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 7

Dr. Decker Todd found his health good on November 6. It was not superb because it was Election Day, and, as always, Decker Todd despaired at what he called boobery on the ballot.

“Woodie,” he said. “I used the finest of neuro-surgical techniques on that candidate for Congress, Morris T. Otten, known as ‘Twit’ when we were in school together. I removed the pea he was using for a brain and substituted a BB thus qualifying him perfectly for his seat in the House. I did not vote for ‘Twit’ but other BB brains will return him to Washington. I did not vote for either Presidential candidate either. I voted only for Mastodon Brown, the incumbent dog catcher. Do you know Mastodon Brown?

“Yes,” said Woodie. “When do I get out of here?”

“Mastodon Brown is a success. He has not caught a dog since he first took office in 1919 which was when he came home from World War I in France. I was not born then, but they tell me that Mastodon ran on a platform which stated that all dogs were born free. He adheres to that platform to this day. Generations of dogs know it. Mastodon may be the only dog catcher in history who drives a cage truck that dogs follow by the pack. And no dog in Marterville would dare misbehave least he gets in Mastodon’s bad book. Mastodon is a leader of dogs particularly on the days he drives the garbage truck for the village and leaves the dog catching truck in back of Town Hall.”

Decker Todd turned to Connie and Ballard Kynwood Senior.

“Well, despite it being Election Day, I feel fine. So get your offspring dressed and out of here. I’ve done all I can for him. I have saved his life, restored his health, and all that stuff for which the doctor business is famous, and which you’ll forget by the end of next week.

“Don’t applaud, Woodie. You’ll embarrass me. But a small cheer if you insist …

“He can lead his normal, grubby, animal life and go back to school, all that. I’ll drop by now and then as I do not wish to lose a beautiful friendship. After all, the five and a half weeks or so that he’s been here isn’t a long period of time for injuries such as his. He could be adjusting for a year or more. All us famous doctors say that. Gives us a chance to leave town if the victim drops dead or something.

“Anyhow, Beetle will be working with him, and he can keep an eye on him. Actually, Beetle is a better all around doc than I am, but don’t tell him I said so. Any questions?”

“How about going out for basketball?” asked Woodie Junior.

“I don’t care if you go out for the girl’s wrestling team which is what I’d do. But I imagine you’re going to play catch-up with a lot of books first, unless you want to win first prize for stupid come next semester. Besides don’t ask me about your personal affairs. Don’t you have any parents? Who are these people? Get dressed. Get lost. You are now in the hands of strangers.”

“It seems silly to say thanks for all you’ve done, Decker,” said Connie. “We’ll keep an eye on him, and, as you say, Dr. Bailiff will be around …”

“For how long?” asked Ballard Senior.

“Yeah, it is silly,” said Dr. Todd. “And I don’t know how long Beetle wants to pursue his investigations. But if you’re changing your minds about his working with Woodie, I’m sure he’d understand.”

“I like working with Dr. Bailiff,” said Woodie Junior flatly.”

“I’d like to know just what it is you’re working on when you’re working that’s so fascinating,” grunted his father.

“You wouldn’t understand,” said Woodie loftily.

“I understand that you can’t get feet into shoes without untying the laces first to make room for them.”

“Well, we’re messing with dream telepathy some. When a person’s asleep another person can send him ideas or pictures by thinking real hard about them. Then when the person wakes up he tells what impressions he got when he was asleep.”

“I can see where that’s so wonderful. You take turns on naps.”

“We’re going to mess with equipment when I get working in his lab. He’s going to hook me up to an electroencephalograph and an REM detector to measure eye movements to see if I’m receiving loud and clear or if I’m out to lunch.”

“Is all that stuff good for your health? Doesn’t your head have to heal more? What do you think, Dr. Todd?”

“Can’t see how it would hurt anything, and maybe Beetle’s work would keep our all-star jock off the basketball court. Not that I care about that either if he doesn’t do all his rebounding with his skull. But let’s just see what it is Woodie feels like doing for awhile.”

“I feel like going home and eating peanut butter and apples,” said Woodie Junior.

“You can have anything you want, dear,” said his mother.

“And what you want is to get that notion out of your head right now,” said his father.

Woodie Junior grinned. “Once more into the breach, dear friends …” he said.

“That’s me,” said Ballard Senior. “And, what do you know, Shakespeare from my own son? I am delighted.”

“See you around,” said Dr. Todd, and vanished.

The Kynwood’s spent an instructive two hours checking out of the hospital, answering questions, signing forms, and waiting while five million medical bureaucrats talked to each other on the telephone, and wrote down long numbers on forms with no space to write in. When they finally left, Woodie Senior was red in the face and ready to play middle line-backer against Lary Czonka.

“Did you see that charge of $2.50 for a dime box of aspirin which nobody ever saw?”

“That’s how all the little hospital directors and their shady bookkeepers take from the rich to provide for the poor,” said Connie.

“I’m poor. Who’s poorer than I? And, if that’s their game why don’t they sit around in Sherwood Forest and slop ale on their green tunics between archery matches and deer hunts?”

“Suppose I had died?” muttered his son.

“Don’t talk like that, Woodie,” said Connie

“No cheaper. Probably soaked us double because their pride was hurt.”

“Maybe undertakers pay ‘em for new business.”

Connie Kynwood made an eek-eek.

“Will you two idiots stop it? And now! Let’s get home. I think I have both legs in one leg of my panty hose.”

“But do we have any peanut butter and apples?”

“Oh, Woodie, we’re so glad to have you out of that place, your father would chop down an apple tree for you.”

“And get charged for therapy at $15 per half hour plus rental of the landscaping at 68-cents per leaf, no doubt.”

“No doubt,” agreed Woodie Junior amiably. With his parents he was always home. The house itself was just sort of an extra. But he was glad to see it even if his room was picked up and tidy and smelled unused.

The winning game ball signed to Woodie Senior by his Purdue 1934 teammates and some Northwestern players as well as lying in the middle of his bed.

He closed the door behind him and stared at it. The winning game ball rose and moved from the bed to its usual place on top of his bookcase where it nuzzled a balsa model of a World War I Spad airplane. He changed his clothes from the school garb his mother had brought to the hospital against the day of his leaving into sneaks, jeans and a sweatshirt that Tinker Tubbs gave him for Christmas a year ago. It had ‘Property of the Notre Dame Athletic Department” stenciled on the back. Only thing was that it was clean.

He thought about calling Tinker Tubbs, but Tinker would be at practice, and he didn’t feel like watching practice if he couldn’t be part of it. Besides the coach wouldn’t want him hanging around until he’d talked to the coach, and the guys would be hollering at him and they’d get chewed out because they weren’t there to fool around, not after losing ball games, and the season had only three more games to go anyhow, and he didn’t feel like hiking to the field when he felt more like taking a little nap after he had a snack.

Woodie felt itchy and aware of himself and very selfishly private. He didn’t know that most people who have been ill and are not yet totally recovered are most conscious of themselves. Self is all we are, and when illness or some other reason makes us wary of the self, we get private and turn inward. We even get suspicious of our bodies right down to a muscle twitch. Is that old muscle working right? Is it going to hurt? How do I know that my head isn’t plotting to give me pain? What’s that growl in my stomach? How come my knees are knobby? What’re they up to? Something is wrong with me and it’s going to jump at me any moment.

Woodie was a sane boy. He was a strong one even without the power and pushed those feelings aside. Well, rats on me, he decided. I have business with peanut butter and apples.

They sat around after dinner that night and watched the election returns on television, although there was not much to that exercise of democracy.

“It was better by radio,” said Woodie Senior. “The greatest process in the world is the free expression of free people saying who they want to govern their country and the affairs which affect their lives. These TV clowns throw some kind of a sample opinion into a computer and tell you who’s elected before the ballots are counted, and maybe nobody’s voted yet in What Cheer, Iowa.”

“Will we see about BB brain and Mastodon Brown?” asked Woodie

“Not for three more days,” said his father. “When the Marterville weekly Free Flame burns once more on our doorstep. This show’s for presidents and senators and political parties.”

“Why don’t I make some cocoa?” asked Connie.

“With some pie and cheese,” added Woodie Senior.

“You just had dinner.”

“And a marshmallow on top of the cocoa,” said Junior.

“Why don’t I cook another dinner?” It was apparent after an hour of suffering the experts, that the incumbent president was elected by a landslide, probably the greatest majority of all times.

Ballard Senior was reflective.

“Makes you wonder about those dum-dums who broke into the Democratic National Headquarters to steal so-called campaign secrets back in July, doesn’t it? Obviously the president didn’t need any help from those klutzes. Well, they got all of the burglars, and not even the president’s opposition was able to stir up much fuss about the matter. Watergate … just one more political mystery, but you’d think the seven people involved would have been harder to catch … an ex-FBI fellow and a CIA type. You’d almost think they were maneuvered into being caught. Oh, well, I don’t think anybody’s sitting up nights thinking about Watergate. By golly, would you look at those returns? That’s some majority …”

“Somebody is sitting up thinking about Watergate,” said Woodie Junior.

“What makes you say that, son?” asked Connie.

“I don’t know,” said Woodie. “Just to say something I guess.”

“He had an ESP message,” said his father.

“Yeah, well the cocoa’s nice and sludgy anyhow, Mother, the way I like it best.”

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six 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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