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FICTION FEAR: FOUR EXAMPLES / Gordon Lish MY DAUGHTER called from college. She is a good student, excellent grades, is gifted in any number of ways. "What time is it?" she said. I said, "It is two o'clock." "All right," she said. "It's two now. Expect me at four—four by the clock that said it's two." "It was my watch," I said. "Good," she said. It is ninety miles, an easy drive. At a quarter to four, I went down to the street. I had these things in mind: look forher car, hold a parking place, be there waving when she turned into the block. At a quarter to five, I came back up. I changed my shirt. I wiped off my shoes. I looked into the mirror to see if I looked like someone's father. I think I looked like a vain man who had things on his heart. SHE PRESENTED herself shortly after six o'clock. "Traffic," I said. "No," she said, and that was the end of that. After supper, she complained of insufferable pains, and doubled over on the diningroom floor. "My belly," she said. "What?" I said. She said, "My belly. It's agony. Get me a doctor." There is a large and famous hospital mere blocks from my apartment. Celebrities go there, statesmen, people who know what they are doing. I have any number of children. They've all been treated there—in the large and famous hospital. With the help of a doorman and an elevator man, I got her to the hospital. Within minutes, two physicians and a corps ofnurses took the matter in hand. I stood by watching. It was hours and hours and hours before they emptied her of pain and were willing to announce their findings. A bellyache, a rogue cramp, a certain unspecific seizure of the abdomen, vagrant, indecipherible, a mystery not worth further inquiry. The Missouri Review ¦ 47 WE LEFT THE hospital unassisted, using a chain of tunnels in order to shorten the distance home. The exposed distance, thatis—since it would be fourin the morning on the city streets, and though the blocks would be few, each one of them would be dangerous. So we made our way along the system of underground passages that link the units of the hospital until we were forced to exit. We came out onto a street with not a person on it until we saw the young man who was goingfrom car to car. He carried something under his arm. It looked to be a furled umbrella, black fabric, silver fittings. But it could not have been what it looked to be—unless it was a tool of entry disguised as an umbrella. He turned to us as we stepped along, and then he turned back to his work—going from car to car, trying the doors, and sometimes digging at the windows with the thing he carried in his hands. "Don't look," I said. My daughter said, "What?" I said, "There's someone across the street. He's trying to jimmy open cars. Just keep on walking as if everything's okay." My daughter said, "Where? I don't see him." IPUT MY daughter to bed and the hospital charges on my desk, and then I put my head down on the pillow and listened. There was nothing to hear. Before I surrendered myself to sleep, there were these things in my mind—the boy in the treatment room across the corridor from my daughter's, how I had wanted to cry out each time he cried outas a stitch was sutured into his scalp. My daughter was resting while the physicians waited upon the results of any number of tests. I was standing in the corridor turned toward the treatment room in which the boy lay screaming as a surgeon sewed up his head. "Take it out! Take it out!" Thatis what the boywas shrieking as the doctor worked to close him up. Before I gave myself to slumber, I thought about the feeling in me when I heard that awful wailing. The boy wanted the needle out. I suppose it hurt...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 45-48
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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