After Interview
Continued from last Saturday's Interview excerpt at

Everyone who "Likes" and makes suggestions motivates me to continue exploring this story. Some of the most effective comments ask for more detail about a moment, event or character.

On my way back to work, when I transfer buses, I hop into a coffee shop to shake out my excitement. I try not to see the signs that say "No public bathrooms", and on the bathroom door, "For paying customers only." I release an enormous smile to my reflection in the mirror. I raise my hands, reaching my palms to touch heaven, and whisper loudly, "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!" My body shakes and wriggles, as the balls of my feet run in place. I don't care if the building is rumbling with my carrying on. Someone might think that it's just a truck going by. The thought makes me giggle. I pull a wad of paper towels out of the dispenser, lay them on the floor, and pray on my knees, "Thank you Lord for freeing me from my bonds. Thy will be done. Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. So shall it be. Amen. Thank you Lord. Thank you for shining your mercy on me. You are so good to me, your humble servant. Thank you for all your blessings. All power and glory be yours. Amen."

I get back up, shake out my remaining glee, but more soberly, and use the paper towels to wipe out the grimy sink. The mirror assures me that I'm straightened out and ready to go back to The World. As I freshen up with cologne, I spray some around to freshen up this room. I open the door and look past the customers, my head held high, oblivious to anything that might have just occurred.

As I continue back to work, I muse about patient care. This morning's appointments with a few people got me thinking about things. We stick to routine questions. We test for the most severe possibilities while giving the most commonly-used medications and procedures. It's routine trial-and-error, not personalized. They call it "following protocols" for efficiency. Fury used to rise from my belly as I saw the wasted time on mindless practices. Recently, I've just been numb. Except this morning.

This morning, I got choked up with tears when someone came in with a long history of medications, side effects, and procedures that filled her full of hopes, and then her condition always deteriorated further. She came in mumbling, tired, asking for a prescription to yet another drug that she saw advertised. When I asked her what had been the most effective treatment, she paused, took a breath that seemed to evaporate the lead sludge in her bloodstream, and recalled when she spent a week at a friend's camp on The River. She told me about the fresh air, clear water, breezes, and sound sleep in contrast with tossing and turning all night, with the continued distraction of her constant pain. Her deep sigh brought the tears to my eyes. Instead of filling another prescription for another medication with side effects to add to her list and bring her back for another visit, she left with plans to talk with friends about opportunities for being a caretaker for camps on The River. Maybe even one on an island.

She had also been in a few weeks ago, and left behind a newspaper magazine. When I flipped through it, I came across an article about a prison convalescent home at The River. I sent them a resume, and that's how I got this morning's interview.

When I get back to the office, I catch Del's eye. She follows me down the hall toward the break room. I whisper in her ear, "Tonight's girl's night out. Spread the word." She sees the delight bursting out of my eyes, and nods with her own suppressed smile.

Del covered for me while I went to the interview, backing up my story that I had to be at my twin sister's apartment to sign for a delivery while she was in surgery. Stories about my twin sister come in handy when people think that they saw me in places that I don't want to admit to.


As I sit on the toilet, I flip through the pages of a recent issue of the newspaper's magazine section. Help Wanted. Janitors, truck drivers, tutors, Mercy Sisters Convalescent Home. Oh My God! That's the place! They're hiring! They might really want me!

I toss the magazine behind the toilet tank, and take a deep breath as I flush.

As I wash my hands and fix my face, the Wicked Witch of the West comes in.

"Come now, what's your dilly-dallying?"

I repress tremblings, refusing to feel guilty. I stay silent as I pat my hands with a paper towel and toss it.

"I've been meaning to ask you something."

Please God, no, don't let her ask me about where I went. Is there any way that she might know already? I keep my mouth shut as I put on hand lotion.

"Where did you say your sister is living?

"Division Street, off Junction Boulevard." 

What's she getting at? I force myself to stay calm as I focus on her face, trying to anticipate what she's going to say as she continues, "I was wondering if you smelled the fire over at 85th Street, or was that all cleared up by then."

Fire? I hadn't heard of one. Of course I'd smelled it and seen all the emergency vehicles if I had been there. I risk saying, "No, I was so pressured for time that I didn't notice anything. Besides, my sense of smell is pretty bad you know." I wish her perfume wasn't strong enough to make my eyes water.

"I heard it was a big deal --"Oh no. I'm sunk. "-- over a few flames in a garbage can." Relief. She must have been testing me.

Now I really feel dumb. I got all worked up over nothing. I try to laugh it off as I say, "No wonder I didn't notice anything."

"Yeah. No wonder."

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See links to all of the excerpts that I've posted by going to

Photo credits:
Ukraine dnepr at krementchug, by Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. 
Kissing Crane Leg Knife, by James Case Licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.
#RiverCuts  for  #RiverNovel   by Grace Buchanan.
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