Slumped over her coffee cup, Marge stared at the circling black liquid left behind after adding her one spoon of sugar.
It’s my fault, she thought: my fault and my big mouth. We’ve probably lost her and her family as patients. Wait until she tells her friends. What am I going to tell Joe? The clinic is going to fail before we get started. I could have waited until I was fully unpacked to ruin things.
Marge didn’t do well in new situations, even though she enjoyed playing the doctor’s wife she felt woefully inadequate. Now her number one daughter had taken Marge’s right foot and deftly inserted it into Marge’s own mouth: the mouth that had previously uttered the offending words. Never assume a closed door is adequate insulation for an enterprising six year old.
The day had started like any other since they moved to that small town where the only physician was eighty-five years old. Their house wasn’t ready so the first three months had been an unplanned vacation living out of suitcases and staying with relatives. Marge had little patience but managed to keep her mouth in check. Finally, just over a week ago, they had taken position of the small but new house that Uncle Bill had built for them at cost. Bill owned the towns only lumber yard and had been the catalyst for moving to the sticks, as Marge called it. Exhausted by unpacking and caring for three small children but nearly finished in the living room, she leaned over to plug in her lamps. Nothing happened. She checked the outlets using other lamps and the electricity was good. Joe would just have to buy those new lamps I asked for she said out loud. A doctor should be able to afford new lamps. She would grow to regret her resolve.
Joe was late for dinner, a pattern Marge had increasingly found irritating. With little food in the kitchen they had eaten breakfast, which confused the children a bit. Joe never talked about his patients: Marge always asked anyway. She brought up the lamps but Joe didn’t commit to buying new ones. Number one daughter took all this in but said nothing.
Tired after baths, bedtime stories and tucking in all three children, Marge closed the bedroom door and broached the subject of lamps. Joe was tired also, but listened like he always did to everything she said. There wasn’t any extra money just now. Marge shrieked and Joe spoke softly, but she always had the last word, which in this case were several words.
“If Mrs. Jenkins would pay her bill I could have all the lamps I needed,” Marge announced. As long as Joe didn’t answer the discussion was over.
The next day started out like any other Saturday. While shopping along the four-block main street, Marge heard her name called from across the street. An arm waved, a request to cross for a visit and Marge had to respond. As she approached the friendly lady her daughter asked who it was.
“Mrs. Jenkins, you know her son from school,” Marge replied.
The ladies talked for a while, and then as Marge made excuses to leave she asked her daughter to tell Mrs. Jenkins goodbye. Her daughter looked up at the lady who wanted to shake her hand and very politely stated, “If you pay your bill my mama can have new lamps.”
A pregnant pause followed, broken by Mrs. Jenkins’ laughter. Marge wore a mask of horror as she tried to apologize.
“Don’t think anything of it,” said Mrs. Jenkins as she caught her breath, “she’s right. My bill is past due. I’ll attend to it right away. You have a clever girl there.”
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