"Queen of Gonzo Leslie What (Olympic Games) drags love from its gooey, schmaltzy rut and takes it for a joyride in this exuberant collection. Each tale grabs readers and demands they rethink how they see the myriad forms of love."
Originally published in Parabola, Copyright 2002 by Leslie What
The first time I touched a dead man, I was twenty-one, a student nurse on a rotation to ICU, bathing an elderly man whose failed heart required a pacemaker to spark his pulse. He was critically ill, unconscious, sheet pale, with a blue tinge to his lips.
On the monitor, a green line traveled like a fast train across the screen. Every second, the train jumped its tracks to climb over a peak. The peak took shape, then faded away. The machine beeped once a second, a now familiar sound because of television medical shows; at the time, it was a disorienting mechanical heartbeat. I washed my patient's face and neck, dipped the washcloth in the basin, and spread warm water across his chest.
My supervisor, a kindly RN with the compassion of a hundred mothers, watched me for a few seconds before placing one hand upon my shoulder.
"You don't need to finish," she said. "He's dead."