Saturday, July 12, 2008

Findings & Impressions

"It's not my business, I suppose, but I thought you were her doctor. I wouldn't have woken you. It said Dr. Sean so I thought we'd better call you."
"Well, I'm her radiologist."
"I see," says Ed, looking puzzled. "Like you take her x-rays?"

Stellar Kim's short story Findings & Impressions begins with an x-ray evaluation and ends with an unlikely friendship. Sean Miller meets Alicia Straninsky when she arrives to pick up the results of her recent mammogram. Sean is taken by surprise that a patient is questioning the results before receiving them from the doctor. Even though Sean has a hard time remembering names and faces, he hasn't forgotten what he wrote in her evaluation: breast cancer. A couple weeks later the couple run into one another as Alicia is leaving the hospital after her first radiation treatment. Sean offers her a ride home and they soon begin a routine of rides home after treatment which includes drives to the harbor, occasional hot dogs, and guarded conversations.

"Don't talk like that," I say, and Alicia looks at me with some expectation. "Don't ever think that again. You're beautiful," I add after a while. The way her face opens up, the way Alicia's eyes become liquid, suddenly make even the possibility of her disappearance unbearable. I think, maybe I've never realized the possible permutations of beauty.

However, Sean has a hard time becoming Alicia's friend due to a past loss of his own. When Nick, Sean's young son, meets Alicia and wants to see more of her, Sean withdraws from the friendship. Alicia says she understands and moves forward in her fight for life. Then one night Sean receives a phone call from Ed. And then one summer afternoon he receives a second call and, later, a special request.

I very much enjoyed the short story Findings & Impressions. Its presentation was unique, the characters seemed very true to life, and the message about the fear of moving on was written in a gentle and realistic manner. Which character to pin my hopes on was a difficult decision and changed often as the story unfolded. And I definitely enjoyed the twist at the end.

"Findings & Impressions" by Stellar Kim (from The Iowa Review) from The Best American Short Stories 2007 edited by Stephen King with Heidi Pitlor


moazzam sheikh said...

i'll have to read it. you've done a good job of piquing my interest. but who's this person ed?

- moazzam

bookinhand said...

I didn't go into Ed's character much because of the role he plays in the unfolding of the story. I guess you will just have to read it to find out! Enjoy!