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Helen Ellis

Eating The Cheshire Cat: A Novel

Helen Ellis Eating The Cheshire Cat A Novel
 
 




Biographical note:

Helen Ellis was raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and holds a master's degree in fiction writing from New York University. Her stories have been published in Southern Exposure and The New York Press. She lives in New York City.

Excerpt from book:

From Part One: Wonderland

Sarina

On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Sarina Summers got an overnight stay at Druid City Hospital. As her mother helped her through the emergency room doors, Sarina knew there was no turning back. This was it. She was serious about her future.

"What happened to this child?" the doctor exclaimed. "This child is drunk as a skunk and her fingers are broke!"

Sarina could not answer. She was totally shit-faced.

"Honey?" Mrs. Summers said.

"Miss?" said the doctor as he held Sarina's eyes open by the brows. He lit up her pupils with a tiny flashlight. "Let me know if you can hear me." He flicked the flashlight on and off. "Anybody home?"

"Honestly," said Mrs. Summers. "Does she need to be fully conscious for this? Could you just fix her fingers, please?"

Sarina nodded furiously and tried to sit up on the gurney. She offered her hands to the doctor. She said, "Hurts." The room was spinning faster now. Noises echoed. She fell back. The impact against the pillow pushed her long brown curls across her white-washed cheeks.

"I know it hurts," said Mrs. Summers and, with her hands, combed the hair away.

Sarina tried to focus her attention on how good her mother's nails felt against her scalp. How the square-shaped acrylics were softer than what her mother grew naturally. It was a dull, comforting sensation. Her mother's magic fingers. For a moment, she was calm. Sarina said, "Mmm."

"Yes," said Mrs. Summers. "That's my girl. Show the nice doctor that you're ready."

Sarina felt the back of her mother's hand against her jaw, her forehead.

The doctor said, "What she's ready to do is get her stomach pumped."

"Oh, no," Mrs. Summers said. "No, that's uncalled for. Fix her fingers. She'll sleep it off. She's drunk, not poisoned."

"I assure you," said the doctor, "she's as good as poisoned."

"Hurts," said Sarina. She rolled her head from side to side.

"Sarina," said the doctor. "Are you with us? Can you tell us what happened?"

Sarina kept her eyes shut. She choked back the sobs that crawled up her throat.

"Mrs. Summers," said the doctor, "I don't know what kind of drinker your daughter is."

"She's not one."

"Well, ma'am, she is one tonight."

Mrs. Summers crossed her arms and pressed down her breasts.

The doctor said, "From the smell of her and from her limited response, I'd say she's put down a bottle of Jack Daniel's."

Sarina heard her mother let out a long sigh.

The doctor said, "Believe me, I want what's best for your daughter. Her fingers can wait." The doctor motioned to a woman in green scrubs drinking something from a Styrofoam cup. He said, "Nurse, take this patient to room nine. Prep her and get the hose."

The nurse held the rim of the cup in her teeth and used her free hands to push Sarina down the hallway.

Sarina reached her hands, the bones of her two smallest fingers sticking out of the skin like straws, first in the air, then over her head toward her mother's voice as it fell away with the pace of the gurney.

Sarina heard her mother ask, "Can't I sit with her?"

She heard the doctor's voice. "Waiting room." She heard him say, "It's the right thing."

She lost them.

The nurse pushed Sarina's arms down. "Keep still. This will be over before you know it."

Sarina rocked in the darkness. The gurney like a hammock. The cool, clear corridor like her big backyard.

The party was great, thought Sarina as the nurse pried her teeth apart and the doctor pushed the hard warm

Mark Rozzo Los Angeles Times This breezy tale about old-fashioned back-stabbing in the New South is meant to be gobbled up....Ellis entertains as easily as whistling "Dixie."


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