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Excerpt from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Dive From Clausen's Pier

by Ann Packer

The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer X
The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2002, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2003, 384 pages

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I wondered: Would he look any different after a day away? Would it be any easier to see how he did look, beached on that strange bed? I hoped he'd be on his back. Seeing him on his stomach, his face framed by a cushioned oval and directed at the floor, was the hardest thing.

I happened to glance at the revolving doors just then, and there was Rooster, coming in, still in his suit. I stood up immediately. He was like Mrs. Mayer, full of hope, and I knew he'd disapprove of my just sitting there, of anything that smelled of pessimism. He put in his hours at the hospital as if they could accumulate to some good, to Mike's recovery.

He didn't see me, and I watched as he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror and paused to make an adjustment to his tie. I couldn't help smiling: it was still funny to see him in a suit, maybe because he took the image so seriously himself. "The customers want you to look better than they do," he told me once. "It's a psychological thing." For a year he'd been working on the sales floor of a Honda dealership down on the Beltline. He referred to cars as units now, even to those of us who could remember when he'd thought of them as wheels.

I crossed the lobby and met him near the information desk. He looked at me oddly for just a moment after we'd said hi, and I wondered if he knew about my absence the day before, if Mrs. Mayer had told him.

We rode the elevator up to Intensive Care, where it was always quiet and a little dim. Several nurses sat inside the central workstation, speaking in low voices or going over charts. Surrounding them were the patient rooms, a circle of cubicles with open doors flanked by big plate-glass windows, so the nurses could see inside no matter where in the unit they happened to be. I could hear the even beeps of heart monitors, the deep whooshing sounds of ventilators. Opposite Mike's room a cubicle sat empty, and I tried to remember who'd occupied it two days earlier. An old lady, I thought. Had she stabilized and moved on? Or died and been moved out?

Rooster stopped to talk to one of the nurses, and I stopped with him. She was twenty-nine or thirty, blond, beautiful in an icy, Nordic way. Impossible, in other words, which was just his type. I stood behind him, smiling a little whenever she looked my way. The nurses knew who each of us was. Rooster was the best friend. I was the fiance e. They'd all made a point of asking to see my ring.

Mike was on his back, and I relaxed a little at the sight of him. It wasn't any harder to see than it had been two days ago, a completely familiar body now ministered to by machines. The only thing covering him was a small cloth draped over his crotch, and the rest of him looked pale and doughy.

"Hi, Mike," Rooster said. "It's me, bud. I'm here with Carrie." He looked at me and waited, then lifted his chin a bit to urge me to speak. The nurses and doctors had encouraged us to talk to Mike, but it made me feel uncomfortable, as if I were speaking into a tape recorder. I stayed silent.

"It's June 14th," Rooster continued after a moment. "Seven-twenty p.m. I came straight from work to see you, bud." He took a piece of paper from his pocket. "Sold a Civic to a guy with a doozer of a name today. OK. This guy's a dentist, right? Moler. Dr. Richard Moler. I said to myself, That's one for the collection. That's one I gotta remember to tell Mikey."

For as long as I'd known them, Mike and Rooster had had a theory about names. Larry Speakes, the former White House spokesman. A chiropractor in the phonebook, Dr. Clinch. Driving through Menominee on their way back from a camping trip one summer, they saw a plaque on a building: Dr. Bonebrake, Orthopedist. Coincidence? Absolutely not, was their attitude. Their favorite was Rooster's freshman advisor at Madison Area Technical College, Mr. Tittman, who Rooster was willing to swear wore a bra.

Excerpted from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer Copyright 2002 by Ann Packer. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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