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Authors: Nancy Goldberg Levine

Sweeter Than W(h)ine

BOOK: Sweeter Than W(h)ine
12.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

(c) 2013 By Nancy Goldberg Levine

This is a work of fiction. Any
similarities between persons or living or dead is purely coincidental.

Other books by Nancy Goldberg Levine

Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny

Mr. Tall, Tan…& Tasteless


In memory of my friend, ex-co-worker and cover artist extraordinaire, Keith
Barklage, and to his wife Heather, a great and talented friend.


To all of my friends

Sweeter Than

By Nancy Goldberg Levine

Chapter One

“Did you have a nice time last night?” Ruthie Gordon asked, when Dr. Raphael Farber came into work.

Rafe, Ruthie and some of the other singletons at Wellstone Village skilled nursing facility, had started organizing social mixers since a lot of their co-workers were single, widowed or divorced. Once a month, one person hosted an intimate dinner party. The host would prepare the main dish, and each guest would bring an appetizer, dessert, or side dish. Last night it had been Ruthie’s turn to host the dinner in her Roselawn home.

Rafe said, looking at the list of patients he was to see today. Damn. He saw Dina Edelman’s name on his list. What a way to ruin what could have been a halfway decent day. After all, he’d met one of the new patient aides last night, Nolan Cashner, and she seemed like a very sweet person with a good sense of humor.

“What’s wrong?”

Ruthie was one of the physical therapists at Wellstone Village. Rafe was one of three doctors on staff at Wellstone. Not only did Dina whine a lot, (“Oh, no.  I can’t go up one step, let alone five…)”(“Oh, no. Jay didn’t come to visit me, and he didn’t send me any cards either. I’m so lonely”), she had the most depressing job Rafe could think of, grief counselor at the Oakwood Center across the river in Covington, Ky. At least in his job, he got to see smiles on his patients’ faces when they were released or reached some kind of goal.

“Oh, that’s right…” Ruthie said, her straight black hair shining in the overhead light. The sound of a saw pierced through the morning air. Wellstone Village had been in a stage of upheaval for a couple of months. Of all times to start construction on the dementia unit, the big wigs had decided that right before Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to work.

Rafe shrugged and moved his head toward the window where the workers were. When the saw finally stopped, he said, “Yes, I’ve got to make a ‘house call’ on Ms. Crabby Pants today.”

“That’s not very nice,
Rafe,” Ruthie said.  “It’s unprofessional, and tasteless.”

“I know it is, and I apologize. But if I hear the name Jay Galloway
come out of her mouth one more time, I’m going to go to the Orient Cab Company and personally punch his lights out. I can do it. My aunt owns the place. The way Dina Edelman talks, you’d think he was Moses or something.”

“Moses had a problem speaking,” Ruthie said. “Aaron had to talk to God on his behalf, remember?”

Rafe sighed, said “goodbye” to Ruthie, picked up Dina’s chart and headed toward her room. The facility was all decked out with signs of Christmas. A huge tree stood in the middle of the common area, near the fireplace. Silver and gold ornaments hung from the branches. Each patient’s room had a picture of a candy cane near the sign where their names were written in.

walked in and saw that physical therapy and/or one of the patient aides had gotten Dina dressed, but she was lying in bed watching a judge show.

“Knock, knock,” he said, trying to sound chipper.
Looking at her, and through the room window at the gray, cloudy sky, made him feel about as perky as a rainstorm. She wore a Cincinnati Red Wolves T-shirt with the name Jackie Fenelli and his number, 28, emblazoned across the back. At least she liked baseball, Rafe thought. “Hi. It’s Dr. Farber. Just stopping by to check up on you, and see how you’re doing.”

She looked into his eyes, as if she were reading a novel. She had hazel eyes and hair the color of walnuts. She was slender and looked to be about 5’6” tall. A post office bin filled to the top with mail sat next to the reclining chair. 
Rafe had never seen her get out of bed and sit in that chair. He also hadn’t remembered her sitting up at the small round table near the window and eating her meals. He did see a small, ceramic menorah on the table. Was she Jewish, like him?

looked at her chart. PT, OT and the nurses had worked with her, but she was still stubborn. They had to get her up and moving or he was afraid her muscles would stiffen up for good and mess up the right knee her surgeon, Dr. Kadir, had worked so hard on. He knew that Dina had experienced complications after surgery. She’d developed pneumonia and found out she was borderline diabetic. She’d stopped breathing and had gone to sleep for five days. Dr. Kadir wasn’t sure if she’d wake up again…ever.

That was a lot of change and emotion in a short period of time.
Rafe was no shrink; his job was to take care of her while she was a patient at “the village”.

She glanced at him and he saw a hint of a smile. She looked cuter when she smiled.  “Okay,” she said. “And when you’re done, maybe I’ll sit up at the table for lunch. I think my parents and my cab driver friend, Jay Galloway, are coming to visit so I want to be ready.”

There was that name again. Rafe didn’t know the guy personally, but he was enough to send his Aunt Marina into apoplexy while visions of passenger lawsuits danced in her head. Lorrie Galloway, Jay’s sister, worked at the Village, too. He was sure he’d heard her mention her brother, but not as much as Dina did.  He knew that Jay and two other cab drivers played in a band, Jay & the Cincinnatians, on the weekends. He had no desire to see them perform. While he liked their type of music, original rock and roll and old school covers, he just got tired of hearing about the man of high merit sitting on his pedestal.

examined Dina, checking the knee and the incision, and especially making sure her breathing was better. She was still on oxygen, but Rafe and Dr. Kadir’s goal was to get her off of it slowly.

Alec, one of the patient care aides, walked in. The short guy with the big ears grinned widely at Dina, and at him.  “I just stopped by to tell Dina that her mom and dad
are here, Doc. They stopped down the hall to get a cup coffee, but they’ll be right in,” Alec said.  He might be short in stature, and he was a nice guy. He had joined the small group at Ruthie’s dinner party last night. Rafe’s mouth watered when he thought of Alec’s contribution, home-made chicken pot stickers.

“I’m finished,”
Rafe said, looking at her chart again. “Do you have any questions for me, Dina?”

“No,” she said, looking at Alex. “Did my parents have anybody else with them?”

“Uh uh,” Alex said. “I’ll see you later, Dina, okay? Let me know if you need

Rafe heard the sigh in her voice.

“Don’t forget to let
or your nurse know if you’re having problems, too,” Rafe said, then wondered why he had said it. He was only her doctor for the short time she’d be here; he wasn’t her regular doctor, or orthopaedic surgeon. She looked like her eyes were about to fill up with tears.

reached over and grabbed some of the tissues that sat in a non-descript gray box on her nightstand. “Do you think you’re going to cry?” Dina nodded. Rafe handed her the tissues.

“Mental attitude’s just as important as physical, young lady.” She blew her nose into one of the tissues, then aimed for the waste basket…and missed. He didn’t know why he’d said that, or why he’d called her “young lady.” She looked to be close in age to his thirty-seven years.

Her parents walked in. Stella Solomon was a petite woman with salt-and-pepper hair and big brown eyes that were something like Dina’s. He got mad at himself. What was he doing thinking about Dina’s eyes? She was a patient, and a cranky one at that.

“Are you crying?” Herman Solomon asked his daughter. When Dina nodded, he said, “There’s no crying in the nursing home.”
Rafe couldn’t believe what Dina’s dad did next. The laid back Herman Solomon, sort of tall with gray hair and brown eyes, laughed at his own joke.

decided that was his cue to leave, especially when he heard Dina mention He Who Must Not Be Named…again. “Dina, we want to get you off the oxygen and out of bed as much as possible,” he said, happy he could interrupt her latest whine about Jay not coming to visit.

“I know,” she said. “I’m going to get Alec back in here so he can help me sit up and eat lunch.”

              Rafe hoped she’d actually do that. He’d check what the nurses said on her chart tomorrow, and thought of the tall, dark and beautiful Nolan Cashner. She was just the kind of woman he wanted, not Dina Edelman.


          “Jay couldn’t stop in today,” Dina heard her mom say. She just wanted to get back into bed. No one cared about her, not even Jay. “He’s really busy.”

          “Okay,” Dina said. She pushed the button to summon help, and Alec appeared again. “I’m going to get back into bed,” she told him. She did pretty well, but the knee hurt so
bad. Alec helped her get herself back into the bed. Her mom put the covers over her. The room was freezing.

          “Do you need anything else?” Alec asked.

          “No, thanks,” Dina murmured. “Oh, wait. I need a pain pill.”

          Alec grinned at her. “Will do,” he said, and disappeared to get the nurse. He seemed like a very fine person, but he was no Jay Galloway. Dr. Farber was pleasant, too, but there was only one man for her…ever.  Her late husband, Rob, was that man. They’d been married only ten years when Rob had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Six weeks later, he was gone. Dina didn’t get it. Rob had never smoked, and hadn’t had any big health issues.

          Since then, Dina had surrounded herself with her parents, her job, and her good friends. Krysta and Jay were her best friends, but there were others. They were all more like family members than friends; she had a lot of “brothers” and “sisters,” which made up for her being an only child. She also lavished attention on her cat, Schmoopie. The big gray feline was getting lots of TLC from her neighbors.

          “Hi!” Jay Galloway’s sister, Lorrie, stepped into the room. She was about 5’2”, and had short, brown hair and brown eyes, like her brother’s. Dina hadn’t expected to have to spend time in a skilled nursing facility. She thought she’d be out of the hospital in three days, but that hadn’t happened. When Dr.
Kadir had suggested that she do this after the complications from pneumonia had happened, she’d thought about Wellstone Village, where Jay’s sister worked. Now she was here.

          Lorrie greeted her parents, and then stood by Dina’s bed.    

          “Hi,” Dina said. “When you talk to your brother, tell him it’s lonely out here, and I’d love to see him.”

            “I’ll tell him,” Lorrie said, with a smile. “How are you feeling?”

          “Everything hurts,” Dina said. “They’re bringing me some pain pills.”

“Good!  Not that everything hurts, but I’m glad they’re bringing you something for the pain. Do you think you’d like to come down to the beauty salon for a haircut tomorrow?”

          Dina wanted a haircut, but she felt so tired and weak. “I don’t think so. Maybe when I’ve been here longer.”

          “Okay,” Lorrie said. “I’ll give Jay your message. He had another crazy date over the weekend, and it’s close to the holidays, so I know he’s busy.  Maybe when you feel better, I’ll cut your hair.”

          “That sounds good.”

           Lorrie left the room, and her mom said, “She’s so nice.”

           “Just like her brother,” Dina murmured.

               Dina’s nurse, Velvet (also known as
Vel), arrived with her pain pills. She’d thought about fixing Jay up with her–they’d probably be cute together. Lorrie had said that her brother had had another bad date, so…

          She didn’t know much about Vel’s likes and dislikes except that she had a coffee brewer like Dina’s that made a perfectly-brewed cup for each person. Both Dina and Vel shared the hatred of the Village’s coffee. Dina had enjoyed the sugar free chai vanilla lattes from Hanover Hospital much more. That was one of the few nice things about being in the hospital.

          The pills made her drift off into a deep, restful sleep, but before she did, she had visions of Jay and
Vel’s wedding. Then she dreamed she went to the ball park again, but this time, the Red Wolves were winning.

          The next day, Dina felt slightly better. Alec came in with her breakfast tray. Usually, she slept in and woke up about nine. Then she worked with a physical or occupational therapist, and that was the end of her day.

         “Should I just leave the tray here?” Alec asked, indicating the cart that fit over the bed.

BOOK: Sweeter Than W(h)ine
12.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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