This story is written for NaNo Prep, but is inspired by a true story.
|Jody looked at her watch. She still had a few more minutes before she had to leave. She was participating in Christmas caroling for some senior citizens at a local retirement home. She wasn't a great singer, but when blended with other voices, she fit right in. Besides, she was doing this with BOSS--Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. Since getting to Fort Hood, she hadn't made a lot of friends outside of her job, so this would be a chance to meet people from other parts of post and maybe even some civilians. She was naturally social and looked forward to this opportunity.
She grabbed a jacket from her closet, then a bottle of water from the fridge, following the Army's command to always stay hydrated. She set out into the brisk evening air. Texas got a lot nippier than she had expected, but by now she'd gotten used to it. It was a nice evening and she had some extra time, so she decided to walk to the BOSS meeting area.
She was grateful for finding out about BOSS. They did a number of interesting things. Each month they participated in something fun and something charitable. This was the charitable event for the month. They'd already had the fun event--a Christmas party mixer, but Jody had missed it because she had to work that night. Working in the hospital was good in some ways, because the Army tended to treat hospital Soldiers better, but then, you also missed out on things because of work schedules. The hospital never closes, so many areas have shifts scheduled around the clock, as Jody's did.
As she approached the meeting area, she didn't notice anyone she was previously familiar with except the two leaders, one a civilian and one a Soldier. No worries, though she wasn't great at breaking the ice, she was quite friendly once she did. She looked around for someone standing off to the side, figuring they might be an easier target than a group of ready-made friends who may or may not welcome a newcomer.
Jody found a young man standing outside the group and went up to him. After an awkward introduction, conversation began to flow smoothly between them. In just a few minutes, the group began to get organized and the leader started giving instructions for travel and handing out lists of Christmas carols for everyone.
The trip was relatively quick and the group of fifteen or so Soldiers plus the civilian leader all filed fairly quietly into the senior home, as if they didn't want to wake anyone. A nurse approached and spoke with the leaders. The Soldiers were broken into two groups and each started out in a different direction, stopping at a room, asking if they'd like a Christmas carol, and singing if requested.
After about an hour, they'd gone through a good portion of the home, but not nearly all of it. The Soldiers were rounded up to head back. As the Soldiers began to leave, Jody went up to the nurse's station to thank them for their hospitality and for all they do for the seniors living there. She finished extending her gratitude and began to hurry out the door when an elderly woman in a pink robe, leaning on a walker called to her.
"Wait! I didn't get to hear any of the Christmas carols." She shuffled as quickly toward Jody as she can.
Jody knew her group is probably loading into the vehicles as they spoke, but she also felt badly for the woman. Then again, she didn't want to be left behind.
"I'm sorry. We're done. We're leaving now."
"Bitch," the old woman spat.
Jody felt even more guilty. She wondered if the strong response was basic anger at the situation or if this woman had always had a foul mouth or perhaps if it was simply the result of a stroke. No matter the reason, she decided that if she was trapped in a senior home, she'd appreciate someone taking two minutes of their time to give her something to smile about.
"Well, I sound better in a group, but you got it."
The woman nodded in approval as Jody started.
"We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas. We with you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Good tidings we bring to you and your kin."
The woman interrupted. "You're right. You can't sing. Not to mention, there is no "we," only you and if I had any kin, I wouldn't be stuck in this God-forsaken Hell hole."
Her voice had gotten louder as she spoke, expressing an unnatural anger than Jody decided was probably the result of a stroke. Then again, being stuck here, maybe it was natural to feel that way.
"Get out of here!"
"Yes, Ma'am. Have a Merry Christmas!" Jody gave her friendliest smile, grateful she had friends to go home to.
"You too!" The woman called out with a small smile.
With a final wave, Jody hurried out to the parking lot only to find it the Visitor's Section deserted. They'd left her.
Jody zipped her jacket and took a sip of water from her bottle. It was only a couple of miles to Fort Hood. She could knock that out in no time. She smiled to herself at the lady's response to her singing. "Do I really sing THAT badly?" She chuckled to herself. "Nah. It's a good thing I didn't go with Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, though." That caused her to laugh out loud. But she knew the woman didn't mean any harm, despite her demeanor. Jody started a light jog toward home.
**Up until the part when the woman calls me a bitch, this story is true. However, I decide to run out and catch my ride instead of singing to her. I didn't know exactly where I was, so I couldn't easily have gotten home if I'd been left. However, the Army is pretty good at accountability so the chances are I wouldn't have been left. It's been over ten years and that woman is probably dead by now, but I still regret that I didn't take a moment to sing a song to her.