By M. Blais and J.D.
Luka followed the man into the tent...his thoughts were everywhere, and he knew he needed time to figure out what had happened, what he had done to cause everything to unravel. The tent was smaller than the Northstars, although not by much. It held the same twin cots, with a three-legged table between them, with a lantern on top of it. At the end of each cot was a foor locker, one blue and one black. The blue one was open, on the left, and it showed a mixture of clothing and books. There was also a table off to the open space on the right, that had a plastic thermos and a small stack of plastic cups. Once inside he paused, waiting for the man to make the next move.
Thomas rubbed his hands together, with a genial smile. "As you can see, I've got the left cot...I made sure there was everything you needed in the right locker."
Luka looked over to him as he spoke. "Everything I need?"
Thomas nodded, his movements more broad and excitable than those of the Northstars. "Sheets, an extra blanket...only just enough to go around, really. I found a decent towel too."
"Oh...I don't need much.." He moved over to the cot with the words and took a seat before laying the crutches aside so he could work his shoes off.
Thomas took a seat on the other cot, sweeping a few random books off the small table between them. "Your welcome to any of my books, o'course."
"Thanks.." He voiced the word knowing he had no intention of making use of the offer. With both shoes off he leaned forward to slide them under the cot before lifting his injured leg onto it.
Thomas peered at him a little, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "All bandaged up, I see."
"Yeah.." Luka looked over before bringing the other leg up beside the first, though he didn't as yet lay down.
The man nodded, as if the simple word had answered all his questions. "You must be a good friend of the Northstars...but you're not American, are you?"
"I'm Croatian...and not really a friend...I met Claire when I was in the main hospital tent."
"Claire? Ah, that's the daughter, right? Not met her yet."
"Yeah..." He gave into a short cough then turned a bit to his side before laying down with his head on his arm. Once there he confirmed his picture was still in his pocket,
though he didn't pull it out.
"Well, Dr. Northstar himself is pretty nice guy, all around." Thomas swung his own legs up onto his cot, leaning on an elbow as he picked up one of his books. "Probably the whole family is like that."
Luka felt it safer to say nothing, his irritation with the older man's words still simmering too close to the surface. Maybe he could pretend to sleep...it had worked in the hospital, or at least it had with everyone but Claire, too bad he couldn't hide behind his language as well. He shifted slightly trying to get comfortable though his leg still throbbed from the day's exercise.
"Now, Dr. Northstar said you might be volunteering with the rest of us?" He eyed Luka a moment. "No offense to ya, but you look like maybe volunteering be too much right now."
"I told him if I have to do it I can." There was no enthusiam of the prospect in his tone.
Thomas chuckled. "We must be harder up than we thought, eh...putting the injured to work too.."
"Why are you here?" He asked the question quietly despite his better judgement.
Thomas opened his book, his left foot bouncing a little on the cot, to his own internal music. "Because I'm single and broke, and they needed doctors." He chuckled. "Isn't that what doctors do when they are at loose ends? Join up for war."
"I wouldn't know.." He touched his hand to his pocket again, as if somehow the picture might have disappeared in the short time since he had last checked. "I think I'm going to try and sleep."
"Gotcha," Thomas murmured, flipping a few pages of his book. "I'll try and be quiet."
Sleep, that was the laugh...escape..to the dreams that found his family alive if he was lucky. With the man's permission he he rolled over to his other side, his back to the man in the cot opposite and closed his eyes, shutting everything out with the act, if only he could shut his mind down as well. With the reclining came the coughing and he shifted first to his back then to his side again before it finally eased enough that he could finally sleep.
To be continued...