FICTION: Cold War

After an uneasy truce, Milford Streeter arrives with a cure for Buck Crenshaw’s catarrh (cold), but it all goes terribly wrong . . .

After a tentative knock at the door, Streeter let himself in. “Buck,” he whispered.

“What are you doing here?”

“Your catarrh, sir. I’ve come with a poultice and my grandmother’s famous potion to help you,” Streeter explained.

“Thank you, Streeter, but I prefer the surgeon’s cures if bed rest doesn’t help.”

“My whole family swears by this recipe, and it’s good for energy. I take it myself when I’m feeling low and it does some good. Go on . . . it tastes bad, but . . .”

“All right, I’ll try the medicine, but not the poultice. I have a big class tomorrow and a little extra energy can’t hurt.” Buck sipped the bottle. “That wasn’t too bad. How long before it starts to work?”

“Not long, sir.”

“Thanks, Streeter. You had better go now,” Buck said more as an order than a suggestion, but as Streeter made for the door, Buck worried. “Streeter, my throat feels funny.”

“What do you mean? Is it sore?”

“No . . . it feels . . .” Buck scratched his neck. “It’s not right. It’s itchy.”

“That doesn’t happen, usually.” Streeter stepped closer in alarm.

“Streeter, what’s wrong?” Buck’s face tingled and his tongue thickened.

“I don’t rightly know, but land sakes, you’re puffing up!” Streeter ran into the hallway and then ran back.

Buck wheezed with his hands at his throat and couldn’t speak. His eyes and nose streamed mucus and tears.

“Please, God, help me!” Streeter repeated over and over. He opened a window and had one leg out when Carter and Whittaker arrived.

“By God! Look at Buck!” Carter cried. “Shit, Whittaker, run and get Doctor Law! Now! He’s going blue!” Carter slapped Buck’s face. “Buck, can you speak?” He shook him as Whittaker ran off to get the doctor. “What the hell have you done to him, Streeter?”

“Nothing! He was like this when I arrived!”

Carter spotted the bottle and picked it up. “What’s this?”

Streeter said nothing.

“He’s dying, you dumb darkie—and you’ve poisoned him. Haven’t you?” Carter let Buck fall back on the bed and pounced on Streeter.

Cadets poured into the tiny room rushing to break the fight, but Streeter clawed and pounded Carter until they were pulled apart just as Whittaker returned with the doctor.

“Carter! What’s happened?” Fred cried as he rushed in.

“That bastard poisoned him!”

Doctor Law pushed past them and went over to Buck. “My Lord!” he exclaimed. “What have you boys been up to?” He took up the empty bottle on the bed and glanced at Streeter.

“I only tried to help him, doctor,” Streeter confessed. “It’s my grandmother’s cure for catarrh. I even drink it.”

“He used a darkie voodoo spell on my brother!” Fred said to the others and lunged at Streeter, who threw a powerful fist at Fred, sending him reeling into the others.

“BOYS! A cadet is dying and you’re fighting!” The doctor scolded and took a small knife and tube from his kit.

“What are you doing?” Fred cried.

“Your brother can’t breathe—it’s the only way—we have to cut an airway.”

Just as the doctor made the incision, Fred pulled him back and blood began to run.

“Damn you, Fred. There’s no time! Your brother’ll be dead and now you’ve made a mess of it!” Doctor Law pushed him away and cut a little more. The jagged line turned red as the doctor inserted the tube and stitched it in place. Buck’s eyes swelled shut, but natural color returned to his puffed face.

Fred, in tears, punched the wall. “Will he live, doctor? Will he? It’s my fault. I told him to make up to Streeter!”

The cadets stared at Fred’s admission.

“It’s obviously a reaction to whatever Streeter gave Buck,” the doctor began.

“Kill the bastard!” a cadet said.

The doctor ignored the cadets. “Mr. Streeter, what in heaven’s name was in your cure?”

“Just sage and goober peas and oil—no poison at all! I only tried to help!” Streeter cried.

“That’s a lie! You’ve been out to ruin my brother from the start! And now you go and murder him!” Fred sat beside his brother.

The room grew close and small with outraged cadets, but the tough old Doctor Law pushed the boys into the hallway. “Behave as Christians, men. Streeter has made a terrible blunder, but it was no act of viciousness. How was he to know that his friend might suffer a reaction to goober peas? Surely you see that it’s not a potion one would use with murderous intent. Say your prayers for our poor Buck. He’ll need every last one. Now get out of here. Corporal Whittaker, go and have word sent to Buck’s parents. Tell them the situation is grave.”

Fred jumped up. “GRAVE?” And he sobbed again.

Carter took his shoulder, but Fred grabbed him by the neck. “You little piece of shit! You sold my brother out—and don’t think I’ll ever forget it! If you were a real friend, you wouldn’t have left him alone with that darkie. I’ll get you! You’ll see, you piss ant! Your days are numbered.”

Carter paled and left the room.

Streeter stood in the shadows.

“Fred, your brother could die quite soon or from inflammation at the neck later,” the doctor explained.

“I’ll kill myself! I will! If he goes, I want to die!” Fred raved. “I’m gonna make them all pay dearly!”

“Now, Fred Crenshaw, control yourself. Your brother needs your prayers, not . . .”

“Go to hell, doc!”

“Mind your manners, son. This may be the last time you have with Buck . . .” The doctor faltered. He’d grown fond of Buck during his stay at the infirmary.

The doctor’s upset focused Fred on his brother, and he wept more bitterly. “Please don’t leave me, Buck. I promise to take better care of you. Why were you so stupid to let that Streeter poison you?”

Streeter stepped forward, but the doctor waved him off. “Mr. Streeter, go to the adjutant at once and explain yourself.”

“I’m afraid of the others, sir.”

“As well you should be. Get out of my sight at once! Bringing your Negro ways into this school—how dare you try to do my job!”

Streeter raced from the room as if to get a running start from the cadets.

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

PART ELEVEN HERE

PART TWELVE HERE

PART THIRTEEN HERE

*Featured Image courtesy Kansas Historical Society

15 thoughts on “FICTION: Cold War

      • The story takes place in the early 1880’s when the United States Military Academy was beginning to accept black cadets. The characters in this book are the sons and daughters of the people in my first novel set during and after the Civil War. That book’s about a morphine -addicted veteran with a good heart. 🙂 I love everything about that time period!

        My father,whom I loved dearly, instilled in me a strong sense of the shoe just about to drop. (Not sure if that’s a saying in other countries).

        Thanks for reading, E.

        A

        Like

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