"And also children who aren't 'perfect'. "
"Right. If they have a physical defect, people don't want them. Or mental disability. It's wrong."
Now he couldn't stop talking. He was just so tense -- "I told Claudia all this and she sort of what I call 'went lawyer' on me. She argued that women all over the world give birth to babies that look like them. A Japanese woman expects a Japanese baby. An Ethiopian woman expects an Ethiopian baby. For that matter, when they adopt, that's what they adopt, too. Why should she be different? Then we heard there was a chance of adopting an orphan from Russia, that they were finally letting some of their babies be adopted out of the country, and some of the babies looked like the child Claudia wanted - we - we wanted. And then of course Claudia argued that a baby from Russia might die in an institution. Which is true. She said wasn't that better than adopting an American child who at least had a foster family and enough food and a house to live in. She had heard about this wonderful agency that was doing a marvelous job of finding babies for people. It was as if somebody had given us the gift of life. We went over there, to Russia. A man from the agency, a spotter, had heard a rumor about a red-haired baby boy in an orphanage. He thought he could find him and we might be able to adopt him. He took us to several orphanages, five, I think. It was like a treasure hunt, but very frightening in a way, because Russia is so chaotic now. You just don't know whether you're breaking a law or not. There are police and soldiers everywhere."
"I've heard that."
"In one of the biggest orphanages he took us to, finally, there he was. He was so delicate and wonderful-looking. Five months old. Very thin, but otherwise healthy. The orphanage was hideous. The babies had almost no care. And no love at all. It was pitiful. They were lying in their own waste. All of them had terrible diaper rash, actual bleeding sores. The staff changed their diapers just twice a day, morning and evening. The babies got no attention, no medicine, no sunlight, no stimulation, no cuddling or mothering. Not enough food. I felt like we ought to take them all. We couldn't, of course. I felt so bad, leaving the others. We were glad to get him out of there while he was still little and hadn't been - stunted."
"You've been blessed, Dooley. And so has Teddy."
He looked to where Tony and Felipe were working over the slides. "I hope so," he said.
"I believe Teddy will be well. Even if it's bad news, if it's leukemia, leukemia's not a death sentence any more. You're a doctor. You know that."
"Yes. Yes, I do." It wasn't a death sentence every time.
"We're curing seventy-five per cent these days."
Seventy-five per cent go through hell -- bone marrow aspirations, spinal taps, chemotherapy, and come out alive. Twenty-five per cent die. Was he about to hear that his child had one chance in four of dying?
By now Tony had made up slides from the marrow of the trabecular bone, the spongy interior tissue. There were some minute discarded pieces of the cortical bone, the hard outside shell, lying in the Petri dish, and a few slides that hadn't come out right, that had too much cortical bone and not enough trabecular, or were improperly stained. Dooley idly pushed the Petri dish with his finger.
"My child's bone," he said. "It's so cruel to do this to him."
Alison said, "It's awful, Dooley."
He picked up the Petri dish and studied the minuscule white and pink scraps. With a magnifying glass, he examined all the little pieces.
"Dooley," Alison said, "you can't tell anything that way."
"I know. I don't even want to. I'm trying to distract myself."
Copyright 2002 by Barbara D'Amato. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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