Essie T-e-e-e. Essie T. Where is that girl? Essie T., hurry up and come in here and fasten the back of this dress. Honestly, girl, are you always so slow?

A big clumsy-looking girl pushed herself across the room. She walked as if she were afraid that putting one foot down on the floor too hard would make the boards crack.

“I’m coming, ma’am.”

“Well, hurry up, you move like dead leaves are falling off of you.”

“Yes ma’am.” She reached down near the older woman’s belt and began pulling the zipper, watching the blue flowered cloth slowly come together and cover the whole of the woman’s back. She joined the top snap.

“Well, don’t just stand there. Go, get my coat. And don’t forget chicken soup for Margaret and oatmeal for Doris. And tell Doris she may not have brown sugar in both her oatmeal and her milk. Absolutely not. Are you listening to me?” The woman put the lipstick down and walked to the edge of the room. “Essie T., are you in there?” Really, she was about to reach her breaking point with this girl. “Essie T.?”

“Yes ma’am,” the voice reached her from the depths of the living room closet.

Mrs. Conrad Pierson Gordon III adjusted her hat in the mirror. Essie T. didn’t like this hat, and Mrs. Gordon had to agree those Greta Garbo clothes didn’t do a thing for her. But, as she told Conrad, in a proud, duty-weary tone of voice, her position demanded that she keep up with the latest styles. She looked at her watch. Five of. Where was that girl with her coat? She was just about to call when Essie T. came out of the living room with the coat clenched tightly under her arm. Silently, she handed it to her mistress.

“Essie T.” Mrs. Gordon was disgusted. “What did I tell you last time? You help with my coat. Well, don’t just stand there.” The girl held up one sleeve at a time until the woman was finally wrapped into the coat. She turned to Essie T. with a slight hint of approval showing on her face. “You’re improving,” she said, walking toward the door, “and by all means, don’t forget. No brown sugar in anybody’s milk. Dr. Jones wouldn’t approve.” The door slammed and Essie T. began to think of the day’s work.