Meditations on the human condition: an unusual series of quiet, concentrated stories from an emergency-room physician. Huyler is a published poet and surgeon in Albuquerque, N.M., and he doesn’t have to shout to get his message across. Dramatic, desperate, baffling events abound, and Huyler easily draws us into the picture: a man transferred from prison, in a coma for weeks, with Huyler about to withdraw life support—watched by guards, family, and hospital staff. “He always looked the same, covered with tattoos, his arms pockmarked by years of shooting heroin and cocaine, his eyes half open to the ceiling, kept alive by the ventilator. . . . He was in for murder. Forty-five years old, with an abscess in his heart from shooting contaminated blood into his veins, it had finally come to this: my shift, my night on call, my job to turn him off.” There are some intriguing oddities here: Huyler’s medical-school anatomy-lab partner is arrested for murdering his lover; a catastrophically injured rodeo rider in the intensive-care unit completely recovers in spite of being treated on alternate days with either benign neglect or medical full-court press, depending on which of two attending physicians is on call. Throughout, Huyler’s basic respect and admiration for others shows; he likes patients who are brave in the face of disaster—old women facing dire surgery who say they understand, “who smile and pat my hand and tell me to send their children in. I like the men who flirt with the nurses even though the EKG is unmistakable.” And in the end, Huyler sums up the only lesson: “Odds whisper around us, wheels turn, molecules whir like bobbins. And then, maybe once or twice in our whole lives, events conspire, statistics align with the force of diamonds, against us, and they knock us out, there is no chance, the wind blows through us, we’re gone.” Utterly engrossing, moving, poetic accounts.