Very weak, he thought, letting go of the wrist gently, almost afraid he would break it, so fragile was it. Over the years, he had treated many of the emaciated homeless brought in.
A croaky whisper, like leaves crunching underfoot. The patient. Dr. Kierney bent to listen.
"The sun will warm my fingers. Ten cents in the till. Little boy tossed me a dime. I'm cold. At least I'm not hungry anymore...." Her words blurred as she drifted in and out of consciousness.
Dr. Kierney touched her wrinkled cheek, paper thin against the bony contours. Despite the blood transfusions and the intravenous feeding, he doubted she would last the night. She was beyond the hunger contractions. The valves to her heart were worn out. Her body had accepted defeat. Soon her heart would stop.
The room was stuffy. Outside Spring was in the throes of resurrection. Dr. Kierney opened a window. It was two in the afternoon and most of the visitors' parking spaces were filled.
Little boy tossed me a dime, she had said. Not even enough for a cup of coffee. Hardly enough for a clump of parsley, Dr. Kierney mused. But thirty years ago, a dime had changed his life.
It had been the same time of year, that morning thirty years ago. Dr. Kierney was ten years old. His parents originally from a small Irish town, had just applied for U.S. citizenship. His father labored as a presser in a garment factory and his mother supervised a neighborhood launderette.
"Your father brought home some chicken from the market. I'll make some soup tonight. But we need some parsley." Young Tom Kierney's mom opened her change purse that she kept safety-pinned to her skirt's waistband, took out a dime and handed it to her son as if she were handing him a small diamond. "Hurry now, Tommy. Just ten cents worth of parsley."