Vaccine Nation Online - David Lender Page 0,1

needed to get something off his chest, too. Dani picked up her pace. Her BlackBerry rang and her breath caught in her throat when she saw Mom’s number on the screen. How could she forget? Dad.

“Hi, Mom. How are you doing?”

“Okay.” She paused. “You know what day it is, don’t you?”

Dani’s mind automatically did the math. She’d been twentytwo. Seven years. “Of course.” She stopped walking and leaned over the BlackBerry as if sheltering her words from passersby. She said, “Each year I think about him constantly during this day. Sometimes it seems like…” her voice trailed off.

“I miss him more each year, too,” Mom said. Her voice was steady, like she’d steeled herself to get through the day.

“When’s his Mass?”

“One o’clock.”

Dani didn’t respond right away. “I can’t make it this year.”

“I know, sweetie. I just wanted to hear your voice. I knew you weren’t coming. You had a big day yesterday. Congratulations. I’m sure lots of people want to talk to you.”

“It’s not that. I’m just jammed with the usual stuff. Will you light a candle for me?”

“Sure. I’ll speak to you later. Gabe okay?”

“He’s great. Maybe we’ll get out this weekend. How’s Jack?”

“The same.” Dani felt her hand muscles tense around the BlackBerry.

“Anything going on?”

“The usual. He was out most of the night, couldn’t get up for work.”

“I’ll get out there this weekend,” Dani said. They signed off. She continued walking, feeling guilty. Lisa and George lived far enough away that they never made Dad’s Mass. And Jack was high half the time, so it was like she was alone even if he came with her. At least Mom could count on Dani. Or so she thought. This was the second year in a row Dani would miss Dad’s Mass. It hurt. Particularly knowing how devout a Catholic Mom was, how much Mom wanted Dani to experience her faith the way she did. She sighed and kept walking, thinking she’d find a way to make it up to Mom, feeling unworthy.

Dani reached the entrance to Dr. Yuri Orlovski’s office at 79th and Broadway. A half dozen patients already sat in the waiting room when she stepped through the door. She paused to wave at Carla behind the reception desk, who mouthed “Congratulations.” Dani nodded and smiled, then headed up the steep, 20 steps to her office. By the time she reached the top, she reflected as she usually did, What would I do without Dr. O? It was the best job she’d ever had, even aside from him rescuing Gabe a year ago from Child Protective Services, New York’s equivalent of New Jersey’s DYFS. Dr. O’s homeopathic remedies and detoxification had purged Gabe’s body of the mercury and other poisons that Dr. O maintained were largely caused by vaccines. And he certified as an MD that Gabe’s ADHD was “cured.” That got Gabe off Child Protective Services’ list and off mandatory ADHD medications to attend public school. This year she’d scrounged up enough to afford to get him into Mercer.

And now she ran the nonmedical practice side of Dr. O’s mini-empire, as he jokingly called it. But it was no joke. It was a flourishing Internet business of whole food-based vitamins; health-related DVDs and books; and healthy lifestyle products like juicers and water filters. And a good portion of the profits funded Dr. O’s real passion: the documentaries on health issues that Dani produced and directed, the only thing—except, of course for Gabe—that got her out of bed every morning.

Her colleagues, Richard Kaminsky, Jason Waite and Seth Weinstein stood talking near the entrance to Dr. O’s Vitamin Shop when Dani got to the top of the steps. Richard started applauding and the others joined in. She stood, cringing from embarrassment, yet secretly relishing the recognition. They walked over and greeted her with hugs.

“I knew you’d do it,” Richard said.

“Absolutely,” Ralph said.

They were joined by a half dozen others, including Kaitlin Drake, her editor. Dani was gradually overcome by an odd sensation of discomfort. She recalled how she’d wilted under the spotlight when asked to say a few words on accepting her award last night. It made her feel as if her colleagues would think she was undeserving of their praise if they’d seen her frozen with panic. She’d wanted to say something about creating a film that spoke her truth, and that of thousands of other mothers, but she was unable to utter more than “Thank you,” in front of 2,000 people.

It took Dani another ten minutes to