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MUSED Literary Magazine.

The Hitchhiker

Ruth Z. Deming

For the fourth year in a row, Dr. Gina Pezzi was named by Philadelphia Magazine as Best Endocronologist in Philadelphia. She was head of a large “endo” practice in the suburb of Willow Grove, whose gerrymandered shape looked like a dog chasing a bone.

A striking individual, everything about her was large. She boasted large natural silver curls, large thighs ensconced in a hippie-like purple skirt, and eyeglasses that perched on the edge of her nose. Her eyebrows were a dark brown, canoe-shaped.

Patients clamored to see her. They wrote glowing reviews, most of them anyway, on Facebook. “Dr. Gina is like a warm teddy bear.” “Even though my A1C reports are too high, she tells me, ‘We’ll work on them and they’ll get better.’” Or, “Dr. Gina told me to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Gina thought of her tiny, windowless office, as her home away from home, which it was of course. Her second husband, Artie, knew to expect her at their large home with turrets in Elkins Park, at precisely 7 pm, so they could spend their evenings together.

One night she did not come home. Artie was reading in the den and told himself, “There’s nothing to worry about, five or ten minutes doesn’t mean a thing.”

He waited until the morning and then dialed 9-1-1.

Gina had left her office at the usual time of five p.m. Walking to her car, she began singing Bizet’s Carmen. She fancied a resemblance between herself and her favorite diva, the Greek Maria Callas, with her long Mediterranean nose.

“Amour est un oiseau rebelle. Que nul ne peur apprivoiser. Et c’est bien en vain qu’on l’appelle. S’il liu convient de refuser.”

Once she had buckled herself in the car, she drove slowly out of the compound, which zigzagged all around and then onto the main highway.

About a quarter of a mile down Welsh Road, she saw a young woman hitchhiking. Who would be foolish enough to pick up a hitchhiker?

This was not the 1970s when hitchhiking was all the rage and many people had no compunction about picking up young men or women. She remembered the seventies. The back to nature movement. “Eat carob instead of chocolate.” Everyone had tried it and found it couldn’t compare to the real thing. This was the era of The Whole Earth Catalog. Gina saved the 1971 issue. Steward Brand must be nearly 80 now, once married to a woman, and now to a man. So hip, she thought.

She’d had dreams about women, but never was interested in a woman’s flesh except to take their blood pressure, measure their heart with an “excuse me, this will be cold” stethoscope, and “Say, ah, and stick out your tongue.”

As she drove down Welsh Road she remembered, “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” the mantra of The Whole Earth Catalog. And Steve Jobs, how she grieved when he died, had said those very words at the commencement speech at Stanford University.

That did it. She pulled her white Volvo station wagon over to the side of the road, got out of the car, and motioned for the girl to come aboard.

The girl trotted along the road, waving. She opened the front door, looked around the car and shimmied inside. Then she clicked on her seat belt.

“Where are you going, dear?” asked Gina.

The girl cleared her throat. She had a big straw pocketbook which she shoved onto her lap.

She drew out a pistol and pointed it at Gina.

“Do you see this, miss? It’s a gun and I aim to use it if you don’t follow my instructions, see?”

A million thoughts swarmed through Gina’s head. She almost drove past the girl but took pity on her. Never pity anyone. They don’t deserve it. What would Artie, her husband think.

“Diabetes doc found dead on the road.”

The girl took out a piece of paper from her pocketbook and smoothed it over her lap.

“1226 Brooks Lane, Abington. That’s where we’s going. Ya hear me?”

“Yes,” said Gina, and reached for her GPS to guide them.

The girl slapped her hand with the gun.

Gina forced herself to keep quiet and told her about the GPS.

“My name is Gina, what’s yours?”

“Lizzie Borden,” answered the girl.

Gina tried to look at the so-called Lizzie. It was important to get a description of her. Long blonde hair, unwashed for some time, blue eyes.

“Stop looking at me or I’ll pop you one.”

It was twilight when they reached the house.

Clearly Lizzie had no idea they were there.

“We’re here,” said Gina.

The house was on a street of big houses. Most were made of stone, as this one was. It had an empty lot beside it. Blue trash cans were on the street.

“We’re going in,” said Lizzie. “You first.”

Gina got out of the car and walked up the brick sidewalk to the house.

She tried the door.

“It’s locked,” she said.

“It’s never locked, bitch, when you gotta gun.”

She shot the lock off the front door and walked in.

The family was frozen in motion at the dinner table in the next room. To Gina, it looked like a realistic painting by John Singer Sergeant.

Lizzie held her pistol high, walked to the table, and said, “I’m here for retribution.”

With both hands, she aimed and shot through the glass armoire. Coffee cups, old pieces of china, ceramic models of bird baths and Halloween pumpkins, shattered and tumbled noisily to the floor.

An elderly man in tie and suitcoat stood up.

“Who the hell are you and how dare you enter our house?”

“Figures you don’t remember me, Old Man.”

Now a young woman wearing a dark green blouse and about to pass a bowl of corn muffins stood up.

“Of course I remember you. You´re that Sue. Sue Evans.”

Sue stared at her.

“You were engaged to our son, Adam. Or thought you were, anyway. You’re loco in the head.”

“You calling me loco?" said Sue. “I’ll show you how loco I am.”

She lifted up her pistol and began firing indiscriminately.

Few people know how hard it is to actually hit someone. The target may move, the shooter’s hand shakes. “Grazing” the body is what often takes place.

Since Gina was behind the mad woman, she pushed the little thing across the dining room table as hard as she could. Her head fell in the platter of turkey with gravy. She smooshed her down while awaiting the others to wrest away the gun.

The old man in the suit coat and the woman in the green blouse each held an arm. “Stop fussing,” said the old man, “or we’ll shoot you in in the groin.”

Soon came the sound of the wailing of the ambulance and a bevy of cop cars.

Doctor Gina sat herself down on an overstuffed chair in the living room and breathed.

In and out. In and out. Just as she told her patients to do if they were panicking over something.

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

“YOU stay hungry and foolish, Stewart Brand,” she said aloud.

She helped herself to a slice of corn bread.

Maybe she and Artie would take a little vacation. This was NOT all in a day´s work, she thought.

“Hate to trouble you,” she said. “But you got any hot coffee?”