She waves it off. It’s Christmas day, for Pete’s sake. She presses play, then takes a look at the thermometer. 98 – it’s about time. For the last couple of days she’s been fighting a 102 fever, her side burning with pain, her sleep filled with strange dreams. Last night was the craziest, with Santa appearing at her doorstep. But when she greeted him, she saw Comet limping just behind. She checked his leg, wrapped it in gauze, and rubbed his head, and he seemed good to go. Santa, as he left, said she’d not been forgotten.
“Nothin’ but a kidney infection,” Doc Graham told her, prescribing a round of antibiotics. “You need to drink more water and quit holdin’ on to your pee.”
Phsst. Let him try driving two-lane backroads for hours, nothing but prairie bushes offering any hope of relief.
The message is from Molly Slayton, or Chumani as she’s called on the Rez because of her dewdrop eyes. She apologizes for phoning on Christmas, but hopes Dr. Clair can see Ellie, her daughter’s palomino.
She shakes her head. If only it could be as easy for the horse as it was for her kidney. Ellie stopped eating the other day, and best Clair could figure was that there was either an obstruction, or, worse, a tumor. Though she’s been a rural South Dakota vet for 20 years, a good chunk of her payments come in the form of fresh eggs, milk, or offers to fix her fence. Out on the Rez, it can be any of the above, but mostly, and best of all, it’s usually a heartfelt hug.
Unfortunately, with that sort of “cash flow,” she hasn’t been able to afford a portable ultrasound machine. So today she’ll have to trailer Ellie up to Mission where Dr. Mitchell can get a peek with his machine.
Deciding she’d better have some breakfast first – eggs, of course – she heads for the kitchen, but stops at the front room. There, on her coffee table, sits a small brightly decorated tree. And just to its side is a rather large wrapped present.
Kneeling down, she peels back the paper to reveal a box labeled:
Mindway M8 Elite Portable Ultrasound Machine.
The gift tag only says, “From Santa.”
* * *
Dakotah crosses the tribal hall, his footsteps creaking on the ancient wooden floor, finally making his way to a smiling Red Cloud, who waits at the back.
“You did it,” Red Cloud says.
“Yes. I dressed in the Santa suit, and knocked at Dr. Clair’s door. But she was more asleep than awake and began putting a bandage on Koda, my dog, calling him ‘Comet.’ So, I ignored her and took in the tree and present.”
“Yes...I just heard that Ellie will be fine.”