by Carl L. Biemiller,
edited by C. J. Carnahan and Eric Biemiller

lightning Copyright © 2005 by Eric C. Biemiller

Please respect the copyrights.
The chapter links are located at the end of each chapter.
Chapter 5

Woodie Junior fought for his life that first week, and headed for regained health during the second. He slept deeply, often and sodden in the process. He was aware and sensible with his mother and father. Their presence was constant. Their love was abiding and tucked securely around him. He looked forward to Dr. Todd’s frequent visits for their needling cheeriness and dry-bone kookiness. He knew the affection, patience, peace, and a something else which Dr. Bailiff brought to his bedside. He was a good patient, and extraordinarily content. He was amusedly aware, however, that that nurse Mrs. Willoughbee and one of the young day nurses went about their business poised for instant launch.

“I’m happy with his condition, but the damn kid’s in hibernation,” said Decker Todd to the damn kid’s parents. “Maybe I’m jealous. I suffer from shorts in my sleeps.”

“Is that bad?” asked Woodie Senior.

“Awful. Makes me think of home and marriage and a house practice in the Canadian woods as soon as they hot up the winters up there.”

“Ah hah,” hummed Mrs. Kynwood. “There is someone in your life that cares.”

“The woman I’m going to marry if I don’t get more sleep. And I wish you’d stop coming on at me about your kid. I told you I was happy with him even if he does have Smoky the Bear blood. He has the constitution of a bullwhip, kinda shaped like one too. I might also add that Dr. Bailiff is pleased with his condition in case you think a medical doctor’s opinion is worth more than that of the world’s greatest surgeon.”

Decker Todd paused and looked over the Kynwood’s shoulders as they sat by Woodie’s bed with a view of his blanketed feet. He nodded and glanced at the opening door.

“But here’s the strolling mountain himself. Fret out your frets with him a lick. I’ve got to go hack and slash in the OR for a spell.” He assumed a duellist’s pose and grimaced fiercely. He made swishing motions with his right arm. “On guard, you rascals!” he shouted, and left them.

The young day nurse pottering about in an unobtrusive corner of the room crossed herself and made believe she was straightening out the uniform across her bosom.

“Hello, Doctor,” greeted Woodie Senior. “You ever think about couching that one?”

“Three sessions and guess who’d be the asylum?”

Dr. Bailiff walked over and put his giant’s hand on the boy’s forehead in a gesture so incongruously gentle that it brought a small smile to Connie Kynwood’s pale face.

“You talk with him today?” asked the doctor.

“A little bit about an hour ago,” answered Connie. “I think he’s comfortable,” she ventured tentatively.

“Oh, yes,” agreed Dr. Bailiff. “We’ve got that EEG off him, and next week, I think, he’ll be able to take food and we can get rid of the IV feedings although he’s holding his weight nicely. Decker’s right, you know. He is doing well, and I don’t see any signs now of possible after effects. At present? Well the boy’s simply regrouping. You could say that Woodie’s just staying out of the way and letting his body do the healing job.”

“Not throwing any remote control passes or anything?”

Reginald B. Bailiff allowed the purple glow in his eyes to focus a long moment on Ballard Kynwood’s suddenly haggard and most senior face.

“Why don’t you stop tearing at God and thank Him for a wonderful son that wasn’t killed ... and one that might be singularly gifted?”

“He’s my son, Doctor,” said Woodie Senior stiffly.

“Bah! No man owns his child. Ask your own father and his, and his father and his father … You are only permitted to share him, perhaps exclusively for a time and after that only diminishing portions of him if you are wise enough to make him a friend.”

Beetle Bailiff’s soft voice was a rolling drum.

“Face it. Do you fear his gifts if he is gifted because they might diminish your own ego? Do you fear strangeness because it is strange? Do you fear it because it might be socially unacceptable, because something you can’t control might reflect adversely upon you? Are you afraid for yourself or for your son?”

“Tell him to go to hell, Woodie, but in a nice way,” said Connie primly.

Ballard Kynwood Senior, in his own way, was a substantial man. “I don’t know exactly what I’m afraid of,” he said. “I just know I’m afraid. He allowed himself a wry chuckle. “As an art’s scholar, it occurs to me that there has never been a definitive biography of Joseph …”

“And none of Mary either,” said Connie blandly.

Beetle smiled upon them and shook his massive head. “That’s the sort of extreme imagination which feeds your discomfort. You’d flunk a student for such an analogy. Maybe you’re both hanging around here too much. We can cut visiting privileges, you know. But to answer your question about ESP manifestations. There have been none that I know of, and possibly the floating football has another explanation, some other ESPER even. There is threshold ability in all of us.”

“I think we’d better go home for a while. We’ll come back later. Big Woodie should be earning his pay, and we still have a lot of sorting out to do.”

“Good idea,” said Dr. Bailiff. “And remember, your worry can’t help your son at this stage of the game, and it might possibly harm him. I’ll be here for a time to sit with him, and maybe let the nurse go for a coffee break. Goodbye, Mrs. Kynwood, and goodbye, Mr. Kynwood.”

As they left the room, the doctor waved the nurse out behind them. He lowered himself gingerly into a bedside chair and picked up Woodie Junior’s thin, muscular hand which he held between his own. The room was very quiet. A dust mote from the windowsill picked up a microscopic dazzle of sun and floated away with it. The air was suddenly fresher than that discharged by the room vents. It held a spice touch of sandalwood. There was healing in the room and serenity.

“The precognition schedule moves along, but the dark forces grow greater. It is indicated that the Marterville boy is the one. He has acknowledged his power well but not yet the disciplines involved in its control. The boy is ill. He will need time. We need time, but we have enough, if none to waste.”

“The boy’s power is greater than clairvoyance foretold. Enough to attract attention and attack, perhaps, but he is in God’s hands, and under the care of one of our great ones. He heals well, and with our care and caution, quickly. The training will start soon. Guidance will be strong, but this is a colt that may not bridle easily.”

The sun was warm through the glass roof of the greenhouse which abutted the weathered brown fieldstone home that had been standing since the First City Troop rode patrols for Washington through the rolling Pennsylvanian country along the Schuylkill River. A tawny, firm bodied woman relaxed in a museum piece Morris chair which seemed as new as the day it arrived at the fieldstone house in a cart drawn hours from a Philadelphia factory. She had been potting sometime during the day, and red clay pots and a trowel rested upon a musty table of old flats. She had also been in the Morris chair for hours, a Watcher watching and receiving and sending.

The earth had tilted and spilled autumn along the Mall, and with it, a mild tang in the air like a memory of ripe apples. The shadow of the monument, its many marbles from many states, lay long in the day. The bearded young man, his buttonless, grass stained Army jacket tailing over faded jeans, picked up a clutch of the books he had ostensibly been studying undisturbed by park police for hours, and walked into encroaching dusk. His face looked like that of a medieval saint in some Renaissance painting, if medieval saints wore dime store sunglasses. He was a Watcher going off duty.

At the end of the third week in the hospital Woodie Junior came out of hibernation, and began to be Woodie Junior, and itchy, scratchy and feisty with it.

“Why can’t you ask Tinker Tubbs to come and see me? I don’t have anything he can catch.”

“Tinker Tubbs and half of that freshman squad want to come,” said Woodie’s mother. “But Dr. Todd says to wait another week. He says the hospital has to be prepared for their visit anyhow. Evacuated was the word he used. And he doesn’t want a lot of moaning and groaning to disturb the sick. He knows you lost the first two games.”

“Dr. Todd doesn’t run this hospital. He just works here.”

“Well, you tell him, dear, when you see him or have Tinker Tubbs write him a letter.”

“Where’s dad?”

“Working, and upset about it. He says sonnets demean him.”

Woodie Junior laughed.

“Well, he sounds right in the groove for him. Is Dr. Bailiff coming by today?”

“Yes, and he’s bringing something called Zener cards to play guessing games. He uses them in his work to see if people have the ability to read minds.”

“I know,” said Woodie absently.

“Do you think people can read minds?”

“Mother, what you’re thinking is can I read minds, and if I can, would I read your mind or dad’s. Dr. Bailiff told me that what it is that he does, and that he thinks that I have psi talents and wants to experiment with me. That’s okay. I like Dr. Bailiff. He’s nifty. He was all-pro for years with the Vikings, you know. Anyhow, if I were the champion weirdo of all time, I’d keep it a secret.”

“Why would you keep it a secret?”

“You think I want to get zapped? Being a super? Or a total freak out?”

“Don’t get all uptight, Woodie. You aren’t supposed to get excited until your head heals.”

“Be okay then, eh?” Come on, Mother. If your head’s all tough and working, it’s ok to be flaky. If it’s not, then be a quiet cube.”

“Woodie, it’s bad enough that you look like your father, but don’t start talking like him.”

“Will I have to make up all the school work I’m missing? Are you going down to the school and see what I have to do?”

“Will you stay on one subject? You have the attention span of a nit.”

“Are you going to hang around while Dr. Bailiff’s here?”

“Why don’t you stop jumping around?”

“I’m lying right here in this bed I ought to be doing leg lifts. The football season’s already bust, and I have to be in some kinda shape for basketball. The food’s pretty icky too and I’m probably off my weight. What are you and dad having for dinner?’

“Your father ordered humming bird tongues on saffron rice, but I got two TV dinners.”

“Tell pop to eat the cardboard too. It tastes just like the rest and it’s more filling. I had veal. That’s white meat from baby cows. No good. Terry Schwartz, the kid that bust out at center, his dad’s big at the Ag College and he says they take these baby cows and drain out all the blood so’s the meat’s absolutely white, and Italians like it with cheese, veal parmigiano, all the blood drained right out.”

“Well, you said it was no good otherwise, I’d go home and drain a baby cow for your father. You’re a fairly horrible kid, Woodie. Where did we go wrong?”

Woodie grinned at her.

“When’s Dr. Bailiff coming?”

Connie Kynwood rose and assembled her bag, jacket, and smoothed down her skirt.

“I don’t know, little boy, but I’m going,” she said.

“Tomorrow, Mom?”

“Right after leg lifts,” she promised and kissed him soundly goodbye.

All surgical operations take time for the patients to recover their health. Serious operations demand much time, and some patients never regain the totality of their health before alterations. The effects of serious brain surgery may endure for years. But all and any operations have a common effect on the patient for a time. They make them irritable, occasionally downright mean, and frequently stubborn. Doctors know all this. They also seldom talk about it. They just make their bills higher.

Woodie Junior, age fourteen was not any more irritable, mean or stubborn than any other adolescent male under normal circumstances. He had once punched Tinker Tubbs in the eye for no reason at all except that he felt like it at the time. Tinker Tubbs had calmed him down by whaling the heck out of him, handing him a skeed nose and a split lip in the calming process. Woodie had also slapped Mary Estell Luke out of sheer animosity although Mary Estelle Luke had spit into one of his test tubes during a vital home chemistry set experiment. Mary Estelle had calmed him down by kicking him in the shins with her brother’s paratroop boots that she happened to be wearing at the time. And for weeks she had refused to let him see her without pants when she was eleven before she moved away.

Woodie was feeling mulish when Dr. Bailiff arrived. He liked Dr. Bailiff. He was a polite boy by inclination and training, but just the same he felt scratchy.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Chapter Twenty Three Chapter Twenty Four Chapter Twenty Five Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven Chapter Twenty Eight Chapter Twenty Nine Chapter Thirty
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