Mindy usually rides her bike here each Tuesday, but she called me because of the rain, her raspy voice pleading so early in the morning, “Please take me in your car.”
She can’t be late. The clinic makes appointments without consultation — they just tell her when to be there and be there she must. It’s Probation but they call it something else, something nicer to tell your families. They set up shop on Main Street, blocks up from the river, the smell of saltwater following us inside, burrowing into the brown carpet, here to stay. As long as your nose works, you will never forget where you come from.
The secretary recognizes Mindy — calls her by name. But she doesn’t like the look of me. “She’s my ride,” Mindy protests when the secretary asks if I could wait outside.
We watch a nature program while the secretary keeps watch of us. I’m wrong about her title. She’s a secretary the way in-store detectives pretend to be shoppers. The phone rings and she mumbles into it. She tells the caller, “I’ve got people here.” But I’m not people, not like Mindy at least. She’s nobody. Just a reason to get up so early today.
The ceiling creaks with toddlers pouring into the daycare center. It was wise to rent the space above this one. Maybe if these kids spot enough Mindys coming and going they’ll be smarter. They won’t end up like the drunks I’ve seen passed out on the bar, Mindy rifling through their wallets while I watch the door.
“I’ll buy you lunch! And we can share a piece of peanut butter pie like the old days at the coffeeshop. Your teeth are so white!” Mindy rubs rain from her knees.
“Thanks, I gave up coffee.”
On the nature show a lioness has adopted a baby deer sort of creature, perhaps a gazelle. I cannot make out the narration because Mindy is overcompensating with her mouth, but I hear him in a British accent say of the lioness as she nuzzles the baby, “She is not ready to return to the others.”
It’s not a rocking chair Mindy sits in but one of its legs has been filed down somehow, so she grinds it to the floor, back and forth, as the children pound into the ceiling above, tumbling across like a herd on the move.