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111 19 ~ Emily Anna’s hand clutched the doorframe. “It’s her shunt.” “We shouldn’t have come,” I said. Aunt Ruth looked from Anna to me. “What does that mean?” “The shunt tubing could be plugged, or broken,” I said. “In either case, her brain swells with the extra fluid.” I tried to ignore the memorized illustrations from the pediatric neurology chapter popping into my brain. Anna rested her forehead against the doorframe. “She’s in surgery now.” “Damn. Why didn’t Sam notice sooner?” I put my arms around Anna. I knew we shouldn’t have trusted him. “What were her symptoms?” “Oh come on.” Anna pushed me away. “We left Zoe with him less than fortyeight hours ago and she was fine.” “Maybe not,” I said. “Remember how teary she was last week? We should have suspected something. Tell me exactly what Sam told you.” “That Zoe didn’t get his spoonerisms. I thought he gave that up years ago. Doesn’t matter. We have to get home.” She left the living room. We followed her towards the bedroom. Ruth whispered to me, “Spoonerisms?” “Sam and Zoe like to joke that way,” I whispered back. “You know, when you switch the first letter of words? It’s their secret language.” I grabbed the two backpacks from the floor of the closet, nudged the half-flat basketball back in and held it with my foot while I closed the door. Anna talked while she stuffed shirts and socks into her pack. “Sam said that after I brought her upstairs Monday evening she was quieter than usual. He thought she was just tired and maybe worried about me leaving, and that’s why she wasn’t picking up on the spoonerisms.” Aunt Ruth brought our bathroom stuff into the room, sorting toothbrushes and combs and shampoos. She handed them to Anna. 112 ~ House Arrest “Tuesday after school, it seemed worse. Sam called the pediatrician and got an appointment for today. But early this morning, he spoke with the neurosurgeon’s office and they said to bring her to the ER for a CT scan.” Aunt Ruth stood behind Anna, hugging her lightly but not getting in the way. Aunt Ruth had always been good at that. I knew we shouldn’t have come. “So while we were tossing dirt onto Ivan’s coffin, Zoe was in shunt failure.” The minute those words were out, I wanted to snatch them back. I mumbled “I’m sorry” but they both ignored me. “The scan showed enlarged ventricles.” Anna collapsed back against Aunt Ruth’s chest. “Which means the shunt isn’t working.” “So what are we waiting for? Let’s get down to the ferry.” I buckled my pack and grabbed my jacket. “The last ferry was at 3:15,” Ruth said. Anna turned to me. “Cousin Kevin will take us over to Rockland. He said to hurry, a nor’easter is coming.” • Halfway to Rockland, we ran into fierce winds and swirling snow. I couldn’t tell if the turmoil in my stomach was caused by the swells or the worries. But Kevin delivered us safely through the tossing and the howling to the calmer waters beyond the harbor lighthouse. I clutched both backpacks while Anna hugged Kevin through his rubber jacket slick with wet snow. Anna insisted on driving, said she needed something to do. She put Cajun fiddle music in the CD player and seemed to lose herself in the rhythm. I folded my long brown scarf into a pillow and leaned against my door. The defroster made ominous pinging noises but the snowflakes melted on the windshield. My thoughts tumbled and tossed, images rushing at me like the headlights of oncoming traffic. Zoe lying pale and silent on the stretcher the last time her shunt failed, wearing a blue OR cap that covered her eyebrows. Sam drawing puppet faces on the soft tips of his fingers and acting out whispered stories. Aunt Ruth telling me that Daddy went to prison and died there alone, so that Momma could take care of me. Could it have been my fault that my mother felt so impossibly lonely? These flashing memories were jumbled up with images of Pippa in trouble, in premature labor or bleeding, unable to get help because she was tethered to her house by that stupid ankle monitor. As we passed Portland, Anna turned the music down. “How’re you doing?” “I’m scared. Aren’t you...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781597094429
Related ISBN
9781597094993
MARC Record
OCLC
835770696
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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