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I snapped the phone shut as the clerk arrived to lead us into Judge

Haig's chambers.

The judge had thinning gray hair and a distance-runner's body. I peered at the collar of his shirt, but he was wearing a tie: for all I knew, he might be wearing a crucifix, a star of David, or even a rope of garlic to ward off vampires. "All right, boys and girls," he said, "who can tell us why we're here today?"

"Your Honor," I answered, "I'm suing the commissioner of corrections of the State of New Hampshire on behalf of my client, Shay


"Yes, thank you, Ms. Bloom, I already breathlessly read your complaint from cover to cover. What I meant was that Mr. Bourne's impending execution is already a zoo. Why is the ACLU turning it into a bigger one?"

Gordon Greenleaf cleared his throat. He had always reminded me of

Bozo the Clown, with his tufted red hair and allergies that left his nose red more often than not. "He's a death row inmate trying to delay the inevitable,

Your Honor."

"He's not trying to delay anything," I argued. "He's just trying to make amends for his sins, and he believes this is the way he needs to die in order to reach salvation. He'd be the first to tell you you can execute him tomorrow, as long as it's by hanging."

"This is 2008, Ms. Bloom. We execute people by lethal injection.

We're not going back to a more archaic form of execution," Judge Haig said.

I nodded. "But, Judge, with all due respect, if the Department of Corrections finds lethal injection impractical, the sentence may be carried out by hanging."

"The Department of Corrections doesn't have a problem with lethal injection!" Greenleaf said.

"It does when Mr. Bournes First Amendment rights are being violated.

He has the right to practice his religious beliefs, even in a prison setting-up to and including during the moment of his execution."

"What are you talking about?" Greenleaf exploded. "No religion insists on organ donation. Just because one individual gets some crazy set of rules into his head to live-or die-by, that doesn't qualify it as a religious belief."

"Gee, Gordon," I said. "Who died and left you God?"

"Counselors, back to your corners," Judge Haig said. He pursed his lips, deep in thought. "There are some factual issues here that need to be fleshed out," he began, "but the first of these is, Mr. Greenleaf, whether the state will agree to hang Mr. Bourne in lieu of giving him a lethal injection."

"Absolutely not, Judge. Preparations are already in place for the method of execution that was specified at his sentencing."

Judge Haig nodded. "Then we'll set this down for trial. Given the very real deadline we're working under, it will be an expedited hearing.

We're going to pretend that there's no such thing as federal discovery; we're going to pretend that there's no such thing as summary judgment motions-we don't have time for them. Instead, I want witness lists on my desk in a week, and I want you prepared to go straight to trial in two weeks."

Gordon and I gathered our belongings and stepped outside chambers.

"Do you have any idea how much money the taxpayers of New

Hampshire have spent on that death chamber?"

"Take it up with the governor, Gordon," I said. "If the rich towns in

New Hampshire have to pay for public education, maybe the poor towns can cough up the funds for future death row inmates."

He folded his arms. "What's the ACLU's game here, Maggie? You can't get the death penalty declared unconstitutional, so you use religion as a fallback position?"

I smiled at him. "You do if it helps you get the death penalty declared unconstitutional. See you in two weeks, Gordon," I said, and I walked off, leaving him staring after me.

Three times, I picked up the phone and dialed. Three times, I hung up just as the line connected.

I couldn't do this.

But I had to. I had two weeks to get the facts; and if I was going to fight on Shay's behalf to donate his heart, I needed to understand exactly how this was going to work-and be able to explain that in court.

When the hospital switchboard connected, I asked to speak to Dr.

Gallagher's office. I left my name and number with a secretary, fully anticipating the fact that it would take some time before he returned my call, during which I might actually develop the courage to speak to him. So when the phone rang almost as soon as I put down the receiver, I was shocked to hear his voice. "Ms. Bloom," he said. "What can I do for you?"

"You weren't supposed to call back this fast," I blurted out.

"Ah, I'm sorry. I really should be less punctual with my patients."

"I'm not your patient."

"Right. You were only masquerading as one." He was silent, and then said, "I believe you called me?"

"Yes. Yes, I did. I was wondering if you might be willing to meet with me-professionally, of course-"

"Of course."

"-to talk about hanging and organ donation."

"If only I had a dime for every time I've been asked to do that," Dr.

Gallagher said. "I'd be delighted to meet with you. Professionally, of course."

"Of course," I said, deflated. "The catch is, I have to meet you fairly soon. My client's trial starts in two weeks."

"Well, then, Ms. Bloom, I'll pick you up at seven."

"Oh-you don't have to do that. I can meet you at the hospital."

"Yes, but I really prefer to not eat the cafeteria Jell-O on my days off."

"It's your day off?" He called me back on his day off? "Well, we can do it some other time..."

"Didn't you just tell me this was something that needed to be done quickly?"

"Well," I said. "Yeah."

"Then seven o'clock it is."

"Excellent," I said in my finest courtroom voice. "I look forward to it."

"Ms. Bloom."


I held my breath, waiting for him to lay down the parameters of this meeting. Do not expect this to be any more than it is on the surface: two professionals doing business. Do not forget that you could have asked any number of doctors, even ones who don't have eyes the color of a moonless night and an accent that tugs like a fishing hook. Do not delude yourself into pretending this is a real date.

"I don't know where you live."

Whoever said that black makes you look thinner obviously did not have the same clothes that were hanging in my closet. First I tried on my favorite black pants, which were no longer my favorite because they only buttoned if I stopped breathing and didn't intend to sit at all during the meal. The black turtleneck that still had tags on it made me look like I had a double chin, and the black crochet shrug that had looked so cute in the catalog showed every inch of bra roll. Red, I thought. I'll be bold and make a statement. I tried on a crimson silk camisole, but the only statement

I seemed to be sending was Frederick's of Hollywood. I sifted through wraps and cardigans and shells and blazers, A-line skirts and pleated ones and cocktail dresses, tossing them off one by one onto the floor as Oliver hopped away in vain, trying not to get trapped underneath.

I tried on every single pair of trousers in my possession and decided that my ass was well on its way to being declared one of Saturn's moons. Then I marched myself to the bathroom mirror. "Here's the thing," I said to myself. "You don't have to look like Jennifer Aniston to discuss the best way to execute someone."

Although, I imagined, it probably helped.

Finally I decided on my favorite pair of jeans, and a flowing pale green tunic that I'd found for five dollars at an Asian boutique, so I always felt good about wearing it, even when I didn't look perfect. I twisted my hair up and stabbed it with a hair stick, hoping it looked artful and Grecian instead of just messy and out of time.

At exactly seven, the doorbell rang. I took one last look at myself in the mirror-the outfit clearly said casual, together, not trying too hard- and opened the door to find Dr. Gallagher wearing a coat and tie.

"I can change," I said quickly. "I didn't know we were going somewhere nice. Not that I wouldn't expect you to take me somewhere nice.

Or that you're taking me. I mean, I'm taking myself. And you're taking you. We're just going in the same car."

"You look lovely," he said. "This is how I dress all the time."

"On your day off?"

"Well, I am British," he replied, an explanation; but he hooked his finger in his collar and slipped the tie from his shirt. He draped it over the inside knob of the front door.

"When I was in college and someone did that it meant-" I broke off, remembering what it did mean: don't enter, because your roommate is getting lucky. "It meant that, um, you were busy studying for a test."

"Really?" Dr. Gallagher said. "How strange. At Oxford it meant your roommate was inside having sex."

"Maybe we should go," I said quickly, hoping he didn't notice that I was blushing fiercely, or that I lived alone with a rabbit, or that my hips were so big that they probably wouldn't fit into the seat of the little sports car he'd parked in my driveway.

He opened the car door for me and didn't turn the ignition until my seat belt was fastened. As he sped off, he cleared his throat. "There's something I'd like to get out of the way before we go any further," he said. "I'm Christian."

I stared at him. Was he some kind of fundamentalist who limited his extracurricular conversations to people of the same faith? Did he think that I harbored some secret desire to elope, and was he giving me the lay

Well, whatever. I'd been eating, sleeping, breathing religion with

Shay's case; I was even more sensitive now about religious tolerance than

I'd been before I took up this mantle. And if religion was so vitally important to Gallagher that he had to bring it up as the first point of conversation,

I could give as good as I got. "I'm an atheist," I said, "but you might as well know right now that my father's a rabbi, and if you have a problem with that I'm sure I can find another physician to talk to me, and I'd really appreciate it if you didn't make a joke right now about

Jewish doctors."

I exhaled.

"Well," he said, and glanced at me. "Perhaps you'd rather call me


I was pretty sure Emily Post wouldn't have covered this topic, but it seemed more discreet to wait until after we were served our main course to start talking about how to kill a man.

The restaurant was inside an old colonial home in Orford, with floorboards that rolled like the seas beneath my feet and a bustling kitchen off to one side. The hostess had a husky, mellifluous voice and greeted the doctor by name.


The room we were sitting in had only six tables, covered with mismatched linen and dishes and glasses; candles burned in recycled wine bottles. On the wall were mirrors in every shape and size-my own personal version of the ninth circle of hell-but I hardly even noticed them.

Instead, I drank water and wine and pretended that I did not want to spoil my appetite by eating the freshly baked bread they'd served us along with dipping oil-or by talking about Shay's execution.

Christian smiled at me. "I've always imagined one day I'd be forced to consider how one went about losing one's heart, but I must admit, I didn't think it would be quite so literal."

The waiter arrived with our plates. The menu had been full of the most delectable cuisine: Vietnamese bouillabaisse, escargot tortellini, chorizo dumplings. Even the descriptions of the entrees made me salivate:

Handmade to order, fresh Italian parsley pasta filled with fresh artichoke hearts, roasted eggplant, a medley of cheeses, and sweet roasted red and yellow pepper, tossed with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce. Slices of boneless chicken lined with thin slices of prosciutto filled with fresh spinach, Asiago cheese, and sweet onion rolled and served with fresh fettuccine and a tomato marsala wine reduction. Boneless breast of duck roasted, thinly sliced, served with a sun-dried cherry sauce and a wild rice pancake.

In the wild hope that I might fool Christian into thinking my waist size was not what it seemed to be, I'd swallowed hard and ordered an appetizer.

I'd fervently wished that Christian would order the braised leg of lamb or the steak frites so that I could beg a taste, but when I explained I wasn't all that hungry (a colossal lie), he said an appetizer was all he really wanted, too.

"From what I imagine," Christian said, "the inmate would be hanged in such a way that the spine would be fractured at C2/C3, which would arrest all spontaneous respiration."

I was trying very hard to follow along. "You mean he'd break his neck and stop breathing?"


"So then he's brain-dead?"

A couple at the next table glanced at me, and I realized I'd been talking too loudly. That some people didn't like to mix death with dinner.

"Well, not quite. It takes some time for anoxic changes to the brain to result in a loss of reflexes... which is how you test for brain-stem function.

The problem is that you can't leave your man hanging for a great period of time, or his heart will stop, and that disqualifies him as a donor."

"So what has to happen?"

"The state needs to agree that the fact that respiration's ceased is enough to justify taking the body down from the noose on likely suspi cion of death, then intubate him so that the heart is protected, and then test for brain death."

"Intubating him isn't the same as resuscitating him, then?"

"No. It's the equivalent of someone brain-dead being on a ventilator.

It preserves the organs, but there won't be any brain function once that spinal cord is severed and hypoxia sets in, no matter how much oxygen you pump into his system."

I nodded. "So how do you determine brain death?"

"There are multiple ways. You can do a physical exam first-check to make sure there are no corneal reflexes, no spontaneous respirations, no gag reflex-and then repeat it twelve hours later. But since time is of the essence, I'd recommend a transcranial Doppler test, which uses ultrasound to measure blood flow through the carotid arteries at the base of the brain. If there's no blood flow for ten minutes, you can legally declare brain death."

I imagined Shay Bourne-who could barely string together a coherent sentence, who bit his fingernails to the quick-being led to a gallows.

I pictured the noose being drawn tight around his neck and felt the hair stand up on the back of my own.

"It's brutal," I said softly, and put down my fork.

Christian was quiet for a moment. "I was a resident in Philadelphia the first time I had to tell a mother her child had died. He was the victim of a gang shooting-eight years old. He'd gone to the corner store to get a quart of milk, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I will never forget the look in her eyes when I told her we weren't able to save her son. When a child is killed, two people die, I think. The only difference is that his mother still had to suffer a heartbeat." He looked up at me. "It will be brutal for Mr. Bourne. But it was brutal for June Nealon first."

I sat back in my chair. This, then, was the catch. You meet a welleducated, intensely gorgeous, charming Oxford-educated man, and he turns out to be so right-wing he's nearly pointed backward. "Then you're in favor of capital punishment?" I asked, trying to keep my voice level.

"I think it's easy to take the moral high road when it's all theory,"

Christian said. "As a physician, do I think it's right to kill someone? No.

But then again, I don't have children yet. And I'd be lying if I said that when I do, this issue will still seem crystal clear to me."

I didn't have children yet, either; at the rate I was going, I might never have them. And the only time I'd seen June Nealon, face-to-face, we'd been at the restorative justice meeting and she had been so filled with righteous anger that I found it hard to look at her. I didn't know what it felt like to carry a child underneath my heart for nine months, to feel my body give way to make room for hers. I didn't know what it felt like to hold an infant and rock her to sleep, to find a lullaby in her breathing. But I knew what it was like to be the daughter.

My mother and I hadn't always argued. I could still remember wishing that I was as glamorous as she was-trying on her highheeled shoes, pulling her sheer satin slips up to my armpits as if they were strapless dresses, diving into the wondrous mystery of her makeup bag. She had, at one point, been the person I wanted to grow up to be.

It was so damn hard to find love in this world, to locate someone who could make you feel that there was a reason you'd been put on this earth. A child, I imagined, was the purest form of that. A child was the love you didn't have to look for, didn't have to prove anything to, didn't have to worry about losing.

Which is why, when it happened, it hurt so badly.

Suddenly, I wanted to call my mother. I wanted to call June Nealon. I was on my first date since the dinosaurs had roamed the planet, a date that was really just a business dinner, and I felt like bursting into tears.

"Maggie?" Christian leaned forward. "Are you all right?" And then he put his hand on top of mine.

Arrest all spontaneous respiration, he had said.

The waiter appeared at the side of the table. "I hope you've left room for dessert."

I had nothing but room; my appetizer had been a crab cake the size of my thumbnail. But I could feel the warmth of Christian's skin on mine, and it was like heat at the tip of a candle-only a matter of time before the rest of me melted, too. "Oh, I couldn't," I said. "I'm stuffed."

"Right," Christian said, and he slipped his hand away from mine. "I guess just the bill, then."

Something had changed in his features-and there was a chill to his voice that hadn't been there a moment before. "What's the matter?" I asked. He shook his head, dismissive, but I knew what it was: the death penalty "You think I'm on the wrong side."

"I don't think there are sides," Christian said, "but that's not it."

"Then what did I do wrong?"

The waiter sidled over with the bill, tucked into a leather folder.

Christian reached for it. "My last steady girlfriend was a principal dancer for the Boston Ballet."

"Oh," I said feebly. "She must have been..." Beautiful. Graceful. Skinny.

Everything I wasn't.

"Every time we went out for a meal I felt like some sort of... glutton

... because I had an appetite, and she never ate a damn thing. I suppose

I thought-well, hoped -that you'd be different."

"But I love chocolate," I blurted out. "And apple fritters and pumpkin pie and mousse and tiramisu and I probably would have eaten everything on this menu if I didn't think it would make me look like a pig. I was trying to be..." My voice trailed off.

"... what you thought I was looking for?"

I focused my attention on the napkin on my lap. Leave it to me to ruin a date that wasn't even really one.

"What if all I was looking for," Christian asked, "was you?"

I lifted my head slowly as Christian summoned back our waiter. "Tell us about dessert," he said.

"We have a creme brulee, a fresh blueberry tart, warm peach puff pastries with homemade ice cream and caramel sauce, and my personal favorite," the waiter said. "Chocolate French toast with a thin pecan crust, served with mint ice cream, and our own raspberry sauce."

"What shall we try?" Christian asked.

I turned to the waiter. "Maybe we could skip back to the main course first," I said, and smiled.

'This is my simple religion.

There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.

Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."



As it turned out, in spite of the deathbed promises, I didn't tell

Claire about her potential new heart when she first awakened after the episode that had brought us back to this hospital. Instead,

I made a hundred excuses: When she wasn't running a temperature.

When she had a little more energy. When we knew for sure that a judge was going to allow the donation to happen. The longer I put off the conversation, the more I was able to convince myself that Claire would have another hour, day, week with me in which to have it.

And in the meantime, Claire was failing. Not just her body, but her spirit. Dr. Wu told me every day that she was stable, but I saw changes. She didn't want me to read from Teen People. She didn't want to watch television. She lay on her side, staring at a blank wall.

"Claire," I said one afternoon, "want to play cards?"


"How about Scrabble."

"No thanks." She turned away. "I'm tired."

I smoothed her hair back from her face. "I know, baby."

"No," she said. "I mean I'm tired, Mom. I don't want to do this anymore."

"Well, we can take a walk-I mean, I can take a walk and push you in a wheelchair. You don't have to stay in bed-"

"I'm going to die in here. You and I both know it. Why can't I just go home and do it there, instead of hooked up to all of this stuff?"

I stared at her. Where was the child in that sentence, the one who had believed in fairies and ghosts and all sorts of impossible things? But we're so close to fixing that, I started to say, and then I realized that if I did, I would have to tell her about the heart that might or might not be coming.

And whose it was.

"I want to sleep in my own bed," Claire said, "instead of one with stupid plastic sheets and a pillow that crackles every time I move my head. I want to eat meat loaf, instead of chicken soup in a blue plastic cup and Jell-O-"

"You hate when I serve meat loaf."

"I know, and I want to get mad at you for cooking it again." She flopped onto her back and looked at me. "I want to drink from the orange juice container. I want to throw a tennis ball for my dog."

I hesitated. "Maybe I can talk to Dr. Wu," I said. "We can get your own sheets and pillow, I b e t... "

Something in Claire's eyes dimmed. "Just forget it," she said, and that was how I realized she'd already begun to die, before I had a chance to save her.

As soon as Claire fell asleep that afternoon, I left her in the capable hands of the nursing staff and exited the hospital for the first time in a week. I was stunned to see how much the world had changed.

There was a nip in the air that whispered of winter; the trees had begun to turn color, sugar maples first, their bright heads like torches that would light the rest of the woods on fire. My car felt unfamiliar, as if I were driving a rental. And most shocking-the road that led past the state prison had been rerouted with policemen on traffic detail. I inched through the cones, gaping at the crowds that had been cordoned off by police tape: SHAY BOURNE

WILL BURN IN HELL, read one sign. Another banner said SATAN IS