MORNING COFFEE 28 - plum reading

By Susan Weber

We’re waiting to be called in to Infusion for red cells and platelets. Like our cohorts slumped in chairs and over cell phones, we’re inured to the monotony of chronic care. A frail woman in a volunteer vest and velcroed neck brace wheels a steel cart over to our love seat and asks if we’re interested in ice cream. Her thinning hair is swooped into swirls that fall around the crinkled, patchy skin of a face that, when it smiles, telegraphs a whole lot more than kindness. Wit, I think, and a good amount of sheer determination. We choose the ice cream sandwiches which she says seem to be a favorite. As we peel back wrappers and bite into the melting sweetness, she asks what I’m reading. I hold the book up to figure out which of the series I’m on and she lights up even more. “Evanovich!” she says. “I love her!”

I’ve been grazing my way through Janet Evanovich’s primo mysteries unimpeded by weightier fare. When the woman in a purple parka at a library talk introduced us, it felt like meeting someone’s favorite sister or cherished friend. Of course I’d love her too, was the subtext. What woman wouldn’t feel drawn to the imperfect, impetuous Stephanie Plum of Trenton, New Jersey and her juicy entanglements with pushy family, hot men, and jelly donuts caked in powdered sugar?

Just yesterday an RN named Miranda asked me which Plum adventure I’m on now. Miranda’s way ahead of me—twenty two or three to my thirteen. And though we laugh and say it’s mindless escapism, there’s a strong camaraderie established around the inimitable Stephanie Plum. Miranda likes how her own life seems manageable compared to the non-stop eruptions Evanovich crams into her stories. That’s saying a lot; oncology nurses are experts at mitigating chaos.

When we finally get called to the back this morning, a veteran nurse hangs platelets and the ice-cream-lady-Evanovich-fan stops by to tell her story, veiny hand resting on her soft foam brace. Soon after she lost her husband last fall, she had the bones of her cervix surgically fused. It’s good to be back, she adds. The fortitude flickers minutely, but it never leaves her face. I wonder how much Evanovich it took to pull her through.

Photo by Soerfm CC BY-SA 3.0