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lynn stansbury

New Fiction


by Lynn Stansbury

      The clinic shutters were closed for the night. The building was old, a one-story frame shell with a rusted tin roof, built by foreign volunteers after the Great Earthquake of 1976 on a scrap of wasteland between two of the weedy barrios that were even then spreading down the steep slopes of the barrancas south and east of the capital. Now the doctor sat alone in the tiny back office at a dented gray metal desk, finishing the day’s charting, clipping notes to the folders for himself or for the nurses: who needed a home visit, who needed follow-up lab or a chest x-ray, who needed to see the best cardiologist in the city (a corrupt swine, but he owed Miguel more than one favor). Miguel was the clinic’s only physician, except when the university sent out medical students to do rotations with him, to give them a taste of caring for the poor before they moved on to better things. Except for his two forced years in the Army after medical school, he had spent his whole career in this building, nearly thirty years. He pushed back from his desk and went to see if the nurses had left any coffee in the staff room. The pot was empty. He rinsed it and set it on the drain board, filled his mug with water from the tap, and returned to his desk.
      Rain drummed on the roof, and from time to time as he worked, the earth under the tile floor grumbled and the single overhead bulb swung on its long cord. Thirty kilometers south, the least of their several volcanoes was hissing and spewing lava and ash, seeding the rain clouds and stirring up the tectonics. Photos of the eruption had replaced the usual shots of headless victims of local narco-terrorism on the Internet and the front pages of the newspapers, fueling the gringo nonsense about the end of the world in 2012 according to the ancient Maya. He didn’t remember his Mayan grandmother as well as his older sister did, but he didn’t recall her having much use for nonsense of any kind. You work. You take care of your family and your cornfield. That’s all you get, and you do it as well as you can.
       A hollow tapping sounded down the hall. He stared up at the shuttered window, willing the sound to stop. He thought he had fixed that front shutter this time. The sound stopped, and he kept writing. The sound started up again, louder this time. He set his pen down. Marcela, the housekeeper. She had forgotten her key twice last week. He got up and went down the long central hall toward the waiting room and the main door, stretching his back as he walked. He still ran five k four times a week and could dig volcanic ash out of roof gutters when he had to, though his wife held the bottom of the ladder and complained to anyone who would listen about old fools climbing around on roofs. But sitting any length of time hurt. Marcela would have forgotten her key again or lost it, probably the latter. Either way, she was getting old, and the work was hard, and he was going to have to decide what to do about her. She came from their old upcountry town, still spoke only Kaqchikel, their local Mayan dialect, still wore the hand-woven, red-shouldered blouse of their district. His mother had found her living wild in the cornfields, crazy and half-starved after her family had been killed by—whoever they had been killed by, soldiers, guerillas. You didn’t ask back then. His mother was the person in their town everyone went to. Even now, all these years later, he didn’t know how he and his brother had gotten their sister out of the country to friends in California one jump ahead of a death squad, but he guessed it had something to do with their mother. Somewhere, someone said, no, not that family, give the boys at least a running start. Now their mother was gone. Quietly, at peace, in advanced old age, cared for by her doctor son, nurse daughter, loving family all around. And here he was, still working into the evening in this empty building. He cracked the blind on the door. Sure enough, Marcela’s worried face, framed in graying braids, peered up at him from the darkness. He popped the lock and slid back the bolt.
      The door slammed into him. In a gust of ash and rain, the old woman plunged inward, fell through Miguel’s reach, and hit the floor tiles hard. Two men in black ski masks and ragged hoodies bowled through the door and knocked Miguel back against the wall. Outside, rain hissed against the cracked pavement. The bigger of the two men hauled Miguel upright like a doll. Miguel was taller than both of them, but they were stringy and muscular, and the way their bodies moved told him they were young. Their black eyes glittered in the depths of their mask holes.
      “This is a clinic for poor people,” Miguel said. His voice surprised him: calm, practical. “We don’t have narcotics here. Or money.” He almost said, your crew cleaned us out last week. It would have been a stupid thing to say even if these guys were that bunch, and he didn’t think they were. Their guns looked like military issue, big, with the oiled sheen of newness and care.
      The taller one waved a thick, squared-off automatic pistol. “One of our guys. His hand’s all torn up. He’s bleeding.”
      All Miguel really heard was hand, bleeding. He said, “Bring him in, but—” The shorter one had an AK-47 over his shoulder. He slung it forward. Miguel went on. “If it’s bad, I may not be able to do anything here. In a little clinic. Like this.” He took care not to move his hands. On the floor, old Marcela moaned. He didn’t look at her, begged her inwardly not to move or moan again. Don’t draw their attention. The thought was an instinctively cryptic shuffle of Kaqchikel and English.
      The boy with the pistol looked at him and shrugged. “Not my choice.” He leaned out the doorway and gestured with the gun. “But they say you can.” They say you can. No, Miguel thought, no. Only always dreamed I could, talked about it, lectured students, tried to keep up, did my best. In those flashing seconds, the thoughts were just an aching twist of memory, of the joy in the anatomic beauty of a hand, his mother sewing, his sister shaping a loaf of dough, his little brother with a guitar. And the horror, like the facile wartime cruelty of rape, at the insouciance with which one man chops off the hands of another, because it’s easy and not necessarily murder. All you have to do is stop the bleeding, block infection.
      A van burst round the corner and pulled up side-on to the door. Its cargo door crashed back, and two more masked figures, thick-bodied, guns strapped to their waists, swung out half-carrying a third who groaned and writhed between them. His left hand and forearm were bundled in a yellow sweatshirt. They pulled him through the door. Blood spattered onto the tile floor.
      “In here.” Miguel led them down the hall. Wet sandaled feet slapped the floor behind him, and what had to be their weapons clanged against the walls. Fired recently; he knew that smell. The urgent care room was divided into two shallow bays by a cabinet that thrust part way into the room, each bay with its wooden exam table. Miguel strode into the first bay, yanked up the heavy head of the table, and set its cogged braces. They got the injured boy sitting on the table and then reclining, and Miguel slipped into the working space between the table and the cabinet.
      He didn’t like working on patients from their left, but that was the boy’s bad side, and Miguel didn’t guess his own preferences had any say here. He pulled a clean rubber sheet from one of the cabinet drawers, draped the boy’s belly with it, and tried to slide the sheet under the injured arm, but the boy clamped his swaddled arm against his chest with a small cry, cradling the bad arm with his other hand. Miguel reached for scissors to cut the boy’s shirt away then thought, no. Nothing sharp, not yet. He pulled on gloves instead. To the injured boy, he said. “I have to look at it.” The boy wailed and tossed his head from side to side. His mask was now askew, one eye stretched almost to his ear and the other caught on his nose.
      “Shut up, pendejo. Show him your hand.” From across the table, the kid with the pistol dove forward as if to snatch the bloody sweatshirt away. The injured boy shrieked, coiled himself forward to shield his arm, jerked one knee up as a barricade and kicked out with the other leg. The pistolero cursed and swung back as if to club him with the gun. The thick-bodied pair at the end of the table grabbed his legs to hold him down.
      “Wait,” Miguel said, gloved hands spread before him. “Wait. Wait.” The gun stopped in mid-arc. “Thank you. Stand back. Please.” They were all blood-spattered now and breathing hard. Miguel felt a weight in his own chest and thought, no. Not that. Not now. He squared his shoulders like a soldier, and the feeling disappeared. He reached over to fix the boy’s mask. The pistolero gripped Miguel’s wrist. The power of the grip was numbing. Miguel said, “I have to talk to him.”
      The pistolero stood back. “So, talk.”
      The kid with the assault rifle stood, slim and quiet, at the head of the bed on the other side. He touched the injured boy’s shoulder; then, when the boy turned, he slid the mask gently back into place. The injured boy’s gaze leapt around the room. His pupils were pin-points. Opiates, probably. The light from the single overhead bulb wasn’t that bright. Miguel looked at the ring of masks around the bed. He wasn’t about to say, so what’d you shoot up with? “What has he had already? For pain. I have to know, so I don’t overdose him on something.”
      They stared at him. The pistolero moved one shoulder. “Some.”
      Miguel watched the ripple of eyebrows pulling together under the knit fabric. “Fifteen minutes. Less.”
      “How?” Miguel said, his voice neutral. When no one answered, he said, “Needle? Pills?”
      The pistolero nodded. “Needle.”
      Miguel bent to the boy on the table. “Mijo, son, listen to me.” The boy squinted up at him. “I need to look at your hand. I won’t touch it.” He opened a wad of gauze. “When you uncover it, it may bleed more. Use this.” The boy’s gaze slid around the room again. He tried to move his legs, but the two big thugs still held him.
      “Let him go,” Miguel said. They stood back.
      The pistolero waggled his gun at the pair at the end of the bed like a housewife waving a wooden spoon at bad children. “Go out and stay with the van. We’ve got it now.”
       The injured boy had drawn his knees up and braced his elbow against them. He tugged tentatively at the bloody wrap around his forearm. He yipped, a sharp, high sound bitten off as a grunt. Blood oozed through the sodden cloth and dropped onto his shirt. Uncoiling like a snake, the boy’s free hand snatched the wad of gauze from Miguel and pressed it onto the cloth.
      “Pendejo,” said the pistolero. “What are you doing?”
      The boy looked at Miguel. “La mano.” Miguel thought, yes, and in my day also La Mano Blanca, The White Hand, enforcers for the old white families. How odd that he had never before connected their name with their pleasure in punishing by the chopping off of hands. “I can’t—”
      Can’t what? Miguel thought, snapping back to now. Can’t give up the support. Shattered bones, probably the wrist. The bright arterial bleeding would be one or both of the feeder arteries to the hand. He folded a sheet into a fabric plank. “Try this. Set it down. On this.” Under the mask, the boy’s eyes narrowed. He lifted the bloody bundle of hand and forearm and let Miguel shelf the splint against his braced legs. “Now try. Wait. Let me get more gauze.” He turned in his little space, pulled out more packs of gauze and a sterile pack of small instruments, laid them out tidily on the counter.
      The boy began folding back the gelatinous strata of rags and gauze. Under his mask, his mouth stretched the cloth and with each movement against the wound he grunted again. A crimson spurt pulsed up from the wreckage of half-formed clot, sodden cloth, and ragged skin. Fresh, Miguel thought, minutes old; a large-caliber weapon at close range. He dropped the wad of gauze onto what he could see of the open wound, and, as the tide of red coursed through the first layer of white, added a second and a third. “Press hard,” he said, and thought, tourniquet.
      He looked across at the slim figure with the assault rifle. “Behind you. First drawer. There’s a rubber strip.” Slim hesitated, taking in the order, then pivoted smoothly and opened the drawer as if it were an old routine. The big weapon rattled against the bed as he turned, and, as he turned back, holding out the tourniquet, something in the curve of his forehead, the arch of nose, was familiar even under the mask. Miguel knew this boy. He didn’t know how or where. No, he thought, no. Don’t let them think you could identify them. He found the pulse in the injured boy’s upper arm, wadded another fold of gauze over it, bound it with the tourniquet.
      “Now we have a little time.” He turned away. He shed his dirty gloves. His hands shook and his fingers seemed to have grown impossibly long and thin as he peeled away the latex. He took a slow deep breath, stretched a tight shoulder, thought about all the years of sitting quietly in this empty building at night, dreaming of leaving the family, which he would never do, following his sister to California and getting a fellowship in hand surgery at UCLA or Stanford, which he would never do, preserving his English, word by painful word, reading scholarly papers sent to him by American friends. Like deepening one’s seat on a fractious horse, he pulled his mind back to here, now: what do you know, what do you remember, what can you do? He pulled out a larger sterile pack and unfolded it onto the counter as a sterile field.
      Behind him, the injured boy said, “It’s tight.” His voice was slow now, thick and dry.
      Miguel ripped open more packs, hemostats, a needle driver, suture material, more gauze. A basin. Two liters of sterile saline. “Yes. And right now, that tourniquet is keeping you from bleeding to death. As soon as I can tie off the bleeding end of the artery, I’ll take it off.”
      He slid the first sterile field to one side, then opened another—two big syringes, needles. Then he fished around in the back of the top cabinet and found the two percent lidocaine. He ignored the date on the bottle. It would have to do. He turned back to his patient. He knew what came next. He just hadn’t done it in thirty years.
      “I can’t do anything for you until I numb the arm,” he said. “But I have to inject up here.” He touched above the tourniquet. “It’s the way the nerves in the arm work. So we have to get you to lie flat and rest your arm up on the table like this.” Slowly, like a ballet dancer, he lifted his arm over his head. He glanced at the pistolero, who stepped back. With Slim working his side, together, they lay the head of the table and their patient down flat. Every time Slim bent forward, the muzzle of the AK-47 swung around his shoulder and dipped toward Miguel.
      And now Miguel knew who he was. Nobody handled these clunky old tables that easily unless they knew how, had worked here, helped him with other patients, been taught the gentle arts of minor outpatient surgery. Which class? Which rotation? This year? Last year? He couldn’t remember, but that didn’t matter now.
      They got the injured boy down, the flaccid cuff of his t-shirt shoved up out of the way. He scrubbed the boy’s underarm with povidone-iodine for the prescribed sixty seconds. He thought about old Marcela, lying out there in the hall. If she was still conscious, she would be lying there choking in the memory of their village, of guns and knives and evil and pit graves. Maybe better if she were dead. Maybe better if they were both dead. Clean and quick. He tossed the yellow-stained swabs into the trash, peeled the sealer off the top of the lidocaine bottle, put on fresh gloves, picked up the first syringe and jammed its needle through the exposed rubber plug into the bottle, tipped the bottle up, and filled the syringe. He turned back to Slim. He almost said you know what to do but stopped himself in time. “Pull the bottle off the needle and hold it. When I’m ready with the second syringe, shove the bottle down onto the needle like the other one. Just don’t touch the rubber. It’s sterile.”
      Slim plucked the tiny bottle off the first needle then placed it smoothly down on the second. His hands were steadier than Miguel’s. Miguel swabbed the injured boy’s arm again, felt for the rope of artery and nerves looping through the armpit out to the arm. “When I stick the needle in,” he said to the injured boy, “and when the medicine goes in, for just a moment, right there, it’ll hurt like hell. Then the whole arm will go numb.”
      The injured boy grunted and then hissed as first the needle and then the lidocane went in. Then, for one whole minute, nothing happened and nobody moved except for the minute in and out of their breathing. Under Miguel’s sweater, the armpits of his shirt were wet and cold.
      The pistolero rested back against the wall, one foot angled up. “What the fuck?”
      The injured boy’s mask wrinkled. “I can’t feel my arm. I can’t move it.”
      “Actually, you can,” Miguel said. His voice croaked. “It just feels weird. We’ll help you put it down onto your lap again. Then we’ll get your head up a bit.”
      Miguel and Slim got the limp arm positioned again on the slab of folded sheet and raised the head of the table. Jesus-Maria, Miguel thought. I’ve done it. Whatever this is, I can handle it. I can do this. He lifted away the layers of blood-soaked dressings and dirty cloth. The last bits were stuck to the raw flesh and had to be soaked free.
      “Whore-mother,” said the pistolero, leaning forward like the visiting specialist leaning over an operative field to get a better look. The thumb and the thumb side of the wrist and hand were gone. The index finger was a dusky purple tube, like the tiny mountain eggplants, and hung on by a narrow bridge of skin and muscle, bone-end gleaming in the macerated flesh. The skin was peppered with black spots.
      Miguel nodded to Slim. “Slide that light over here, would you? Aim it at the wound.”
      Even with the tourniquet, the shredded end of the radial artery leaked pulselets into the wound. He found and clamped the torn artery, loosened the tourniquet. Somewhere deep in the shattered flesh of the hand, the other end of the vascular arc of the palm also began to leak—a good sign. He mopped up the new blood, packed a towel around the hand, filled a clean syringe with saline, flooded the wound, mopped it dry with gauze, tied off the end of the radial artery with suture, irrigated the wound again. More towels. All the while thinking, in English, as if the Spanish were too dangerous, that’s a self-inflicted wound. The absolutely classic way desperate boys get themselves out of the battle line. Does the pistolero know? Does Slim know? Do either of them know that I would know?
      The injured boy lay on the table, stuporous in his post-adrenalin backwash plus the kick-in of whatever he was using. He watched Miguel’s movements, as if the arm and hand belonged to someone else, dark eyes swinging in their sockets like the beads in the disk eyes of a child’s stuffed toy. Miguel got another fresh towel, filled the irrigation syringe again. The wound edges were paler now, water-logged but clean. The oozing had stopped. The remaining finger tips were dusky but not purple like the index finger. They hadn’t pinked up with the release of the tourniquet, but they weren’t any darker.
      The pistolero said, “Can you fix it?”
      Miguel didn’t answer. He stood staring down at the hand. He could amputate what was left of the hand. That he could do. Prevent infection, make the boy a decent stump. And, by the way, get rid of those tell-tale powder burns. Done it enough in his army days. The boy was young. He would survive; he would heal. Is that what he wants?
      The room was silent. Outside, the rain must have slowed; Miguel could hear water ticking onto the tin awning on the house next door, as it always did in a steady drizzle. Under their feet, the floor jiggled briefly and the overhead light swayed.
      The longer Miguel stared down at the boy’s hand, the more certain he was that he didn’t know what to do. He was conscious of the knowledge as words in his head: I do not know what to do. I know what I can do, but I don’t know what could be done, and I don’t know what should be done. And the only one who can answer my questions is me. The wound edges and the index finger were dead, and the marks of a gunshot wound inflicted in close proximity were there for anyone to read. Back from the edges of the wound, the skin was still its normal coppery brown. Under that skin, the tissue was still warm, still getting oxygen, still deploying white blood cells to trap intruders, still sending out chemical calls for more white blood cells, clicking along through the processes of living and dividing and making new cells.
      Smell intruded: blood, wet clothes, the unwashed bodies of young males, iodine, isopropyl alcohol. He and old Marcela were going to die, if she wasn’t dead already. And this boy was going to lose his hand and maybe die because he was stupid and scared and probably evil as well. Mostly, though, he was unlucky. He had been born here. In this place and time. Into a tale of thirty years of war and fifteen more of brigandry. Other boys just like him lived in LA and Houston and Miami and Baltimore, but for those boys, there were surgeons, brilliant, angry and exhausted experts in micro-vascular repair, living on adrenalin and with all of the resources money can buy, who wandered down the hall to Trauma OR 4 at two the morning and saved their hands. And then there was Slim. And all the stuff that swirls down gutters with the rain and the ash.
      Miguel looked at Slim and then at the pistolero. He said, “I can’t fix this. I can take off his hand and wrist, and it won’t get infected, and it will heal. But I can’t save the hand.” Deep in his own misery, he hadn’t thought before: would they now just shoot him?
      For the first time, Slim spoke. His voice was light, clear, familiar. “Who can?”
      “No one here. There are a couple of people with the training, but there’s no equipment and no supplies.”
      “Mexico? Panama?”
      “Mexico City, probably, though I don’t have a name I can give you. The closest places I know for sure are in the States, Miami, Houston—”
      Slim turned on the pistolero. “We can do this. The uncle flies today.”
      “You crazy?”
      Slim turned back to Miguel. “How long do we have?”
      The question was a good one. Miguel almost smiled and nodded, as he would have to a bright student. “For most wounds, we say eight hours because of infection. Twelve at the most....”
      “Cover it up,” the boy said. “We’ll take him.”
      “You are crazy,” the pistolero said again. He gestured to the boy on the table. “He’s an idiot and you’re crazy.”
      Miguel didn’t think they were talking about him. The tick-tock on the neighbor’s awning had slowed. He turned away from the debate, retreating, like the injured boy, into his own world of disordered flesh and the doing of the possible. He washed the wound one more time, blotted it dry. He thought a moment about the index finger, then clipped it free of the hand and dropped it into the bottle with the last of the sterile saline. They could take it with them. For free.
       He heard an odd sound and looked up. The pistolero dry-wretched, his head turned away. How many people have you murdered, Miguel thought, how many throats slit, bodies dismembered? And this bloodless purple finger gets to you.
      Turning back to his patient, Miguel unwrapped two envelopes of petrolatum gauze, tucking and draping and molding it over the raw surfaces. Clean, covered, defended, disguised, the hand became a possibility instead of a certain disaster. He fluffed dry sterile gauze over the petrolatum, bulked out a boxer’s mitt of soft, springy-knit roller gauze, and secured it onto a splint with an Ace wrap. Precious supplies. Of course, if these crazy children thought they could get this boy, even by air, across militarized borders in time to save his hand at a major international trauma center, they were far too delusional to mind killing a couple of inconvenient people who might remember them. Replacing supplies would not be his problem For an instant, that was almost a relief. He didn’t feel the floor shift this time, but the overhead bulb swung fractionally, and the shadows on the wall wavered.
      He said. “The arm will start to wake up in about an hour—two at the outside—”
      Slim said, “He needs something for pain.”
      “—It won’t hurt as much this time. Use what you did before. Nothing I can get him would be any better. No uppers; they’ll make the pain worse. Certainly no cocaine: it’ll kill whatever circulation he’s got left in that hand.”
      To the injured boy, he said, “Can you take antibiotics?” The boy moved one shoulder. Miguel reached up into the cabinet. “Take two of these now. They’re the best. I’ve only got six more of them.” He dropped the tablets into the boy’s good hand. The boy stared at them as if they were gemstones. Miguel held out a cup of water, and the boy palmed the pills expertly with three fingers, took the cup in thumb and forefinger and gulped the water down without taking the pills. Miguel refilled the cup. “Pills,” he said, as if to a child. His eyes surprised, as if he had forgotten the pills already, the boy popped them obediently into his mouth, took and downed the second cup of water. “Lots of fluid—water, juice, even weak beer. Nothing stronger. Drink until you’re pissing clear and copious.” Miguel tucked the pill vial in the chest pocket of the boy’s t-shirt. “From now, one pill every twelve hours until they’re gone.” He looked up at Slim. “If you can’t get to a specialist in time, with this dressing and the pills, you’ve got until Monday night. Then he has to get to a hospital. A real hospital. The bleeding has stopped. What will kill him now is infection.” Slim nodded. They’re eyes met. Miguel thought, he knows. And that will be my death.
      The pistolero loomed at the end of the bed. “We’re out of here, old man. On the floor.” Stunned, Miguel couldn’t move. The pistolero shouted at him. “On the floor, pendejo. Lie down.” Miguel kept thinking Slim would stop this. Then knew, of course, that he wouldn’t. Slim was the brains. Always had been. Were they brothers, the three of them? The bad older brother with his big pistol; the younger brother who suddenly doesn’t want to be a soldier in the wars of his time; the middle brother; the smart one. The one everyone depends on to fix the messes. His knees bent, slowly, stiffly, and he sank to the floor. He lay prone, arms stretched out, face turned to the wall, one cheek against the cool damp tile. They hadn’t told him to do that, but he didn’t want to see the gun coming, and it was the ancient cruciform position of the novice, the last submission before giving up the individual self, dying into the monastic life. He felt the touch of the gun barrel behind his ear. Good, he thought; not too bad. It’s over.
      The voice was Slim, soft, almost tender. “Close your eyes. Don’t move for ten minutes. Don’t call the police. Don’t do anything.”
      He heard the rattle of the clinic’s battered wheelchair and scuffling around the table and then the clatter and foot slaps sounding away down the hall. The clinic door slammed.
      He lay with his eyes closed and passed for some time into a serene state that, if it was not death, was also not bad. And then thought, you old fool. You’re lying on a wet floor. He sat up, still shaky, crawled to a stool by the door and climbed slowly onto it, using the wall as a crutch. Up the hall, he could hear the buzz of his cell phone lying on his desk. His wife, of course, in a panic because he wasn’t home. Then he heard a noise in the hall. His bladder contracted, and he was blind with terror. His heart beat in his ears, the whoop whoop whoop of an old man’s stiff arteries. At least he didn’t wet himself. He heard the sound again.
      “Oh, God,” he said out loud. “Poor old Marcelita.” He stood up shakily against the door frame and sidled down the hall. He steadied himself against the wall, spots whirling in his vision. He found her in an exam room where she had crawled to hide.
      “Aye, mija,” he said, kneeling beside her. And then, in Kaqchikel, “Poor old dear.” She was panting with terror. Like a cornered cat, her cataracts glowed green in the light from the hall.
      “Doctor,” she said. “Doctor, be this the end of the world?”
      He wanted to say, probably. But he didn’t. He got her sitting up; wet a towel from the tap; began wiping her face and hands.

Lynn Stansbury is a fiction writer, community medicine physician, and trauma researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is bilingual in Spanish, served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala in the Vietnam War era, finished a degree in art history at American University in 1970, helped start community clinics in California, then went on to public health and medical training in Hawaii. As a physician, she has worked in American Samoa, among the Oglala Sioux of North Dakota, for the Colorado Black Lung Program, and, back in California again, in clinics for Spanish-speaking farmworkers. After the Army transferred their family to the DC area in 1993, she spent eleven years at the NIH before joining the research group at Maryland Shock Trauma, where she spends most of her time writing, editing, and shepherding colleagues’ work into scientific journals. She finished a M.A. in Fiction Writing at Johns Hopkins in December, 2010, now serves as a fiction editor for The Baltimore Review, and is now starting an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Washington, Seattle. She describes the sources of her writing as what Richard Hugo calls "the triggering town" and the ways that people survive and nurture each other in the odd spaces between cultures.

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