The Harvest by Amy Hempel [part six - the end]

I would have written this next part into the story if anybody would have believed it. But who would have? I was there and I didn't believe it.

On the day of my third operation, there was an attempted breakout at the Maximum Security Adjustment Center, adjacent to Death Row, at San Quentin prison. "Soledad Brother" George Jackson, a twenty-nine-year-old black man, pulled out a smuggled-in .38-caliber pistol, yelled, "This is it!" and opened fire. Jackson was killed; so were three guards and two "tiertenders," inmates who bring other prisoners their meals.

Three other guards were stabbed in the neck. The prison is a five-minute drive from Marin General, so that is where the injured guards were taken. The people who brought them were three kinds of police, including California Highway Patrol and Marin County sheriff's deputies, heavily armed.

Police were stationed on the roof of the hospital with rifles; they were posted in the hallways, waving patients and visitors back into their rooms.

When I was wheeled out of Recovery later that day, bandaged waist to ankle, three officers and an armed sheriff frisked me.

On the news that night, there was footage of the riot. They showed my surgeon talking to reporters, indicating, with a finger to his throat, how he had saved one of the guards by sewing up a slice from ear to ear.

I watched this on television, and because it was my doctor, and because hospital patients are self-absorbed, and because I was drugged, I thought the surgeon was talking about me. I thought that he was saying, "Well, she's dead. I'm announcing it to her in bed."

The psychiatrist I saw at the surgeon's referral said that the feeling was a common one. She said that victims of trauma who have not yet assimilated the trauma often believe they are dead and do not know it.

The great white sharks in the waters near my home attack one to seven people a year. Their primary victim is the abalone diver. With abalone steaks at thirty-five dollars a pound and going up, the Department of Fish and Game expects the shark attacks to show no slackening.
Originally published in The Quarterly, and then in Amy Hempel's short story collection, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom.

Amy Hempel was born in Chicago, and now lives in New York. She is the author of Reasons to Live, At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, Unleashed, and Tumble Home. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Vanity Fair, The Mississippi Review, Grand Street, Columbia, The Quarterly, Mother Jones, Zyzzyva, and other leading magazines.

5 Comments:

  1. Corellion said...
    Right, well, I'm only 16, so you'll need to forgive me for not having read this prior, but I read it today at Pif Magazine and I know Chuck Palahniuk mentioned how tortured over every word of her hers was. Now, aside from seeing similarities between it and between Invisible Monsters, I couldn't help but fixate on the last paragraph, where it's written:

    «The great white sharks in the waters near my home attack one to seven people a year. Their primary victim is the abalone diver. With abalone stakes at thirty-five dollars a pound and going up, the Department of Fish and Game expects the shark attacks to show no slackening.»

    «Now, it seems to me that 'steaks' should be used here, not 'stakes'. And I want to know if that's just an error on the version I read, an error from Ms. Hempel, or if it's purposefully meant to be there.»

    I'll not bore you with why it'd change a lot for me, but I'd really like to know before I sit down and think about the story some more.

    Thanks, in advance.
    Chixulub said...
    My copy of Animal Kingdom has it as 'steaks.' I wouldn't blame Hempel for Pif's mistake.
    Corellion said...
    Ah, right.
    I just thought that maybe stakes could be used to inflect the sense of sharks gambling for the abalone divers. Thank you, though. Would you advise buying Animal Kingdom?
    Is it still in print?
    Chixulub said...
    Animal Kingdom is out of print, and I paid $40 for my ex-library copy, which was probably stolen rather than retired. I'd say yes, except you can get the whole shooting match, the Complete Works now.
    Daniel said...
    ‘At The Gates Of The Animal Kingdom’ is currently selling second-hand on Amazon for upwards of £120!!

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