By Larry Watson
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Dr. Dunbar stepped back from Louisa Lindahl, and while Johnny must have understood that we were to do the same, I missed the message. I remained bent over the wound, my face less than a foot from Louisa Lindahl’s flesh. I could smell the antiseptic, and under that, faintly, something else.... Blood perhaps, maybe nicotine, and then something deeper, muskier, a smell belonging to Louisa Lindahl’s essence. The black knots of the sutures looked like flies lined up along her pale abdomen. —and yet I couldn’t decide where.
She was wearing a bathrobe, her usual after-work attire, and her hair was done up in curlers. The room’s only light came from the fluorescent strip along the back of the stove. In contrast to the Dunbar home, where the aroma of Mrs. Dunbar’s turkey and all the sumptuous extras still hung in the air, our house smelled like cabbage, though my mother hadn’t prepared cabbage in weeks. Whoever was on the other end of the line was telling my mother something so fascinating that she couldn’t be bothered to greet me.
Dr. Dunbar got no closer to combat than a New Jersey Army hospital during the Second World War, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this part of the lesson was intended not only to educate us, but to impress us with his knowledge of ballistics. And knowing what we had seen of Miss Lindahl, perhaps he wanted to stress the clinical nature of the situation as well. After all, the girl lying there before us was not to be looked at for her naked beauty, but rather as a patient in need of a physician’s help.
American Boy by Larry Watson