Journey to Love
Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
I asked Miss Carrie about using the phone line for the internet—Dr. Cranston told me only dialup was available in Cuthbert—and she said the house had two lines and one was hardly ever used so I should use it. I'd not be doing very much web surfing on dialup, but email was available. When I had my things put away, I wrote a long email and sent it to Jeremy and the gang in Norfolk and to Gregory, Chance and Alfred in Macon. I wrote another short one to Drs. Durden, Levey and Bailey.
I finished and was ready for a good shower. Fortunately, the boys who’d had this room, both of whom now had teenaged grandchildren, had had a great one since the shower heads were pre-water restrictions ones. After I showered, I changed into clean clothes and was checking myself in the mirror when the phone rang. It suddenly occurred to me that Miss Carrie had said this number was not used, so I picked up the phone.
“Mr. Wilson, I forgot to tell you the only time this phone is used downstairs is for a fax machine, so when it rings, pick up as it's almost certainly for you and certainly will be if it's after five. Janice and Casey are coming over for supper and we'd be delighted to have you join us. Maybe a cold beer or a cocktail will get one of your stories out. Can you sup with us?”
“Miss Carrie, I would be more than delighted, but I also want to hear some more of your stories.”
“Come down when you are ready. Janice and Casey will be here within the next half hour.”
I went on down and found Miss Carrie in a different dress and said, “Miss Carrie, with that dress you could charm any man in town.”
“Son, we southern ladies call this an evening frock. You know we were supposedly empty-headed decorations for our husbands and had practically nothing to do but change clothes, sip ice tea and gossip. We had servants to keep house, do the cooking and raise the kids. Having kids—sons preferred; daughters were a nuisance—was also a duty. After two boys I had that out of the way and about the time the youngest was six weeks old, Herman my husband took ill. He lingered for a year and when he died, I found we were about to join the proud, but moneyless, southern families. Gave myself a crash course, fired a bunch of people stealing us blind and took over supervising the operation of the plantation and our business here in Cuthbert.”
“Took me ten years, but I not only crawled out of the pit, but also became a well-off lady. You'd be surprised at the men who got interested then who had turned their backs on me when I asked for help earlier.”
James announced Dr. Cranston and Miss Casey. I, of course, assumed Casey was a male, but this Casey was certainly not a male. I suspect she was four or five years younger than Dr. Cranston and strikingly beautiful. When they came in, Dr. Cranston said, “Derek, my partner Katharine Langston—known far and wide as Casey. Casey, Derek Wilson, known this evening as Derek, but otherwise, Mr. Wilson.”
“Some hunk of man you are Derek. Bet you have women all over you.”
Dr. Cranston laughed and said, “I don't think that interests Derek a great deal.” I guess Dr. Durden had outed me to Dr. Cranston and now Dr. Cranston was doing the same and I didn't appreciate it one bit! The look I gave her let her know it. “Sorry, Derek, I shouldn't have said that.”
“Thanks, but I don't like the idea that Dr. Durden outed me. I would have told you had you asked or when I felt comfortable with you.”
“Whoa! He didn't. I guess I just have a highly developed gaydar. I outed you, and I sincerely apologize. I had no right to do that but, since it's done, you needn't worry about us. Casey and I are pretty discreet here, but everyone knows we are together. I will warn you, however, this community would be much less accepting of you. Not only are you a gay man, but you are also African-American. So be discreet and careful.”
Supper, a casual meal in the evening, was anything but—so far as the table and service was concerned. “Now, Derek, I hope you don't expect to dine in this style every evening,” Miss Carrie said after James had served dessert.
“Certainly no more than five evenings a week,” Casey laughed. Actually, Miss Carrie insisted James and Josephine take off weekends, but Hope and Charity took their places. I learned later they were James and Josephine's nieces. They served Sunday dinner at Miss Carrie’s, a Cuthbert social event.
Sunday dinner, which began promptly at 1:30, always found a dozen people seated around the table. Getting on Miss Carrie's guest list was highly to be desired, but after years no-one had figured out exactly how she picked those so honored. I'm sure the complexion of the table changed in the last four or five decades because every Sunday I was there, there were at least two African-Americans among the guests.
Later I asked James when that started. He said shortly after schools were ordered to integrate. “A group came to Miss Carrie about a 'significant' donation toward starting a Christian—that meant lily white—school at First Baptist. They got no money for their school then or later. The next Sunday, her table was integrated and none of them—which included the mayor then and once afterward—were ever invited to Sunday dinner. Same went for the preacher at First Baptist and even though there have been at least six or eight different ones since then, there has never been one at Sunday dinner. There was often a Baptist preacher present, but never the one from First Baptist.”
I asked Janice about the dress code for work as we were having coffee after dinner. “Derek, I have been thinking about that. I'm not sure. I believe you met Dr. Jasper and Dr. Phillips when you were down in the spring. Dr. Jasper dresses in jeans and pullover shirts—golf shirts, polo shirts I think they are called. He's being groomed to take over the practice of Dr. Phillips who is at least seventy-five. Dr. Phillips dresses in vest, coat and tie unless he's in the office. In the office, he removes his coat to put on his white coat. The emergency room doctor, Dr. Evans, also practices family medicine and wears scrubs. I’m not sure about how you should dress.”
“I am,” Miss Carrie said. “Derek, you are a handsome, well-built young man. I'd say show it off as best you can except you are a handsome, well-built African-American man.” She giggled and said, “That puts a completely different complexion on things. I think you'd die dressed like Amos Phillips with coat, vest and tie. Most men would, but I do think you're going to have to suffer a dress shirt and tie and one of those white coats in the office.
“Josephine tells me there were no dress shirts in the laundry and James says you have only one. That poses a problem because you'll likely need to change at noon, especially when you are not in the office all morning. It's hot and humid here and even those of us born and raised here suffer from the heat. Janice, keep him in the office in the air-conditioning tomorrow morning unless there's an emergency. I'll dash over to Eufaula and pick up some shirts for him.”
I started to object and Miss Carrie gave me the eye and Janice said, “Derek, Dr. Durden tells me you are interested in areas under-served by the medical community. You're here to learn all you can about that and we are here to help you. However, from our perspective, you are here for a different reason. When Dr. Durden asked about your coming, Miss Carrie and a few other people in town saw it as an opportunity to have people see an African-American medical care giver. You care for people and they, frankly, don't give a damn whether you write MD, RN, LPN or nothing after your name. Credentials mean nothing to most of the people in this county. They do, however, look upon race and to be honest, black or white, they equate black with less than quality care. Many in this town and county, black and white, would not allow a black man to touch them regardless of his credentials or their need. We want you here to begin breaking down that wall. We are willing to purchase a few shirts and ties to further that cause.”
“Well spoken, Doctor,” Miss Carrie said. “Now tell me how you have two daddies.”
“They are also white,” I laughed and told how Sam and Brad came to be my dads.
When I finished, Miss Carrie said, “Well, I am learning they have a fine son.” She rang a tiny bell and James appeared with a decanter and five small glasses. “Derek, I find a spot of decent brandy helps me sleep, or so I tell myself. If you'd like a spot, be my guest, but don't think you have to.”
“I've never had brandy and always wondered about it since it seemed to cure just about anything.” I watched the others as they carefully sipped from the small glass, and I followed suit. I learned I liked brandy.
After we said goodnight, I went up and started a new letter to Jayden. He’d only get mail once a week, at best, at the Pueblo. Someone went into Chinle most Saturdays and sent any mail and picked up incoming mail. I mailed a letter covering my arrival in Macon last Wednesday and started a new letter that night. I added a few pages to it and would mail it tomorrow so it would be waiting when someone brought mail the next time they went into the village. I also expected my first letter from him toward the end of the week.
I lay in the bed, watching the moon as I dreamed of Jayden and slowly stroked myself to a climax.
The next morning, dressed in the one dress shirt I brought and the only tie I owned, I went to Dr. Cranston's office. When I walked in, I said, “Good morning, Rose Lee. How are you this morning?”
“Morning, Derek, I'm pooped and the day has just started.”
“You know it.”
The intercom buzzed and Dr. Cranston said, “Rose Lee, please step into my office.”
Since there was no-one left at the front desk, I sat down and as soon as I was seated, the phone rang. I know the office was small and didn't need a complex phone system, but even the simple one with half a dozen buttons had me stumped. I finally pushed the correct one, I guess, because I heard, “Hello, Baby. You were so hot last night. You've never given me such hot blow jobs. And, Baby, your pussy was hot, hot, hot. I busted a nut four times. Want to meet me at lunch? I need to get off again. We can't fuck here, but you could blow me.”
“I believe you have the wrong number,” I said and hung up. He hadn't given me time to say he had reached Dr. Cranston's office, so I guess he knew who he thought he was calling. Well, he was some dude if he had been sucked off or fucked four times last night and was ready to go again at 9:00 in the morning. I didn't give the call another thought.
When Rose Lee came out of Dr. Cranston's office, she said, “Mr. Wilson, Dr. Cranston would like you in her office,” in a very nasty voice.
“Thank you, Ms Randolph.”
Inside, I said, “Man, Rose Lee is in one major snit.”
“Rose Lee is within a cat's whisker of being fired. I heard her call you Derek after I made it very clear you were to be called Mr. Wilson and she replied that you called her Rose Lee.”
“I figured that one out and just called her Ms. Randolph.”
“Which set her off again, no doubt. She'd probably never heard anyone with Ms. in front of her name until she went to work here and very, very few people she has ever met use it. Around here Miss is used for older women, and of course matriarchs of the black communities are called Miss so she wouldn't like that. Frankly, nothing you can do will satisfy her so don't worry about it. Any message from the phone call?”
“Wrong number or at least I assume it was. I didn't get a chance to identify the office before he started in on last night's activities.”
“High pitched voice with the speaker trying to sound gruff and macho?”
“Rose Lee's boyfriend, Junior Simmons.”
“Well, if what he said was true, he's a better man than I am and she's a Shop-Vac!”
When we closed the office to go lunch, a beat-up pickup was in the parking lot and Rose Lee ran toward it. The guy behind the wheel had a scraggly beard and long greasy hair spilling out from under a baseball cap. I guess it was what I couldn't see that attracted Rose Lee.
“Junior Simmons, Rose Lee's boyfriend,” Dr. Cranston said when she noticed I was looking at the pickup. “He’s part of Billy Bob's worthless bunch. They're all so lazy none of them would hit a lick at a snake, but have money for beer and pot. Billy Bob drives a tricked-out pickup, but most of the others—there are four—drive the kind of wreck Junior does. I need to come up with a way to get Rose Lee tested for STDs since I know Billy Bob and all four of his 'men' have had to be treated for at least two of the three major ones, most more than once.”
A couple days later, Dr. Cranston decreed we all had to be tested for STDs since they were so prevalent in the county. Rose Lee balked, but Dr. Cranston said it was required to work in her office. In theory I was never told the outcome of Rose Lee's test, but I heard her muttering about a sore ass and what she was going to do to that asshole after she had been in to talk to Dr. Cranston about the results of the test.
Tuesday and Thursday, I made 'county rounds' with Dr. Cranston. That was the part I enjoyed most and from which I learned the most. We saw elderly people who had no transportation other than what neighbors provided and women and children who were in the same situation. For both groups, the best medicine was the visit itself.
Monday of my second week, Abe Williams from a farm out toward Shellman came into the office and asked to see the doctor. “It's an emergency,” I heard him say in a loud anxious voice.
“Can't you see I'm on the phone?” Rose Lee answered in an equally loud, but angry voice.
Dr. Cranston headed for the front office and burst through the door. “Rose Lee, get off the phone! Mr. Williams, what's the emergency?”
“I have a kid out back who is in bad shape.”
“Derek, get the gurney!”
I rushed to the rear of the building, grabbed the gurney and wheeled it to the back door and onto the ramp going from it to the back parking lot. Abe Williams was backing his pickup to the ramp. Dr. Cranston was in the back of the truck, but I couldn't see what she was doing. She signaled Abe to stop. I dropped the truck's tailgate and pushed the gurney up to it. As I dropped the gate, I saw someone, rolled in a sheet, lying on a quilt which covered half a load of straw. “Abe if you'll grab one side of the quilt and Derek, you grab the other, you can lift him onto the gurney,” which we did and I quickly wheeled him into the examining room fitted out for gurney patients.
As soon as the gurney’s wheels were locked, Dr. Cranston checked the unconscious young boy's eyes. “His pupils are equal and responsive, Derek.”
“So he's likely just unconscious without a concussion.” She nodded.
“Good job splinting the arm, Abe. You were a medic, right.”
“Cut his clothes off, Derek.” As I did, I checked his body. He had multiple bruises, some as large as both my hands. From my own experience, I knew he had been kicked in the chest and side, so I suspected an x-ray would reveal broken ribs.
When we turned him over, I saw blood and semen staining his briefs. “Doctor, he's been raped,” I said.
“God damn! I am going to kill the son of a bitch that hurt this kid,” Abe thundered.
“You know the young man?” I asked.
“No, but it doesn't matter, some bastard raped him and deserves to be shot!”
“Derek, get the rape kit from the cabinet,” Dr. Cranston said. She was busy photographing the young man.
When she finished with the photographing, she used the rape kit. As she did so, I looked at the young man. I had thought he was much younger when I first saw him. He was small, probably no more than five eight and I would think weighed no more than one-ten, one-fifteen soaking wet. He had decent definition, a slender swimmer's build. His hair was black, very black, but he was fair. He was, and it's the only word for him, beautiful, in a soft, elfin way. Of course he was flaccid, but even at that I could tell the young man might be small, but he was definitely packing.
Dr. Cranston finished her examination and covered the young man with a sheet. “So you don't know him, Abe?”
“So how did you happen to bring him in?”
“Well, I let the dogs out for a run and they immediately went nuts. Two kept coming to me and running back to where the others were sitting quietly after raising a ruckus. When I went to see what they had treed, he was lying there. I gave him a quick exam and noticed where a vehicle had driven by the spot—it was in a field in front of my place—and it was obvious he had been beaten somewhere else and dumped. I figured any damage to his spine was done and I splinted the arm and knew I could get him here before an ambulance could get to my place, so I immobilized him, filled the truck half—well, you saw that—and brought him in.”
“Why here rather than the hospital?”
“As I said, I don't know him, but I suspect I know who beat him first.”
“So you noticed he had been beaten with a strap before he was raped and brutalized.”
“He has to go to the hospital.”
“I know that, but you've got the photos and the rape kit, so it's okay. I suspect if I took him to the hospital it might not have happened that way.” We both looked at Abe, but he said no more.
Dr. Cranston called EMS and asked them to pick up the young man. “Derek, doctors are required to report rapes. I'll call the sheriff and have him come by before the victim is transported to the hospital.”
Abe spoke up, “Dr. Cranston, ask for the sheriff.”
“I will, but I suspect he'll send a deputy.”
“Tell him I said he better come himself.”
Dr. Cranston called the sheriff's office and asked to speak to the sheriff. “Sheriff Reynolds, Janice Cranston. I have a young man in my examining room who has been raped ... Abe Williams brought him in and said you should come yourself ... Well, I'll let you speak to Abe.” She covered the phone’s mouthpiece and said, “He wants to send a deputy,” and handed the phone to Abe.
“Bob, get off your lazy ass and get over here. I don't want one of your bumbling deputies fucking this up,” Abe said and hung up the phone. “Old Bob Reynolds is a good old boy, not too bright, but mostly honest, but I don't trust many of his deputies and I'm sure they would bungle this. I've heard a couple of his deputies talk about running gays out of Wingfield County. They'll just think this young man got what he deserved.”
“I didn't think you knew the victim,” I said.
“So how do you know he's gay?”
“He may not be, but the last person or persons beating him thought he was.” He picked up the shirt I had cut off of him and written across the back was ‘Ass Fucker.’
“Guess I need to work on my observation skills,” I said, chagrined.
The sheriff had a look at the young victim just before he was picked up by EMS and taken to the hospital.
After the EMS team left, Abe, Dr. Cranston and I sat down in the doctor's office. “Doc, I meant it. I find out who did that to that kid, they are coming to a bitter end one way or another.”
“Abe, let the law handle it.”
“You think anything will be done about the case? No way. I wanted Bob Reynolds here so I can hold his feet to the fire. He should have given up the post five or ten years ago, but he'll be in office until he dies unless something is done. This is not the first case of gay bashing in the county. It may be the first rape, but I bet if you could hear what the sheriff is saying he’d probably say a man can't be raped or that he asked for it. That's what he said about women ten years ago.
“Look, I don't broadcast it because it's nobody's business, but I was beat and put out of my house when I was sixteen because my old man discovered I was gay. He left me in worse shape than that kid. An uncle took me in and I joined the Army as soon as I could. I served twenty years because I kept who I was secret. I fought in Desert Storm as a twenty-two-year-old closeted gay. I met Julio when I came back from Desert Storm and we planned on building a life together. I was stationed at Ft. Hood and he was meeting me at a club when he was set on by a bunch of drunk thugs who shouted, 'One less queer in the world' as they beat him to death in the parking lot. They were caught and convicted of manslaughter and served three years. Let the law handle this? No way.”
“Help find who did this, but don't put yourself in jail,” Dr. Cranston said.
“Derek, watch yourself around here. Gay and black makes for an easy target,” he said.
“Damn! Do I suddenly have 'Gay' stamped in white across my forehead?”
“No, but I kinda have a feel for that sort of thing. Doc, keep me posted about the boy. Derek, I think you'll make a great doctor.”
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