A CONVERSATION AND A WALK TO TOWN
“Dr. Bear!” Phoebe called out in surprise.
“You can call me Geraldine,” said the new visitor with a smile. “I’m your next door neighbor now… I do hope I’m not interrupting.”
“Not at all,” returned Penny. “Have a little breakfast and it will be time for church.”Phoebe’s mind was filled with memories of being cared for by Dr. Bear following her various soccer injuries. In a high school game she’d made a desperate diving save into a shooting opponent, and caught a knee on her temple. Dr. Bear’s kind but penetrating eyes had been so reassuring as she awoke groggy and sick from the blow to her head. Phoebe often wished she’d had Dr. Bear attend to her knee. But the injury had needed surgery, and she’d been referred to a specialist at the hospital near the college.
“Well…” Geraldine’s soft and low voice broke in on Phoebe’s thoughts, “speaking as a friend and a doctor, how’s your knee doing?”
“Mmm, that’s been hard. I’m on a sort of mandatory rest cure. No sports for months, exercises, knee brace…”
“Sounds like good advice to me,” said Geraldine. “And we’re so glad to see you back in Middletown! When we heard you were coming, we planned a welcome home party, right here in the backyard.”
“It’s coming up this Friday,” added Penny. “Pretend it’s a surprise.”
“Oh… I don’t know.” Phoebe hesitated. “It’s just that I haven’t seen any of my friends in so long.”
Geraldine put her arm around Phoebe’s shoulders. “If it’s not the right thing, we’ll call it off. We’re just glad to see you.”
“If you really want to. Just something small.”
“We’ve been worried about you,” Penny said. “And we’ve been wanting to get everyone together. It’s already planned.”
Phoebe burst out laughing. “Okay, okay,” she agreed.
Soon it was time for Penny and Geraldine to leave for the Sunday morning service at the grand old church on Bridge Avenue. “You should come with us, dear,” said Geraldine. “Reverend Tuck’s finally going to present the church’s commitment on climate change. There’s going to be controversy, I’m sure, and he needs our support. I’m worried that he’s going out on a limb on this one.”
Phoebe had stopped attending services when she reached high school, but Reverend Tuck had spent a good deal of time at the toy store, so she knew him well. He was an intense man who had been a regular member of the Protectors of the Wood, the Middletown conservation group dedicated to buying and preserving forest and farmland. She was curious to see Reverend Tuck again, but she had other things on her mind.
She was thinking about her dream, and the promise she had made to ask for a job at the toy store. So as soon as Penny and Geraldine were gone, Phoebe limped upstairs and put on the neatest jeans and shirt she could find. In a moment she was her way up Main Street toward town.
What’s my strategy with Gilligan? she wondered. David Gilligan was the uncle of Phoebe’s ex-boyfriend George, and the current owner of the toy store. Thinking frantically, she hit Bridge Avenue and took a left, and walked up toward the toy store and the church.