Marie Smysor Watson
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
There’s something familiar about her, the woman at the door, but I’m not sure if it’s in a good way or a bad way. I cannot remember.
She is old, but not old-old. Her red-blonde hair is grizzled at the temples, her bare arms tan, but saggy. She holds a package. It is wrapped in something shiny.
I open the big door, but keep the screen door locked. It cuts her figure into a million tiny squares.
“It’s Minnie, remember? I brought you supper.” She holds out the shiny thing.
“Who are you? What do you want?” The not old-old woman sighs.
“It’s Minnie, Claire.” She says this slowly, her hand to her chest, as if I am a simple child. “I’m your sister. I bring you supper every evening.”
“I don’t have a sister.” I remember that. I think.
“Yes, yes you do. Check your fridge, please. My picture should be there, on The List.”
I glance at the refrigerator on the left. There’s the list she’s referring to, SAFE PEOPLE in bold, black letters at the top, with six pictures underneath it. I glance back at her. She still holds that thing in her hands. The shiny stuff glitters, even in the shade of the rickety porch.
I look closer at the list. One of the pictures looks a bit like the woman. But the picture woman is younger than the real woman, this Minnie woman, in front of me, and also, she’s smiling in the picture, which makes it even harder to determine if they are indeed one and the same.
“I don’t think so.” Straightening my back, I do my best to fill up the doorway. I’m a good bit taller than her. “That’s not you.”
“It is me,” the Minnie woman insists, her voice dropping in pitch.
“Nope.” I shake my head. “Not you.”
“Damn it, Claire. Let me in.” The woman jiggles the door handle. “Your food is getting cold.”
“No.” I look at the list again, realizing that this Minnie woman (if that’s even her real name) is the only woman on it. The other five are men, all unsmiling, all wearing white coats.
“What the –” and then this woman at the door, the one pretending to be my sister, sprays me in the face with something. The smell is sharp, but not unpleasant, like something I might know if only I could remember.
The woman named Minnie unlocks the screen door with a key that she keeps attached to her wrist with a cord. For not the first time, she’s thankful that screen doors universally swing out; otherwise Claire’s limp body would be blocking her entrance.
She sets the plate on the table, unwrapping the aluminum foil. There, nestled between the mashed potatoes and the roast beef (served dry, with no gravy because Claire hates gravy and we must, at all costs, keep Claire happy) is a hypodermic needle.
“Every fucking day,” she mutters. She crouches at Claire’s side, her knees popping.
Not really every day, but it does happen more often than she would like. She is getting too old for this shit. She never signed up for this; it simply landed on her doorstep, a directive from above. It’s what Claire needs to improve, to function more effectively (the White Doctors have said this verbatim). But it’s all horseshit. She’s being lied to, and she knows it.
She sighs again, loudly this time, expelling a powerful gust of air (like the tornado that she unwittingly drove through when she was seventeen and getting ready to leave home, just before all of the Unpleasantness began). She injects Claire with the needle, jabbing her unkindly.
Honestly, Minnie reasons, she won’t feel it anyway and even if she does, she certainly won’t remember it tomorrow by suppertime.