Friday, October 9, 2015

Steel Dog-25

Steel Bitch

Quentin dressed fast and drove slowly, hunting for any excuse to turn around.  But there was no stopping.  He drove those several blocks and parked on the street beside the nightbound Clinic.

“NO LADY SHALL BE TURNED AWAY,” the sign promised.  But the Clinic was closed, locked and empty.  Events had played out without Quentin’s help.  Obviously luck had kissed the point of his nose.  But as he began to turn away, a shuffling figure emerged from the back, small and round-bodied, seemingly unaware of his presence yet moving with deliberation into the unlit lobby.  A ring of important keys rode the right hand.  The woman never looked up.  The key hand lifted of its own volition, an intricate piece of brass finding the lock, and staring at the blank gray carpet between her boots, the woman opened the door.

“You damn well took your time,” she said.

“Bitch,” he thought.

And maybe she read his mind. The keyless hand lifted, as if to fend off a fist or harder words. Her face was unfamiliar, the voice dusky, old and fearless.  She turned, leading him into the back. “Faster, boy,” she demanded.  “We all want to make it home tonight.”

Quentin fell in behind her.  “I was showering when you called.  I had to get dressed.”

“Well, we’re glad for that blessing.”

Anger invigorated his step.  The lobby and its long tall counter were waiting for white-clad attendants who would sit in the day, dispensing advice and medicine with polished, cheerless grace.  The most substantial light came from a back hallway, but they had to first march through an unmarked glass door and past various desks, each littered with forms and personal effects.

“Why me?” Quentin asked.

The woman stopped, turned.  “Your name is the only name I know.”

He nodded.

One pudgy finger considered gouging him in the chest.  “You do realize why the girl came here, don’t you?" Standing in the lit hallway, it was important to keep their voices low.  But whatever had happened this evening left the woman furious, and she was determined to push Quentin back into the proper hole. “You’re the husband,” she spat. “This is about your responsibilities.”

Guessing enough, he said, “I’m not the father.”

“Well, there is no father now.  Or any mother.”

Quentin stepped back.  “I’m leaving.”


Another step.

Profession and rank had limits.  This man could abandon her to whatever mess was transpiring here.  With a quieter, less certain voice, she repeated the word, “No,” before adding, “Please.”

Quentin’s retreat was finished.

Both hands grabbed the big ring of keys.  A nametag rode on her chest, but all he could read was the word, “Director.”

“She’s not well,” the Director warned.

“I imagine not.”

“This isn’t about the pregnancy.”  She came close enough for him to smell almonds on her breath.  “This is a very sad young woman.  Far from home and her people, and now this…this insulting mistake.”  Keys rattled.  “She wasn’t ready to live here.  And some busy, selfish prick had to abuse her innocence…!”

Quentin sighed.

“Please,” she said again, the word dipped in a pleading tenor.

“Did Farah ask for me?”

Appalled, the Director said, “She hasn’t asked for anyone.  Except God.”

Quentin looked down the hallway.

“And I don’t know which god,” she added.

Only one door was closed.

“Help your wife reach home,” the Director ordered.  “And if you take advantage of that poor girl…believe me, I’ll make you bleed…”

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