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Authors: Laramie Dunaway

Earth Angel

BOOK: Earth Angel
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Other novels written under the pseudonym

Laramie Dunaway

BORROWED LIVES

HUNGRY WOMEN

LESSONS IN SURVIVAL

Copyright

Copyright © 1995 by Raymond Obstfeld

All rights reserved.

Warner Books, Inc.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com
.

First eBook Edition: October 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-56856-2

Contents

Other novels written under the pseudonym

Copyright

PART ONE: Tricky Symptoms

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

PART TWO: Life after Death

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

PART THREE: Savior Seeks Same

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

PART FOUR: Saving Grace

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

PART FIVE: Amen, Baby

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

It’s one thing to write a book. However difficult or exhilarating the process, it’s something you do alone. But finding an
audience for that book once it’s completed is a whole other matter; let’s face it, the writer who shouts his story in the
forest when no one’s around doesn’t make a sound. My deepest thanks to two people who have helped guide me out of the quiet
forest: Sandra Watt, my agent, who has supported me no matter how crazy the idea; and Jeanne Tiedge, my editor, who has helped
shape the stories and, most important, who has found you, the person reading this book.

PART ONE

Tricky Symptoms

CHAPTER ONE

“I
READ SOMEWHERE
,” C
AROL SAID, KNEELING TO WIPE THE BLOOD
from the floor, “that a couple years ago they had an auction in Paris where a guy bought Napoleon’s penis.”

I laughed. “Napoleon’s schlong?”

“I’m not kidding. They auctioned it off. All these guys in expensive suits and silk ties tugging their ears or scratching
their noses to bid for a severed dick. Does that seem weird or what?”

I removed my sweater, folded it on the examining table. “What, someone cut it off his corpse and dropped it in a pickle jar?”

“I don’t know, the article didn’t say. It wasn’t a whole article, more like, you know, filler after an article. All it said
was some guy bought it for seven thousand francs. How much is that in real money?”

“About fourteen hundred dollars.”

“That’s all? Jesus, that’s insulting.” Carol stood up and tossed the bloody paper towel into the waste can.

I plucked a paper towel from the dispenser and wiped up a drop of blood she’d missed. “In 1737, when Galileo’s body was being
shipped to Florence to be buried, a nobleman
named Anton Francesco Gori cut off three fingers from the corpse to keep as relics. Two are now in a private collection, but
Galileo’s middle finger is on display in Florence’s Museum of the History of Science.” I stood up and threw the paper towel
away. “It’s like Galileo is flipping the bird at us.”

“Those are fingers, Season. We’re talking manhood here.” She sighed. “Poor Napoleon, conquers half the world and his pecker
isn’t worth as much as a big-screen TV.”

“Inch for inch, most men’s aren’t as entertaining.”

She waved a dismissing hand at me. “You can afford to male-bash, you’re getting married to a seminormal guy whose only perversions
are his taste for the Bee Gees and that he loves you.”

I sang, “‘Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you…’”

“Urgent message from Galileo,” she said and gave me the finger. Carol Burke was a first-rate doctor whose dedication and compassion,
I was ashamed to admit, far outshone my own. But since her husband had walked out on her last year while she was in her ninth
month of pregnancy, she has been obsessed with the unlikelihood of her ever being loved or in love again. Though she’d been
out on a few dates since then, she was the first to admit she approached each new date as if she were an undercover cop setting
up a sting on a career felon. “How can I raise my daughter with a healthy attitude toward men?” she once asked me after another
disastrous date that ended with the guy wanting her to diagnose the cause of his ex-wife’s leg cramps. “I feel like a concentration
camp survivor asked to speak at the dedication of a Nazi memorial. Maybe I’ll get lucky and she’ll be a lesbian.” While I
admired Carol’s superiority over me as a kindly physician and loved her as a best friend, I thanked my stars every day that
I was
not her. Somehow, against all the odds, Tim and I had found each other when we were young and, though we’d endured a few rocky
times, had remained in love. Whatever else my shortcomings, I had that.

I pinched through my blouse to tug at my bra for the millionth time that day. It was new, a two-for-the-price-of one from
Victoria’s Secret that fit great in the dressing room, but now felt as if I had it on backwards. It’s not that I’m too top
heavy either, I have just enough to fill an eight-ounce measuring cup on each side. I mean that literally: Once, when I was
baking a pie, I stripped off my T-shirt and plopped my breast in the measuring cup, just to see what it would measure. It
came out powdered with flour, a bouncing and healthy eight-ounce boob.

Carol watched me tug my bra a couple more times. “You keep waving that tacky engagement ring in my face, I’m gonna saw your
finger off and see what it brings at an auction.” She turned and began scrubbing her hands in the sink.

“You shouldn’t do that, Carol,” I said, pointing at the floor where the blood used to be. “Leave it to maintenance. You know
the insurance rules.”

“It scares the patients to see blood on the floor. Anyway, that wasn’t much of an AIDS risk. This was from a nosebleed, some
sweet old Italian grandmother with a dachshund wearing a UCLA sweater. Probably hasn’t had sex since the invention of the
vagina. I shoved some cotton up her nose, she acted like I’d cured cancer. I thought she was going to slip me a fifty-cent
tip.”

“You’d have taken it, too.”

“I’ve got expenses, babe.” Carol unbuttoned her smock and shrugged out of it. She dropped it on the floor and did a furious
dance on it. “ ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I am free at last!’ ” She let out a deep sigh and hopped up
on the edge of the examination table. “I
need a cigarette, one fucking cigarette. I’m going to smoke a whole pack in the car. First I’m gonna smoke ’em, then I’m gonna
eat the butts.”

I wiggled my left-hand ring finger. “By the way, have you seen my engagement ring lately?”

She covered her ears. “Okay, okay. One month to your wedding and I promised not to smoke until afterward. I’ve got news, Season,
I’ve been cheating, okay? The truth is I smoke all the time, except around here and around my daughter. So I’m modifying my
original promise. All I can promise now is that I won’t blow smoke into the minister’s face during the actual ceremony. Take
it or leave it.” She webbed her fingers together and stretched her arms out until her knuckles cracked. “I took an informal
count last night.”

“Of what, the stretch marks on your thighs?”

She laughed. “Thank you, Dr. Bitch.”

“You’re welcome, Dr. Slut.”

She dug into the pocket of her slacks and pulled out a box of Butterfingers. “I went into my closet and counted the pairs
of shoes I have from being in weddings. I have twelve pairs of shoes dyed in every conceivable pastel color.”

“Except the right color.”

“Don’t worry, I already sent the new shoes off to be dyed mango-guava-kiwi, whatever the hell color my dress is. I swear,
this is the last wedding I’m going to be in unless I’m the fucking bride.”

I leaned toward the mirror over the sink and applied some lipstick. I was not very good at it and my bottom lip looked clumpy.
I blotted it with tissue.

“You suck at makeup, Season. Weren’t you ever a little girl?”

“Very briefly, during the run of the
Bionic Woman
. A week after they canceled the show I got my first period and started reading medical texts to see if there was a
connection. Suddenly I was in med school, living with Tim and two of his frat brothers. Makeup got lost in the shuffle.”

“And now you’re here, the end of the rainbow.” She held up her hands and gestured around the room like a game show host showing
off the grand prize. “Is it everything you’d ever hoped for?”

I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and snapped on a rubber band. “You’re in a shitty mood tonight,” I said. “Tough shift?”

“Nothing special. The high point was lancing some guy’s hemorrhoid while I hummed the theme to
Deliverance
. Poor bastard bit through my table. Look.” She pointed to definite teeth marks in the Naugahyde.

I laughed. “Gentle technique, Doctor.”

“Yeah, well, your night promises to be just as spiritually rewarding.” She picked up her smock from the floor, sniffed, made
a face, leaned toward me and sniffed again. “What’s that smell?”

I plucked my blouse and sniffed it. Then I picked up my sweater from the examining table and sniffed it. “Damn. Everything
I have on smells of cat piss. Blue is in heat and spraying everything like it was graffiti.”

“Ah, the graffiti of lust,” Carol said. “That’s kind of poetic, isn’t it?” She walked over to the closet, pulled out a clean
smock, and handed it to me. “Here, wear this. The patients appreciate the illusion of sanitation.”

I struggled with the smock as usual, until Carol held one sleeve for me to slip into. “I’m getting her fixed tomorrow.”

“Get her laid instead. Works for me.”

“I’m getting you fixed next.”

“Too late. My ex-husband fixed me for good. I pay alimony until he finishes law school.” She smiled wearily. “He screwed me
in court better than he ever screwed me in bed.”

This is an old conversation, so I ignored it. I sniffed myself again. “You still smell piss? Honestly.”

“Nope.”

“You’re lying.”

“Yup.”

“You’re fired.”

“From your lips to God’s ears.” She offered me a Butter-finger nugget. “Here, a couple of these will get you through the night.”

“No thanks. I gain any weight I won’t fit into my wedding dress.” I pushed the box away. “You know what Tim calls those things?
Satan’s turds.”

Carol bit one in half and chewed slowly. “Yum. Better than Communion.”

“Uh-oh, blasphemy.” I backed away. “You mind standing a few feet away from me until you leave? I don’t want to be near you
when the lightning strikes.”

She handed me the file folders for the waiting patients. Only three. “Nothing here worth a movie of the week. A cold. A sprained
ankle, which is getting X rayed right now. And a woman who, my bet is, is going to try to con you into a prescription for
amphetamines. Good luck.”

Carol unlocked a cupboard and pulled out her purse. She dug through, found a bottle of perfume, and dabbed some on her fingertips.
She rubbed her fingertips on my smock sleeves. “To kill the smell of piss.”

I inhaled.
“Obsession?”
I went into my Dr. McCoy impression: “For God’s sake, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a hooker.”

As always, she laughed. Carol was the only one who thought I sounded anything like him. Tim complained that I sounded more
like Yogi Bear. “Relax, doctor,” she said. “You’re not likely to meet anyone on the midnight-to-eight shift worth turning
on. Besides, half an hour from now you’ll smell of this place, longing for that sweet scent of cat piss.” She pulled her black
leather jacket with all the zippers out of the closet and draped it over her arm. The leather monstrosity belonged to her
ex-husband, which he’d been begging her to return since they split up. She
refused to give it to him, wearing it herself even though she hated it, just so he couldn’t sneak into her house and take
it. Carol walked beside me, the zippers rattling with each step. “How’s Tim? Hanging in there?”

I nodded. “He’s fine. That whole mess is probably for the best. Forced him to slow down a bit. For the past week he’s been
trying to learn about auto mechanics from a bunch of books he bought. He took the engine of his Miata apart and can’t get
it back together. He’s working out with weights every day, which he hasn’t done since college. He’s talking about us camping
again, doing all the stuff he hasn’t done BMS.”

“BMS?”

“Before med school. Anyway, I’m glad they’re making him take his vacation days. This week he’s going to slop around the house
and catch up on all the kung-fu videos he’s missed, and next week we head for Carmel for a weekend of…” I took a deep breath
and tried to think of the right word. I gave up and shrugged.

BOOK: Earth Angel
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