When I got to the hospital that morning, things seemed pretty quiet. Mona, the nurse who was usually in charge when I was there, stood behind the counter in the waiting room, sipping from a mug of coffee.
"Hi, Marshall," she said. "Grab a cup while you can."
I nodded and went through the swinging doors, down the short hall, and into the little pantry. As I poured myself a cup of coffee, I savored the smell. It was always fresh; too many people drank it for it to sit for very long.
And, sure enough, the pot was empty before my mug was half full. I sipped a bit, blowing on it to cool it off, and then I took the empty pot to the sink to wash it.
A moment later, Mona poked her head in. "I wondered what was taking you so long," she said. She stepped in and lit a cigarette, holding the swinging door open with her toe. Standing just inside the open door, she couldn't see out into the waiting room, but she could hear if anybody rang the bell on the counter.
"Have a good weekend?" she asked as I rinsed the pot again. This was a ritual with us, since I usually worked Monday mornings. It had been amusing at first, to pretend that "weekdays" and "weekends" were categories that meant very much in U-town. As I say, amusing at first, but I was getting a bit tired of it. However, I gamely played my part.
"Skiing," I said. "All weekend. Nice hard powder all day, and cute girls at the lodge at night. How about you?"
"Drugs and degenerate sex," she replied as I started to make a fresh pot of coffee.
"So, nice powder and cute girls for you, too."