William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Thirty-Three

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Julia had just turned onto the driveway when her mother called.  “Hey, mama.”

“We were going to meet up today, remember?”

“I know, I know.  The time got away from me.”  She told her about the woman in the courtroom.

“Not the strangest thing I’ve heard today,” she said.  “A man came by this afternoon, a heavyset man.  He was asking about the zombie.”

“The zombie?”  Julia parked the car and just sat there.

“That’s what the papers are calling the man who woke up in the morgue.”

“That’s just great.”

“Some reporters have been by, but this heavyset man wasn’t a reporter.  He said he was a flavorer and a chemist, and he asked to look at copies of the autopsy report, which of course was not going to happen.”

“So what did you tell him?”

“I was getting ready to send him to PR but he told me he had information about how mice died.”

“How mice died,” Julia repeated.

“That’s right, baby.  He said he saw a female mice die in his lab and then wake up.”

Julia stared at the dashboard.

“I told him I’d put him in touch with someone, so I’m giving you his number.”

Julia wrote it down.  “Thanks, mama.”  Once inside the house, she changed into her bathing suit, turned on the lights by the pool, drank half a Pepsi, and dove in.

The water felt colder than usual but she swam, intent on doing her laps before opening the letter from Ruth Black.  She managed twenty laps before deciding that scientific curiosity might sometimes be more relevant to life than exercise.  She dried off, dressed in a terry cloth robe, and walked to her office.

Lilacs.  It was more than a word or a smell or a sense.  As she opened the envelope, the essence of lilacs nearly overwhelmed her.  Perfume of some sort, she thought as she withdrew the single folded sheet.  It was handwritten in black ink.

Dr. Beltran,

I want very much to meet you.  I have read two of your papers.  I am not terribly interested in your work, but am in need of your assistance with a child we both know.  She requires specific expert attention.  She is not well, and my efforts on her behalf appear to be ineffective.  Come alone tomorrow at seven in the morning.  I will begin helping you tonight.

Ruth Black

Julia read the letter a second time, then held it close to smell it.  Lilacs.  She fell back in her chair, then reached for the phone.  Needed to call Rocky.  But she was so tired.  Even with her hand on the receiver, she couldn’t lift it.  She remembered the dog she loved as a child, Moppy, who would never poop in the house unless absolutely necessary, unless the family had been out all day and she had no choice.

She vividly remembered making love with Pete Juarez in the morgue years back, right there on an examination table, the only unoccupied one.  Bodies lay in the other two, she saw as she turned her head.

There was grandma, giving her quarters in a video arcade on the Jersey Shore.  Julia played Ms. PacMan and did so well that she got to put her initials on the screen as the sixth best player.  Then before.  She was eating pancakes at the diner with her parents and she spilled the syrup in her lap.  Dad laughed but Mom was mad.  Mad that she spilled the syrup and mad that Dad laughed.

As a baby, she lay on a table as her mother changed her diaper.  Remembered feeling small and beautiful and perfect.

Then blind, watery, knowing well that she was something.  Dark and watery and lovely, and hearing the words, feeling the hands that caressed near her, knowing she was something loved.

Before, when there was no her, when she was not yet present to load memories, but remembering nonetheless.  A part of her brain that was old and superbly designed by nature and environment played images locked deep inside its most primitive regions.

She saw the leopard watching them.  She was chewing a bit of antelope leg when the leopard appeared.  She stopped chewing and closed her eyes to remember the nearest tree.  The others stood up tall, tried to look big.  When the leopard sprang, she ran and climbed the tree with the other woman while the men stood, stood between them and death, giving them time.  They held their little spears and the rocks they picked up and made noise, but the leopard killed them pretty quickly.

That night the woman held her in the tree, the woman who had taken to her last year when her mother died.

“It’s us only,” the aunt told her.  “Us only.”

“Then we have to find more of us.”

“It’s been more than three years, so it’s just us.  We’ll eat in the morning.  Then we’ll walk towards the sunset a little at a time.  And we’ll make more of us.”  She pulled an antelope horn from her pouch, took a pinch of powder and put it in her mouth.  She pulled the girl close and placed a pinch in her mouth as well.  “You’re old enough now.”

 

“Sweetheart, are you drunk?”  Rocky picked her up and carried her to the bed.  “You were face down on the desk.”

Julia opened her eyes.  “I had dreams.”

“Dreams?”

“Yes, but they weren’t my dreams.”

Rocky felt her forehead, checking for a fever.

“I know this sounds strange,” she said, “but they were old dreams.  Dreams from millions of years ago.”

“OK,” he said, unsure how to respond.

She sat up.  “I think I was drugged, Rocky.  Some kind of aromatic dispersal.  It came from the letter.”

“What letter?”

“It’s there on the desk.  Lilacs.”

“What?”

“Lilacs.”

He went into the office and came back a moment later.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t find anything, Rocky.  I’ll fucking go crazy if you didn’t find anything.”

“The card is still inside,” he said, sniffing the envelope.  “I can’t smell anything.”

“Read it,” she said.

“It says, ‘Please respect our privacy.’

Julia grabbed it from him, read that single line in disbelief.  “It said something earlier Rocky.  Someone’s been in here; they switched it.”

“No, sweetheart,” he said.  “Not with this security system.  Not even a mouse.  You need to get some rest.  We’ll work through this tomorrow.  We’ll get this figured out.”

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Written by williamdoonan

May 2, 2013 at 1:38 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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