Pastureland Episode 2 – Natalie

It was an unexpected turn of events to be driving a stranger to the doctor. Casey obviously couldn’t handle it alone, but Natalie had a long list of chores…they’d have to wait until the boy was fixed up. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too long, and her dad wouldn’t raise hell.

She wondered if they’d done the right thing. They didn’t know Bobby from a hole in the ground. He looked okay, but could’ve stolen the car. The whole story seemed far-fetched…why would he pick up a weird stranger, and why was he driving on back roads instead of the interstate? It didn’t make sense.Anyway, it was all a moot point because Bobby was bleeding badly…but calling an ambulance would have been wiser. Then he’d be at the county hospital and no longer their responsibility.

Lockwood, Nebraska was a dozen stores on either side of the highway. Doc Winters’ office was in a storefront, and Natalie was glad to see him standing outside when they pulled up. As they eased Bobby out of the truck, Doc Winters pitched in as always.

“Glad you called when you did,” he said. “15 minutes earlier I was sitting in the barber chair.” His white hair and mustache were crisply trimmed. “Who’s this we got?” He asked looking Bobby over.

“Got stabbed by a hitchhiker right near our place,” Casey said.

“That doesn’t happen every day. What’s your name, son?”

“Bobby Haddon.”

“Let’s get him in the examining room,” Doc said. “Sorry Pam’s out. Her babysitter, Marge Stoddard, got food poisoning. Treated her first thing this morning. Can you slip your pants off, son?”

“Yeah, sure,” Bobby said. “Casey, can you give me a hand?”
Bobby gritted his teeth and lowered himself into a chair. Casey undid his sneakers and Bobby slowly pushed down his jeans. There was blood all over his leg…even staining the edge of his briefs. The wound was a ragged hole with flesh bulging out. It reminded Natalie of animals she’d seen butchered. Fortunately, there hadn’t been many. They didn’t raise livestock as a rule, but had a few pigs over the years, Gertie, Fred, Pete and Sally. It pained her to think of them. She’d tried to watch a couple of times, but it troubled her and she couldn’t make it through. Casey didn’t mind, but her dad kidded her about it.
They eased Bobby up onto the table, and Natalie suddenly wasn’t so keen about playing nurse. His briefs hugged him tight and she blushed deeply in spite of herself…stared a second longer than she meant to.
“Natalie, I’m going to clean up the wound,” Doc said. “Can you scrub the rest of his leg?”
“Oh…okay,” Natalie said, embarrassed to be staring.

“Thanks,” Doc glanced at her. “There’s a pile of clean towels in the cabinet. You feeling a lot of pain, son?”

“A fair amount,” Bobby replied, “but I’m okay.”

“I’ll give you a local anesthetic,” Doc said, “I want to take a good look at the wound. If it’s too deep, we might have to take you to the county hospital.”

Natalie placed towels beside Doc and he draped one discreetly over Bobby’s crotch,

“I fuckin’ hate hospitals,” Bobby said. “Can’t you fix it here?”

“We’ll see,” Doc replied. “I can’t promise anything.”

“I’ve only been in the hospital twice,” Bobby said, “but that was more than enough. I’m pretty hyper and can’t stand lying around.”

“Lie still now. I’m going to give you a shot,” Doc said. Bobby didn’t flinch. “We’ll have to wait a minute for it to take hold. What were you in the hospital for?”
“First time they put drains in my ears,” Bobby said, talking to the ceiling, and the second time I had my appendix out.”
Doc turned to his old plastic radio and fiddled with the dial. “Let’s see what the weather’s up to.” When the station came on, he turned back to Bobby…gently probed the wound. “Feel that?” He asked.

“A little,” Bobby replied, but winced pretty bad.

Doc glanced at Casey who looked a little green himself. “Case, why don’t you run over and get some coffee at Jimmy’s?”
“Sure.” Casey said. “What flavor?”
Lucky stiff, Natalie thought, but hid her feelings as usual.

“Black,” Doc said. “How about you Nat?”

“Yup, same.”
“Let’s get his socks off,” Doc said.”They stink to high heaven.”
“Sorry,” Bobby said.
“You wear a pair a week?” Doc asked.

“That’s a fair estimate,” Bobby said with a grin.

Natalie peeled them off and couldn’t help noticing his shapely feet, well-proportioned like the rest of him. Todd’s were bizarre-looking, misshapen with toes all different lengths. She suddenly wondered why in the world they were together. He’d been a football star and she a cheerleader…it seemed perfect in high school, but things were drifting sideways. Todd was drinking a lot of beer and putting on weight, and it was embarrassing the way he swaggered around in his uniform, like some goofy television hick.

Natalie started scrubbing Bobby’s leg. It was lean and strong with almost no hair, unlike Todd, who was hairy everywhere…even his back. She felt foolish thinking that.

Doc started stitching the wound. “Can you feel what I’m doing?” he asked Bobby.

“Yeah, some pushing and pulling, but that’s it.”

“It doesn’t hurt?”

“No. Not at the moment.”

“It’s pretty deep.”

“Do the best you can.”

“It might leave a scar.”

“Doc, I don’t give a shit. No way I’m going to the hospital.”

Doc gave him a questioning glance.

“I’m assuming you don’t have any blood diseases we should know about?”

“Nope,” Bobby replied. Natalie was glad to hear that. Easterners were definitely a mixed bag…you never knew what to expect.

“Is it hot in here?” Bobby asked.

“No. The air conditioner’s on,” Doc said. Beads of sweat were forming all over Bobby’s forehead.

“You okay?” Doc asked.

“Sort of, but that probing’s getting to me…it doesn’t hurt…just feels strange.”

Natalie gently wiped the sweat away. He was facing her, watching every move. She laid a cool towel across his forehead. Bobby’s eyes pleaded for relief, but he didn’t say a word. They stared at each other…he smiled wanly. Natalie hadn’t really looked at him before…it suddenly dawned on her he was striking. His skin was pale and fair…a dramatic contrast with the long black hair that covered his ears and reached down his neck…and his features were unusual, almost too perfect…pale blue eyes, a sharp upturned nose and sensitive lips.

Her thoughts screeched to a halt. What am I doing? The guy’s a stranger off the road. Todd and I are solid. People look up to us. We have a future! Stop it! Stop thinking useless thoughts. It shocked her that her mind had wandered onto such a strange path. The fresh-faced boy couldn’t be more than 17 or 18 max, and most likely gay if he was visiting a boyfriend in San Francisco. Read episode 3!