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Doc Tompkins

by Doc Sawzall

Chapter 4

Bax pretty much became a fixture up at the farm, on the days or nights when he wasn't at school or needing to make an appearance at home, he could be found with Rabbit. He quickly learned how to care for Rabbit as his convalescence progressed. He worked with the Vet Squad who continued to reach out to Rabbit. They donated many hours, provided the different prosthetics Rabbit would need to resume a normal life. He was walking much sooner than originally thought and was eagerly waiting for the day he could use his running blade.

Rabbit, as everyone called him came to look at Effr as his father, his awe knew no bounds as the Vet Squad entertained him with their veneration of his 'father', they told him of his medical prowess and that to a soldier, they all felt he had saved their lives ensuring the best possible outcomes. These conversations had a profound impact on Rabbit, he too benefited from his father's skill. He made the determined decision that he would also become a doctor. With the help and assistance of Bax and sympathetic teachers, both boys saw their grades vault them to the honor roll.

None of this was to be taken lightly, Rabbit still had moments, suffered flashbacks and nightmares. With intensive counseling, Bax's devotion, these episodes became less frequent over time and eventually faded from his mind. He would never forget but was able, with the love that surrounded him to gain proper perspective.

As his casts came off, his play with Bax became more adventuresome. Throughout the latter stages of winter his reluctance to be touched 'back there' lessened. While he was used to having someone attend to his bathroom needs when he was restricted in his ability to care for himself. The only people he allowed to touch him were his father and Bax. His love for Bax deepened, considering himself to be one of the luckiest boys on earth. Exhaustive sessions with his psychological trauma specialist helped his to dispel any notions that he was soiled or unclean. He knew with certainty that he was almost ready to give himself, in the most intimate manner, to Bax.

Early spring found Rabbit and Bax walking out and about the farm, exploring the barns, sheds fields and pastures, enjoying 'stolen' moments with each other. It was the first weekend in April when Rabbit asked Bax to accompany him to the cabin out on Ant Island. Blueberry Pond is some sixty-five-acres in size. The island is about fifteen acres in size and the cabin was built by, as both Bax and Rabbit called him, Uncle Arik.

Both Uncle Ethan and Arik would go out to the cabin for the afternoon with the boys to go over the basics. They were shown the 'honor box', all electronic devices were to be placed in the box on arrival. Only the battery-operated transistor radio and the outhouse flashlight, known as the 'Pooplight' were allowed. If a call had to be made, one could do so providing at least one foot was in the water.

The uncles got the woodstove going, brought up the cooler with the fixin's for supper and breakfast, while both would be served cold, it was substantial. Assured the boys would be ready for pick-up mid-morning, the uncles departed.

They sat on the screened in porch for a bit, the early April afternoon was warm, countering the soft breeze passing over the cool waters of the pond. As they sat there, they never noticed the restorative magic of the farm settle in their souls. Holding hands, they explored the many different facets of the island. The went past the archeological dig where so many important Indian artefacts, stone implements, some pre-historic, were found. They made their way out to the gnarled, massive old pine tree and rope swing, making a date to come back when the weather was warmer. They watched the chipmunks and squirrels scamper around and about and tried following a deer track.

Eventually they found themselves back up on the porch, mesmerized by the lightshow the setting sun provided. As it grew chilly, they retreated back into the cabin and had their supper consisting of Italian grinders, chips and brownies for dessert. Words weren't needed or necessary, gentle touches and facial expressions spoke volumes as they sat together on the old couch in front of the wood stove, wrapped in a blanket. They listened to the songs of the peepers as dusk finally turned into the dark, good night.

Rabbit stood and turned the oil lamp down low and asked Bax to join him as both boys did their ablutions. Satisfied all was in order, teeth freshly brushed Rabbit brought Bax to the bedroom. Undressed, as they stood in front of each other, Rabbit asked Bax to make love to him.

Bax could see the desire in his lover's eyes, words would only sully the moment, nodded yes and gently lay Rabbit on the bed. He looked lovingly at the young man who lay before him, the scars, the physical reminders of what was so cruelly done to him and only saw the whole person. With tears leaking from his eyes he placed himself against and entering his lover, he heard Rabbit exclaiming, my love…my only love.

What could be said, Bax thought later, that hasn't been written about a thousand times, described a million different ways. Any words spoken, would simply tarnish the simple beauty of their two bodies joined in the consummation of their love.

"You did what" Effr exclaimed to his now adopted son, "When does this race take place"? he asked incredulously.

Bax was laughing at the exchange between Effr and Bax. Unbeknownst to Effr, Rabbit had been using his running blade since the weekend they shared out at the cabin. The local VFW was sponsoring a 5K race on Memorial Day Weekend and decided it was time for the both of them to get back into form.

"I already paid the entrance fee; we'll be running as a team with the Vets Squad who helped us out…it was their idea after all".

"So, your saying there's no backing out"? Effr tried faking exasperation and failing miserably.

It was obvious to anyone who knew Rabbit, that he had changed, changed very much since that weekend out at the cabin, he was full of joy, playful, did his chores, school work with gusto. He had surreptitiously, away from prying eyes, other than Bax's, began running. It was slow going and frustrating at time, with Bax beside him on his bicycle, significant progress had been made. He had his wind back; stamina was a work in progress and getting there.

"We've got seven weeks to round out into form, you afraid I may show you up old man"?

"Like hell you will you…you…young punk…it's on!

They trained at every chance, on weekends they were joined by what was now known around town as the "Vet Squad" consisting of Mark, Tim and Robbie in his racing wheel chair. Quickly they were becoming a formidable team. Word had gotten out; it wasn't uncommon to see a crowd cheering them on as they ran through the center of town back up to the farm. While the race would start down at the VFW club on Basin Street, the finish line was in front of the town hall.

The competition was, while not heated, involved a lot of give and take. Effr wasn't a slouch, he had a lean runners form and quickly fell back into shape. After the first couple of weeks of running he knew Rabbit was gonna catch up to him and he nettled him mercilessly.

In the final weeks leading up to the Saturday of the Memorial Day Race, Effr and Rabbit were evenly matched, perhaps a slight edge to Rabbit. Bax would join them on his bike, often riding ahead and yelling out their splits, sometimes calling out slower numbers to goad them, when the lighting was right or the mood struck him, he'd take a picture or two.

Saturday morning of the race was cool and cloudy, the forecast called for rain developing with occasional heavy showers. As the starting gun fired the Vet Squad set the initial pace for Rabbit and Effr. What they didn't know was the presence of other disabled vets who had also quietly joined. Those who couldn't run would form a line of honor at the finish line.

About halfway through the race the rains came. Undaunted Effr and Rabbit pushed each other, willing themselves forward faster. With just about half a kilometer left they noticed the crowds lining the sides of the course. As they crested the last hill and rounded the corner, finish line in sight Rabbit fell back a pace and reached out for his father's hand, yelling at him through the heavy down pour "We finish together old man"!

The race had started off by classifications, or groupings. The wheelchair runners went first, followed by the elite runners. The Vet Squad, unknown to Effr and Rabbit, asked to be the last grouping across the starting line. Winners had the best time of their grouping. The 'Squad' had called in favors, today was to honor one of their own and one they had unofficially adopted as one of the 'Squad'. Vets showed up from all the New England states and beyond.

This race was to raise funds for veterans who had lost limbs, fallen through the cracks of the Veterans Administration paper shufflers. Those vets who were lost or barely surviving on the margins. For a country so willing to call their sons and daughters in time of crisis, cared less for them on their return in need of their help for wounds visible and those wounds unseen.

The VA had been underfunded, ignored by a cabal of politicians who cared more for the donors who wanted to privatize the VA, merely for the sake of profits.

These veterans knew better, they refused to leave their fellow vets behind and rallied to the cause. One of their own had pulled of a number of miracles, honored their service and still went beyond. They lined either side of the course as it wound its way around the town common.

Bax was positioned as Effr and Rabbit rounded the last hill and corner just before the finish line, watching as Rabbit held his hand out to his father, capturing the image on his camera, chancing the heavy rain. Just as they gripped hands, his prosthetic leg slipped slightly on an oily patch on the road, his father looking down and steadying him, starting to pull him back even with him, Rabbit yelling out "We finish together old man!"

The noise started off softly, the assembled crowd's voices began to increase in intensity as they neared the finish line, there weren't any other runners in sight, The Vet Squad had run with Effr and Rabbit as a group and they all ceded the field. As Effr and Rabbit came closer towards the finish line, the other vets started filling in behind them. Effr could feel the noise lifting them, floating them across the finish line.

They crossed the finish line together as winners, not necessarily of the race, though there were those who would dispute that, but in every measurable category that could be defined. Both had suffered injuries visible and wounds, not so easily seen. They had been inspired and in turn inspired others. They had been given a chance at healing and would work in fulfilling that chance, working with others who could use a hand when times seemed desperate.

Bax was waiting just past the finish line having some very unpatriotic thoughts as he was envisioning helping Rabbit out of his USA tee shirt and American flag shorts, and into dry clothes. Making him wear that outfit was an inspired stroke of genius.

Esker fell in love again as he stood close to Bax, whatever it was back then, simply didn't matter now. Time taught him a cruel lesson, the smallest of words or slights need to be overlooked in any relationship. If Effr would have him…he was home to stay.

At the VFW Hall, after the ceremony and awards were over, the fundraising totals announced to a rousing cheer, Rabbit stood and asked for a moment. As the hall quieted down, he was never surer of anything in his life.

"I'd like to than everyone here and all of those who helped today. You will never know just how much this means", he said nervously.

"I have one last announcement to make", antcipation coursing through his veins.

"I've spoken to ErnestTompkins and he tells me it is unorthodox, but possible. He's drawn up the papers'', looking over to Effr he asked him to stand, as he did you could see the confusion on his face, wondering what Rabbit was up to.

"I may be getting in over my head, he ain't much to look at and most likely isn't getting any younger. Lord knows he'll be expensive to support in a few years. Most likely we'll have to put puppy pee pads down whern he really gets old and god only knows what he'll track in or bring to the house, but… and this is a big ask…Effr…Dad, how would you like to be adopted"?

In the pandamonimum that followed his answer couldn't be heard, but the smile on his face spoke volumes.

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