And now, Chapter 10
Book One, Lazarus
“So, I think we have a deal.” Lyle reached out to shake the young man’s hand.
The Poultryman took Lyle’s offered hand. “Yessir, I will bring these birds out to you in a couple of days. They should lay plenty of eggs for ya’ this line has done good by us here.”
“I’m sure they will. See you then.” Lyle started to move toward the large, open barn door when he heard someone call out for him. A woman’s voice, by the sound of it.
“Doc Lyle, hey, Doctor Lyle!”
Lyle turned toward the sound of the voice. It was a woman, he tried to place the face, ah, yes Mrs. Westahoff, ah…ah, Corrine, that’s her name, Lyle thought to himself.
“Why, hello Mrs, Westahoff, I hope all is well with you?”
“Oh, I’m doing pretty good, Doctor Lyle. And please, call me Corrine. Actually, I was going to send word out to you today to see if you could make a house call.”
Lyle couldn’t help letting his surprise show at this announcement. “Really? Are you sure everything is okay?” He rarely got any visitors besides Darin West, and someone requesting his presence usually meant there was some type of medical issue, typically something serious.
“Well, yes everything is fine, except my son, Arlen has this cough that concerns me. It seemed better this morning, but he seems a bit run down as well. Since you are here do you think it possible to stop in and check on him?”
Lyle thought for a beat. “I certainly can, Mrs. Westa…I mean, Corrine. I didn’t bring any of my equipment with me, I was just planning on trading for some new layers, but I’d be more than happy to check on him.”
“Oh, thank you, Doc! I’m sure it’s just a bad cold but I am a bit worried.”
“It is no problem, Corrine. I might as well go right now if that would be okay? I would like to get back to my little abode by nightfall and it does take some time to walk back.”
“Yes, yes, now is just fine. I will walk with you to our shelter.” As Corrine said this, she hoped she had not been to forward. “That’s if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, no, no, I don’t mind at all! In fact, it would be better if you did accompany me so I can get some more of the details about Arlen’s condition. How is he doing anyway? I know the loss of a limb is always a difficult challenge, especially for a young active boy like your son. He’s adjusting well?”
Corrine thought for a moment. “I’d say he has accepted what has happened. He now does nearly as much as he did when he was still whole.”
“That’s good to hear.” Corrine and Lyle began to head toward the door. The Westahoff place was about two miles from the barn complex. As they began walking down the well-worn roadway, Corrine tried to tell Lyle about her son’s cough that was worrying her.
“So, he has had this cough for almost a whole week now, he is worn down, and his appetite is not as it should be,” Corrine told the doctor.
“Any fever? Sore throat? Painful joints?” Lyle inquired.
“He does seem a bit warm and yesterday he did mention that his throat was hurting him.”
“Mmmm. Have you felt any of these symptoms yourself, Corrine?”
“Oh, no, I feel quite well. It’s not like Arlen is bedridden, I am just worried. Ever since the accident I, I…I just don’t want anything else to happen.”
“I quite understand that, Corrine. I didn’t mean to dredge up that terrible day. Please, forgive me.”
“It’s quite all right, Doc Lyle. Nothing is given to us that doesn’t make us better for it. Arlen will be stronger because of his trials. As will I. Well, we are nearly there already! Our shelter is just around the bend ahead.”
“Yes, I remember that large oak, your home is just past it. Isn’t it amazing to think about, how long that tree has stood there? Why I bet it’s been there since before the war.”
Corrine looked at the giant, gnarled oak tree. “It certainly is old and big. I’d say that is a good estimate. You know something of trees? You are a man of many talents.”
“They have long fascinated me,” Lyle replied. He stopped and admired the massive oak, his thoughts reaching back in the distant past. He did know something about trees, especially this old-timer. He didn’t tell Corrine that he and his wife had often camped in this region long before the “Great Troubles” and had actually planted this tree. They had planned on buying the property, a place to retire to, and had planted the tree there as a promise to the land (and themselves) that they would be there for the long term. Fate had something else in mind and interfered with those plans. Lyle looked at the tree almost overwhelmed by the memories, suddenly he saw the image of a person, a woman.
“Janice? Janice…is that really you?” Lyle called out his wife’s name and fell to his knees, so powerful were his emotions. He could hear a woman’s voice calling out to him. It sounded familiar.
“Doctor! Lyle…are you, all right? It’s Corrine, Corrine Westahoff. Please, Lyle, snap out of it. Can you hear me?”
Lyle felt his vision narrow and he almost blacked out but was able to hold on. He did not expect such a reaction to seeing the tree. He regained his wits quickly enough and recognized the woman speaking was Corrine and not his long dead Janice.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” he managed. Let me just sit here a moment.”
“Yes, you relax for a few minutes. Are you sure you’re all right? It looked like you saw a ghost.”
“I think I may be a bit dehydrated, perhaps some water once we get to your home will help. I gave myself a bit of a scare, and it looks like I gave you one as well, please forgive me.”
“You’ve done nothing that requires my forgiveness, Lyle. Are you certain you feel like continuing on foot? I can go and fetch our small cart if you need it.”
“That will not be necessary, Corrine. I am certain I am fine, just some water once we reach your home.”
“Let me help you up, Lyle.” Corrine took Lyle’s hand and helped him to his feet. She held his hand for a moment longer. “I hope you don’t mind me calling you, Lyle, do you?”
“No, no, of course, not.” Lyle gently pulled his hand away. “Well, now that is over with.” The two of them looked into one another’s eyes for a few more lingering seconds. Lyle broke the silence. “We’d better move along and check on your son, Corrine.”
“Yes, yes, we’d better. Are you quite sure you’ll be okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Just a bit of dehydration, that’s all.
“Okay, we’ll just go slow. It’s only about another 1/10 mile or so.”
“Yes, that will be no problem, Corrine.”
The two of them finished the short walk and Lyle felt almost back to normal by the time they reached the door. They entered and Corrine directly drew a pitcher of water and poured two glasses full offering one to Lyle, who gladly accepted. They drained the glasses and went to check on Arlen who was sitting in his room, reading.
“Oh, hello mother! I didn’t expect you for a while yet. I have not begun preparing the evening meal but I can start now. Is that Doc Lyle with you”
“Yes, it’s me, Arlen,” Lyle answered. “Your mother wanted me to come by and check on you. How do you feel? She tells me you’ve had a bad cough?”
As if on cue Arlen coughed just then. It was a wet sounding, croupy sound.
“I’d say that is quite a cough.” Lyle moved closer to Arlen’s side. “Do you feel achy, sore? She tells me you’ve been feeling tired as well.”
“My neck sometimes feels sore, not like a sore throat, like my muscles hurt.”
“Mmm.” Lyle turned to Corrine. “Has Arlen had any contact with anyone who was also feeling this way recently. You’re sure you have not experienced any of these symptoms?”
“No, I really do feel just fine. Arlen did work with a Lone Wolf who was here a few days ago. He was just a bit older than Arlen and came in to barter for a few items. He and Arlen spent much of a day together. Why do you ask? Is it important?”
“Maybe.” Lyle looked once more at the boy in front of him. “Arlen, would you mind removing your shirt for a moment?”
“No.” Arlen pulled off his shirt and coughed a bit.
“Mmm.” Lyle could see some swelling in the area of the lymph glands under Arlen’s arm. An almost certain indicator of the first stage of a strain of the plague he was quite familiar with. He did not want to alarm either Arlen or Corrine. “I may have something to help back at my home. I will be back tomorrow with some equipment I’ll need. Just keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Lyle indicated that Arlen could put his shirt back on and bid him a good afternoon. He and Corrine moved away out of earshot.
“Is it something serious, Lyle?” Corrine looked worried.
“I’m not sure yet, Corrine. I’ll know more tomorrow. I do have some medicine I’ve made that I think will help but it’s still in the test stage so we’ll have to go slow. Do you know if the Lone Wolf contacted others here in NewGreen?”
“Well, I know he spoke with Darin West for some time, and maybe some of the Growers. Do you think Arlen caught something from him? I know Mister West and him were talking about those “Holy Rollers” that come in with their dancing and loud rhythms and other temptations, maybe he put a hex on Arlen. One should not defy the Great Mother and Father! I will offer my prayers for healing.”
“That would be fine, Corrine. Keep Arlen resting and I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“I’ll do that, Lyle. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as well. Until tomorrow then?” Corrine reached out and lightly gripped Lyle’s hand.
Lyle smiled and placed his other hand over hers, squeezing gently. “Yes. I’ll see you both tomorrow. Good day, Corrine, thanks for the company. I, I’ll…be here in the morning.” They stood for a moment or two, neither one of them quite sure of what to say or what they were feeling, both knowing the time was not right for them. Their hands relaxed, then released. Lyle nodded slightly and walked out the door, heading back to his lab. He hoped he had enough of the serum he’d been working on. It could be Arlen’s only hope. The only other avenue Lyle could think of was the fact that the Holy Rollers would be in town in a day or two. He knew Corrine did not approve of the Rollers but Lyle was certain that their special tonic held the key to a cure for the plague and it looked like they were going to show up just at the right time. He also hoped Corrine’s prayers would add some positive effect. If the Lone Wolf did introduce plague into NewGreen they’d need all the help they could get.
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