Copyright 2006 by Terry Franklin Phillips, Sr.
As Zellers leaned on his broom, he noticed a black ’47 Chrysler pull up in front of his store. A woman soon emerged from the front seat on the passenger’s side. Zellers saw her stop to thank the driver, who waved and quickly drove on.
The woman was wearing a cloth coat, even though the Coca-Cola thermometer on the side of Zellers’s store read 78 degrees. She took a white hankie from her purse and dabbed the back of her neck
It soon became apparent she wasn’t from Victory or the surrounding area; and it was not her husband who drove her, if she had one. By all appearances, the woman had been stranded.
“Can I help you?” Zellers asked?
“I need some Victory,” she smiled and pointed to the store sign – “Victory General Store”.
The general store’s proprietor smiled in spite of himself.
“Well, this town is called Victory, but I don’t know how much Victory you will find here.”
There wasn’t enough Victory to help this stranger for at that moment she collapsed.
Frank ran down the stairs, holding onto his broom, only dropping it when he grabbed the woman. Even though he was middle-aged, he managed to catch her before she hit the ground.
Doc Stewart, Victory’s only resident physician, was gassing up his 1947 Cadillac when he saw the woman collapse.
He ran across the street, his little black bag in hand, and ran to the woman’s side where Frank kneeled, trying to figure out how to help her.
“Let’s get her inside,” the doctor said, helping Frank pull her to her feet.
Together, the two men managed to maneuver her into the store and to a little storeroom at the back of the store.
“Wouldn’t the bed upstairs be better than in here?” Frank asked.
“Out of the question,” the doctor answered. “Couldn’t get her up those narrow stairs.
“Get some blankets and a pillow. We’ll make a pallet for her here on the floor.”
Once again, Frank took steps as quickly as a much younger man. He grabbed his own bed coverings, not considering if they were fresh, and returned to the doctor’s side.
“What took you so long?” the doctor deadpanned.
He rolled the woman to one side and held her while Zellers made an untidy pallet next to her back. Then the two rolled her over onto the pallet and placed the pillow under her head.
Right then, a bell above the store’s front door rang and Frank knew he had a customer.
“The timing is terrible,” Frank said, getting to his feet.
“Go, on. Answer it,” the doctor said, continuing his examination.
A woman had entered the store. Not just any woman. Her name was Trowbridge and Frank recognized her as the Town Board president’s wife.
“Mr. Zellers,” she said, with an air meant to be aristocratic, but instead irritated Frank like fingernails on a chalkboard.
“I have come to do my weekly grocery shopping,” she enunciated clearly and evenly.
“Do you have a long list, Mrs. Trowbridge?”
She looked past him through the opening in the curtain that separated the storeroom from the rest of the store. He glanced, noticing the soles of Doc Stewart’s shoes.
“I appreciate your business, Mrs. Trowbridge. I really do, but I have some other business to attend to. So, could you pick out your own groceries today? Please?”
“Mr. Zellers, you know I always try to patronize Victory’s business community,” she said. “I could just as well drive to Crawfordsville to shop.”
“I know that and I --,” he interrupted himself, deciding not to argue. “Please give me your list.”
He turned away to take some cans from a shelf not six feet from where she was standing.
“Why can’t the old bat just drive the 15 miles to Crawfordsville and be done with it,” he muttered, forgetting she might overhear him.
“Excuse me, Mr. Zellers, I didn’t quite hear you.”
“Here are your canned goods,” he said, turning back to face her.
Then he went to the cooler, hoping she wouldn’t argue over which chops were fresher. He shooed away two flies that threatened to land on the meat while he weighed it and then wrapped it in white butcher paper.
She waited until he was ready to tape the package shut when she said, “Never mind, Mr. Zellers. I will call Wabash College and leave a message for my son. He can pick up a few things in the city!”
With that, she whirled on her heel and left the store.
Frank quickly unwrapped the meat, tossed it back into the cooler and threw the now greasy butcher paper into a waste can.
He hurried back to Dr. Stewart and their patient.
The Trowbridges’ son, Walter, was a freshman at Wabash College. To save money, he lived at home and usually drove each day to town with his father, who worked at one of the local factories.
Lately, Walter had been driving himself to school.
“Was that Barbara Trowbridge?’ Stewart asked.
Stewart didn’t reply for a few minutes. Then he said, “Wonder if the stores in town will extend them credit.”
“They will have a tough go of it since he was laid off,” Zellers said.
“They probably won’t be as lenient as you’ve been,” Stewart said, not looking at Frank.
“Well, everyone knows about his drinking problem,” Frank said. “You might as well say it, too.”
“Everybody but Mrs. Trowbridge.”
“Now, doc, I thought you were sworn to confidentiality.”
“Frank, I’ve lived here a long time, longer than you. The Trowbridge’s problems aren’t a secret. Just be careful. The last people who owned this store had trouble paying their own bills because they couldn’t collect money due them.
“I just don’t want to see another of Victory’s leading citizens get himself in trouble.”
“Thanks, Doc,” frank said grinning. “I like you, too. You’re a good friend.”
Doc was bent over the young woman’s face, shining a small flashlight into her eyes.
To ease the tension, Frank asked, “Doc, are you going to help her or kiss her?”
“Well, that question is more inappropriate than you might think.”
“Frank, at the risk of breaking the patient-doctor confidentiality you mentioned, I’ll tell you something and you must promise not to repeat it.”
“Do I want to hear this?”
“Frank, this woman is pregnant. That is one reason she passed out in front of your store today. And the baby is due and we – you and I – are going to deliver it.”
“What? No, no. Huh, uh,” Frank said, moving away from the two.
“Yes, we are,” the doctor said. “And what is more, she is not going to be able to help us. She is too weak. I am going to have to do a Caesarean Section.
“She probably has eaten properly for a long time.”
“Can’t we call an ambulance? This doesn’t seem like something to do on the floor of a general store!”
“No, “ the doctor said. “That won’t do. She needs attention right here and now. We don’t have time to call an ambulance or put her in the back of my Cadillac or even Mrs. Trowbridge’s pickup truck, for that matter.
“It’s you and me. You and I will be her doctor, her nurse, and everything else she and the baby needs. Right here, right now.”
“Wait,” Frank said, standing. “We need someone else and I know who.”
As he ran out of the storeroom, he heard the doctor say, “Zellers, get back here!”
The doctor didn’t leave his patient’s side.
“He’s probably calling Lucy,” Doc muttered.