Authors: Ted Stetson
Tags: #motorcycle, #rescue, #lost love, #nursing home, #love after being apart
Published by Three Door Publishing
Copyright 2011 Ted Stetson
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Cover art by Ruxandra Papp
by Ted Stetson
Linda Moon walked down the long hall
of Summerville Nursing Home. Today the smells weren't that bad. The
hall didn't reek of urine and shit and there was no odor of puke.
And the stench of chlorine, ammonia and cleanser wasn't terrible.
In the morning after breakfast, the hall was usually empty, not
that it made it any safer. A barren hall with gray tile floors and
plain walls without a railing could only be so safe. But, at least,
breakfast carts weren’t in the way, and the floor was
A wet floor was worst of all. Sharon
Britt had broken her hip because she’d slipped on the wet floor.
They said Britt should have been in bed after taking her meds, but
Linda knew the truth. Even though Britt had insurance, the
ambulance had taken her to the welfare hospital where the new
doctors, probably that Danny Slocombe, had practiced some
procedure. Maybe they'd get it right this time and she’d be back in
another week. Another week they kept on saying, and she'd be in a
wheelchair and they’d send her to the convalescent clinic. Hardly
anybody came back from there.
Linda walked into the pale green
activity room. A few chairs and tables were occupied. On the pale
green walls were scenic pictures that were supposed to put the
residents in good spirits. A small radio-CD player on the other
side of the room had Nate King Cole singing the same song every
day. She passed Larry and Richard playing gin rummy. They weren't
supposed to gamble, but boys will be boys, even when they're
eighty-year-old grumps. Larry laughed as she walked past, which
meant Richard had cheated and won again and Larry didn't have the
guts to tell him. Larry smelled like he bathed in that cheap
aftershave his grandkids gave him and Richard like he needed a
"Good Morning, Mrs. Moon," Richard said as she
"Yeah," she crabbed back at him and
Larry laughed again.
Powell, a new worker in spotless
white pants and shirt, sat down with them. His eyes were sunken and
his cheeks hollow from drinking, but they must not have noticed it
when they interviewed him for the job. Of course, they noticed
everything about the residents so they could charge them extra.
Powell dropped a handful of coins on the table, probably loose
change he ‘borrowed’ from the residents. "Only have time for a few
hands," he said.
Larry laughed. Even though her back
was to them, she would bet Larry and Richard exchanged a secret nod
only a hungover drunk like Powell would miss, that they were going
to cheat him. But it really didn't matter. Powell stole from
someone in the nursing home and these two would steal it back.
Griffin used to say he'd won his old quarter back so many times he
couldn't count the marks he'd made on it.
She turned one of the bridge chairs
toward the window and sat down. One day she wished they would open
the window and she could smell the outdoors, but someone had once
complained of a draft so everyone had to suffer. She reached in her
big bag and took out a small toy. It was a plastic chrome miniature
knight, without a horse or sword, standing straight and tall. When
her grand nephew visited last year he said it would keep her safe.
She didn't think it would, but at her age she wasn't going against
any mojo, even one made-up by her nephew. She took her knitting out
of her bag and started working again on the blue and white scarf.
She'd knitted it so many times she didn't have to look at what she
was doing, which was what she wanted. She stared out the window at
the circular driveway.
"You should not use a bridge chair
to knit," a voice said from behind her. "You could fall out and get
hurt." She didn't have to turn around to know it was caregiver
Cossie Ogg; the faint odor of pot followed her everywhere. And she
didn't have to look to know by the happy inflection that she was
back on drugs. She used to wonder where Ogg got them, but she'd
been here long enough to know that in a few days or weeks someone
would report they were low on medication or their pills had run out
surprisingly fast. Once she’d followed Cossie on her rounds and
watched her take a pill from one person, another pill from another.
She'd followed her again and again to make sure she was right. She
was going to say something when Britt complained, but Mullins said
he’d done it. She was sure Mullins said so because he owed Cossie
for not ratting on him.
"I should help you move to a safer
chair," Cossie said.
She turned to Cossie and her eyes
took in the fat little caregiver with the short black hair.
Cossie's black eyes stared at her. The druggy grin left her round
face. She was always smiling and laughing when she was on drugs.
When she wasn't she was too foul tempered to be around. Cossie
liked to tease, to play jokes when she was high, but not all highs
were the same. She had callous highs, laughing highs, and mean
practical joke highs.
Larry laughed. "Ut oh, she's in one
of her moods." He laughed again, a big mouth full of perfect white
She glanced at Larry and saw in his
dark brown eyes that he could tell she was putting Cossie on, but
Larry wouldn't tell on her. If he wouldn't tell Richard was
cheating on him for fear of losing someone to play cards with, he
wouldn’t tell on her.
Cossie looked from Larry to Linda
with that ain’t-we-cute grin. The drugs really had scrambled her
brains. When she was high, she rattled easily.
When Linda's niece Claire had
visited, Cossie had filled her with lies to pay back Linda for some
slight and it must have worked. Claire hadn't been back, not that
she missed such a silly girl, but she did miss the connection to
"Okay," Cossie smiled, "we'll let
you stay in that old chair this one time." Then Cossie bent over
and looked her in the eye. "You owe me."
So does God,” she said and Cossie
smiled druggily, “and you’d better hope neither one of us give you
what you got coming.”
Anger flashed in Cossie's brown eyes
and she whirled around and stormed away. She bumped Larry and he
looked at her, worried he’d done something wrong. Larry had been an
orderly, when a woman patient pushed a man in a wheelchair out the
door and they’d never been found and somehow Larry was blamed for
it. They said he should have locked the door or be at the
"What's her problem?" Larry
"Probably going through the change,"
"Again?" Powell said as he lost
another hand. "How long does that go on? Wasn't she doing that last
She watched Cossie leave. She was so
easy to fool it was almost no fun screwing with her anymore. She
shook her head and went back to knitting. She glanced at the shiny
toy knight on the table, then looked out the window. The driveway
curved to the road and the road stretched into infinity. She looked
at the bushes moving in the breeze and longed to be outside. The
activity room started to fill with residents, many of them talking
loudly, and someone turned on the TV at the other end of the room.
She stared at the road.
"He won't come," Cossie said from
close behind her, making her jump. She had snuck up on her again.
Now her wide mouth had white pill dust on her lips.
"Who won't come?" Larry
"Her knight in shining armor,"
Cossie said and with her middle finger knocked over the toy on the
table. "It's just you and me." A cruel smile crossed her soft face.
Mrs. Moon couldn't stop the tears
from coming. She didn't want to cry, didn't want to show weakness
in front of this dreg, but she couldn't help herself as the tears
dripped down her face. She turned to the window and buried her face
in her knitting.
"There, there," Cossie said and
patted her shoulder.
She angrily shrugged off her
"How many weeks or is it months,
you’ve waited and your niece won't even visit you?"
"Shut up," she growled doing her best to hold
the flood works back.
"There, there," Cossie
"Go away," she shouted.
"Say please," Cossie
She closed her mouth and locked her
jaw. She would never do that. Instead, she looked at her blue
knitting needles. Britt had done that. Cossie had been especially
cruel to her and she had poked her fat ass. No charges had been
filed, no action taken. Britt wasn't kicked out of the nursing home
like Cossie said, but a few days later a cup of water slicked the
floor outside Britt's room and when she slipped and fell; her cry
was heard throughout the nursing home. Cossie had said Mullin’s
mopping was at fault and he was too drunk to remember.
"Leave her alone," Larry said, but
he would not do anything. His deep voice echoing in the activity
room was the only thing he'd do. A few of the residents turned to
them with concern on their faces, the others acted like it was
nothing; it was always nothing unless it was about them.
"Can't we learn to get along?"
Richard said as usual, he who couldn't get along with
"Hey, come on now," Powell said.
Mrs. Moon knew he wouldn’t do anything, but he was new and
therefore was sort of an unknown factor and Cossie looked at him
"You take care." Cossie marched out
of the room like the queen of hearts.
Linda Moon couldn't return to her
knitting. She stared at her shaking palsied hands for a long time.
Then she heard a sound; like a powerful engine roaring.
Up the street came a motorcycle.
There was so much chrome on it the sun reflected off it as if off a
thousand shining chariots. It turned up the drive, the chrome
It stopped in front of the canopied
entrance. Linda remembered when Claire first brought her here.
Claire said it would only be until they could straighten everything
out at home and she had told her the entrance reminded her of a
funeral home. Linda looked at the motorcyclist. What was he doing
When the motorcycle stopped out
front, many hurried to the window to look. Someone said it was
their nephew. Another person said it was Julie's son. The biker set
the kickstand, stepped off the bike, took off his helmet, and
revealed a head of white hair. Someone said it was Margaret's old
boyfriend; they must've forgotten Margaret passed away a month
Carrying his black helmet under his
arm, he started for the front door. Cossie came out the entrance
like a mother chicken shooing away unwanted roosters. They
exchanged a few words and he shoved past Cossie and headed
"Who is he?" Powell said.
"I don't know," Richard said.
Larrry shook his head. "I don't
remember him.” Which was strange. Larry remembered everyone.
Sometimes he got the name wrong, but he remembered them.
There was a commotion in the hall
and everyone turned to the double door. With the gray double door
closed, no one could understand what was being said. Everyone in
the activity room quieted to listen, but they could only hear Nate
King Cole singing that song on the CD.
Suddenly the double doors burst open
and caregiver Alex stumbled backward into the room and, like a
knight errant in black leather, the stranger stepped into the
activity room. He was tall and lanky, but moved as though he had
arthritis in his knees and hips. He had white hair and a trim white
goatee and yet there was something elegant about him that reminded
her of a drawing of Don Quixote. He looked around. Everyone was by
the window. His blue eyes swept over the gray heads and white heads
and baldheads and old faces, searching for someone.