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

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Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures


by Vincent Lam

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2007, 362 pages
    Sep 2008, 362 pages

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“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 o’clock Ming called back. “So?” she asked.

“We were friends before, and now it’s the same,” said Fitz.


“And you are very honest. I shouldn’t come to Toronto, though.”

“That’s fine,” she said, “I don’t know why you wanted to follow me around.”

“You need to focus on your interview. I don’t want to distract you.”

“I’m 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 I’m 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 Karl’s hand on my knee as he explained the periodic table. I didn’t think much of it, although it felt strange — he’s 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 Karl’s 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 Karl’s 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 weren’t really cousins, that she was adopted, or he was. That day, she didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 Karl’s 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. Ming’s uncle proclaimed a generation of success, with Ming as the next doctor. She learned of Karl’s 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 Ming’s 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 didn’t 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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