to an underground establishment where I had sex with men. I never gave my real name or my real occupation in order to keep the illusion going. It was great for a while, until I met this young man who I allowed to sneak into my heart. It wasn’t what you call love exactly. I guess it was more along the lines of infatuation, but I let slip where I was from and yes you guessed it. One day he walked into my establishment and nearly blew my whole world upside down. I managed to get him out of there before any real damage was done and from that point on I sort of sealed my heart off to having a really true relationship.”

“Quentin,” Walker softly interjected. “You don’t have to hide who you are here, but I think you still need time to come to terms with that.”

“I understand the truth behind what you are saying, my friend. However, when I offered Kelby my friendship and was kind to him, I didn’t see the warning signs and for that I deeply regret my actions. I feel I may have really hurt someone I care about. So until things can be patched up between us, if they ever can, I will stay away from him. I believe he needs time to work out his feelings as well.”

“If I may make an observation,” Walker stood to make his point. “I’ve seen you interacting with Kelby and at no time did I see you offer him anything but friendship. You never flirted with him or did anything out of the ordinary that would suggest to him that you wanted the relationship to go farther. Remember, I was a judge. Over the years I learned to study people and I became damn good at it. So believe me when I tell you, you are not guilty of anything. I firmly believe young Kelby has a crush on you, so in his mind your actions meant more to him than what was offered. He is an intelligent man, so in time I think he will come to realise that fact. You’re doing the right thing by giving him some time and space to think it out. Be patient and soon things will get back on track.”

“I can only hope you are right in thinking that. It is true that Kelby often spoke of a special friend named Jonathan; how close they were and how much he misses him. Hopefully I was merely a temporary fill-in. To be quite honest with you, I don’t believe I am the right one for Kelby, nor is Kelby the right one for me. So for now I will have to be content to live alone and make the best of it until circumstances change. Unfortunately, right now I’m still concerned with the fact that I may have unintentionally led Kelby on.”

“Hey, are you questioning the judgement of the court?” Walker teased, causing Quentin to laugh out loud at the little dig.

“No, your Honour, I would never so much as dream of doing such a thing,” Quentin merrily returned the banter.

“Do you feel better?” Walker asked, turning serious once again.

“Yes, Walker, I do. Thank you for listening,” Quentin sincerely replied.

“Anytime, my good man. Now how about doling out my daily sugar quota and coming back to the mess hall with me for a cup of fresh coffee? Surely to God, Troy is done with his lessons by now.”

Quentin measured out the requested item and followed Walker out, feeling much better than he had an hour ago. He knew Walker was right and with time, Quentin knew the shell around his heart would melt and someday allow him the pleasure of finding and truly loving a special someone who was meant for him alone.

With classes over for the week, Kelby slowly made his way into his tent to put his teaching supplies away. He wasn’t too happy to see Galen and Raythe already there. He wanted some badly needed time to himself where he would be free from having to maintain a façade that all was well.

Too despondent to continue trying to hide his pain, Kelby threw himself down on his pallet and turned his back on his friends.

“We wanna talk to you, Kelby,” Raythe announced, ignoring the other man’s obvious hint of wanting to be left alone.

“And w-we feel you gotta talk to us too b-because something’s wrong here,” Galen offered sympathetically even without knowing what the problem was.

Kelby groaned when he finally accepted that neither of them was about to leave him be. “What makes you think there is something wrong?” Kelby countered over his shoulder in an attempt to forestall the conversation the other men seemed intent on having.

“Well, for instance you came into the tent Monday night and relocated your pallet to the far corner from where it was beside Quentin’s,” Raythe bluntly pointed out. “Then the next morning, Quentin packs up his belongs and moves into one of the storage tents. You’ve been wearing a long face for going on four days now. It all adds up to a problem from where I stand.”

“W-we’re your friends, Kelby,” Galen reminded him. “W-we just w-want to help.”

“I don’t know, guys; I mean I don’t like to burden anyone with my troubles,” Kelby murmured, finally sitting up and turning to face them.

“My Pappous always said a b-burden shared is b-burden lightened,” Galen quoted, hoping to encourage Kelby to open up.

Giving it several moments thought, Kelby decided he had nothing to lose. “Someone I thought, that is hoped, felt for me that same way I feel for him, doesn’t,” he sadly admitted, then sighed softly and stared down at his hands.

Galen and Raythe glanced at each other and then back at their distraught friend.

“Do you m-mean Quentin?” Galen softly asked.

“Are you saying you think you are in love with Quentin, but the good storekeeper isn’t in love with you?” Raythe wanted clarification before asking more questions.

“He said he just wanted to be friends,” Kelby answered bitterly. “But friends don’t take advantage of you and use you only to toss you aside.” He reached for the little dog that had followed him into the tent and sought comfort by cuddling the little creature. Nestling into the soft fur, he tried to keep his tears hidden.

“I don’t think Quentin w-would deliberately do something that m-mean,” Galen murmured, not wishing to upset his friend further but at the same time knowing he had to voice his true opinion.

“What makes you think he was misleading you, Kelby?” Raythe none-too-gently inquired.

Kelby glared up at the sudden unsympathetic tone. “What would you think if Brock, after making a lot of forthcoming overtures told you he didn’t see you as a lover or partner, only a friend?” It was Kelby’s turn to get a little belligerent. “I wouldn’t have said anything to you if I knew you were going to take his side.”

“Hey, I’m not taking sides; I just figure maybe you could afford to take a closer look at what really happened,” Raythe defended his point of view.

“Kelby,” Galen’s soft approach drew the unhappy man’s attention; “when did Quentin actually say those w-words about your relationship never b-becoming anything m-more?”

“Monday evening.”

“Which one of you m-made the first m-move in that direction?” Galen’s second question caused Kelby to grow warm with embarrassment.

Recalling the events leading up to that particular conversation, Kelby blushed and whispered, “I asked him how long it would be before we become partners.”

Galen reached over and laid a hand on Raythe’s arm to signal him to be quiet. “Up until then, how w-was Quentin treating you?”

“The way a very good friend would,” Kelby replied. “He was always there offering comfort and support. He’d freely give of his time to listen to me, answer questions and suggest options for how I could handle things, especially emotions that were tearing me apart. He also shared his own past, telling me about the good and the bad things that had happened to him so I wouldn’t feel like I was the only one afraid and uncertain.”

“And you’re willing to throw all that aside?” Raythe was never one to pull his punches. He ignored Galen’s silent entreaty that he show a little extra compassion.

“Nooo,” Kelby wailed. “I just wanted more and I’m trying to deal with not getting it.”

“I know it hurts, Kelby. Someone I w-was interested in b-back home rejected m-me too; would hardly give m-me so m-much as the time of day. Heck, I never even got so m-much as a kiss or a hug from him. He w-was a schoolteacher. P-probably w-would have w-worked alongside Troy had he ended up here. B-but he disappeared when the laws were b-being m-more strongly enforced. Funny, but our local dentist vanished about the same time,” Galen brightly divulged. His observation resulted in a teary-eyed grin from one man and a cynical snort from the other. “You know, I b-bet Quentin is still w-willing to be friends. W-why don’t you ask him?”

“Yeah, I might do that. He’s always been very approachable and seems open to discussing any subject no matter how personal.” Kelby mulled over the final conversation he’d had with the man and because of the help from his friends, was able to accept what had really taken place. Quentin had not taken advantage of him, nor had the older man intentionally hurt him. He also recognised that his last discussion with Quentin had ultimately started with another issue so he ventured forth. “I’d really like to talk with you guys about another topic while we’re sitting here. That is, if you’ve got the time.”

Both Galen and Raythe shrugged indifferently while nodding their willingness to converse further.

“I already talked to Quentin about something that was really bothering me and still is to some extent. I think I would like to hear someone else’s perception, someone who might actually have some experience with it.” Kelby hoped his hint would attract their interest and he wasn’t disappointed.

“Our perception on what exactly?” Raythe backed off at the suggestion of getting too personal at the same time as Galen’s eyes lit-up in anticipation of the as yet unknown.

“I’ve been noticing things and I believe that some of the guys around here are being physically disciplined. I am rather concerned about it.” Kelby leaned closer to keep his voice as low as possible while allowing the others to hear him. “I didn’t like what happened during the field trip last Monday.”

“I can’t say I was exactly thrilled myself,” Raythe scoffed. He huffed and rolled his eyes when Galen snickered. “And I wouldn’t have thought you’d have been too overjoyed about it either, Galen.” He glared at the slightly younger man.

“Well…” Kelby was embarrassed about asking his next question but found it impossible to curtail his desire to know. “Have either of you been hit? Quentin said no one was being beaten, spanked maybe but not beaten. I’m having a hard time differentiating between the two.”

“I haven’t been either beaten or spanked,” Raythe firmly stated. “Unless you count what happened with Troy. I don’t think Brock approves of it.” He was perfectly aware of his partner’s feelings on the subject but wasn’t comfortable revealing them, so he bent the truth a little. “What about you, Galen? I know you don’t have a partner, but Thomas sure keeps a tight rein on you.”

“Huh?” Galen didn’t know whether to answer or stay mute. “Ah, I guess everyone is going to find out about everyone else sooner or later. Umm, you see, m-me and Thomas m-made up a few rules to keep m-me safe.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“What are your rules, Galen,” Kelby gently asked.

“W-well, I’m not to go off b-by m-myself; I’m to eat p-properly and follow any advice Lakota gives me; I’m to obey the laws set out b-by the council,” Galen rhymed them off, holding up a finger for each one.

“So just what happens if you break a rule?”

“I get p-punished.” Seeing the expression on Kelby’s face, Galen explained further. “Hey, I’m not b-being abused or forced into something against m-my w-will. I agreed I needed guidance and that I’d do m-my b-best to obey Thomas who is looking out for m-me.”

“Ah, have you broken a rule yet?” Kelby tentatively asked.

“Uh-huh.” Galen shyly nodded.

“And….” Raythe demanded to know.

“Thomas spanked m-me,” Galen quietly admitted moments before grinning impishly. “And I lived to tell you guys about it.” His laughter dispelled the heavy mood that followed his first statement.

‘Maybe Quentin is right,’ Kelby thought. ‘At least Galen doesn’t think it’s a big deal.’ He found reassurance in his young friend’s attitude towards the subject matter and it helped him somewhat to recognise the distinction between abuse and discipline.

“All I can say is if there was ever anyone who deserved to be walloped, it’s Seth. He’s the one who caused all the trouble that led to Troy switching us and I think we should do something to get even!” Raythe was still quite incensed about what he saw as a gross miscarriage of justice, more so in Galen’s case than in his own. He adamantly believed something more should be done about it.

“I’d just as soon forget about it,” Galen softly voiced his perspective. “There’s no p-point in stirring up m-more p-problems and finding ourselves in front of the council.”

“While I wouldn’t mind seeing Seth get his comeuppance, I do think us seeking revenge is wrong,” Kelby calmly but with conviction offered his opinion.

“Fine by me,” Raythe verbally pretended to agree while silently making plans to enlist someone else’s aid in seeing to it that Seth paid his dues.

“Anyway,” Kelby announced, “we’ve wasted enough of this beautiful afternoon indoors. What say, we find something to do outside?”

“W-wanna go clam-digging?” Galen happily suggested. “M-maybe Walker can m-make a chowder for supper if we dig up enough.”

It was a jumped-at activity as the three friends gathered up buckets and headed to the beach in anticipation of a couple of hours of fresh air, sunshine and cooling ocean winds.


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