Monday, December 28, 2015

Endless Supply of Characters

            After thirty-five years of working as a nurse, I have obtained a nearly endless supply of characters and plots for stories. I write fiction about a retired homicide detective from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but none of his dealings come close to the memories that have accumulated inside my head over those years on the job. The thing that aimed my thoughts back to those memories is a necktie.
            It was given to me by a fellow worker named Nancy. Nancy manned the switchboard. She was a buxomly blonde, pleasant and well-spoken. The switchboard was centrally located and was in an area that was nearly devoid of phones. It was easier for me to answer calls in the switchboard itself than for me to move to another area to find a phone. I became friends with all of the operators, but this memory and the tie was from Nancy.
            When I entered the “communications room” one evening, I mentioned that the blouse that she was wearing was nice. It was black with splotches of colors in a deep yellow, a dark green and violet. The darkness of it enhanced the blondeness of her coif. When I complimented the blouse, she replied, “This old thing. I hate it.”
            I said, “It looks very nice on you.”
            Again she snarled, “I’m going home and throw it away.”
            “Why? It’s a pretty blouse.”
            “”If you think it is so pretty, I’ll go home, wash it and you can give it to your wife,” she replied.
            I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere arguing, so I made the call and Shot as I departed, “I still think it’s a nice blouse,” and hurried away.
            It was Christmas and I always bought a small gift for the different operators, especially once I knew their likes. I can’t remember what I got Nancy that year, but when I came into the switchboard, she scooted her chair back and pulled out a long thin box, covered in bright wrapping paper and a large bow.
            “”Here, this is for you,” she said. Her face was transformed by a sly smile. She watched, the smirk growing larger as she watched me unwrap it. It was a tie made out of the material of that blouse. As a nursing supervisor, I wore a tie for the many occasions. The patients, families, and staff seemed to like it and I have nearly one hundred ties still in my arsenal.
            When I wore it for the first time and Nancy saw it, she swore and said, “It makes a nicer tie than it did as that old blouse.”
            Nancy is dead now and I only pull that old blouse tie out once a year to wear it in memory of her and the story. I usually wear it on New Year’s Eve. I wore it to church yesterday, to celebrate the upcoming New Year. That was for you, Nancy.

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