"Moldy money." Susan Tucker jabbed her best friend, Harry Haristeen, with her elbow.
"Come on, you all, I'm cautious with money. That doesn't mean I'm cheap," Harry said, defending herself.
"Cautious? How about paralyzed?" BoomBoom Craycroft, another friend from childhood, said, laughing.
"My concern is I want to make as much money as possible for our five-K run this Saturday. I just think a thousand pink rubber bracelets is five hundred too many."
Paula Benton, an ER nurse at Central Virginia Hospital and one of the prime organizers of the 5K Run for Breast Cancer Awareness, said, "Harry, they're already here. What's the point of complaining?"
Toni Enright, another operating-room nurse, agreed. "They'll sell like hotcakes. Think positive, Harry."
"I know. I know. I'm sorry. I just get nervous. Hey, we all have our quirks. I know a nurse who can't give herself a shot."
Paula reached over to pinch Harry. "No fair."
" 'Fess up," Harry teased her. "If you all are going to pick on me, I'll pick back."
"Paula, are you really afraid to give yourself a shot?" Susan queried. "I thought you were allergic to bees, wasps, and hornets. Don't you have to carry a little kit around? Shoot yourself up with the antidote?"
Paula rolled her eyes. "Luckily, I've never had to use it as an adult. Mom shot me up once. I suppose I could do it, but it just creeps me right out." She playfully lunged for Harry. "I could hit you up, though."
As they all laughed, Nita Vitebsk, the treasurer of the group, older than the others, in her mid-fifties, pushed her polka-dot reading specs up on the bridge of her nose, bringing them back to business. "The runners' entry fees have paid for all our expenses. Those are the pre-entry fees, to be exact. You know we're going to pick up more entries, and Harry, since you're the check-in girl, you have the happy task of toting up the sums."
The group of women, this Wednesday evening, April 14, sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor, bracelets in the middle, along with most of the numbers to be worn on runners' backs. They had been working on this project since last year's run.
Every year, the oncology department of Central Virginia Hospital offered staff support, and individual physicians wrote personal checks, too. The nominal head of the 5K run was Dr. Cory Schaeffer, a surgeon specializing in cancer as well as new therapies for healing. As he was developing a large reputation, his name on the fund-raising letterhead was a plus. He didn't do the scut work, nor did most of the other doctors, understandably enough. Dr. Jennifer Potter, the new kid on the block, actually came to some meetings, as did Dr. Annalise Veronese, a pathologist. Annalise said that as she personally witnessed the ravages of cancer in a way others did not, she especially wanted a cure. Many doctors would be at the run, as would the media. The group could thank Alicia Palmer for that. The former movie star wheedled the media into cooperation. Then again, she could pretty much wheedle anyone into cooperation as she remained a dazzler, even in her mid-fifties.
The run would go off the first Saturday after April 15, a date picked because spring would be in its initial blush. Also, it would take people's minds off the financial horrors of April 15. The other factor was that it usually was quite cool in the morning--mid-forties to low fifties, often warming to the mid-sixties--perfect weather for a run.
All the high school cross-country teams participated. The University of Virginia made a showing, too, unless there was an ACC track meet. Charlottesville nurtured a dedicated running...