Oscar and Rudy sat in Rudy’s office in his California lab. “So what time are we due at Helen and Jim’s?” Oscar asked nervously.
“Steve said for us to be there around noon, Helen is making lunch, then Steve will return here with us for his tests.”
“That sounds good. Maybe you should go to Ojai yourself.” Oscar’s face indicated he was scared at the prospect of another trip that may find them back in time once again.
Rudy glanced down at his watch “Well its 11:00 now, by the time we get there it will be close to noon. I’ll drive if you want.”
Oscar stood and gathered up a couple of files he wanted Steve to glance at over lunch. “That will be ok I guess but we are not stopping till we get to the ranch. Every time we do…”
“It does seem that way; I’m not going to reassure you that it is not within the realm of possibility.” Rudy grabbed his car keys and they headed out to Rudy’s car.
“I mean it Rudy if we do stop I’m not getting out of this car.” Oscar slid into the passenger seat as they made their way past the gate guard.
“We won’t be long.” Rudy said as the guard raised the gate allowing them out of the complex.
“See you later Dr. Wells, Mr. Goldman.” The guard waved as they headed out onto the street.
Rudy continued to drive toward Ojai. They had just pulled into town when Rudy’s car began to sputter. “Uh oh” he turned toward Oscar. “I’m Out of gas.”
“Can’t we make it to the ranch?” Oscar hoped.
“I don’t think so. There’s a gas station I’ll just pull in real quick and fill up.” Rudy looked over toward Oscar whose face had gone white. “Don’t worry Oscar it will only take a minute.” Rudy assured.
While Rudy filled the gas tank Oscar refused to get out of the car. “You know you could save us time if you were to go inside and pay for the gas. I’ll stay by the car.”
Reluctantly Oscar headed inside to pay for the gas.
He had just handed the man his money when he heard a familiar voice behind him “Excuse me?” Rudy asked. “Where is your wash room? My hands smell like gas.”
“Right over there.” The man pointed as he handed Oscar his change.
Oscar ran over to where Rudy was standing. “I thought you said you would watch the car while I paid for the gas.”
“I’m sorry Oscar you heard what I said…”
“Yea and you know as well as I do that you could have washed your hands after I got back or once we got to Helen and Jim’s.”
“This really bothers you doesn’t it?” Rudy opened the door to the restroom and stepped inside.
“You know it does!” Oscar shouted. “I felt if we kept an eye on the car it wouldn’t disappear this time.”
“You worry too much.” Rudy laughed. He finished washing his hands and the two of them stepped out of the gas station.
“See Oscar the car is right there where I left it.” Rudy pointed. “Oh wait I left the keys on the sink in the rest room I’ll be just a second.
Oscar stared at the car. He wouldn’t take his eyes off of it. ‘Maybe, just maybe’ He thought to himself. ‘Maybe we’ll make it this time.’
“There we are.” Rudy called out as he joined Oscar on the sidewalk. Oscar turned toward him. “You found them?”
Rudy nodded. “Yes right here. Now let’s get in the car and head for Helen and….”
Both men stared in astonishment. Rudy’s car was gone. The gas station they had just come out of was gone. They were out in the middle of nowhere.
They walked up to the road which was about 20 feet in front of them. The sign read Ojai 3 miles.
“Well I guess we walk from here.” Rudy stuffed his keys in his pocket. “Wonder why we’re here this time.”
“I knew I should have gotten in the car while you went back in. I just knew it.” Oscar grumbled.
“Oscar. Would you please stop complaining? There is a reason for us being here.” Rudy reminded. “It usually means Steve is in some sort of danger.”
“Yea I know. I just hate it when this happens.” Oscar trudged up the road beside Rudy. “I suppose we need to find out what year it is, then find Steve.”
Rudy nodded as they entered the town. “Look for a news stand or some place that might have a calendar “
“Sure Rudy.” Oscar began looking all around for both Steve and something that would give them the date.”
“Oscar. Over here.” Rudy called. Oscar joined Rudy as he stood outside the Ojai bank. “Come on.”
Oscar followed him inside. There were several people walking around. Rudy walked over to a small counter where deposit/withdraw slips sat. There was a sign posted above them:
Today’s date: Friday, May 5th 1950
“1950. That would make Steve” Oscar thought for a moment “about eight?”
“That would be about right.” Rudy sighed. “We better head for the ranch and see if we can…”
“Oh I’m very sorry.” The woman who had just bumped into Rudy apologized. “Say wait I know you!” Helen cried. She grabbed at Rudy. “You saved my baby’s life.”
“Yes Mrs.” Rudy remembered the date. But at the same time remembered he hadn’t seen her since Steven was four. “Mrs. Austin. That’s right.”
“It’s Elgin now. I got married a couple of years ago.” Helen informed then.
“Well that’s wonderful.” Oscar broke in. “How is Steven anyway?”
“Oh he’s fine. He didn’t seem to have any problems from either incident.” Helen referred to Steven’s nearly drowning and his ingesting the rat poison. “But of course you two know all that.” She began looking around. “Where is he anyway?”
“He’s not with us this time.” Rudy told her.
“Oh that’s too bad. I rather like seeing my boy all grown up, and yet still have him as a little boy at the same time.”
“That must make for some interesting conversation.” Oscar replied.
“No. I’ve never told a sole. They wouldn’t believe me if I did.”
“Where is young Steven?” Rudy asked.
“He’s in school. I have to get home he’ll be getting there soon.” Helen thought for a moment. “Would you do me a favor?”
“We could try.” Oscar smiled.
“I have some errands to finish here in town. Do you mind going out to the ranch and being there when Steven comes home?”
“Not at all we would love it.” Rudy agreed.
“Thank you so much. Usually Jim is there when Steven gets of the bus but he’s out of town for the weekend on business.”
“I see. Don’t worry we’ll take good care of him.” Rudy assured.
“I have no doubt bout that.” Helen gave his hand a squeeze. “You know where the ranch is?”
Rudy nodded. “We’re on our way.”
“He usually gets home from school around 3:30.” Helen told them
“It takes that long on the bus.” Oscar wondered.
“He doesn’t take the bus. He walks home with a friend who lives up the road from us. They say the bus is for babies.”
“Oh I see.” Rudy smiled to himself. “The only problem is we don’t have a car.”
“Oh I see. Well let me give you a ride, I can come back into town.” Helen led them in the direction of her car.
“Thank you.” They spoke together.
“No problem.” Helen drove them out to the ranch “I won’t be much past 4:00 myself. I need to get dinner started.”
“Don’t worry Mrs. Austin…”
“Please, it’s Helen.” Helen corrected.
“Ok then, Helen. We’ll take good care of you son.” Rudy assured.
“I have no doubt about that.” Helen left Rudy and Oscar to tend her son.
“Hey Steven!” Stuart Rimes called. “Where are you going?”
“I know a short cut.” Eight-year-old Steven called over his shoulder. “I found it yesterday.”
Stuart caught up to him “Are you sure?”
Steven nodded. “Yea come on.” He led the way down the street from the school.
“Maybe we should go the regular way.” St suggested.
“No really it gets us home five minutes faster.” Steven exclaimed.
“Well ok then.” Stuart walked close to his friend. “It really gets us home that much quicker.”
“Steven nodded. “Say maybe you could stay at my house and watch TV.” Steven smiled.
“TV. When did you get TV? ”Stuart’s eyes almost popped out of his head.
“Last night.” Steven was still smiling.
“I’ll call my mom from your place.” Kevin stepped onto the road he and Steven needed to cross to get to Steven’s house.
Steven watched as the car came from out of nowhere. It struck Stuart sending him catapulting several feet in the air.
Steven glanced down at the Stuart then at the car that was now speeding up the road.
Steven ran to his friend who remained motionless on the road. Again he looked for the car hoping they would come back.
After several minutes Steven ran all the way to his house.
Oscar and Rudy heard him come in, but never saw him. Steven ran straight up to his room and slammed the door.
“I see our friend hasn’t changed.” Oscar smiled at Rudy.
“Yea I think I’ll just go see if he’s all right.” Rudy headed up the stairs. He knocked on Steve’s door and entered. He was shocked by what he saw. Steven sat on the edge of the bed staring blankly into space. He didn’t even acknowledge that anyone had entered the room. It unnerved Rudy to see him this way …
Rudy moved closer to him and sat on the edge of the bed. “Steven?” He called as he put his arm around the boys trembling shoulders. “Are you all right son?”
Steven didn’t respond he merely continued to stare into space.
“If something is bothering you, you need to tell someone about it.” Rudy continued.
Steven turned his head slightly. “Who are you? Where’s my mom?” Steven barely whispered.
“She had some errands to run, she should be home soon.” Rudy assured. “I know you don’t know us, but we’ve met you before, when you were younger.”
Again Steven turned away and stared out the window.
“What’s so interesting out there?” Rudy wondered.
Steven was lost again. He refused to say another word.
Rudy gave him a light pat on the back “you just rest then. Your mother will call when dinner is ready.”
Rudy watched, perplexed as Steven stood from his sitting position then made his way across the room to the window. Rudy followed him. “You really need to talk about what’s bothering you.” Again he put his hand on the boy’s still trembling shoulder. “But maybe you’d rather discuss it with your mother huh?”
Steve gave a slight shrug as he continued to stare blankly out the window.
Rudy started to leave the room. Before closing the door he again glanced in the direction of his friend. He didn’t see the boy standing by the window; he saw the adult Steve and then the boy. He couldn’t help but feel a little resentment toward Helen. In his world Rudy would have been the first person Steve would open up to, but now he had to ‘share’ this with the boy’s mother.
Rudy left the room and headed down stairs. “How’s Steve?” Oscar asked more out of a force of habit.
“I’m not sure Oscar. Something is troubling him. I just hope he opens up to Helen when she gets back.” Rudy gave a sly smile. “I’m actually kind of jealous he won’t open up to me.”
“He doesn’t know you Rudy. I guess in his mind we’ve never met.”
“Yea I suppose you’re right. Maybe he’s always like this when he comes home from school.” Rudy observed.
“Like what?” Oscar wondered just what had gone on upstairs.
“Well.” Rudy began. “He’s so distant…maybe that’s because his mother wasn’t here, but I have a feeling its more than that, and that’s why we’re here.”
Oscar nodded then both men turned toward the door as Helen pushed her way in her arms full of grocery bags.
“Here Helen” Rudy walked over to her “let me take those.” He took the bags from her and followed her into the kitchen.
“Thank you. Just set them down on the table. I was planning on a roast for dinner, but I won’t have time. I hope you gentlemen like hamburgers.”
“Anything will be just fine Helen.” Rudy assured.
“Good where’s Steven? I expected to see him and Stuart in front of the television. He asked this morning if Stuart could come over.” Helen pulled the package of meat from one of the bags.
“He’s up in his room.” Rudy explained. “In fact he came home alone.” Rudy thought for a moment before he spoke. “He seems a little preoccupied. I was wondering if he was always that way.”
“No he’s usually very active after school. He usually three of four cookies and a glass of milk…he didn’t have any.” Helen noted the empty sink where her son usually placed his empty glass
“No he didn’t, he went straight up to his room. I tried to talk to him, but I didn’t have very good luck.” Rudy sighed.
“I’ll talk to him during dinner. Maybe he’s upset because Jim isn’t here. He and Jim have gotten very close.”
That could be it.” Rudy reasoned.
“Dinner will be just a few more minutes then I’ll go get him.” Helen walked up to her son’s room. “Steven honey its time for dinner.” She tapped lightly on his door.
After several attempts and receiving no answer Helen pushed opened the door herself..
“Hey sweetie” Helen called out him. “How was school?”
Steven shrugged his shoulders and walked slowly toward the door.
Helen caught up to him. “Steven. Are you all right?” She sounded very concerned about he only son.
He didn’t even glance at her. He just started downstairs.
“Steven honey, please tell mama what’s wrong.” She followed him down the steps.
Steven didn’t answer he stuffed his hands in his pockets and headed into the kitchen. Rudy and Oscar were already at the table.
“Hey Steven” Oscar patted his back. “How are you?”
Without a word Steven took his place at the table.
“You didn’t answer me before honey.” Helen said once they were all seated at the table. “How was school today?”
“Fine I guess.” The words were barely audible.
“Is everything ok?” Helen asked concern rising in her voice. Steven was usually quite talkative at dinner. Always ready to share the day’s events. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you got home. But I had some things to do in town.” Maybe he was upset because there were two strange men here when he got home.
“That’s ok.” Steven whispered as he picked up his hamburger, but rather than taking a bite, he stared at it as he turned it over again and again in his hands.
“Steve!” Helen chided. “Don’t play with your food!”
“I’m not hungry anyway.” Steven laid the hamburger back down on the plate and stood from the table. “I’m going to my room.” He whispered.
Helen watched as her son left the kitchen. She heard his footsteps as he ascended the steps.
“I just don’t understand.” Helen turned to the two men sitting across from her. “Can you help him?”
“I will as soon as I figure out what the problem is.” Rudy assured.
“I just wish he would tell us.” Helen started to clear the dishes from the table. “He is usually such a lively boy.”
“I know that.” Rudy stood and walked over to her. “You know Oscar and I both have a very strong interest in Steve, even as a young child. Anything that happens to him as a boy could directly affect the man that we have come to know.”
“Please. Do what you can.” Helen pleaded.
Rudy left the kitchen and headed upstairs to check on the child who if everything played out right would one day become one of his most important patients.
He grasped the doorknob and stepped into Steven’s bedroom. “Your mother sent me up to see if I could help you.” Rudy walked closer to him. “She’s worried about you. Did something happen in school today?”
Steven didn’t respond, he didn’t even look in Rudy’s direction. Fearing that the boy may be ill Rudy reached over and touched the boy’s forehead. No, he didn’t have a fever.
“You know son, it always helps to talk.” Rudy sat in chair next to the boy’s bed.
Steven again turned toward the window and stared out at the on coming darkness.
“I can’t help you if you don’t let me in.” Rudy coaxed. Then he again reminded himself that this Steve had no idea who he was. “I realize I’m a stranger to you but like I told you. Your mother asked me to come up here and talk to you.” Rudy took the boy’s chin gently in his hand and turned his face toward his own. “Please talk to me.”
Rudy stared into the deep blue eyes that seemed to be looking right through him rather than at him. Then they glazed over and Rudy was afraid Steve was gone for good emotionally speaking.
Oscar was standing outside the door when Rudy stepped out. “Is he all right?”
Rudy shook his head. “No Oscar I’m afraid not. I just can’t seem to break down the wall.”
“Wall. What wall?” Oscar wondered.
The wall he’s built up around himself.” Rudy sighed.
“Is it bad?” His voice was low but at the same time shrill Rudy could tell he was very scared for the boy who would later become a valued friend.
“I’m afraid it could be.” Rudy muttered as to not draw Helen’s attention.
“Can you help him? I mean every other time we have found ourselves in this position we have been able to help him.”
“I know, but this is different. Steven isn’t having a physical problem. It’s an emotional one, I don’t know if it’s within my realm or not.”
“I see. Maybe we shouldn’t leave him alone.” Oscar suggested.
“I know. But I think he’ll be alright for a few more minutes…” Rudy paused for a moment. “It’s almost as if he’s had some sort of trauma.” He finished. The two of them headed downstairs to inform Helen of her son’s condition.
“What sort of a trauma?” Helen demanded.
“I don’t know.” Rudy sighed. “I’ll do what I can.”
“I’ll appreciate anything you do.” Helen sobbed.
They were all startled by the doorbell ringing. Helen went to answer it.
“Sheriff Bragg? What brings you here?”
“Evening Mrs. Elgin, is Jim around?” The Sheriff replied.
“No he’s not, he’s out of town. He’ll be back later tonight. What’s the problem?”
The sheriff stepped into entryway. “I need to speak with you but…”
“What’s the trouble?” Rudy interrupted.
The sheriff breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Helen had visitors.
“Look why don’t you come in and have a seat.” Helen offered. “I can make some coffee.”
“No. That won’t be necessary, but I will come in.” The group made their way into the living room
“Now why don’t you tell me what this is all about?” Helen urged.
“It’s about the Rimes boy.” The sheriff started
“Stuart?” Helen responded
“Yes, Stuart. If you don’t mind could I speak with Steven?”
“Why?” Rudy asked.
The Rimes boy was hit by a car coming home from school. Donna Rimes said that he and Steven usually walked home from school together. You see the driver left he scene. I was hoping Steven could tell us something about the accident.
”Yes Steven and Stuart do walk home from school together; in fact I expected to see him here when I got home this afternoon.”
“Really?” The sheriff wondered.
“Yes. Steven asked if Stuart could come over this afternoon to watch television. I said he could.”
“I see.” Sheriff Bragg replied.
“You said the boy was hit by a car. How badly was he injured?” Rudy wanted to know.
The sheriff turned from Rudy and Oscar to Helen, then back to the two men. “May I speak to the two of you?”
They left Helen in the living room while they stepped into the dinning room “I’m sorry there is no easy way to say it.” The sheriff began. “Stuart Rimes was killed by a hit and run driver.”
“Well you can’t see Steven right now.” Rudy explained. “We have been wondering about what’s troubling him. Now I know. He’s in shock if you’ll excuse me?” Rudy brushed past the sheriff and darted upstairs. Oscar was at he heels.
“What is it Rudy?” Oscar wondered when they were in Steven’s room.
“He’s had a traumatic shock Oscar.” Rudy explained. “If we can’t bring him out of it he may be this way for the rest of his life.”
Oscar looked at Steven sitting on the edge of the bed staring blankly into space. “Come on Rudy…”
“I’m serious Oscar. Sometimes people are even committed to institutions for this very problem…”
Oscar could only stare at Rudy in disbelief. “What do we do?” He asked when he was finally able to speak.
“I’m not sure. First I have to see just how far gone he is.” Rudy muttered.
“How far gone?” Oscar questioned.
Rudy nodded. “Yes…”
He was about to say more when Helen walked into the room. “How is he?” She asked as she stared in astonishment at her son.”
“That’s what I was just about to find out.” Rudy told her. “Do you have a flashlight?” Rudy requested.
“Yes I do.” Helen stepped out of the room and headed downstairs. She searched through the junk drawer and found what she was looking for. She rushed it upstairs and handed it to the Dr.
“Thanks.” Rudy took it from her and shined it directly into Steven’s eyes. Oscar could tell by the look on Rudy’s face that he didn’t like what he saw.
“Listen Helen” Oscar began. “It might be a good idea if we kept Steve as warm as possible. Could you round up some extra blankets?”
“Yes, of course.” Helen left to fill the request.
“Good thinking Oscar. It’s worse than I thought.” Rudy turned out the flashlight and set it on the bed side table.
“What is it Rudy?” Oscar looked from the boy back to the doctor.
“There is no response at all.” Rudy whispered as to not attract attention from Helen.
“What do you mean no response?” Oscar pressed.
“Here let me show you.” he lifted the flashlight back up and again shone it in Steven’s eyes. “See, the pupils don’t retract.”
“Huh?” Oscar responded
“They should get smaller to block out the light.” Rudy explained.
“I still don’t get what you’re saying.” Oscar looked at the Dr. who remained on the edge of Steven’s bed.
“He’s not seeing the light.” Rudy reported bluntly.
“Oh.” Oscar responded. “That’s not good.”
“No it’s not. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach him. Oscar he’s catatonic.” Rudy continued to whisper.
Oscar sat in the chair next to the bed. “Are you sure?”
Again Rudy nodded. “I wish I weren’t. Most of the time people never come out of it.” Rudy went on.
“You mean he could be like this for the rest of his life?”
“I think we have discussed this topic. Yes Oscar this condition could be permanent.”
Oscar reached out and rubbed the boy’s hand. “Hang in there Steve. I know you’re in there somewhere.” Oscar tried to assure himself. “What are you going to do?”
“Well…” Rudy stopped talking when Helen entered the room.
“I found all the blankets I could.” Helen reported as she reentered the room
“That’s good.” Rudy smiled. He took the pile of blankets from Helen then laid Steven back on his pillow and began to cover him with them Rudy took hold of Steven’s wrist and began counting the pulse beats.
“Is there anything else I can do Dr?” She asked
“Yea, call me Rudy.” He pointed to Oscar. “And he’s Oscar.”
“Very well I know you helped my baby once. I’ll just let you do what ever it is you do. And I’ll stay out of your way.”
“I’d appreciate that Helen.” Again Oscar could tell Rudy was not pleased with the outcome of his examination of his young patient.
“What is it now Rudy?” Oscar asked after Helen left.
“His pulse is very weak.” Rudy’s voice remained low. “It’s too weak, I don’t like it.”
“Isn’t just an effect from his being catatonic?” Oscar inquired.
Rudy shook his head. “Not really.”
“What else is happening then?” Oscar reached down and clasped Steven’s hand in his own. He knew it wouldn’t help, but it made him feel better.
“I really don’t have an answer to that. It’s like he’s completely slipping away from us.”
“Slipping away?” Oscar continued to hold Steven’s small hand in his own.
Rudy nodded. “I just wish I new why. I do know he needs nourishment. He didn’t eat much dinner. Maybe I can get Helen to make him some soup. If he refuses to eat I’ll have to rig up some sort of IV.”
“Like you did before?” Oscar set Steven’s hand back down under the blanket and moved over to where Rudy stood.
“It worked last time. I look at is as a last resort though.” Rudy told him.
“Well let’s hope you don’t have to use it. I’ll stay with him if you want to go inform Helen of what’s going on.”
“I think I’ll do that. I won’t be to long. Let me know if responds to anything at all.” Reluctantly Rudy left the room so he could give Helen the status on her son’s condition.
“…Will he be all right?” Helen asked.
“I really don’t know Helen. He’s very weak right now, and I don’t know why.” Rudy held her hand as they spoke. “When will Jim be back?”
“He should be home later tonight.” Helen couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.
“I wish I could tell you he’s going to be all right, but I just can’t right now.”
“I understand. Even if he gets his strength back there is not guarantee he’ll ever be the same right? Helen wanted to know.
“That’s right. Do you think you could fix him some soup? Mostly broth I just feel I need to get something into him.”
“Of course I’ll fix it and bring it right up.” Helen promised.
“That’s good. I’ll be in his room.” Rudy headed back up the stairs
“Well.” He asked as he entered the room.
“No change Rudy.” Oscar muttered. “I don’t think he’ll ever come out of this.”
Rudy moved closer to the bed. Steven’s eyes were open but remained unfocused and unblinking Again Rudy shone the flashlight into his eyes and again they didn’t respond.
“Rudy, depending on how long he’s like this. Could it impact him later in life?”
“There is always that possibility.” Rudy sighed.
“How long would he have to be this way for it to have a profound effect?” Oscar wondered.
Rudy thought for a moment “at least a week.”
“So if he comes back to us in less than a week, he’ll be ok?”
Rudy nodded. “But don’t hold me to that.”
“I won’t.” They turned to the door as they watched to doorknob slowly turn.
Helen slipped into the room with the bowl of soup. “Here you go.” She proclaimed.
“Thanks.” Rudy reached for it. “Now let’s see if we can get some of this into him.” He held the bowl with one hand and the spoon in the other. “Come on Steven try some.” He coaxed.
He pressed the full spoon up to Steven’s mouth. “Come on Steven” Rudy urged. Steven’s lips refused to part to allow the nourishing food inside him.
Rudy handed the bowl to Oscar. “Here hold this for a second.
Oscar held the soup in his hand while again Rudy pressed the spoon to Steven’s mouth. With his free hand he parted the boy’s lips and slowly poured the soup broth inside.
“Now, we see if he swallows it.” Rudy looked up at Oscar.
“If he doesn’t?” Oscar knew the answer.
“Then I have to go with an IV. Go tell Helen we may need a hot water bottle. That is if they have one.”
“Ok I’ll be right back.” Oscar left the room and went downstairs to full fill Rudy’s request.
“Oscar. This is my husband Jim.” Helen introduced before she rose from the table and went to hunt for the hot water bottle.
“Tell me. How is my son?” Jim sounded very concerned.
“The Dr. is with him. He’s kind of in the dark as to what to do for him. But right now, tge dr. feels it’s necessary to get nourishment into him.”
“I see.” Jim responded. “How are you going to do that?”
“With an IV, that’s what the hot water bottle is for.”
“They have those at the base hospital.” Jim reminded.
“We are trying to avoid the hospital. We are afraid that in the condition he’s in they will take him to an institution “Oscar explained.
“Well maybe his mother and I should make that decision.” Jim whispered.
“Give Dr. Wells a chance.” Oscar pleaded.
“Here you are Oscar.” Helen appeared a moment later with the hot water bottle. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“We’ll let you know.” Oscar was ready to take the hot water bottle to Rudy when Jim spoke up.
“Helen. Don’t you think we should take Stevie to the hospital?”
“No Jim. I trust these two. They helped him once before.” Helen gave Jim a gentle pat on the shoulder. “He’ll be all right.”
Oscar returned to Steven’s room with the hot water bottle. “Here Rudy” He handed it to him.
“We may not need it. It was slow, but the broth went down. He didn’t actually swallow it on his own. It more or less slid down itself. He’s finished most to the broth anyway.”
“Well that’s good.” Oscar allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief.
Just as Rudy set the half empty bowl of broth on the bedside table the door flew open and Jim burst in.
“That boy needs to be in a hospital!” He shouted. “I’m taking him there right now!”
“Jim you can’t do that.” Helen was close behind him. “Let Rudy help him.”
“Helen can’t you see there is no help.” Jim blurted out.
“And if you take him to the hospital they will send him to an institution. I don’t think you want that.” Rudy argued…
"Then that's the way it will be." Jim finished "He goes!" He grabbed the boy off the bed and headed for the door...
"Jim, No!" Helen called out..
“Jim. Think about what you’re doing?” Rudy pleaded.
“I have thought about it. I want what’s best for my son!” Jim shouted.
“Jim. Dr. Wells is what’s best for Steven.” Helen argued.
“Look at him Helen. I’m screaming at you and he doesn’t even respond to that!” Jim continued to shout.
Helen looked down at her motionless son. Jim was right, but deep inside she knew if anyone could help Steven it was the man standing next to her.
“Helen. I still say…”
“Jim the doctors at the base hospital won’t be able to help him If anyone can I know Dr. Wells can.”
“How do you know that?” Jim continued to shout. “Look Helen I know the boy isn’t my own son, but I love him as if he were…”
“Then let Rudy help him.” Helen jumped in. “Look, if he’s not better in two days, then we’ll consider taking him to the hospital. In the mean time we need to get out of the way.”
Reluctantly Jim followed Helen out of the room.
“Whew!” Rudy let out let’s hope Helen can convince Jim that what I’m doing is right.”
“I take it, it wouldn’t be good…”
“Oscar if they take him to a hospital, the hospital will commit him to a psychiatric facility and they will never let him go, even when he’s grown up.”
“So we need to keep him here.” Oscar muttered.
“I want you to do me a favor though Oscar.” Rudy requested. “Here” he handed Oscar and empty glass and the spoon from his soup. “Take this over there and tap the spoon against he glass. I want to see if he responds to sound.”
Oscar did as instructed while Rudy watched Steven to see if he responded. After several taps Rudy held up his hand for Oscar to stop. “There is no response.” He sighed.
“Well maybe later.” Oscar sat next to him.
Rudy nodded. “Yea maybe later, I do have a better idea that may satisfy Jim.”
“What’s that?” Oscar wondered.
“I’ll go to the hospital and get IV bottles from them.”
“Will they give them to you?” Oscar wondered.
“Yea they should. I’ll just tell them I’m a dr. and I have a sick mother or something.”
“Think that will work?” Oscar sounded skeptical
“Well if it doesn’t, I still have this.” He held up the hot water bottle. “The only problem I have is getting into him.” Rudy muttered. “It would help if I had exactly what I needed, but like I said we may not need it anyway.”
“Let’s hope not. I don’t know, for some reason I feel like that’s a last resort or something.”
“It is.” Rudy whispered.
“Why not give him some more of the broth.” Oscar suggested.
It took a while, but Steven finished the soup broth. “Well.” Rudy stated as he set the bowl down. “That’s a good sign. Look why don’t you get some rest. I’ll stay with him. Don’t worry, I’ll wake you if there is any change.”
“Rudy, you need your rest too.” Oscar noted.
“I’ll wake you around 2:00 you can sit with him then.” Rudy offered.
“Fine” Oscar headed for the guest room and was soon sleeping.
Rudy sat by Steven’s side all night. “I don’t know if you can hear me or not son.” Rudy spoke softly when they were alone, mainly to keep himself awake. “I know what happened. You don’t need to tell us.”
As he spoke he looked directly into the boy’s eyes. “You have to come back to us.” He urged.
He didn’t want to, but at 2:00 in the morning he left Steven for just a few moments while he went and woke Oscar.
“Oscar. You still want to sit with Steve?” Rudy whispered as he leaned over Oscar.
“How is he? Any change?” Oscar sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
“No change. Well maybe one. He did close his eyes. I’m assuming he’s asleep.”
“Assuming?” Oscar almost shouted.
“His vitals are normal. I just took them. He’s sleeping.” Rudy assured.
“I’ll watch him Rudy. You get some sleep.” Oscar got out of bed and headed across the hall, while Rudy climbed into the bed Oscar had just occupied.
‘No need in messing up the second guest room.’ Rudy thought right before he drifted off to sleep.
When he woke he was angry with himself for sleeping later than he had intended. He dashed across the hall to Steven’s room
“Any change Oscar?” Rudy asked as he knelt beside Steven’s bed.
‘Not that you would notice.” Oscar sighed. .
“Let’s have a look.” Rudy began to examine Steven. He started by shining the flashlight in the boys eyes again.
“They retracted!” Rudy exclaimed.
“That’s good?” Oscar wondered.
“It’s better than good. It’s fantastic!” Rudy grinned.
He moved closer to Steven. “Steven. Can you hear me?” Rudy spoke close to his ear.
Steven didn’t look in his direction but Rudy picked up the glass and spoon they had used the night before. “Oscar here, do what I told you to do last night?”
Oscar stepped over to the window he tapped the spoon against the glass. Rudy got as close as he could to Steven. There was some sort of response. Small yes but it was there.
As the morning and then the afternoon progressed though Steven didn’t improve any beyond that point.
Oscar joined Helen and Jim in the kitchen for dinner, while Rudy ate his in Steven’s room and tried once again to get Steven to eat some more soup.
“I don’t know Mr. Goldman.” Jim began. He just doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”
“You’re wrong Mr. Elgin. There has been improvement. Not that we can see, but Rudy says his eyes respond to light and he responds somewhat to sound. Not to the human voice but to sound at least.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Gold…”
“Please call me Oscar.” Oscar offered.
“Fine I’m Jim.” He gave Oscar a slight smile. “Oscar I’m sorry I feel your friend just isn’t what Steven needs right now. He’s just a regular Dr. I think Stevie needs a psychiatrist “
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Oscar replied. “Rudy knows what he’s doing and Steven is getting better.”
“I think if he were…”
“Jim I have the biggest interest in the well being of Steven. You’ll never understand just big that interest is. Believe me.”
“I don’t know. I just feel that…”
Jim you don’t understand. If he goes to a psychiatrist they will have him put in an institution. Do you want that to happen?”
Jim shook his head. “Are you sure?”
“They tell you they will help him.”
They all turned to see Rudy standing in the doorway.
“All they will do is throw him in there, lock the door and throw away the key. They’ll see to it that his needs are taken care of.” Rudy continued. “I know you don’t want that for him Jim. I know it’s hard for you to understand, but right now I’m Steven’s only chance. Give me two more days. The progress is slow but there has been some progress.”
“Ok.” Jim sighed. “I just wish I could see these improvements.
“You can. I’ll show you.” They all went back up to Steve’s room and Rudy showed him that Steven now responded to sound and light.”
“Ok, I’ll let you continue to help him.”
“Thanks for trusting us Jim.” Rudy smiled. “I understand how hard it must be.”
In the next two days Steven gradually improved. By the next morning he was able to swallow his food on his own. So Rudy increased his intake.
His eyes also began to follow Rudy around the room and look in the direction of his door when someone entered the room.
By the third day he was sitting up in bed and feeding himself, but he remained mute. He wouldn’t even acknowledge he was being spoke to.
By that night however he would look at people when they spoke but he would only nod or shake his head to answer.
“Well.” Jim admitted at dinner. They were eating late. they had been in Steven’s room a better part of the day.
“What’s that Jim?” Rudy turned to him.
“I didn’t think he would get this far, He’s really progressing.”
“I just wish he would talk.” Rudy muttered.
“He will.” Jim smiled. “Give him time.”
Later that night Rudy had just dozed off in the chair next to Steven’s bed when Steven woke up crying out for his mother.
Helen was called in and Steven cried in her arms. “Oh Mama” He cried. “It was awful.”
“What was awful honey?” Helen soothed. She turned to Rudy. “Sheriff Bragg’s number is on the front of the phone book.”
Rudy went to place the call. While Helen tried to hold Steven off from telling her until the sheriff arrived. If he was going to relive the incident she wanted him to only have to go through it once.
“Just take it one step at a time son.” Sheriff Bragg coaxed you can sit on your ma’s lap if you prefer.”
Steven sobbed as he relayed the story to everyone in the room.
“Thanks for telling us what happened.” The sheriff stood to leave. “To bad he didn’t get the plate numbers.” He muttered.
“The plate numbers?” Steven cocked his head. “You mean the license number?”
“Yea son but don’t worry about it.” The sheriff patted him on the head.
“But I did get the license number. It was a brown two door 1949 la sale.” Steven informed them”
“That’s my boy.” Jim smiled. “He knows his cars.”
“What was the license number?” The sheriff coaxed.
Steven rattled off the numbers while Oscar and Rudy started out of Steven’s room. As they stepped into the hallway they were standing outside the gas station and Oscar’s car loomed in front of them
They dashed for the car and raced to Jim and Helen’s ranch.
“Glad you two could make it.” Jim smiled as he opened the door. “We were just discussing something you may find very interesting.
“What might that be?” Oscar had an uneasy feeling.
“We were just talking about an incident that happened when Steve was just a boy. He saw his best friend hit by a car….although I think you know most of the story.”
Oscar and Rudy nodded. “But why bring it up now.” Rudy asked.
“Well the man that hit little Stuart Rimes was killed in a house fire just the other day. It was in the local paper.”
“Did they ever catch him?” Oscar asked.
“Oh yea they caught him the next morning. Once Steve supplied them with the plate numbers…”
“Did Steve have to testify?” Rudy asked. Still concerned that maybe they had altered history in some small way.
“No the man felt so guilty that he admitted to everything the minute the sheriff pulled him over.”
“Really?” the two turned to Steve who sat on the couch. “You ok?” Rudy asked.
“Yea I’m fine, mom and dad told me it was the two of you who pulled me out of the darkness.”
“Well not really, you pulled yourself out.” Rudy told him. “We just kept your parents from seeking the wrong kind of help for you.”
“Well thanks.” Steve smiled. “Now let’s have lunch, I’m starved.