A Friend of the Family: Chapter One
"Fuck you, Dizinoff," the kid calls, pulling out another can of beer, aiming it at me.
And I buck like the coward I am. Heart racing, I turn, run, trip, fall, rip my pants, stand up again. I make it to the car, reach into my pocket for my keys, try to ignore the blood matting the hair on my shins and my heart pulsing in my ears. I hear the cigarette boat turn and start slapping away along the river. He's done with me, but my heart won't quit—I am shaking when I sit down behind the wheel of the Escort. I lock every door. I feel parking-lot gravel buried in the cut in my leg.
By the water, the fisherman is still cutting up his catch. Waves from the wake of the cigarette boat splash up against the piling, but the fisherman doesn't seem to notice them, or else he doesn't mind. I see the boat slip down the Hudson like a pleasure cruiser, and I feel the blood trickle toward my shoe.
When I first met Roseanne Craig, the girl was twenty-two, a Cal graduate, the daughter of an acquaintance from the JCC whose hypertension I had diagnosed maybe three years before. I didn't know her dad particularly well, only enough to nod at him in the locker room, but he had a network of auto dealerships in Teaneck and Paramus where Joe, among others, bought and serviced his Lincolns, Jeeps, and Cadillacs. Roseanne, just back from Berkeley, had been suffering from weight loss and mild depression, and her father, not knowing where else to go, had sent her to my office in Round Hill. I had a reputation, after all, for figuring things out.
Eyes clear, chest good, heart thwop-thwop-thwopping. No fluid in the lungs, no swelling in the hands or feet, no distended veins in the neck, no nodules on the thyroid or masses in the abdomen. No patient complaints besides the aforementioned weight loss—although she still cleared a solid 150—and perhaps a generalized malaise.
"You're sure you don't want to see a psychiatrist?"
"Oh, I have a therapist," she said. "She does reflexology, too." Months later, when I told that to my lawyer, he snickered and made frantic notes.
Roseanne Craig was a pretty girl, tough-looking, with dark brown eyes and black hair. She had skeleton tattoos on her upper arms and another large one, I noticed, on her left breast. A frog. "It's this whole story," she told me, though I didn't ask. The frog was surprisingly well done, one of those black-spotted jungle frogs, and it kept its lifelike eyes on me as I palpated.
"We used to call my ex-boyfriend Frogger." She closed her eyes as I pressed my fingers on her breast, standard procedure in my office for several years now.
"Hence the tattoo." She didn't seem the least bit depressed to me, but her skin was maybe a little yellow, and with the tattoos—I decided to order a hep test and kept her talking. "He dumped me three months ago"—aha! the malaise—"for a dude. He said it was accidental, like he hadn't planned it or anything, but…" She sighed heavily as she buttoned up her shirt. "It was some grad student from Stanford. He told me like a month after I got this fucking tattoo. We were going to move to SF together. Open up a Marxist bookstore. And I was going to bake brownies—like a Marxist bookstore-café. And now I'm living with my fucking parents. Sorry," she said, wagging an eyebrow at me like a dare. "I shouldn't curse around doctors."