The very small man leaned into the wind, clasped his hat onto his head and kept shuffling. There was too much wind to even lift his feet or he would be blown sideways. He curled his toes inside his shoes to grip the sidewalk, as if that would help. A garbage can on its side rolled out from an alley and he jumped out of its way, managing to land square all the same, and grabbed for the edge of the building. His hat, a bowler shiny with age, stayed on, and he steadied himself and proceeded.
Most people were inside today in the big storm, but his mission was important, and so he bent to his task again. When he came out of the lee of the brick building, the wind swept down the grand boulevard in renewed energy and caused him to flatten himself against the building before he stepped backwards into the lee again. Mere weather was not going to defeat him, so he bent low and walked sideways like a crab to the row of cars and proceeded up the street from car handle and fender to handle. The door to the hospital was just ahead. He had only to cross an open plaza and go up broad stairs.
He stopped to catch his breath. When the wind died for a moment, he ran limping through the slowly rolling cars, onto the open space and up the stairs. Panting, he pulled at the great doors, failing to open them. An attendant sitting at the desk inside saw him and pushed them apart. He slipped in.
``I’ve come to see Marilee, Marilee von Gruner,’’ he said. ``They told me she was here.’’
``Yes sir,’’ the attendant said, scowling. His great beard covered the top buttons of his white uniform. ``I told you yesterday. She ain’t here.’’
``Could you look in the book?’’ the small man said. ``They told me she was here.’’
``I did that yesterday, old timer, and the day before, and the day before. She just ain’t here. They took her away, and she won’t be back.’’
``Thank you, sir,’’ the man said, putting his bowler back on his head. ``I’ll check in with you tomorrow.’’ And he turned and leaned against the great doors and hopped out into the wind.
``Hey,’’ the attendant shouted after him, ``don’t you remember? I told you. She died. She ain’t here.’’
The man turned and waved and skipped off across the plaza like a leaf.