Her suit was old-fashioned, a brown tweed that brought out her eyes. She sat in the waiting area with others – Vulcans, mostly, and mostly female. It was tough to tell if she was older than all of them, or younger. Who knew? Bridie Kelly certainly didn’t.
She glanced up at a display on the wall. May eighteenth of 2172, it said. She absently scratched her elbow. It’s 2172 and there’s still no good cure for a little eczema! She kept that thought to herself and tried to remain calm.
This job is important, she thought to herself. I have to get this job.
Vulcans filed in and out of a doorway. No one seemed to stay long on the other side of it.
You know nothing about this fellow, she mused. The advertisement had just said – elderly gentleman needs companion and nurse. Nothing more.
You are competent, she thought, hell, more than competent! You’ve been doing this sort of thing for years! This elderly gentleman would be a fool not to hire you!
A fairly young Vulcan male approached. “You must be Miss Kelly,” he said.
“I must,” she said.
“What you will see and hear is strictly confidential. Follow me.”
They went through a doorway, where there was an ancient Vulcan man. And he was – what? He was, it seemed, he was actually angry.
“I don’t need a nurse!”
“Ambassador …,” began the Vulcan who had led her in.
“I don’t!” The ambassador turned and looked her in the eye. “Name.”
“I beg your pardon?” she was a bit peeved, and her brogue was thicker than usual. Getting your Irish up, they call it.
“What the ambassador means is …”
“I know damned well what I mean! And I don’t need a goddamned nurse!”
She glared back at him. “Brigid Kelly. And who might you be?”
The Ambassador raised an eyebrow at the younger man. “Sharik?”
“You do not know Ambassador Soval?”
“I know of him,” Bridie said, “but I ain’t never seen him. Until, I guess, now.”
“Can’t even speak her own language properly. Get the next one in here, Sharik.”
“Sir!” Brigid knew she’d better salvage the situation quickly. “I hardly think you’re givin’ me even half a proper species of a chance!”
“Miss, uh …”
“Kelly, sir,” Brigid reminded Soval.
“Kelly, Miss Kelly, I don’t have the time or the patience to spend time attempting to decipher your comments.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but isn’t impatience a human type of an emotion? And my understandin’ is that such things are abhorrent to ya.”
“Abhorrence is something of an emotion,” Sharik said.
“I don’t recall soliciting your opinion in this matter. Really, Sharik, can we get the next one in?”
“Sir!” Bridie fairly well shouted. “Don’t ya wanna at least interview me? Even a little bit?”
“And to what end?” Soval inquired, “So that you can confirm just how unsuitable you will be? Really, Sharik, send this human on her way.”
“It’s discrimination, is what it is,” Brigid insisted, “your own version of No Irish Need Apply, is that it?”
“Whether ya think I’m a suitable candidate or not, ya know you’re not allowed to refuse to hire me solely on the basis of species, race, gender or age.”
“Then we will turn you down based on incompetency,” Soval said. “Sharik, really, this is tiresome.”
“And without even givin’ me a chance to tell you what I can do? Where’s the logic in that?”
Sharik stared at her for a second. “Ambassador, Miss Kelly does have a point.”
“Very well,” Soval folded his arms and did not appear as if he would listen to anything Bridie was about to say.
She cleared her throat. “When I was sixteen years old, I was a babysitter at Starfleet. Then when I was at college – I went to Boston College – I worked in an end of life care facility. After I graduated, I had my Bachelor’s in Nursing and I worked at Children’s Hospital in Chicago for forty-five years.”
“Why did you leave your last position? Were you dismissed?” Soval asked.
“No, sir. I, well, I had seen too many little children die. You know, they would go into the hospital and at the end of it their parents could never take ‘em home. It, it gets to you after a while.” She stared at both of them. Would Vulcans – even one who, apparently, was a bit too old to care about emotional suppression and logic anymore – would they understand?
“I will die soon,” Soval said, after a silence of some minutes. “Will you react the same way?”
“I, I don’t know, sir. But if I may say, you are, you have lived your life, haven’t ya?”
“I am one hundred and forty-two years old,” Soval said, “that is almost a logical observation.”
“Almost,” she said, and then smiled. “Ya can’t admit it; can ya, that a human might be able to actually make sense, even in the midst of emotionalism, eh?”
“How many kilos can you lift?” Sharik asked, suddenly changing the subject.
“I can haul forty-five for long periods o’ time, and up to seventy if it’s quick. I also can do things like administer medications and even a catheter if necessary.”
Soval made a face. “Can you be discreet?”
“I am professional, sir! I won’t talk about what I’d be catheterin’.”
“The Ambassador is referring to, uh, come with me a moment,” Sharik said. He led Brigid to a smaller room off to the side and closed the door. “He is referring to his impaired logic.”
“Like I said, I am a professional,” Bridie said, “and it isn’t other folks business if he’s not always up to par. He’s an older gentleman and I wouldn’t say nothin’ ‘bout his logic or his emotions, no more ‘n I would tell the corner grocer if the man had lost all his teeth or somethin’.”
“You would have to live here,” Sharik said.
“That’s all right.” She didn’t tell him that she really didn’t have anywhere else to go. She had, indeed, left her position at Children’s Hospital voluntarily. She really had been burned out by seeing too many infants and young children reach the ends of their lives before they had really done anything. But with no family, no income, and little to do, she didn’t feel there was anything left for her in Chicago. She wanted to work, partly for the money, but mostly for the sense of purpose that it always gave her.
They went back into the main room. “Have you made a decision?” Sharik asked.
“You can start on Tuesday.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but can I start right away? I have nearly nothin’ to gather from Chicago. My things can be posted to me. And I got no family to say good-bye to.”
“That would be … acceptable.”
She glanced up at a wall clock. Fifteen hundred hours. “Will ya be takin’ tea, sir?” Soval nodded. “I could go to the market tomorrow and get some flour ‘n raisins and yeast and see about making ya some scones for a proper tea.”
“There is a replicator,” Sharik pointed out.
“I know,” Bridie said, “but a house is more like a home when there’s baking going on. I won’t use butter or milk; I know your people are vegans.”
Soval looked her up and down. Maybe she really was the logical choice. “Perhaps you could make something that would go well with plomeek broth.”