Magrat was unusually quiet for the rest of the morning, so much so that Maisie spoke to Doctor Troy about it when she returned from her own rounds at midday.
At lunch, Maisie hung the 'At Lunch, so you better be dying' sign on the clinic's main door,
and the doctor took Magrat into the vacant treatment room where they sat next to each other with the treatment room table once again doubling as a dining table.
"Rough morning, huh?" It was apparent from Magrat's face that the teenager was not happy. But the petulant shrug of Magrat's shoulders was not the answer she was looking for.
"Talk to me or I'm going to flick you on the nose."
The unexpected threat seemed to get Magrat's attention, and her expression changed from confusion, through annoyance,
then disbelief at the absurdity of the statement before finally settling on amusement. Magrat relaxed, and a hint of a smile bent the corners of her mouth.
The pause and the sigh that followed it were familiar territory to Tuki and would have been to her mother too. Now, however, Tuki was in her mother's role.
She put a hand on Magrat's knee and finished the sentence for her.
"It's just that people are being hostile and don't understand that you aren't an evil raider come to murder them in their beds."
Magrat stared at Tuki. How did she...? She put it down to the doc being the smartest person she had ever met.
"Yeah. I just want to help them. I mean I'm being nice and all, and doing things right." Another huge sigh. "It just doesn't seem to matter."
Tuki pushed her open lunch box towards Magrat, inviting her to help herself.
Magrat looked inside but couldn't see anything at all edible amongst the sliced carrots, tomatoes and other rabbit food.
She shook her head and went back to whatever the tough meat was in the sandwich she had thrown together from her master's leftovers that morning.
Tuki hooked a finger over the edge of her box and slowly pulled her delicious, but rejected, salad back towards her before replying.
"Oh, it doesn't. Matter I mean." The look on Magrat's face demanded further explanation. "I mean, it does. It matters a lot." It wasn't helping. Tuki rewound her thoughts.
"What matters is that, even though they don't like you or are even afraid of you..." She leaned in to whisper. "You get who I mean right?" Magrat grinned and nodded.
Maisie's voice came from beyond the open door.
"I heard that!"
Tuki sat up
"I know you did! You always eavesdrop." She turned back to a bemused Magrat. "Ever since I've known her. It's one of the things that makes her good at her job. Where was I?"
"People being afraid of you?"
"Oh, yes. Even though they don't like you, the only thing that matters is that they trust you," Tuki allowed a tiny pause before adding; "and they respect you."
Magrat chewed and swallowed.
"They don't respect me?"
"That's why you're here Magrat. To learn how to get your patients to respect you so that you can help them."
"Hmmm. Okay?" She didn't sound convinced.
"They respect Maisie, even though a lot of people are pretty terrified of her. And I thought, and still think, that by watching her you can learn how she handles people."
Magrat glanced at the still-open doorway.
"But, she's well... Big and scary. I'm like five feet nothing."
"Still listening out here!"
Tuki and Magrat shared another conspirational grin. Tuki stood up. And lifted her arms.
"And I'm a giant, am I?"
"No. But you're smart, and you use big words and you always know what to do and stuff like that."
Tuki sat down again.
"And that's my edge. Maisie's edge is that she is big and scary."
"I don't have an edge."
"You do, you know. And even if you don't think you do, then everyone else sure knows your edge. You just need to use it."
"But I don't! I'm just me. I'm just a drudge..."
Maisie appeared at the doorway.
"Oh, for fudge sake! Everyone thinks you're a damn raider! So use it, that's your damn edge!"
Tuki joined in.
"She's right. Use the fact that everyone thinks you are this rough, tough, fearsome raider. Be confident with it."
Maisie leaned against the doorjamb.
"Just don't, you know, scare them to death."
Magrat had a chance to demonstrate this supposed 'edge' a couple of days later when Maisie had insisted the teenager join her in helping with one of the head nurse's new duties at the school.
Back in the camp, head lice weren't much of a problem. If you were found to be riddled with them, you had your head shaved and then your scalp was liberally painted with potassium permanganate.
This had the dual benefit of not only killing the lice but also letting everyone know you were clean by your now very purple, very bald head.
Apparently, however, this was a method of last resort in the civilised world, and especially so with children.
In school, then, the plan was for Magrat to control the line of kids waiting their turn to step forward and have their hair pulled and their scalp prodded by the famously ferocious nurse Maisie.
The other part of Magrat's job was to complete the notes in each child's medical record as they reluctantly stepped up to face the masked and be-gloved nemesis known to
every school-aged child as Nitty Nora the Head Explorer.
Should the unfortunate victim be found to be infected, it was also Magrat's job to fill in the form, that badge of shame, which had to be taken home to the parents.
Still, Magrat thought, as she filled out the date and details on another child's notes, it was better than having a purple head.
All in all, everything was going well, no lice had been found, and the line was half the length it had been originally.
Children, though, get bored easily, and the noise level was rising even as the queue was getting smaller.
Magrat caught an annoyed glance from Maisie so got up from her child-sized desk and walked down the line of the dozen or so waiting kids who were lined up against the wall.
"Quieten down you lot." The noise continued, so Magrat took a bigger breath. "I said, be quiet. Nobody moves until there's quiet."
This produced a small lessening of the noise level, but enough for Magrat to hear above the general hubbub, the end of one bravado filled sentence.
"... an' she don't scare me."
Magrat stopped, she stood perfectly still.
The noise around her faded away, and when she turned around it was clear by the looks on the faces of the kids to either side of him just who the loudmouth was.
The boy was only about eleven or twelve, but bigger than his friends on either side, who were now sliding along the wall away from him.
Some might have described him as 'beefy' because early puberty had unfortunately given him muscles before his time. Magrat had known many such as she was growing up.
Drudges were easy targets to their like.
She stood in front of the boy and bent down, putting her hands on her knees and bringing her unsmiling face so close to the kid's own that he had to twist his head to avoid their noses touching.
"So, you're not scared of me, are you?"
Acutely aware of his friends and everyone else in the line staring at him, the kid managed to shake his head.
Now the thinnest smile formed slowly on Magrat's lips.
"Oh, but you should be, you know. Do you know why?"
Magrat looked up and down the line of the wide-eyed mix of freckled and spotty faces.
"Because in my job, I get to find out where each and every one of you little horrors lives."
The boy swallowed, and Magrat sensed a general tightening of sphincters all along the line. She stood up and the dangerous grin once again became the friendly smile.
"So then. Not another word from any of you, so that nice nurse Maisie can get on with her job in peace. Okay?"
Across the room, Maisie and the girl with the messed-up hair who sat in her clutches, unfroze as one and the inspection for unwanted hitchhikers continued.
Children have wild imaginations. Thirty different versions of what had happened made it home to their parents that afternoon.
That evening even more descriptive versions were being shared in the Black Beer, the Wafflehouse and other places where the adult residents of Hope gathered.
The upshot was, that over the next week or so, and for a variety of reasons depending on which story they believed,
Magrat and Maisie's house visits were met with an unprecedented level of politeness and cooperation.
In the clinic, parents who brought their children in asked specifically for Magrat to see them, giving the bemused young nurse a meaningful wink as she tended to their, unusually,
very well-behaved offspring.