Fiction: West Point Summer

Buck Crenshaw takes on his friends and the new black cadet, Milford Streeter.

Buck watched as cadets passed him on The Plain. Who’d hived him to his brother? What burned Buck most was that he had been soft. It seemed the sensible thing to do, but now—his whole reputation as a leader might be destroyed.

Buck planned to enjoy being merciless with the truly stupid and slovenly cadets, but Streeter was compliant and well-mannered. It disturbed Buck that Fred, of all people, would doubt him.

Two classmates strode up as Buck walked to the mess hall. “Crenshaw, there you are! So what’s HE like?”

“Who?” Buck asked.

They shoved him playfully. “The darkie, of course!” his friend, Carter said.

“Oh, he’s fine, I suppose. I mean I hardly had time to have a heart to heart or anything, what with setting him straight on his attire and room,” Buck said.

His two friends exchanged grins.

“What?” Buck asked.

“We heard you were easy with him—CORPORAL.”

“I’m not a corporal yet,” Buck replied.

“So, will you be going to the hop tonight, Buck?” asked Whittaker.

“Yes.”

“Will you bring Streeter as escort?” Carter teased.

“Ha-ha,” Buck tried to look nonchalant.

“Oh, that’s right, no plebes at the dances—too bad, I guess, Crenshaw.”

“Go to hell, Whittaker,” Buck said through a forced grin.

“Oh, look at that! Speak of the devil.” Carter pointed to a few candidates with Streeter milling about on the grassy plain. “Corporal Crenshaw, why don’t we have some fun?”

“No, I . . .”

“Come on. Don’t spoil it,” Carter said flicking Buck’s cap from his head.

The future officers marched up to the future cadets, Buck readjusting his hat. The candidates stumbled over themselves to form a crooked line.

“Afternoon, sirs,” Streeter said.

Buck cringed. Rule number one—broken. Never put yourself forward with upperclassmen. Buck’s friends turned to him, looking expectant and curious.

“Mr. Streeter, how dare you address your superiors without permission,” Buck shouted in the booming voice inherited from his mother.

“Pardon me, I . . .”

“Mister! Have I given you permission to speak?” Buck asked, shoving Streeter in a forced way.

“No, sir.”

The two yearlings with Buck stared down the uncomfortable new men.

“Did I give you permission to speak, mister?” Buck asked again.

“No, sir, I . . .”

“I have NOT given you permission to speak!” Buck shouted in exasperation. “Have the doctors made a mistake with you? You don’t hear very well. Are you hard of hearing, mister?”

Some candidates snickered. Streeter went silent. The yearlings rained abuse on the boys for laughing which made them laugh harder.

“You are marked men,” Carter said.

Buck kept his attention on Streeter until the yearlings sent the candidates off. He’d handled himself well in front of the others and regained confidence in a good year ahead.

Summer encampment at West Point with its dance classes and cavalry drill held a romantic appeal for Buck.

Setting the tent posts at perfect ninety-degree angles and draping crisp canvas bleached by the sun over its frame delighted Buck. The fresh air wafting through the open tents and the birds flitting about stirred his soul. One day he’d lead his own command in the West, living in encampments just like this summer one, but with real chance at bravery and distinction.

For two warm months there were no books to speak of. As a plebe Buck had struggled at first to keep things clean and in order with Fred being a great distraction, encouraging him to sneak off guard duty and carouse with friends. They’d always escaped being caught, but Buck didn’t enjoy shirking his duty. Bit by bit Buck had pulled himself away from Fred.

When Buck got scarlet fever Fred tried for West Point first. Their father complained that things should not always go Fred’s way, but Buck had been tentative, afraid even, that he was not able for the academy. So from his sick bed he’d watched his more aggressive brother go first.

This summer camp would be on Buck’s terms. With Fred away he could spend more time with his serious-minded friends instead of framing excuses and escapes.

When the cadets marched out in companies to their streets where folded tents awaited to be erected, Buck watched in dismay as Cadet Milford Streeter strolled up, assigned to Buck’s room.

PART ONE HERE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

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