A young woman named Veronica Como, who works at the hospital as a candy striper, has come by each day to visit with Doc Hata while he’s remained under supervision. Doc Hata feels refreshed by Veronica’s youthful energy and worry-free demeanor, and he enjoys goading her to laughter by making jokes about the night nurse. Veronica lives in Ebbington, a working-class suburb to the east of Bedley Run.
Veronica’s mother, Sally Como, has worked as a police officer in Bedley Run ever since the death of her husband, who was also a police officer. He got caught in the crossfire during a shootout between police and gamblers, but because he wasn’t on duty at the time, his wife and daughter didn’t receive his pension benefit. Doc Hata took an interest in Sally and Veronica’s welfare, and when he learned that Sally had applied to become an officer herself, he called on an acquaintance of his in the police department to support her application. Ever since then, Sally has shown Doc Hata her gratitude.
Doc Hata feels heartened by how well Veronica has turned out, and he ponders what enabled her to grow into such a fine young woman despite the difficult circumstances of her early childhood. He wonders if things worked out well because her mother raised her in a certain way or if it was simply due to Veronica’s inherent good nature.
Doc Hata also wonders about how he ended up the person he is. He considers himself a solitary individual. In contrast to someone like Mary Burns, who primarily created her identity through her associations with family and friends, Doc Hata feels most himself when he’s alone. Yet he doesn’t want to feel so alone anymore.
During his visit with Veronica, Doc Hata’s mind drifts to other memories.
He recalls waking up with Mary in his bed one morning and how even though he wanted to stay with her, Sunny had started practicing the piano and he felt compelled to go downstairs. He’d noticed that when Mary was visiting, Sunny would play the piano in an aggressive, perhaps even malicious, way.