William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Twenty

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“You fell asleep,” Carson observed as Alice cracked open the window.

“I did not.  I was just thinking.”

“Were not.  We’ve been on this road for twenty minutes.  It’s like West Virginia.  I saw two shirtless boys playing with a pig.  Then two miles later, one shirtless boy playing with two pigs.  You slept through it all.”

Alice ran her hands through her hair.  “How long was I out?”

“Three hours.”

“Can you stop?”

“Fifteen minutes.”  He tapped the GPS screen as he slowed the van near a fork in the road.  “We should be there, but I don’t see anything.”

Alice rubbed her eyes and took in the view.  Scrub, orchards that had seen better days, and a smattering of single-wide mobile homes.  “Farm workers,” she said, as a pair of Mexican men climbed into a dented minivan.  “What is this place we’re looking for?”

Carson pulled onto the shoulder.  “Julia said it was some kind of religious retreat.  West African spirituality.  A guru named Ruth Black claims she can heal people.  She’s Karen’s legal guardian, however that came about.”

Alice checked her notes against the GPS.  “I think it’s just over there.”  She pointed behind a particularly sullen mobile home, its purple awning nothing but tatters.  “There’s a gate.  I think that’s a driveway.”

“Off with you then.  See if you can open the gate and I’ll pull through.”

Alice got out and walked over to the gate and stared at a giant padlock.

Five minutes later, Carson was out of the van and rolled his wheelchair up next to her.  “Private Property,” he read.  “Do Not Enter.”

“Hello,” Alice called out.

“Wasting your time,” Carson noted.  He pulled a set of picks from his backpack and had a good look at the padlock.  “My uncle taught me how to pick locks.”

Alice stared at him.  “Is that the same uncle who got you the whore?”

“He’s a resourceful man.  This is child’s play.  Want to make a bet?  If I can get this open in under thirty seconds, you’ll have sex with me?”

“No thank you.”

It took him eleven seconds to pick the lock.

“I think I made the right decision.”  Alice unwound the chain and opened the gate.

Carson tossed her the keys.  “Drive the van.  I’m going to roll in ahead.”   He didn’t get more than thirty yards before he saw someone.  A woman.  Looked like a jogger.  Fit woman in her forties.  Very thin, she could be attractive, Carson told himself, if she let go of some of the attitude, some of the woe.

“This is private property,” the woman said sternly as Alice stepped out of the van.  “You’re trespassing.”

Carson rolled forward.  “I’m interested in speaking with the person in charge here, Ruth Black is her name.”

There was no response.

“There’s a girl here we’d like to visit,” Alice said.  “Karen Sorrows.  Do you know her?”

The woman said nothing.

“We work at the university medical center,” Alice continued.  “We’re interning at a genetics project that’s looking into health and aging.  We’d like to talk with Karen.”

“Karen is recuperating.  She’s been through a lot.  She needs her rest.”

“Is there someone in charge here?” Carson asked.  “I’d like to speak to Ruth Black.”

There was no response.


The realization hit Alice suddenly; the woman wasn’t acknowledging Carson.  Presumably it was because he was a man; she had never known anyone who refused to acknowledge a handicapped person.  “Is there someone in charge here?” she asked.

“Yes,” the woman said.  “Ruth Black is in meditation right now.  Perhaps if you call to make an appointment.”

“You have no listed phone number,” Carson said.

“You have no listed phone number,” Alice repeated.  “How can I make an appointment?”

“You can write a letter to the Ruth Black Foundation.”

“We came to see a girl who may need medical attention,” Alice said.   “We’re not going to be able to wait to make an appointment.”

“I’ll be sure to relay your concerns to Mrs. Black,” the woman said, turning away.

Carson felt the chemistry of irritation flow through his veins.  “Listen, hostile person,” he began, pushing the joystick and rolling forward, “I’m going to have a talk with the girl.”

The woman turned and stared at him coldly.  “You’re trespassing.”

“Fucking right, lady.  I don’t get out much, so when I do, I like to make the most of it.”  He pulled a taser gun from a pocket on the armrest.  “I will take you out of my way if you don’t move.”

“You’re going to have to,” she said, throwing her water bottle onto the ground and adopting a fighting stance.

Alice ran forward and grabbed the taser out of Carson’s hand.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

Carson looked up at the woman, his eyes locked onto hers.  His mouth opened but he didn’t say anything.

“What?” Alice asked.

Carson said nothing, his eyes fixed on the woman’s face until she turned quickly and walked away.

“What?” Alice asked again.

“Let’s go.”  Carson spun the wheelchair back toward the van and lowered the hydraulic platform.  Once onboard, he drove quickly.

“What happened back there?”  Alice asked, when the silence became unbearable.

Carson nodded.  “Did you notice anything funny about her?”

“About the woman at the gate?”



“I did.”


“I don’t know.  There was something special about her.  Something not normal.”

“What do you mean?”

Carson gripped the wheel firmly.  “You’re not going to make fun of me, right?”

“Of course not.”

He nodded.  “I got a boner.”

Written by williamdoonan

January 31, 2013 at 3:02 am

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