Chilton Williamson, Jr.
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Excerpt from
The White Indian
A Book by Chilton Williamson, Jr.


Prologue

After these many years it comes on me still, whether a dream, a vision, or a prophecy, I don't know.

It's a shiny blue day in spring, not hot, no shadows with the white sun straight up overhead. My father has just spread a clean white cloth on a bare place in the sandy ground between clumps of buffalo grass and prickly pear under a spreading walnut tree still in the bud, and smoothed out the wrinkles with the side of his hand. Ma sets the luncheon hamper at the center of the cloth and pulls the wicker top back. "Don't sit in the dust, Charley, you'll ruin your new suit before we get to Lordsburg," she scolds, reaching inside the hamper. The only alternative I can see to the dirt is the tablecloth, so I scrunch my behind over onto it, half expecting to be chased off that, too. My suit or your tablecloth, I think-but don't say. I'm too hungry to argue it with her, anyway. My father keeps his hat on and his big new Colt revolver on the edge of the cloth in front of his crossed black knees. Ma looks pretty in her dark skirt, white blouse, and sunbonnet as she takes a bottle of lemonade from the hamper, and next a rolled cloth with the knuckle ends of six big drumsticks sticking out of it. Also there's a bowl of potato salad, white rolls, and, for dessert, turnovers made from the blackberries we picked near Pinos Altos last fall. I'm hoping to get to eat lunch with my fingers before Ma reaches silverware out of the hamper. Indians use their fingers when they eat out of doors-at home, too-and doesn't seem to hurt them any. "H.C., will you please say the Grace?" Ma asks, even though this is a picnic, so I don't see why. But my father takes his hat off, stands it upside down on the tablecloth, and begins. "Lord, we thank thee for these gifts which we are about to receive. Bless this food to our use and us to--" And stops to stare at Ma like she's been turned into the lady with the snakey hair she'd been reading to me about just the day before. Only it isn't Ma he's looking at but something else, behind her. Right now is when the howls begin, above the sudden thud of hooves.

"The wagon, Jennie," my father tells her-the same voice he used the time the pony tried to run away with my sister Mary-and now he has me in his arms, running, and Ma's running too, out ahead of us a little, toward the wagon with the team standing hitched to it. He stumbles in the soft sand, almost going down once but catches his balance at the last second. He swings me up over the side of the buckboard like a sack of chili peppers and makes a standing jump onto the wagon seat, then reaches across it for Ma's hand to pull her up with us. Ma's face is whiter inside the white sunbonnet than the sunbonnet itself. The howls have changed to whoops now and the hooves are still coming. There's seven-eight Indians that I can see, waving guns above their black flowing hair and lying forward across their horses' necks. I see the one in front bring his gun up to fire, and hear the crack of the bullet against the wagon bed. Then a sound like someone whacking at a piece of meat and my father making a funny sound as he rolls sideways on the seat, like somebody punched him. "Up the canyon, Jennie," he says, kind of gasping-like, to Ma, "while I hold them off-quickly, quickly!" He's gone then, clutching the rifle in his hand, nothing where he was sitting before but the blood--blood all over the seat and on the floor of the wagonbox, the dashboard too, while Ma holding the reins in one hand lashes out with the whip in the other. From behind there's the noise of a different sounding gun as the wagon gives a lurch, throwing me forward against the back of the bench seat. "Charley: Get down!" says Ma in a terrible voice, but not shouting. The wagon's moving fast now, jolting over the humps of buffalo grass, and I hold tight to the iron legs below the bench to keep from being thrown out. My face is wet so I must be crying, but the only sound I'm aware of is Ma's breath whistling in her teeth and--all about us now--the terrible shouts and the howling.

There's a burst of firing behind us from the direction of the walnut tree, followed suddenly by nothing. I hold my head down like Ma told me and just keep holding on. The wet on my face isn't tears after all it's blood, from the cut lip the back of the seat gave me. Without looking over the side I can tell the wagon is going fast now but smoother, like we're back in the Lordsburg Road. Then another shot and we stop suddenly with a big thump, a long whinnying scream, and a thrashing sound from up front. Over the top of the seatback I can see the off horse on his knees in the traces, the near one struggling to keep going anyway, under Ma's lashing whip. "O dear God," I hear her saying, "O dear God!" The wagon's stopped dead now, as the whooping cries close in around.

My Ma throws the reins down across the dashboard. She jumps to the ground and runs back along the side of the wagon, her white blouse covered in blood, holding her arms outstretched to lift me down. I hold mine out for her to take me when something long and black swings down like the pendulum inside the grandfather clock at home, but going much faster. And then a sound like a melon bursting and Ma's not there anymore but Asa Daklugie instead, leaning from his tall roan stallion to lift me out of the wagon and pull me up to the saddle ahead of him. The horse pivots on its back legs, and looking down I can see Ma lying crumpled like one of Ada's dolls on the ground, her hair matted with blood and blood all over the sand and buffalo grass beside her. Asa's showing his teeth to laugh as he turns the horse and rides over to Chatto, down off his horse already and standing over my father with his knife drawn. I don't want to look when they cut his clothes away but I've never seen my father naked before, and so I do. They take his gold watch and his money and rifle and the colt revolver and then they do Ma the same way, but this time I don't look. The other Indians are up with us now, sitting their horses in a circle around us with their rifles across the saddle bows, watching. The butt end of my Indian's gun has blood on it, and hair. It's all over in no time and I'm being carried away at a lope by the laughing Indians, looking back at two long white bodies turning pink already under the glaring sun.

All my life since I was six years old this dream or vision, whatever it is, has come on me; not in the night always but often in the middle of the day, and everytime the same, no change or difference, addition or subtraction, except for just the one thing.

Sometimes, I've been with my brothers the Apache from the beginning, and I'm the one that does the killing.

I.

Apacherķa

I'd have kept my trap shut until my dying day if Jason Betzinez hadn't opened his big one first. He never should have put Charley McComas in that book of his to start with, and then on page one-eighteen he went ahead and told that lie about me. I sent a one-line postcard with a picture of Geronimo on it to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, asking him why the hell he did it and he mailed me one back of President Kennedy explaining how, if he'd told the truth, it would have reopened the whole question of what happened to the McComas boy, and he'd wanted to spare me that. It was as good an answer as I could have expected, or maybe deserved, so I let it ride and went ahead and finished reading I Fought With Geronimo, from one-eighteen through to the end. It isn't a bad book, actually, except for having me bashed in the head with a rock and killed, plus a few other minor mistakes here and there. Also, it set me to thinking about writing a book of my own.

For years, I never got beyond the thinking part. Then Jason went to his reward, age a hundred and something, and I had a stroke and went to live with my granddaughter in Tucson until she got tired of having me around the house and shipped me out to the Morningstar Manor Rest home on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation where we didn't have to climb down, across, and up the other side of the generation gap as if it was the Grand Canyon. Now and again I'd think to ask the nurse for a pencil and a yellow pad, but I never was able to make a start, somehow. I know what I want to say, but it seems like, with the writing business, just knowing is never enough. I don't know how Jason managed it, him being a blacksmith and farmer, mainly; he had a little help on the job, it says somewhere.

They keep me in Room 313 of Morningstar. The name doesn't impress anyone, least of all me. (It's the Evening Star I'm looking at from the window, you see.) Also the town and beyond it the highway, all that traffic shuttling back and forth between Globe and Tucson and the new ski resort they're building near where the Salt River heads. What Indians want with a ski resort beats the hell out of me, but it's none of my business, now. Yonder past the highway are the mountains, blocky and blue looking, summer or winter, covered by pine forest and cut away from each other by deep canyons where the off-reservation Apache hid out while they hunted and raided, made tiswin and got drunk, and the Indian agents and the soldiers at the fort tore their whiskers and gave themselves the shingles worrying about what they might have a mind to do next-after the Carrizo Creek massacre, especially. (I can see the canyon rim from where I'm lying this very moment.) Close in, under the window, is the main entrance and the parking lot full of automobiles with wings, fins, and tails like spaceships, where the new patients are brought (they'll be carried out through the back one when their time comes) by their families-young people, looking like they just walked off a TV show. I'm glad I'm as old as I am, and won't be around much longer. Betzinez always managed better in this newfangled A-bomb world than I did, and he's a real red man.

The first part of my story's already been written for me, and even so I can't get started. There hasn't been a day, probably, when I haven't cursed my father for a criminal fool for taking his wife and child on the Lordsburg Road after reports came in of Apache raiding parties on the warpath, that miner killed over by Clifton, Arizona, only a day or two before. The McComas massacre was a big story at the time, articles and editorials in papers all over the Southwest Territory and in Chicago, New York, Boston, and Washington, too. According to the press, what happened on or about noon on March 26, 1883 was proof the Apache were a bunch of murdering devils, not half-human and needing to be rounded up, every man woman and child, and exterminated like rabid coyotes before what they still called in those days "civilization" could get a proper strangle-hold on the Southwest. The truth of the matter is, my father-a greenhorn tenderfoot if I ever saw one-had less business in New Mexico than a Chinaman. (Already we had a few of them in the Territory, and over in Arizona, in those days.) He didn't have the knowledge, strength, skill, or physique-or the sense, and never mind he'd been a judge back in Illinois-to meet the wilderness, let alone the Apache, on equal terms. For years-until I was approaching late middle age, in fact, and began to be able at last to understand and forgive-it seemed to me H.C. McComas deserved everything he got and worse, if such a thing is possible-and believe me, knowing the Apache, it was.

I was born in St. Louis, where my family moved from Fort Scott, Kansas. It was in Fort Scott that H.C.-as my father wanted to be called-met my mother, Juniata Ware, who came from what was called in those days a socially prominent family. She had a brother who was a poet, as well as a lawyer; I remember him on a visit from Fort Scott to see us, reading aloud something he'd written and Ma making me and Mary and Ada (my sisters, older than me) sit still on the creek bank with the picnic hamper while he did it, twirling the end of his mustache with one hand and holding the little gilt-stamped book in the other. Something else I remember from St. Louis is my birthday party-the boys in black with white collars, the girls frilly in pink and yellow and blue and white, all of us like little knights and ladies of the Round Table in the books Ma used to read to me that made me want to be a knight-when I gagged on a piece of parsley and upchucked over two or three of the girls.

I believe we were in St. Louis maybe four years or thereabouts. It was during that time my father developed an interest in gold and silver mining in New Mexico and Arizona territories. He was away for what seemed to us children a very long time, until I forgot what he looked like, almost--except for the whiskers. He used to write Mary every week and Ma nearly as often, though she could still go from sad to ornery in the shake of a lamb's tail. My father made many trips to New Mexico before arranging finally for us to pack up and join him in Silver City in the spring of '82. (I remember as if it was yesterday, watching from the rear platform of the train as the ties ticked swiftly backward and the black smoke rolled away to where the silver rails met at the edge of the flat, yellow-green horizon.) We got off the train at Deming, on the Southern Pacific Line, and went by stagecoach from there up to Silver City. It was already a fairsized town when we moved there but the country around, wide-open as the sky and ringed with bare rocky hills like teeth, frightened me. I recall feeling more comfortable and at home after the furniture arrived and Ma got the house all fixed, but still I used to cry myself to sleep, as often as not, those first few months after we came out from Missouri. My sisters were sent to school straightaway, but Ma gave me lessons at home for awhile yet. I remember having to study mathematics, history, geography, spelling, reading--and the Bible, of course. My father bought a one-storey brick house with white trim near the Hotel Whatyoumaycallit, I disremember the name. I do recall a big picture in the parlor called "War and Peace"-you could see the war, two European armies led by generals on horseback fighting each other under a stormy sky, no sign of peace anywhere-and also books, lots of them, lined out on pine shelves in the front rooms. And my mother had an upright piano on which she used to play everyday-Mozart and Chopin and Mendelssohn, whose Scottish Symphony was a favorite of hers, but which I hated. She'd play the third movement, in particular, for my father, over and over again, until I thought it would send me crazy.

They say the child is father to the man. In my case, the child I was was no more the father of the man I am today-and have been for eighty years-than Judge H.C. McComas was.

I still haven't written a damn line on this pad.

The day nurse-she's a white girl, not an Indian-just came and took my blood pressure. Where she gets the idea that pushing a pencil could give a man a heart attack beats me-someone raised as I was, running up and down mountains like any Apache, including the women, could do in those days. This girl's flabby, with stringy yellow hair, a face like a fish, and goggles that look like she's staring at you through the bottoms of two water glasses. White people, nowadays, move like they just got their bodies out of the box and haven't figured out how to use them, yet.

A few days after my heart attack my granddaughter paid me a visit, probably wanting an idea how soon she's likely to be rid of me for good. It's the federal government paying the bills, so I don't see what her interest is. Juana's only one-eighth Apache, but the truth is she doesn't appear like any kind of Indian at all. A middle-aged beatnik in a black turtleneck sweater, beads, and jeans: not exactly what you'd call her grandmother's daughter. She's taking courses at a community college in Phoenix and thinks she's some kind of intellectual on account of that. It hurts my vanity, somehow, to have a granddaughter that worn-out, ugly, and oldlooking. Her grandmother-God rest her soul--was the best and loveliest women I laid eyes on, and her mother was something to look at, too.

"Gee-Gee," Juana says, "you're not looking well today, at all. The nurse tells me you've been wearing yourself out writing something on a pad when you should be resting instead."

I said the nurse was talking through her hat, but Juana wasn't listening.

"What is it you're trying to write, anyway?" she asked.

None of your damn business I wanted to explain, but didn't. (I'd caught that word "trying," of course.)

"I always thought you should have written your memoirs while you were strong enough to do it," Juana said. "Now, my Communications professor says nobody reads anymore, everybody learns everything they need to know from radio and TV."

"That's not Jason Betzinez's opinion," I told her, "and it isn't mine, either."

"Who's Jason Betzinez?" Juana asked.

People are ignorant today, young people especially. They don't know one damn thing about history. The only ones who do know something are old geezers like me, who've lived it for ourselves.

I sat on the wicker hamper my father had placed in the wagon box just forward of the tailgate, holding my knees apart with my boots set firmly on the pine planking to brace the hamper and keep it from sliding up behind the wagon bench when the sandy road dipped ahead, and back against the gate when the road tilted upward. I was just six and a half years old at the time but big for my age, not quite fat, with a pale round face and yellow hair contrasting with the dark eyebrows set straight above eyes like blue marbles, and a pouting mouth turned down at the corners; dressed this day in March in a gray wool suit set off by a black silk cravatte knotted at the neck and a white linen collar folded down over the high lapels of the suit. (Betzinez's book has a reproduction of the LOST poster my uncle had printed up after I'd gone missing.) Most boys my age growing up in Territorial New Mexico felt resentful and even humiliated at being made to dress up, but I remember taking satisfaction from my fine clothes-so long as it wasn't for church, of course. But today wasn't Sunday, and instead of Sunday school and the long service that followed to look forward to there was Lordsburg, the railroad town where my two grown halfbrothers lived; both of them successful businessmen with handsome gold watches like my father's, who worked for the Pyramid Mining Company in Pyramid City and had promised to drive me out to the mines there and treat us all to supper afterward at the big new hotel that had opened recently in Lordsburg. I had a book along, as I recall--more than likely my favorite, The Youth's Introduction to Greek Mythology-to read on the overnight journey to Lordsburg, but the jolting wagon made concentration difficult and so I kept the book in my pocket, mainly, and paid attention instead to the gravelly cone-shaped hills blackened by the ugly misshapen trees called alligator junipers, and also to the picnic hamper that was my special care that morning. So long as it wasn't riding too far forward in the buckboard, there was always the chance to lift a corner of it without being seen by Ma, who looked back at me now and again from the wagon bench as if needing to reassure herself some great bird hadn't carried me off since she'd looked the last time. My father's blackcoated back rose rigid beside her on the bench and even the horses seemed nervous, holding their ears forward and turning them one way and another, the way horses do when the driver isn't relaxed, or hasn't convinced them that he is.

Leaving Silver City the afternoon before we'd been lighthearted and cheerful, laughing at Ada and Mary when they begged to be allowed to make the trip to Lordsburg, until Mary fell at my father's feet and threw her arms round his ankles so that Ma had to tell her to stand up, act like a young lady, and do as Mr. and Mrs. Lucas said while she was away. My parents seemed in good spirits, too, as the buckboard rattled along the washboard road, Ma admiring the scenery from under her raised parasol and the Judge seated in a casual position that contrasted with his black suit, white shirtfront, and tall hat; sideways on the bench with his knees apart and holding the reins loosely on one knee as he pointed out for Ma the peaks and canyons of the Burro Mountains she was seeing for the first time since we came out from St. Louis, almost a year ago now.

The rays of the setting sun spoked like a wagon wheel behind Burro Peak as the horses lifted their ears and set their noses toward the Mountain Home--a low single-storey building fronted by a porch running its full width and set off by masses of flowers already in bloom at the end of March--just off the road among the darkening pines. My father took a room for the three of us and sat in the sitting room with a cigar, while Ma changed out of her traveling clothes into something suitable for evening and I washed my face and hands and combed my hair, like I was told to do. Afterward, I sat in a chair to read the story of Medusa in The Youth's Introduction while Ma finished doing her face and hair.

Supper was served at a common table where the innkeeper and his wife joined their guests in the middle of the meal. Waiting on was a tall, stronglooking young lady with a black mane below her waist and eyes like blue flames matching her turquoise-and-silver earrings, browned the color of a chestnut pony by the sun. (Even at six-and-a-half I had an eye for the ladies, you see.) The conversation stuck mostly to mining and the importance of the rail line between Los Angeles and New Orleans, completed the year before, until one of the guests-he was the horsebacker who'd ridden with us from the Tyrone Mine to the Mountain Home-set his fork down of a sudden across the wedge of pie he was eating and said, "Lookahere, Jedge. You don't want to drive on down to Lordsburg in the morning. Not while's there's Indians about, I'm telling you! Why, Clifton, Arizona, ain't any distance a-tall for them murdering savages riding a bunch of horses they stole from the very folks whose brains they--"

Ma made a harsh sound in her throat and the man shut up right then like a slapped child. "Charley," she said sharply, "you are excused from table now! You may take your book and read outside on the porch, until the rest of us are through with supper."

I went outside and sat obediently in a rocking chair with a tall wicker back and rounded seat on the porch, where the elephant ear growing about the wooden rail lifted on the evening breeze and the thin mountain air was already chill, feeling aggrieved. I hadn't been allowed time to finish my second piece of pie, and I'd wanted to hear more about the Indians who until this minute hadn't interested me any more than so many Ottoman Turks would have, no matter I'd lived in New Mexico Territory almost a year already. I was old enough to understand it was the Indians Ma hadn't wanted me to hear about, but I didn't see what harm there could be in it. The girl waiting table looked like my idea of an Indian, and no one had acted scared of her. But the horsebacker, whose name was Mr. Angel, had my father worried now, and so it was looking like I wasn't going to see the Pyramid Mine and go to dinner at the new hotel, after all.

But the Judge wouldn't hear, finally, of turning back to Silver City. The McComas boys had important financial matters to discuss with their father and business was business-as it was every time with him. Later in bed that evening, I heard my parents discussing the decision. "I admit Angel set me back on my heels a little," my father admitted. "And God knows it's some of the lonesomest, most Godforsaken country in North America. But don't you see, Jennie, that's why the odds are with us altogether? The chance of our running up against a handful of the painted brutes has to be a million to one at least, in an area this size. Why, we'd have a better chance all three of us getting snakebit when we stop for lunch! You don't believe for one second I'd take you and the boy a single step farther if I thought there there was any real risk in it, do you?" Lying rigid in the darkness, one ear aimed to hear the answer which came only after a long pause, I heard Ma speak at last. "Of course, I don't. You decide as you think best for us, Hamilton." So we were going to supper at the hotel tomorrow evening, as originally planned! And my father: "After all, Jennie, we are people who put our Faith in a just God, Who has promised us He will not let evil befall His children."

Next morning after breakfast, Ma refilled the picnic hamper from the Mountain Home's pantry and instructed the innkeeper's wife to add the charge to the bill. Mr. Angel, who was not continuing on to Lordsburg but riding deeper into the mountains with his prospecting tools, shook hands with the Judge and wished him and his family good luck. Then Ma climbed up to the wagon bench, I took my seat on the hamper again, and the buckboard made a sudden leap forward as my father, who though Virgina bred was no horseman (he was better suited to Henry Ford's America than Buffalo Bill's), laid his whip across the backs of the fresh and mettlesome team.

He grew increasingly preoccupied with the horses as the buckboard began the long descent through Thompson Canyon, clucking them forward impatiently on the downgrades with the brake set so that the iron-rimmed wheels skidded in the thickening sand where the wagon track ran, while Ma sat opening her parasol, closing it up, then opening it once more as the canyon wall alternately shut out and let in the steadily climbing sun. From time to time, assured for the moment of his control over the team, the Judge pointed out for her the grotesque rock formations thrusting against the violent blue sky, the formal-looking gardens and miniature forests-like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon-arranged on terraces spaced at intervals against the sheer walls of orange, yellow, and buff-colored stone. But she didn't seem to take a half-interest in scenery that morning-or in my father, for that matter. Searching round for The Youth's Introduction to Greek Mythology, I discovered I'd left it behind at the Mountain Home. I began to blubber, demanding we drive back for it, until Ma turned round on the bench and threatened me with her furled parasol. I was shocked and surprised enough, I quit crying straightaway; whereupon she told me not to fret, we'd make a stop for the book at the hotel on the return trip.

Though the sun was hot the air in the canyon felt cold, not just in the shady places but everywhere. We passed the stage coming up from Lordsburg, the horses blowing, the traces jingling, and the coach itself fish-tailing in the deep yellow sand as the driver tipped his hat to Ma and saluted my father with his whip. Inside were three roughlooking men, lying back on the seats with their hats over their eyes and their arms folded on their chests. The driver had a shotgun propped beside him on the box, and he carried a rifle across his knees. The Judge had a rifle with him, too, tucked beneath the wagon bench as a backup for the new Colt .45 he wore strapped under his coat. I waved and saw, looking back, the tonneau disappear around a shelf of rock as my parents glanced sideways at one another and smiled.

"They made it through without incident, apparently," the Judge remarked in a quiet voice.

"Yes, H.C.," was all my mother said.

They grew more at ease still as the canyon continued to widen, until at last the mouth appeared ahead and, in the middle, a big tree erupting like a still dark fountain from the desert floor. Beyond the tree was the open plain, studded with tree yucca and stretching away under the spring sky to yet another line of the scorched- looking fearsome mountains that gave me the feeling of never being safe anywhere, at anytime. And then my father turned the horses out of the track and drove straight at the tree, gleaming along its budding branches in the brightness of high noon.

"We're in the clear now, Jennie, I'd bet. No chance for an ambush beyond here. Suppose we take our lunch up under that big walnut tree ahead. I guess it is a walnut, isn't it? I didn't realize you could raise walnuts here-way out West in New Mexico! There might be money in it; I'll have to ask the boys what they think when we see them this evening."

Nursing homes are God's trick on people who don't believe in Hell. (Jason Betzinez died at home in bed, I'm told.) Juana hung around a little longer, fidgeting and pretending not to watch the TV show I'd asked her to leave off. The electronic thingmagig hanging over the bed to monitor my heartbeat seemed to fascinate her-or maybe she was figuring to see it quit. Finally, she said she had to go now, she couldn't be late for her evening class in Phoenix. She gave me a peck on the cheek, told me to do as the nurses said--and almost ran bang into the night nurse on her way to check my blood pressure. The night nurse is Abby, the Indian-tall for an Apache girl and handsome, with a long face, straight nose, and black eyes like pieces of sky behind the stars. (She reminds me, some, of one of Chatto's wives.) Most likely she has Spanish blood in her veins, though maybe not much. When she leaned to wrap the cuff round my arm, her black hair, sweetsmelling, brushed against my face. She tossed it back with one hand and pumped the cuff up, fat as a hognosed snake. "Don't excite yourself, Mr. Daklugie," Abbey warned me when I pinched her swelling thigh through the tight uniform skirt--me, who slept nearly every night of my life for sixty-three years with a tigress, and my heart never skipped a beat.

"Mr. Daklugie," Abby said, "your blood pressure is still way above normal. I'm going to ask the doctor to check you again in the morning."

I didn't say anything. The girl reached behind the pillow and removed the yellow pad I'd hidden there.

"Mr. Daklugie, can't you just lay here quietly and watch TV?"

"No, ma'am. I can't."

"Mr. Daklugie, you don't really belong here, do you?"

"No human being belongs in Morningstar Rest Home."

"Here in this world, I mean."

"No ma'am, I don't. I'm glad I'm as old as I am and won't be around in it very much longer."

"I understand you, Mr. Daklugie. I'm enjoying the book by that old Indian guy you lent me, by the way."

She left with the pressure cuff rolled in her hand. I waited until her footsteps had died away in the corridor before I rearranged the silver chain and crucifix lying on my chest, then reached the other yellow pad from under the mattress. The words had started to come into my head at last, and there was an hour still to go before supper time.

 

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