Carter wasn't sure who'd come up with the name "cooler" for this place, but it sure fit. The cells always seemed to be at least a few degrees cooler than anywhere else in camp (besides the tunnels, of course). In summer that wasn't such a bad thing, but on a stormy evening in late October? Not so much. The occasional bursts of rain coming in through the little window didn't help. Finally, over the gusting of the wind, he heard the front door open and got to his feet to peer out through the bars. Down the narrow corridor came Schultz and Col. Hogan and, as far as he could make out, they seemed to be the bearers of good news.
"Hi, colonel. Hi, Schultz," he said hopefully as they drew abreast.
"Hello, Carter. Schultz, would you do the honors?" Hogan gestured toward the lock and the bulky sergeant took out his set of keys.
"Carter, you should not have done it," Schultz said reproachfully. "The commandant was ve-ry an-gry. And anyway, who can have good dreams when there is thunder and lightning all the time?"
"Dreams?" Carter shot his commanding officer a confused look, wondering what outlandish story he'd fed the krauts this time.
"Visions, Schultz," Hogan offered in correction. "It was a vision quest. And Carter's vision about the railroad came true, you know. It's just too bad you guys heard about it a little too late to do anything."
Schultz shrugged. "Visions. Dreams. Either way, to go sit out in a storm for two days, not eating anything – all I would be able to think about is warm food and dry clothes."
"That's pretty much all you think about anyway, isn't it, Schultz? At least the food part."
"Oh, ha ha." Schultz gave Hogan a wry glance as Carter slipped out of the cell. "It's not true," he continued, a touch of mischief creeping into his voice. "I think about women, too." They all chuckled at that as he swung the cell door shut again.
"Actually, Carter was lucky. Sometimes it takes more than just two days – right?" Hogan prodded, sensing that the younger man had started to catch on.
"Oh. Oh yeah, sure. I guess." Carter was almost there. "Sometimes... sometimes four days. And nights too. In a way, I got lucky. You should be glad." Schultz just shook his head.
"All for a vision about a railroad blowing up. All that trouble. Couldn't you at least have had a vision about some nice thing?"
"It seemed pretty nice to me," Carter replied with a grin. Two solid days of work in the tunnels to get those explosives exactly right had definitely paid off.
"How could you even think with all of the rain and the thunder and the lightning?" Schultz wondered as he turned back to lock the cooler door behind them.
"Oh, well... actually, they're a good thing. A very good thing."
"A good thing?"
"Sure. It means the thunderbirds are testing you to see whether you deserve a really good vision or not."
"Th... thunder... birds?" Schultz stared at him in mixed confusion and fascination as they started off across the compound towards the barracks. "Thunderbirds, what is that?"
"They're these really big... bird... things. Lightning shoots out of their eyes, and when they beat their wings, it makes the thunder. And the wind," Carter added, pulling his flying jacket a bit tighter about him as the weather hit them full force.
"Ja?" Schultz was definitely interested now. "Even here in Germany?"
"Sure. I mean, they say they used to live on some mountain in the Black Hills, but when the white men moved in the thunderbirds moved out. To the ends of the earth, I think it was. And from there I guess they could fly just about anywhere."
"And they flew all the way here to Germany to tell you about a train?"
"Well, no, of course not. Not just about a train." Carter was really starting to get caught up in the lie now, much to Hogan's amusement.
"No? What else did they say?" Schultz pressed eagerly.
"Well..." Carter hesitated as they got to the door of the barracks. "I'm not sure I should tell you. It's sort of a sacred thing, you know."
"Oh, please, Carter, please." The young man laughed. Schultz's fascination with Indians was ignorant and childish, but at least it was genuine, and a little flattering too; much better than the teasing he usually got on the subject from his fellow prisoners.
"All right. Come on." He pushed the door open and the trio walked inside where they were greeted by a chorus of "hello"s in various colorful accents.