Chasing The Enemy
Anne Marie Andrus
June 17, 1970
On the Eve of Graduation…
Thunderclouds raced east, leaving the Augusta air sparkling and ready for the biggest weekend of the year. Clear horizons sparked the campus bustle back to life as the noise of saws and hammers bounced off stately columns and rang past ancient oaks.
In a cluttered dormitory room a mile away, Stori shoved moving boxes around enough to find the corner of a mirror to check the hemline of her brightly flowered dress. “Stellar.”
“Too short.” A voice squawked from the corner.
Stori yanked the fabric lower. “It’s fine.”
“Nope, nope. Too short.”
“Jett, zip your beak.” Stori waved him off. “Tomorrow will be all high heels and graduation gowns, but tonight is the senior class party.”
“Shush, the storms are over.” She rummaged through a pile of paperwork on the nightstand. “I hope.”
“Need coffee.” Jett flapped his bright blue wings. “Storytime!”
“I have to deliver this stuff to the office before they close. Are you going to be quiet?”
“No, hell, no.”
Stori’s shoulders slumped. “Then get in the cage.” She opened a miniature bamboo door. “Now, bird.”
Stori held papers in her teeth and hauled Jett’s bulky cage to the car.
“I’m in jail.”
“You deserve it.” She wrestled the antique into the passenger seat and climbed in next to it. Ten minutes of majestic curves on gravels roads brought them to a rolling stop under the shade of a massive tree. “I wish you wouldn’t yell bonjour at every person you see.”
“Perfect manners.” Jett preened himself in the side view mirror. “Junky car.”
“It was a gift from my uncle.”
“Stuffy in here.”
“Quit complaining.” Stori gathered up her documents and jumped out. “I’ll be right back.”
“You little demon.” Stori pointed at Jett’s beak. “Who taught you to say that? Never mind.” She crossed her arms. “I’ll take it up with Uncle Steven tomorrow night. Why couldn’t he teach you to sing like all the other birds?”
“Parakeet, pretty please.” Jett leaned back and screeched. “Ha, ha!”
Stori walked backward and held up two fingers in the shape of a V.
“No peace. Ha, ha!”
She spun, drew a cleansing breath and smoothed her skirt before stepping into the oldest building on campus.
The receptionist peered over her glasses and broke into a wide grin. “Miss Stori, is your ear-piercing bird in the parking lot?”
“Unfortunately,” She rubbed her forehead. “That’s Jett, howling like he’s escaped from an asylum.”
“With the door shut, I almost can’t hear him and I do believe congratulations are in order. I always knew you’d graduate…but at the top of your class?”
“Sister Gilda, four years ago, you didn’t think I’d last a week.”
“Well, you were just so young even for a legacy student, but I didn’t mean…”
“No, no.” Stori waved both hands in front of her face. “You were right. I was so young, wasn’t I?”
“We all were, once upon a time.” Gilda sighed and pointed to the papers. “Are those for me?”
“My name change.” Stori tried to flatten the documents and gave up. “All legal and finalized.”
“And you’re positive about giving up your father’s name?”
“I am. His side of the family is in ashes…he started the fire.” Stori swiped a tear with the back of her hand. “But my mother and grandfather will be at the ceremony. They’re both Aldens and they’ll be thrilled, so I want to make sure it’s correct—”
“Don’t you worry, dear. Tomorrow night, the Medical College of Georgia’s president will announce you as Doctor Stori B Alden.”
“And then I walk across the stage?”
“That’s how it works, dear. Give me a moment to put this in order.”
Stori pressed her trembling hands into her skirt and wandered to the soaring wall of pictures. She read the name of each honored alumni, from the most recent years on lowest row, all the way to the top. She tipped her head back to read the plaque below the highest centered photograph and waved at a familiar face in the ornate silver frame.
“Wish I’d had the chance to meet him.”
Stori jumped and grabbed her chest. “I’m sorry, my nerves.”
“I’ll say.” Gilda shook her head and pointed to the picture. “I just meant, a very distinguished gentleman.”
“He’s my legacy connection here. The B in my name is in his honor.”
“Wait.” Gilda craned her neck to look in Stori’s face. “You’re related to him…the legendary battlefield surgeon?”
Stori nodded. “Raimond Baniterre.”
“Honestly, I don’t say this often. Or ever.” Gilda flopped on a bench in front of the pictures. “You’ve knocked me off my feet.”
Stori settled down next to her. “I’ve never said it out loud.”
“The secret is safe with me.” Gilda tapped her chin. “The residency you accepted? That’s the busiest Emergency Room in the country.”
“It’s New Orleans, so…probably destiny. This time next week, I’ll be in St. Louis Cathedral, lighting candles for the all the souls we’ve lost.”
“That’s your dream job…Emergency Medicine?”
“I’ll tell you another secret. My true passion has become defeating Alzheimer’s Disease. I won’t be a bystander while an invisible monster steals life and dignity from my patients.”
“Chasing the cruelest enemy.” Gilda smiled and stared at Dr. Banitierre’s picture. “You’ll make him and all of us proud.”
Minutes passed in heavy silence until Jett’s distant voice broke the trance.
“I hear bonjour and coffee.” Gilda covered her mouth to hide a laugh. “What else is he saying?”
“Storytime.” Stori tossed her hands up. “What am I going to do with that fool during graduation?”
“Drop him off in my office. He’ll be safe and far enough away that nobody will hear him—much.”
“Thank you, for everything.”
“Give the poor bird credit though, he’s got a stroke of genius.” Gilda squeezed her hand. “It’s Stori time.”
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