Jefferson was young and black. He was cool and he was hip and he was on his way. He clutched the patient's particulars as he diddy-bopped down the corridor.
Archie lay on an examination table in a brightly lit room. Alive, he figured. His head was bandaged with surgical gauze and he stared impassively at the ceiling, as though he had been tranquilized. Behind him a nurse was doing her thing, humming a happy little song along with the Muzak.
Jefferson entered the room. He pulled up a chair, straddling it, being cool.
"Hi Arch," he said. "I'm Doctor Jefferson. How you doing?"
Archie looked over at him. He looked vaguely like Washington. All he could do was nod. Doctor Jefferson thumbed through some papers.
"Archie, I've got some good news for you," he said. "You're going to be OK, you know that?"
Archie managed a smile. Jefferson continued:
"You've got five—no, six—stitches. What they call a mild concussion." He smiled. "That means you'll have a headache, and you might feel a little dizzy, but you're really OK."
Archie nodded. He was dizzy, but there was no pain. He nodded some more.
"Boy!" said Jefferson, "That's quite a story! Zombies! Four of 'em. Four zombies coming after you in an old wreck of a van!"
Archie spoke with difficulty, but he was impassioned:
"Dwyer!" He said. "They killed Dwyer…and Franklin!"
"You know Archie," said Dr. Jefferson. "I believe you. It was a terrible thing. Those were the four kids who were killed in the automobile accident, right Archie? Your own friends, and they came after you that way?"
"Yes…" said Archie. "I mean, no…!"
"Well I want you to know we're going to check that out," said Jefferson. "The police are sending a squad car out to the mortuary, and then everyone will know your story is real."
"They killed Franklin!" said Archie. "And Queenie! Stop them!"
"She was so cute! The way she'd dance around the coffins!"
Archie," said the doctor, "I'm going to give you something, another something to help you relax, and get a good night's sleep."
"I don't want it!"
"It's a mosquito bite!" said the nurse, moving up behind. She deftly slipped the needle into his arm.
"I don't want it!"
Two cops stood behind the one-way mirror overlooking Archie's room. They were smoking and they were tired and they weren't particularly smart. But then again they didn't have to be.
"We got us a real nutjob here, eh?" said the first. "You reach McCloud?"
"Yeah. Says the kid's been weird even before his friends bought it. This stuff, vandalism and the cross dressing and all, though, is new. Kid's an orphan, lives with his aunt."
The first cop shook his head sadly: "Once they get on that shit, they go down hill quick, don't they?"
"That's affirm. Too bad. Good student. College material."
The first cop shook his head and sucked sweet smoke.
"McCloud…." he mused. "Hires cheap coolie labor out of high school. They're supposed to do the grunt work around the place, and he puts 'em to work fixing up the stiffs."
"That legal?" said the second cop, taking a drag.
"You can't ask kids in high school to do things like that."
"Nope. It's just wrong, isn't it? He ought to get busted."
Both cops thought a while; at least two puffs-worth of unfiltered Camels. Their teeth yellowed microscopically as they mused.
"Could we bust him?" asked the second cop.
"Nah! Nobody'll ever bust old McCloud. If he was gonna lose his license, he'd a lost it years ago. 'Member when the circus train wrecked, and him and his brother were all over it?"
"All them dead acrobats?"
"He's got himself a gig, he does. If ya like that sort a thing. As a matter of fact…"
And the first cop leaned in very close to the second cop, as if to impart a very secret secret that nobody—God help them—should hear.
Doctor Jefferson continued his examination.
"Archie," he said, "Can you look at this eraser for me?"
Archie's eyes followed the float of the eraser, up and down, up and down. Nat King Cole was singing For All We Know quietly in the background:
Love, look at the two of us
Strangers in many ways
Archie was thinking of a wounded mallard
on the first day of duck season. Rufus, his old yellow Lab
was following the path of the duck anxiously, wondering if the bird would make it or not, whining in the cold morning air. Aching to fetch, boy, fetch
"Archie," the young doctor said at last, "do you use drugs?"
"Drugs," repeated Archie wistfully. "Drugs…."
Dr. Jefferson read from a list: "Stuff like uppers, downers, reds, whites, black beauties, Quaaludes, angel dust, heroin, horse, smack, coke, crack? Marijuana? Mary Jane?" He winked significantly at Archie. "Pot, boo, weed, herb superb my good man?"
"God," said Arch. "I'm getting dizzy."
"Have you ever shot up?" probed Jefferson. "Do you shoot up now? Can I see your arm?"
Archie tried to resist showing his arm, just out of principle.
"You don't understand," he whimpered, "they're out there. They're going to kill someone!"
"Has anyone at the high school, at Hudson High, been supplying you with drugs?"
"I don't go to Hudson!" protested Archie.
"You wouldn't believe what problems we've had in this emergency room," said Dr. Jefferson. He held Archie's arm passionately. "When you talk about monsters, son, I know what you're talking about. I've been there, Archie."
Archie looked at him like he was tripping his nut sack in a frenzy of jive talk:
"I've seen these monsters with my own eyes! It's a monster with many heads, right Arch? You cut off one head and another grows in its place. Over and over and over. That's the drug problem in this country, Archie." His voice moderated, though it did not decrease in its passion. "And we're going to get to the heart of the drug problem at Hudson High, you and me—"
"Freeman!" moaned Archie.
"We're going to cut its heart out!" Dr. Jefferson held Archie's arm, the way Arthur must've held Sir Lancelot's.
"What's that clown doing in there?" said the first cop to the second.
"It's part of his drug program. He's on a federal grant."
"For Christ's sake, this kid has a head injury! I know this kid! I see him all the time, driving around town in that goddamn hearse! Get him out of here! Send him home! Tomorrow he'll forget the whole thing!"
The second cop shrugged. He stubbed out his cigarette and left the room. A nurse, leggy, with a smell of freshly laundered uniform about her, entered with two cups of coffee and some donuts on a tray.
"Thanks, Willow, said the first cop. Any word on the old guy, Mr. Franklin?"
"Oh he's going to be fine," she answered musically, as if all of life's problems could be solved by embroidering happy faces on your underwear. "He's worried about that cute little dog of his."
"Little yip-yip dog, eh?"
She nodded, noticing that the first cop was trying to look down her blouse. She liked that.
"Never did care for those little yippity yippities," he said, biting into a sugared donut with sprinkles on it.
Next and finally: How it all worked out for the best.
Forward to the conclusion
Freeman and me and the rest of the world