[11—Dr. Epstein's Office]

I put the Peace Corp brochures with my other paperwork and promptly forgot about it.

"Dani," Dr. Epstein said, slowly pulling the door open just as I was about to knock.  It creaked ominously.  "Do come in."

"Dr. Epstein." I jumped back, clutching my chest, and tried to re-swallow my heart.  You scared the poo outta me."

"Too bad," he sighed.  A mercurial smile played on his lips.  "Joo may be called on to give a stool e-sample later."

I snickered, and he held up his hand.

"Chust my leetle choke."

He stepped aside and held the door for me.

"Do come in."

I entered and looked around.  I've seen shell middens more organized that his office.  It wasn't dirty—just cluttered and packed like a phone booth on campus corner.

There were filing cabinets along both side walls, all stacked with papers and books all the way to the panels of the drop ceiling.  Behind his desk, the wall was full of diplomas and certificates.  A 'love me wall', as my dad would say.  From the look of it, he had more degrees than a basal body thermometer.

Papers and files were literally everywhere—in stacks against the wall, in piles on his desk, even stacked on top of chairs set against the wall behind the door.  He might have an actual ton of paper here.

The place smelled like smoke.

He walked behind his desk and filled his pipe.  The corner that held his ashtray and desk lighter was the only clear vertical surface in the room, save a walkway in the high-traffic areas of the floor.

"Have a seat," he said, gesturing with his elbow as he lit his pipe and puffed deeply.  He closed his eyes as he drew in the smoke, and I wondered if he always did that.

"Where," I asked without turning around.

"Behind joo," he said and sat in his own chair.

I turned around and saw that the forth chair in the row wasn't stacked six feet with paperwork; it was merely covered in lab coats and sweaters.

"Just dump those," he said in Spanish.  I did and sat down.

"Do you mind if we speak Spanish?  Yours is pretty good, and it will be easier for me."


"Yes, you mind, or yes, you don't mind?"

"I don't mind."

"Excellent."  He put his pipe down and picked up what I presume was my chart.  It was thicker than it had been before, and stained yellow with nicotine fingerprints.

"Do you have any questions before we begin?"

"Lots," I admitted, "but I don't know where to start."

"Fair enough.  You understand about the Rarin babies?"

"Yes, I think so."  I thought about it and decided better.  "No, not really.  I mean, I get that you think I might be one, but I don't know anything about it.  I'd never heard of Rarin until today."

"Well, the case is pretty strong that you are.  Both of your parents had the drug when they were in puberty, and in your mother's case, while she was pregnant with you. 

"We're still unsure if that is necessary, but in a surprising number of the known cases it is true."

"How many rarebits are there?"

"We know of thirty-two...worldwide.  You would make thirty-three, and there are five other cases which may be also.  There are other causes of deformed or missing sex organs, so we have to review each case very carefully.  We have been able to rule out all other causes in your case, except random mutation or a mutagen we've not discovered."

"Mutagen?"  It sounded like a scary word.

"Yes," he explained.  "A chemical that causes systematic birth defects."

"Ah.  Like Rarin?"

"Rarin may be one...but again, we can't be certain.  There is at least a 96% correlation between known cases of this condition and administration of the drug in both parents while they were in their early- or mid-teens."

I tried to take it all in.  I was a defective was what I was hearing.

"So are there any other problems?  I mean, obviously I can't have kids, but I don't think I want them anyway.  I've always thought of myself as a spinster."

"That's too bad.  No real side effects that we've seen."

"Okay.  Tell me straight Doc, am I going to die?"

"Everyone's going to die, dear one, but no, you will not die from this, at least we don't think so.  Again, it's hard to say without more data."

"What about disease?  Am I going to get sick when I'm older?  How long will I live?"

"Unfortunately, we don't know about that.  The oldest Rarin Baby we know of is twenty-four, so we don't have mortality statistics.  You don't have a life expectancy yet, except to say that you're a Caucasian, in good health and born in the USA in 1960; which could mean 73.1 years for females, or 69.7 on the average.

"You may take either of those figures, but I prescribe a grain of salt whichever you choose; life expectancy is a very rough number."

"So how does it work?"

"The mechamism?  We don't know.  But it seems to be simple inheritance.  We may have answers tomorrow, or it could be ten years, or twenty."

"And I could live seventy-odd years, or I could keel over tomorrow?"

"In a nutshell, yes.  But tomorrow is more unlikely than seventy-three years, I think."

He put the folder down next to a battered paperback and re-loaded his pipe. 

"That is all we know, between those four covers."

He lit up and puffed smoke out of his nose like a charging bull in a cartoon.  He'd closed his eyes again.

"Have you read the Rarin report?" 

"No, what's that?"

"A study, started after the Moreno-Gonzales wedding scandal.  She was a Rarin Baby, you know."

"No, I didn't."  I'd heard, about five or six years ago, about the couple that went to their wedding bed and found that wife had no lady parts.  It was big hype but not much news.  The story died after three months.

"Yes.  They're still married, you know?  It is amazing, the human capacity to find a solution to life's little problems."

He offered me the dog-eared book, and I took it.  Like nearly every other surface in the room, the cover was stained with smudgy yellow fingerprints. 

"Thanks," I said with a solemn air I didn't really feel, "I will read it tonight and give it back in the morning."

"No need.  You may have it; I have read it to death."

"Thank you," I said quietly, wondering if we were done.

He looked at his watch and set his pipe carefully in the ashtray.  There was a rack behind it, filled with other pipes.  Most were wood, but three of them were of different materials.  I looked at the glass one.  It was mostly clear, shaped like a sausage, with a hole in each end and a bowl sinking into the side.  There were red and blue spirals around the outside, their color distorted by the light of his dying cherry, smoldering in the ashtray.

"Do you know," his pleasant baritone played on my ears, "why they call them Rarebits?"

"Because the drug is called Rarin?"

"You would think that, yes, but it's not the only reason.  They tested it first on rats, and they didn't have any problems..."

He reached for the pipe again and started cleaning it, but he kept on talking.

"...then they tried rabbits; the bunny type.  For almost five years, they tested rabbits.  At first, nothing was wrong, or so it seemed."

I'd never heard any of this, but I wanted to hear more.  He continued loading his pipe and lit a taper from his desk lighter.

"But, alas, there was something wrong.  After the first generation, about one percent of the females were sterile, and the ratio of males to females was not very stable."

He sucked on his pipe and applied the taper.  The glow of the ember lit him up and he closed his eyes.  He looked at perfect peace at that moment.

He exhaled and slowly opened his eyes.  I think his eyelashes fluttered.

"However, by this time, they were testing on humans, and there were no problems there.  Rarin was pending approval by the FDA and Martin Pharmaceuticals was certainly not going to rock the boat.  They ignored the warning signs, and released the drug in 1952."

He lit the pipe again, and again he died a little death when he inhaled and came back to life when he exhaled.  It was like a ritual.

"One of life's few pleasures," he said.  "But the story gets better...or worse.  By 1955 there were at least a few Rarin Babies; we're not sure exactly how many.  Rarin was used all over the world, especially the third world.

"Sales have dropped dramatically since the Rarebit Wedding Scandal."

He said it like it was a proper noun.

"But they have sold over forty-five-million lots of the drug.  We don't know how many people have taken it, but estimates say ten to twenty million.  Of those, five out of every seventy or so, that being the ratio of the number of years in puberty to the average lifespan, may have been affected by the drug.

"That's one in fourteen!  Seven percent of ten to twenty million is seventy to a hundred and forty thousand.  That's how many people may be carriers of Rarin Baby Syndrome, I suppose we could call it.

"But the numbers don't seem to be that high.  The Rarin Report gives an estimate of three to five thousand carrier females and two to four thousand male carriers; note the difference in the numbers."

He tried his pipe a third time, but it wouldn't light.  He shrugged and set it aside.

"Earlier estimates, from 1971, were much higher, and based on the rabbit test statistics had even higher male to female ratios—ten to twelve thousand female and three to five thousand males."

He looked at his watch.

"But it is time for you to go.  Here are your files, I'm sure you'd like a copy.  The Peace Corps will want to look at them."

"How did you know about that?"

"You seem like a likely candidate."  He lifted himself up on the arm of his swivel chair and stood.  "It is a good book, and informative.  Read it.  Dani, I see a hard life ahead of anyone in your position, and I want to point out that knowledge is your best weapon with which to fight prejudice.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going for a round of golf.  There are still some benefits to being a doctor."

[10—Evil Santa Claus]

After they had gone, Mother stood up.

"Okay, it's about time we got going."

She looked at her schedule.

"Mitchell, you and Robbie have an appointment with Dr. Farcott in ten minutes.  Then you get to go to the downstairs lab and fill a Dixie cup."

Daddy coughed into his hand and colored.  He got up and led Robbie away.

"Dani, you have a lab session in Room 341 in just a few minutes, then see Dr. Epstein.  Gina, you have to see Nurse Phelps in 344, so you can go with Dani.  I have to go see the counselor; I will be in room 215 if you need me.  We will all meet back here at 3:30.  Everyone got that?"

"Yes," we all said and took our trays to the clipper.  We dispersed from there.

"I'll hold the elevator for you," I told Gina as we were waiting for it to arrive, "if you need to go pee real quick.  There's a bathroom right around the corner."

"No, Dani, I can wait."

"I thought you'd be drowning by now."

"Why would you think that?"

"You know, at lunch."

"What about lunch?"

"Come on, sis, you were squirming as bad as I was during lunch."

"No, really, I'm fine."

"Didn't you notice how only the women had to go so bad?  What's that all about?"

Her eyes widened and she blushed. 

"Oh," she said covering her mouth with the back of her hand, "that."

"What," I asked after she didn't eleborate. 

The bell on the elevator chimed.

"I wasn't acting like that because I had to pee; Mother and I just came from a gynecological exam, and we're both still full of that oogy stuff from the speculum.  I feel like I've been molested by a loose bicycle seat."

Between floors, I asked Gina what the punch-in-the-arm was about.

"You know."

"No, I don't."

"Don't you think Dr. Epstein is handsome?"

"I guess.  If you like old men."

"Old?  He's not nearly as old as Dr. Nick."

"Dr. Nick?"

"The gynecologist.  His real name is Mendelson, or something like that."

"Why Dr. Nick then?  Is it his first name?"

"No.  Like St. Nick...he must be like sixty years old—white hair, beard, fat like Jell-o."

"Oh," I said, not sure why she was telling me this. "Was it your first time?"

"Yes.  And it was...creepy. "

"Creepy?  What was creepy about him?  Is he a letch?"

"I don't think so.  He was just...odd.  And rude."

She leant in close to me, even though we were alone in the elevator.

"Dani, it was like having Evil Santa Claus in my vagina."


I got to 341, and found the nurse reading a fashion magazine.  Her name tag said 'Crowder, RN'.

She was a stout, avocado-shaped woman in her mid-forties, with straw-colored hair drawn back into a bun and a sallow complexion.  She didn't look healthy at all.

"You're late," she said in a quiet voice that somehow retained its authority.  She was used to being listened to, I could tell.

"Sorry, I had to take my sister to her appointment."

"That's okay then."  She looked at her watch. 

"Come around and sit on that stool."

I did as I was told and she came over with a box of blood vials and a normal-sized specimen cup.  She paused for a second to transfer my information from the chart to the labels on the containers.

"Wait," I asked her, not quite sure what was going on.  "The candy striper on the first floor already did that."

"Candy striper," she asked, not looking up from her writing.  "They don't do that, hon.  I fill them out so there is no mistake."

"Are you sure there has been no mistake?  Dani Heywood, right?"

"Yes," she said, putting the last vial back in the box. "Danielle Lynn Heywood.  DOB May 15, 1960?"

She opened the folder and pointed to a stack of forms.  There was a picture of me paper-clipped to it.

"This is you, right?  It certainly looks like you."

"Yes, that's me.  But the jar...the candy striper downstairs told me I'd have to fill a specimen jar this big."  I indicated the size of the container I'd seen before; maybe I exaggerated a little.

She snickered and held up the plastic cup.

"No, hon.  This is plenty.  I suspect she was having you on.  Was this candy striper a red-head, about five-foot-nine?"

"I don't know, she was sitting down."

"Was she skinny and talk real slow, with a drawl?"


"That would be Grace.  She doesn't like people talking down to her.  Did you tease her?"

"Maybe a little."

She snickered again.

"Then you deserved it.  Maybe I should call her up, and make you fill up her container instead."

"No, that's okay."

"Which hand to you use?"  She held up a vicious-looking needle, with a complicated back-end to plug the vials into.

"Both of them."

"You're ambidextrous?"

"No.  But I use both hands."

"Okay, which hand do you write with?"

"My right.  Why does it matter?"

"It doesn't matter to me, sweetie.  Which arm do you want me to take blood from?  I've got six test tubes to fill."

"The left, please.  But can I give you that urine sample first?  I gotta go really bad."


I ran into Tipper Jackson on the way to see Dr. Epstein, and we started talking.  We were both rushing to the fifth floor and there was a huge crowd at the elevators.

We decided to take the stairs.

"So, you're really sixteen?"

"Yes.  Really.  Why do you care?"  His attention bordered on obsession and I was starting to get a bit nervous, being alone with him in a stairwell.  "Are you some kind of pervert or something?"

"No," he answered defensively.  "Honest.  Look, I'm just interested because I've never met a Rarebit before.  Me and Dawita have been trying to have a baby for two years now, but we just read the Rarin Report.  Now we're concerned that we might be carriers.  We both took it a lot in the Philippines."

"Oh, I didn't know.  Look, I'm sorry about the pervert remark."

"That's okay.  I just want to know more about you.  You're interesting, Dani.  What are you planning to do after high school?"

"I don't know.  I definitely want to go to college, but my folks may not be able to afford it.  I will probably take a couple of years off—wait till I'm eighteen.  I guess I'll have to get a job.  I could be a tutor, or translator."

He stopped at the landing and took a deep breath.

"You're in pretty good shape.  You said 'translator'; what languages do you speak?"

"English and Esperanto mostly, but I had German, Latin, French, and Spanish in high school."

He looked impressed.

"Also Italian," I added, "and Portuguese.  They came pretty easy after French and Spanish.  Oh, and Old English, and a little Gaelic.  I can read Old High German with a dictionary. 

"I can pronounce Russian and Greek, but can't really read it. 

"And I've also started learning a bit of Cherokee, but I'm not good at it yet."

"Wow!  Listen, Dani, if you need money for college I can help."

"What?  Why would you, you don't even know me?"

"No," he said, fingering his collar again.  "I mean the Peace Corps.  I'm a recruiter, remember?  Every year you spend with us earns you money for college.  The higher rank you are, the more you earn.  With your language skills, you'd be great."

"But I'm only sixteen."

"I mean after you finish high school."

"I graduate this December, in about two months."

"Oh."  He thought for a second.  "Do you think your parents would sign for you to join?  You can join at sixteen with their permission.  Fifteen in some states."

"Really?"  I'd never thought about the Peace Corps, but money for college would be a good thing."

"Would I get to travel?"

"Almost definitely."

"Can I say where?"

"You have your choice of available assignments.  The more languages you speak, the more choice you'll have.  You don't have to take an assignment if you don't want, though.  We're not the Army."

"I'd like to think about it."

He paused again, and took some paperwork out of his backpack.

"Here, take this literature, and here's my card.  Think it over and let me know what you decide.  Are you going be in Dallas long?"

"No, just this week.  I'm from St. Louis; does that make a difference?"

"No.  I'm not from here either, we live in California.  We're just here to get checked out on this Rarin thing."

"Oh.  Say, will it matter, me being a...you know...a Rarebit?"

"No, not at all.  The Peace Corps does not discriminate."

"On what basis?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"On what basis does the Peace Corps not discriminate?  Surely you have some standards."

"None, and we mean it.  We'll take anybody."

I thought that was unlikely.

"We'll see about that," I said, but waved the brochure to show him that I really was interested.

[9—The Jacksons]


I got back to a table full of chatter.  I don't know what broke the ice, but it felt like Sunday dinner with extended family. 

The Jacksons and my parents were talking like old friends, and Dr. Epstein was kicked back in his chair with his eyes closed, smoking a pipe. 

Gina was involved in an alternate three-way conversation with Mother and her new-found friend Diwata.

Robbie was playing with his Nack,

With the pressure off, I could carry on a coherent conversation and even enjoy the rest of my food.  The chatter continued while I finished my sandwich at a less frantic pace.

"So Dani," Dawita called across the table, "you mother has been telling us all about your family.  You are the middle child?"

Apparently she'd not said enough.

"No, I'm the oldest."

"Really?  I assumed Gina was the older."

Yes, you did.

"Poor Tipper thought you were twins."

"Did he?"

Hearing his name, Tipper cut in.

"Wait, you're older than her?"

"Yes, she's my big little sister."

"How much older?"

"Three years.  She's thirteen and I'm sixteen."

"Wait, what?"

"I'm sixteen.  Really."

"No way."

"Yes, she is," my mother assured him.  "I was there."

"R-r-rarin babies," Dr. Epstein's voice spoke from a cloud of smoke, "are often delayed in growth."  His trill was impeccable.

"Rarin babies," Daddy asked, as the doctor leaned forward and emerged from his cloud of tobacco smoke. 

"What are Rarin babies," he and Mother both asked at the same time.

Across the table, the Jacksons were looking grim.  Dr. Epstein scraped his pipe out into a beanbag ashtray.  He set it down beside his Zippo and placed his palms flat on the table.

"Jess," he said looking at everyone at the table, "R-r-rarin babies are people born sin gonads.  The only t'ing we've found that dey have in common is all of der parents took Rarin when dey were in puberty, or embarrasado...pregnant."

My parents both looked at each other and then at him.

"Didn't joor doctor tell joo dat?"

"No," Mother replied, "all he told us is that Dani may have a birth defect, and that we needed to come here to all get checked out.  He didn't say anything like that."

"Joor child may be a R-rarin baby, but we need to do more tests to be certain.  It means, as far as we can tell, dat joo both must be carriers of de bad gene, and your o'der chil-dren may carry it.  De effect is way too r-rare to not be r-recess-ive, and no known R-rarin babies haff parents who didn't take de drug."

"Dani?" Tipper did a double take, looking at me the way an etymologist looks at a shiny new beetle.  "Are you a rabbit?"

"Not to the best of my knowledge," I answered him, trying not to laugh.  But I reflexively ran my hands over my head, just to make sure I didn't have bunny ears.

Everybody else laughed for me.

"Sorry," he apologized, looking slightly embarrassed.  "I've never seen one before.  That explains why you look so much younger than your sister.  I assume you two are not rabbits?"  He looked at Gina and Robbie.

My sister giggled, but Robbie was ignoring us all.

"Rabbit," I asked again, a little confused.

"That's what some people call Rarin babies," explained Dawita.  "It's not spelled like 'rabbit', the hare, but like 'Welsh rarebit', which is a dish that doesn't contain rabbit at all."  She crinkled up her nose and frowned.

"Why," I asked.

"It is from R-r-rarin," Dr. Epstein explained.  "R-r-rarin, r-r-rarebit.  De words are si-mi-lar, but I do not like de term and dis-courage it's use."  He looked at his wristwatch and stood, pocketing his pipe and lighter.  "Now, if joo will all ex-cuse me," he nodded to all the ladies present, and me.  "I must get caught up on my paper-work.  Dani, I will see you at 1:15 in room 515."

As I watched him leave, my sister punched me in the arm.

"What did you do that for?"

She shrugged and gave me a conspiratory grimace but didn't say anything.

I shook my head and turned back to the Jacksons.

"Are you from Texas," I asked.

"No," Tipper replied.  "I am from Memphis, and Dawita was born in Anaheim."

"But we met in Manila," Dawita explained.  "My family emigrated from the Philippines.  I went back in the sixties."

They must've met during the Philippino War.

"Are you a veteran?"

"No." Tipper grabbed his collar and showed me a badge.  "I did a four-year stint there, from seventy to seventy-four."

That was too late for the war.  I wonder what he was doing there.

"I was in the Peace Corps," he explained when I didn't get the significance of his collar-pin.  "Still am.  I'm a recruiter now."

"So, how did you like it," Mother asked him. 

"Hated it.  I got there just after Joan."

"Joan?  Who is she?"

"Super Typhoon Joan," he gave a pained look and one of his eyes twitched.  "It was brutal.  That whole season was.  Over a thousand dead from Luzon to Mindinao.  I met Dee in June of 1974, after Typhoon Dinah destroyed her school."

"Wow," Gina said in a voice heavy with awe.  "That must've been crazy, falling in love in all that mess."  She had always been the romantic of the family.

"It was," Diwata answered, smiling her enigmatic little smile.  "But it was grand."

It didn't sound like anything grand to me.

Tipper looked at his watch and fumbled under the table for his pack. "We have to go—we have to see Dr. Ronk...I bet he's waiting for us now."

"Dr. Ronk," Robbie snickered, looking up from his Nack.  "Is he the opposite of Dr. Hr-rite?"

"Clever," Tipper said casually as he tried to grab all his stuff at once.  He couldn't carry his tray, but Diwata bussed the contents to her tray and picked up the stack.

"It was very nice to meet you," She said, looking at us all.  "We will probably see you again before the day is out...we are here about Rarin too."

[8—A Desperate Lunch]

Lunch came as a tremendous relief—in all ways but one—and I was ravenous by the time we sat down.

The cafeteria was a huge affair with three buffet lines and a salad bar.  Most of the big round tables had six or more people already sitting at them.

I spotted an empty one over by the huge plate-glass wall overlooking the central plaza.  I grabbed my tray and sped towards it, but a long-haired guy in a blue-grey field-jacket beat me to it.  He put his backpack down next to his tray and flopped down. 

I looked around, hoping to find another table with enough space for the five of us.  I approached his table, not sure what to do.  He was older than me, but not that much, with unkempt coal black hair and a scruffy-looking beard.  He reminded me of Charles Manson.

"Excuse me sir," I said in that submissive tone I just can't seem to shake when talking to strangers.  I was pretty uncomfortable and shifting from foot to foot.  "Are you sitting there?"

Of all the dumb things to say.

He looked up at me without lifting his head or saying anything.  I was just about to slink away in shame when my brother and sister appeared at my elbow.  We had to sit somewhere, and the sooner I ate, the sooner I could get to the laboratory.

He straightened up and smiled.


"Oh," I replied, mortified by my own stupidity, but not sure what to do next.  I felt a sharp spasm in my bladder and tried to cross my legs while standing. 

He laughed, and I started to turn away.

"I'm sorry, young miss," he said, standing and pulling out the chair to his left.  "I was just joking.  Of course you and your...siblings?"

I nodded and he continued.

"You and your siblings can sit here."  He began moving around the table, pulling out two more chairs.

I sat down and plowed into my club sandwich.

My parents were not far behind us, and the scary man had pulled out chairs for them too by the time they reached the table.  He seated Mother, like a maître d', and then the rest of the 'girls' in turn, before returning to his own chair.


Boys simply cannot use a straw without slurping.  Robbie took a long loud drink of his Slurpee and stuffed his burger into his face. 

Nothing in the world is more annoying than that congestive warble a straw makes in the bottom of a thick drink.  It sounded like he was drinking pudding.

"Robbie," Mother said, picking up her glass of iced tea.  The noise it made as she sipped at it made me think of Niagara Falls.  "Stop playing with your food.  Can't you see it's driving your sister mad?"

I nodded meekly and squirmed in my chair.  Dr. Epstein was approaching our table opposite where I sat.  He smiled at me with his whole face and approached.

"E-scuse me, Heywoods.  Do joo mind eef I e-join joo?"

"Certainly," Daddy said and motioned to the empty seat beside me.

"Gracias," he said and put his tray down.  I didn't recognize anything on it.

"I see joo haf met Señor Jackson," he indicated our funky tablemate.

Mr. Jackson smiled politely but seemed a bit distracted.  He was scanning the crowd near the cash registers and stood up suddenly and started waving both arms.

He stopped when a small Asian woman waved back and started toward our table.

"Entonces," Dr. Epstein continued while Jackson took his backpack off the table and cleared a spot for the approaching woman, "I hope our e-staff hass not made jour morn-een too un-comfort-able."

"No, not at all," Mother replied automatically.  She could receive a colostomy bag with grace.  "You have a lovely modern facility.  I have seen nothing but professionalism this morning."

"Girls," Daddy interrupted, looking at us in turn, "what has gotten into you?"

My bladder was way too full and I suspected hers was too.  Gina was wigglingnot quite so much as me—but she had orange juice for breakfast; I drank coffee. 

Why, O God, did I do such a thing?  For that matter, why weren't the boys doing the potty dance?  Was it possible that they were exempt from giving a quart-sized urine sample after lunch, or did they have gallon-sized bladders?

"Mitchell," Mother scolded him in sotto voce, "you leave them alone."

He gave her a curious look and I could see that she too, sat in no small amount of discomfort. 

"What's wrong, dear?"

She gave him the crooked frown and he went quietly back to his plate.

Dr. Epstein rose as the young Asian reached the table and was seated by the scary Mr. Jackson.  Daddy stood too, because that's what men do, and gave Robbie a pointed look. 

Robbie popped to his feet and nodded at the woman.  When she was properly seated the men sat back down, but Robbie continued to stare at her, mouth agape.

"Sit down," Daddy reminded him a bit harshly.  "And close your mouth."

Robbie sat, cheeks burning bright with embarrassment and fiddled with his silverware.

"Allow me," Dr. Epstein said with a flourish and exaggerated formality, "to into-duce de Jacksons.  Señor Teeper y Señora Diwata.  Dey are patients here like joo."

The Jacksons smiled and bowed and Dr. Epstein gestured in our direction.

"And dees are de Heywoods."  He pointed us out in turn.

"Señor Meetchell, Señora Beelee, Señoritas R-regina y Dani, and of course Señor R-roberto."

"It's nice to meet you," Tipper said, nodding vigorously and dug into his own lunch.  His wife smiled and made a strange gesture.  She did not look Japanese or Chinese, she was too dark.  And although she had almond-shaped eyes and straight black hair, her face bore hints of Caucasian features.  She was as pretty as her name, though, but looked much younger than her husband.

Silence reigned for a pregnant moment; that is to say, no one spoke, but there were all manner of noises:  chewing and smacking; the clicking of silverware on plates; and the relentless drinking...and slurping.  I felt I was going to explode.

Mother broke the silence.

"Dani, did you forget order a beverage?"  She was drinking like a fish, and so was my sister. 

I looked around and noticed everyone was sucking down liquids like they were camels expecting a drought. 

She handed me her glass of ice-water.  "Here, take mine.  You must be parched."

"Not really." It was a lie; I was thirsty, but there was no way I could drink any more.

But the cold was tempting as well as suggestive.  If I drank it now, and went to the bathroom just a little bit, I'd still be able to fill my quota, as it were.

"I changed my mind," I announced, standing up and draining the glass in one gulp.  I set it empty back down on the table. 

"Excuse me," I said, as the cold hit me and an irresistible urge flooded my body, "I gotta go," and fled to find the bathrooms as fast as my little feet could carry me.



Dr. Hammond's revelation was a great victory for the truth, and I felt vindicated.  But it was a hollow and short-lived triumph. 

Dr. Hopewell slunk off to some corner somewhere and left me alone. 

Judge Marcus suggested that I see another psychologist, but didn't order it, and set my hearing for the week of November First.  I thought winning my case would be a piece of cake now.

Meanwhile, I had an appointment to see Doctoro Milagro in Dallas.  But it turned out that 'an appointment' meant a battery of invasive and painful tests with a team of a dozen specialists.

It also meant the whole family, so it turned into an adventure for all of us. 

Dr. Hammond was concerned that my defect might be inherited, so we had to attend the coven of Texan witch doctors as a unit.

Dallas is seven hundred miles from St. Louis—a drive of at least fourteen hours through Indian Territory.

My brother wanted to do that, or go by train, which would entail two five-hour legs with an overnight stopover in Oklahoma City.

Mother wanted to fly and she always gets her way.  It was a shorter and faster route, 550 miles, and flight time would be five hours by airship or only two hours by plane.  But flying is prohibitively expensive for five people.  Flying would cost us more than the rest of the trip combined—including the medical bills.

So we drove, and drove. 

And drove. 

Well, my parents drove, mostly Daddy, but I couldn't, because I didn't have my permit yet!  Not that I was bitter, or anything; but I was determined not to make my family suffer for it, so I decided to hold my tongue—for the time being.

Robbie had never been in Oklahoma before and was fascinated.  It was all still Indian Territory, divided into districts and further into tribes.  Each tribe had its own lands, its own laws, and access was strictly limited to tribal members and authorized visitors.

Of course the Interstates went through, but they too were limited access.  Getting off the highways and seeing the sites required stops in each Nation and endless paperwork.  Robbie wanted to see everything.

Daddy finally settled the matter by telling him we could stop in one district, but it had to be on our route, but we could stop at any nation in that district, because the family visa would be good for all of them.

He chose District I, which was mostly the Cherokee Nation, but included a lot of smaller tribes in the northeast corner of the state.

I have to admit that was pretty neat.  We spent a day exploring the tiny museums of the Quapaw, Seneca, Shawnee, and Ottawa Nations and the bulk of the next in Cherokee territory. 

We stopped at Big Cabin, and Robbie told us all about the Confederate victory there late in the First Civil War. 

We stopped in Tulsa, which he delighted in calling 'Tulsey Town'; it was surprisingly modern and urban.  Someone there told us Tulsa was the smallest big city in the world.  It was quaint, compared to St. Louis, and the people were friendly.

But the most amazing thing to me was that all the signs were in two languages—English and Cherokee, which is totally unrelated to the Indo-European language family.  I'd never seen Sequoyah's syllabary before. 

I bought three Cherokee language texts in the bookstore and a Muskokee dictionary to give me something to do on the road.  By the time we got to Dallas, I could read and write the syllabary, had memorized a few dozen phrases and knew it was called 'Tsalagi.'

Robbie was unbearable in Disctrict IV.

"Did you know that both the Seminole and Creek Indians speak Muskokee," he asked when we stopped for fuel in Muskogee, the capital of the Creek Nation.

"Yes," I answered.  I'd learned that in the introduction of my new dictionary.

"huh-uh," he replied and went on picking through a rack of cassette tapes. 

"Did you know that 'uh-huh' came into English through Cherokee?"

He looked at me blankly.


"Also, some Seminoles speak the Mikasuki langauge." 

I loved being able to out-trivialize him.

"Yeah," he said sheepishly, "I knew that," and went back to his search.

"No you didn't.  You'd learn more if you read books instead of these tapes.  Can you even use these in your Nack?"

"Sure," he held one up to me.  "Most of them are in English, for tourists.  Besides, they're all audio tapes; they'll work in any player."

I spotted a Nack logo.

"Here you go," I said, looking at the label.  "Native plants of the tall grass prairie.  And it's even in English."

"No thanks.  Do you see anything about Code Talkers?"

"No.  You're not likely to find that here, but I think I saw an audio about 'Combat Weathermen'.  Don't forget new batteries."


"You know," Robbie asked me when we were passing through Wewoka, "this is where the Harjo brothers settled after the war?  The whole I.C. revival," he announced to the whole car, "started here.  Hey Dad, can we stop in Seminole?  It's got a great war museum."

"No," Daddy scolded him.  "You had your choice.  We've already spent two days here, letting you explore, and we have to be in Dallas by the morning."

"Aw," Robbie protested but went back to his Nack.  It was a strange device, half electronic calculator, half tape recorder.  It had a keyboard and four rows of bright LED's that spelled out text and numbers in an awkward hard-to-read format, but he loved it.

It was a bit like a typewriter, but it stored what you wrote on tape.  It could read tapes specially written for it, so that you could store books and other data.  It was like a very small computer, but much simpler and had several built-in functions. 

Daddy had bought it used and was able to repair the broken tape mechanism so that it worked like new, and had given it to Robbie for Christmas last year.  I'd seen new ones in a HamCo store for $500.

How it worked was a mystery to me, but Robbie seemed to be very adept in its use.  He could make it talk, dial telephone numbers, play tinny music, read books on it, or use it as a programmable scientific calculator.

I watched him use it for another half hour until we passed through Sasakwa.  He put it away and started up again.

"Sasakwa is where Alton Harjo landed the Galegi when he returned from St. Louis.  His father was from there.  Hey Dad, the canal that connects the Red River and the Arkansas River is not too far from here."


"Can we go see it?  We'll never get another chance."

"No, and stop asking. We don't want to see it, you do.  And you make your own chances, young man.  You'll be free to do anything you want when you're twenty-one."