For my mother and father
Wealth lost, something lost;
Honor lost, much lost;
Courage lost, all lost.
I wish to thank the usual suspects, such as my agent, Mark Lucas, and my different publishers around the world who have helped me to find the heart of
Again I am indebted to Vivien, a passionate reader, stern critic, bedroom psychologist, gentle reviewer and mother to my children, who has lived with my characters and my sleepless nights. Last time I said a lesser woman would have slept in the guest room. I was wrong. A lesser woman would have banished
I remember someone once telling me that you know it's cold when you see a lawyer with his hands in his
People are shouting and shining flashlights in my eyes. In the meantime, I'm hugging this big yellow buoy like it's Marilyn Monroe. A very fat Marilyn Monroe, after she took all the pills and went to seed.
My favorite Monroe film is
A guy with a really thick mustache and pizza breath is panting in my ear. He's wearing a life vest and trying to peel my fingers away from the buoy. I'm too cold to move. He wraps his arms around my chest and pulls me backward through the water. More people, silhouetted against the lights, take hold of my arms, lifting me onto the deck.
“Jesus, look at his leg!” someone says.
“He's been shot!”
Who are they talking about?
People are shouting all over again, yelling for bandages and plasma. A black guy with a gold earring slides a needle into my arm and puts a bag over my face.
“Someone get some blankets. Let's keep this guy warm.”
“He's palping at one-twenty.”
“Palping at one-twenty.”
“Any head injuries?”
The engine roars and we're moving. I can't feel my legs. I can't feel anything—not even the cold anymore. The lights are also disappearing. Darkness has seeped into my eyes.
“One, two, three.”
“Watch the IV lines. Watch the IV lines.”
“I got it.”
“Bag a couple of times.”
The guy with pizza breath is puffing really hard now, running alongside the gurney. His fist is in front of my face, pressing a bag to force air into my lungs. They lift again and square lights pass overhead. I can still see.
A siren wails in my head. Every time we slow down it gets louder and closer. Someone is talking on a radio. “We've pumped two liters of fluid. He's on his fourth unit of blood. He's bleeding out. Systolic pressure dropping.”
“He needs volume.”
“Squeeze in another bag of fluid.”
“He's seizing. See that?”
One of the machines has gone into a prolonged cry. Why don't they turn it off?
Pizza breath rips open my shirt and slaps two pads on my chest.
“CLEAR!” he yells.
The pain almost blows the top of my skull clean off.
He does that again and I'll break his arms.
I swear to God I'm going to remember you, pizza breath. I'm going to remember exactly who you are. And when I get out of here I'm coming looking for you. I was happier in the river. Take me back to Marilyn Monroe.
I am awake now. My eyelids flutter as if fighting gravity. Squeezing them shut, I try again, blinking into the darkness.
Turning my head, I can make out orange dials on a machine near the bed and a green blip of light sliding across a liquid crystal display window like one of those stereo systems with bouncing waves of colored light.
Where am I?