Excerpt from Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Saving Elijah

by Fran Dorf

Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf X
Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf
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    Jun 2000, 384 pages


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"It's just that I have to warn you, God, we're into some really horrible stuff here, so if you can't take it You'd better stop listening right now.

"Wait. What in the world is the matter with me? Of course You can take it. You've seen far worse than this, the Black Death, racks and tortures, even murders in Your good name. What about millions marched into ovens? What do you do, hide Your face, like my friend Julie and I used to do when we went to a scary movie and knew from the music that a bad part was coming? You can close Your eyes if You want, but please don't leave now, when I need You most. We're talking about my Elijah here, Elijah Galligan. My boy who loves Elvis Presley.

"When he was three, Elijah saw Elvis on television, and he's loved to get naked and dance to Elvis ever since. The kid's a born nudist. I bought a tape for him. 'Hound Dog.' You should see that kid wiggle. I mean, of course You've seen it, but if You've seen it how can You just let him lie here like this? Is it me, is it me? Do I not love him enough?

"A coma. Please. Help."

I stopped my prayer and listened. I still heard a lullaby, definitely. I'd forgotten there was such a thing as music. The praying of mothers had been the only music before, a moving bass figure or drumbeat, contrapuntal to the main PICU melody, but constant. You could hear the mother-prayers under the din of the machines, rising crescendo sempre agitato toward the fluorescent lights.

"Do you hear that, Sam?"

My husband, sitting at the other side of Elijah's bed, had been crying before Dr. Jonas came in. Wailing, really. The man I loved, with whom I had three children, the man I'd seen cry maybe once in twenty-four years of knowing him, was making a sound in his throat like lowing into a megaphone. I wanted to go to him, but my body felt so heavy, bloated and stinking with fear and despair. I couldn't move, not a muscle, not a finger, not a toe.

That is what happens. You want to comfort each other, but grief is everywhere, even inside your mouth. You are flailing about, swallowing water, it's filling every organ and cell, and you are going down for the last time, glub glub. How do you offer a husband-anyone-a lifeline when you're drowning yourself?

The voice, the song. My lifeline. I grabbed hold with everything I had. I wanted Sam to come with me.

"The singing," I whispered. I had not spoken in perhaps an hour.

"What are you talking about, Dinah?"

"Shhh. Listen."

He listened. "I don't hear anything."

No matter. I heard it. I closed my eyes and let the song carry me. Just a lullaby I sang to Elijah every night before he went to bed. I'd help him get into his Big Bird footed pajamas, then I'd sit on the bed and sing to him and Tuddy, the Day-Glo green puff-a-lump with a huge funny turtle face and orange bow tie he carried everywhere. My singing voice isn't great, but Elijah wouldn't even try to sleep unless I sang. Loud. If I didn't sing loud, he nudged me.

When I opened my eyes, I was no longer in the PICU. Blue sky and ocean and sea air had somehow materialized around me, replacing the sight and smell of that hospital room. I was with Elijah in a glorious place. I even knew where I was, though I'd never been there. There is a spot on the eastern coast of Australia, where swimming fish and sea creatures flash by in a kaleidoscope of color and design, where endlessly varied coral formations rise high from the ocean bottom, where anemones and sponges undulate to the music of the gently swaying sea. Behold: the future in a waking dream. When Elijah turned seven or eight, we were going to travel thousands of miles together on an airplane to see the city of coral. A vacation, perhaps. Or maybe Sam, a copywriter for an ad agency, would have a client there, and the whole family would go with him. And my pain? Gone-the PICU but a dim memory of a nightmare I had once, a long time ago.

Reprinted from Saving Elijah by Fran Dorf by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Fran Dorf. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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