Sequence: The Heron’s Foot (part one)
“Vigilance begins where work begins”
From AT & T ad of 1921
“You have no money.”
Phillip had said this to her, as they’d left the courtroom.
He hadn’t been polite enough, or generous enough, that she could forgive his complacent little smile, but he’d been kinder than circumstance strictly required.
“I have a job lined up.”
“What makes you say so? You will have to share the address of such an accommodating man.”
His intuition was apt; the job wasn’t lined up. Freda had felt merely reasonably confident of Mr. Tumelty’s hiring her. If Springer’s manager of Small Leather and Ladies’ Accessories read the papers, she might have to bluff it. (“Yes, odd, that. You really didn’t think that Freda Murchison could have been me…!”)
“What,” she asked Phillip, “was that about money?”
He hadn’t answered. Instead, he’d withdrawn his wallet, fished out a note, and dangled it over her head. She’d wanted to punch Phillip in the gut, snatch the twenty and make off with it…but, probably—even for such justifiable provocation—these things were regarded assault and theft.
Using his funds (she’d thanked him instead, and Phillip, beaming self-congratulation, had left her on the street), Freda took a room at a downtown hotel. She called the hospital. The operator listened to her story, and asked her to repeat it. She then asked Freda to wait. Freda found the fifth floor ward’s head nurse on the line next; she told her story again. Yes, the nurse said, Mr. Bruner was her patient, his condition, serious…a message might be delivered.
This impersonal procedure stymied Freda. The word “love” sounded wrong to her. She’d given her name, and the woman had written it down, saying aloud, “Murchison—spell that.”
She did. “Tell Mr. Bruner I…what does serious mean?”
“Worse than fair. Not as bad as poor.”
“Tell him I will visit soon.”
The Heron’s Foot
(2016, Stephanie Foster)