The post surgeon grumbled but agreed to see C.J. Still fussing as he entered the examination room, he waved C.J. to a chair.
“I went through the war treating all kinds of wounds and sewing men back together. Now I have to let a commander’s girl tell me who’s a patient.”
The doctor held up a finger. “Watch the tip of my finger without moving your head.” He waved his hand from side to side, then opened a desk drawer and pulled out a bottle.
“Is that for my headache, Doc?” C.J. asked.
“This? No. It’s for my headache,” the doctor said and poured a shot into a glass. “It isn’t laudanum.”
He knocked it back in one swallow and returned to his gripe. “All I get now is scraped knuckles from you young roosters preening for the henhouse.” He started to pour again, paused, shook his head, and put the drink back.
C.J. licked his lips as he watched the bottle disappear. “Am I okay, then?”
“Oh, hell yes. You’re fine, only a slight concussion. Maybe even got some sense booted into your head—couldn’t get none kicked out.” Doc Kingman laughed at his joke.
Sarah Winslow waited on the porch with the lieutenant she called Wes hovering at her elbow. She waved at C.J. to join her.
“What did Doctor Kingman say?”
Aggravating Post Personnel
C.J. refrained from touching the lump above his ear and studied the woman’s mildly concerned expression and the smirk on the officer.
“He said to send in the soldier boy.” C.J. pointed his chin at Wes. “Doc says this feller needs his apron cut off and some manliness sewed back on his butt.”
C.J. expected another fight as Wes went sunrise red and made fists, but Miss Winslow laughed and placed a stopping hand on Wes’s chest.
“Very well, cowboy,” she said. “Perhaps we’ll see you around.”
Wes jutted his face forward. “You’d better hope not.”
It was C.J.’s turn to grin. He untied Skewy and led her to the civilian freighter’s stables.
Shopping For A Cure
The sutler cocked an eye at C.J. “You back for more soap already?”
“No. I’ve kinda got a headache—looking for elixir.”
The sutler smiled, showing gaps in his teeth. “I heard you like to feed soap to soldiers. You’re gonna need a lot of it. You realize you’re outnumbered here, don’t you?”
“How do you know about that”? C.J. asked.
The storekeeper’s eyes crinkled, and he finger-combed his beard. “Old Rumor’s the fastest horse on a military post. He keeps everybody informed.” He leaned an elbow on the counter. “Heard the women saw your fishing pole.”
C.J. headed for the door.
“Hold on! Wait a minute, there, cowboy. You’re safer in here than out there.”
The heat in C.J.’s face said he blushed. He stopped but didn’t turn around. How could he be the center of attention? Fort McDowell was a small city compared to where he’d been this last year. Was he that much an outsider?
You Ain’t Got The Habit
“If you were gonna leave without your laudanum, I’ve got a business proposition for you,” the sutler said.
C.J. took a deep breath, then another before facing the man. “What is it”?
“There’s an outlying post—Camp O’Connell—about 45 miles east. Taking shortcuts, you can cut that down ten miles. I need someone to deliver supplies.”
Thanks, But No
“I’ve been there,” C.J. said. “Not interested in driving a wagon over that country.”
“Don’t need to take all the supplies, just the alcohol, and laudanum. I can’t send it with the freighters. They drink it all. You can use a packhorse—travel fast and easy, you know?”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Let me know soon. My name’s Randall Gates; I’ll be here.”
C.J. bobbed his head and outside met Sally, the non-stop talking child who was probably most responsible for spurring Old Rumor.
“Hello, Mister Man. I’ve been waiting for you to come out. Did you know the officers don’t like you”? They say you’ve got no shame. They think I’m too little to know what that means, but I’m not. My big brother Kelly doesn’t have shame. Mama said so when he tried to kiss Jeanette. He’s eleven and thinks he’s full growed. Did you try to kiss Miss Winslow or the other women”? I heard you had your pants off. Kelly had his pants on when he kissed Jeanette.”
C.J. stomped back inside. “Mr. Gates?” I’ll take that job.”
Will C.J.’s impulse be for the better? Don’t forget to leave your comments.
Life was hard in the old west, so were their drugs. Here’s a look at some of them.
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