I’ll go ahead and say it: Atticus Review doesn’t pay this gal’s bills. I have a day job. It’s only after I spend a day at a healthcare corporation that I come home and read submissions and write editorials.
The clinical universe is vast, and it’s somehow managed to invade my life. My mother worked nights as a phlebotomist when I was a kid; half of my work history is medical-this and clinical-improvement-that; I have had my share of various bizarre surgeries, most of them having to do with running injuries. Medical mystery shows come on TLC, and you can forget pulling me away from the couch. A surgeon friend once told me it’s too bad I chose English literature, because I had the selective detachment required to be a surgeon (I’m still debating whether this was a compliment).
And yet, here I am, writing and editing. Mostly writing and editing clinical policies and procedures, newsletters and presentations, but my creative work at Atticus Review balances out a job that often asks that my imagination take a hike (this is where the detachment comes in handy). So of course, at some point I had to put together an issue that fuses my Clark Kent with my Superman. Here it is.
When I read “Deep Blue Sea,” I could peripherally see the deep blue sea just beyond my MacBook. I was on a beach vacation with my husband’s family, and it was the day after I had gone to an urgent-care clinic for an ear infection. So of course Christopher Bundy’s story jumped out at me, with the broken-but-vacationing-anyway family and the clinical emergency wrecking the façade of escape from real life. Though this emergency is halfway into the story and relatively minor compared to the impact the summer as a whole had on the narrator’s adulthood, it’s nonetheless significant: the external injuries advertise the internal ones, but families being families, they all keep moving forward in their own way, the best they know how. Bundy’s storytelling is superb, the characters alive with their private pains and joys.
Then there are the characters who don’t move at all. This intrigued me about “Cadaver Lab,” that a shape-shifting corpse could be a character itself, and that the story is told from the point-of-view of a character whose sympathies lie with the dead rather than the person dissecting them. The character development in these four short paragraphs is remarkable, and plotting the terse clinical language against heavy, palpable images was a bold choice that I’m glad John S. Fields made.
“Teatime at Bellevue Hospital” is a luminous poem, peeking in on nurses and doctors taking a break from the “human zoo” down the hall. Not only is the perspective fascinating; the underlying truth—that there is no break; there is no way to unsee what has been seen—is an observation that only a poet could make tangible. Paul-John Ramos is brilliant at blurring the line between clinician and patient.
Your weekly IV drip of Atticus Review, coming up.
Art: “The Doctor’s Office” by Norman Rockwell
Image Source: New Schoolers