Excerpt from THE GENTEEL POOR
Chapter 3 "Katherine"

It must have been a cold winter's night during those first few years in the Bay that Katherine came to this guilt ridden conclusion, because it was the unlikely weather that caused the motorist to notice her at the middle of the two mile bridge across the Bay. She must have made a dramatic sight. A beautiful woman in expensive clothes, be they ever so worn and outdated, moving with painful slowness against the drizzling wind and the unhappy goal she had in mind. She was weak with hunger, the cold damp weather made her arthritis almost crippling, and she was suffering from 'female' complications that only surgery could alleviate. She had convinced herself that, upon her death, her mother, sister, and wealthy friends would adopt and provide for her children far better than she could. She hated the cold and feared the thought of drowning, but could think of no other means of accomplishing her deed.

I suspect it was Mimi who watched over her granddaughter that night and slowed her steps as the motorist made his way into town to report the strange apparition he had seen on the bridge. Surely there was some guardian angel who insured that the motorist's tale fell upon Dr. Horton's ears, although the good doctor did not need any prompting to know who the girl on the bridge was. I only know that, years later, I was told the details of that night to reassure me of the humanity beneath that old man's gruff exterior.

Dr. Horton probably 'cussed' or, at the very least, 'fumed' as he tried to crank start his temperamental old Model T Ford coupe on that cold wet night. Neither was it easy to negotiate through the mists on that rickety old wooden bridge which shuddered each time its pilings were buffeted by high waves. Finally, the yellow glow of his headlamps barely revealed her shivering figure bent over the railing at the deep channel in the center of the bridge. The wind and water kept her from recognizing his barking voice until he repeated himself. "Katherine, get in this car, you silly girl."

Katherine shielded her eyes from the headlights, then turned back to the railing. "I'm all right, Dr. Horton. Please leave me alone."

The chatter of the Model T's engine played a staccato counterpoint to the wind and rain, and a brief silence took the edge off of Dr. Horton's voice. "Come here, child."

Katherine lifted a grimly smiling face to the wind as raindrops camouflaged and washed away her tears. "Really, it's okay. I know what I'm doing."

Katherine moved a few feet away and sat on the lower rung of the railing. Her arthritis had thwarted her earlier effort to climb the railing. Now, as she sat beneath it, she looked behind her and wondered if she could fall backwards through the railing.

Dr. Horton exited the car and moved toward her. "Katherine?" He stopped when she leaned slightly backward and stared at him threateningly. "So, you know what you're doing, eh, Katherine?"

She looked down into the water. "I know that what I'm doing is in everyone's best interest."

"In the best interest of your children to lose their mother, to be separated, to be raised by strangers?"

Katherine stared at the churning sea. "They'd be with their family and god parents."

Dr. Horton snorted. "An aging widow and an old maid who knows nothing about boys? And even if the infant's godparents do happen to be millionaires, ain't no amount of money gonna make that woman human, much less a mother. Dammit, Katherine, you're the best mother any child could hope to have, and you'd deny your talents to your own children?"

Katherine spoke in a whisper to the water below. "It's in everyone's best interest."

The old man hobbled a little closer. "What you say, girl?"

Katherine turned and angrily raised her voice. "I said it's in everyone's best interest."

Dr. Horton leaned over her. "Well, child, it's not in my best interest."

She wiped the rainwater from her forehead with the back of her hand and looked up at him perplexed. "Your best interest? What do you mean?"

He threw up his hands. "I mean, how long do you think I'd last down there trying to fish you outta that water?"

She frowned at him. "You couldn't. You've got a bum leg."

He leaned down again, resting his hands on his knees. "You don't think that would stop me. You know me well enough to know I'm just like you. We wouldn't give up on life, ours or anyone else's, until we had spent our last ounce of strength and our last breath trying. Would we?"

For a long time tears streamed down Katherine's face faster than the raindrops could wash them away, until finally Dr. Horton said, "Well, are we gonna jump or are we gonna go home, 'cause we couldn't get any wetter down there than we're getting up here?"

Katherine threw her arms around him so hard he almost lost his balance, but she held him too tight to let him fall. Then, wiping the tears from her eyes, she let him help her into the old Model T which was still chugging away.

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