Rated: E · Fiction · Contest Entry · #1666482
The elderly residents are having fun before they know what happened.
|Another Day At The Nursing Home|
"I hate this...another rainy day," Ralph said to himself as he shuffled past open doorways, his slippers scratching against the shiny linoleum. Snores and moans escaped into the hallway as he realized that the rain would keep him from his walk, again. As he walked into the cafeteria, Ralph saw another reason why the nursing home was a depressing place. He made a mental note to add food to the list of reasons why he hated this place.
"Good morning, Liz," he smiled at the stone-faced server as she stood in her starched whites, holding a spatchler as if it were a weapon. "I'll have the fried eggs and toast, again." Steam escaped from under stainless-steel pans of hot grey matter that no one could identify as Ralph trudged through the cafeteria line. Taking a seat at one of the antiseptic institutional tables, Ralph saw Fred come in. He invited his old friend over to join him with a wave of his hand.
Fred put his tray down on the table and turned to Ralph. "This place just doesn't seem the same since Al passed." He put a forkful of runny eggs into his mouth and a thin line of yellow flowed down his chin. He dabbed at the warm ooze with his fingers, missing some. His friend watched him from across the table and pointed a shaky finger at his own chin.
"Right there, no, no, you missed it...it's just to the left. Yeah, you got it." Ralph returned to finishing his breakfast. "The whole place is more depressing than usual. Al always had a joke, a song. You know? It was always something with him. I miss him already."
"I know," Fred agreed. "He kept the place going didn't he? Do you remember the time he played dead, lying in bed waiting for the nurse? When she came in to check on him he grabbed her butt?" Fred talked while Ralph laughed as they replayed Al's stunt in their memory. But the happy memory was short lived. Both men became silent as the reality hit them that Al was not playing at being dead now.
"Want to go watch television?" Ralph felt antsy, he missed his morning walk.
"Sure." Fred dropped his napkin onto his plate. "As long as the ladies don't have it tuned in to the Shopping Channel." He pushed his chair back and stood, then grabbed his cane for balance.
The two men walked into the television room and noticed there was a crowd already gathered, and no one looked happy.
"It's the rain Fred, don't pay them no mind." Ralph whispered.
"What's the rain?"
"The reason everyone is so depressed is because this is the third day in a row we've had rain. Nobody can get out of here, not even for a walk." While Fred searched for the remote control, Ralph used the restroom in the reception area. When he returned to the television room he noticed a young boy, no more than eight years old, running between the chairs and bouncing a big red ball. He tried to stop the boy.
"Son, you're not supposed to be in here. Where is your mom and dad?" The boy was frightened and stopped running, but the ball kept going. It bounced off the arm of a chair, and then arced high into the air. Someone let out a high pitched "oh my" that caught everyone's attention. Sixteen pairs of bi-focals turned and followed the ball as it rose toward the acoustic ceiling. Ralph reached out and tried to catch the ball, but instead, he tipped it with his fingers and pushed it into a higher arc. He lost his balance and fell into a chair, his head bobbed up and down as he bounced on the cushion.
Two normally dour ladies sitting next to him began to laugh. Fred was standing in the front of the room adjusting the television when the ball floated in his direction. Surprised, he reflexively reached out to grab the ball. Instead of catching the ball, it slid through his hands and bounced off his forehead and flew in the opposite direction. The room exploded with laughter as Fred inspected his hands as if they had holes in them.
The red ball careened over a small group of electric scooters as their occupants erupted in a coughing fit of laughter. Throwing up their arms in an attempt catch the ball, they rose slightly from their seats and freed a television remote control from its hiding place. It clattered to the floor. The center of the room became a miniature seventh-inning-stretch as the ball was batted back and forth by people trying to catch it. Two staff members, their faces pinched by curiousity, slowly walked into the television room to see what the commotion was about. They found only laughter.
"All right, all right, settle down now." A nurse wearing a stiff white dress clapped her hands at the group. No one heard her, no one paid any attention. The laughter was in control.
But then the laughter slowly began to die down, like air escaping from a balloon. And then it stopped altogether. The big red ball bounced into the corner, then rolled into the center of the room, its last few seconds of activity tapping the floor with the rapid staccato of a snare drum. Eyes that had not reflected laughter in a long time followed the ball to its end. Total silence filled the room as the ball came to rest.
Someone in the back of the room cleared their throat. The hum of an electric scooter buzzed near the doorway, the announcer on the television could again be heard selling a product no one could pass up at that price. Mr. Archer, the home's administrator, picked up the ball and handed it to the little boy. Ralph and Fred found each other as their smiles began to compress.
"You want to watch some television?" Fred watched the ball carried from the room by the administrator.
"Yeah, why not." Ralph handed the remote to Fred. "I found this on the floor."
Over the shouts of a group of women sitting nearby, Fred clicked the remote to another channel. He turned to Ralph. "I sure do miss Al, he kept us laughing, didn't he?"
"Yeah, he sure did. This place is depressing without him." He made a mental note to add to his list."
Everyone sitting in the television room turned and watched as two small hands carried the red ball out of the reception area into the wet, dreary parking lot.
Word Count 1106