Anne Caryl

Page fourteen

A Christmas Poem
Merry Christmas. Are you kidding me?
About Me
The Gold Train Connection
Back to Reason
Virtual Art Gallery



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 there?”

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 time…”

“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 grimaced.

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.




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Anne Caryl
504 East Furry St.
Holyoke, Co. 80734