Chapter Nine

The emergency room doctor paused outside the examining room. Minutes earlier, he’d been prepared to call social services to deal with the parents of his patient. They’d arrived 45 minutes earlier, screeching up to the emergency room doors with the most unlikely story he’d heard in 23 years of medicine: their toddler had spoken in a deep bass voice and proclaimed himself God during a church service.

The initial examination had shown the boy had an irritated throat, but that could be the result of a morning of screaming. He’d seemed like a happy tike, and showed no signs of godliness or other supernatural characteristics.

The doctor had determined it was best to get the kid away from the nut-job parents before a tragedy occurred in their mini-cult. After excusing himself from the examining room, he had walked a straight line to the on-call physician’s office. Just as he dialed social services, he’d noticed the waiting room television, tuned to GNBNC, as usual.

The image on the tube froze the doctor mid-dial. There was the same boy, wearing an odd expression and mouthing what looked to be a long combination of words.

The doctor couldn’t hear the audio, but the reactions from those in the waiting room told the story — something not-right was coming out of that boy’s mouth. The child slumped into his dad’s arms, then seemed to wake up and look around, as if coming out of a trance.

One more quick movement of the boy’s mouth, and pandemonium broke loose in the church. The screen cut back to the anchor, and the doctor slammed down the phone. He hurried to the nurses’ station where a stunned nurse sat transfixed by the screen.

“What’d that kid on television just say?” the doctor demanded.

“He… he said he was God, and that he wants us to love one another.

Now, outside the examining room door, the doctor wondered what to say, what to think, what to do. He stepped inside. Billy sat quietly in his father’s arms, playing with a toy car. His parents waited for the doctor to speak.

“Folks, I’m not sure what to tell you,” the doctor began. “I’ve never seen a case like this, and I’ve never heard of one either. About the best I can say is we should watch him carefully. He looks healthy to me — no red flags of any kind, other than what you described, for which I think the term ‘red flag’ is something of an understatement. I’d like to check him in for a couple days, to watch for signs of distress: inconsolable crying, high fever, loss of appetite or a change in personality — apart from the most recent change, of course.”

“So you believe us?” Amy asked. “Do you think the preacher was right about God and all?”

The doctor paused.

“I’ll level with you,” he said. “Usually, when a parent comes in complaining that their child is God, it is a reasonably good sign that something’s wrong with this picture. But when I saw you on TV --”

“TV?” Tom said.

“WSSS,” said Amy in sudden realization.

“Aw, hell, that’s right!” Tom scowled. “That explains the maniac at our house, and the others who were showing up! We’re gonna have to deal with every busybody and crazy idiot in Richmond!”

“Um, it wasn’t WSSS,” said the doctor. “It was national. GNBNC.”

“GNB¼?” Amy and Tom went wide-eyed.

“This is a news story made in heaven,” Tom said, sliding down in his chair. The air seemed to have left the room.

“We can’t stay here, and we can’t go home. We’ve got to get completely out of sight.”

“I strongly recommend that you allow us to observe Billy, at least overnight,” the doctor urged.

“Doc, we can’t,” Amy said, stride for stride with Tom’s reasoning. “We’ve got to hide until this blows over. People would look for us here.”

“We can’t risk it,” Tom agreed. “Every trash reporter, con-man, crazy person and crook in Virginia — in the world — is going to be banging down our door.”

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© Chuck Hansen - 2019