Chapter 1: Chapter One
It was a warm, sunny afternoon in mid-August when an auburn-haired woman, carrying a suitcase, walked towards the front door of the Dumping Ground, clutching the hand of a small, blond-haired boy wearing wraparound sunglasses. The child, who didn't look any older than five years of age due to his small stature, had his head hung low as his rapid steps fought to match the woman's pace.
Upon reaching the door, the woman rang the bell and waited until it was answered by a large man with dark skin and tightly curled black hair, wearing an apron.
"Oh, hi. This must be our newest arrival. I'll just show you to the office. I'm Duke, by the way."
"Nice to meet you," the woman replied, not sounding as if she meant it at all. She didn't tell Duke her own name.
The aproned man led the woman and the boy, who had rather an adult expression on his small face, to a room in which was a desk, two filing cabinets, and a free-standing cupboard. He knocked on the door, and once the woman sitting at the desk looked up, said, "The new kid's here, Jenny."
"Okay. Thank you, Duke. I'll let you get back to the kitchen," Jenny replied. Then she asked the child, "So, you're Shaun?"
Immediately, the boy dropped to his knees and started violently rocking back and forth, hitting his head with his hand as he screamed, "Naw caw Shaun! Naw caw Shaun!"
Hearing this commotion, Duke, who had only been a few steps away from the office, dashed back to see what the matter was, and grabbed the child to prevent him doing harm to himself. As soon as he felt a strange person's arms around him, 'Shaun' began to kick out as he screamed louder, and he kept this up for several minutes until he finally tired himself out. Once he was satisfied that the new kid was no longer likely to hurt himself, Duke let the boy go and watched as he crawled to a corner of the room and sat facing it, cross-legged and rocking with far less force than before as he quietly hummed a repetitive tune.
"What was all that about?" Jenny asked, shocked.
"The boy's mother called him a silly name I refuse to use, so I call him by his middle name instead. Shaun doesn't like it, but if daft women will..."
At this point, the boy again started rocking more violently, this time screaming, "Mummy naw da'! Mummy naw da'! Mummy naw da'! Mummy naw da'! Mummy naw da'!"
As 'Shaun' was not hitting himself this time, Duke decided to leave well enough alone, and instead asked, "What's wrong with him?"
"What's right with him?" the woman retorted bitterly. "Shaun has Autistic Disorder and is intellectually disabled. Most of the time, he doesn't take anything in, but there are times when he acts just like this after hearing something he doesn't like. The mother says he's usually calm and biddable, but I've never seen that type of behaviour, only this."
Giving the auburn-haired woman a look of utter scorn, Duke squatted by the small boy and said, "Now, since you're not called Shaun, why don't you tell me what you are called?"
"I told you it's a silly name," the visitor began to say, but was quelled by reproving looks from both Jenny and Duke.
"And how do you spell your name, Tidus?" the large man asked.
"Tango - India - Delta - Uniform - Sierra," Tidus replied, much to the amazement of the staff of the Dumping Ground.
"Savant Syndrome," sniffed Tidus' social worker, whom the woman was.
"Can you spell your surname, Tidus?"
"Whisky - Echo - Alpha - Victor - Echo - Romeo."
"And what about your social worker's name?"
"Papa - Echo - Tango - Echo - Romeo, Kilo - India - November - Golf - Sierra - Lima - Echo - Yankee."
"That's Shaun's social worker from the Learning Disabilities team," the woman dispassionately explained. "I'm his social worker from the Child and Family team." Then she asked, "Can you spell what I'm called?"
For the first time, Tidus smiled before he recited, "Tango - Hotel - Echo, Whisky - India - Charlie - Kilo - Echo - Delta, Whisky - India - Tango - Charlie - Hotel, Oscar - Foxtrot, Tango - Hotel - Echo, Whisky - Echo - Sierra - Tango."
Duke was the first to figure this string of words out, and he started laughing as soon as he had. The social worker, however, merely looked sulky, and Jenny was the only one professional enough to keep a neutral expression on her face.
"The Wicked Witch of the West!" Duke chortled. "That's a classic!"
Then all three adults were startled to hear Tidus croak in a cracked, high-pitched voice, "I'll get you! And your little dawg, too!" just before he jerked his head in a tic, his voice and intonation a perfect mimicry of the MGM character's.
"What's your name, by the way?" Jenny asked the woman.
"I'm Jayne Miller," the social worker replied.
"Well, Jayne, I'm not sure we're equipped to take on a child with such disabilities. You'll have to look for somewhere else."
"I have looked. I rang around everywhere, and you're the only place with any space available for Shaun. This is my last resort, trust me. As for looking after him, you'll find everything you need to know in his file." With that, Jayne said directly to Tidus, "Goodbye, Shaun," prompting another screaming and self-injury fit that Duke again dealt with, then walked from the office on her way to the front door.
As soon as the boy was calm once more, Duke asked him, "Would you like something to eat, Tidus?"
Tidus nodded and put his hands on the floor before unfolding his legs and standing up on them, ending up on all fours. Then he stood up fully and grasped Duke's outstretched hand, allowing the man to lead him from the room. Sighing, Jenny opened Tidus' file to look for the number of his local authority, then picked up the phone to request a more sympathetic social worker for him.
✱ ✱ ✱
Somewhere in another universe, a middle-aged man sat slumped on a throne and rubbed His bearded chin, deep in thought. Finally, He straightened up before calling out, "Haskill! Get in here!"
A dour-looking man popped into view and asked, "What is Your desire, Lord Sheogorath?"
"If there were places other than Mundus," Sheogorath enquired, "what would be the best way to get people from them here so I could learn about where they're from?"
"Well, my Lord," Haskill replied, "they would have to be of Mundus, although they are not from Mundus, if You see what I mean. Also, because You won't know where these individuals are before they are here and so cannot reach them, You would have to find some other way of leading them down the Golden Road so they can find their way to You."
"I see, Haskill. You may go now."
"Very good, my Lord," the chamberlain responded, fading from view.
For a few minutes longer, the Daedric Prince of Madness sat deep in thought once again, then He murmured, "These people I wish to speak to should become something they don't recognise from their worlds, because that will guarantee insanity. Argonians, I think, as those creatures are of Mundus, have immunity to poisons, and are unable to drown. They should be vampires, because they will never then succumb to disease. And these people should definitely have the kind of immortality that I and My siblings enjoy, just in case they die despite all their other powers. Also, they must be disadvantaged, as people who are rich will not need the kind of money such fame as the changes they will undergo may bring them."
The Madgod sat and mulled over everything He had just said, adding on any little details He thought He had missed or which took His fancy, then He closed His eyes and made a wish, trusting that the powers which had granted Him His guards would also grant Him this.
✱ ✱ ✱
About three quarters of an hour after he had been led to the kitchen to get something to eat, Tidus was shrieking and giggling as he ran around the Dumping Ground, being chased by a rather breathless Duke. As the man paused for breath, bending over while he held onto the newel post at the bottom of the stairs with his other hand to his side, Jenny came from the office and asked what was going on.
"I don't know," Duke panted. "Tidus was sitting quietly at the table up until a few minutes ago, and I have no idea what's suddenly triggered his current behaviour."
From the kitchen, there was the noise of several plates being smashed along with cutlery and plastic beakers simultaneously falling to the floor, then Tidus dashed back into the hallway with a tablecloth tied round his neck like a cape just as Mike, another member of the Dumping Ground staff, walked through the front door with the other residents of the home behind him, having just brought them back from an outing in the minibus.
Seeing this new person, Tidus shrieked, "Ow way! Ow way!" and when he reached the door and Mike had still not moved, he punched the man right in the groin, causing him to crumple to the ground as the Autistic boy ran past him and the other kids into the air outside.
His eyes squeezed tightly shut with pain, Mike wheezed, "Will you grab him for me, Tracy?"
As a girl, about ten years old with curly brown hair, ran after Tidus, Jenny crouched down by Mike and asked him, "Are you all right?"
"Just about," the man gasped, the rest of the residents trooping past him and into the house. "God, he punches hard for a little kid, doesn't he? Who is he? What's his name?"
"He's the new kid, and his name's Tidus," Duke answered, having just got his breath back.
"And what's caused him to be so hyper?"
"You didn't give him any bread, did you, Duke?" Jenny asked.
"No. I did offer him a sandwich, but he refused it and only ate some Cheestrings."
"Why shouldn't Tidus eat bread?" Mike asked.
"I read in his file that he's gluten intolerant," Jenny answered, "but there were no further details given, so I thought that might be the cause of his hyperactivity. We'll have to see if we can't get him tested for allergies to additives."
Just then, Tracy came back inside, her nose bleeding. "I'm going to kill that little worm when I get hold of him, Jenny!" she burst out.
"Now hold on there, Tracy Beaker! You'll not be killing anyone!" Mike retorted. "Now just stay calm and tell us what Tidus did."
"When I grabbed him, he screamed and punched me in the face, then he took the yard brush from the shed and started to climb one of the trees with it."
At this news, all three adults looked at each other, then ran outside to the tree that Tracy indicated. As their eyes frantically searched for any sign of Tidus within its branches, their attentions were caught by his voice excitedly shouting, "UP!"
All four turned their gazes towards the roof, whence the word was echoing, and watched in horror as Tidus, holding a straightish twig in his right hand and the yard brush gripped between his thighs with his left, ran along the peak of the roof to the edge before launching himself into space.
Naw caw Shaun! = Not called Shaun!
Mummy naw da'! = Mummy's not daft!
Jenny took one look at the small, crumpled form which lay so still on the grass in front of her, then ran back into the house to ring for an ambulance before returning outside to send Duke back in to cook the other kids' teas.
It was several minutes before the ambulance arrived, and once it had, the paramedics, a man and a woman, got out and took a stretcher from the back before wheeling it across the lawn towards the place where Tidus lay, still unconscious.
The male paramedic asked for Tidus' details, then he and his colleague listened carefully as Jenny told them while they put a neck brace on the boy and placed him on a back board before they removed his left shoe and put the limb in a vacuum splint. Then they put Tidus' right arm in a temporary sling before strapping him into place. As soon as the child was secure, the ambulance crew lifted the board onto the stretcher, also strapping that into place before wheeling the whole contrivance to the emergency vehicle, Mike following at Jenny's request after switching his mobile phone off.
As the ambulance sped through the streets, its lights flashing and the siren wailing, Tidus finally regained consciousness and immediately began screaming with pain and fright. Leaning towards the front of the vehicle, Mike asked, "Would you turn the siren off, please?"
Once a switch was pressed, the loud whooping noise that had filled the interior of the ambulance abruptly stopped, making Tidus' continued shrieks all the louder by comparison. Noticing that his charge was screwing his eyes up and trying to turn his face away from the bright rays of sunlight that were streaming in through the windows, Mike put Tidus' sunglasses, which had fallen off at some point during his fall, back on his face, breathing a huge sigh of relief when the child's screams cut off as suddenly as the siren had.
"So that's why you wear those things, the sun must really hurt your eyes." Then, as Tidus simply stared at him, Mike tried, "I'm Mike Milligan and I work at Lee Road Children's Home, where you live now. Do you know what happened to you?"
"Fly lie Harry Potter!" the boy exclaimed in an excited tone, trying to raise his head and being unable to do so because of the straps across his forehead and the temporary neck brace.
"No, you didn't fly. After you jumped from the roof, you fell to the ground and got badly hurt. We've been really worried about you. How old are you, anyway?"
For answer, Tidus held up the last two fingers of his left hand, and when Mike stated that he didn't understand, the child said, "Sierra - Echo - Victor - Echo - November."
At this point, the female paramedic partially turned around in her seat and requested, "Hey, Tidus, can you recite the whole alphabet using those words?"
Obligingly, Tidus recited, "Alpha - Bravo - Charlie - Delta - Echo - Foxtrot - Golf - Hotel - India - Juliet - Kilo - Lima - Mike - November - Oscar - Papa - Quebec - Romeo - Sierra - Tango - Uniform - Victor - Whisky - X-ray - Yankee - Zulu."
At this point, Mike enquired, "What's so special about the way Tidus says his letters?"
"He uses the NATO Phonetic Alphabet to say them, is what," the male paramedic answered. "There's not many adults who don't work in the Emergency Services or the Armed Forces that can recite it perfectly, never mind a seven-year-old kid. Where did you learn that alphabet, Tidus?"
"Police, Camera, Action," the Autistic boy responded.
Just then, the emergency vehicle stopped at the ambulance entrance of the Accident and Emergency Department at the hospital, and the crew got out and opened the back doors to allow Mike to exit before they pulled out the stretcher, which they wheeled inside. The moment the party were through the door, they were met by a doctor who walked with them to a cubicle, getting all the relevant details about his patient from the paramedics as he did so, then they transferred the board from the stretcher to a trolley before leaving.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Khan," the doctor said in a cheerful voice. "What happened to you, young man?"
"Fly broom lie Harry Potter!" Tidus responded with great delight. Then his voice took on a sorrowful tone as he added, "Bu' faw lie Neville."
As his patient shifted uncomfortably, Dr. Khan said, "Well, Tidus, we'll get you straight into x-ray, I think. See if we can't get you off that board." Then he turned to Mike and asked, "What really happened?"
"He took a yard brush from the shed, climbed a tree to the roof, then jumped off with it," the care worker answered. "He's Autistic and hyperactive, and it's my opinion that he really believes he was flying."
Just then, Tidus sang, "Flying, flying in the sky. My Nimbus flies so high!" to the 'Rupert the Bear' theme tune. Then he burst into a fit of the giggles.
Dr. Khan made a note in Tidus' file and stated that he would be in overnight for observation, asked him if he hurt anywhere other than his arm and leg, then after receiving an answer of a kind, left to arrange the x-rays. When the doctor had gone, Mike said, "Listen, Tidus, I have to go outside to make a phone call, but I'll ask the nurses to keep an eye on you. Will you be all right for a few minutes?"
Tidus didn't answer, being so busy poking at his right arm and wincing with the resulting pain that he never even heard the question. Giving a faint smile of amusement, Mike murmured, "You'll be all right, kiddo." Then he left to ask the nurses to keep an eye on his charge while he stood outside the main entrance of the A&E to use his mobile.
Once Mike had spoken to Jenny, he went back inside and returned to the cubicle that Tidus was in, thanking the nurse that had sat with the boy, then taking the seat the other man vacated.
At that moment, Tidus said, "Fee si'," and Mike asked the nurse if he could fetch a bowl or something. However, it was just then that the child opened his mouth and spectacularly vomited all over one wall and the floor. Then he started screaming in panic and fright as the nurse hurried away to look at his file, then page Dr. Khan before asking a cleaner to clean up the vomitus. The doctor arrived just as the cleaner was finishing, by which time Tidus was shrieking, "Wa' Mummy! Wa' Mummy!" over and over, tears rolling down his too pale face.
"Aren't you able to calm Tidus down?" Dr. Khan asked.
"I tried," Mike answered, "but he only got worse when I simply touched his hand."
By this time, Tidus's sobs were quietening as he had exhausted himself, and he was now drifting off to sleep. Noticing this, the doctor said, "I don't want you to go to sleep yet, Tidus. You have to be awake for your x-rays. Would you like a toy to play with while you're waiting?"
"Car, plea'," the boy requested, and Dr. Khan went off to get one, coming back with it in just a few minutes before leaving again, this time to chase up the Radiology Department.
For several minutes, Tidus rolled the Hot Wheels car the doctor had handed him back and forth along one of the raised sides of the trolley that he lay on, and as he was engaged in this activity, he sang:
"As the moon kindles the night
As the wind kindles the fire
As the rain fills every ocean
And the Sun the Earth
Your heart will kindle my heart
Take my heart, take my heart
Kindle it with your heart
And my heart cannot be kindled without you
With your heart, kindle my heart"
The child sang this song in a high, sweet treble voice that was full of emotion, though he never changed his expression from his usual neutral one, and then Mike was further astonished when his ward hummed a tune that was reminiscent of the East and rather complicated. However, before he could ask Tidus where he had learned either song or melody, a nurse arrived to wheel the boy to the Radiology Department for his x-rays.
'Kindle My Heart'; Copyright © 1995 Patrick Doyle. All rights reserved.
After Tidus had had electromagnetic radiation shot through him from various angles, he had an MRI of his left leg, then was sent back to A&E where Jenny was waiting outside the cubicle with a carrier bag containing his pyjamas, toothbrush, strawberry-flavour toothpaste, and his PECS, as well as a clean change of clothes for him. Several minutes after she had left again, Dr. Khan came back in.
"There's good news and there's bad news," he said. "The good news is that Tidus hasn't sustained any type of spinal injury, so he'll be able to come off the back board. I'll bet you're pleased about that, Tidus, aren't you?" The boy didn't answer, more interested in poking at his injured arm with the toy car. Nothing loath, the doctor continued, "The bad news is that he has sustained a closed transverse fracture of his right humerus, and closed greenstick fractures of his right ulna and radius; a closed displaced fracture of his left femur - something the paramedics were able to diagnose, really; and he has closed transverse fractures of several ribs. You won't be flying again for at least eight weeks, will you, young man?"
"Could I have that in English, do you think, Doctor?" Mike asked.
"Oh, sorry. Well, Tidus has broken his ribs and the long bone in his upper arm straight across. Displaced fracture means the broken ends of his femur are misaligned; closed means there is no wound complicating it, thankfully. Luckily, the ends of the bone aren't displaced too badly and the MRI showed no vessels in awkward places, so we should be able to put the femur back into place under local anaesthesia. And all that greenstick fracture means is the bones in Tidus's lower arm are broken only partway through. The most worrying thing right now is his concussion. The fact that he's had a period of unconsciousness is reason enough to keep him overnight for observation, and there's also the fact that his symptoms have continued beyond that point to concern us."
During his conversation with Mike, Dr. Khan had been carefully taking Tidus off the back board he was on, as well as removing the neck brace, then raising the head of the trolley, and the child gave a beatific smile as the pain left his back and the feeling began returning to his numb buttocks from the moment he felt the foam mattress of the trolley beneath him.
Suddenly, Tidus said, "Wa' go."
"We can't go, you still have to be treated," Mike replied.
"Wa' go," the Autistic boy repeated stubbornly.
When the care worker reiterated what he had said, Dr. Khan backing him up, Tidus started shrieking, "Wa' go! Wa' go!" over and over until a nurse entered the cubicle with a cardboard urine bottle and asked the two men to leave for a few minutes. There was the sound of a zip being undone and the nurse asking if Tidus could manage with one hand, then she exited the cubicle to wait until her patient was finished.
"How did you know what Tidus wanted?" Mike asked the nurse.
"His mum brought him in quite a lot up until a few weeks ago with sprains of one kind or another, so all the nursing staff of the department have got to know him quite well," she explained.
"And why did he need you to unzip his flies for him?"
"Tidus has dyspraxia, so there are some things he can't do for himself, though he's very independent with the things he can manage."
"Why were his recurrent sprains never reported?" Dr. Khan enquired.
"Because there were no suspicious circumstances. The mother's story always checked out on examination of Tidus's injuries. The kid obviously just likes jumping off things."
"Is Tidus's hair bleached?" Mike next wanted to know.
"You're asking because of his dark eyebrows, I suppose. No, I think it's probably just unusual colouring since there's no bleach damage. It is remarkable though, I must admit."
Just then, Tidus called out, "I du'," and the nurse returned to the cubicle to zip him back up and take the bottle. After the boy had said, "Vielen dank, Jess," Mike and the doctor also went back in just as Tidus started singing:
"Jessie, paint your pictures 'bout how it's gonna be
By now I should know better, your dreams are never free
But tell me all about our little trailer by the sea
And Jessie, you can always sell any dream to me
Jessie, you can always sell any dream to me"
"Oh, you're such a sweet little thing!" Jess laughed, bending down and kissing Tidus on the forehead. Then she swept from the cubicle to dispose of the bottle she held and its contents.
"Well, young man, I think it's time to begin your treatment," Dr. Khan said before he also left.
As Mike and Tidus waited, the man asked, "So, you like singing, Tidus?"
"Lie musi'," the child replied. Then he again began to poke at his injured arm with the toy car he still held, wincing with every jab and humming a repetitive little tune as he did so.
Mike sighed, frustrated. Despite the fact that the kid had punched him in a really painful place, there was obviously no malice in him. However, it could hardly be denied that he didn't engage with the world around him in quite the same way that everyone else did.
After several minutes of waiting with nothing but Tidus' humming to stave off the boredom, footsteps approached the cubicle and the boy called out, "Hu' plea', Sarah!" just before the curtain drew back with a rattle to admit Dr. Khan and two nurses that Mike had not seen before.
Sarah closed the curtain again and said, "No hug yet, Tidus. Not until that arm's in a cast, okay?"
Looking glum, Tidus nevertheless nodded and said, "'Kay." Then, as he saw a large pair of scissors, he asked, "Wa' for?"
"These? They're to cut your jeans off so we can treat your leg."
"Nah! Nah! Naw cu' gee!" the child shrieked, entering a self-injury and screaming fit, heartily resisting all attempts at restraint until Sarah shouted above his noise, "Okay, we won't cut your jeans, but taking them off is going to hurt a lot."
Tidus' shrieks cut off with an abruptness that astonished both Mike and Dr. Khan, and they were further surprised when the patient bore the extremely painful experience of having his jeans removed the traditional way with only the occasional grimace to indicate his level of discomfort. Nonetheless, Tidus was in a lot of pain, something that was clearly indicated by the wet patch that was obvious on his underpants after the procedure.
"Oh, dear," Sarah said. "Well, we'll just leave while you get changed, then we'll be back to finish." The nurse got Tidus' clean underpants out of the carrier bag and handed them to him, adding, "Just call out when you're done, and I'll help you change out of your T-shirt and into a gown, okay?"
The Autistic child nodded and the adults left the cubicle for several minutes until Tidus called them back, then Sarah undid his sling and eased his T-shirt off his good arm, over his head, and then down his bad arm before she got a small hospital gown from a shelf and brought it up the boy's right arm, then his left, tying it at the back then retying the sling.
Once she was done, the nurse noticed how much pain Tidus was in still.
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry. You should have said something. I'll get you a tablet to make it hurt less before you go to the Plaster Room."
Having said this, Sarah went to the curtain and pulled it back to allow the others back in, then closed it again before rejoining her colleagues. Dr. Khan had been away for a couple of minutes, and was now holding a small bottle which contained a clear fluid and bore a printed label. The doctor put this bottle on a shelf within the cubicle and got a needle and syringe from another, then once he had unwrapped them, he fitted them together before plunging the needle through the cap of the bottle and drawing a measure of fluid up into the syringe. Once this had been done, Dr. Khan said, "I'm going to give you some injections, Tidus. They will hurt quite a bit, but fixing your leg will hurt worse if I don't. Ready?"
The child gave a nod and watched solemnly as his leg was injected several times in a nerve block, then the doctor and nurses started to move the broken ends of the bone back into position. They had no sooner begun, however, when Tidus started shrieking and trying to pull away.
"Nah, sto'! Her! Her ba'!"
Immediately, the medical staff stopped what they were doing, then Dr. Khan pressed Tidus' thigh experimentally, taking notice when the boy flinched and moaned.
"All right, Tidus," Dr. Khan said. "We'll see if gas and air works any better for you. Would you ask a porter to bring the equipment, nurse?"
Vielen dank = Many thanks (Deutsch)
Lie musi' = Like music
Nah, sto'! Her! Her ba'! = No, stop! Hurts! Hurts Bad!
'Jessie'; Copyright © 1993 Joshua Kaddison. All rights reserved.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
As soon as the gas and air arrived, Dr. Khan put a mask over Tidus' face and started the oxygen flowing, gradually adding nitrogen until the Autistic boy was giggling. Then the doctor again pressed the area of the fracture, and when Tidus didn't flinch, asked if he could feel it.
'"Yeah," the child answered in a dreamy voice, chuckling as he rolled the Hot Wheels car along the railing of the trolley.
Now that Tidus had no pain in his leg, the medical staff were easily able to put his femur back into its correct position before he was taken for yet another MRI, then given his painkiller. After that, he was taken on the trolley to the Plaster Room by a porter, Mike following behind.
After a wait of forty minutes, the boy was finally seen by someone who asked him what colour of synthetic cast he wanted, and he showed a PECS card with a black square on it, and one with a red square.
"Why don't I put the red cast on your leg so you can get more signatures, and put the black cast on your arm?" the plaster nurse asked, "And I tell you what, if you're really brave, I'll even give you a marker for people to sign your red cast with. How's that?"
Tidus nodded eagerly, then the casting began. First, the nurse applying the cast donned a pair of purple latex gloves before he put a sleeve which was somewhat like a loose Tubigrip on Tidus' left leg from the top to beyond his toes, then wrapped a wide roll of polyester wadding bandage-like from his toes to his groin and back again. A roll of red cast was then dipped into a bucket of water before it too was rolled on, and the ends of the vertically ribbed textile tubing were folded over onto the cast before another layer was applied. Then, while Tidus' leg was lying on a plastic covered pillow, the black cast was applied to the child's arm in a similar way, except that a hole for his thumb was cut in the tubing, and his arm was left bent at the elbow so it could be supported in a sling afterwards. Also, narrower rolls of wadding were used for Tidus' hand and arm than had been for his other limb.
After waiting for half an hour 'to be on the safe side', Tidus was moved back to the A&E in a wheelchair, his freshly 'plastered' leg resting on a part of it that could be raised for just that purpose. While the boy was being transferred to the Children's Ward, he wrote his name in very shaky capital letters on his cast, using the promised marker in his left hand, and Mike was not as surprised by Tidus' extremely tight grip on the pen as he was by the fact that the child had written his name backwards and upside down. Then Tidus received a gentle hug from Sarah just before the transferral paperwork was completed.
Next, Mike again accompanied Tidus as a porter wheeled him to the Children's Ward, carrying his charge's belongings, which he put in the locker by the boy's bedside.
"Listen, Tidus," the care worker said. "I've got to go now, but I'll come and take you back to Lee Road tomorrow. All right?" When Tidus didn't respond, simply humming something that Mike vaguely recognised as an Enya tune, the man reiterated, "I'll see you tomorrow," before leaving.
However, on his way out of the ward, Mike asked the nurses if they would take Tidus something to stave off the boredom that the care worker had observed. Then he went back to the A&E department to beg an extra sling and enquire if any of the nurses knew the Autistic child's favourite shape.
Now that he was finally finished at the hospital, Mike returned to the entrance of the A&E and used his mobile to ring for a taxi, which he asked the driver of to stop outside of a shop on the way back so he could purchase some supplies.
✱ ✱ ✱
At twenty past nine on the day after Tidus' accident, Mike drove the minibus to the hospital to collect the boy. As soon as the care worker walked into the Children's Ward, though, the staff nurse had some news for him.
"Tidus never slept a wink all night. Do you know if he has ADHD?"
"Not as far as I'm aware, but he might have a problem with additives. It was that which caused him to jump off the roof yesterday," Mike answered.
"Really? What made you suspect that?"
"Just before everything kicked off, he'd eaten some Cheestrings."
"Then Tidus's problem isn't additives. I'll admit that although Cheestrings probably contain more salt than is healthy, otherwise they're just cheese. The only additive is anatto, the same as other cheeses, which no child avoiding additives has a problem with. Have you considered having Tidus tested for casein intolerance? That's something that can make Autistic kids hyperactive, and it fits the facts you've given. Anyway, since Tidus has shown no further signs of concussion, he'll be discharged this morning once physio have been to see him."
"I'll get onto the casein thing, thank you," the care worker said, then at that moment, Sarah from the A&E Department came into the ward.
"Oh, good. I was hoping to bump into you. Have you seen Tidus yet?" the nurse enquired. Then, when Mike stated that he hadn't, she continued, "Would you give him this? It's from all the nurses at A&E." Sarah was holding an oblong parcel of bright wrapping paper which obviously held a largish book.
"I think it would be better if you gave it to Tidus yourself," said the care worker, "then he'll know it's from you. If I gave it to him, it might create too much ambiguity as to who it's from."
Together, the two adults went over to Tidus's bed, and as the boy heard the footsteps approaching, he called out, "Hu' plea', Sarah!" looking up with an eager smile on his face.
After Sarah had given Tidus his hug, she said, "Hey, kiddo, I've got something for you."
"So have I," Mike stated.
"Perhaps you should give Tidus yours first."
"All right," the man said, handing the boy a small something that was black and red. Once the child had unfolded it with some help, it turned out to be a sling that had red lightning bolts on a black field, and it had also been hemmed with black thread for durability.
As his charge crowed with delight, Mike said, "I dyed the sling with your favourite shapes in the colours you like best, but it was Jenny who hemmed it for you."
"Would you like me to tie it for you, Tidus?" asked Sarah. Then, when the child shook his head firmly, she enquired, "Why not?"
"My do," Tidus replied, pointing to the care worker.
"What, you want me to tie it for you?"
The boy nodded his head just as emphatically as he had shook it earlier.
"But I don't know how to tie a sling, Tidus," explained Mike.
"That's okay, I can guide you through it," Sarah responded.
So, as the nurse supported the child's arm, Mike passed one half of the sling behind it and rested the end of it on Tidus' right shoulder under her instruction, then he brought the other half up over the boy's arm and to his left shoulder before tying the two ends together behind his neck. After that, it was just a simple matter of folding the spare piece at the elbow and securing it in place with a safety pin that the care worker had also brought.
"I thought that would spoil the look less than tape," Mike explained.
"Grazie mille, My!" the Autistic boy shouted excitedly, prompting Sarah to hastily hush him by putting a finger over her lips.
Then the nurse said, "All the nurses of A&E clubbed together to get something for our little wizard, but if I give it to you, you have to promise me you won't fly from any more roofs, okay?"
Tidus nodded enthusiastically, saying, "'Kay, pross," as he did so, then just as eagerly ripped the paper from his prize. However, Sarah again had to hurriedly signal him to hush after he yelled, "Domo arigato, Sarah!" just as loudly as he had shouted in Italiano.
As the child opened his new hardback copy of 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' and started to read it, his eyes flicking saccadically back and forth across the page, Mike was surprised to notice that he held the book upside down, so he turned it around only for Tidus to squeal and hit out at him before he turned it back the way it had been and continued voraciously reading.
"Strange," Mike remarked.
"But also very cool," returned Sarah. "Listen, I've got to go now, but if I'm on duty when Tidus comes back in to have his casts taken off, I'll try and find a few minutes to see him."
"Well, his new address will be in his records. Why don't you come and visit him sometime?"
"Yes, maybe I'll do that. Well, goodbye, Mr. Milligan."
"Goodbye," Mike responded, looking faintly disappointed at the nurse's formality.
Just then, a uniformed man entered the ward and came straight over to Tidus' bedside, pushing a wheelchair that was much smaller and lighter than the ones at the A&E Department, and as he approached, the boy drew back from this unfamiliar person.
"Hello, Tidus," the man said. "I'm John, a physiotherapist, and I've come to bring you this chair to help you get around until your bones have healed. I've also come to teach you how to move around a bit without it."
John picked up a single crutch that was on the wheelchair and gave it to the Autistic child, teaching him how to use it so he could get around his bedroom and other areas in the children's home. Then he taught Tidus how to transfer himself from the bed and the chair to the wheelchair and back, and also taught him how to use the crutch to get in and out of the wheelchair, and on and off the furniture. By this time, Mike had noticed that the wheelchair had straps for the waist and right ankle.
"Why the straps?" the care worker asked.
"I was informed that Tidus has dyspraxia, so I knew he'd likely have trouble sitting in a wheelchair without bracing himself with his limbs and holding his back braced. Since he's unable to use one arm and leg, and since keeping your back stiff all day is extremely exhausting..." Then John finished, "Well, I'm done here, so I'll go and let the nurses know."
Having said this, John walked away, only stopping to talk briefly with the staff nurse before he left the Children's Ward.
Grazie mille, My! = Thank you very much, Mike! (Italiano) 'Kay, pross. = OK, I promise. Domo arigato, Sarah! = Thank you very much, Sarah! (Nihon-go)
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
The consultant in this chapter is called 'Mr.' because he's a surgical consultant. If he was a medical consultant, then he'd be called 'Dr.' just like all consultants in US hospitals.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Fifteen to twenty minutes after John had left the Children's Ward, Mike was the most bored he could ever remember being, and Tidus had already read the first chapter of his new book despite an attention span that was still extremely low. Just then, however, a man in a white coat walked onto the ward, then walked over to the Autistic child's bed and stood beside it.
"Hello, Tidus, Mr. Milligan," he said. "My names Roger Watt, and I'm a paediatric orthopaedic consultant."
Tidus giggled, and when the consultant asked what was funny, the boy pointed first to one of the lightning bolts on his sling, then at the bearded man who had first spoken.
"Very good, young man, but you should know that word was someone's name first."
"Yeah, Jay Wa'."
"Exactly, but I've come to talk to your guardian for now, okay?" When Tidus nodded and returned to his book, Mr. Watt spoke to Mike, saying, "I've been overseeing Tidus's care since last night. The only reason I didn't see him then is that I'd already gone home for the evening when he came in. Anyway, I need to tell you that Tidus will have to come back in six weeks for further x-rays to check his fractures have healed correctly before his casts are taken off, You should be sent a letter with the time of the appointment on it as it comes up, so don't worry that you'll miss it. You can go home now, Tidus. Are you happy about that?"
"Yeah, see Mummy!"
"Tidus, you live at Lee Road now, remember?"
"Doe wa'! Wa' li' Mummy!"
"Unfortunately, you can't. We are going to visit your mum on the way back, though. I'm sure she's worried sick because of what happened to you, so it will be nice for her to see you're safe. Is Tidus discharged now, doctor?"
Mr. Watt confirmed that the Autistic child could indeed leave the hospital, and Tidus transferred himself to his wheelchair. Mike strapped the boy safely in, then packed up his stuff before handing it to him to hold on their way to the minibus. Once they had reached the vehicle, the care worker then strapped Tidus wheelchair into a safe position before getting into the driver's seat and starting the engine. Then he drove the boy to his mother's house.
✱ ✱ ✱
As soon as Tidus heard the grinding of the handbrake, he looked out of the window and, recognising the house the minibus was parked in front of, started shrieking, "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" with extreme enthusiasm.
"All right! All right!" Mike chuckled. "We'll be there all the sooner if you just calm down."
The care worker got out of the vehicle and into the back, removed the straps from his charge's wheelchair and got it out, then wheeled him up the path and to the front door. He rang the doorbell and waited for nearly five minutes until it was opened by a too thin young woman who had shadows under her eyes and was wearing a bandana.
As soon as he saw this new person, Tidus happily cried out. "Mummy!" then leaned forwards and tried to hold out both arms towards her, his right arm dropping again when it was checked by the sling.
Immediately, the woman's tired expression lifted into an equally tired but good-humoured smile. "And what did you fly from this time, Tidus?" she asked, kneeling in front of her son and tenderly hugging him as they gave each other a chaste but fervent kiss on the lips. "By the way, I'm Beverley Weaver," Tidus' mother said, standing up again. "What's your name?"
"It's Mike Milligan. I work at the Children's Home where Tidus lives."
"Well, I suppose you'd better come inside. Will you push him in for me? I'm just a bit tired at the moment. I haven't been sleeping well."
So, as requested, Mike pushed the wheelchair into the house as he followed Beverley in to her lounge. Then he sat in one of the two armchairs as the woman went into the kitchen to make drinks. As Tidus' mum came back into the lounge with a tray on which stood two mugs and a plastic beaker before sitting down and handing out the drinks, Mike asked her, "So Tidus has jumped from things before?"
"Oh, yes," the young woman answered. "Ever since he read the first 'Harry Potter' book, Tidus has been obsessed with flying, and I've had to take him to hospital lots of times with sprains of one kind or another, though I treated most of them myself. I'll tell you something though, my heart was in my mouth when I heard he'd jumped from the roof of a two storey building."
"So why didn't you visit Tidus in the hospital?"
"I would've, believe me, but by the time I was informed that he'd been in an accident and was admitted, he'd already been discharged. At least, he had been by the time I'd got past the hospital switchboard and proved who I am."
By this point, Tidus had finished his drink and was now fussing at the straps which enabled him to sit in his wheelchair without sliding out of it, and Mike asked him, "Do you want to go to your mum? Here, let me help you."
The care worker undid the straps for the boy and handed him his crutch, and Tidus very carefully made his way over to the couch before trying to sit on his mother's lap.
"Tidus, why don't I lift you up to make it easier on you? Is that okay with you, Ms. Weaver?" Mike enquired. Then, gaining acquiescence from both parties, he lifted the boy and placed him with his mum, the child's left shoulder against the woman's chest. Once he was snugly in place, Tidus grinned as he and his mother gave each other an Eskimo kiss before he laid his head against her shoulder, closed his eyes, and stuck his left thumb in his mouth. Then, for the first time since Mike had met him, the Autistic boy drifted into a sound sleep as his mum gently stroked his hair.
✱ ✱ ✱
While Tidus slept, probably dreaming of flying in a Quidditch match for Gryffindor House, his mother and Mike had a conversation.
"Why don't you call me Bev? All my friends do, and you're obviously a friend to me and Tidus."
"Well, you can just call me Mike. What do you mean, I'm a friend to you?"
"This is the first time I've seen my son in ages, even though he's supposed to come for a home visit every few days. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Were you ever given a reason for that?"
"No. Social Services and the other places where Tidus lived just kept passing the buck back and forth to each other, and in the meantime, I was receiving more and more alarming reports of his behaviour."
"Well, that's not very surprising. Any child will act out when their needs aren't being met, especially one with communication difficulties like Tidus."
Bev and Mike talked for about an hour, the care worker asking and answering many questions about Tidus, then the child started to wake up.
✱ ✱ ✱
"Hey, sleepyhead. You want to play a game?"
"And what music do you want on it?" Bev asked as she lifted her son off her lap and onto the couch, then got up.
"Spice World, plea'."
As Mike watched, bemused, Bev turned on a PlayStation and inserted a Spice Girls CD, then quickly paused it before messing around with the back of the TV, the picture disappearing. The picture soon came back, but this time it was the N64 logo that came onto the screen as Bev turned on the console, before it was replaced by stylised lettering which read, 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time'.
"Here you go, Tidus," Bev said, handing over a trident-like controller that looked huge in the child's hands. "Say when."
Tidus loaded up a game he'd saved previously, then as the screen faded in to child Link standing in front of his bed in his house, Navi whizzing around his head, the Autistic boy said, "When!"
Mike was extremely startled when the drumbeat and vocal intro of 'Spice Up Your Life' resumed where it had left off, and he couldn't help gasping, "How did you do that?"
"It's up to Tidus to tell you if he wants to. He's the one who came up with it, after all."
"You're telling me that a seven-year-old invented a method of replacing the soundtracks of videogames!?"
"No, Tidus was six at the time. But Mozart was younger when he wrote the music for 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'."
As soon as he heard this title, the child used the aforementioned melody to sing, in his sweet treble voice, the following lyrics:
"Twinkle, twinkle, little bat
How I wonder what you're at
Up above the world you fly
Like a tea tray in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat
How I wonder what you're at"
When the song was finished, Mike laughed and said, "I'm guessing that Tidus's favourite book used to be 'Alice in Wonderland'."
"Yes. That and 'Through the Looking-Glass'," Bev agreed. "He loved them, and the Oz books, from when he was three right up until he was five, then he discovered Harry Potter. He's been obsessed with flying on broomsticks ever since. I believe part of it's that he and Harry share their birthday, the rest of it's simply because of Tidus's Autism. He reads or watches something, it grabs his imagination, and for a while, it's as real to him as water is. I'll be so glad when he finally becomes grabbed by something far less dangerous."
After she had said this, Bev handed Mike a file, saying, "This contains recipes for Tidus's favourite meals. He'll eat very little else. There's other things in there he might want."
After this, the two adults sat and talked until the Spice Girls CD had finished playing.
Doe wa'! Wa' li' Mummy! = Don't want to! Want to live with Mummy!
'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat'; Public Domain.