Health

I got sick when I was twenty-five. Actually, the story must begin differently. I want to tell about the time I went to Pipeline, my first summer in Hawaii, with my family and some of our friends. I’d swum out maybe twenty feet when a wave rolled me, and held me under. I came up in time to be nailed and pinned by another. Over and over. I’d fight up in time to be taken down again. How long this went on, I’m no judge. Finally, I realized I’d have to go down rather than up. I swam down, against every instinct, felt the sand, dug in, and dragged myself out. I might have been six feet from the beach. No one had noticed I’d been gone. No one had noticed anything.

So, I’m twenty-five, explaining symptoms to doctors, who tell me that it’s probably just stress, but they’ll run some tests. Then I’m sent to specialists for more conversation, more tests, different drugs. The dialogue always begins with, “It’s probably just stress.” I hear them, of course, saying that it’s my head that’s sick and not my body. But even as they’re saying this, the tests and procedures keep finding blood where it shouldn’t be. Ulcerations. Spasms. Faulty mechanisms. This kind of thing. 

I see an acupuncturist. Practice yoga. Meditation. Search for my calm. I read an article in the New Yorker about hypochondriacs. Worry I am one of these. Vegan, I have given up alcohol, and for a time, gluten. I have kept food diaries. 

When I am twenty-eight, my anger is volcanic. My mutinous body. This thing must have a name. This thing must be named. And I go to a specialist on my own. He listens very quietly, and then, as he begins his examination, he talks to me about Kurt Vonnegut. I am instantly calm. We are discussing literature. Everything is new.

A month later I have had a surgery that is painful beyond expression. A recovery that will require months. I will lose weight I cannot spare. It will be weeks before I can sit without trembling, sweating. By January, three months after the surgery, I can walk the dogs for forty minutes, only pausing once to catch my breath. 

In February, I return to my regular doctor. Tell her that I am sleeping twelve hours a day, have dropped back to part-time at work. I ask for a blood test. She has my file in her hands, knows all they have found, and what has happened to me medically. An intern is in the room with her: tall, blond, too young. My doctor looks up from my file, to smile at me, and say, “Tiredness is the number one complaint among young women.”

And it is clear to me, as instantly as that day at Pipeline when I knew to swim down. The doctor orders a blood test, though the test misses what I know. What I am certain of. On the way home, I stop at the grocers. Buy a test. 

My mutinous body. Oh, my marvelous mutinous body. My son was born in October of that year. 

1 thought on “Health”

  1. Every time I read this (4 times now) or share it with friends, I cry with happiness and relief. I feel it, I have been there in most ways (not the ocean punishment) and have taken that test. Those little tests explain so much.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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