He came to distrust the nurses as he distrusted the aunts. The tall one who wrote the checks for him — ‘Miss Carl’ — was a lawyer still though she must have been in her seventies. She came and went from her offices on Carondelet Street in a taxicab because she could no longer climb up on the high wooden step of the St Charles car. For fifty years, she had told him once when he had met her at the gate, she had ridden the St Charles car. ‘Oh, yes,’ the nurse said one afternoon as she was brushing Deirdre’s hair very slowly, very gently. ‘Miss Carl’s the smart one. Works for Judge Fleming. One of the first women ever to graduate from the Loyola School of Law. She was seventeen years old when she went to Loyola. Her father was old Judge McIntyre, and she was ever so proud of him.’ Miss Carl never spoke to the patient, not that the doctor had ever seen. It was the portly one, ‘Miss Nancy,’ who was mean to her, or so the doctor thought. 7
‘They say Miss Nancy never had much chance for an education,’ the nurse gossiped. ‘Always home taking care of the others. There used to be old Miss Belle here too.’ There was something sullen and almost common about Miss Nancy. Dumpy, neglected, always wearing her apron yet speaking to the nurse in that patronizing artificial voice. Miss Nancy had a faint sneer on her lips when she looked at Deirdre. And then there was ‘Miss Millie,’ the eldest of them all, who was actually some sort of cousin - a classic in old lady black silk and string shoes. She came and went, never without her worn gloves and her small black straw hat with its veil. She had a cheery smile for the doctor, and a kiss for Deirdre. ‘That’s my poor dear sweetheart,’ she would say in a tremulous voice. One afternoon, he had come upon Miss Millie standing on the broken flags by the pool. ‘Nowhere to begin anymore, Doctor,’ she had said sadly. It was not his place to challenge her, yet something quickened in him to hear this tragedy acknowledged. ‘And how Stella loved to swim here,’ the old woman said. ‘It was Stella who built it, Stella who had so many plans and dreams. Stella put in the elevator, you know. That’s just the sort of thing that Stella would do. Stella gave such parties. Why, I remember hundreds in the house, tables over the whole lawn, and the bands that would play. You’re too young, Doctor, to remember that lively music. Stella had those draperies made in the double parlor, and now they’re too old to be cleaned anymore. That’s what they said. They’d fall apart if we tried to clean them now. And it was Stella who had paths of flagstones laid here, all along the pool. You see, like the old flags in the front and along the side…’ She broke off, pointing down the long side of the house at the distant patio so crowded by weeds. It was as if she couldn’t speak anymore. Slowly she looked up at the high attic window.
- Fall '08
- History, Physician, Doctor Who, Miss Deirdre