Goodnight then, Fitzgerald, she said in a buoyant public voice. He was pretending to interview me, Dad. Thanks again, Fitz, take good notes for me.
At two oclock Ming called back. So? she asked.
We were friends before, and now its the same, said Fitz.
And you are very honest. I shouldnt come to Toronto, though.
Thats fine, she said, I dont know why you wanted to follow me around.
You need to focus on your interview. I dont want to distract you.
Im curious as to why you think that if you had come, which I agree that you should not, you would have been distracting. We have an agreement. Nothing romantic, and so Im confused that you would think that I might be liable to be distracted by you. Then we agree, he said.
At three-fifteen, Ming called Fitzgerald again, tried to keep her voice clear. She needed to tell it, the way a scab must, at times, be picked off the body and made to bleed before the finger is satisfied.
At first it was Karls hand on my knee as he explained the periodic table. I didnt think much of it, although it felt strange hes my cousin, after all. When she wrote her first perfect exam paper and showed it to Karl before showing her father, he pecked his lips on hers. It was brief initially, but the congratulatory kisses became longer and slower. In the wetness of lips, Ming could see Karls weakness in his desire, and began to enjoy this power at the same time that she began to enjoy the kisses. Physical pleasure did not do away with her habit of rinsing and spitting ten times (she counted) immediately after Karls departure, or the letters to self detailing why she was a filthy slut. She discarded these in the garbage at the bus stop on her way to school. One afternoon before she wrote her entrance exams for Dunning Hall Girls Academy, Karl told Ming that he was busy, and might not be able to tutor anymore. Terrified of losing her new academic success, Ming pleaded with him to make time for her, and he agreed to come over that afternoon. She had begun to pretend while they were kissing that they werent really cousins, that she was adopted, or he was. That day, she didnt stop his hand when it slid up her leg, underwear tight at the waist with his strong hand pulling on it. Although this was frightening, she was more scared of losing him, and she liked it that he fumbled, that he wasnt sure where to go. Later, when he slid the condom off, it looked exactly like a snake shedding its skin. Only then did it occur to her that he had been prepared, that he had brought a rubber. Ming told her parents that she wanted to become a doctor, which was also Karls ambition. Pleased, they doubled their severity in urging her to study.
Karl was accepted into medicine in his third year of biology. To celebrate, there was a twelve-course family banquet, the pan-fried lobsters sizzling and turning on the Lazy Susan. Mings uncle proclaimed a generation of success, with Ming as the next doctor. She learned of Karls failed second-year application from his sister, who whispered of this shame to her. Karl was a whirlpool of family approval whom Ming increasingly feared and hoped to imitate. He dated, and she was jealous. He told her that what they had between them was a special thing, and she tried to believe this.
In Mings last year of high school, Karl went away for a month of rural training, and Ming felt cleaner and lighter. She aced chemistry without his help. When he returned, Ming told him that she didnt need his tutoring anymore. Karl threatened that he could influence her medical school application. He said it with such bravado that she recognized that this was not the first of his lies. The study sessions ended.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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