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Authors: Jacqueline Sheehan

Lost & Found

BOOK: Lost & Found
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Lost & Found
Jacqueline Sheehan

Rebecca Elfrieda Sheehan

1912–2005

Contents

Chapter 1

Bob had left the waxed food carton on the counter…

Chapter 2

When Bob had died, the brushed cotton sheets had been…

Chapter 3

Isaiah opened the door and a terrible whiff of dead…

Chapter 4

The first two weeks of the job offered a sampling…

Chapter 5

Tess did not regret for one minute the uniqueness of…

Chapter 6

Lift with your knees, not your back. Rocky heard the…

Chapter 7

No one on the island, except for Isaiah, knew she…

Chapter 8

The first place Melissa went when she got home from…

Chapter 9

“Dear, do you want to kill something?” asked Tess.

Chapter 10

Lesson two was harder.

Chapter 11

The track coach was surprisingly easy to fool. He was…

Chapter 12

Rocky expected to see improvement; this was the third lesson.

Chapter 13

The dog still caught old wisps of her scent, once…

Chapter 14

She could not afford to trust Rocky. The woman was…

Chapter 15

Rocky brought a weekly report into Isaiah’s office. It was…

Chapter 16

The throb had started prematurely, because grieving was supposed to…

Chapter 17

It was deep into December when Isaiah called Rocky and…

Chapter 18

Property. That was the question. If the dog had been…

Chapter 19

Tess’s first inkling of danger came in the rich moments…

Chapter 20

Dr. Harris clinched the dog’s identity.

Chapter 21

The first thing they noticed was the green Dumpster in…

Chapter 22

Isaiah’s truck pulled up to the cottage midmorning. He was…

Chapter 23

Melissa knew something was wrong when she saw Rocky running,…

Chapter 24

Cooper was stunned by his exile. There had not been…

Chapter 25

They were all gone. Isaiah and Charlotte were in North…

Chapter 26

Rocky heard the solid sound of a truck door closing.

Chapter 27

In Providence, Rhode Island, Liz’s mother smoked the last cigarette…

Chapter 28

Rocky hit the redial button. She had already left a…

Chapter 29

Checkout time was noon, but Rocky had been awake since…

Chapter 30

Melissa was back at school for a full week before…

Chapter 31

Rocky knew she had been wrong about Isaiah’s intention with…

Chapter 32

The first thing Tess noticed about the young man was…

Chapter 33

Rocky had purchased a bow with a thirty-pound draw. In…

Chapter 34

Rocky pulled into Hill’s driveway and as soon as she…

Chapter 35

Rocky spent the next week practicing at the boathouse. By…

Chapter 36

The ride to the mainland on the water ambulance was…

Chapter 37

At last, a pack of his own. With the First…

Bob had left the waxed food carton on the counter the night before and it now smelled of grease and fish. Rocky picked up the box and a puddle of oil pooled beneath it. Her husband ate deep fried food when salted fat was the only way to soothe the layers of accumulated sadness after a day telling a pet owner, “Your dog has had a good long life and this cancer won’t be cured by surgery or chemo. Her kidneys are failing. What would you like me to do?” She knew from looking at the contents of the food container that Bob’s day had gone badly yesterday and that his mumbled response to her as he got into bed was a result of self-medication with the worst sort of fast food. “They only change the grease in that place once every week,” she warned him.

They had traveled to Ireland one year and the highlight of the trip for Bob had been learning that the Irish had a polite form of a well-worn expletive that was cleverly one letter off. The first time he heard a storekeeper in Sligo say “Oh feck!” Bob perked up. “Feck?” he asked. “Is that something you can say around your mother?”

“’Tis, as long as you don’t say it about her, if you get what
I mean. But don’t you dare say ‘fook’ around Herself,” he explained, pronouncing the expletive with an Irish lilt. Ever since then, Bob said the world was fecked if he was mildly peeved. He mostly said it to his patients, cats and dogs, who came to him. “Why, that’s a fecking shame, Simon, but antibiotics will clear that right up.” But if he was massively indignant, the world was completely fooked. When he was sad from too many old golden retrievers looking at him with dreamy-eyed forgiveness as he injected them with death, he went to get “fooking fake fried clams at Johnny’s Drive-In.”

Rocky tossed the white container into the garbage. She was on her way to the university, but remembered her promise to order new socks for them to wear at night as they scuffed about the house. She was annoyed that he had been so insistent and it was only the first week of May. Why couldn’t he take time to make the call? And why now? The semester would be over in ten days, then she’d have time for this, not now. She began lining up her points for the argument that she planned to have about Bob assuming that she should call. They would have the argument over dinner.

She picked up the cordless phone and punched in the 800 number for Lands’ End, when she heard the thick sound from the upstairs bathroom. She pictured Bob brushing his teeth, peeing a coffee-scented stream into the toilet, shaving his face, but none of those predictable morning rituals accounted for the sound.

“Good morning. This is Priscilla. Let’s start with your catalogue number,” said the voice on the phone. Rocky hit the off button and climbed the stairs, head cocked to one side, listening for another sound to explain the first one. She held
on to the phone in her right hand as she mounted the stairs and went through the doorway into their bedroom.

She called to her husband and the hollowness of the house hit her beneath her ribs. “Bob, are you okay in there? Did you drop something?” She tried to open the bathroom door but something was wedged against it, letting her open it only an inch. There was nothing else in the bathroom other than Bob that could provide such resistance. Had he fainted? She shoved the door open, inching his body back and wondering if she should call 911, or would she look foolish if he’d only gone dizzy for a minute? When the door was open wide enough to stick her head in, she saw his open-eyed stare and punched 911 into the phone. Then she flexed her legs and heaved all her weight against the door and entered the bathroom with such velocity that the latch of the old door caught at her pants, ripping them at her thigh, grabbing at her skin. She dropped to the floor and put two fingers of her left hand on his neck. Rocky had been a lifeguard since high school, through college and grad school. Her old bathing-suited self, ten years younger, dropped down from the white lifeguard chair. Someone answered the phone and Rocky put the phone near Bob’s head so that she could shout her replies. “No, he’s not breathing. Yes, I know CPR. No, I’m not going to keep listening to you. I’m doing it now; I’m doing the CPR. Just get someone here fast. Please.”

She breathed into him, first tilting back his head, closing off his nose, then sealing his lips with hers and blowing air into his mouth, keeping her left eye open to see if his chest rose. She tasted mint toothpaste. There was shaving cream on his neck, the part that Bob hated shaving, so
he saved it until last. Her brain stopped working except to think things like, The front door is open because I let the cat out. The ambulance guys can get in, so I won’t have to stop breathing for Bob. Her body took over. She pressed the heel of her hand slightly to the left of his breastbone and met with surprising resistance. Bob’s chest was suddenly unyielding and without the fluid grace of his big easiness. Rocky had never pressed this hard on him for any reason. Five compressions, another breath, was this right? She looked at her watch, how much time had gone by? She should have run up the stairs instead of walk. How long had he not been breathing? His wonderful brain needed blood. Where the hell was the ambulance? She did not want to be the one compressing his heart and breathing into his lungs, someone more experienced, more medical should be doing this. In all her summers of life guarding she had never really done CPR on a victim, and now she wondered if she ever knew how.

The young cop with closely cropped hair was the first one in.

“Good, good form,” he said, straddling Bob. “I’ll take over the compressions.” He knelt by Bob and pressed the heel of his hand shockingly hard into Bob’s chest. “How long have you been doing CPR?” He placed his hat on the bath mat. His hair was buzz cut so severely that his white scalp beckoned through.

“I don’t know. Maybe ten minutes. Don’t break his ribs. He’s a vet and he has to go to work today.” The young cop glanced at her for a moment and the morning light reflected oddly, as if she could see a tidal wave coming in his iris.

The ambulance crew arrived, and only moments later
applied the paddles that shocked him into a rag doll dance. When they loaded him into the ambulance, Rocky ran to her car and followed, going through every red light that the ambulance did. When the ER crew gave him further care, she waited for someone to say, “We got him, here he comes!” And she could live her life again just as she had before starting to order socks from Lands’ End. Bob’s refusal to come back into his body left Rocky stunned, frightened—and worried, that he was lost, just beyond her reach. The instinct to try and find him was overwhelming.

She watched, demanded to watch, from outside the room, as they tried again and again to electronically goad his heart into starting. They ventilated him and Rocky felt the rasp of the tube in her own throat, forcing air into her lungs. A nurse came out and said. “He’s had a major heart attack. Does he take any medication? Has he been ill recently?”

“No.”

“How old is he?”

“Forty-two.”

Both the nurse and Rocky looked up as a man dressed in blue cotton scrubs came out of the room where Bob lay stubbornly stiff.

“Are you his wife?”

Rocky was unsteady, unaware of how much time had passed. She looked past his head at a wall clock and saw that two hours had passed since Bob had collapsed. Time had altered while waiting for Bob to come back, waiting for his heart to suddenly throb again. It occurred to her just then that they had been working on him too long.

“Yes, I’m his wife.”

“Would you like to sit down?” He had an earnest face,
clear eyes, sandy-haired, with the beginnings of lines around his eyes.

“I don’t want to go far away from him,” Rocky said. She realized her voice was shaking and pressed her lips together to stop the vibration that ran all through her body. She wished the doctor would offer her a blanket. She felt as cold as the time they had stayed out too long cross-country skiing and darkness had slipped in around them when they were still an hour from the car. She was shaking uncontrollably by the time they made it back. This doctor was not going to offer her anything warm.

They sat in two chairs in the hallway. Rocky declined to go to the room called The Family Room because that sounded oddly ominous, and she felt safer in the hallway with the bright lights. The doctor told her everything about Bob’s heart. He explained the blown-out lower left ventricle, what looked like dense scar tissue, and the length of time since any brain activity had been recorded.

“He’s dead, isn’t he?”

The doctor didn’t blink or back away. “Yes. If we take him off the ventilator now, his heart will cease to beat. There are no further messages coming from his brain to any part of his body.”

The doctor waited for Rocky to respond. It was her turn and she wanted to blast out the fluorescent lighting and hide. She waited out the doctor.

“The cop told me you were doing CPR when he came to the scene. He said you were great, that you were doing everything that you could for Bob.”

“Then why is he dead if I was so damned great? This is supposed to work!”

The doctor tried not to flinch, but he looked worried about the direction that this sort of questioning could go.

“There is a sad little secret about CPR. It doesn’t work most of the time. It saves lives, that’s true. It’s great for children who have just fallen in the pool. But with heart attacks, even when you kick-start a heart with CPR, eighty percent of the time the patient will die anyhow.”

Rocky wondered why she hadn’t known this. When was the last time she had taken a review class in CPR? Would it have mattered to her if she had known this?

“This is where I tell you to take him off the ventilator, isn’t it?”

The doctor nodded.

A hospital chaplain slipped quietly into a chair on the other side of Rocky. She asked Rocky if she wanted to call anyone. She did not.

“But there is something that I want you to do. Will you just stay outside the door so that no one else comes in? I want to be alone with him.” She stayed with Bob while the ventilator was shut down and for half an hour later, standing by him as his skin began to cool. She wanted to get on the gurney with Bob and press her body against his. But all she could do was awkwardly get one leg up and balance the other leg on tiptoe; Bob was exactly in the middle and there was not enough room for her entire body.

The cop, who had waited in the hallway, attempted to comfort her by saying, “You did a good job with the CPR; that’s not why he died. I’m zero for five.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve done CPR five times and no one has lived to tell about it,” he said with great seriousness. Under other circumstanc
es, his attempt at consoling her would have been funny, but now she just felt tricked.

“I thought this always worked,” she said in a dazed, dry-mouthed sort of way.

She walked out of the hospital, into brilliant sunlight that made her shade her eyes. This day had started so unconsciously, so automatically and now Rocky felt the stab of every pebble beneath her feet, every twitch in the leaf of the parking lot azalea bush, as if the day had torn apart and left her bleeding. When she found her car, she got in the back seat and locked the door. She pulled into a fetal position, covered her head with the road atlas, and cried with a violence that shook the car.

 

Their friends and his office staff rallied around Rocky and planned the memorial service. She followed his wishes and had his body cremated.

“I just don’t want him to be afraid or sad. I’m afraid he’s alone. What if he doesn’t know where he is?” Rocky whispered to her mother at the service. Her mother had flown in from California and she put her hands on either side of Rocky’s face. “He knows where he is, sweetheart. It’s the rest of us who are confused.”

The container of ashes sat on the kitchen counter for several weeks until she worked up the energy to carry out the final disposal of his remains. She discovered that she didn’t particularly like having his remains in the house. It did not comfort her to have Bob reduced to ashes. The stuff in the metal urn was nothing like Bob. She walked a wide path around his remains, eyeing them warily.

He had been forty-two, getting soft in all the right places, a few hairs sprouting from his ears, and a countable number of white hairs scattered on his chest. Rocky would have been content to watch these glacial changes for another thirty or forty years. She was positive that they had that much time. The doctor told her that her husband’s heart was etched with a poor combination of defective genetics and the aftermath of a shotgun approach to radiation treatment when he was in his teens, long before Rocky had met him. He had gotten cancer and was blasted from here to Albany with radiation. But he was the miracle, cured from the worst thing they could think of, and all the rest of his time was supposed to be easier. He always said, “I’ve already done the hard part, the rest is easy.”

When she finally dreamt of him, when she slept long enough to actually have a dream, she was neither sad nor afraid. In the dream, Bob was asleep in a field and Rocky was so close to him that she could see a sleepy crease along the edge of his nose. He looked like he was in a recovery place, a special death rehab unit, slowly recuperating into formless intentions. “This is what it’s like after death, I’ve seen it,” she told her mother later on the phone. She was sure she had been given a private showing of the place that people go to after death. When she woke, she pulled his pillow over her face and breathed in the scent of him, and the terror of being left behind came back in torrents.

She knew it was time to dispose of the ashes and she was sure she knew what Bob would have wanted. Or had he only meant it in jest? Even after eight years of marriage, she sometimes missed the giveaway twitch of his eyelid that meant sarcasm or irony. But she believed he was clear about crema
tion. He said that he had seen enough bodies: dog bodies, cats, horses, iguanas, cockatiels, all of them, and that when the spirit was gone, the body was done. He had stood in the bathroom, watching Rocky as she bathed.

“We recycle, right? We bundle up our newspapers, bring them to the recycling center where the big trucks haul them off and they get ground up and made back into some other kind of paper. Make me elemental when I die. Make me into dust, bone meal, plant food.” Rocky had loved watching him orate naked, his soft penis flopping side to side as he gestured with his toothbrush.

BOOK: Lost & Found
13.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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