From My White Planet, published by Thomas Allen Publishers in 2008.
On their knees the paramedics bend to their brusque work.
Pulse in the neck—yes or no!?
Is she coding?
A keening muscular ambulance smashes into Barbara, smashes my neighbour’s sedan moments after the live power lines fell on her car roof. The Region 3 ambulance lured out on a false alarm, hood shooting out under the overpass like a train out of a tunnel, fender introduced to fender, metal slicing plastic, then everybody and their dog pinned in a wreck or staggering and holding their head or turning up to meet firefighters at the accident scene, the hope of a date later.
How much of life is bad theatre? How much is lack thereof? And I know exactly what they mean by the word “date.”
The paramedics bicker like bakers.
Still no pulse in the neck?
I think I would have told you if there was.
Is she coding?
Up here. Get up here. Nothing?
She’s gone, nothing I can do.
Rebecca’s mother Barbara declared dead on Union Street, a has-been with a good hairdo. Then a woman stirring, alive, Rebecca’s mother asks directions back to us, Barbara travels back to her can-do laundry lists and photography classes (yellow maple leaf on wet dark gravel), travels back to her lady-like bottles of Gilbey’s Lemon Gin secreted in the Vauxhall glovebox and musty garden shed.
“Where am I?” Barbara asks.
They slam the ambulance doors on the passenger, on her prior world, and she starts anew.
The neighbour’s body now havering in the hospital bed and I volunteer my services.
“Anything you need?” I ask.
“Rebecca,” says her father at the massive oak door, “could certainly use a ride to the hospital once a day or so, if that’s not too inconvenient.”
Her father an older colleague who looks down his nose at me, and Rebecca his brooding daughter home from decoding things at an eastern college, Rebecca back in the family world, a red-haired daughter bent like an absent astronaut into honeybees and dripping trees and clutching tendrils of ivy full of green blood and the lovely irritating sound of piano and family servants.
The mother’s car stopped on Union at the stop sign as you’re supposed to.
“But why was my mother over there?” asks Rebecca.
Yes: Why was her mother hovering on the low-rent side of town by the Glimpse Point Redemption Centre, said Redemption Centre recently robbed by someone of no fixed address with a lighter that looked like a pistol. The same side of town where they found a man shot dead in his pickup at 9 a.m. in the bay of the carwash beside the ballet school, water on the carwash floor, his truck window shot out. High winds rumbling up the river valley as if they have a tourist map and the high voltage lines choose that moment to drop on Barbara’s car legally stopped at the legal stop sign.