P R O L O G U E
I think some small part of me knew
I was living an unsustainable life.
Every now and then, it would whisper, Sarah, please slow down. You don't need all this. You can't continue
like this. But the rest of me, powerful, smart, and determined to achieve, achieve, achieve, wasn't hearing a word of it. If, once in a while these kinds of thoughts did manage to wiggle into my consciousness, I shushed them, scolded them, and sent them to their room. Quiet, little voice, can't you see I have a million things to do?
Even my dreams began tapping me on the shoulder, trying to grab my attention. Do you even know what you're doing? Let
me show you. But each dream was elusive upon waking, and like a slimy fish captured in my bare hands, it slipped out and swam away before I could get a good look at it. Strange that I can remember them all now. In the nights just before the accident, I think my dreams were trying to wake me up. With all that has happened, I honestly believe that they were guidance sent from a spiritual source. Messages from God. And I ignored them. I guess I needed something less fleeting and more concrete.
Like a traumatic smack to the head.
Jeff, the distractingly handsome host of the reality television game show, smiles, stretching out the wait, knowing he's making us crazy.
I am running through rain forest. Bugs are colliding with my face as I race. I'm a human windshield. The bugs are grossing me out.
Ignore them. Hurry.
Sharp branches are smacking and slicing my face, wrists, and ankles, cutting me. I'm bleeding. It stings.
Ignore it. Hurry.
A branch snags my favorite, most expensive silk blouse and rips it from shoulder to elbow.
Great, I can't wear this to my morning meeting. Fix it later.
I reach the beach and see the planks of driftwood. I'm supposed to make a raft. But I don't see any tools. I swat around in the sand with my hands. I can't find any tools. Then I remember the map that Jeff showed us for a second before lighting it on fire. He grinned as it burned. Easy for him to be so happy with his belly full of food and his April-fresh clothes. I haven't eaten or showered in days.
"Mom, I need help," Charlie whines at my waist. He's not supposed to be here.
"Not now, Charlie, I have to find a red flag and a set of tools."
"Mom, Mom, Mom!" he insists. He pulls down on my ripped sleeve and tears it clean through the cuff.
Great, now it's definitely ruined. And I don't think I'm going to have time to change before work.
I spot a red blur above the flat beach about a hundred yards away. I run toward it, and Charlie follows, begging desperately,
"Mom, Mom, Mom!"
I look down and see shiny pieces of green and brown everywhere.
Glass. Not sea glass. New glass, jagged and sharp. Shattered bottles cover the beach.
"Charlie, stop! Don't follow me!"
I'm doing a good job avoiding the glass while I run, but then I hear Charlie losing it and Jeff laughing, and I misstep. A piece of green glass carves deep into the arch of my left foot. It kills and is bleeding a lot.
Ignore it. Hurry.
I reach the red flag. Gnats are swarming in and out of my nostrils, mouth, and ears, making me spit and gag. Not the kind of protein I've been craving. I cover my face with the palms of my hands, hold my breath, and pace out twelve steps west of the red flag.
I dig with my hands amid a frenzy of gnats, find the box of tools, and hobble back to the planks of driftwood. Charlie is there, squatting, building a castle out of broken glass.
"Charlie, stop that. You'll cut yourself."
But he doesn't listen and continues.
Ignore him. Hurry.
I'm about halfway through assembling the raft when I hear the wolves howling.
The half raft isn't strong enough to hold both of us. Charlie screams as I pick him up, ripping him from his glass castle. He kicks and punches me as I wrestle him onto the half raft.
"When you get to the other side, go get help."
"Mommy, don't leave me!"
"It's not safe here. You have to go!"
I push the half raft out onto the water, and the strong current grabs it. Just as Charlie floats out of sight, the wolves start tearing through my trousers and my favorite shirt, ripping my skin apart, eating me alive. Jeff is smiling as I'm dying, and I think, Why did I ever want to play this stupid game?
My human alarm clock, my nine-month-old son, Linus, wakes me with a bleating "Baaabaaa!" over the monitor before I die.
Excerpted from LEFT NEGLECTED © Copyright 2011 by Lisa Genova. Reprinted with permission by Gallery. All rights reserved.