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The Dead Too Have Hopes


Steve Vivian

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved

I: The Dead Too Have Hopes

Professor Alex Resartus had finished off his last class of the day. As was his custom, he worked in his office until the sun was safely in the distant west. He put on his sunglasses, got a cigarette, and walked to his car. Thank hobbled Jesus, Alex thought, it's only February.

He dreaded each spring because spring brought summer. Summer sun was the most dangerous. During the summer, he waited until dusk to come outside. He wore sunglasses, a hat, gloves, and a jacket with a full collar. Heavy clothing looked odd in July, so he said that he had suffered melanoma as a child. Winter sun was the least dangerous: he could go outside in the late afternoon if he wore sunglasses and dressed carefully.

But noon of any season was always dangerous. Even the noon sun of December raised gelatinous blisters the size of fried eggs. And high noon in July! The thought appalled him. Alex would smoke and pop, like a rapidly blackening insect trapped under a cruel childís magnifying glass.

At home, Alex searched through his dozens of bookcases and found a copy of his first and only novel, The Best Year of His Life. The novel covered one year in the life of Eric, a surgeon. In the course of the year, Eric slips and falls on his wife while performing the Heimlich; her skull is split and she dies in the ambulance. Some months later, Eric's mother goes into insulin shock and dies on his operating table as he performs a biopsy. The mayor's daughter, awaiting a tracheotomy, dies of anaphylactic shock caused by anesthesia. Meanwhile, Eric's former girlfriend Happy threatens to sue for child support payments. Eric believes the child is his, but he is too distracted by his ruined career to communicate with her.

Eric's faith in medicine is ruined, and he even avoids seeing a dentist about a toothache. The toothache worsens. In drunken despair, Eric pulls the offending tooth, using only channel looks, oil of clove, and Old Bushmill's.

After pulling the tooth, Eric calls Happy and proposes a scheme. The scheme is complicated, Happy is not bright, and Eric must often pause to hold an ice bag to his mouth. But he finally manages to explain the scheme: Eric will perform needless exploratory heart surgery. Happy will file a malpractice suit, win, and the two will flee to Cancun.

The scheme succeeds, although Eric must bribe a colleague to testify against him in court. Eric and Happy flee with $2,000,000 to Cancun. Eric, Happy, and their child operate a hotel on the beach. Eric acts as the hotelís beachside bartender and off-hours dentist.

Several strips of transparent tape on the novelís dust jacket had turned yellow and brittle. Alex smiled at the reviews on the back:

"The finest example of black humor of the season. Horrific laughter, not mere bitterness!"-The New York Times

"Mr. Resartus's first novel blasts off and never falters. He is now the young member of that dwindled fraternity of such writers as Heller, Donleavy, Stewart,

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