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Shelby is pleasantly surprised to be included in a “we.”
Harper talks to one of the EMTs as the fallen man is lifted into the ambulance. When he comes back to Shelby, he says, “We have to get tested for HIV and vaccinated for hep and tetanus. My grandpop always said no good deed goes unpunished. It will probably take hours.”
Shelby realizes they both have blood on their hands and clothes.
“They’ll survive without me at the pet store,” she says. “Since I’m the manager, I can’t fire myself.”
“Is that what you do?” Harper seems surprised. A smart girl in a shop.
“For now,” Shelby says.
“Well, we’ve got to go to Bellevue. That’s where they’re taking him.”
Harper phones in to the animal hospital where he works to cancel all of that morning’s appointments. As they walk uptown, people edge away from them. Shelby decides to take off her bloody sweatshirt and throw it in a trash can. Harper takes off his jacket, a really nice one he reveals that he got on sale at Barneys, and dumps it in the trash as well. They’re both wearing white short-sleeved T-shirts.
“Twins.” He’s staring at her in a way that makes her forget where they are. “What are the odds?”
On the way to the hospital Shelby tells him a few basic facts. She’s a student at Hunter College and her favorite food is Chinese, so much so that Shin Mae, the owner of her local takeout shop, knows her order by heart. Shelby leaves out the fact that she lives with Ben Mink. She tells herself that would be too much personal information. But she knows this isn’t exactly true. She wonders what her father tells the women he meets. That he’s single, or unhappily married, or filing for a divorce? That he’s misunderstood, sex-starved, a selfish bastard who can only think of his own needs?
“I just finished a Chinese cooking class,” Harper informs her. “I make fantastic wontons.”
He cannot be as good as he looks. So Shelby gives him her ultimate test question for a man she might consider. “Do you have a dog?”
“Two pit bulls. I adopted them when their owner went to prison.”
Is it possible the perfect man can be found on the street beside a pool of blood?
“Those dogs are loyal,” Harper says. “Even though their owner treated them like shit, when I say his name they still jump up and run to the door looking for him.”
They arrive at Bellevue and wait for the triage nurse. By now Shelby is head over heels. Why did she never feel this way with Ben? She is light-headed, walking on air.
“What do you put in the wontons?” she asks Harper, so intent on his answer it’s as if he’s invented the cure for cancer.
“Water chestnuts, spinach, mushrooms, carrots.”
“I hate water chestnuts.”
“I could use bamboo shoots instead.”
Shelby feels little sparks of energy in her chest, her throat, her heart. Her head has nothing to do with this.
At last, it’s their turn. Their names are called together, as if they’re a couple.
“Do you think he’ll live?” Shelby asks Harper as they head down the hall. There are sick people everywhere, in wheelchairs and on benches. Shelby is embarrassed to be so healthy.
“Last week a Rottweiler who’d been hit by a car was brought in,” Harper tells her. “His breathing was so shallow I thought for sure I’d lose him during the surgery. But he came through just great. He tried to bite me the next day.”
After the triage nurse takes down their information, Shelby and Harper Levy go their separate ways to be tested and inoculated. Shelby and the nurse discuss communicable diseases and the upsurge in measles.
“Next time, wear gloves,” the nurse suggests when she reads the report. “The old man is up on the third floor. They’re checking for seizures.”
“There won’t be a next time,” Shelby assures her.
“I thought you were a med student,” the nurse says.
“Me?” Shelby laughs. A big bruise is forming where she’d been inoculated against tetanus and hepatitis. “I’m nothing.”
After the nurse is done with her, Shelby scans the ER for Harper. When she doesn’t see him, she feels a wave of disappointment. She decides to check in on the fallen man. Near the elevators, two orderlies are speaking Russian. Shelby goes over to them. “I need a translator.”
“Med student?” the younger of the two asks.
Shelby shakes her head. “I just need help to talk to a Russian patient.”
The older orderly says something in Russian, then both men look at Shelby and laugh.
“We can’t help. We’re working,” the younger one tells her.
“Five minutes,” Shelby says. “You’d be doing a good deed.”
“I do good deeds all the time,” the younger orderly tells her. “All day long, that’s my business.”
Shelby follows him into the elevator. Two elderly women in wheelchairs are in there with them, along with their caretakers. Shelby taps the button for the third floor.
“What did the other guy say that was so funny?” she asks.
“He said you’d be cute if your head didn’t look like an egg.”
“I’ll pay you ten bucks to help me,” Shelby says. They’ve reached the third floor. The door opens. “Okay. Twenty.”
“I don’t want money. I’ll tell you what I want.” The orderly grins at her. “Grow your hair.”
Shelby is mortified. She feels like slugging him. “What do you care about my hair?”
The orderly shrugs. “That’s my price. I want to do a good deed. For you.”
They stare at each other. One of the women in a wheelchair starts to complain that she’s hungry. They can’t hold up the elevator forever.
“Okay, fine,” Shelby agrees.
They step out and head down the hall, peering into rooms. No fallen man.
“Maybe he doesn’t exist,” the orderly suggests. “Maybe he died.”
At last they find him at the far end of the hall. They approach the bed, and the orderly reads the chart.
“This lists all the tests they’re going to run. He’s got a broken wrist and a fractured shoulder. So far he’s stable even though his vitals don’t look great. They think he might have rabies. That could have caused seizures.”