Abraham arrived at the clinic long before his staff was due. He walked to
the front, checking the window shattered by the bottle. The glass company had replaced it. Turning, he saw the bottle still
lying on the floor against the reception desk. He picked it up by the neck, with two fingers, wrinkled his nose and dropped
it into the waste can. Abraham half-expected it to be a beer bottle. From what he knew of religious people, they all spouted
one thing and did another.
Abraham flipped on the light in the restroom and checked his reflection. In
spite of getting no real rest for the past three days, he saw little difference in his appearance. He was short, but still
strong. Not bad for an old schlemiel. One by one he would be a match
for those buttinskis who smashed his window. One by one, but not the whole bunch of cowards.
He pulled his stained mug out of the cupboard and grabbed the coffee pot.
“Ach. Cold as an old maid.” Maxine usually made coffee but she
wasn’t due for two hours, yet. Abraham opened drawers until he found the package of filters. He took one, balanced it
in his palm and filled it to the top with dry coffee. The crystals spilled onto the counter, the tiled floor and the toe of
his scuffed shoe. Abraham stuffed the paper into the plastic basket and forced the container into the slot over the glass
pot. He ran water into the pot and clicked the switch. The red eye lit up. Then, as he watched, the coffee maker gurgled to
life and brown liquid poured out like rain at the end of a downspout.
“Dumkop. You old fool.”
He grabbed at the pot, shoving the plastic tub back further until the flow stopped. “Not so hard,” he said. Maxine
makes it seem difficult so I will keep her job for her. Twenty years of being the coffee maker. To what do I promote her from
The front door opened and Macie Stone entered, head down, stuffing car keys
into her tiny square purse.
“Good morning, Macie. It’s good to be back at work after...”
He didn’t finish, but the look on her face told him she knew what he meant.
“Yes. Definitely. Have you heard from her? Mrs. Voight, I mean.”
“Nothing. But that sister of hers could be holding an iron rod over
her head. I would like to put that one in a cage with our Maxine and see who squawked first.”
Macie grinned. Abraham noticed her hands shook as she unbuttoned her coat.
Her colorless face was pulled tight, not like a girl of thirty.
“The event concerning Mr. Voight has troubled you deeply, Macie.”
“Yes. I mean, yes, but that’s not…”
“What?” Abraham stepped back as the young woman moved to the desk
and opened a large green notebook, the appointment ledger.
“Somebody followed me here.”
“There is a lot of traffic on a Wednesday morning. What makes you think
you were followed?”
“I’ve seen the car before. Several times. It’s a red convertible
with a blond at the wheel. Usually, she just drives by my house—”
“Maybe she lives in your neighborhood.”
“Today she followed me here. All the way here.”
“And then? Did she stop?”
“Maybe she works close by.” Abraham’s skin prickled, but
the girl was frightened and he felt the need to reassure her. “You’re here early.”
“I wanted to get here before Maxine…I mean, I wanted to have some
“I know exactly what you mean.” Abraham smiled at her and turned
to the now-full coffee pot. “It‘s just seven.”
He poured a mug and handed it to Macie. She sipped at the black liquid and
Abraham took a tentative swallow of his own coffee and shuddered. He smiled
his apology at Macie, then shrugged. “Ah well, at least we will have two more hours of peace before she comes.”
In rebuttal, the glass door flew open, banging against the stop, and a sixty-ish
woman in a starched white uniform stumbled through them.
“Take these, hon, will you?” She held out a huge leopard print
tote and a ring of keys to Macie. “I just need to fix my shoe.” She twisted the bottom of the white nurses’
shoe, put it back on and stomped on the loose heel. “There. That’s got it.”
Macie handed her things back, and gave her a thin smile. “Maxine.”
“Doc, you wouldn’t believe the calls I’ve had since Sunday.
Some people are so nosy. My neighbor stopped by this morning and brought me a Danish. I had to ask her in. Like I didn’t
know why she was really there. I thought I’d never get rid of her.” Maxine opened the bathroom door, turned on
the light, and glanced at her image in the mirror.
Abraham watched, fascinated. He should turn away, he knew. A lady in the bathroom,
with the door open. He could see her image in the mirror above the sink. She swiped at some red lipstick smeared on her chin,
then, seeing Macie reflected behind her, grinned broadly.
“ Oh, good. Coffee.”
Abraham shook his head, padded to the coffee maker and topped off his cup.
“I’ll leave you ladies to your work.” He opened the door to the rear of the clinic and stepped through it,
shutting it emphatically after him. It was too early for noise, and…and prattle.
Maxine came to work for Dr. Sorkin in ’79 when he opened the Sorkin Women’s
Clinic in Denver. She left her job as charge nurse in a long term care facility and informed Dr. Sorkin that he had hired her, though
she’d completely botched her job interview. She was reliable, Abraham could say that for her, but she’d made the
first few months of Macie’s employment a time geshtroft. A time of punishment.
And for what? Macie did nothing, but Maxine punished her anyway. Punished her even in front of patients. Abraham remembered
the confrontation, Macie’s first day at work.
“There’s two ways of doing things: your way and the RIGHT way.”
Maxine had ripped three patient files from Macie’s trembling hands. “You always put one of these stickers on the
upper left hand corner.” She handed Macie three peel-off labels she’d invented on the computer: seen A.M..
“I’m sorry, but I just didn’t see the need…we put
the appointment time at the top of the day’s chart entry. I didn’t think—”
“That’s right, missy. You just didn’t think. You’re
too busy sitting your itsy bitsy butt down on the computer chair so’s you don’t spill a drop of coffee on that
fancy pantsuit you wear. People don’t trust pretty girl, fashion plate nurses. They want someone solid. In a uniform,
for Pete’s sake.”
Macie had retreated to the bathroom. The three or four women in the waiting
room suddenly became enthralled by the magazines they were reading, and Maxine peeled and stuck her labels to the charts.
Fascinated by the Internet world, Maxine also downloaded at least three types
of discharge and patient profile forms. But her crowning achievement was the “cartoon of the day” which she printed
out and stuck to the front of the reception desk with scotch tape. For morale, Maxine said.
Abraham tried to think what the old girl could know to pass on to a nosy neighbor.
Probably nothing but suspicions. He’d never entrusted his senior nurse with the facts about Steve Voight. He knew better.
She was a yenteh. A blabbermouth. She couldn’t even keep his birthday party
a secret. And she’d planned it. Ach. That was why he kept her. She’d planned it.