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Chapter 3 Looking for Gael

Word Count: 2508    |    Released on: 31/12/2021

Jack Walker was never going to be the same. Next to a lake, he sat on a blanket with Gael’s head in his lap. Sleeping Gael seemed so young, not like the man with such huge bravado and street smarts now. Marriage had never been something he’d imagined for himself. God had given him a passion for medicine and that was enough, more than many got. Yet here he was, sitting next to the most beautiful lake, having shared intimacy he’d never dreamed possible with the most remarkable and beautiful of men. This was a gift from God, for only the Almighty could move the world in such a way.

Certainly he needed to get to know his Gael more, but as far as Jack was concerned, they were married. Gently, he ran his fingers through those blond curls. They were a touch long, but he couldn’t imagine them differently. Before this, Jack had never paid more than a clinical attention to eyes, to anyone’s eyes, perhaps in a way of shutting out a world he could not have, but Gael’s eyes were the most, utterly breathtaking blue, the very definition of beauty.

If his twin sister Eve could have met Gael, she certainly would have had things to say. Of the two of them, Jack had always considered her to be the better of them. Her loss sat with him as he kept track of the time and the ducks moving around on the pond. He’d never had something more splendid to tell her, so the inability to do so sat with him. In his imagination, he could see his twin sister sitting there too, her long red hair disheveled from whatever she’d been up to, her smile generous and accepting. “It’s love, Jackie,” he was sure she would have said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

They were going to have to arrange their schedules. He’d have to see about getting a telephone installed in Gael’s home so they could speak when they weren’t together. In time, when he’d finished his residency, perhaps Gael would be a lawyer by then, and they could set up their practices from the same home. One of them, at least, would have to marry a woman, an understanding and practical woman, to keep up appearances. The place really had to be near a nice little lake just like this.

Perhaps whoever got married, they could adopt children and he could be Uncle Jack or Father, with grand sideburns, and a secret stash of peppermints. Sitting there with Gael on the bank of some lake whose name he did not know was the happiest Jack had ever been. The world was going to be beautiful, every day thereafter.

When the watch ticked quarter-to-four, he laid a hand on his partner’s shoulder and gently squeezed. “Gael, it’s time.”

Whatever Gael replied, it wasn’t charitable and it wasn’t in English.

Jack thought it was the most beautiful sound. “Perhaps we can go and have some food together?”

“Food,” Gael said dreamily. Then his eyes snapped open and he was up on his feet as if he were going to chase white rabbits. He held out his hand to Jack. “We gotta go.”

“Do we?” Jack asked, giving his best unpracticed flirty smile.

“We do,” Gael groaned. “I have to get to work.”

“What kind of work do you do,” Jack asked, taking hold of Gael’s hand to get up, even though he didn’t need it. They’d talked about a fantasy future, but not the present. Once on his feet, he leaned close enough to brush his lips daringly over Gael’s, lingering when there was no push back. Gael grabbed him by the back of the head and pressed in, tongue sliding into Jack’s mouth, teasing Jack’s tongue into dancing.

As if he knew Jack, had known him for years, Gael’s hand embraced Jack’s rise. To Jack it was a startling and wonderful intimacy that only confirmed that they were destined to be together for life. The kiss settled into Gael’s smile against his lips, and a soft whisper. “That’s my little devil Cupid.”

Still completely on a cloud with joy, he placed both hands on Gael’s shoulders and pronounced, “We’re going to build the best life together, Gael! You are going to make the best lawyer in the world.”

“I thought I was the one dreaming,” Gael teased, “Come on, Jack, I have to get to work before I’m in shit I can’t get out of.”

“Where do you work? Do you work as a law clerk,” Jack said.

“Uh,” Gael said, straightening his hat, “I’m an odd jobs guy. I take care of guests and run errands, mostly.”

“Honest work is honest work. We will get you into law school. I’ll help you. I want to see your dreams come true.”

“You are my dream,” Gael said, a hand on the car’s bonnet, smiling wistfully. He gave the crank a good turn, starting the car.

Jack didn’t think the trip back into the city took nearly as long as he wished it would. He’d hardly had a chance to say anything else and they were back in front of the boarding house. “When will I see you again?”

“I’ll come see you as soon as I can Jack.”

“You can always mail me a message at the hospital or here. You’ve got this address, yes?”

“I got your address. I’ll come as soon as I can. I’m going to have to settle some things before it’s safe for me to come back.”

“So the day after tomorrow? How can I contact you?”

“As soon as I can, Jack. You’ll have to trust me and be patient.”

“I do trust you, Gael. I love you.”

“Well, then,” Gael said, head going light, throat dry. “I’m real taken with you too, but you might want to get to know me a bit more, just because I’m the first guy, you know, that doesn’t mean you can’t do better. You’re a doctor. I’m an errand boy.”

“Don’t talk about yourself like that,” Jack said, “You are brilliant. I can tell. You are my first and my only.”

“Don’t be childish,” Gael snapped. “New York isn’t a fairytale and it isn’t Kansas. If we’re honest, I’m not worth your time, Jack.”

Jack scowled. “I’m not childish. How old are you, anyway?”

“Eighteen,” Gael said proudly. “Wait till you’ve been here a week and see how people feel about Irish. Your landlady is common. Get out, Jack. I have got to get to work and like I said, this ain’t a fucking fairytale.”

As Gael drove away, Jack knew he’d see him again. The day after tomorrow, he’d see him and they’d talk this through.

Jack slept, had pleasant dreams, then went to the first day of his residency, which lasted what felt like a hundred years. It was three days later that he got to go home for a few hours of sleep in a real bed. There were no messages from Gael, but he was too tired to do anything about it.

Surely his love would find him at the hospital the following day.

Except he didn’t.

There were also no messages, but there was a polio outbreak and mumps.

It was four days later that he got home again. There were still no messages. At his most tired, he could hear his father’s voice telling him that it was nonsense, that a man accepted the truth of the world and moved on. It wasn’t like his father was ever, ever going to know about Gael or the utter wonderful beauty of his touch. That thought sent him into a twelve hour nap with lovely dreams.

When he woke, he was more determined than ever. He had the whole day off. He shaved, spent just a moment thinking about how nice his sideburns were going to look when he did get to start a family. First things first though! Hat on neatly trimmed red hair, he set off in search of Gael McNeil.

The first real lesson of the day was that New York was big without a car. After a couple of miles, while still finding himself in the same residential neighborhood, he got lucky and got a ride in the back of a wagon. The closer they got to the city itself, the more cars there were, the more shops, and people on the street. Everything was new and wonderful. He wasn’t even really paying attention to where the wagon was going, just soaking in all the splendidly new world of New York.

Without hardly knowing how he’d gotten there, he found himself at the docks. Having never actually been to the ocean, he fairly leaped out of the back of the wagon. The air smelled heavier somehow, unknown things layering over other things, mixed in with soot, sweat, and cigarette smoke. At the edge of the pier, he could look down at dark churling water, a slow movement to it, almost like the Earth herself was breathing. New York was full of things that Kansas barely dreamt of.

Seemingly the only person who wasn’t working, he strolled in front of warehouses, places of manufacture, various groups of men moving through the workflow that men who work with their hands do. It was fascinating!

He bought a hotdog and a glass of lemonade. There was no reason for it to taste entirely differently than those from home, but it did. It was unbearably delicious and he considered that he might need to be mindful of his waistline. Just as he put the last bit in his mouth, he felt very determined. He would walk every street in New York until he found Gael. He would spend every free day looking for him until he found him.

Then a man screamed in Irish, well, it wasn’t so much the scream, as the words that came after. It was an entirely different context than when Gael had said them, but he knew them nonetheless, as long as he didn’t have to say them. Moving with a very quick step, he returned the glass to the hotdog seller and went in the direction of the Irish.

What he found was certainly not Gael, but a group of men built more like Atlas than Apollo. One man sat to the side, face pale, shoulder clearly dislocated. That would be a problem to solve. The activity was mostly around a very large crate that had fallen on the leg of another man, which was much more problematic as the edge of the crate went all the way to the cobblestone path beneath him. The other men were about to lift the crate, so Jack ran. “No! Wait!”

They looked at him, quickly decided he wasn’t the supervisor and went back to what they were doing. Jack tried his best to repeat some of the words Gael had said, not even knowing what they meant, but following them up with, “Wait! Please.”

“What you want, English?” One of the closer men said, dark hair and a ruddy face, a nose broken enough times to give it a lightening shape.

“Doctor,” Jack said. He pointed at his chest, “Dr. Walker.” He bent over and touched a finger tip in a splatter of blood, them mimicked lifting the box, shook his bloody fingertip at them, then spread his hands apart, “Blood!”

Lightening nose shrugged and scowled.

Jack pulled his belt off, showing it to them, before working his way in and using it as a tourniquet on the man’s leg. The man was unconscious, which was probably a blessing. Jack tightened it as much as he could and made a raising motion. The crate lifted.

Lips pressed thin, Jack gently touched the leg. “Ice. Is there any ice?”

One of the other men nodded and ran off. Jack checked the man’s pulse, opened and looked at one eye, which was rolled so far back there was nothing, but white.

A little girl ran up then, maybe ten, but somehow looking more adult than Jack thought he’d ever been. She knelt by the unconscious man, her hand on his cheek as she silently prayed.

“Do you speak English,” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Will Papa be okay?”

“Good Lord willing, I hope so. Will you please ask these men if there is a blanket to wrap him in? We need to keep his leg chill, but wrap him in a blanket around his shoulders. He needs to go to the hospital.”

She repeated that just as the man who went for ice came back, axe still in hand. He had a cotton back of ice chunks.

“Very good,” Jack said.

Another man had a couple of blankets and a wagon was already arriving. Jack helped roll the man and use one of the blankets as a stretcher. the other wrapped around him. The ice when around the damaged shin, to slow the bleeding that was bound to continue over the bumpy road.

As soon as that was resolved, he moved to the man with the dislocated shoulder. “I’m Dr. Walker,” he said as he approached. “I’d like to examine your shoulder.”

“How much money?” The man said, dark eyes looking up at Jack with unnerving desperation.

“None. I am just fortunate to be here to help.”

Those dark distrustful eyes narrowed. “Later?”

“No charge, free. May I help with your shoulder?”

The man gave a curt nod.

“Thank you.” Jack very gently examined the shoulder by touch. “It is dislocated. This may hurt just a bit, but I am going to put it back in place for you. Will that be alright?”

“Probably better than hitting a wall,” the man growled.

“Very well.” Just like he’d done it a hundred times, Jack took hold of the man’s shoulder, with a sharp and precise roll and jerk, he had it back in place with barely more than a grunt from the man. “There you are. Are you in pain elsewhere?”

Rolling his shoulder gingerly, he said, “I am well. Thank you. I want to pay you. I am Ian.”

“That’s very kind,” Jack said, “I am looking for a gentleman, Gael McNeil?”

There was a snort of abruptly swallowed laughter behind him. Ian stood up, held out his hand to shake.

Which Jack was happy to take. “It’s nice to meet you Ian.”

“Your boy, about this tall, blue eyes, yellow curls almost like a girl?”

Nodding, Jack said, “Yes. Do you know where I can find him?”

“Yeah,” Ian said. “Jake! Get a wagon, take Dr. Walker to Alfred’s.”

“Yes, sir,” the teenage boy said, running to do as he was told.

“If you listen to me, you don’t go in there. It’s dangerous,” then with a disgusted curl of lip, “unclean.”

“Thank you so much, Ian. I work at the hospital, most days. If you ever need any medical help, please don’t hesitate.” And just like that, Jack was off to Alfred’s.

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