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from The Man in the Middle, Volume 1 of American Ecstasy Trilogy
Copyright 2011 American Ecstasy: American Historical Fiction. All Rights Reserved.
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     ​Dr. Savinda Shakti Lal is from India. She is young and delicate looking, quite pretty if Luke can overcome his whiteman prejudices which, as an 
ambiguously educated man, he always struggles to do.

     How did he end up with an Indian doctor? And a female? That’s easy. His WASP medico, Dr. Loafe, fired him for asking too many questions. Luke was always looking for somebody to blame. Why, doctor why? was his complaint. Instead of being a passive consumer of drugs, he tried to make the doctor spill it, ‘it’ being the truth about the linkage between drug manufacturers and doctors. Thrown out on his complaining ass by an enraged doctor, he located Dr. Lal. She was a few names up in the HMO listings and her office was close by.

     A sweet smile masks her face. His doctor now. Not needing sun or salon, her skin is tawny and finely stretched across elegant bone structure. Her eyes, behind clear spectacles, are black and sharp and would be formidable if she weren’t smiling. She wears something like a sari (What does Luke know about saris?) under her open white coat.

     Luke is curious. Does her family practice suttee? Does she hate muslims? Is she one? Does she know the Bagavad Gita, the Rig Veda, the Upanishads? Why should she? Does Luke know the Bible? Why should he? Now that he’s poisoned, maybe he should.

     Shorter than Luke’s six feet, Dr, Lal nevertheless takes her measure of the man and his questions, eye to eye.

     An eye for an eye.

     “Of course,? she remarks coolly, “in the long run we’re all dead.?

     Luke had assumed kid gloves came with the glow of her smile, but he was wrong. 

     “How long is my run?? he asks.

     “Not long, not short, you say you’re contaminated. By what??

     “Automobiles, secret blueprints, Bhopals, pesticides, sludge spills, Chernobyls, HBO, raw sewage, slogans…This is not an easy world to survive in. But why me??

     “Why not you?? she comes back, smiling. “Somebody has to pay.?

     Pay for being contaminated? Sometimes he can’t even utter a coherent sentence.

     Then, with a pat and another smile, she advises: “No need to worry; you’ve got some time. And in the meanwhile, have fun.?

     She turns and walks out of the room, her open white coat billowing like a cloud on a formless day. She’s attractive but not helpful. She’s sweeter than Dr, Loafe but just as dense.

     The hospital is shaped like a cross. The only way in is by helicopter which lands on the roof, the top of the cross. Ah, flight. Those afraid of flight never get to meet her, but he is used to it, revels and glories in it. Flight is his might.

     The helicopter pad, the lift, the height, the view, the chittering and chattering into the blue to the top of the Hospital of Sacred Risk and Potential Grace, perched above the fractured island, overlooking the mirror of a lake. What mastery! Flight commends all this!

     All the floors go down, starting at twenty, ending deep beneath the surface of the earth at minus five. Her department is well above the surface.Two immense wings fly out to the right and left, strong and personal and graceful. Like a body. Dr. Lal has a magnificent view on the right wing that befits her position and expertise. Looking regal now, she enters her office on horseback. She has an eagle on her protected arm.

     “Do you bathe in the Ganges?? Luke asks.

     "Really, now, Mr. Hall." 

     "No, really, Dr. Lal, it's polluted. Don't do it." 

     "I have no intention."

     “Did you ever??

     “I have never. Don’t throw me in with all those people,? she says.

     He reaches for her and into the greenish water they go where he takes her in his arms and she submits to his caresses. He tastes her tawny skin, kissing her fresh wetness. As he raises his head, they are swimming in a rotunda, then standing before a statue of a blindfolded man. Luke begins to speak but water engulfs him. 

     As he wakes, his pulse is fast. So it is a dream. A dream of a dream of death. Let’s get this straight now, he thinks, but wait til my pulse runs 
normal. Just slow it down. He examines his familiar world to get his bearings: Lena next to him in fetal sleep, sadly asleep, dissatisfied with him, a crisp judge of him. He feels guiltless but guilt is all over the place. She is trying to douse him in it, paint it on him with dayglo….

     Trying to rest himself, he observes the wallpaper border around the bedroom, the border bordered by a narrow wooden trim painted blue to match one of the colors in the design. This is making him die. The wallpaper itself is a jungle of large leaves revealing, when he stares long enough and penetrates mere appearances, faces of animals and birds, birds with long bills, beaks open, hunters’ eyes. He has inhabited that jungle every morning upon waking. He wants it, he wants it not. Now that he is taking comfort in the jungle, his pulse slows. Now.

     He is dying of something. But not dead yet.