“She what?” Lou practically shouted at the receptionist who called to tell him he had a student waiting to be seen.
“She was talking about a shiv on the playground. Her teacher marched her down here in a panic demanding we consider expulsion.”
“She’s how old?”
Lord. He’d put off retirement to deal with five-year-olds talking about shivs?
“Ok, send her in.”
The little girl pushed open the door. The blonde pigtails perched on top of her head bounced as she jumped into the seat.
“Maggie? Do you know why you’re here?”
She shook her head, eyes wide, ponytails dancing. Oh yea, he thought, this was a hardened criminal.
“Were you on the playground talking about a shiv?”
Her eyes lit up and she nodded. “Yes, Mr. Tompkins!”
“You were going to,” he glanced at the notes he’d taken, “help your uncle with his shiv?”
“Uh huh! He needs help real bad and I want to help him.”
“And your uncle, he’s . . .”
He slouched back into his chair and rubbed his eyes. He gave up trout fishing on Lake Michigan for this?
“He’s in prison and you want to help him with his shiv? How do you know he needs help?”
“He was talking to my mom on the speakerphone. I’m not allowed to talk to him because he’s no good but he calls sometimes, and she says we don’t turn our backs on family. And that means I should help him if he needs help, right?”
“This is how kids end up with ankle bracelets,” he muttered and too late realized it was out loud.
“I have one of those!”
“Yup!” She lifted a leg up onto the desk. “See!” She pointed to a silver chain encircling her ankle.
“So, how were you going to help your uncle?”
“I was going to check the lost and found!”
“The lost and found?”
“Yup, if kids leave them then they must not need them, but my uncle does so I figure I can take one home and give it my mom and she can send it to him.”
“But, what were you looking for?”
“A coat? Why on Earth were you looking for a coat?”
“Well, if he’s got a shiv, he must be cold. That’s like a shiver, right?”
He gaped at her for a moment while she blinked at him. Then he nodded.
“Yes, Maggie. You’re absolutely right. That’s exactly what that is.”
When she was gone, he picked up the phone and rang the receptionist. “Linda, find a sub for me tomorrow. I’m going fishing.”