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The Lives and Times of Marjorie Walker: A Short Story


It was a dull, gray morning when Marjorie Walker drove into the parking lot of North Ridge Women's Center and parked her car. She saw that the clinic manager was already there, her red BMW parked in the employee section of the parking lot. The sky was overcast, and it was cold, and she felt a little bit thankful for that, because it meant that fewer protesters would show up at the clinic.

They had their regulars, most of whom stayed pretty quiet, only holding signs with slogans such as "Let Your Baby Live" and "We Can Help You" with a few more inflammatory "Abortion Is Murder" placards thrown in for good measure. They usually kept their distance from the women coming in and only occasionally approached one to offer literature. When the women turned them down, which almost always happened, they walked away with good grace. There were a couple of protesters, however, who crossed the line into outright harassment. There was a woman who showed up in wrinkled clothes, looking disheveled and unbalanced as she wheeled her baby carriage full of bloody dolls back and forth in front of the clinic. There was a man who occasionally showed up dressed as the Grim Reaper. And every now and then a group of people from out of town descended on the clinic with bloody pictures of aborted fetuses. By now Marjorie knew what fetuses looked like before and after abortion, and the pictures held no shock value for her. But they upset the women who were coming in for their abortions, women who were already nervous and troubled enough without having horrific pictures shoved in their faces. She was glad that those particular protesters hadn't shown up in a while and hoped they would not put in an appearance today.

She walked into the clinic and nodded hello to Michelle Gaines, her supervisor.

"So what's the schedule like today?" she asked.

"Pretty typical. Twenty procedures scheduled for today, all in the first trimester except for two. We've got one 14-weeker and one at 16 weeks. Dr. Donovan's on his way. He got held up in traffic but he should be here in plenty of time. How was your weekend?"

"It was fine. I finally met Bill's parents. His father is nice. His mother seems a little strange. She's really into crystals and auras and things like that. She couldn't stop talking about a psychic she was visiting. I think Bill was a bit embarrassed, but I told him that my family is just as odd."

"Especially that insane uncle of yours," Michelle said with a smile.

Marjorie groaned. "Don't even remind me of him. I told you about the Christmas gift he gave me, right?"

Michelle laughed. "That's right. He's having you frozen. That cryo -- cryo -- what is it?"

"Cryogenics," said Marjorie with a smile. "According to him, it's the science of the future. He's arranged to have the entire family cryogenically frozen after we die and stored for two hundred years in a containment facility in Philadelphia. I swear, he's really gone off the deep end. When I think about how much money he must have spent on this ridiculous idea of his, I can't believe it. He probably could've bought me a top-of-the-line home entertainment system or diamond ring with the money he spent. I'll tell you one thing about Christmas around my house, Michelle: it's not boring."

The door opened, and two of her coworkers came in, Crystal Williams and Patricia Swank, followed by two of the nurses and Dr. Donovan, who was wearing a friendly smile and a button-down shirt which unsuccessfully tried to hide a bulletproof vest. Marjorie smiled back in greeting, then sobered, as she always did, as she looked down at the vest the doctor was wearing. She had to remind herself, all the time, that there was real danger here, that there was always the possibility that one of the protesters would turn violent, or that a stranger, someone they'd never seen before, would try to hurt her or one of the others. Fortunately, there had never been any actual violence or threats that she was aware of, other than some yelling and name-calling from the more rowdy protesters. The doctor poured himself a cup of coffee and offered her one.

"Traffic was awful," he said. "There was an accident on the turnpike, and cars were backed up for a mile. It's a good thing I left early. So no one showed up yet?"

"Not yet," Marjorie said. "But they should be coming in any minute."

"No protesters so far," said Patricia with a smile. "Maybe the cold will keep them away."

"We can only hope," said Marjorie.

Almost on cue, a car pulled up and parked in the patient parking lot. A pale, frightened-looking teenager and an older woman who may have been her mother headed towards the clinic. The receptionist handed the girl some paperwork and Marjorie hurried into the procedure room to prepare the instruments. Things soon fell into the rhythm of an ordinary day. Women came in, young girls with their mothers and sometimes their fathers, slightly older women with their boyfriends or husbands, and sometimes two women came in together, one there to support the other.

Everything was running along smoothly when Michelle nodded towards the window and said, "Looks like one of them did show up."

Marjorie looked out the window and saw a young woman standing there with a small sign that read "Choose Life." She recognized the girl as one of the regular protesters, but had never seen her there alone before.

"Well," Marjorie said with a shrug. "She's one of the regular ones. I don't think she'll give us too much trouble."