Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 29 by Dellani Oakes


"You know damn well what's in my britches. Shut up."
Will laughed quietly, punching his younger brother's shoulder. "Bed that girl quick!"
"I said shut up. You'll wake the boys."
"Not them. They're dead to the world."
Luke lay on his back, right arm raised, hand on his brow, as he stared at the ceiling. Will rolled over on his side, facing his brother.
"So," he whispered. "She said yes...."
Luke chuckled softly. "She said yes." He sighed sadly. "And who knows? Dollie ain't the back seat of a car kinda girl."
"Any girl is a back seat kinda girl if she gets hot enough," Willem whispered.
"Was Patty?"
"None of your damn business what Patty is," Will said a little more loudly than he should.
Lucius shushed him. "Point is, neither is Dollie. And she's got her reasons to be wary."
"Go to sleep, brother." He punched Lucius again and rolled over the face the wall.
Lucius did his best to relax. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and imagined he could smell Dollie's violet perfume. The summer breeze drifted through the open window and he imagined he heard her voice saying, "I love you."
"I love you too," he whispered. Folding her in his arms, he fell into a sound sleep.
Will kicked Luke as he got out of bed. "Wake up, sleepy! Ma's wanting to go to chapel."
Groaning, Lucius sat up slowly. Having experienced his share of hangovers, he decided this wasn't unlike the time he'd had too much of Grandaddy's famous 'shine at the tender age of 17.
"Glory, I feel like hell."
Will flopped on the bed next to him. "You ain't getting' sick, are ya?" He felt his brother's forehead. "Lord have mercy, Luke! You're burning up!"
"I don't get sick," Luke protested, getting out of bed with difficulty. "Ain't took sick a day in my life." That wasn't entirely true, but it was true that he didn't get sick often. When he did, it was usually pretty bad.
"You're gonna go to the clinic, see Doc Starbuck."
Lucius couldn't disagree. He felt terrible. He managed to dress himself with Will's help. Staying away from his mother and the children wasn't easy, but he didn't want to take the chance of passing along something.
"I'll meet you at chapel after I take him down," Will told their mother.
"You won't! You stay with your brother. Me and the girls can watch the young'uns." She took Luke's face in her hands, glaring into his eyes. "Don't you die on me, boy! You hear?"
"Yes, Mama."
Her eyes filled with tears. "I can't lose another I love. I can't!" She burst into tears.
Jane took her mother by the shoulders, leading her to the couch. She sat down with her, holding her mother close. She cooed softly, humming and rocking to calm her as if she were a child. Tipping her head toward the door, she told them silently to go. Will helped Luke to the truck and drove slowly down to the clinic at the base of the mountain just below them.
Doctor Starbuck, a retired surgeon, lived in the clinic building and cared for the sick and injured of the school. He gave shots, set bones and did minor surgeries in a small operating theatre. He was just waking up when the men arrived. He set aside his breakfast and hurried them into the examining room. He helped Will put Luke on the exam table then washed his hands and dug around for a thermometer. Rinsing it off, he put it under Luke's tongue as he listened to the young man's chest and felt his glands.
"You're one sick fella," he told Luke as he read the thermometer. "Hundred and one point two. Lie down," he instructed.
Luke lay gratefully back on the table. The cold metal made him shiver through the sheet. His long legs dangled off the end. Doc felt his abdomen, listened to his chest again and frowned.
"Had anything different to eat or drink?"
"No, sir."
"Drunk out of a rusty pump? Or outta the stream?"
"Nope. I know better, Doc. You told us often enough."
The doctor nodded. Reaching for Luke's wrist, he took his pulse. It was then he noticed the scrapes and cuts on his hands.
"When did you get these?"
"Reckon the other day fencing. Them old poles are mighty torn up."
"You didn't take out the splinters?"
"Thought I got 'em, but they's so many, who can say? I had on gloves, but that shit goes right through."
The doctor examined his hands carefully, nodding, frowning and tutting. "This one's infected," he muttered. "Where were you fencing?"
© 2019 Dellani Oakes


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