Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 2a

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Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 2a Empty Christmas Story - Oregon Way part 2a

Post by Ranger52899 on Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:42 pm

 part 2a



20th December

 

 

Yesterday evening, after the first round of vicious rows that passed for negotiation were done and Banks had disappeared to his hotel in search of a stiff drink, Dale had walked with Flynn across the yard to talk to a few of the heavily jacketed and gloved men unloading shipping containers. And then they’d walked further on, down to one of the massive dry docks by the water.

It was twilight and the dry dock was deserted. The security guards and their dogs were beginning to patrol, they paused for a brief chat, and then it was just them and the half-built ship and the water. The sheer size of her was shocking. Her bare metal sides hulked way above their heads to her decks, and the dock stretched away into the distance under the dim lighting. They walked slowly down to the end, grateful for the peace and the chance to stretch their legs. The wind coming off the lake was icy but fresh, the mist coming off the water was fresh and the silence was welcome.

Sarah appeared as if she’d slipped out of the air, skipping barefoot ahead of them just slightly out of kilter with gravity. Despite the misty twilight there was bright sun reflecting off her hair. Wherever she was and whatever she was seeing it was a beautiful day. She’d wanted him to come to the water’s edge and share the view with her out over the lake. She remembered it, and in that free moment he took the indulgence of sharing it with her. Her pleasure was contagious. It came in waves with those flashes of sunshine and sparkle on the water, she wanted him to see and to know all about it, and with no work left to do tonight he’d crouched there with her. In Sarah’s head there were no cranes, no concrete docks, no chimneys and towers. The images she shared were far simpler. Just the banks of the lake and the small shanty fishing village she’d been born in. The prairie schooner wagons the men were readying on the banks set their canopies like the sails on the boats, and she’d helped with caulking their wagon beds so they would float on water. Seven wagons were being prepared, a little fleet from their village getting ready to voyage. She knew all the people around them but two of the wagons she felt a proprietary pride in. They were hers and they were magnificent.

Her little presence tugged again on him now, like that small hand on his jacket.

She never spoke. It took so much energy to speak that it was something only the strongest and most experienced Whats were capable of, and in Dale’s experience with David, even they had to commit enormous effort to it. But Sarah never had difficulty in getting her meaning across.

Dale stirred, opening his eyes to that appalling blur of colours and shapes, nothing distinct or distinguishable. Her pull was clear; he could feel her standing by the bed, her head barely higher than the sheets. He could feel her questioning.

“I can’t look at anything right now.” Dale murmured to her apologetically. “Perhaps later. I am sorry.”

“Dale?” Flynn said against his hair. The room was dim rather than dark, Flynn was spooned against his back, his arm warm and heavy over Dale’s waist. It wasn’t the largest bed for the two of them but there was no one more practically competent than Flynn.  

“It’s Sarah.” With difficulty on the narrow mattress, Dale turned over towards him.

“She’s in here?” Flynn sounded surprised.

“Keen to go back to the lake, I think. Or wondering what we’re doing here.” Dale felt instinctively for his watch before the purposelessness of doing so reached him. “What time is it?”

“Five am.”

Ah. There had been someone around six pm yesterday evening who had been bearing sleep medication that Flynn had not regarded as optional. Dale felt the heat of Flynn’s hand above his face.

“How many fingers?”

Yes, you couldn’t ask something like ‘how is the vision?’ which would allow for a nice, non specific but mildly positive spin to be applied; you have to go for hard, verifiable fact. Which is ‘I can’t even see your bloody hand’.

Dale sighed, and the hand cupped his cheek instead, the thumb tracing his cheekbone.

“All right kid. Don’t panic. They told us it might take a few days. Does anything hurt?”

“No.”

Flynn was fully dressed, Dale felt the brush of his shirt as Flynn reached for something and a glass arrived in his hand.

“It’s juice.”

“Flynn, why don’t you go back to the hotel? Get some sleep that isn’t on the edge of a single bed and have a decent meal-”

Flynn’s hand guided him to drink, kept him at it until the glass was empty, then took the glass and Dale heard the clink of it being set down. Then Flynn lay down and drew Dale with him, making him get comfortable.

“Go back to sleep.”

The categoric forget it was hard to miss. They might be in a – well, less than desirable place was one way to put it – with no ability to see anything about it, and that was deeply unsettling, but the deep familiarity and the comfort of Flynn’s body, Flynn’s chest against his face, the feel of his breathing…it drowned out most of it.

They dozed for a while. Staff appeared at intervals, poked about and made machinery around them bleep, and went away again. The loose connection of one of the bleeping items making it slightly off pace with the others grated until Dale finally reached past someone in scrubs as they fiddled with it, found the connections and located the control panel and the loose wire, and fitted it properly back into place. The scrubs person didn’t comment, but at least they got out of the way while he slightly irritably rearranged the grouping of machines to a less illogical and inconvenient configuration. After which, Flynn collected his hands and held on to them whenever a member of staff walked into the room.

Breakfast was produced in the form of cold toast, cereal and coffee. Dale would have refused to experiment with cereal dripping with milk and no idea where the bowl was, but Flynn didn’t ask. He simply took the bowl and fed it to Dale, deftly managing it with a napkin that prevented a drop getting anywhere it shouldn’t, taking no arguments, and from him it was bearable. They shared the toast, which at least could be eaten by hand. Flynn’s phone bleeped once and Dale heard Flynn glance at it and then tap a reply. He normally hated texting.

“Who is it?” Dale asked him. Flynn grunted.

“Now? That’s Gerry wanting to know how you are. So far that’s him, Wade, Bear and James. Riley called late last night, and Jeremy Banks dropped by in person.”

Dale felt for his hand. Flynn’s fingers wrapped firmly around his and he took a seat on the edge of the bed again, against Dale’s leg.

That morning seemed to go on forever. At one point they were collected and taken down for a repeat of the CT scan, which was no more entertaining than the first one had been. About an hour after that, a group of medics arrived in a small herd, there was a lot of fiddling around with charts and lights being shone at his eyes, after which one of the less tedious of the voices finally announced that he would be more comfortable at home and he could be discharged.

“We know flying is out of the question,” Flynn said, “Can we travel by road if we take it gently?”

“The main thing you need is rest,” the voice sounded definite about that. “Car travel shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t get too tired. Avoid anywhere noisy and busy, too many people and conversation; quiet is going to help your brain settle the fastest. I’ll refer you across to the neurology department of your home hospital, but this should clear in a few days.”

That was considerably better than spending the next few days in a Wisconsin hotel. As soon as the room cleared, Dale reached for Flynn’s pocket.

“Give me my phone and I’ll sort a car and drivers-”

“Get Caroline, and I’ll talk to her.” Flynn interrupted. Wary, Dale dialled, and Flynn took it from him as soon as it rang.

“Caroline? Hello, it’s Flynn again.”

Again? You were talking to Caroline last night too?

“We’ll go with plan A,” Flynn was saying to the phone, “As soon as possible, if you can make the bookings – thank you, that’s ideal. Yes, he’s just been released. Thank you, that’s much appreciated.”

“Plan A?” Dale demanded. Flynn sounded quiet and very firm.

“There’s a four by four waiting outside, and I’m driving. We’ll do a couple of hours at a time, and take it very gently,”

What? Flynn, that will take days-”

“We are not getting excited about this or anything else.” Flynn’s voice made Dale realise that his voice may have risen slightly. “Caroline went ahead and booked places along the route last night. Give the others a ring, tell them we’ll start out as soon as you’re released and I’ll go find out what paperwork we have to fill out to get out of here. I’m going to be right outside and the door’s open. If you call me I’ll hear you.”

The very firm kiss on the top of his head did nothing to ease the edge off Dale’s temper. Riley answered the phone at the first ring.

“How is he?”

“’He’ is fine.” Dale said exasperatedly. “Flynn won’t be when I get hold of him.”

“Are you ok? What’s happening? Can you see anything yet?”

“I can see fine, it’s just blurred.” Dale calmed his voice deliberately, not liking at all how concerned Riley sounded. “They just said we can leave. Flynn has some ridiculous idea-”

“About coming home in stages. He and Jas figured it out last night with a map if they said you could travel. He said you’d been medicated, you were sound asleep except for when you were terrifying nurses.”

“What?” Dale demanded, confused. Riley laughed, although it sounded subdued.

“He said you wouldn’t remember. Nurses were checking on you through the night, you didn’t appreciate it.”

“Riley, I’ll have him please.” Jasper’s voice said in the background. Riley sighed.

“Jas wants you, just a sec.”

“Good morning.” Jasper’s voice was infinitely soothing. “How are you feeling?”

“In urgent need of talking Flynn out of this plan,” Dale said acidly. “If-”

“Slow down.”

“I do not need to slow down, I’m perfectly together thank you. We can’t take days travelling back, and the roads will be snowed under-”

“Flynn is a good driver,” Jasper interrupted him calmly. “You know that. We picked the route around the weather. I checked on the road conditions and I think you can. I understand you don’t want to, but that’s a different matter.”

“Jas-” Dale began, mostly in protest.

“And you trust Flynn, and you trust me.”

Of course I do!

The thought came impatiently, in part because-

because he really didn’t want to have to think about such things. Not in the way that he knew Jasper was about to make him.

We are stranded halfway across the states, it’s only a couple of days until Christmas, this is a mess that requires drastic, purposeful action, which I am good at. This is not the time to stand around chatting about trust!

I can’t do that this far away from you.

“Sometimes we all get slowed down, willing or not.” Jasper sounded calm rather than sympathetic. “You know that.”

…No. That is not what is happening here.

“You do know that.” Jasper said more quietly. “And you know sometimes there are reasons why.”

No. He helped other people understand this kind of stuff. Which made him realise the sheer stupidity of discovering that he believed, at heart, that it was not supposed to happen when he was working. Or away from home. Or to him.

“So it’s about finding the purpose in you slowing down for a few days.” Jasper went on. “You were rushing around with us getting the house ready before you left. You travelled out at high speed in an emergency, and I heard the meetings were high stress and loud ones. You had a lot of angry people you were trying to find agreement between. I can understand after that your body wants a few days to take life slowly.”

No. My body is fine, thank you, and the universe can take its higher purposes, and-”

“It’s forced a stop. Hasn’t it?” Jasper pointed out. “There is a reason. I’m not taking any risks with you by not giving your brain time to heal. I think you’ll find Flynn won’t either.”

There were times Dale seriously missed the days he could snort something rude and dismissive under his breath and ignore it all. Jas could be a brick wall of immovability when he thought you needed to listen to him. Any reason to be justifiably mad was fading fast, and all he really had left now was a deeply pathetic whine of I don’t want to! Which Jasper would understand but not commiserate with.

“……… Ok, so I know.” He said eventually. Very reluctantly. “You have a point. I don’t have to like it.”

“How’s that mood working for you?” Jasper’s deep voice was tinged with amusement and it was affectionate, not mocking. Reluctantly, Dale smiled.

“It’s not working on Flynn at all.”

“And it shouldn’t do, should it?” Jasper reminded him. “So put ANZ down and start thinking. You know better than this.”

“What advice did the medical staff give you, hon?” Paul’s voice said. Jasper had obviously switched the call to conference. Dale sighed.

“Don’t do too much and this will clear in a couple of days.”

“That’s heavily edited.” Flynn said unhelpfully, taking a seat on the bed. “They double checked the scan this morning; they’re sure it’s clear. He needs to be quiet, rest, stay away from stimulation and they’ll refer him over to Jackson hospital-”

“For what?” Riley said sharply. “Why are they letting him go if he’s not ok?”

“I am perfectly ok and we won’t need the referral.”

“And we were like this every time a medic walked into the room, I can tell.” Paul said dryly.

“We’ve been loving every second.” Flynn agreed. “Ri, they’re sure he’s fit to travel and he’ll feel better out of this place. A car’s arranged, we’re going to get on the road now. We’ll call tonight and I’ll take good care of him. Stop worrying.”

 

 

 

 

Flynn didn’t let him do a thing. Which was deeply, deeply annoying. Caroline’s forethought and powers of organisation had apparently extended to having their belongings at the hotel packed up and brought over so that they were already in the car, which was waiting in the car park downstairs. Without allowing him to help, Flynn dressed him in the sweater, shirt and jeans that he’d brought as out of work clothing for the evenings and for travelling. One of the nurses, having warned him that with poor focus he may find the sunlight glare too much or that moving around in a blur made him nauseous, supplied a pair of plastic and very dark sunglasses. She was proven right before they reached the front door. After which, Dale mostly kept his eyes closed. The four by four felt large, very high, quiet and the deep, squashy passenger seat was surprisingly comfortable. Dale seriously suspected both Flynn and Caroline’s hand at work there too.

“If the weather holds by the forecasts yesterday,” Dale commented, visualising maps as Flynn started the engine. “Then the fastest route-”

“No. Jas checked the weather and we’re going south, around it. And we’re doing it steadily, not fast.”

“Oh my God.”

The engine abruptly turned off again, Dale heard Flynn turn in his seat and his voice was absolutely matter of fact.

“Right. Level one.”

Ouch.

Aware that he was giving far too free a rein to the inner brat again, and that Jasper had already reined it in once this morning….. Dale swallowed, embarrassed and guilty. Flynn had just had two very tedious days away from home including a horrible twenty one hours hanging around a hospital. He’d had what sleep he could manage on the edge of a bed in a hospital with the phone he detested using buzzing constantly; he had a twelve hundred mile drive ahead of him in late December without help, and a partner who was…

Bitching, growling, snarking -

Flynn’s hand grasped his, very firmly, and his tone left no doubt at all that he was not going to discuss this. “I know Jasper talked to you about this. I’m going to make it very simple. You are going to be calm. You are not going to chew, and you are not stressing this injury. At all. I’m making your one and only job to take this trip as it comes, in a tranquil state of mind.”

“On command.” Dale muttered, half to himself, since that was exactly what it was. Do what you’re told, first time of asking, with a good attitude, was one of the primary rules of the ranch.  

“Exactly. So settle down.” Flynn leaned over and kissed him, which took any sting out of the words. “Put your seat back a little. Further. Water bottle in the cup stand to your right.”

The engine started again.

Working away from home was an automatic level three, always. Level one…. meant more than ‘serious stress management required’. Beyond even: ‘stop everything else and work, hard, on calming down’. Level one was a total stop. Ground zero. A place where his job was to let Flynn and the others handle life for him for a while. It was probably the level he had the greatest love hate relationship with. And while a sharp drop, there was no denying that it was logical under the circumstances. In practical terms it was inevitable; he didn’t have enough vision to do anything much without Flynn’s help. But Flynn was shifting him mentally, not practically, and that was what the levels had been written for. Damnit.

Trying to summon an appropriately civilised tone of voice, Dale heard the indicators and felt the car turn.

“Which way are we going?”

“It’s a route Jasper knows.”

Jasper had travelled up and down the mid states in the days when he wrangled stock. Hitch hiking, travelling in the stock vans and trains, walking the long roads between cities. Flynn’s hand rested on his knee, grasping gently.

“He thought you’d be interested. Your little Sarah should be too. I’ve seen you stand and look at the map in the museum for minutes at a time.”

Wisconsin. South. Which would mean to Iowa, then Nebraska across to Wyoming- it hit him in a flash, with a clear image of the 3d textured map in the museum, so strong he couldn’t believe he hadn’t realised, and for a moment it lifted him out of chagrin. 

“The Oregon trail? Seriously?”

“It goes right past our front door.” 

That… put a very different complexion on the trip ahead. It was quite a shock to think about. The very route so many people had taken over their land, the same road they had travelled. He and Flynn would cross the same land.

And I can’t see any of it. The flood of frustration swelled again and Dale made himself quell it with a determined hand. Ok. Calm. Accepting. Level one. Focus.

“What’s the weather like at home?”

“Jasper said they were due more snow last night. We’ll probably run into some, but the roads will be ploughed.”

“So where are we headed first?”

“La Crosse. We’ll stop around there and take a break, and then head on to Fort Dodge for the night.”

Many of the towns in this area had grown up from pioneers settling, building stores to service the wagons passing through, and wintering there.

Had this been where little Sarah’s journey had started? Leaving the city on this road bound for the trail with her seven beautiful wagons in its little group.  

Almost instantly as he thought it, he could see it. He felt her flood of delight as he reached for her, the basking in his attention which almost shamed him. She deserved better. He would have tried to find a way to share a sense of apology, but she was thinking of those wagons and the pictures were strong, arriving so fast they muddled together into a rush of flashes. He’d always thought he ‘saw’ images like this through his eyes. It was a surprise to discover that while he ‘saw’ them in the place he thought of as his eyes, with his eyes closed and no vision he could still see as clearly as always.

The wagons were pulled by pairs of horses, the seven canopied wagons rolling one after the other along the road, and she saw the street from her perch high on the driving seat between her father and her mother who held her little brother on her lap. People waved as the wagons passed by in their line like they were royalty. People they knew shouted goodbye, except Grandma who said nothing and waved as she watched them go with a smile and kisses blown but with big tears rolling. There were no streets, just a dirt track leading out of the town and onto the green prairie, and a woman had a kitten on her knee on the porch of one of the houses they passed, a little black and white kitten washing its face, and in the back of their wagon rocked the wooden sideboard, creaking with the drawers tied shut, and their beds were made up, with the same blankets from the beds in their wooden house by the water where the chickens pecked in the yard, but tonight, and the excitement filled her every time she thought of it, they would sleep in the wagon…

 
continued in part 2b
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Post by loyalpainter88 on Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:52 pm

About coming home in stages. He and Jas figured it out last night with a map if they said you could travel. He said you’d been medicated, you were sound asleep except for when you were terrifying nurses.”


“What?” Dale demanded, confused. Riley laughed, although it sounded subdued.


“He said you wouldn’t remember. Nurses were checking on you through the night, you didn’t appreciate it.


This sounds intresting ! Would love to hear how Dale scared the nurses ! 
Usually is the other way round ..
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Post by Dizzy on Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:59 pm

My heart started racing when Dale said,


it isn’t safe to be bloody useless”
He’s learned the hard way that if you are useless you get ignored or sent away or left behind.  


This is such a lovely gift to be given this year.  Thank you so much.


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Post by Ranger52899 on Thu Dec 20, 2018 5:09 pm

Aww Dizz, you're so welcome. its such a pleasure to be able to share something between us all in a group like this, it is like the oldest winter habits of sitting together to story tell, whether it's around a ranch fire or in a cave. It's a very human thing to do. We hope it gives you pleasure  group hug
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Post by Dizzy on Thu Dec 20, 2018 5:13 pm

@Ranger52899 wrote:Aww Dizz, you're so welcome. its such a pleasure to be able to share something between us all in a group like this, it is like the oldest winter habits of sitting together to story tell, whether it's around a ranch fire or in a cave. It's a very human thing to do. We hope it gives you pleasure  group hug

It’s a gift from the heart that is truly appreciated and the most thoughtful!  The very best kind of gift.  I bet Sarah remembers Christmas storytelling!  


It is a very human thing!  I love that thought.


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Post by Afardistantshore on Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:05 pm

I re read all the ranch Christmas stories each year and I’m sure I’m not the only one to have this tradition. This new story is developing into another special story and I’m trying to read slowly, soak it in and make it last, like a special treat to savour. Your whole body of work is truly amazing but FCR is REAL and these people live in the hearts of so many. Merry Christmas and thanks for this present.

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Post by Ranger52899 on Thu Dec 20, 2018 10:07 pm

You're so welcome Afar! Merry Christmas to you too Smile
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Post by Nonni on Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:54 am

Oh my! Dale, ya gotta love him! “I can see fine, it’s just blurred.”

When Jasper talks about finding the purpose in slowing down, I almost cried. I've had a bit of a strange year with lots of family changes, mostly good, but still different and less chances for all of us to be together and follow the same traditions. I've been really stressed about it (and lonely and sad and trying to control everything and, probably, everybody!). This week I got a cold and then, this morning I had laryngitis and realized I couldn't go to work and talk!! So I stayed home and it really feels that in this dark cold time of year I needed to slow down and stop fighting what "is" and start taking in the new realities. I'm sure Dale will find this sort of peace with the help of his family.

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Post by Nonni on Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:57 am

@Ranger52899 wrote:Aww Dizz, you're so welcome. its such a pleasure to be able to share something between us all in a group like this, it is like the oldest winter habits of sitting together to story tell, whether it's around a ranch fire or in a cave. It's a very human thing to do. We hope it gives you pleasure  group hug


What a beautiful thought, Ranger! Winter is the time for stories and you and Rolf weave magic with them.
And, yes, it gives us all great pleasure.


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Post by Maaliem on Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:25 pm

So many times I keep thinking Dale’s inner voice reminds me of Tom.

Aware that he was giving far too free a rein to the inner brat again, and that Jasper had already reined it in once this morning….. Dale swallowed, embarrassed and guilty. Flynn had just had two very tedious days away from home including a horrible twenty one hours hanging around a hospital. He’d had what sleep he could manage on the edge of a bed in a hospital with the phone he detested using buzzing constantly; he had a twelve hundred mile drive ahead of him in late December without help, and a partner who was…

Bitching, growling, snarking -


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Post by Hayjude on Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:32 pm

There are similarities. They’ve both got a slightly British turn of phrase and they both castigate themselves viciously.
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Post by DeeDee on Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:36 pm

@Maaliem wrote:So many times I keep thinking Dale’s inner voice reminds me of Tom.

Aware that he was giving far too free a rein to the inner brat again, and that Jasper had already reined it in once this morning….. Dale swallowed, embarrassed and guilty. Flynn had just had two very tedious days away from home including a horrible twenty one hours hanging around a hospital. He’d had what sleep he could manage on the edge of a bed in a hospital with the phone he detested using buzzing constantly; he had a twelve hundred mile drive ahead of him in late December without help, and a partner who was…

Bitching, growling, snarking -

So true Maaliem!  These two worry constantly about their partners and hate when they can't get their own way, while simultaneously loving that there is someone there to take control and rein them in.  

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Post by Wmarian on Fri Dec 21, 2018 9:52 pm

Also the echo here of Tom's required dealing with health trauma post-Everest...I remember him hating every minute in the hospital.

I am so looking forward to the journey ahead!
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