Mrs. Betterthan

March 19, 2008

She could not understand, why a hospital, with as much money as they make, charging five dollars a visit, just to stick their head in the door and look at you, couldn’t afford a decent sized waiting room.  This one was hardly bigger than a garage.  The table was cluttered with limp looking, out dated magazines and at the end of it there was a big green glass ashtray full of cigarette butts and cotton wads with little blood spots on them.  If she had anything to do with the running of the place, that would have been emptied every so often.  A plastic fern in a gold pot sat in the opening and trailed its fronds down almost to the floor.  The radio was softly playing gospel music. Mrs. Betterthan could not remember when she’d seen these chairs, old and yellowing, so full.  After all, she did make the appointment early enough in the day, at a time when she and Earl could avoid contact with such undesirables, who if she had been correct in her guessing, would be home sleeping the morning away.  If it was anything that got under her skin, it was people who didn’t make full use of all that they could, with what God gave them.  She and Earl had worked on the five acre farm for hours, and attended early mass, before they came to his appointment.  His sciatica was acting up again.  It doesn’t matter how many times she tells him, he should get more help lifting those heavy bales, he just goes about his business, as if she hadn’t said a word.  They had plenty.  With the cash that the farm brought in, they could well afford to get all of the help they need, and then some.  But, there’s no sense in speaking directly to him, Earl isn’t deaf, but he certainly acts it, stubborn as a mule, he is.  He wouldn’t have come in to see the doctor at all if it weren’t for the pain getting so bad.  It acts up now and then, just often enough so that it becomes necessary to come here and pay the doctor, our hard earned money, just to hear the same advise that he hears every day.  Earl signed in on the clipboard, using a stubby yellow pencil attached to a dirty string, held on haphazardly with old masking tape.  The gal at the front desk must have trouble keeping track of things.  Along the far wall, a young woman, wearing dingy sweat pants and oversized men’s shoes, sat in the corner.  Lying across her lumpy lap was a barefooted, unwashed child, no more than two years old.  The child’s dull stare seemed to focus on the pattern of orange and yellow flowers on her cotton shift.  As she stepped towards the last two seats that were vacant, the sick child’s eyes remained fixed on her.  Why, if she wasn’t blessed with Earl and their five acre farm, she, at least, would stay clean and know enough to keep shoes on a child’s cold feet. As she hummed along with the familiar gospel hymn, she had heard earlier in church, she busied her mind with the thought that if she had it to do over again, she’d do everything the same.  Her eyes scanned the rest of the yellow chairs, as Earl ambled across the stained linoleum, and lowered himself, with some effort, into the chair next to her.  Sitting between Earl and the neglected child was an elderly man wearing a freshly pressed suit.  The pale blue gingham matched his glassy eyes, which made her eyes water a little when they exchanged respectful greetings.  Earl and the man discussed what they had heard in church and the days’ news, while she searched for a person upon whom she could rest her eyes comfortably.  She sensed someone was watching her, as she listened to Earl say, “Can’t say as I’ve heard a better sermon come from Reverend Waterson, than I did this morning.”  The glassy eyed man nodded in agreement.  “And the kingdom of heaven shall be yours!”  Earl shook his fist for emphasis.  “Amen.”  The man offered.  The woman in sweat pants, offered a bit of the candy bar which she’d been eating, to Mrs. Betterthan.  Barely stifling a shudder of contempt, she shook her head, and managed to utter, “no thank you.”  That was all she needed, germs from the likes of her.  She continued the search for a face that she could settle her gaze on easily.  At last, a conservatively dressed woman, with a glance of recognition smiled a hello to Mrs. Betterthan.  The woman’s shoes, tan in color, with an all around one inch heel, made for wear and not show, were just like a pair Mrs. Betterthan had bought last week, for a church picnic.  A bit on the casual side for a Sunday morning, but reassuring familiar. 

3 Responses to “Mrs. Betterthan”

  1. artseafartsea Says:

    Very interesting. Good start for a good story. Great character studies. Keep going……

  2. snowee Says:

    Thank you lady!

  3. sketched out Says:

    I am so impressed. I knew you could write from your essays, but now I can see your character development and descriptive talents are very well developed as well. Some great starts. Hope you flesh this one out too. But again, this one also works well as a vignette. Very intriguing.

    Keep up the good work!


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