Instead of flying in for her thirty-first birthday,
Molly Gaudry

her father dies en route to some remote hospital in the middle of Morocco. She gets the call just after a shower that doesn't quite wash the smell of cigarettes from her hair after Happy Hour at Sully's Tavern. Complaining of severe epigastric pain and general anxiety, her father had been admitted after an early morning of field research studying indigenous peoples and their uses for the chameleon flower (Atractylis gummifera, not Houttuynia cordata), a plant known for its high levels of toxicity. His fellow ethnobotanists know only that he had drunk from a hollowed melon rind filled with a traditional root extract. By the time they got him to the hospital, he had almost choked to death on vomit, and by the time the doctor came around to his bed, he was in a stage II coma. Immediate lab tests revealed severe hepatocellular damage and discovered acute renal failure, and half an hour later: dead. Postmortem histopathological study of his liver later confirms panlobular hepatic necrosis, and Rose of Sharon, still buzzed and damp from her shower -- having answered the telephone wrapped loosely in a towel, having listened to the entire story of her father's death while dripping onto the floor -- drives back to Sully's and finds and leans against Gray Twohearted sitting at the bar where she had left him less than an hour before, when she had jokingly said: "Dad's flying in now but what say I blow him off and we go get a room, me and you, just the two of us, and play a game of naughty nurse and thick-dick doc?"