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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Medical · #2169014
Little Jimmy Griffin wakes up in a strange place. For Quotation Inspiration Contest.
Little Jimmy Griffin blinked, rubbed his eyes, and sat up in bed. Bright sunlight streamed through a large window and illuminated magnolia walls and white furniture. Where was his Jetsons poster? What happened to his astronomical telescope and solar system mobile? The only decoration was a painting of sunflowers, the kind of picture his mommy liked. This wasn't his bedroom.

He flopped onto the pillow to think a moment. Suddenly, it all came back. Mommy promised to take him to the National Air Museum to celebrate his seventh birthday. Jimmy sat back up, and his pulse raced. This must be a hotel room. He was in Washington D.C.. He raised a hand to cover his mouth. Today, he would see the Mercury capsule that took Alan Shepard into space three years ago, the first American astronaut. When he grew up, Jimmy wanted to be a spaceman, too. This was going to be the best day ever!

Jimmy tossed back the sheets and jumped out of bed. Immediately, he stumbled and only prevented himself from falling to the tile floor by grabbing the nightstand. His legs and hips ached like he'd just run a race, and the cold seeped into his bare feet as if he'd stepped into a bucket of ice. Was he sick? Then he caught sight of a gnarled and wrinkled hand gripping the nightstand. His gnarled and wrinkled hand! His legs turned to jelly. Tears welled in his eyes.

He saw a bathroom attached to the room and stumbled through. As he peered into the mirror over the sink, an ancient man with rheumy eyes and wrinkled skin stared back. He looked about a hundred and ten. What happened? His mind raced. Could it be aliens? Sometimes, when Mommy was out of town, Daddy let him stay up late, and together they'd watch scary movies on the TV. This reminded him of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Was an alien wearing Jimmy's skin running around the playground at Jefferson Elementary right now?

A creaking sound alerted him to the bedroom door creeping open, and his heart pounded. They were here! The aliens had come to finish him off. Jimmy didn't want to die. He crumpled into a ball in one corner of the bathroom and wept.


Nurse Nora Peterson gazed around the bedroom but couldn't see their patient. Her assistant sighed and tapped something onto the diagnostic tablet he carried. Though her younger colleague was in his thirties, Kyle was new to nursing and clearly missed his former military career. “Mr. Griffin,” she called out. “It's Nora and Kyle here.” She heard sobbing from the bathroom and went to investigate. “Oh, Mr. Griffin.” Her favorite patient was huddled in a corner, shaking. Her heart wrenched to see such a nice gentleman reduced to this condition.“Kyle!” she shouted. “A little help, please.”

Kyle joined her in the bathroom and lay the tablet down on top of the closed toilet seat. As they raised him, the octogenarian lashed out, but his arms were skinny and feeble. Together, Kyle and Nora soon had their patient standing. “Come along, Mr. Griffin,” she said. “You need to go back to bed.”

“Wh-who are you?”

“You know us, Mr. Griffin. Nora and Kyle, your nurses.”

“If you're a nurse, where's your pretty white uniform?” Oh boy, this was going to be a tough morning. It seemed Mr. Griffin had reverted to his distant past, possibly even childhood. She glanced down at her blue scrubs. “Er...I'm cleaning this morning and didn't want to get them dirty.”

Suspicion glimmered in Mr. Griffin’s eyes, and he gestured to Kyle. “What about him? He can't be a nurse. He's a boy.”

She exchanged a look with Kyle, and he stepped back. He picked up the tablet and perched on the edge of the toilet seat in a manner that made him seem less intimidating. “Do you know what an orderly is, Mr. Griffin?” he asked.

The elderly gentleman’s eyes flicked from Kyle to Nora and back again. “They…help nurses in hospitals, carry heavy stuff for them.”

“That's right. I'm an orderly helping Nurse Nora.”

That was kind of Kyle, making himself out to be something less than he was to put his patient at ease.

Mr. Griffin’s gaze fixed on the tablet in Kyle’s hand. “Is that why you're carrying her Etch A Sketch?”

Kyle raised an eyebrow, but Nora didn't have a clue what he was talking about, either. Perhaps some brand of sketchbook. She decided to take a chance. “That's right. Kyle is being real helpful and looking after my etchy sketch.”

Mr. Griffin’s posture became less defensive, but his gaze still wandered around. “Where’s Mommy? She’d never leave me in a hospital alone?”

Mr. Griffin’s mother passed away thirty years ago, but that information wouldn’t comfort him. “She’s…busy.”

“Speaking with the doctors,” added Kyle, and she smiled at him in gratitude.

Mr. Griffin folded his arms and stuck his jaw out. “I’m not going back to bed until Mommy gets here.”

Kyle met Nora's gaze and gestured to his pocket where he kept a sedative spray, but she shook her head. It would be much easier to lead him to bed than carry him. “Just a moment.”

She darted into the bedroom and over to the nightstand, where she opened the drawer and took out a pink teddy bear. Returning to the bathroom, she offered the small teddy to Mr. Griffin. “Look who I’ve found.”

His eyes narrowed. “That’s a girl’s toy.”

“Don’t you remember Fred?”

“Fred?” Recognition kindled in his eyes, and he reached for the bear like a drowning man grasping for a lifebuoy.

“Come along, now. Let's get you back to bed.”

With the teddy in his hand, he was more amenable to Nora's suggestions, but it still took five minutes to lead him out of the bathroom and into his bed. They had to be careful because his body had grown frail and could easily bruise or worse. Normally, they'd dress him and wheel him to the recreation room to socialize with the other hospice residents. Today, he would be too disruptive. While Mr. Griffin was preoccupied with whispering to his toy, she pulled the strawberry-scented aerosol sedative from her pocket and sprayed the drug straight into his nostrils.

Within seconds, Mr. Griffin was unconscious, and Nora thanked God for modern medicine. Back when she first started, the nurses used injections that took up to half-an-hour to take effect.

Kyle straightened and rolled his shoulders. “I swear he gets worse every day.”

She nodded. “Sadly, I think you're right.”

“What’s with Freddy Bear?”

“Oh, his great-granddaughter gave him that. Sophie is only six, but she’s smart. She worried that he would get lonely and left him her favorite bear. Strangely, even when he forgets everything else, he recognizes that teddy. It always has a soothing effect.”

Kyle chuckled. “Cute. And did you say he used to be a college professor?”

“Theoretical physics.”

“Wow. He must have been a genius.”

She adjusted the sheets around Mr. Griffin’s shoulders. “Yes, he really was. I’m a huge fan.”

“You're into physics?”

“No. Romance.”

“Say what?”

She chuckled. “Professor Griffin led a double life—a mild-mannered college professor in tweed jacket by day but passionate novelist by night.” She took the diagnostic wand from her other pocket and waved the slim, rectangular device over Mr. Griffin’s forehead. “Temperature thirty-six-point-eight.” She hovered the wand over his torso. “Blood pressure one-fifty over ninety. Oh, that's high.”

Kyle glanced at the chart on the tablet. “It stacks up against his history, and Dr. Johnson has just clicked the ‘ignore’ icon.”

“Okay.” Dr. Johnson wouldn't climb out of her comfy office chair for anything less than a heart attack. The day they launched the slim pill was the day she threw out her standing desk. “Heart rate down to thirty-nine bpm. Has the sedative notification uploaded?”

He shook his head. “I'll input it manually. Wouldn't want Dr. Johnson rushing over for a false alarm.” She shared a grin with Kyle. For a youngster, he wasn't bad to work with. He lowered the tablet. “So he was a writer, huh? Can't have been that successful. I've never heard of him.”

“He used a pen name—Max Love.”

Kyle gaped at the sleeping man with an expression of disbelief and awe. “Max Love the porn guy?”

Nora’s cheeks warmed, and her shoulders stiffened. “Adult romance.”

He shrugged, clearly not seeing a difference. Most likely her interest in erotic literature would be the talk of the coffee room for the next month. She should have kept her mouth shut.

“I've heard his books were good,” said Kyle.

“The best. Even better than Jessica Clare.” Well, she wasn't really that bothered about her reputation. “I used to eat up his novels like they were double-chocolate sundaes with extra choc chips on top.”

“I thought they were about sex, sex, and more sex.”

“No.” How could he think that? “They were the most romantic stories imaginable. His protagonists were always impossibly innocent girls who fell deeply in love with older, wealthy, Byronic heroes.”

He smirked. “You mean like Anastasia in Fifty Shades?”

“Wait! You've read Fifty Shades of Grey?”

“Um…no. Of course not.” His cheeks glowed such a bright shade of red that he may as well have admitted the lie aloud. Perhaps she wouldn't be the talk of the coffee room after all; Kyle had his own secrets to keep.

She laughed. “Well, it is one of the classics, like Harry Potter and Twilight.” She examined Mr. Griffin’s peaceful face and sighed. “Max Love was my hero.”

As they stepped toward the door, Kyle glanced back at the bed. “They developed successful cures for every form of cancer, so why can't they find an effective treatment for Alzheimer's?”

She shook her head. “Some problems are more tricky than others, and the brain is by far our most complex organ. Maybe someday.”

“I sure hope they've figured it out before I hit eighty.”

Nora nodded. “We can only pray.”

“It's sad to see such a talented guy end up this way.”

As they entered the corridor, she turned to Kyle. “Don't be so negative, though. Think about it this way—as Professor James Griffin he helped thousands of students, and as Max Love the bestselling author he touched millions.” She chuckled. “And given what he wrote, I bet there are thousands of young people alive today who would never have been born if their moms hadn't picked up one of his books at just the right time.”

Kyle laughed aloud. “Heck, I bet you're right about that.” His laughter trailed off, and his steps grew sluggish. “But what about my life? What does it mean? I'm no genius or artist, and all I ever really wanted to be was a soldier. Now that they've built those robot tanks, I'm obsolete.”

Nora sympathized because she had abandoned a dream to embrace reality. She'd wanted to be a romantic poet like Wordsworth and Coleridge, but her talents lay elsewhere. She patted his back. “I'm sorry you had to leave the Army, but don't lose hope. I don't know how good you were at driving tanks, but from what I've seen, you're a first-rate geriatric nurse.” She paused with her hand on the handle of their next patient’s door. “I think we should simply take a leaf out of Mr. Griffin’s book.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mr. Griffin wasn't the captain of his high school football team or a magazine centerfold, but he didn't agonize over that. Instead, he focused on what he did have, which was the ability to teach and to write. God blessed us all with different talents, but it's up to us to make the most of what we were given…while there's still time.”

“I suppose you're right.”

“Of course I am. We are capable of making a positive contribution to other people’s lives. Let's do that.”

Word count: 2000

Written in response to the quote:

"You are only young once,
but you can stay immature indefinitely."
-- Ogden Nash

© Copyright 2018 Robert Edward Baker (robertbaker at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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