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Topic: Blessed (11/29/04)
TITLE: Fresh Air
By Kelly Klepfer
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“Honey.” Shelly heard the call as she found an opportunity to pass at an intersecting hallway. Shelly passed by her anyway, intent on making the interruption quick, but turned to face her while still walking backward. Shelly cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. The woman slowed even more and leaned against the wall. Shelly’s medical training made it impossible for her to continue her path.
“Are you feeling okay?” The woman waved a hand and laughed.
“Well, okay is not in my vocabulary these days, but I’m alive. Though the good Lord knows how bad I want to go home. He must have something for me to do down here.” Shelly’s concern turned into annoyance. A lonely one, the kind that loved to have telemarketers call, just so they could talk to a real live person. There were so many lonely ones that visited the clinic.
Shelly forced herself to smile. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” Her voice sounded condescending to her own ears, but the woman didn’t seem to notice the less than enthusiastic tone.
“Oh, no honey, I just need to catch my breath.” She leaned back against the wall. Shelly noticed that her lips were a dusky purple. The woman’s chest heaved. Shelly looked again at the sausage tight legs that peeked out under the woman’s dated skirt.
“Have you seen the doctor today?”
“Yes, honey. He says my heart is working over time. Put me back on a water pill. Took a chest x-ray. Happened about 3 times already this year. Says that’s why I can’t breathe.” Shelly was relieved to see that the rest had helped. The woman’s breathing, though not normal, had become less labored. “You know, I never knew what a blessed thing air was until I couldn’t catch it. The Lord is good to His creatures.” She smiled at Shelly and straightened her hat. Shelly held out her arm and she took it. “God bless you, honey.” Shelly walked in slow motion to the entrance of the clinic, the woman patted her arm and cooed “God bless you, honey” until she stepped out into the brisk October air.
Shelly watched the woman amble down the sidewalk toward the bus stop. The woman stopped to smile, occasionally wave at passers-by, and catch her breath. Shelly brushed away a tear that danced on her eyelashes. It splashed onto her clinic whites. She turned to the waiting area. Several sets of lonely eyes looked at her.