FICTION: Summer Ends With A Fall

As summer encampment ends we join Cadet Buck Crenshaw having spent the final weeks of the season in the West Point infirmary. It is assumed Buck suffers under a “nervous complaint” for why else would he bribe stable hands to protect the negro cadet Milford Streeter after a schooling horse is found dead?  Streeter disappears from the scene leaving Buck to take the fall.

The barracks had become a fortress of hostility. Buck half expected to be beaten on the way back to his room after weeks in the infirmary, but everyone went about their business, getting their books and shoes and mattresses in order. Buck practiced what he might say to his roommate Carter, but was surprised by a visitor at his door.

“Sir.” Streeter stretched out his hand.

Buck brushed past, expecting to find Carter, but he wasn’t in.

Streeter followed him. “Sir, I’ve come to see how you are.”

“My nervous prostration is passed,” Buck said. “Anything else before you leave?”

“Sir, I wanted to thank you for taking the fall.”

“Thank me?”

“Yes, as a colored cadet, I would have suffered if it were found that I had recklessly killed that horse.”

“Recklessly? You said the horse spooked.”

“I never should have had him doing such high jumps,” Streeter confessed with a sheepish glance.

“Do you realize how much I’ve suffered, Streeter, for your jumps?”

“Yes, I do feel bad about it,” Streeter said, picking up a framed picture of Buck’s family, “but I’m sure you see how much worse it would have been for me.”

“I only see that you don’t want to suffer for your own mistakes.” Buck grabbed the frame. “You’re willing to take advantage of a person’s goodwill.”

“My people have suffered great injustice because of your people—four hundred dollars is hardly a high price to bear for a wealthy boy like yourself,” Streeter said with a cool air.

Buck laughed. “My people? My uncles fought and died for your freedom—maybe you should be paying me! You think because your father was a slave that you can do as you like and go against common decency and regulations?”

“Have you never broken a rule, Buck Crenshaw?”

“Of course you know that I have. I was caught bribing for you, remember? And I’ve done tons wrong, but I’d never sell another man out.”

Streeter kept his hands clasped behind him as if this were merely a dry debate. “You knowingly got involved. You knew the risks.”

“I didn’t realize I would be risking alone,” Buck said. “I trusted you.”

Streeter scratched his chin. “I had to, in the end, consider myself, sir. If I were kicked out, how would it look for my family? For West Point? Your family has Fred and you’re bright enough to make it elsewhere if need be. God rewards those who reward themselves.”

“It’s been a while since I’ve been forced to read scripture,” Buck said, “but I think you may have strayed from God’s teachings. You behave like a coward and a traitor—two things the army and God don’t appreciate.”

“Don’t speak of cowardice to me. You don’t know what it’s like to be colored!”

“Stop whining! You’re doing well by all accounts and are supported by people that matter. It’s a privilege to attend the academy, and never easy for anyone. For you to desert one of your only friends shows a real character defect.”

“Are you insinuating that colored people are defective?” Streeter asked, eyes blazing. “Maybe the papers would like to know!”

“What will you say, Streeter?” Buck laughed. “What could you possibly say about me?”

“I can say enough,” Streeter said, rather too smugly.

“You would lie, I suppose.”

“I will do what it takes to graduate, sir. I’m sorry that you’re so bitter about having helped me. I would have done the same for you,” Streeter replied.

“Bullshit!” Buck yelled.

Streeter turned and collided with Carter who shoved him. “What the hell are you doing in my room, Mr. Streeter?”

“Let the worm go, Carter. This room is for snakes only,” Buck said.

Carter glared at Streeter and then turned to Buck. “Good to see you, Buck.”

Buck’s summer things had been brought in by a few cadets assigned the task and piled on his bed. He began placing his things according to regulations until he came across a small box and opened it. A shiny gold pocket watch with a reserved and prim soldier painted on its face glistened atop fancy paper.

“Oh, your sister was here earlier. She said the box was a gift from your father,” Carter said as he inched over for a better look. “Merciful heavens, if that isn’t the finest watch I’ve ever seen—and there’s an inscription on back.”

Buck turned away from Carter and read the engraved words: “Don’t hide your light under a basket.” Buck shoved it behind his socks and went back to putting his things away.

Carter worked at brushing his clothes free of imaginary lint. “Buck, well, your face looks much improved.”

Silence.

“Buck, won’t you forgive me for this summer? I was a fool. It was silly of me.”

Buck turned on him. “Silly? What a word you use! I was shorn of all respect and honor over your little silliness. I won’t forgive you so you may as well forget it.”

“A gentleman would accept another man’s apology.”

“So now you want to teach me how to be a gentleman? Gentle behavior has, for some reason, lost its appeal. I’d be stupid to trust you. Fred has put you up to this show of friendship and I’d rather be alone than feel that a friend must be coerced,” Buck said.

“I’ve made up my own mind about you, Buck.”

“Good for you, Carter; that’s some bit of growth.”

Whittaker strolled in now. “Carter . . .” He stopped in his tracks. “Buck, it’s good to have you back among the living. I hope that you aren’t sore at me. I honestly had no ambitions for your corporalship—you know that, but what was I to do when it was hoisted upon me? It’s more responsibility than I’m really able for, I tell you.”

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

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

PART ONE HERE

PART TWO HERE

PART THREE HERE

PART FOUR HERE

PART FIVE HERE

PART SIX HERE

PART SEVEN HERE

PART EIGHT HERE

PART NINE HERE

PART TEN HERE

***Featured Image: Gates Of The Hudson by Jasper Francis Cropsey

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