Chapter 4: The Just-Right Exam

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The pounding in Rob's head woke him from a dazed sleep. The sensation of his naked skin rubbing against a scratchy wool blanket kept him from nodding back off.

"What the hell?" he mumbled to nobody in particular, though a woman with golden hair dangling from beneath a head covering was quick to answer.

"You're safe," she said. "You're in our home."

Rob tried to sit up in the tiny bed he had no memory of getting into. "Ow-wow-ow," he said, his head popping like a string of firecrackers. Rob rubbed the back of his aching skull, and though it hurt, there was no blood or dizziness. "Ouch. What happened?"

"We're not wholly certain." The woman leaned over to shift Rob's head back onto the lumpy pillow. Although her head covering was pinned tight beneath her chin, Rob still got a peek at what it hid: a mass of scar tissue that pulled the right side of her face taught. 

"My friends found you on the road, stripped of everything but your skin and teeth. I'm afraid you've been robbed. Hopefully you weren't carrying anything too valuable?"

Rob's hands shot up to his face. "My glasses," he moaned, noticing that everything beyond the blonde, scarred woman looked blurry as hell. "Damn it!"

"Please, sir!" she said. "Your language. We have a child."

"Golda," mumbled a small, yawning child who climbed into the woman's lap. "Why is the strange naked man still in my bed?"

The woman stroked his spiky, little-boy hair. "He's sick, Baby. He's not well enough to get up."

"When will he get up?" Baby asked.

"As soon as the new doctor arrives," Golda said. "Papa and Mama have gone to fetch him."

Papa. Mama. Baby. And Golda? Rob might not know where he'd woken up, but at least he knew which story he'd blundered into.

"I appreciate you sending for the new doctor," Rob said. "But I don't think there's much chance of him arriving when he's already here. You see, I'm Dr. Robert Henry Lang. Your name is Golda?"

"Well," Golda said. She appeared flustered, but only for a moment. "This is a surprise. What can we do for you, doctor?"

Rob lifted the covers to confirm that he was, indeed, completely naked. "Later, I'll need some help finding my way back to town. But first, do you have any clothes I could borrow?"

Predictably, nothing fit. The tunic was too large, the undershirt too small, and the thin leather shoes didn't make up for Rob's stolen clothes and glasses.

Golda sighed. "They're not quite right, I know, but we'll get you home soon. Rest, now. I'll make some breakfast."

Rob nodded, hiking up the large tunic as if it were a dress to sit on a tiny wooden stool, which promptly broke. Rob tumbled to the floor, and the crashing sound brought the young boy running.

"My stool!" he cried. "The strange naked man broke my stool!"

"Baby, it's all right," Golda said. "Papa will fix it for you. And it wouldn't break if you weren't jumping on it all the time."

"That wasn't me," he said, holding his hand over his left ear. "I think it was Mama who jumped on it."

"Oh, Baby, you know Mama wouldn't jump on your stool."

Rob picked up the broken pieces. He tried to jam the broken leg back into its hole, it wouldn't stand up under its own weight, let alone anybody else's.

"I'm sorry," Rob said. "I've caused you no end of trouble today."

Golda smiled. "You've caused some excitement, too, which is always welcome. We don't see many people, living so far from town. Baby, I think I heard Papa and Mama outside. Why don't you go help them in the barn?"

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