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EXCERPTS from work by David Hellerstein, MD

      DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD

WRITING
    BOOKS
    LITERARY WRITING
    ABOUT DAVID
       H
ELLERSTEIN

    BOOKS
    EXCERPTS
    LINKS

   Books available at:
       Amazon.com
       Backinprint.com

PSYCHIATRY
  PRACTICE
  RESEARCH
  OFFICE LOCATION
  PRACTICE POLICIES
  ABOUT DR.
     HELLERSTEIN

  LINKS


E-Mail Contact:
  djhell@aol.com

Mailing Address:
  Beth Israel Medical Ctr.
  1st Ave & 16th St.
  New York, NY10003


INTERESTED IN ORDERING BATTLES OF LIFE AND DEATH??
Hardcover:
   Amazon.com
   Backinprint.com
Paperback:
   Amazon.com
  Backinprint.com

BATTLES OF LIFE AND DEATH--Award-Winning Essays
About the Education of a Young Doctor
BY DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD
     Published by Houghton Mifflin (hardcover), Warner Books (paperback)


AVAILABLE AT:
      BACKINPRINT.COM --Autographed copies
      AMAZON.COM --Discount price!!!


The following excerpt, from the prize-winning essay "Touching," tells about the mysteries of the gynecology clinic

                                      (c) DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


"SCOOT down to the edge of the table, hon," says Dr. Snarr. The small room is hot, the air stuffy. Our patient winces at the word hon. She is a young woman with chronic pelvic pain, the bane of gynecologists, and I can tell she doesn't like Snarr's tone. She does scoot along the table, though, and Snarr kicks the wheeled stool toward me. I sit on it, slide between her legs, ready for my lesson of the day. Feet and calves and thighs surround me, suddenly very close. Snarr positions the lamp before my chest, so light pours on her. I warm the speculum in my gloved hand and, with a twist, insert it.
     "Open it up," he says. "Tighten it all the way open. Pull down to keep away from the urethra. You hit the urethra and no patient will ever come back to you."
     Snarr is my teacher, a gaunt and narrow-shouldered man with a small potbelly below the belt of his corduroy pants. Before coming in here, he went over the information I had gathered and insisted it was nonsense. She couldn't possibly feel that kind of pain. I must not be asking the right questions. Hadn't I learned anything? Gynecologists traditionally have
the reputation of being the dummies of medicine: surgeons laugh at their clumsiness in the operating room, internists at their ignorance of medical fact, psychiatrists at their insensitivity.
     And so far Snarr had done nothing to dispel that prejudice, which was too bad, considering that I was an impressionable third-year medical student, still trying to decide what field to select.
     "Okay," says Snarr. "Now swab it out real well. Get some cells on that."
     I swab.
     "Pull that speculum out now. Get a good look at those walls."
     I see pink folds as I pull, pink, moist walls bulging against the metal of the speculum - aquatic territory, the scalloped forms of submarine life. It's out. Snarr is quick next with lu bricating jelly on the first two fingers of my glove. I stand up, push the stool away. I begin the manual exam.
     "Aiee!" The woman screams and slides up on the table. "God! Oh God!"
     "So that's . . . that's where it hurts," I say. I'm sweating. "Just. . . just a second, I'll try more gently."
     I feel around again. This time she doesn't scream. She breathes deeply. I can't feel a damn thing, but with Snarr watching I can't pull out right away. For a month I've been spending afternoons in the gynecology clinic with Dr. Snarr -a month of women's bottoms on the edges of tables, of the hot lamp in front of my chest, the examining glove on my hand, powdered inside, the smells of femaleness. And the confidences of women, fascinating and at times overpowering, about their pains, their periods, their fertility, their husbands, their lovers. What gets to me, though, are the exams. The touching. Deep internal touching, feeling for the bulge of the uterus, for those small elusive olives the ovaries, exploring for tenderness, creating sudden moments of pain. Technically I'm reasonably good, as good as can be expected for a third-year medical student rotating through Ob-Gyn. But I still find it strange to be touching intimately but without passion--as a doctor.
                #                   #                    #                     #                      #
"All right," Dr. Snarr says, "let me try my hand." He steps in. I strip off my glove and wash my hands, ready to observe a deft exam, pinpointing the source of pain, exploring yet reassuring.
     But in a second the woman is screaming, writhing on the table. Snarr is reaching way far in, clumsily it seems, pushing so hard her hips rise from the table; and she is crying, grabbing the table with her hands. I feel sick just watching. I have no way of knowing what, if anything, Snarr is finding, since he does not explain.
     "All right, hon," he tells her. He pulls off his glove. "Wipe yourself off; we'll come back and see you in a minute.
     "I don't know why the heck she hurts," he says when we are outside. "Give her some estrogen cream."
     She'd dressed when I come back in. She's pale and woozy, and there's still pain in her eyes. I hand her the prescription.
     "Come back if it gets worse," I say.
     "Than what?" the woman asks.
     I am embarrassed. I murmur something, that I'm sorry we didn't come up with anything.  Then I hurry out after my teacher.
     I find him in the side room, having coffee and doughnuts, courtesy of the pharmaceutical rep. The next patient isn't ready yet.
     "Have some," he says.
     I decline. I'm too jittery to eat.
     "That girl," says Dr. Snarr. "What do you think her problem is?"

                #                   #                    #                     #                      #



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      DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


WRITING
    BOOKS
    LITERARY WRITING
    ABOUT DAVID
       H
ELLERSTEIN

    BOOKS
    EXCERPTS
    LINKS

   Books available at:
       Amazon.com
       Backinprint.com

PSYCHIATRY
  PRACTICE
  RESEARCH
  OFFICE LOCATION
  PRACTICE POLICIES
  ABOUT DR.
     HELLERSTEIN

  LINKS


E-Mail Contact:
  djhell@aol.com

Mailing Address:
  Beth Israel Medical Ctr.
  1st Ave & 16th St.
  New York, NY10003


INTERESTED IN ORDERING BATTLES OF LIFE AND DEATH??
Hardcover:
   Amazon.com
   Backinprint.com
Paperback:
   Amazon.com
  Backinprint.com

BATTLES OF LIFE AND DEATH--Award-Winning Essays
About the Education of a Young Doctor
BY DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD
     Published by Houghton Mifflin (hardcover), Warner Books (paperback)


AVAILABLE AT:
      BACKINPRINT.COM --Autographed copies
      AMAZON.COM --Discount price!!!



Here, in an excerpt from the essay "The Battle for the Dead," a young doctor struggles with a patient's family to get permission for an autopsy (the Post, or postmortem exam)...to find out why his patient died....

                              (c) DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


      "NOW comes the real question," said our chief resident.  "How do you get the post?"
      It was noontime in July, a few days after internship had started, and we, the new interns, had been called down to the Medicine Library for lunch.  Through the chief's introductory remarks about the importance of the autopsy in the progress of medical science, we ate sandwiches and drank Cokes and dozed and looked out dusty windows at the inaccessible sky.  The chief introduced his buddy Jerry, one of the other residents.  He was stocky, with a mustache, in rumpled whites.  Now we woke.  What we needed was not history but this, nuts and bolts.  After all, we were the ones who, at 3:00 a.m., had to ask for a signature on a consent-to-autopsy form, and we were the ones blamed for failure on rounds the next morning.  You didn't get the post on Mrs. Jacobs? We wanted it, you know.
     "Number one," said Jerry, "when you ask the family for the post, don't reason with them.  It's a waste of time.  If you talk about the progress of science they'll walk out the door.  Instead, listen to what they're saying.  Whatever it is, agree one hundred percent.  They always say one thing: 'He's suffered enough.'  If you're rational, you'll say, 'What, are you crazy? He's dead.  How the hell's an autopsy going to make him suffer anymore?'  And they'll walk out the door.  Instead, say, 'He did suffer enough.  You're right.  And I'll make sure he won't suffer anymore.'"
     One of us interns had a question. "Just how do you keep the dead guy from suffering? Don't they ask that?"
                #         #           #           #
     On rounds the next morning, another resident asked what had happened.  I explained how none of Jerry's techniques had made any difference.  He shook his head; it was one of the minor disappointments of the day.
     "Too bad.  We wanted it, you know."  Then he grinned.  "Did you try the gold ball story?"
     "What's that?"
     "You tell the family that just before the patient died you had him swallow a gold ball and now it's stuck inside.  The gold ball is worth five thousand dollars, and if you don't do the autopsy it's added to the hospital bill."
     "That's sick," I said. "Who would say that?"
     "Well, did you get the post?"
     "No, the damn coroner gave in."
     "They always do," he said.  "They won't fight the family.  It's up to you to get it."
     "I know," I said.  "Next time I will."
                           #                #                 #                 #


Home  |  Psychiatric Practice  |  Research  |  Writing   |  About Dr. Hellerstein   |   Contact us


      DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


WRITING
    BOOKS
    LITERARY WRITING
    ABOUT DAVID
       H
ELLERSTEIN

    BOOKS
    EXCERPTS
    LINKS

   Books available at:
       Amazon.com
       Backinprint.com

PSYCHIATRY
  PRACTICE
  RESEARCH
  OFFICE LOCATION
  PRACTICE POLICIES
  ABOUT DR.
     HELLERSTEIN

  LINKS


E-Mail Contact:
  djhell@aol.com

Mailing Address:
  Beth Israel Medical Ctr.
  1st Ave & 16th St.
  New York, NY10003


INTERESTED IN ORDERING BATTLES OF LIFE AND DEATH??
Hardcover:
   Amazon.com
   Backinprint.com
Paperback:
   Amazon.com
  Backinprint.com

LOVING TOUCHES--A First Novel About Love and Duty and Madness
BY DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD
     Published by Houghton Mifflin (hardcover), Warner Books (paperback)


AVAILABLE AT:  
       
BACKINPRINT.COM--Autographed copies
        AMAZON.COM--Discount price!!!



Below, an excerpt from "Loving Touches," Dr. Pete Roth comes to work and has a surprise that will change his life...
(c) DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD

     "WILL Dr. Potanik please fetch the patient?"
     Potanik fled.
     An oppressive silence grew in the conference room.  Pete looked at Whitehouse's bland Pollyanna features and at the conniving Rivkin, and for a moment over at Dr. McGrath, plump and pock-faced, impassive in the corner, who for all his silence was more malignant than Tapir.  Tapir just made noise, just toyed with you for pleasure, while McGrath was rumored to go for total destruction.  It was also rumored that McGrath, having had his last several research grants "approved but not funded," was close to being exiled to the VA; true or not, this hadn't improved his temperament.
     "You, Roth."
     "Sorry?"
     "Dr. Roth will interview."
     The door opened, and Pete, whose mind had been drifting back to the Montauk beach where he had spent a delightful week with his wife Sarah, sat forward.  Rotund Potanik led the way, and Mrs. Zimhof followed.  She was attractive but not beautiful, with a clear complexion and blond hair that came to her shoulders; her tanned arms were wrapped at the wrists with gauze pads, whose whiteness was a shocking contrast to the dark, healthy glow of her skin.  What was underneath them what slices or gouges, Pete didn't want to know.
     "Mrs. Zimhof?"  He stood.  She turned to face him, and simultaneously they started. "I'm Dr. Roth."
     Later, he would regret everything from that moment on, but he was so stunned, so amazed, so bewildered and so angry that it was all he could do not to throw his arms around her, asking how on earth she had gotten here to Curtiss's eighth floor, where she had been for the past two years, where she'd disappeared to.  All he could do was stand there, gawking, until a rustle of papers reminded him of what was supposed to happen next.
     She sat down.  He moved his chair a few inches farther away and sank into it.

     What could he say?  What could he say to Mrs. Zimhof, to Celine Walter--for that was who she was, Celine Walter from across town, Park Avenue and Seventy-ninth, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences--who, when he was a medical student and she an Adams House tutor, he had pursued and slept with and desired infinitely--and who had disappeared.  What could he say to her that would not incriminate himself and reveal more of his own pathology than hers?
     Dr. Whitehouse was smiling, gaining with each moment of silence.  Dr. Potanik stopped shuffling his papers.  Dr. Tapir sucked his pipe.  And Dr. McGrath slowly twisted in his chair.
     What could he say?....What the hell happened to you, Celine Walter? How about that?




INTERESTED IN ORDERING LOVING TOUCHES??
Hardcover:
    Amazon:  Loving Touches, Hardcover
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More information at David Hellerstein, MD Homepage



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Below, in the excerpt from "A Family of Doctors," an account of wartime medicine on the front lines in 1942

(c) DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


      DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


WRITING
    BOOKS
    LITERARY WRITING
    ABOUT DAVID
       H
ELLERSTEIN

    BOOKS
    EXCERPTS
    LINKS

   Books available at:
       Amazon.com
       Backinprint.com

PSYCHIATRY
  PRACTICE
  RESEARCH
  OFFICE LOCATION
  PRACTICE POLICIES
  ABOUT DR.
     HELLERSTEIN

  LINKS


E-Mail Contact:
  djhell@aol.com

Mailing Address:
  Beth Israel Medical Ctr.
  1st Ave & 16th St.
  New York, NY10003


INTERESTED IN ORDERING A FAMILY OF DOCTORS?
Hardcover:
   Amazon.com
 

Including....

  • The Search for Healing...from 1875 to 1939
  • The Golden Age of Medicine...from 1941 to 1960
  • The New Generation...from 1961 to the 1990s

A history of American medicine as seen through 5 generations of doctors in one American family.

In this poignant, deeply moving book, Dr. David Hellerstein traces five generations of American medicine--from the Civil War to the present day--as seen through the eyes of his unforgettable family.

"Rewarding reading...an artful blend of medical history and family memoir."
            (Kirkus Reviews)

"His remarkable family memoir is at once the remembrance of American medicine past and a hopeful sign of its future..."
            (Gerald Weissmann, MD)

"A marvel of family, medical, and personal history interwoven into a seamlesss saga I couldn't tear myself away from."
            (Sherwin Nuland, MD, author of How We Die)

A FAMILY OF DOCTORS--A History of American
Medicine as seen Through the History of One Family
BY DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD
     
Published by Hill and Wang(hardcover), Ivy Books (paperback)


AVAILABLE AT:
   
 Amazon.com


Here, in an excerpt from Chapter 5, "The Golden Age," a young military doctor provides care on the front lines in WWII....

                              (c) DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


                        From Chapter 5, The Golden Age:
It was September 6, 1944, and he was twenty-eight years old, commander of a medical detachment of twenty-three men assigned to the 40th Tank Battalion of the 7th Armored Division of General Patton's Third Army, stationed on the front lines in the town of Ste-Marie-aux-Chenes, France.
They had set up a temporary aid station in the cellar and first floor of a wrecked farmhouse. Across the stone floors lay American tank soldiers and infantrymen on stretchers, thirty of them, their bodies torn by shrapnel and gunshot, by mortar fire and deep burns. ...I can just imagine my father working among them...I can see the set of his jaw, his intent expression, the force of every gesture, and I can hear his voice angrily barking orders to the medics, and turning soothing and reassuring as he spoke to the wounded...


                           #                #                 #                 #


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Below, an excerpt from Stone Babies



      DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


WRITING
    BOOKS
    LITERARY WRITING
    ABOUT DAVID
       H
ELLERSTEIN

    BOOKS
    EXCERPTS
    LINKS

   Books available at:
       Amazon.com
       Backinprint.com

PSYCHIATRY
  PRACTICE
  RESEARCH
  OFFICE LOCATION
  PRACTICE POLICIES
  ABOUT DR.
     HELLERSTEIN

  LINKS


E-Mail Contact:
  djhell@aol.com

Mailing Address:
  Beth Israel Medical Ctr.
  1st Ave & 16th St.
  New York, NY10003


INTERESTED IN ORDERING STONE BABIES?
AVAILABLE SOON AT:  ELECTRONPRESS.COM --Downloadable copies

STONE BABIES--A Black Comedy (and a Mystery) About Practicing Medicine in New York in the Late '90s

BY DAVID HELLERSTEIN


AVAILABLE SOON AT:  ELECTRONPRESS.COM --Downloadable copies

Here, Dr. Jay Sones discovers some painful truths about life as a young doctor...at a hospital called "The Lamb."


 (c) DAVID HELLERSTEIN, MD


 CHAPTER 1.

HE AWOKE to heat, unbearable heat, and the thumping of machinery nearby, and to one of the nurses calling him to get up, get up, Room 2 was having late decelerations, and when he stood he nearly fell over. Must have been asleep all of twenty minutes, after a night of God knows how many deliveries, and he was totally dehydrated--reeling, dazed, bewildered--despite having chugged cup after cup of lukewarm orange juice all night.

     Sister Jolie stood outside, yelling at him:

     First child, mother began laboring three a.m., back labor, external monitor shows dropping pulses, she's hemorrhaging now, pressure's falling, you'd better get out here fast!

      He stumbled, willed himself into awakeness. His greens were crumpled, and his shoes--when he jammed his feet into them--were soggy from the madness of last night. How many babies had he already delivered this shift? Nine? Twelve? Two babies delivered in the hallway, one in the supply room. A flood in Delivery Room #3. A brownout during the last C-section that lasted nearly ten minutes--and they stood there praying that the emergency generator would kick in before the woman died. And then, while he was holding the woman's uterus in his hand, the boyfriend, a cheerful drug dealer, wouldn't stop rapping about how he had dusted a rival gang member, first shot, then stabbed, then throttled with bare hands, how he "wouldn' go ta sleep."

     Now Jay came out into the nursing station, blinking at the red Bronx dawn, and squinted over the chart. It was stifling out here, palpably hotter than the windowless call room where he had been sleeping--here you were under the full glare of the morning sun.

     Sister Jolie led him down the long marble-floored corridor into Delivery. Pulled a mask onto his face, tied a heavy blue gown behind him. The woman was howling, and when he came around the table he began howling too: the umbilical cord hung down between her legs. Prolapsed.

     Get oxygen, 100%!

     There's no oxygen, doctor, Sister Jolie responded.

    Then we've gotta set up for a C-section.

     I don't have the staff. No anesthesiologist. Only two nurses for the whole floor.

     Then what am I supposed to do?

     Deliver it fast.

     He did. Rather, the mother did. Reacting to the heat, the screaming and clanging, she grabbed the sides of the delivery table, and with a great rush of fluid expelled her child into Jay's midsection.

     Meconium! Fetal distress! Jay roared. Where's pediatrics?

     Not in yet! shouted Sister Jolie.

     He stopped swiping at the mother's wet bottom and turned his attention to the baby, searching for some kind of suction apparatus. He fell back on holding the baby upside down, ripping off his gloves and sticking a bare, none-too-sterile finger into its toothless mouth, then smacking it until it wailed.

     "All right!" he whooped, euphoric, crazily ecstatic.

     The mother wept in gratitude. Drenched in sweat, Jay leaned over and presented the glistening purplish-black infant to her.

     "A perfect baby boy!"

     He nearly passed out: the mother, with puffy tearstained face, and neat pink barrettes holding back cornrow braids, was a girl no more than 14 years old.

That was how the day began: in Hell.

     It didn't help that the air conditioning at Sacred Lamb Hospital had died weeks ago. Early summer had been mostly cool and overcast, so the AC had hardly been missed; but now, the last week of August, 1991, a record heat wave had surged through the New York area, and halted once its epicenter reached Jerome Avenue. Up and down the Cross Bronx Expressway, angry motorists cursed outside their stalled cars; in the streets below, half-naked brown bodies splashed through the few still-spurting hydrants. EMS workers pulled octogenarians, shrivelled and delirious, from steaming brick tenements. And day and night, the gleeful rattle of automatic weapons echoed through the streets.

     The tropical front--bloated and overheated as the nation's post-Crash economy--billowed and swelled until the tall, ugly, yellow-brick Victorian buildings of Sacred Lamb Hospital shimmered like bakery ovens. Stifling was hardly the word--it was more as if the Sun herself rested gently against the hospital's leaky old mansard roofs, incubating some mutant offspring into the wretched landscape of the South Bronx.

                                                                                        *

After they got the girl and her baby to Recovery, Sister Jolie brought Jay up to speed for the coming day. A'wanza, the head labor nurse, had called in sick--again. Two floor nurses were out, deaths in the family. And the young residents Jay usually supervised had been pulled from L&D yet again, to cover the General Surgery service--one of whose staff doctors had been arrested for falsified credentials, and another rang last night from a pay phone outside New Delhi, to relate that he'd been deported.

     The day began.

     Eight women were in various stages of late labor, complicated and simple, sweltering and groaning.

     And every hour, more arrived. Perhaps it was the ungodly New York heat, for from Morrisania to Highbridge, from Hunt's Point to Morris Heights, came woman after woman, swaybacked, enormous-bellied, screeching with each contraction--Dominican, Puerto Rican, Irish, Polish, Chinese, Senegalese and Mississippi black. Babies, babies, babies. Babies popped out in stairwells and elevators, in storage closets and machine rooms. It was an incredible, awful godlike high, as though every time he touched his hands to a belly he brought forth yowling new life.

     Juice and coffee for breakfast. A cigarette for lunch, looking out onto the parking lot at a burning Sacred Lamb ambulance--spontaneous combustion--which sent a spectacular orange cloud into the hazy air. There were twelve, fourteen, nineteen deliveries over eighteen hours. Late-afternoon, ten New York City police officers appeared on the floor, guns drawn, sweating through their light-blue shirts: they'd gotten the message of officer in distress.

     "Not here!" called Jay. Walkie-talkies shrieked: and the cops ran for C-14, the Hospital President Father Coughlin's suite.

     "Another crazed gunman!" sighed Sister Jolie.

     And finally, as the red sun deflated behind the hulks of ruined tenements on the horizon, and the delicate scent of ganja wafted through the rotted round-arched windows of L&D, there was a pause, and Jay was able to shower away a night of sweat and exultation. The next shift, namely, Dr. Karnow from Vladivostok, arrived. And Jay was able to pull on his suit and tie and go out through the steaming parking lot, shoes sinking into melted asphalt, and head for the stifling island of Manhattan, searching for respite.

                                                                                      *

"Well, look who's here! Back from the heart of darkness!"

     Becky Okum, Eurobond trader, squealed and zoomed over to hug Jay. Her husband Mike, star of the Initial Public Offering markets, punched his shoulder.

     The cool, cool darkness of Janine Stern's apartment. Full of friends.

     Edmundo Jarquet and Jakki Furagama sitting on the couch discussing the Mets--or was it The Met? Louise Encard, New York Post Page 6 reporter and tireless busybody, emerging from the dining room with a radiccio-and-endive salad, and running over to kiss him. And Janine Stern, gold earrings and sequined blouse glittering--her black hair pulled straight back, her skin seared to almost-Iroquois darkness--rushing forward to kiss Jay juicily on the mouth.

     It was a great party, a perfect release from months of L&D, from the entire past year. The past year's disasters had been followed by months of isolation--and then, when reality set in, when Jay realized the enormity of his commitments and the precariousness of his finances, by panic. First there was the lawsuit. Then Alli. And then the mess around his application for hospital privileges at Manhattan Medical Center. And afterward, months of frenzied attempts (by moonlighting at one hospital and clinic after another) to pay his malpractice premiums and the overhead on his Park Avenue office. Recently, though, Jay had begun to stanch the rapid outflow of funds. Not entirely--the waiting area in his Park Avenue office was still empty most hours--but at least business had grown to the point where he could pay the interest on the interest on his loans. And cover his receptionist's and nurse's salaries, and have enough left over to gas up his Subaru.

     Which called for celebration.

     Janine's party was a perfect way to revel. The CD player reverberated with Talking Heads, hazy partygoers danced on the terrace, a startling bouquet made the air glow above the Steinway baby grand, and the dining table sang with artful arrangements of mesquite-broiled shrimp and chalupas, and the charred flesh of endangered aquatic species, and crystal bowls of ceviche and guacamole. It was perfect. Everything he had missed during his endless years of medical training, everything he had yearned for throughout his Queens adolescence--all the riches of Manhattan, and more.

     Lustful vapors filled the air-conditioned, high-ceilinged rooms of Janine's apartment. Everyone looked stunning, tanned, prosperous, at least five years younger than their birth certificates would allow. Especially Janine Stern--she looked not only more graceful and lithe than ever, but also more desirable than Jay recalled; less calculated and over-deliberate as the more cognizant parts of his cerebrum usually knew her to be. Dare he think it--she even looked sexy.

     The exception to this glamour was Jay Sones, MD. Jay caught a glimpse of himself in the antique gilt-framed mirror over the dining room buffet, saw shards of Sonian flesh in a crystal obelisk that rose above the flowers on the piano. The good doctor looked stubby and disreputable, even diseased. His complexion was saturnine.

      Ducking into a bathroom, Jay scrubbed the South Bronx off his face--the fifteen-year old, pregnant by her stepfather; the young mother riddled with syphilitic lesions, giving birth to a twitchy coke baby; the 33-year-old multiple rape victim who had watched her husband murdered; the 5-months-pregnant speedball junkie, no prenatal care, popping out a 1500 gram baby girl...Jay's face reflected The Lamb. He slapped his cheeks to introduce some color. A futile attempt, however; he looked merely bruised.

     On his way back into the party, Elly Townsend, a blond tax lawyer, pulled Jay aside to ask some medical advice.

     "Sorry to bother you," she said nervously, "but I'm really scared."

    Black silk rubbed his bare forearms. Jay took her hand.

     "Last weekend," she said, "I bumped myself in aerobics class. In the shower I noticed...not only did it hurt, but now...now this lump was growing." She inhaled sharply. "Can--can I ask your opinion?"

     He followed her into Janine's study. A huge aquarium, phosphorescent with fish, cast tremulous turquoise shadows across them. Elly pulled aside the strap of her dress. Her lovely shoulder was warm in his right hand; he reached out and touched her bare, lovely breast with his left. A hard bump rose beside the nipple--mobile, exquisitely tender. She looked fearful.

    "Nothing," he said at last, "nothing but cellulitis."

    As he described the remedy--warm soaks, heat, Advil--her anxiety began to fade.

     "If it doesn't get better in a few days, give me a call," advised Jay. "You might need a prescription." While she readjusted her dress he reached into his suit-jacket pocket, where he kept a thick stack of engraved business cards for just such eventualities. He peeled one off. He was sweating. "I think maybe I have...yeah, here's one of my cards. Give a call if it's not better by Monday."

     "There you are! Turning my study into a satellite clinic!" Suddenly Janine was at Jay's side, grabbing his shoulder. "Elly, watch yourself with this man! He comes to parties claiming to be a doctor, he takes girls away to examine, and they're usually found floating in the East River!"

     Elly winked at Jay, and Janine dragged him back into a glare of halogen and crystal.

     "Honestly, Jay, please don't seduce my guests!"

     Jay leaned forward and kissed her.

     Janine's arm stayed around him for most of the evening, though Donna Hastings, who bought oil tankers for Chemical Bank, dragged Jay off to ask about P.M.S., Anne Fellowes, an historian, needed a refill of birth control pills, and a platinum-blond music video producer whose name he couldn't quite catch had a litany of worries about her fibroids. By midnight the stack of business cards had become noticeably smaller without considerable effort on Jay's part. After each foray Jay would return to Janine's side and she would proprietorially put her arm back around him. Around two o'clock the guests left.

     Then, for the first time in fifteen months, Jay and Janine made love.


   


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 David Hellerstein's Books at Amazon.com

A Family of Doctors, Hardcover
Battles of Life and Death, Hardcover
Battles of Life and Death, Paperback
Loving Touches, Hardcover