Copyright 2014 by Stephen W. Hines
Sarah Samuels peered reflectively into her jewelry box. She was searching for earrings. Where had she put them? Bangles, bobbles, beads—was this all there was to life? She had no answers and shook her head impatiently as she searched further.
I’ll be late if I don’t find them. Why am I so nervous? These were not the first questions she had asked herself since coming to know Ransom Chutney, Chief of Surgery at St. Luther’s Hospital. But at last it looked as though she was going to get to the bottom of their very disturbing, puzzling relationship. Almost from the time they had met, Dr. Chutney–called Chut by his friends–had seemed as thought he were under a dark cloud, as though he could see some threatening storm on the horizon–a storm that threatened their growing affection for each other. How, how, how–she spoke to herself in American Indian–had this all come about?
As she sat looking into the opacity of her fingernails, Sarah went back in her mind over the last few years of her brief, turbulent life.
A scene flashed before her inner eye, plunging her mind into the turgidity of her soul. It had been her first day at St. Luther’s. She remembered how she had stood before the green baize door of her first clinical experience, considering in fear whether or not to run while there was still time or to stay. But even as she hesitated, resolve entered her soul! No, She could not throw away the sacrifice of her youth on the altar of cowardice! In her epiphany of self-abasement, she realized she had nothing to fear but suffering; and, if that was to be her lot, why, she was ready. She knew the path to the top was not strewn with rose petals but rather with thorns and porcupines.
* * *
Sarah began to drift further in reverie. She recalled how she had been born to simple, brilliant, devout parents who had sacrificed to send her through college and nursing school so that she might fulfill her life-long ambition to become a nurse, meet a rich, handsome, mysterious, frightening doctor–and marry him. Sarah thought of how her mother had worked long hours as a dishwasher during the day, and how she had worked as a cleaning lady during the night to make Sarah’s career possible. Nurse Samuels reflected on the fact that she hardly knew her mother and wished there had been time to become better acquainted.
Oh, the curse of poverty! she thought bitterly, if it were possible for bitter thoughts to cross this sweet woman’s pure mind.
Poverty had forced her father to supplement his meager income as a concert violinist by tuning pianos from early in the morning until late in the evening. At night, he worked at a loathsome job stuffing sausages in a local packing plant. Sarah’s cheeks flushed with shame as she remembered the coarsening effect this job had had on her father’s language. Sometimes he would burst out: “S– S– S–,” as though her were stuttering obscenities. Then, too, because of her father’s work, there was the aroma of Stravinsky and the stockyard about him. It was an odor that pervaded the home. She remembered how it had embarrassed her to introduce Mom and Dad to her friends: very often her parents fell asleep during the introductions.
Of course, there had been the gnawing hunger, the sleepless nights full of oatmeal and gaseous discharges. Occasionally. there had been a lone apple, but mostly she just drove the birds from the bird feeder. Better them lying about in the snow than her.
Naturally, Sarah had also been persecuted for coming from the wrong side of the tracks.