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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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  • Published:
    Jun 2000, 384 pages


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We are on a small boat in a great azure sea, bobbing above the Great Barrier Reef. The expanse of water spreads for miles in every direction. We're still wearing our swimsuits after swimming with the fish. So. Elijah will learn to swim after all, he has always been so afraid of the water. Our skin has dried now, drenched in the warmth of the noon sun. His skin has darkened, his hair lightened from its normal reddish color to a lustrous golden-blond. Our snorkel masks and fins lie on the boat deck, and Elijah is sitting on my lap while we examine a piece of coral together. I am so proud of him, he has learned so much. He still can't read very well, but he talks in sentences and he makes up stories, and I love him more and more. God granted him great progress after his recovery from the coma, an additional gift.

I kiss Elijah's fingers - he has scraped the skin on his fingertip against the rough, pocked surface of the coral.

"Look, honey, do you see all these little holes? In each of these tiny holes there used to be an animal."

He pushes his glasses up on his nose. "An elephant?"

I'm about to tell him about tiny sea creatures, but he looks so hopeful that I say, "Well, if you want elephants to live in each of these holes, then that's what lives there. Tiny little elephants with funny little trunks smaller than toothpicks."

He laughs and peers at me from behind his glasses. "You're silly, Mommy."

"You're silly, too." Beneath the surface of the rippling water, I can see brain corals, stag corals, honeycombs. Tall and fat, tiny and towering, reds, whites, greens. And crevasses between the coral for brilliant fish, electric blue multitudes, yellow schools, resting places. We all need resting places, do we not?

A giant turtle swims right by. "Look, Elijah!"

With a smile, Elijah puts his hands up at his shoulders and flaps them, imitating the turtle. I laugh. He shoves his glasses up on his nose again and rests his elbows on the side of the boat, his chin on his hands.

The little stars were the herring fish That lived in the beautiful sea.

The song, now coming from nowhere and everywhere.

Elijah sits up again and looks around. "Who's singing?"

This music has become all things to me now, a hymn, a dirge, a concerto, a symphony. Solemn and joyful, a reverie and a mazurka, both a major and a minor key. Liquid silk and rock and roll and razzmatazz, too. Debussy, the Fifth Brandenburg, the Rolling Stones, Art Garfunkel singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and Jobim on guitar. All of it, all at once. And the voice? A virtual choir that seems to contain every emotion, every sensation, lifting me up like a strong wind, soothing me like a tenor sax, rousing me like a bass, loving me like a violin, rocking me like a drum.

"It must be God singing from the heavens." The secrets of the universe contained in every measure and chord.

"Heaven is where dead people go?" My son lazily dips a finger in the water.

I nod. "That's what they say, Elijah."

"Is that where I almost went?" Back down to resting his chin on his hands, elbows on the side of the boat.

"Yes, I suppose so."

"It must be a very big place, to hold all the dead people."

I laugh. My Elijah will become a child who speculates about such things, who imagines.

"Yes," I tell him. "God's arms are very big. And isn't God's song wonderful?"

He turns his head toward me without lifting his chin from his hands. "I don't know, Mommy. I kind of like Elvis."

I laugh and laugh and laugh.

"Mrs. Galligan? Are you all right?" Dr. Jonas, bending over me. "Can I get you something?"

Where was the azure sea?

The world collapsed inward, and I heard a sucking sound as I crashed back into the place where I could not be, where I could not live, where Elijah, lying mute on a bed, entangled in tubes, might never reach the age of seven or eight.

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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