ISSN 1551-8086
return to home search for a contributing writer

seach for poems by title

archive of previous issues submissions information mailing list online store links to other interesting sites contact us  
   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Zachary C. Bush
   Tony Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Dorsey
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Ron Dvorkin
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   Matt Harris
   William Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Greggory Moore
   Carl Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Peter Schwartz
   Sondra L. Scott
   Ken Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Bobbi SInha-Morey
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
   John Talbird
   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
   John Sibley Williams
   Claire Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Jessica Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
   John Yamrus
   MÌesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Britney Young
   Gregory T. Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
   home
   poems
   archive
   submissions
   events
   calendar
   message board
   store
   links
   contact
   
Jared Carter
February 2006
   

 

Procedure

They had stopped at the main gate and been checked by the security guard, and waved on, when Sherrill signaled the driver to pull over. It was only a few houses farther, but he needed a moment to think things through. The cab glided to the curb and came to a stop. It was an electric car. All the cars were electric these days, and a good thing, too they were a vast improvement over the old gas guzzlers of the previous era.

Everything had happened so quickly. That morning, after Robert had called, Sherrill told his secretary to cancel his appointments and book the next available flight to the city where Robert lived. Many years ago he had attended law school with Roberts father. The two of them, just starting out, had worked together for the same firm. His friend had died in an automobile accident, and Sherrill had become the infant Roberts surrogate father.

When Roberts mother remarried, a few years later, he remained on close terms with the family. He had watched Robert grow up, and was pleased that the young man had inherited many of his fathers most appealing qualities. Roberts stepfather had died, unexpectedly, of a heart condition, leaving Sherrill once more in the position of mentor and family friend. Upon completion of his studies, Robert had married and accepted a position in marketing in a distant city. Now that Robert had a career and a family to raise, Sherrill heard much less of him, but they had stayed in touch over the years.

Then early this morning Robert had called. Could Sherrill possibly come by that evening for a few hours? He could stay in their new guest room. The fact that he was five hundred miles away was not mentioned. Evidently it was something that could not be discussed over the phone.

Sherrill guessed at the problem, and realized that he was the right person to call. When this matter had first come up, Robert may not have remembered, but surely, as things deteriorated, it must have occurred to him that, many years ago, Sherrill had been among those in the forefront of the crusade to establish the clinics and keep them operating.

I was still a young man, he thought, full of high ideals. Aggressive and uncompromising in my convictions. And much younger than Robert is now. He closed his eyes. The taxis imitation leather cushions were remarkably soft and comfortable. He drifted back to those days. He and his wife, Anne, in company with a number of friends, including Roberts father, had joined the crusade to defend the right of everyone to obtain the procedure on demand.

It was the most exciting time of their lives. The struggle to establish the clinics and make them accessible in all parts of the country, without interference from local government or from the opposition, had occupied them for many years. And certainly, at least for a considerable time, it seemed they had won. But it didnt turn out that way.

He sighed at the thought of what had happened. It was almost too painful to contemplate. They had worked to make the procedure legal and available to all. An entire generation had benefited from what they had accomplished. But in the end their cause was defeated by changes they could not have foreseen.

First came the war, then the recession, then the bitter and violent national election. After that, the terrible shock of the two assassinations. Finally, the unexpected appointments, and the overturning of the courts original decision.

Within a couple of years all of their work had been destroyed. The clinics were boarded up, the last few practitioners sent packing. Some went into hiding, others to prison. To those who had been involved in the struggle, the entire country seemed plunged into darkness and savagery.

But there were those who had not given up. The work continued, albeit in secret now. There was an underground. The Moniz Connection, it was called, although it had no official existence. It was said to be extensive. Sherrill, who had always advocated non-violence, and who believed in working within the system, had never been a part of it. But he knew it was out there.

Perhaps because Robert had been so guarded over the phone, Sherrill sensed that he was already in touch with the right people. He had insisted that Sherrill take a cab from the airport rather than rent a car. He and Nance would be waiting at the house. Events must be moving swiftly, Sherrill thought.

He tapped on the glass and motioned for the driver to continue. This was his first visit to their new home. The house came into view. Its circular drive was lined with clumps of azalea and rhododendron. The overall style was Cape Cod shingled outer walls, somber and gray, a row of dormer windows with blue gingham-patterned curtains, the planes of the roof finished with cedar shakes.

The house stood near the shore of what must have formerly been a reservoir or a large gravel pit. On the waters surface, visible through a scrim of young maples and white birches, an occasional wave turned white in the late afternoon breeze. It was a splendid autumn day, Sherrill thought, brisk and clear. An occasional leaf dropped down. A soft blue dusk was approaching.

As the car pulled up, Robert came down the front walk. He paid for the cab, embraced Sherrill and shook his hand, took his leather overnight bag, and led him up the steps and into the front hall. They went on up to the guest bedroom. Ill wait for you in the conservatory, Robert said. He grinned. Thats what we call it. The side porch, with all the plants.

The guest bathroom was state-of-the art: floor-to-ceiling tile in muted grays and blues, delicately sculpted fixtures, and stacks of towels. The bedroom windows offered a fine view of the wooded palisades on the far side of the lake. The neighboring houses were barely visible.

When Sherrill came downstairs, Robert handed him a tumbler of malt liquor and guided him out into a large alcove off the main living room a porch with tropical plants and furniture made of bamboo, with shiny red cushions. Just inside the French doors someone had set down a long-handled basket of gardening tools, still caked with dirt, and a galvanized watering can.

In a cage in the far corner, half hidden among the leaves of an enormous fig tree, a cockatoo sat huddled on its perch, muttering to itself and occasionally shaking the haystack-yellow plumes of its fabulous head.

Through the tall windows they had a splendid view of the lawn and a row of dwarf fruit trees and the smooth slope down to the waters edge. A small wooden dock had already been pulled out for the season and disassembled, its parts stacked neatly on the shore, waiting to be hauled away.

Nances garden was thronged with purple asters, late marigolds, and clumps of yellow mums the color of jack-o-lanterns. One double door stood open, and the air that came in brought a trace of dampness and far-off leaf fires. The atmosphere, shot through with the rays of the setting sun, took on a bronzed hue.

Sherrills left hand rested comfortably on the cushion of the couch. He felt the fabric. From across the room, it had looked synthetic nylon, perhaps. He realized instead that it was a kind of worsted, like the fabric of the pillows. But the myriad tufts of the cushion next to where he sat had been shorn picked at, patiently and obsessively until the material was almost worn away.

Finally, Robert spoke. Its Mary, he said softly. Sherrill nodded. He had known it all along. You realize that shes never really been well. I mean, shes always been unruly. Difficult. Hard to handle. In the last few years, with boys entering the picture, things have gotten worse. Much worse. Theyre a wild bunch these days. They all have cars, and too much spending money. Nobody can control them.

Weve tried everything. Talked to the school authorities. Gone to conferences. Met with the other parents. Nothing made any difference. We had to take Mary in hand. We were desperate. We tried every available counselor, every kind of therapist, every type of weekend retreat or temporary hospitalization. No electroshock, of course. He shook his head. Thats something I couldnt allow. Its too primitive.

Sherrill nodded and took another sip of his drink.

Nothing worked. She got wilder with each passing day. We knew where it was heading and what would happen if we didnt intervene. She began staying out late, defying us. Then there were the nights she didnt come home at all. Nance was frantic. We never called the police, but we probably should have. There were some terrible fights.

She was getting morning-after pills from somewhere I dont know where. Those kids have access to all kinds of drugs. But it didnt matter we were worried sick. Everything was a big mess. And now well, now we feel theres really no other choice. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. For a moment he did not speak.

The worse things got, the more I began to understand, he said. He put down his glass and looked at the older man. I mean, about what happened back then. What you and my father and some of the others were trying to do.

It was a long time ago, Sherrill said. When we started out, the penalties were severe. Theyre even more severe now, by the way.

Robert was silent for a moment. Nance and I have thought about that. Weve talked about the ethics of involving you of putting you at risk. Maybe its wrong of us. But now that weve come this far, Im afraid she cant go on. Shes been devastated by everything thats happened during the past few months.

Im sorry, Sherrill said. Really, I am. I hope Ill be able to see her and talk with her during my visit.

Nance had wanted to be here when you arrived, Robert said, but a couple of hours ago she was on the verge of collapsing, and I insisted she take her medication. Shes upstairs now, lying down. She needs the rest. I dont want to wake her. During these last few days, Ive not been sure I could get through it alone. I mean, without any help at all. Thats why I called you. As a precaution. Its such a big step.

It is. Its an awfully big step. But Robert, what youre proposing to do is not wrong."

Oh, I know that. To tell the truth, what scares me most is not that I might get caught, but that something might go wrong. I believe in the procedure, I know what it will do what it accomplished back then, for all those needy people. But it was legal then, and the practitioners knew what they were doing. And thanks to people like you, they had the necessary equipment. But everythings changed now. I have this fear that something might go wrong. I dont want her to be harmed. I just want her to come through it all right. I want her to have a chance for some kind of stable life.

There was always risk involved, Sherrill said. It may be even greater now. Im not really sure. Ive been out of touch with . . . the movement.

I know that. And Im sorry to have involved you in this way, and at the last minute. But there was no one else I could turn to. I will say this its a damn shame we have to sneak around to some back-alley place, some kitchen-table operation, and take a chance on someone weve never met and know nothing about. I mean, how good is he? How many times has he done this sort of thing before? Im sorry, but its gotten me terribly rattled.

Its always a delicate procedure. But there have to be a few left who know what theyre doing.

Ive done the best I could. Put out feelers. Made a lot of inquiries. All very hush-hush, of course. And Ive got the money. In cash.

And Mary? How old is she now? The last time I saw her she was just a little girl. That must have been eight or nine years ago. It was that Christmas I spent with all of you in the other house the time we got snowed in, and had such a good time, decorating the tree and putting up the childrens stockings. She was such a lovely child. She must be quite a young lady by now.

Robert finished his drink and set the glass on the rattan coffee table. Shes sixteen, Sherrill. And shes been through a lot. He sighed. And so have we. Shes put us through hell. He stood up and went over to the windows. A small boat with a yellow plastic sail moved briskly across the lake.

It would be too easy to say that most of what shes suffered has been self-inflicted, he said. But it hasnt all been in vain the drugs have worked to some extent. Right now, shes calmer than shes been in weeks. Its taken a toll on the rest of us, to get her to this point. But I do believe she understands. And she is willing. Weve talked it over. Were not forcing her.

He came back and sat down beside Sherrill on the couch. Ive been in contact with the underground for some time. Its a long process. Theyre professional, Ill say that for them. They insist on counseling, and not a simple briefing, either. First they spoke with me, then with Nance, then with the two of us together. Each time, they arranged to meet us at a different fast-food place, in a different mall. It was like being caught up in some spy thriller. We had to take steps to make sure we had not been followed, and there was a certain ritual enabling us to recognize each other in the crowd.

Finally, a woman came here and took Mary with her for a few hours. Evidently they went to a safe place and spent the evening talking it over. There were tests, too, that had to be conducted. They were managed by confederates in the regular medical establishment blood work, different scans, an MRI, that sort of thing. It took a long time to get everything lined up. And now, tonights the night. And I guess maybe Im getting cold feet. To tell the truth, Sherrill, Im scared.

The older man leaned over and put a hand on one of Roberts shoulders. They stayed that way for a moment. Above, in the metal cage, the white bird hopped to a swinging perch and began to preen its long tail feathers. It paused now and then to gaze about and utter a stream of soft, unintelligible, but almost human syllables.

Nance understands, Robert whispered. Shes willing. She believes that its in Marys best interests. That its right thing to do.

They drew apart. Sherrill tossed down the last of his drink. How soon?

Everythings ready now. Marys in the study with Daniel. Theyre playing electronic Boggle. Dont say anything to him. He has no idea whats going on. But were all set to go. Theres a maid, Jacqueline. Shell give Daniel his supper, and in another hour or so, Nance will wake up, and come down and make sure he does his homework. The appointments at seven-thirty. Its about twenty minutes from here, in another part of the city. A disreputable part, as you might expect.

He went over to the study door and knocked. Mary came out. She wore a green shirtwaist of watered silk, a simple necklace made of links of silver chain, and a pair of matching bracelets. Her long brown hair was parted in the middle and fell straight behind.

Sherrill remembered how dark and mysterious she had seemed as a child, with her flecked hazel eyes and her quiet ways. Part of it was that beautiful heart-shaped face, those perfectly composed lips a gift from her grandmothers people, who were of Huguenot descent. It was an ethereal, almost witchy look, and it was gone now. There was no light in the eyes. Something had fled. She shook hands with Sherrill and turned to introduce Daniel, who was hanging back. He didnt remember this visitor.

Sherrill took his hand warmly, and elicited the fact that Daniel was on the sixth-grade soccer team. He wanted to be a striker, but most of the time he played defense. Out in the driveway, their father had backed the car out of the garage. Daniel scampered on into the kitchen, calling for the maid.

Sherrill took Marys hand. I dont want you to be afraid, he said. Were going to be with you every minute.

Oh, Uncle Sherrill, I dont think I could ever be afraid, now that youre here, she said. She tilted her heart-shaped face up toward his and looked into his eyes. For a moment, the look was there, and it was powerful. Heart-breaker, he thought, wondering what it would be like to be seventeen again, and immediately dismissing the thought. He took her arm in his and together they went through the front door and down the broad steps.

Robert followed a circuitous route downtown, getting on the freeway and then off again, threading his way through several streams of traffic. He encouraged Mary to point out some of the landmarks visible from the main artery into town. There had been many changes since Sherrill had last visited the city a new sports pavilion, a cultural center, a monument to the veterans of the most recent overseas peacekeeping operation.

They entered a district of decayed Victorian houses and down-at-heel apartment buildings. Broken chairs and raddled couches had been set out along the curbs. From cardboard boxes, ruined by rain, trash spilled across the sidewalks. The alley Robert turned into was paved with brick and grown up with weeds along the edges. He stopped behind a rusted dumpster and switched off the headlights.

In a window on the second floor, a point of light blinked three times. They got out and walked to a metal door immediately below the window. It was not locked. Inside, they felt their way up the dark stairway. At the top a door opened and a mans voice called down to them to mind the last step the linoleum had come loose.

They entered what appeared to be the waiting room of a wholesale veterinarian supply house. The chairs were molded plastic, the coffee table covered with tattered sports magazines. There were posters of dogs and cats and pharmaceutical products on the walls, and a glassed-in office where a sales rep, during regular hours, took the orders. Now the lights were turned down.

The practitioner looked to be about seventy years old. He had a merry face, bushy white eyebrows, and a crew-cut, and was dressed in hospital blues and cloth slippers. He did not give his name nor ask theirs, but seemed pleased that they had come. He had a cheerful way of speaking, and just a trace of a Southern accent. Courtly, Sherrill thought. Good bedside manner. That will help her to relax.

My assistant is in the next room, the man explained, getting everything ready. He turned to Mary. She will be preparing you, my dear, he said. I think youll find shes very capable. And now the two of you ought to be getting acquainted. If you would be so kind as to follow me, then in a few minutes well be under way. He guided her gently through the door and into the adjoining room.

He was gone for no more than a minute. When he returned, he pointed toward a plastic accordion-style partition on the opposite side of the waiting room. Would you like to see? he asked. He drew back both halves to reveal what must have been, during normal operating hours, a small lab or product testing area. Now it had been converted into a temporary surgery.

There was a sturdy stainless-steel table and a stack of small pillows, cartons of gauze and tape, and, on the narrow counter, an opened case of surgical tools. A sterilizer gave off wisps of steam. Overhead, a strong light on a flexible metal extension could be adjusted and brought down low. Beyond was a stainless-steel double sink. Next to the table stood an electronic console, elaborately laced with wires and showing several lighted screens, on which no lines or numbers were yet appearing.

Robert took a step back. No, thanks, I dont think we really need to look at anything, he said. Im sure everythings going to be fine. Well be quite content to wait out here.

The practitioner nodded and began to draw on a pair of long, elbow-length latex gloves. Sherrill realized that he was about the same age as this man. He wondered if, in the distant past, they had ever met? Or attended the same rally together? Those events had happened so very long ago.

Robert was sitting in one of the plastic chairs, counting out the money in twenty-dollar bills. From the inner room came the murmurous sounds of the older woman speaking, and the younger one replying, but Sherrill could not make out the words. It all seemed so friendly and civilized, as though they had stopped by for a visit. Yet if they were found out they could go to prison. And for a number of years.

And Mary? Without the procedure, in the kind of savage, heartless world that had sprung up all around them during the past ten or fifteen years, what were her chances for happiness, or for a peaceful life?

Everyones of the same mind about this? the practitioner asked, smoothing a wrinkle on one of the gloves. No last-minute doubts or misgivings? Robert shook his head, but he seemed to be having trouble getting his breath. Sherrill put a hand on his shoulder. The young lady has no objections? the practitioner continued. Yes, well, thats good. Its the only way. Gentlemen, I must ask you to wait here. We shall not be long.

He moved toward the opening into the room with the steel table and the overhead light. Aware of Roberts increasing distress, he turned back for a moment. She has already been given a mild sedative, he explained.

The procedure itself will take only a minute or two. Within half an hour, you will be able to walk her down the stairs, and out to the car. There will be no complications, I assure you. Nor will she have any memory of having been here. It will be as if none of this had ever happened, and we had never met.

He gazed down at Robert and spoke with great sincerity. I know youre worried. Thats understandable. But the procedure has been significantly refined, over the years, by my colleagues in the underground. The transorbital instrument itself is laser-tipped "

I remember when it was first introduced," Sherrill blurted out, not knowing why he had interrupted the other man. To get things moving again, perhaps. Or to establish some sort of authority here, before Robert lost his nerve some connection with a dead father, or with events of long ago, when all of these matters had seemed so much clearer, and easier to grasp. Back when I was involved in the movement, he added.

The room seemed to grow still. A slight tremor appeared in the practitioners left temple, throbbed, then disappeared. He peered about and examined Sherrill, as though trying to recall something about him.

You were most fortunate, he said finally. In those days it was difficult to obtain proper equipment. He smiled at Robert. But now, of course, we have access to the latest medical technology.

He stepped back. His voice was more official and distant now, as though he were reading from a prepared speech. Well be working to sever a small number of fibers in the ventromedial portion of the prefrontal region. The incisions required are one-thousandth the width of a human hair, so slight as to be almost unnoticeable, and virtually undetectable in the future, once they have healed. The laser seals as it severs, precluding bleeding."

Our equipment is taxonomic and guided by the most up-to-date digital software. The dimensions of the interior of your daughters cranium, right down to the last micro-millimeter, along with the requisite imaging data, have all been fed into this program. Nothing can possibly go wrong. Ill be watching on the main screen. You have nothing to worry about. She will feel nothing. There will be no pain. Its a simple operation, and weve refined it over the years. He glanced at Sherrill.

In through the corner of the eye, Sherrill remembered. That was the way some of the old-timers described it. He had heard that sort of thing on the picket lines, and in the all-night diners, after the rallies. And from a few practitioners themselves, outside in the parking-lots, when their hands were still shaking, and some of them needed a drink. Sever the connection, and youre out in a minute or less, if everything goes right. Easier than tying your shoestrings. No scars, either. The patient has nothing worse than a black eye for a day or two.

Youre right, Robert was saying. He seemed better now. Thats what Ive always heard.

It makes you wonder what the fuss was all about, Sherrill offered. And its guaranteed, the man said. Believe me, it works.

A bell rang somewhere in the inner room a clear, tiny bell, like one that might have been made of silver, and hung on a Christmas tree.

Ah, here they are now, the practitioner announced. Good evening, my dears, were so happy to see you. If youll come this way, were about to begin.

Marys long dark hair had been gathered and pinned up and covered with a plain cloth cap. She wore an oversized white hospital gown and disposable slippers, and looked positively medieval, like a figure out of a Flemish painting.

The assistant, a pleasant-looking older woman, dressed in blues, stood behind her for a moment, like a lady-in-waiting. Or a nun, Sherrill thought, breathless with adoration, preparing this beautiful child for first communion. Savagely, he drove the thought from his mind.

Good luck, sweetheart, Robert was saying. He clasped her hands and gazed into her eyes. I love you. He hugged her and kissed her on both cheeks. It seemed as though she wanted to say something, but the right words would not come. Had she spoken, the syllables would have been unconnected.

She glanced at Sherrill, who managed a smile. Awkwardly, he kissed the top of her head, in the middle of the part. She took a few steps, then turned to look back at them. Her eyes were wide and dark. He remembered standing at a window, earlier that afternoon, and looking out across a gleaming lake where the wind had begun to die down.

They went on into the surgery. The assistant closed the halves of the plastic partition behind them. The two men were left alone in the waiting room. There was the sound of electronic equipment revving up, of soft buzzers and intermittent beepers, of feedback, and an occasional metallic clicking. They could no longer hear the practitioner speaking to his assistant. Sherrill looked down at the scuffed brown squares of the tile floor.

Robert sat down in one of the chairs. He seemed drained. Shell be all right, dont you think? he managed to say.

Everything will be just fine, Sherrill said. He reached out and squeezed his friends arm, and touched his shoulder. You can count on it.

copyright 2006 Jared Carter