Geriatric Oaks Retirement Home
Boca Raton, Florida
Nurse Sheila was a living saint. For the past twenty years, she’d diligently kept watch over her elderly charges, many of which were dazed, confused, and filled to the brim with anger over the fact that their lives had become a sad, ironic joke.
“What is this?” Mr. Bromstein asked as pulled out the elastic waistband of his boxer shorts and stared downward. “This is supposed to be my schmekel but it looks like a day old slice of pastrami.”
“Have you been putting your cream on?” Nurse Sheila asked.
‘Oy,” Mr. Bromstein answered as he turned to his roommate, Raul. Raul feasted on jello as he watched an old Western film.
“Do you hear what she asks me?” Mr. Bromstein asked Raul. “‘Have I put the cream on?’ she says. Of course I put the cream on. The doctor tells me I have a diseased schmekel and that I need to put some cream on it so I put some cream on it. Why would I not put the cream on it if I’m told that my schmekel requires the assistance of a medical cream?”
“I’m just trying to help, Murray,” Nurse Sheila said. “I’ll ask the doctor to stop by.”
“Yes,” Mr. Bromstein said as he took a seat next to Raul. “See that you do, please. The last thing I need is for my schmekel to turn gangrenous so some quack can waltz in here and tell me that he has to chop it off with a rusty butcher knife and turn me into a lady.”
“Let me know if it gets any worse,” Nurse Sheila said.
“Oy gevalt,” Mr. Bromstein said as he stared at the screen. “Worse? ‘Worse’ she says. How can my life get any worse? I was a good boy. I was nice to my mama and my papa. I grew into a good man. I worked hard. I met a nice girl. Got married. Raised three wonderful children and provided for them but do any of them visit me? No. Always busy, busy busy. Bah, what a letdown for my life to be ending with me having to beg for help with my rotten schmekel.”
Raul lifted up his Army veteran ball cap, scratched his bald head, then covered his dome. He coughed to clear his throat, then offered, “Life’s a joke and death’s the punchline, man.”
Mr. Bromstein shook his head, then turned to Nurse Sheila. “Will you get a load of this putz? Three years I live with this one and not a peep and now that I’m baking up a fungus in my pants he’s got something to say.”
Raul spooned some jello into his mouth, gulped it and then continued on without taking his gaze away from the cowboys on TV. “You’re born. You struggle. You do your best. Whether you’re a king or a pauper, it all ends the same with, with an old, broken down body with a broken dick or a broken ass or a broken something or other keeping from doing the shit that you want to do. Sooner or later, we all just end up waiting to die.”
“Aw, who asked you?” Mr. Bromstein said as he looked at the TV. “And what’s with this goy? Seventeen fellows I’ve seen him shoot now with the same gun and I haven’t seen him reload his gun once. What hack writing. I have a good mind to write a strongly worded letter to the studio.”
“Film’s sixty years old,” Raul said.
“You’re kidding,” Mr. Bromstein said. “It feels like it was just yesterday I saw this picture with my papa. Five pence would get you three shows and all the popcorn you could stick in your pockets. Oh it was so much better then than it is now what with these films about ignoramuses flying around in tights and capes. Don’t get me started.”
“OK gentlemen,” Nurse Sheila said as she stepped out into the hallway. “If you need anything, let me know.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Mr. Bromstein said. “Unless you can whip me up a new schmekel you’re useless to me but thank you anyway, dear.”
Nurse Sheila entered the next room to find Mr. Petersen curled up on his bed in the fetal position with a tinfoil hat perched atop his head.
“Them aliens say I was the one what killed JFK but I was nowhere near the grassy knoll at the time, no sir,” Mr. Petersen said.
“Mr. Petersen,” Nurse Sheila said. “How are you this evening?”
Mr. Petersen wrapped his arms around himself and rocked back and forth in bed. “J. Edgar Hoover. J. Edgar Hoover put fluoride in the water to keep us all under control so the mole people could build a colony right under our nose.”
“That good, huh?” Nurse Sheila asked.
“When I look in my brain’s retrograde celery basket I can see all the ebbs and flows of the grand conspiracy behind the free masons and their never-ending plot to wrap the world in polyester and sell us all down the river to the intergalactic robot consortium,” Mr. Petersen said.
“I think we’re going to talk to the resident psychiatrist to see about upping your dosage,” Nurse Sheila said.
The nurse looked to the right to find an empty bed. “Mr. Petersen. Where’s Mr. Hogan?”
“Hogan,” Mr. Petersen said. “That man’s not Hogan. He’s a spy working deep cover on a joint operation conducted by the CIA and MI6 to find out what I know about the lizard people.”
Nurse Sheila opened the bathroom door and took a peak. It was empty.
“How long has he been gone?” Nurse Sheila asked.
Mr. Petersen glared at the nurse. “How long are the federales going to insist that the moon landing was fake when we all know that it was just a dog and pony show designed to appease their corporate overlords into so that we’d all be too stupid and ignorant to realize that powerful hallucinatory drugs are added to the world’s supply of pancake batter on a monthly basis?”
Nurse Sheila sighed. “Try to get some sleep.”
The nurse picked up speed as she hurried down the hall. “Has anyone seen Mr. Hogan?” she called out. There was no answer.
A strapping young orderly came down the hall.
“Ted,” Nurse Sheila said. “Mr. Hogan’s not in his room.”
“Shit,” Ted replied. “He was ten minutes ago. I’ll do a sweep.”
“Do that,” Nurse Sheila said. “In the meantime, I have a hunch.”
A candy striper walked down the hall, pushing a cart filled with covered dishes.
“Tara,” Nurse Sheila said. “Have you seen Mr. Hogan around?”
“No,” Tara said. “Uh oh. Do you think he and…”
“Absolutely,” Nurse Sheila said.
Tara shuddered. “Ugh. To think about those two going at it. Oh my God. I need to pour bleach directly into my brain.”
“Sadly, you’ll eventually get used to it, kid,” Nurse Sheila said.
The nurse hurried down the hallway until she reached room 798. She banged on the door. No answer. She banged louder. She turned the knob. The door was locked.
“Mrs. Nelson,” Nurse Sheila said. “Open the door, please.”
“Screw off, copper!” came the voice of a sweet, little old lady. “You’ve got nothing on me.”
Nurse Sheila closed her eyes, took a deep breathe, then collected herself. “Ted! Hey, Ted!”
Upon hearing his name, Ted hurried to the nurse’s position.
“Can you get this door open?” Nurse Sheila asked.
“I think I’ve got it,” Ted said as he fumbled through a large key ring.
Nurse Sheila felt water sopping its way into her comfortable shoes. She looked down to find water seeping out from under the door.
“What in the world?” Nurse Sheila asked.
“Got it,” Ted said as he settled on a key and inserted it into the lock. He turned it, heard the click, then opened the door.
Inside the room, wrinkly old Dolores Nelson stood in her petticoat, ranting and raving. “You pigs can’t just barge in here without a warrant! I know my rights!”
“Where’s Mr. Hogan, Dolores?” Nurse Sheila asked.
“I’m not saying another word until I can speak with my lawyer,” Dolores replied.
“How many times do I have to tell you that this nursing home has a strict, zero tolerance policy on fraternizing between residents?” Nurse Sheila asked.
“Oh stick your policy where the sun doesn’t shine, honey,” Dolores said. “That man rocks my world and at my age, I don’t have much of a world left to rock.”
“He’s got a heart condition,” Nurse Sheila said. “He can’t handle excitement.”
“What excitement?” Dolores asked. “I’m the one that’s getting the excitement. Where else is a ninety year old cougar like me going to find a strapping young, seventy-five year old buck who’s a virtual Rembrandt when it comes to cunnilingus?”
“OK,” Nurse Sheila said. “I don’t need to hear the details. Where is he?”
“Oh, don’t be upset with him, sweetheart,” Dolores said. “I know he’s got a bum ticker but really, there’s nothing about this that’s going to put undue stress on him. It’s like asking him to chew on a pound of musty roast beef is all.”
Nurse Sheila looked at the water building up on the floor, then turned her attention to the bathroom. She knocked on the door.
“Mr. Hogan?” Nurse Sheila said. She knocked again. “Mr. Hogan. Come out right now. We need to talk.”
Nurse Sheila knocked again. “Are you decent? I’m going to send the orderly in if you don’t come out right now.”
“I think he’s indisposed, dearie,” Dolores said. “He had a bowl of chili at lunch and it’s been giving him gas all afternoon. He’s been in there a long time. For a moment there I heard such terrible noises coming from in there. I think he might have broken the toilet.”
“You think?” Nurse Sheila asked in a sarcastic tone. She looked at Ted. “Open it.”
Ted fumbled through his key ring once more. As he did, Nurse Sheila looked down to see that the water coming out from underneath the bathroom door was starting to turn red.
“Oh my God,” Nurse Sheila said. “Hurry up, Ted.”
Ted found the right key and used it to open the door. He and the nurse entered the bathroom to find blood and guts all over the walls, a giant hole in the floor, a busted pipe, and blood and guts all over the walls. The toilet was gone and only thousands of porcelain shards remained.
Nurse Sheila was dumbstruck. “What in the…”
Dolores slowly moseyed on over and looked inside the bathroom. “Huh. Well, maybe it was more exciting for him than I thought.”