The Rifleman
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The Next Step,,,
Chapter 115 - Is There A Doctor?
Written by Deanne Bertram

The moon still shone bright in the pre-dawn sky as the man sat on the edge of the bed next to his wife, as he had since just after midnight. Not even bothering to pull on jeans over his long johns, the man patiently tended to his wife. The man was slender of build and in his early twenties with curly, blonde hair.

“Evie, I can do this. I’ve helped with plenty of births before,” Josiah Appleton stated as he tried to comfort his wife; rinsing out a washcloth after wiping the sweat from her face.

“Josiah, I know you’ve birthed lambs before, but I’m not a ewe,” Evelyn proclaimed just before an exceptionally hard contraction struck. “Please, go for the doctor.”

Evelyn was a petite young woman, with a girlish complexion and dark brown hair that slipped from underneath her nightcap and cascade well down her sides.

Josiah finally gave into his wife’s pleadings to go for the town’s doctor. He reached for his jeans hanging over the back of the wooden chair in the room, and grabbed for the shirt hanging on the back of the door.

Evelyn briefly laughed as she heard her husband jumping around as he tried to pull on his boots without first putting on socks.

In the early morning darkness, Josiah made his way into town and to the doctor’s home.

The sun was just peeking into the sky when Abigail opened the door to see the young man nervously standing on the porch.

“May I help you?” asked Abigail.

“My wife, she’s giving birth. She asked if the doctor could come…” Josiah replied.

Opening the door, Abigail motioned for the man to enter, “One moment and I’ll get my husband. You’re new to North Fork, I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Josiah Appleton, we’ve been here for about two months, just taking time to get our place settled, what with Evie being pregnant, we’ve not left the farm too much.”

“I did I hear you say your wife was giving birth?” Thadd stated as he pulled on his jacket.

“Yes sir, its our first.”

“Let me quickly get dressed and get the children up and over to Hattie’s.”

“If you could hurry ma’am. Evie really wanted the doctor.”

Thadd carried his son, while leading Savannah down the staircase, followed by Abigail carrying Sadie, “Where do you live?” asked Thadd.

“I was told by the town banker the place used to be owned by the Abrahm’s,” Josiah answered.

“We have to go past Hattie and Micah’s to get to your home.”

Hattie hurried ushered the Burrage children into her home, not needing any explanation.

*****

By mid-morning, Abigail handed a freshly bathed new born, baby girl to Evelyn. Appleton and assisted her to sit in the overstuffed chair in their front room, and proceeded to instruct her in how to breastfeed her first child. After washing his hands and arms, Thadd made sure that Evelyn was producing enough breastmilk, and the baby had no difficulties in nursing. Josiah Appleton sat on the arm of the chair, marveling at the new life his wife had brought into their lives, and her eagerness at nursing.

“Are all babies so… voracious?”

“Voracious?” Abigail called from the bedroom as she paused in changing the linens on the bed.

“Listen to her. She’s slurping louder than any newborn lamb.”

Thadd laughed as he spoke to the new father, “Now Josiah, before we leave, we’ll get Evelyn back into bed and I want her to say in bed until I come back. If she needs to relieve herself, you’ll need to bring in a chamber pot.”

“Yes, sir,” Josiah answer, still watching his daughter nurse from his wife.

In time, the slurping sounds stopped and Evelyn handed their daughter to her husband, so that Abigail could help her get back into the bed.

“How do I hold her?” Josiah asked as he took the baby, holding her as if she was a china doll, following behind his wife into the bedroom.

“Just like you’re doing is fine,” Thadd stated. “It’s important at this age that you support her head just like you’re doing. You’re a natural at this.”

“I’d feel more natural if this was a lamb.”

Josiah looked at the tiny hand that had hold of his little finger.

Abigail tended to Evelyn, “Now after each time you nurse your child, you’ll need to make sure that you wash yourself afterwards,” and handed her a washcloth. “With the temperatures becoming cooler, you’ll also need to keep her well wrapped and blanketed to prevent her from chilling, especially at night.”

After washing, Evelyn tied closed her camisole and watched her husband coo and cuddle with his daughter.

“Have you chosen a name?” asked Abigail.

“I’m sort of partial to Virginia,” Josiah stated.

“Virginia Appleton,” Evelyn stated.

“No middle name?” Abigail inquired.

“Virginia Leia Appleton,” Josiah replied. “Virginia for my mother and Leia for Evelyn’s mother.”

Thadd and Abigail stepped to the doorway.

“We’ll we back tomorrow,” Thadd stated as they prepared to leave.

*****

Thadd barely halted the team in front of the clinic when twelve year-old Tony Merar raced in on his horse, yelling “DOC! DOC!”

“Easy there, son. What’s wrong?”

“Marcus got trampled by a bull. Pa says he’s hurt pretty bad. They’re getting the buckboard ready to bring him in from the range to the bunkhouse, didn’t want to bring him no further until you seen him.”

Turning their horse and buggy around, Thadd stated, “Guess we won’t be making it to church services today,” and followed the boy back to Dave Merar’s ranch.

*****

Monday morning, Lucas headed out to the range alone since Mark had spent the night in town standing his watch. Milly had finished her chores inside the house when she heard a knock at the front door. She answered to find a young man standing on their front porch. The man removed his hat and asked, “I was told Lucas McCain lives out this way… Am I at the right home?”

“Yes, Lucas McCain lives here. I’m his wife, Milly. Won’t you come in?”

“Thank you, ma’am. It is rather brisk out there,” the man stated as he entered the front room, rubbing his hands together before removing his hat.

“May I take your coat? Lucas shouldn’t be too much longer…he said he’d return before lunch.”

The man removed his jacket and Milly noted the fashionable suit he wore, his well-manicured hands, and the fact he did not wear a gunbelt.

“How do you know my husband?”

“It was a long time ago ma’am.”

“May I offer you a cup of coffee?”

“Please, black.”

“Mama?” Levi called from his bedroom.

“One moment Levi,” Milly replied as she handed the cup of coffee to her guest.

“Mama, when’s Papa getting home, I want to ride.”

“He’ll be home for lunch. Levi, I’d like you to meet…”

“Jamison, Aaron Jamison.”

“Mr. Jamison, our youngest son, Levi.”

Levi held his hand out and walked to where Jamison stood, “Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise.”

“You have other children?” Aaron asked.

“Yes, they spent the night with family in town. They’ll be home, after school.”

*****

Lucas returned to his home to find a strange horse tied to the hitching rail. He looked the animal over and realized it wasn’t one from any of the nearby ranches, nor from Nils. Cautiously he entered his home to find Milly sitting at the table, talking with a stranger.

“Didn’t know we were expecting company,” commented Lucas as he hung his hat on the rack behind the front door, but had not to set his rifle in the holder next to the door.

“Lucas, this is Aaron Jamison, he’s asked if he could wait to talk with you.”

“Jamison?” the name clicked in Lucas’ mind.

“Yes sir, Mr. McCain, it’s been quite a few years since Pa and I visited North Fork.”

After setting his rifle in its stand, Lucas asked, “How is Reverend Jamison?” while extending his hand.

“He passed away last year,” Aaron stated as he accepted Lucas’ handshake.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I offer you my condolences.”

“Thank you. Mr. McCain, I’m here for two reasons…”

“Mr. Jamison, would you care to stay for lunch?” Milly asked as Lucas took a seat at the table while she excused herself to the kitchen.

“No ma’am. But thank you for your hospitality.”

“You said you were here for two reasons,” stated Lucas.

“Mr. McCain, I know that you and my father made amends the last time we were here.”

“We did.”

“But we didn’t stay around for long… I need to know that you won’t hold my father’s past against me.”

“Against you? Why don’t you explain yourself…” Lucas stated as he motioned for Aaron to take his seat at the table, while Lucas pulled out another chair and sat down.

“Pa said the best thing he ever did was to spread the word of God to his fellow man and he wanted me to go to college and follow him into the seminary. I told Pa, I couldn’t see becoming a preacher, I’d seen too much of man’s hatred to turn the other cheek, but we agreed that there was more than one way to save a man’s soul. I decided that I could save a man’s life. We talked a long time of my decision to become a doctor.”

“You’re a doctor?” Milly asked from the kitchen.

“Yes ma’am, I’ve completed my residency and have received my license to practice. The senior physician who oversaw my residency received a wire from a Doctor Burrage, stating how desperate North Fork had become for a second physician… Doctor Wickert knew I had grown up out west and he suggested that I think on practicing here.”

“So, what does that have to do with your coming to see me?” asked Lucas.

“I need to know that you’ll welcome me to town and accept me as my own man, as a physician?””

“Doctor Jamison, I think our Doctor Burrage would gladly accept any help you have to offer, and if you are as qualified a doctor as your father was a preacher, I believe you’ll serve North Fork in the best capacity you can.”

“You’ll bear no grudge against me?” Aaron asked directly, still not sure that Lucas was agreeing to his relocating to North Fork.

“Your father and I buried our grievances years ago, I’ll be happy to have you call on my family, should the need arise. I’ll be happier to call you a neighbor.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Aaron’s tone of voice and posture indicated his relief. “The other favor is, I didn’t wire your doctor that I was coming, I’d like to ask if you could introduce me to him.”

“Sure, let me get cleaned up and we’ll go into town.”

“Lucas, your lunch?” Milly called.

Lucas stepped to the kitchen and gently kissed Milly on the cheek, “I’ll make it up to you tonight; I’ll eat a double portion of whatever you fix.”

“Even if it’s liver and onions?” queried Milly, as a mischievous smile crossed her face.

Pointing, Lucas answered, “Only if it’s NOT liver and onions.”

*****

Lucas rode into town beside Aaron Jamison and arrived to see Seth supporting Lilah, as she was doubled over in pain and clutching at her side, making their way to the clinic.

“Seth? What happened?” Lucas hollered as he jumped down from Blade.

“Lucas, I’m not sure. Mrs. Donner sent for me to come… Lilah’s in so much pain.”

Lucas opened the clinic door, “Sarah, where’s Thadd?”

“Mr. McCain, Abigail and Thadd went out to check on Mrs. Appleton and her baby,” Sarah McCafferty stated as she led them to an examination room. “I don’t know when they’ll be back, they said something about afterward going to Dave Merar’s to check on Marcus and if they felt he could handle the trip to town, they’d bring him back with them.”

Lilah let out a moan.

“In here…” Sarah showed them to an empty examination room.

“Sarah,” Lucas began the introductions, “this here is Doctor Aaron Jamison.”

“Are you a nurse?” Jamison asked.

“Yes.”

“Sir, if you’d allow me to examine… your wife?” Jamison asked of Seth.

“Yes, please…”

Lucas escorted Seth to the waiting room, giving Aaron and Sarah time and room to examine Lilah.

“What happened?” Lucas asked.

“She was fine this morning, just a small stomach ache… Lucas she’s in so much pain…”

Twenty minutes later, Dr. Jamison and Sarah came from the examination room.

“Doctor?” Seth asked as he stood to his feet.

“Deputy, I’m pretty sure your wife requires an appendectomy.”

“A what?” Seth asked.

“She requires surgery to remove her appendix.”

“What’s that?” asked Seth.

“Everyone has an appendix; it’s a pouch that lies at the beginning of the large intestine. Tell me, what other symptoms has your wife experienced?”

“She’s not had much of an appetite for the past few days, and she’s stated she felt she had a stomach ache, a pain right under her belly button,” replied Seth.

“Has she experienced any nausea or run a fever?”

“I don’t know…” a worried Seth answered.

“I’m pretty sure it is her appendix, she’s now complaining of a severe pain in her side, its right above McBurney’s point.” Jamison pointed to the location on his own body.

“Are you sure surgery is necessary?” Lucas asked.

“Mr. McCain, if this is indeed her appendix and it ruptures, peritonitis can set in, followed by gangrene, and ultimately, it could lead to her death.”

“Gangrene?” Seth asked as his eyes widened.

“I’m sorry to be so graphic, but I think it best that you understand the potential gravity of this situation. We can wait a little while to make sure that this is not an extreme case of gas, but…”

“How much longer could you wait?” asked Lucas.

“I wouldn’t wait more than an hour, even then, its risky…”

Realizing Seth was in no shape to function, Lucas asked, “Sarah, could you assist Dr. Jamison with the surgery?”

“Yes sir, I can go ahead and prepare the operating room, and if Dr. Burrage returns, we’ll be prepared.”

“Do it then,” Lucas instructed. “Aaron, are you sure you’re up to this?”

“Mr. McCain, if I’m not, a woman could die. I’m also willing to wait that hour in hopes that your town physician returns.”

*****

Sarah prepared the operating room and waited with Lilah, wiping away her sweat. Sarah briefly left the room to report her observations to Aaron.

“Doctor, I know its only been a half hour, but I don’t think we can wait much longer. Mrs. Lane says the pain is getting much worse, and her temperature rising.”

“Okay, we’ll need to begin surgery. Have you administered ether before?”

“Yes sir.”

*****

Aaron had just made the first incision when the door opened, “Doctor, what can I do to assist?” Thadd stated as he entered, cloth already over his nose and mouth.

“If you’ve scrubbed your hands and arms, I could use your help, or I’d really prefer to defer to your more experienced hands.”

“Right now, I think your hands would be better, I’ve been up way too many hours. I’ll assist, Sarah, keep an eye on the clock and the amount of ether you administer.”

Thadd stood on the opposite side of the operating table and watch as Aaron’s hands deftly made their way through the layers of skin, muscle, and fat… Eventually the appendix was in sight, “Clamp, please.”

Aaron indicated where he wanted the first clamp positioned; he worked to reveal more of the appendix and had Seth position a second clamp.

“It’s rupturing,” Thadd called out as he picked up a clamp with a swab and attempted to soak up the bile that was leaking into Lilah’s abdominal cavity. Both doctors worked diligently at their task to remove the appendix and save Lilah’s life.

Sarah kept an eye on the clock and the amount of ether she administered, and watched as neither doctor spoke, yet each knew what the other was doing.

“If you’d do me the honor of sewing up the incision,” Aaron stated as he stepped back from the table.

After Thadd had completed the final suture, Thadd turned to his guest, “It’s been a while since I’ve seen an appendectomy performed and you did a wonderful job. I don’t know that I could have done as good a job.”

“Sir, thank you for the compliment, but I was so focused on removing the appendix, I didn’t realize it had ruptured. You might have been too tired to perform the operation, but your eyes were keen.”

The doctors had removed their bloodied aprons and Sarah worked the handle to pump the water, allowing the two doctors to wash the blood from their hands and arms.

“Nurse, if you’d keep an eye on Mrs. Lane,” Aaron stated.

“Yes, doctor,” answered Sarah.

The two doctors exited the operating room, pausing in the hallway.

“I presume you’re Doctor Burrage?” Aaron asked.

“I am, and I’m thankful you happened to be in town when you did.”

“It was a team effort, I’m Aaron Jamison.”

“Doctor Aaron Jamison,” Thadd corrected. “I’m thankful you just happen to be in North Fork.”

“How I happened to be in North Fork? Well, I stopped out at Mr. McCain’s home and inquired if he would introduce us.”

“You wanted to meet me?” asked Thadd.

“Yes sir, you sent a wire inquiring of a physician to possibly join your practice. Dr. Wickert forwarded the wire to me and suggested that I consider it.”

“Did I misplace your wire? I don’t remember… The days all seem to blur together,” Thadd admitted as he tiredly, leaned against the wall.

“No sir, I didn’t send a wire, my family has a history with Mr. McCain, and I wanted to make sure that my presence wouldn’t disturb him.”

“And?”

“He said if I was as good at being a doctor as my father was at being a preacher, I could serve North Fork well. You should know that I am fresh out of medical school.”

“From what I witnessed in that operating room, you’d be a welcome addition to our community. Come on…why don’t we go tell Mark’s father-in-law that his wife is going to pull through.”

“Who’s father-in-law?” asked Aaron.

“I thought you said you knew Lucas and his family. Mark is Lucas’ oldest son.”

“It’s been a number of years, last time I was here, I was still a schoolboy, and so was Mr. McCain’s son.”

“Well, then you have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Doctor Burrage, I presume then… you’ll hire me?”

“Only if you stop calling me Doctor Burrage; since we’re going to be working together you can call me Thadd.”

“My name is Aaron.”

The two doctors walked into Thadd’s office and gave Seth and Lucas the good news.

*****

Mark ushered two men, hands cuffed in front of them, into the Marshal’s Office and into the jail later that afternoon, locking the cell door behind them.

“You two can just sit there until I decide what to do with you,” Mark stated as he tossed the keys to his desk and went to pour himself a cup of coffee.

“It’s about time you returned,” Drako stated as he entered the office; he couldn’t keep from laughing as he asked, “What happened to you?”

“I’m in no mood for any teasing. I came across these two butchering a steer. I just want to go home and get cleaned up.”

“You might want to clean up over at the hotel, before you head to the clinic.”

“The clinic?! Did something happen to Hope or one of the children?” asked an alarmed Mark.

“No, Lilah had surgery this afternoon.”

“Is she okay?”

“From what your Pa said, yeah. I just came from visiting them at the clinic.”

*****

Realizing just how much he stank, Mark headed to the hotel to grab a bath.

“Oh, Mark, what did ye fall into?” Lou asked as she watched Mark enter through the kitchen back door.

“A sour, rotten, mud bog,” replied Mark.

“Well, I thank ye for not coming through the front door. But what are ye doing here?”

“Just need to grab a bath before I head to the clinic.”

“Get upstairs and I’ll bring ye some clean towels. I heard that Lilah is going to make a good recovery. Thankfully that new doctor was in town and helped save her life.”

“New doctor?” inquired Mark.

Lou started to push Mark up the stairs, but stopped short of touching him.

“Yer clothes will need to be laundered, don’t think Doc will appreciate you coming over, bathed or not, wearing those..”

“Lou, could you go ask Mrs. Donner to put some new clothes on my account, and bring them back.

“Just git,” Lou pointed up the stairs. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks, Lou.”

*****

Mark had just finished rinsing himself off when he heard a knock at the door, “Yes?”

“Tis me Mark, I’ve new clothes and some fresh towels for ye ta dry yerself off.”

“Lou!” declared Mark as the door opened.

“I’m just setting everything on the chair here, no need ta work yerself into a tizzy,” Lou answered with a lilt to her Irish brogue.

*****

Feeling and smelling better than he had, Mark entered the clinic, “Seth, I returned to town and Johnny told me the news.”

“We saw you ride in, son. Why the delay?” asked Lucas.

“I don’t think you or Thadd would have appreciated the odor. I hear Lilah’s going to be alright?”

“Lilah’s going to be alright, son. Thanks to Aaron and Thadd,” Lucas stated. “Mark you remember Aaron Jamison?”

“I don’t rightly…” Mark looked into the face of the man standing in front of him.

“It’s been quite a few years… I came through with my father…”

“Jamison.” Mark looked to his Pa, “the Reverend Jamison?”

“That’s right, son,” answered Lucas.

“How is your father?” asked Mark as he extended his hand to Aaron.

“At peace, now. He passed away last year.”

“I’m sorry to hear. I’m thankful for your just happening to be here at the right time.”

Thadd didn’t allow Aaron or Lucas to reply, “Mark, seems I won’t be the only one taking care of you and that thick skull of yours.” Thadd walked to stand beside Mark, placed his left hand on Mark’s shoulder, and with his right hand, knocked on Mark’s head. “Aaron has just joined the clinic as another physician.”

“Doc?” Seth asked, not knowing which one to address. “Would it be possible for me to see Lilah?”

Thadd and Aaron looked to each other and agreed, Aaron escorted Seth into the operating room.

*****

Even though the doctor stated it would be some time before Lilah regain consciousness, Seth didn’t want to leave her side, he insisted in being there when she woke.

Lou had just brought a tray with supper to the clinic for Seth when Lilah started to rouse. Ignoring the food, Seth held his wife’s hand and talked to her, encouraging her to wake up. Lou set the food on the desk in the room and quietly left.

“Seth?” Lilah mumbled.

“I’m right here,” he answered.

“What?”

“You had to have surgery. The doctor called it an appendectomy.”

“Oh…”

“Are you in pain? Should I get the doctor?”

“Only if he wants to see me…” Lilah replied.

Thadd entered the room followed by Aaron.

“I see our patient has finally decided to wake. How are you feeling Lilah?” asked Thadd.

“Not so sick to my stomach any more, and it’s a different kind of pain in my side…” Lilah answered.

“That’s to be expected,” Aaron replied.

“Who are you?” asked Lilah as she turned her head towards the new voice.

“Doctor Aaron Jamison.”

“Lilah, he’s the newest doctor here at the clinic. Had he not been here, your surgery wouldn’t have been as successful,” answered Thadd.

“Pleased to finally make a proper acquaintance with you,” Aaron spoke.

*****

While Seth stayed with Lilah, Aaron returned to the clinic office.

“I take it you’ve had a busy morning, if you’d like, I can take over responsibilities for the rest of today.”

“You don’t know how much I’d appreciate that. Sarah can fill you in on all our patients, but I’ll introduce you to Marcus and let you examine him.”

Thadd led Aaron to the room where Marcus rested and held off explaining his diagnosis to Aaron. He watched as Aaron examined Marcus on his own.

“I felt at least three broken ribs, he’ll probably have numerous contusions, a possible bruised lung. As for the leg, I’d say he dislocated it, as well as his shoulder. From what I could tell, you did a remarkable job in resetting them.”

Aaron stepped back and saw Thadd nod his approval.

“I take it you’d want to medicate him in another two hours for the pain?” Aaron asked.

“Yes, if you don’t mind, also I started writing everything down because I was getting too tired that I might forget, so just write down your observations and time that you administer any medicines.”

“We’re doing this back east. It was part of our training, not to rely too much on our brains to remember everything. ‘Observe it or Do it, and write it’, was what Dr. Wickert always preached,” Aaron stated as they returned to the office.

“If any of our citizens give you any problems, you have Sarah come and get me,” Thadd stated as he reached for his coat, planning to enjoy the evening with his family.

*****

Abigail finished washing the dishes from supper and grew concerned when she realized she no longer heard the squealing of her children playing with their father. She left the kitchen and smiled when she saw the two oldest curled up asleep on the couch on either side of her husband, who also slept. Abigail walked to the crib and peeked in on their youngest sleeping daughter.

*****

Thadd and Abigail’s children were put to bed when they finally turned in for the night. Thadd gave a brief laugh when he looked at the clock.

“What’s wrong?” asked Abigail.

“Nine thirty and I’m getting ready to relax and enjoy being in my bed before midnight.”

Husband and wife crawled under the covers and embraced each other.

“I hope Aaron will be accepted by folks,” hinted Abigail.

“I told him if he encountered any problems, to send Sarah for me. It’s pure heaven knowing there are two of us to look out for North Fork.”

Abigail rested her head to her husband’s shoulder and sighed. Thadd placed his hand to his wife’s chin, lifted it, and proceeded to passionately kiss her.

“Thadd, I thought you wanted to sleep,” Abigail commented when their lips parted.

“No, I said I wanted to relax and enjoy being in my own bed, and you Mrs. Burrage are the focus of my intended enjoyment. Abby, I’ve been neglecting you far too much, lately.”

“You’ve not been neglect…” Abigail’s words died on her lips as Thadd began kissing her again.

Both thoroughly lost themselves in their love making as they realized just how long it had been since they had shared such pleasures. Had either realized the depth of their desires, they would have been embarrassed beforehand, but neither thought on that, they eagerly responded to the sexual desire of the other, and the desire within their own body.

*****

It was well after mid-night when Thadd woke with a start and sat up in bed, unsure why he had woke.

“Thadd?” a sleepy Abigail called.

“Go back to sleep,” Thadd whispered.

Abigail sat up, “What’s wrong?”

“Guess I’m just used to not sleeping and my body isn’t used to sleeping through the night,” Thadd replied as he laid back down, his wife lying back down with him and pulling the sheet back over them.

“Thank you for last night,” Thadd whispered. “I’m sorry if…”

“Thadd, it’s been too long for both of us. I needed last night just as much as you did, don’t apologize.”

Thadd lifted himself to his elbow, leaned over and kissed Abigail, who in turn whispered, “Don’t start something you can’t finish,” and responded passionately.

****

Upon waking for the morning, Thadd watched the sun stream through window and shine on the sleeping form of his wife, under the sheet. He watched her chest rhythmically rise and fall, before he looked at the clock to see what time it was.

It wasn’t too long before Abigail woke and smiled at her husband, “Good morning.”

“A beautiful morning to wake next to a beautiful woman,” Thadd smiled in reply, resting his hand on his wife’s ribcage, while he was propped up on his elbow.

“You look so much more relaxed this morning,” Abigail answered.

“I feel relaxed. Why don’t we see Savannah to school this morning and then you can spend the morning here with Steven and Sadie. I’ll check on our patients and be home for lunch. Then this afternoon the children can go to the daycare and you can return to the clinic with me.”

“Sounds like a wonderful plan,” Abigail stated as she stretched herself long in the bed, raising her arms over her head, before she sat up and reached for her nightgown from the floor. As she sat back up, she felt Thadd’s hands massaging her back, causing her to sigh in appreciation.

“I told you last night, don’t start something you can’t finish,” Abigail teased.

“I know you did, but I just feel…”

“Doctor, heal thyself,” Abigail teased. “I’ve breakfast to fix so why don’t you wake our children.”

*****

Thadd returned to the clinic and read the notes Aaron had written. After examining Marcus for himself, he agreed that Marcus was improving and after checking in on Lilah he saw she was resting comfortably. As he came from Lilah’s room, Sarah McCafferty informed him that Aaron was out at the Tunneson home checking on Adam’s broken leg.

“Thadd?”

“Yes Sarah?”

“He is a blessing for us…” Sarah re-stated, “I mean a blessing for North Fork for him to arrive when he did.”

“Yes, Doctor Jamison is a blessing. I don’t know how much longer I could have continued without making a serious mistake.”

“He doesn’t even have a place to stay. Did you know he slept in one of the examination rooms last night?” Sarah blushed.

“Sarah, you’re blushing,” Thadd light-heartedly declared.

“Well, I always check the examination rooms when I arrive, to make sure everything is ready for the day. I didn’t know he was in there.”

“And,” asked Thadd.

“Well, I saw him putting on his shirt…” Sarah blushed even more. “I… I…”

Missing the point of Sarah’s blushing, Thadd stated, “This afternoon, why don’t you take Aaron over to the boarding house and see if they have a room for him. Afterwards, you should probably introduce him to John Hamilton at the bank, then Mrs. Donner over at the General Store...”

“Me?” Sarah inquired as her face turned red.

“Sarah, I have patients to tend to, and besides, you don’t want to give him the wrong impression about North Fork, do you?”

“No sir, I… I…

The Next Step — Blessed are Friends and Family

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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