Another thing she couldn’t help seeing, which she couldn't ignore, was a red star neon sign blinking on and off. Taken from a defunct reservation gas station, it pulsed its gleams across the room and Tall Chief’s bed.
Nurse Ron watched her look things over, then glanced at a huge pile of books by the bed and took the opportunity to complain to his superior. “I just don’t have time to read all that to him and do his therapy, feeding, drugs, and progress reports. He’s always asking me. Tetrahedral physics, chaos theory, nano technology, even something called “Waves of Infinitude: Human Body Radio Frequencies and Vital Auras ” by Dr. Lana Tao-Cantrell. I don’t understand a thing, but he seems to.”
Dinwiddie smiled her DSHS smile, which she used on young and lazy underlings who didn't know what real nursing and real work were. “He’s a bright one. You have to try to indulge him, that’s all.” She paused, and her expert, upbeat expression dropped a notch. “Maybe he’s just trying to wind things up a bit,” the voice of DSHS experience observed. “Doesn’t have all the time in the world, you know.”
Catching the drift from his superior, the nurse’s eyes showed he felt about Gabriel’s chances, then recovered. He went and picked up Gabriel’s message board, a reader with colored magnetic lettering all set out making his latest “Message to the World.” He handed it to Dinwiddie.
Dinwiddie examined Gabriel’s coded language, D-U-B-E-S-O-R, and wisely deferred to the nurse.
“What does it mean?” she asked brightly.
Ron had no compunction about exposing his utter ignorance before a superior. “I dunno. But I’d guess he means something to do with his alphabet champions.”
“Yeah, he’s got this thing about the alphabet, ever since he mastered his sign language, and his heroes all carry a certain letter.”
Now the DSHS rep had heard about everything after so many years in her line of business, but this was stretching the limits of her experience. She found herself patient-challenged, and she didn’t like being in that position. Patients who couldn’t be “pigeon-holed,” to put it crudely, were liable to make power plays on the staff and DSHS and manipulate them both for all they were worth. No, she had to find just the right hole for this particular pigeon, and so she kept asking.
“What? His heroes all come lettered--like A, B, C? Are you serious?”
Nurse Ron seemed hurt for a moment. Bluff and outspoken, he hid an unprofessional sensitivity that the rep already knew was there and tried hard to overlook, since that was a non-professional weakness in her book. She let the nurse break the strained quiet.
“Yeah, but these alphabet champions just finish the game. How it gets started is--is--I just don’t get it. Some ship called TITANIC is supposed to sink somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Only he says it’s going to happen in 1912. If it happened so long ago, why should he be worrying about that now? He’s making a big deal over nothing, if you ask me. It’s all over , so why not forget it and move on?”
Dinwiddie took a last sip from her cup and dropped it in a wastebasket (or close to it anyway) along with her entire interest in a subject that was going utterly nowhere fast. Her busy eye roved across the Blue Room again. The neon star made her uncomfortable so she tried not to look at it.
As for various Tall Chief pictures, one was old and weathered-looking, the Rosebud Indian school with its huge trumpet-shaped escape tube reaching from the cement block building’s second level to the muddy, glass-littered ground.
In front on the steps stood a spectacled, bow-tied white BIA teacher and fifteen or twenty glum-faced Indian boys and girls--Gabriel’s brother (now deceased from a hunting accident or something) standing a head taller than the others. “The Tall Chiefs are well-named,” she observed. Too bad their life expectancy was so iffy. Too bad--but she knew very well she lived on those low life expectancies!
“I just don’t get it,” the nurse went on doggedly with a dead question. “I can only guess he’s been making up a lot of pretty intricate things in his mind--and these books are somehow grist for the mill. Maybe the kid thinks he has something important to say to us--the world, I mean. Can you beat that, Ms. Dinwiddie? What could it be?”
“Interesting thing, the human imagination,” Dinwiddie observed in a cultivated tone judges in flower shows use on rare species of orchids. “Just try to bear with him AND his little game-playing for the time being and the phase will pass sooner or later.” She slid off her padded stool and landed on rather flat feet. “Well, I must be going, Ronnie boy,” she said briskly in her normal, raspy, all-business, professional DSHS voice, failing to see how he had winced at “Ronnie boy.” “He seems all right to me--you’re doing just great with him, and keep up the good work.”
Dinwiddie hurried out to check at various other nursing stations. Even a couple days made major changes in this home and hospice for terminal, degenerative diseases. Despite meticulous hourly tabs, you could never tell how long any of them would last. All were cases like poor, little Gabriel, who showed some real spunk but hadn’t much else going for him.
Left alone with the patient, the troubled professional in the Blue Room tried to finish an over-due report, but he wasn’t making progress. Tall Chief’s head twisted uncannily owllike and round at him. He was eye-signing again.
“Christmas! Christmas! Read me?” the dark, expressive eyes urged.
The harried nurse reached for a book on chaos theory that lay within the pale of the pulsing red star.
“Negative!” signed this teen-age volcano. “Read me, exponential stupid! Christmas!”
“Christmas? It’s a couple months away, and I don’t want to think about it right now! Are you going crazy on me, Gabriel? If you don’t want me to read you something, maybe Frank Sinatra and the Muppets’ Las Vegas show on video? Give it a chance so I can get something done while you watch. All the other kids are crazy about it.”
“No time! Christmas! Christmas!” Gabriel’s peepers practically shouted.
The nurse shook his head. It was beginning to feel like it might split.
“I can’t figure out what you mean, Gabriel. You have to explain what you mean. You’re not a book, you know. Just saying Christmas doesn’t make any sense to me at all!”
Gabriel’s eyes, in response, took on even more intense fire, riveting Ron’s attention. They looked rather "too Indian, too untamed" at that moment and made him feel uneasy.
The very next moment something happened that seemed to startle Tall Chief himself. From his eyes shot two violet-colored beams shaped like arrows. The arrows met and became one shining spear a few feet from his face, casting a glow over both his face and pillow.
“Hey!” the nurse blurted out, jumping up like his stool was electrified. Dropping the clipboard, he rushed to the bedside. The spear of light suddenly shot toward him. Before he could raise his hand to shield himself, it caught him smack in the face and eyes. The vast gulf between nurse and dying patient in the Blue Room vaporized in an instant. Time switched to fast rewind, and Ron saw what Gabriel was seeing--a great liner in dry-dock looming over gray, rain-beaten shipyards...
NOW ARE YOU READY TO PROCEED TO CHRONICLE ONE AND THE COMING OF THE ALIEN ENTITY?
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