Higg’s Silence

13 10 2010

The Higg’s Silence


“I took the package out of my purse and when I tried to open the lid of the pills… oops! The top flipped off and the pills flew into the toilet. My heart fluttered. I swear it. Like a butterfly in your fingers. Then I knelt down and wept for an hour. God, this is so impossible. Why do I confess all of this to you? But like the old song says, love will bloom in that starlit hour with you. Have you ever waited in a train station?”

Mrs. Newton felt like panting. Like a dog. He probably thinks that I’m lying. One little scratch behind the ear. That wouldn’t look too odd. I wish I could have heard the Beatles at Albert Hall.

Mr. Edwards stared across the counter  at the attractive blond. He’d seen junkies before. But never so immaculately dressed. He couldn’t help but wonder if he’d fed his gold fish that morning. It was always a problem. Overfeed them and they turned belly up. Don’t feed them and they ate each other. And ended up. Belly up. And then there was that gas bill.

Before Mr. Edwards could respond, Mrs. Newton continued.

“If I was a writer. Would have spilt ink all over the veranda. If a hunter. Fire across the savannah.  It is so romantic waiting for a lover. Who does not arrive. And all those touching sentiments betray you. Sometimes I feel like a Hallmark card. Loose ends. What to do next. That is how I felt. Like a klutz. Is that spelled with a ‘c’ or a …”

Mr. Edwards smiled. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say. He waited. She might not be finished. But Mrs. Newton had nothing else to say. So she smiled. And this smiling back and forth went on for some time. Like a tennis match. Without a ball.

Why are you lying? And if not lying, why not simply go see your doctor? Mr. Edwards thought.

He knows I’m lying. Body language. Smells like chemical equations. I can smell his reprimands. Mrs. Newton thought. Then her mind went blank. And her thoughts banged around in her head. Like a blind man. In a room. Without doors.

“They flipped out of the package?” Mr. Edwards repeated.

The wrong question to ask. She probably thinks. That I think. She’s lying.

“Yes,” the blond said. “They just flipped out of my hands. Right into the toilet water. Well there’s no way I could fish them out. Who would want to place one of those pills… It goes without saying.”

Mr. Edwards smiled. “It goes without saying.”

“Did you know,” Mrs. Newton asked, “that in 1956 Nat King Cole was beaten while performing on stage in a small city in the South?”

Mrs. Newton was chocked full of information like this. She did not know where they came from. Or why. Or what any of it was worth? But it always seemed to catch people off guard.

While Mr. Edwards considered Mrs. Newton’s story about Nat King Cole she continued to talk.

“And I just got the prescription the other day. Something to settle my nerves. Nerves are such funny things. They jangle around in your head. And affect your juggling. Simple things. Like mirrors. And hairbrushes. And in this especially unfortunate situation, my pills. I know that if I had been myself I would never have dropped them. But then… well it goes without saying.”

Mr. Edwards continued to smile. Though he could feel a headache coming on.

“Didn’t anyone help Nat King Cole?”

The blonde smiled back at him.

“Excuse me?” she said.

“The story,” Mr. Edwards responded, “about Nat King Cole.”

Mr. Edwards smiled. As did Mrs. Newton. She stared back at Mr. Edwards waiting as did Mr. Edwards. Another bout. The Higg’s silence.

Is he trying to find out which one of us will break first?

No one spoke. Finally the pharmacist could take it no longer.

“Do you have the package with you?”

Mrs. Newton fished into her purse and pulled out the empty pill container addressed to Mrs. Newton. It was a prescription that Mr. Edwards himself had issued. But he could not remember doing so. He couldn’t remember much of anything so preoccupied was his mind with the beating of Nat King Cole. How come I never heard that story before?

“Mrs. Newton?” Mr. Edwards asked, looking up from the empty pill tube.

“Mary Newton.” The blond smiled. “Or Tess if you wish. Friends call me Tess. My husband calls me Mary. The maid calls me Miss.  My husband is the manager of the bank in the plaza. He is a very powerful man. A man who can be beneficial to anyone in business. His name isn’t important. For now.”

“Yes.” Mr. Edwards nodded. “I have met your husband on a couple of occasions. Business meetings. What would you have us do?”

Mary Newton brushed the hair from her eyes as she sighed. A cute little sigh that she most often performed with one hand on her hip.

“I would like you to replace the pills. If you would. Please.”

Mr. Edwards keyed in Mrs. Newton’s name into the computer. He asked her for her address. She complied. He licked his lips. It was a habit he had acquired any time he had to pass on bad news.

“We can’t replace your pills, Mrs. Newton.”

“You can’t… I don’t understand.” Her eyes grew large. As if that would improve her hearing.

“We can’t renew your prescription. There was nothing on the previous prescription to allow that. There were no repeats.”

Mrs. Newton stared at the pharmacist. She could not believe what she was hearing.

“I don’t understand,” she said. “I haven’t taken any of the pills. It’s as if I’d never even bought them. Now don’t go correcting me. There on my husband’s medical plan.”

“It’ s quite explicit. The prescription does not cover refills.”

“But, I haven’t taken any of the pills. It’s not a refill.” Mrs. Newton raised her eyebrows ever so slightly. Blood began to be sopped up by her face. She felt one ear. It was burning hot.

“If you would like, Mrs. Newton, we could phone your doctor and ask him if he would allow you to renew the prescription.”

“And you’ll tell him what happened to the pills?”

“We’ll relay your story.”

Mrs. Newton took a deep breath.

“It isn’t a story. It’s the truth.”

The pharmacist smiled. “I’m sure it is, mam, but we have no way of confirming that. I’m sure that your doctor, who knows you better that we do, will renew your prescription.”

“I’m sure he would but… he’s gone on holiday.”

Mr. Edwards looked at Mrs. Newton and shrugged.

“What does that mean?”


“The shrug.”

“There’s nothing that we can do then.”

Mrs. Newton took a deep breath. She was growing increasingly impatient.

“Is there something you could suggest?”

Mr. Edwards thought for a moment.

“There is a doctor on duty in the clinic attached to the drug store. He might be able to help you.”

Mrs. Newton smiled with relief.

“Oh,” Mr. Edwards said. “I’m sorry. I forgot. It’s six o’clock.”

Mrs. Newton looked at the pharmacist.

“It’s six o’clock?”

“He’s gone home,” the pharmacist explained. “At least he has left.”

Mrs. Newton stared at the pharmacist for some time. She wanted to remember his face. Then she turned and walked sharply away from the counter and down the aisle toward the exit. Across the parking lot .Stepped into her car. Turned on the ignition. Her automobile was conveniently pointed. Directly at the drug store.