“Your mom will be found soon. Have some patience?”
“I talked to Michaels already,” I said. “We just came to hear the speaker.”
“You should make up your own mind, of course? But I do not think we should be listening to these Boov. They are on their way out. Our leaders? They’re making great headway with the Gorg. Great headway. Dan Landry especially. You should go to his talk tonight.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “See you tomorrow, Mitch.”
“Oh!” said Mitch. “I nearly forgot. Someone’s looking for you? A Native American gentleman at the hospital, I believe.”
“Chief!” I shouted as we ran into his room.
Well, no. That’s not entirely right. “Chief!” I shouted, after J.Lo and I drove to the hospital, fought our way past a crowd at the door and through a maze of people in chairs and on stretchers and gurneys with IV tubes running from bags on hat racks, got the Chief’s room number from a woman at a desk, were informed by a nurse or somebody that we couldn’t see a patient unless we were family, politely shouted at that nurse or whatever that Aren’t we all kind of family now when you really think about it, stupid?, then slipped past while he was distracted by a dog in a wheelchair, and ran into the Chief’s room. There.
The Chief shared the room with a sleeping patient on the other side of a curtain.
“Mr. Hinkel,” said the Chief, jerking his head toward the sleeping man. “He thinks Indians like me ought to live somewhere else. Likes to tell me about it a lot.”
I didn’t really want to talk about Mr. Hinkel.
“Well, maybe they’ll let him go soon.”
“Doubt it,” said the Chief. “Got beat up pretty good by someone who thinks gay people like him ought to live somewhere else. Good to see you, Stupidlegs, Boov.”
I smiled, then what he’d said sunk in.
“Kat told you?”
“No,” said J.Lo. “I told him. By my having my sheet fall off while helping him hide the telecloner. I forgot to say.”
“Are you…okay with that, Chief? Are you gonna tell?”
The Chief shrugged. “When you’re Indian, you have people tellin’ you your whole life ’bout the people who took your land. Can’t hate all of ’em, or you’d spend your whole life shouting at everyone.”
“Of course,” I said, “that’s pretty much what you did anyway. But that was all an act, wasn’t it? If you act crazy, you can tell people flat out that you have a UFO, and no one will believe you.”
The Chief grinned. He had good teeth for a ninety-three-year-old.
“An’ if you hide that UFO inside some piece of crap you made yourself—” said the Chief.
“—then anyone who still thinks you have the real deal will feel like an idiot for coming to see it, right?”
“Worked for sixty-six years. Till you two found my animals, I’m guessing.”
“Koobish,” said J.Lo. “They are called koobish.”
“You still called JayJay?”
“No. I am J.Lo.”
“No way I’m calling you that.”
“You canto keep calling me Spook.”
I couldn’t wait any longer. The suspense was eating me alive.
“Chief,” I said, “did everyone get out of Roswell? Before…”
“Yep. Can thank those UFO jerks for that. They were up on the roof looking through their telescopes, saw the Gorg comin’ from miles off. Some escaped in the car you left behind, though they puzzled over the plastic key a bit. I packed up Lincoln and the…koobish in my truck, an’ me an’ that fella Trey got out just in time.”
“Trey went with you?”
“I…couldn’t do any driving yet. Too dizzy. We left the koobish by the Rio Grande. Trey’s watching Lincoln till I stop…till I get out of here.”
He coughed a bit. I don’t mean anything ominous by that—in movies and stories, people only ever cough to foreshadow them getting really sick or dying or something. The truth was that the Chief had coughed a lot since I’d met him. All the time, even before the Gorg hit him. But I noticed it now.
“Are you going to be well?” asked J.Lo.
“Hold on now, it’s my turn,” the Chief said. “Tell me about that Gorg cage thing. Is it safe?”
J.Lo explained what the teleclone booth was, and why it was so important, and how we had it hidden but nearly ready to use.
“I thought we should tell someone in charge about it,” I said. “But this government guy we know is all about trusting the Gorg and making deals, and I’m afraid he’d give it back to the Gorg. I don’t know who to trust.”
“Just keep it safe till I get out of here, then we’ll work together. Learned a lotta stuff in the army that’ll be helpful if I can remember half of it.”
“Okay, but…Chief, I haven’t seen my mom since Christmas. If I find out where she is I’m going there.”
“I also,” said J.Lo.
The Chief nodded his head and closed his eyes. It was time to go.
A second long week in Flagstaff passed. We visited the Chief, stood in line at the Boovish telecloner for water and milk shakes, did odd jobs for people in exchange for real food and supplies, and read together. I read aloud to J.Lo from Huckleberry Finn, which he liked, and War of the Worlds, which he found to be too one-sided. We started our own junkyard, and J.Lo tried to work out a way to make more teleclone booths out of human technology, or soup up the milk shake cloners so that they could handle bigger things.
I learned a lot more from the Chief.
“So after World War Two you were sent to New Mexico?” I asked him on one of my visits. I was alone this time, checking out his new digs at the old folks’ home they’d moved him to when they needed his bed at the hospital. He hated it.
“To a training ground in Fort Sumner. Didn’t like it there—lot of bad history for my people. You know I grew up near here? On the res.”
“Yeah, you said. So you’re…Navajo, then?” I’d been learning a bit about the area.
“Prefer the name Diné, but yes.”
“So after Fort Sumner…”
“I asked to be transferred to the air base in Roswell. Bought some land when I heard a rumor the city wanted to build a water tower on it. So they’d have t’pay me rent.”