Larry's Kidney

Being the true story of how I found myself in China with my black-sheep cousin and his mail-order bride, skirting the law to get him a transplant — and save his life
By DANIEL ASA ROSE  |  July 22, 2009

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ORGAN TRAIL: Author Rose (with hat) helps his estranged (and strange) cousin track down a kidney in China.

Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. Copyright © 2009 by Daniel Asa Rose.

In this nonfiction account pretty accurately described by the book's subtitle, Daniel Asa Rose accompanies his nebbishy but mobbed-up relative on a mission for a Chinese two-fer: to get the organ he desperately needs and — why not, as long as we're here? — a wife, to boot. In this excerpt, the author first hears about his cousin's dubious — and, according to Chinese law, illegal — plan.

"Huwwo?"

"Hello, who's this?"

"Huwwo, Dan?"

"Yes. Who's this, please?"

"This is Larry, Dan."

"Who?"

"Larry. Your cousin."

"Whoa, my long-lost cousin Larry?"

"Yes, Dan, that's a fair description. I deserve that. I take full responsibility for being out of touch."

"My black-sheep cousin Larry?"

"That's also apt, as long as you're simply stating a fact and don't mean it in a negative way. Where did I reach you?" 

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"Actually, I'm on a chairlift in the Colorado Rockies, Larry, a couple of miles above sea level."

"In the middle of summer? I'm somewhat dubious. Not that I'm calling you a liar, necessarily, but people have been known to alter their whereabouts to avoid speaking to people they aren't necessarily eager to speak to."

"I'm with my mountain bike, Larry — about 50 feet in the air, overlooking miles of ski trails that double as bike trails in the summer."

"There, you see? I'm not dubious anymore. A perfectly cogent explanation. Some family members who will go unnamed — except that it's Cousin Burton — consider me an unreasonable man, but I just object to being lied to, or considered an idiot simply because I dropped out of high school instead of taking the standard family route of going to Harvard or Brown, which you never did."

"Never did what?"

"Considered me an idiot, at least to my face, which is one of the reasons I always looked up to you, Dan, even though you did go to Brown. Are you alone?"

"I'm here on vacation with my wife and two sons."

"I heard you got remarried. I've been meaning to call you. Congratulations."

"Well, that's 14 years ago now, Larry, but thanks. Where are you?"

"I'm under my blankets in my Florida condo. I haven't come out for two days."

"What're you doing there?"

"I'm [-SQUAWK-]ing, Dan."

"You're what? We're passing over some sort of radio tower or something. What'd you say you were doing?"

"[-SQUAWK-]ing."

"What?"

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