Written by: Charles Gray
Disclaimer: Baloo, Rebecca Cunningham, Don Karnage, Kit Cloudkicker, Molly Cunningham and WildCat are (c)1990/1991 Walt Disney Company and are being used without premission. The writer has made sure that all material represented here is not used for profit and is used with the upmost respect to Disney and the Tale Spin team. All other characters are the property of the writer.
David Cunningham looked with concern at his wife, as Rebecca groaned and threw the textbook down on the table. The blonde haired bear leaned over and gave his petite wife a quick hug. Rebecca distractedly returned it, then sighed.
“I don’t know why I am having so much trouble! I passed the first semester, and now it’s looking like I might have to retake this class.” She rubbed her eyes. “If I wasn’t so tired all the time...” David looked at her.
“Rebecca, I think you’re missing a fact. Last semester you weren’t in your 8th month.” The bearess glared up at her husband.
“And who do I have to thank for that?” David pulled her close to him.
“Well as I recall, it was something of a mutual operation...” He kissed her on the cheek. Rebecca laughed, then leaned in closer to her husband.
“Well...” she said, “Maybe I could use a break.” Looking up at her husband, she continued. “Interested in taking a walk with your wife, Mr. Cunningham?” David smiled, then looked concerned.
“Are you certain?” Becky gave him a look, one that warned against over protectiveness.
“David, I may look like a blimp, but I can walk, and I’m going crazy just sitting in here with that textbook sneering at me.” David laughed, and got her coat. He stuck out his hand, taking Rebecca’s and helping her get out of the chair. His wife grunted, coming to her feet. “Of all the things I’m not going to miss, needing help to get out of a chair is one of the big ones,” she grumped, slipping on the coat. David opened the door for her, and they walked down out of the small apartment, heading for the street. The two contrasted, David’s broad shouldered athletic form contrasting with his wife’s petite frame and long brown hair. David put his arm around Rebecca and held her close as they walked.
The sun was out, with only a few clouds in the sky, but the breeze kept the small town cool, its evergreens swaying in the wind. Rebecca smiled, looking down to the small harbor, fishing boats coming and going as the day progressed.
“Too bad the buses don’t run on Sunday,” Rebecca said, “It’d be nice to go down to the harbor, maybe take a walk on the beach.” David looked at her, then looked away.
“Do you have any regrets?” He asked.
“What?” Becky said, surprised. David looked back at his wife his green eyes troubled.
“Well... When we married, I’d at least thought I could have given you a car, but then...” Rebecca hugged him.
“Then this one,” She said, indicating her pregnancy, “came along, and school took more money then we thought, and the answer is David: I have no regrets.” She finished, leaning into her husband. “I have a husband, who has given me everything he promised.”
“I have?” David said, still looking back at the small apartment.
“Well, yes. you promised to love me in health... and you have. And you promised to love me in sickness, which you have.” she said, eyes dancing. “and you even let me steal the covers in the middle of the night.”
“Well you know, I was going to talk to you about that... it wasn’t in the ceremony.” David said, taking an officious stance. “and as a soon to be lawyer, I much protest you ladyships actions.” Rebecca laughed.
“OK... I won’t steal the blankets anymore.”
“No, I’ll just let you be the one to soothe the baby during the night... Mom said that you won’t NEED blankets then.” David burst out laughing.
“Oh you devil.” He said, as they leaned down and shared a kiss.
“mmmm-hmmmm.” Rebecca murmured. “Well what about you, sweeping on into my life....”
“Oh, of that, I’m guilty, no questions asked.” David said. The walked on, in companionable silence. Coming to one of the small parks that bounded the college and student housing, Rebecca sat down on a bench, a little out of breath. David sat down besides her, looking over at a game of baseball going on in the diamond. Becky caught his gaze.
“Why don’t you go on over and join in?” She asked, “I’ll be ok.” David shook his head.
“After all the time in the library, I’d only disgrace myself.” Rebecca looked at him.
“You mean disgrace the poor fellows on the other team... go on...” She gave him a little push. David looked over at the players, and began to walk towards them. Rebecca waved at him.
A few feet away, a gasp caused him to turn around and look at Becky. She grimaced, clenching her hands.
“Rebecca? What’s wrong... Is the baby coming?”
“No....” Becky said, “It’s not like that... more like a pain in my chest I-” She gave another gasp, then cried out and fell onto her side on the bench.
“Becky!” David shouted, and turned to one of the baseball players. “Call an ambulance... It’s my wife.” The player, a cheetah said nothing but sprinted off to a phone by the park and soon was on it, urgently shouting into it.
“Rebecca?” David asked, “Becky, can you stand?”
“I-” Rebecca sucked her breath in again. She looked up at David, her eyes wide. “What’s happening?” She asked, “I-God it hurts!” She cried out again. David held her, listening to the sound of the approaching sirens.
“Don’t worry, Rebecca.” He said, “Help’s on its way... everything will be ok.”
*Oh, Lord, let everything be ok.* He prayed.
The hospital smelled of chemicals and illness. David had always hated them, now more then ever as he walked back and forth across the tiled waiting room. He sat down for a moment, then got back up and walked over to the nurses station.
“Is there?” He asked,
“No, Mr. Cunningham. Your wife is still with the doctor.” The nurse, looked at the man, nearly frantic with worry, with compassion. “I’ll call you right away... Dr. McConall is one of the best in the business, so your wife is in good hands.”
David went back to sit down again. Later, by the time he was ready to march back up to the nurses desk, and elderly hippo in doctor’s garb came walking out.
“Doctor, my wife... how is she?” David asked, dreading the answer.
“She is resting, but... Mr. Cunningham, could you come to my office? We need to talk.” David followed the doctor down several white corridors into his office, a comfortably shabby place, with a lifetimes worth of bricabac adorning the walls. One of the plaques read “Dr. James McKenize”. He sat down in an overstuffed chair, and waited.
“Mr. Cunningham, I’m afraid that your wife is very ill.”
“But... she was fine this morning!” He said.
“I know. At first we thought it might be a miscarriage... but it is much worse then that.” David paled, and leaned forward.
“How do you mean,” He asked, wondering how his voice remained so calm.
“Have you ever heard of Rhinehart’s syndrome?” David shook his head. The Doctor sighed. “It’s essentially a malfunction in the way the body detects foreign bodies. To put it mildly, the presence of the fetus is causing your wife’s body to start tearing itself apart.”
“What?” The doctor took out a book.
“We don’t know much about it ourselves, but it seems to be a malfunction in the immune system. The fetus causes the body to start reading all of its own internal organs as foreign bodies.” David shuddered, he had had enough biology to imagine what that might mean.
“What can you do about it?”
“Nothing.” The doctor was brutal. “Mr. Cunningham... I have to tell you that we might be able to save the child... but it is very unlikely your wife will live.” He looked at Rebecca’s pale husband. “You can see her, but I have to warn you that right now she is fairly heavily medicated... so she might not be overly coherent. I’m sorry.” David said nothing, just got up, in a daze and walked over to the door, not even acknowledging the Doctor’s presence. He walked down a hateful corridor, full of flashing people and motion, then came to a room. He walked in. Rebecca was lying in a bed, her small form under the blankets except for her head and arms, IV lines snaking out from bottles suspended from the frame.
“Rebecca?” He asked softly, laying his hand against her cheek.
“Nnnhhh?” Her eyes opened, glazed over and wandered about the room. “David?” She said, in a weak querulous voice.
“I’m here, Rebecca.” He said, touching her face.
“...hurts.” She whispered, the first words to soft to catch.
“I know. The doctor’s working on helping you.”
“Gonna flunk my class. I don’t want to repeat the class, I hate the teacher!” she weakly wailed. David looked in shock over at the doctor.
“Delirious, Mr. Cunningham.” He said, “She’s not fully conscious that we’re even here. We’d better let her rest some more.” David looked at his wife. She had fallen back into unconcisnous. He kissed her on the cheek and followed the doctor out.
“She’ll have periods of coherence interspaced with what you just saw,” the doctor said. “As the disorder causes more and more brain damage, the coherent periods will be rarer and rarer. Eventually, either major organs will fail, or the neural tissue in the brain will disintegrate, and death will occur.” David staggered back to a bench and fell into it. The doctor looked down sadly.
“Mr. Cunningham. I don’t mean to be cruel, but I cannot lie to you. There might be a miracle.... I’ve seen those in my career. But absent that, your wife will probably die within the next two weeks... and I have to say that the longer she lives the crueler her death will be.” He paused. “I think there is a better then even chance we can save the child.” Cunningham got up and walked past the Dr. McConall, his face blank, not noticing the comforting hand that the doctor momentarily laid on his shoulder.
McConall watched the doors close behind David. He shook his head sadly. He would try to save Rebecca’s life, but it was more or less out of his hands. He had not lied to David, there had been miracles in his life, but he knew enough not to depend upon them. Still, he thought, to the Powers and the Power that ruled Them, would it be too much to ask for a miracle this time? The doctor turned, heading back to his office to see if he had missed anything in the books on this disease, books he had already read a dozen times.
David sat, crying. He hadn’t cried since his grandparents had died, long ago, but now he really didn’t know what else to do. There was no hope for Becky, the doctor had all but said that straight out. He had promised to protect her, and now all he would do would to be stand by and watch her die, in pain and fear.
“You look like a fellow who could use some help.” David looked up, and saw a kindly looking cheetah, with piercing green eyes, looking down at him.
“None you can give.” he said,
“Now... how can you know that?” The man asked, sitting down by him. “Sometimes you get help from the oddest places.” He gestured to the town. “Take down there... why just this morning I was listening to a down on his luck pilot.... seems he found a map leading to a spring that cures illnesses... just a drink, and you’re fine.” Shook his head, “But Mr. Jackson’s plane is.... out of order, and he doesn’t have the money to fix it.” David looked up at the man.
“A cure for anything?”
“That’s what the story said.” David shook his head as he looked down at the ground.
“That’s what the stories always say...and they’re always fake.”
“Sometimes David.” He paused, “But right now, are you doing anything else? Is there any other hope?” For some reason, David didn’t ask how the stranger knew his name. The stranger put his hand on David’s shoulder. “Have faith.” David felt no happier, but a determination came over him, banishing the hopelessness.
He got up.
“I’m going to talk to Rebecca.” He said, turning to walk back “She didn’t marry me to have me choke in the clench!” He said, moving faster, then running to the hospital.
By the time David had gotten to Rebecca’s room, he had slown down, and quietly entered it, incase Rebecca was asleep. She was. He walked into the room, standing by his wife’s bed. Her unbound hair haloed her face, lines of exhaustion already engraved on it. He hated to wake her, but she had to know.
“Rebecca?’ He said softly. Becky’s eyes opened, and came to rest on David after a moment. He was relieved to see that at least for now, Rebecca was fully coherent.
“How do you feel?” He asked.
“Horrible...” Becky said in a tiny voice. “I can’t get up, I’m tired and I ache all over....” She paused, gathering her strength. “I’m going to die.” It was not a question. David looked down at her, and took one of her hands in his, closing his fingers over it.
“Maybe.” He said. His wife had always gotten the truth from him, and he wasn’t about to change that now. “But... I think there might be a way to help you. I’ve heard of a special medicine, but I’m going to have to leave for a while to get it.” Rebecca’s eyes widened, then she looked at him.
“How long will you be gone?”
“Not long.” He leaned down and kissed her, on the fore head, then on the lips. “I’ll be back in time so that I can see our wonderful child.... and watch you force me to soothe the baby in the middle of the night.” Becky laughed weakly.
“David... If I die...” He put a finger to her lips.
“David, I might die, so I have to say this now.” He paused at the brief flare of her old spirit. “I loved you before we married, and I love you now... and I will love you no matter what.” She paused, “Even if we don’t have as much time as we thought, I’ve loved this more then anything in my life. Thank you.” David tried to say something, failed, and bent down and kissed her again.
“I’ll come back, Rebecca. I’ll come back and you’ll get better, and this’ll be one of the stories that we bore our kids with.” He smiled, despite what it cost him. “You’ll see. Now, you need your rest.” Rebecca had already fallen back into an uneasy sleep, her breath coming and going irregularly. David got up, and walked out of the room. He had to write a letter for the doctor, and then get down to the waterfront. He had a plane to catch.
David walked cautiously into the bar, dodging a fighting pair of men as he walked towards the counter. Standing up at it, he waited until the bartender, a seedy looking brown bear, came over.
“What’ll it be?”
“I’m looking for a pilot, A Mr. Jackson.”
“Whistlestop!?” The bear looked at him in surprise. “now how would you know old Whistlestop... You don’t look like the kinda fellow who’d hang out in his circles.” David looked around, noticing the difference between his clothes and those of the pilots and roustabouts clustered around the tables. He looked back and forced a smile.
“Well, I’m here to offer Mr. Jackson a business proposal.” The bear laughed.
“Well, good luck to you, but Whistlestop doesn’t usually take jobs, unless he wants to.” He pointed back into the bar. David walked in, coughing at the clouds of smoke that seemed to infest the place, like little stinking fogbanks. Finally at the far end of the room, there was a table with a single man at it, dressed in an out of date flying uniform and scarf. David sat down in front of him, and looked at him. He was on his fifth bottle of whiskey, but his eyes were steady as were his hands.
“Whistlestop, young fellow, Whistlestop!” The pilot said. “Do I know you?”
“Ah, no.” David paused, “I have a business proposal for you.”
“Well if it involves flying, it’s going to have to wait.” The pilot said. “I’m between jobs right now, and my plane is in the shop... last flight out I got a bullet in the crankcase.”
“It involves flying, and I’m not going to wait.” David said, a little louder then he intended. “I have enough money to rent a plane, fix your plane and make it worth your while.” Actually he had borrowed a huge sum of money from the bank... and had no idea how he was ever going to pay it back, but that was for the future. “I heard that you found something, a well, on your last trip.” Whistlestop lunged forward, faster then the bear could see, and clamped a hand on David’s mouth.
“Do you want to get us killed!” He whispered. David disengaged from him. “No.” He opened a bag he had brought and dumped the bundled bills out on the table. “Is that enough?” Whistlestop looked at it.
“A bit much for a wild treasure hunt, isn’t that?”
“This treasure hunt is the only chance my wife has of living. If it’ll bring her back, then the price was cheap.” Whistlestop looked at him.
“Your wife needs this?”
“Yes.” David said.
“You’re not just telling me that to get there and try to bottle the stuff or somesuch stupidity.”
“No.” The pilot looked at him for a long moment, then put the money back into the bag.
“Well, lets see about getting a plane, then. Can you shoot a gun?”
“Yes.” David said,
“Have you ever done it seriously?”
“Never. I just plinked at my schools firing range.”
“It’s different when it’s for real.” The pilot paused, “We may run into the same fellows that put the bullets in my plane. Do you still want to come.”
“This may be the difference between my wife living, and dying in a hospital bed, rotting from the inside out.” He looked back at Whistlestop. “If they get in my way, that is their bad luck.” The pilot looked at him, then smiled.
“Y’know... I think you’re right.” He got up.
“Well, what are you waiting for... time’s awasting!”
Less then an hour later, David was getting worried. The money, which was all he could lay his hands on, and included everything saved for a house, school and eating, not to mention everything he could borrow, was already running short. He mentioned the problem to Whistlestop, and the pilot laughed.
“Don’t worry yourself, son. We’ve finished our shopping trip, and now we’re ready to be off.” The pilot pointed at a two seat, open frame seaplane he had chosen, both for the low cost of the rental and the range. “You’d better dress up in those flying furs, son.” he continued, “no heater in that job.” Whistlestop grinned. “I hope you don’t airsick either... ‘cause this is gonna be a pretty rough trip.” David didn’t smile.
“I’ll survive.” he said. “Let’s go.”