After The Past

Chapter 4: Friends or Foes

  

 

I borrowed a horse from Barry in the late afternoon and returned home because I had chores to do. After some discussion, Barry suggested I lead Jessy and the young bull up to his place. He said he’d send one of the boys over with a cart to collect the chickens, a few bits of clothing for Jae and me, and whatever animal feed we could carry.

I was worried about leaving our home unattended but there was no way we could defend it effectively, especially if it was a large group of marauders. It was better to lock it up and hope for the best.

So I rode home on horseback and Terry drove the cart. Once back, I collected some of the food we’d put up and some clothing, we chased the chickens back into the coop and loaded them into cages from there, and I put Jessy’s halter on and we started back. Jessy was less than happy about walking so far on the highway but I kept to the shoulder as much as possible. Our growing bull followed his mother.

As we walked back to Barry’s, a vehicle slowed to keep pace. Luckily, it was Terry’s brother Joe.

“Hey, guys. I’ll doddle along with you.” Joe called from the pick-up. He’d been scavenging, looking for weapons, or anything else we could use.

Jessy rolled her eyes at the truck and balked a little but she kept moving.

Terry was bringing up the rear and he spoke to his brother. “You find anything?”

“A few rifles, couple of hand guns and a little ammo. Shit, Terry, I can’t believe we have to fight these pricks.”

I listened to them talk, thinking the same thing. I just didn’t understand what these groups were fighting for. No one has tried to take from them, or told them they weren’t welcome—there was nothing in the world now—just a few people, animals and a lot of scrap and stuff we can’t use. We should be trying to build a better life—one that is the best we can make it. I know, I’m a dreamer, but it’s what I wanted. I just wanted to live with Jae until the day I died, because really, what else is there? There is love, work and hopefully some joy.

As we neared Barry’s place, Joe drove on ahead and we arrived just as the sun was going down. Joe took our horses. Terry and I hustled Jessy in with a group of milk cows and settled her into a stall in the barn. The chickens were released into an empty chicken run. Hopefully everyone should be okay for the night. The bull would be slaughtered to help feed the crowd of people we were expecting.

The three of us entered the house, which was infused with the rich odors of chicken stew, and I’m sure I caught a whiff of apple pie. My stomach reacted immediately as did those of the two boys. Our chatter brought Barry from the kitchen. He was carrying a large pot of food which he placed on the center of the table.

He grinned and said, “Boys, go wash up. You too, Dave. I’m not sure if Jae is coming down to eat, or maybe you’d rather eat upstairs with him. Can you check and let me know?”

“Sure Barry, right away.”

I bounded up the stairs two-at-a-time, and opened the door to Jae’s room. He was resting quietly when I walked in.

I bent over him and kissed his forehead. “Hey, gorgeous.”

He opened sleepy eyes and smiled at me. “Dave, hey. I missed you.”

“Missed you too, baby.” I sat on the side of the bed and embraced him. “Barry has a huge pot of chicken stew downstairs. You want to come down, or eat here?”

“I’d really like to come down. I’m tired of sitting in here.”

I nodded and then kissed him softly. My heart was heavy. I knew what was coming and I prayed this would just blow over, but the realist in me knew we would have to fight. It was stupid—all of it. I left him for a moment to run down and set an extra place and let Barry know where Jae was eating.

Returning to the bedroom, I helped Jae up and into some loose clothing, and then Jae and I made our way downstairs slowly. He held my arm and we moved very deliberately, I couldn’t put my arm around him because of the bruised ribs.

“I’m hungry, Dave—it smells so good.”

“You’re right, and I’m hungry too.”

Finally we got to the last step and we walked to the dining room table. I helped Jae into a seat and took the empty one beside him.

The table held the pot of stew, freshly baked biscuits and a large bowl of cooked just-picked greens. It smelled delicious. I served Jae and myself, and then the others helped themselves—the room was silent but for the normal sounds of men eating.

I glanced around at the heads bent over their plates, as they shoveled in food. Food was such an issue now, maybe not as much for those of us who’d gone back to the land, but for others who couldn’t or wouldn’t—it most certainly was. And at first that’s what I thought the coming attack was about, but based on the intelligence brought back by Jae, it must not have been. If it was, why would they destroy the farms they came across?

Tomorrow, Samuel Davis and his group would arrive. That made me nervous. Could we trust them? Jae seemed to think so. Did they want to take us out and take the farm? I guessed we’d find out.

I think Barry clued in on what I was thinking because he said, “Tomorrow, when this Sam Davis arrives, Jae will stay inside. Dave, you, me and the boys will look after things. I’ll go out and meet him; the boys will be upstairs with rifles. Dave you can back me up from the porch, if you will. I know you’re a worthy shot.”

“Sure, Barry.”

I saw Jae lift his eyes. He seemed a bit nervous. I patted his thigh under the table.

“Um, Barry?” Jae said quietly. He put his fork down on the side of the plate gingerly, like he was afraid of the sound.

“What’s up, Jae?”

“Well, maybe I should go out with you. I mean I know Sam. Well, I’ve met him anyway. Maybe he’d be more comfortable if I’m there.”

I glanced quickly at Jae and then to Barry.

Barry finished chewing slowly and replied, “That seems to make sense. You stay up on the porch where they can see you, but where you’re safer, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

I drew in a slow, deep breath and let it out just as slowly.

We finished eating in silence. After dinner we cleared the table and carried mugs of coffee out to the porch. The boys drank their coffee quickly and left us to go finish some evening chores, check on the animals, and make a few last preparations for the arrivals expected the following morning.

Barry watched his boys walk away, and Jae had gone upstairs to rest. After another sip of his coffee, Barry put the mug down and sighed. He squinted at me. “Dave, we’re ready, but I have to say I’m worried. There is so much that’s unknown.”

I leaned against the porch rail. “I know. But … but, there’s really no choice, is there? We fight or lose everything possibly, including our lives.”

Barry nodded. “Yeah, some of us may die, but I’m hoping we can find a way to come to some understanding.”

I didn’t hold out much hope of a calm and reasonable resolution, but it couldn’t hurt to try. I mean, why are we fighting? There’s lots of room; if we’re smart we can back off and let the planet heal. We could actually try and learn from the mistakes of our forebears and not try to progress so much, maybe this time care about each other—or is that just crazy talk?

Barry was staring at me expectantly, “Maybe we can convince them to talk to us, rather than kill and destroy. We need to explain things, make them see that if we continue killing each other there will be no one left to farm and people will starve to death, eventually. Or a lot of us will.”

“That’s true.” Barry got to his feet and put a hand on my shoulder. “So, we need to convince them to join us and we can learn to work together.”

Yeah, that should be easy. Never mind they’ve been like a hoard of locusts going through the wheat. I don’t think that either of us truly believed it.

“We can only try, Barry; we can only try.”

We carried our mugs back into the house. I offered to wash and dry them and Barry headed off to bed. Tomorrow was an early start, just in case Samuel Davis wasn’t who we thought; we had to be ready to defend ourselves if that was the case. I put away the last mug, prepped the coffee pot for the next morning and the headed up to join Jae.

There was a cot in Jae’s, our room. We thought it might be best to keep Jae comfortable, if I slept on the cot. I didn’t relish the thought of another night without him in my arms, but ….

I opened the door quietly and moved inside. I stripped down to my they’ve-certainly-seen-better-days-boxers and lay down on the cot. The old rusty springs squealed and protested my weight loudly. Shit!

“Dave?” Jae asked, his voice thick with sleep.

“Yes babe, it’s me. Go back to sleep now.” I turned over and the cot’s hard-done-by springs sounded like five mice caught in the apple press. I cringed. “Jesus, I’m sorry.”

I could almost hear Jae smiling. “Baby, come here and sleep with me.”

“Jae, you’ll be in pain.”

“Dave, please. I cannot listen to that poor cot you’re torturing. Please come and get into bed, we’ll just lay still and sleep, okay?”

I helped him move to one side a little, kissed him and then climbed into bed behind him. Of course I was instantly hard, but just lay behind him.

“Oh Dave, come on, snuggle up. Please put your arms around me.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“If it hurts for a few seconds, it’ll be worth it.”

I shuffled closer and put an arm under his neck and lay the other over his hip, his heat caused my dick to throb and twitch.

He wiggled his butt. “You glad to see me, Dave?”

I could hear him grinning again.

“Yeah I want you like mad. But I’ll wait until you’re better.” I smiled and kissed his neck.

“Mmmm, well then I’m gonna hope I’m better soon! Cuz I want you too, baby.”

We lay together. I didn’t sleep too well, but Jae seemed to, of which I was glad.

 

I must have dropped off eventually because Barry banging on our door woke me.

“Okay, we’re getting up. Thanks!”

Jae moaned softly as he turned over. I could tell he was in more pain than he let on. His face was gray.

“Hey, baby, you do not need to come down.” I pushed his hair back from his forehead and kissed him.

He reached for my head and brought me to his lips—which I enjoyed for several minutes before we had to separate.

“Help me up, Dave. I need to be there. I think Sam will feel better if I’m there.” He raised his arms and I helped him sit up. The pain made him pant, as he rested for a moment on the side of the bed.

“Okay. If you’re doing this, come on. I’ll stick you in the washroom while I dress and tidy up, then I’ll come for you.”

Jae just grinned and followed me.

I left him to wash and do the necessary while I made the bed and straightened the room. After dressing, I went to get Jae, and then helped him with his clothes. He sat on the bed and buttoned his shirt while I went to wash.

 

It was six o’clock by the time we got downstairs. We joined the others at the breakfast table. We went over the game plan again. A few additions had been made, like closing off the other entrance to the ranch, just in case. As well, several trusted men that lived and worked at the ranch were placed as sentries at strategic points.

As 8am rolled around Joe and Terry went to their places upstairs; Jae, Barry and I waited on the porch. It wasn’t long after that, that we got signals from the sentries that we had company.

From our place on the porch we could see a long line of people on foot, on horseback, and in wagons. We’d just been expecting men, but there were a few women and even some children there. Barry looked surprised, as was I, but he opened the front door to shout to the boys to be ready. They both replied they were. At that point, I checked my weapon again, safety off, it was loaded, as was my second weapon. I’d quickly shown Jae in how to reload for me.

There were three visitors slowly moving up the road. All were on foot, all carried rifles, but these weren’t automatic weapons, which calmed me slightly. Jae was standing near me and reached out to put a hand on my arm. We glanced at each other, and I wanted nothing more than to pull him into my embrace—but now was not the time.

Barry was moving and I raised my rifle and shouldered it, just watching, but I was ready. I was hoping the boys were doing the same upstairs. Barry walked down away from the house, toward the group that was coming forward. I walked down to the end of the porch.

“Jae, bring the rifle and ammo, please.”

We watched and waited as the newcomers got closer to Barry, who had stopped walking now. He waited, his weapon ready, but put pointing downward.

The three stopped then and one moved forward. Jae whispered to me that this was Sam.

He appeared to be just over six feet, well built—like a man used to working. Certainly he was a man used to carrying a gun; he was confident, and walked with self-assurance.

Samuel Davis stopped about ten feet from Barry. They stood there sizing each other up in silence.

It was Barry who spoke first, “Mornin’. How many are you?”

Davis hadn’t unshouldered his rifle, but the two behind him had. I heard the boys upstairs moving, likely to keep a good eye on them. I trained my weapon on Davis.

I could hear Jae breathing and he wanted to move, but I told him to hush for now.

Davis nodded at Barry, “Morning. There’s just about eighty-five of us. We’ve come to help. I was expecting a young fella named Jae.”

“Jae is here. He’s up on the porch.”

Davis turned and Jae stepped forward slightly and waved. Davis raised his hand and then turned back to Barry.

“Jae explained we’ve come to help you, right? That there’s a mob of assholes on the way. They are just burning and destroying everything in their path.”

“He explained. My question is why do you want to help me?”

Davis shook his head. “Mister, I don’t need to be here, but this seemed a good place to draw a line in the sand—so to speak. I liked Jae. He said you and your family were good people, and these men need stopping. I have people to protect myself. We’re looking for a place to settle.”

“You’re not settling here!” Barry’s hands gripped his rifle tighter and the muzzle came up a few degrees, his finger rested on the trigger guard.

Davis held up his hands. “No … no. Around here maybe. There’s lots of room. I want to stop these men so we can settle and start to live. Damn, I am tired of running from these asses and ones like them. We have families, mister. Women and kids. But the men here feel the same way. We want to stop nomading, settle down, raise our kids, and grow food, just like you and your family do.”

Sam Davis sighed, and with his next breath, seemed to decide to trust Barry. “We thought if we came and helped protect your place, and at the same stop this gang, then maybe you’d help us.”

Barry nodded and lowered his weapon. I wasn’t feeling quite ready to do that myself. Jae got by me and trotted down the porch steps and out to Barry.

“Sam! It’s good to see you.” Jae glanced at Barry. “This is Barry Petersen, the man I told you about.”

Barry took a step forward and shook Sam’s hand.

Sam smiled at Jae. “I take it that’s your man on the porch? The one with the rifle pointed at my head?”

Jae swung around to face me. “Yeah, that’s Dave. He’s a bit nervous.”

“Well, if my partner was possibly in harm’s way, I’d be nervous.”

“Is he in harm’s way?” Barry asked, adjusting the hold he had on his weapon.

“No, Barry he’s not.” Davis carefully slid his rifle from his shoulder, clicked the safety on and handed the weapon to Jae. “Show of good faith … here.”

Jae took the gun.

“Call the other two forward,” Barry said, as he watched Davis carefully.

Davis turned and waved the other two to come forward. At the same time Barry waved me forward, I lowered my weapon to the two-hand carry, finger just behind the trigger guard—safety off—and walked out to the small group warily. As I got off the porch I swung around and searched upward. Barry’s boys hadn’t let their guard down—that was a relief.

The two others moved in and stood behind their leader. Davis turned and asked them to put the safety on and lay their weapons down. They complied immediately.

Davis smiled. “I hope you can see we mean no harm.”

“You’re getting there, Davis. Hope you understand why we’re not totally believing that just yet,” Barry replied.

“I do. Let me introduce these two. Both are excellent shots.” Davis explained, “This is my right-hand man, Steve, and this is my sister, Cathy.”

We all shook hands. I watched Barry as he turned his attention to Cathy. She was a pretty lady; I didn’t see any rings but that doesn’t matter much these days. Barry was interested, that’s for sure.

 

Author's Note:  Thanks for reading!!  I hope you're enjoying this tale.

tim