Excerpt from Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

Stories

By Vincent Lam

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

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The following is the complete text of "How to Get Into Medical School, Part I", from Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures.

HOW TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL, PART I

Desperate stragglers arrived late for the molecular biology final examination, their feet wet from tramping through snowbanks and their faces damp from running. Some still wore coats, and rummaged in the pockets for pens. Entering the exam hall, a borrowed gymnasium, from the whipping chaos of the snowstorm was to be faced with a void. Eyeglasses fogged, xenon lamps burned their blue-tinged light, and the air was calm with its perpetual fragrance of old paint. The lamps buzzed, and their constant static was like a sheet pulled out from under the snowstorm, though low enough that the noise vanished quickly. Proctors led latecomers to vacant seats among the hundreds of desks, each evenly spaced at the University of Ottawa’s minimum requisite distance.

The invigilators allowed them to sit the exam but, toward the end of the allotted period, ignored their pleas for extra time on account of the storm. Ming, who had finished early, centered her closed exam booklet in front of her. Fitzgerald was still hunched over his paper. She didn’t want to wait outside for him, preferring it to be very coincidental that she would leave the room at the same time he did. Hopefully he would suggest they go for lunch together. If he did not ask, she would be forced to, perhaps using a little joke. Ming tended to stumble over humor. She could ask what he planned to do this afternoon—was that the kind of thing people said? On scrap paper, she wrote several possible ways to phrase the question, and in doing so almost failed to notice when Fitzgerald stood up, handed in his exam, and left the room. She expected to rush after him, but he stood outside the exam hall.

“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked.

Shortly after they arrived at the Thai-Laotian café half a block from campus, Ming said deliberately, “Fitz, I simply wanted to wish you the best in your future endeavours. You are obviously intelligent, and I’m sure you will be a great success.”

The restaurant was overly warm, and Fitz struggled out of his coat, wrestled his sweater over his head, leaving his hair in a wild, electrified state. He ran his hands over his head, and instead of smoothing his hair this resulted in random clumps jutting straight up. “Same to you,” he said, smiling at her almost excitedly. She watched him scan the bar menu. When she asked for water, he followed suit. She liked that. She said, “Also, thank you for explaining the Krebs cycle to me.”

“Any time,” said Fitz.

“I feel guilty that I haven’t been completely open,” said Ming. She considered her prepared phrases and selected one, saying, “It didn’t seem like the right time in the middle of exams.”

“Nothing in real life makes sense during exams,” said Fitzgerald. He tilted in the chair but kept a straight back. Ming reassured herself that he had also been anticipating “a talk,” and so—she concluded with an administrative type of resolution—it was appropriate that she had raised the topic of “them.”

She leaned forward and almost whispered, “This is awkward, but I have strong emotional suspicions. Such suspicions are not quite the same as emotions. I’m sure you can understand that distinction. I have this inkling that you have an interest in me.” She didn’t blurt it out, instead forced herself to pace these phrases. “The thing of it is that I can’t have a romantic relationship with you. Not that I want to.” Now she was off the path of her rehearsed lines. “Not that I wouldn’t want to, because there’s no specific reason that I wouldn’t, but I—Well, what I’m trying to say is that even though I don’t especially want to, if I did, then I couldn’t.” The waiter brought shrimp chips and peanut sauce. “So that’s that.”

The above excerpt is the complete text of the short story "How To Get Into Medical School, Part 1" , pages 1-30 of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. Copyright (c) Dr. Vincent Lam, 2007. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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