Model Patient

Nurse Jacob was just leaving after checking to be sure that Martha was comfortably settled after her bath. Martha smiled at her and murmured “Thanks,” to let her know all was well, and Nurse Jacob said, “Have a good morning and I’ll be back to check on you in a bit,” and then left the room.

Martha thought that being at the end of life in a nursing home wasn’t that different from the beginning of life in the nursery. In both cases, people were cared for, tended, bathed, dressed, fed, and so forth. And in both cases as, Martha supposed, was true of most of life, unfortunately, people were categorized. You were a good baby or a colicky difficult baby or you were a good child or a naughty disobedient child, you were put into the smart reading group or the slow learners group, Martha thought remembering her days as a teacher.

Martha had hated the categories then as she did now. As a child Martha had been the good obedient daughter because she was terrified; she did it for her very survival. Now, Martha was the good patient, but not out of a sense of fear. Rather, Martha became the model patient because she had a secret.

As Martha thought about her life, she stroked her cat Marmalade. Model patients were allowed to have their companion animals, another very good reason, thought Martha, for being easy to tend to. Marmalade herself was a model cat. The nurses fed her twice a day and changed her litter box every morning and otherwise, Marmalade stayed in Martha’s lap when she was in her chair, or other else on Martha’s bed curled up on top of her. The nurses had no idea how much Martha told Marmalade because Martha rarely talked to people, but that was just fine with both Martha and the nurses.

Martha always appeared to listen attentively as the nurses and aides babbled on about their lives or other patients. Martha knew that poor Agnes down the hall frequently had to be sedated to keep her from screaming and crying all the time and that old Mr. Grimes was nasty and ill-tempered, but Martha just nodded and said “thank you” or “how nice” or “that’s a shame,” and the staff was pleased. They spent extra time with Martha during the day because they felt sorry for her. She was all alone and never had any visitors. It wasn’t that she didn’t have family. She did, and she knew they loved her, but they were just too busy. They had families of their own and activities and work of their own, and she wasn’t a part of any of that anymore. In fact, she hadn’t been for many, many years, and as happens, they just forgot about her.

She’d been told when she was younger that she needed to find her own family, that family didn’t depend on blood, and she had tried, but mostly she had learned to enjoy her own company and that of her dear furry companions. She became a recluse and so it was no wonder that she didn’t have any visitors now, or so it appeared to the staff, and truly Martha was alright with that. People drained her energies so fast and it was so hard for her to speak aloud now, that her own company was the best, being here with Marmalade.

Martha napped a lot during the day so that she would be ready for her nighttime visitors. This was her secret. She wasn’t alone as everyone imagined. She had a family now and they came to visit every night just after midnight. And she and Marmalade lived for those visits. Everyone needs companionship and relationships, the nursing staff was correct on that score, but they needn’t put her in the category of elderly patient whose family doesn’t care and doesn’t visit because Martha’s family visited every night.

Marmalade always kept her ears open for the sound of a nurse deciding to check on patients because Marmalade and Martha did not want their secret revealed. Every night the faeries came to visit them. And unlike the talkative nurses, Martha and Marmalade listened to everything the faeries said and they talked back to them, telling the faeries all about their days as well. The faeries could communicate without voices so that helped Martha (and Marmalade) a lot. And it wasn’t exhausting to visit with faeries. Furthermore, they always arrived with cordials and snacks which were incredibly delicious and also brought new energies to Martha.

Martha was especially eager for tonight’s visit since she was sure the Queen would be coming to tell her all about the Prince’s wedding. The Prince himself had visited last night after his bachelor party. He was very tipsy, but very polite, and Martha had wished him all the happiness in the world. And tonight the Queen would come and she and Martha would talk about weddings and families and children and it would be a wonderful visit.

Martha and Marmalade nodded off to sleep to rest up for tonight’s visit, and as Martha was drifting off she realized that she had finally found family, or maybe it had found her, and that she was indeed very fortunate, not only for the wonderful care she was shown by the nursing home staff, but by the joy her new found family brought her each and every night. Her life was truly blessed.


An Adventure in the Woods

Eloise was out for her morning walk in the woods when she spotted what looked like a blue dragonfly flitting in front of her, then darting off, then flitting back toward her. She decided to try to follow the dragonfly and soon she was walking deeper and deeper into the woods, further than she had ever been. There were no trails in here, but the dragonfly seemed to know just the right way to go and Eloise followed along. After all, she didn’t have to go to work today and she wasn’t much interested in the chores that waited back at home and she was just in the mood for an adventure on this sunny crisp fall day.

And so she followed the blue dragonfly. Why not, she thought. She had no destination in mind. She just wanted to get out into the woods, and she was certainly doing that. In the back of her mind a thought popped up that she might get lost, but she quickly pushed that thought away and continued onward. It sure seemed as if the dragonfly wanted her to follow, and this was certainly more fun than doing laundry or cleaning the house. Eloise felt like a little girl again off chasing imaginary friends, and she decided that it felt really good.

She’d been following the dragonfly for about a half hour when she noticed a large fallen tree ahead, a tree with a hollowed out hole in it. She then noticed a couple squirrels darting frantically around the tree trunk, looking, if she didn’t think it was too impossible, very worried. The more adult part of her brain thought how can a squirrel look worried, but again she ignored that. She was on an adventure and she decided anything could happen. After all, the Winter Solstice was less than a month away. This was the most magical time of the year.

Eloise stepped forward toward the fallen tree and she was amazed to discover that the squirrels didn’t run from her. They looked up, saw her, and immediately began chattering. The blue dragonfly was hovering over them as well. Ah, thought Eloise, this is what the dragonfly wanted me to find, but what is going on.

All of a sudden Eloise realized that there were small creatures inside the hollowed out tree trunk. She was amazed. They looked like tiny tiny dolls but they were alive. What were they? Brownies, Pixies, Gnomes? She just wasn’t sure. But she bent down very carefully and all of a sudden she could hear voices. They were speaking to her, and she had to get closer and listen very hard to hear them as their voices were quite soft, at least to her aging ears.

“Help,” cried the woman nearest to her. The woman looked just like her grandmother had, but in miniature, thought Eloise, as she listened. “Help us please,” the woman continued. “My husband was trying to gather acorns and he fell. I think he has broken his leg.”

Eloise looked more closely and she saw an old man lying on a moss bed inside the tree hollow. He was obviously in a lot of pain. And Eloise soon noticed that his left leg was at a very strange angle and there was what looked like a toothpick but which had to be bone sticking out. Eloise didn’t know much first aid, but she realized this was indeed a very nasty break.

Suddenly the blue dragonfly was speaking to her. Eloise started as she realized that what she had been following, what she had taken to be a dragonfly was in fact a faerie. The faerie was speaking, “You must help him, please! None of us is strong enough to pull the leg so that the bone will slide back into place. We need your help.”

Eloise didn’t hesitate. “Of course I will help. We’ll need splints and bandages to fasten the leg once the bone is back in place.”

“We have everything in readiness,” said the faerie whose name was Lucinda. “We were so glad you decided to go for a walk today as poor Gerald has been in a lot of pain since he fell very early this morning and Rachel has been beside herself trying to figure out what to do. I told them that I’d followed you on your walks in the woods and that you seemed like a very good person. I do hope you can help.”

“Of course,” said Eloise in her most business like voice. “Let’s get to work. Do you have something that Gerald can bite down on when I pull? I’m afraid this is going to hurt a lot.”

“Yes,” Rachel said as she looked up from tending her husband. “I have an old maple branch I’ve cut down for him and I’ve also given him lots of his favorite whiskey to numb the pain.”

“Yes, that will help I’m sure,” said Eloise, hoping that he was good and drunk by now. “Ok, I can pull the leg myself,” as she realized that he was so small that she could easily hold his ankle in one hand and his waist in her other. “I just need you to be ready to splint and bandage it as soon as the bone snaps back into place. You will need to treat the wound and bandage it first and then apply the splints.”

“We are ready,” said Rachel. “My daughters well help me.”

All of a sudden Eloise realized that there were many more of these beings than she had at first realized. There is a small village here, she thought as she bent down to get into position. “Right, here goes,” she said as she took ahold of Gerald’s leg, being careful to apply firm stretching pressure without crushing him.

Thankfully the bone easily slipped back into place as Gerald let out a cry and then mercifully slipped into unconsciousness. Rachel and her daughters worked quickly and efficiently. They obviously knew much more about injuries than Eloise did. Eloise suspected that they would have found a way to get the bone back in even without her help, but she felt honored that Lucinda had trusted her enough to bring her here.

Soon Gerald was sleeping peacefully and his leg was properly bandaged and splinted. Rachel looked up at Eloise and thanked her for her assistance. “You made the job much easier and faster, and for that we thank you,” said Rachel. “Would you like some tea?”

Eloise would have loved to stay but she thought that probably the family wanted to rest after the morning’s excitement and she did have a long walk back home and then chores of her own, so she politely declined the invitation, noticing that Rachel looked relieved. “Maybe another time then,” said Rachel as Eloise got up to leave.

Eloise realized that she really didn’t know what direction to walk to get home. She was totally lost in a part of the forest she had never entered before. Lucinda called to her, “I will take you home now. Just follow me, but you must promise to keep our world secret.”

“I certainly will,” said Eloise, “as I wouldn’t want any harm to come to any of you. I doubt very much that any of the people I know would even believe me. I do hope you will allow me to return sometime for that cup of tea.”

Lucinda smiled. “You will always be welcome. Now, let’s get you home.”

Eloise mused as she walked back through the forest that she might be an old lady, but she was still game for an adventure.

Broken Doll

Under the back porch Sarah found an old abandoned doll. Actually, to be truthful, it was Sarah’s dog Herbie who found it. He thought he had a new dog toy, and what interesting smells it had. Herbie was not happy when Sarah took the doll away from him. “Hey, that’s mine!” his bark seemed to say. “Give it back!”

But Sarah kept it. The doll was very old, with a broken porcelain face and a torn apron which must at one point have been white over a red gingham checked dress, also ripped and dirty. Sarah tried to imagine who the doll’s owner was. The previous owners of the house had been an elderly couple with no family, so she didn’t really think the doll had been a part of their lives, but who lived here before them. Sarah put the doll aside, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it. After lunch, she decided, I will go down to the county office and find out who lived here before the Wingers. She went inside, fixed herself a peanut butter sandwich, put on a clean pair of pants since hers were rather disreputable after working in the yard all morning, and headed out the door, calling to Herbie, “I’ll be right back.”

At the county offices, Sarah discovered that the Wingers had bought the house twenty years earlier from a couple named Douglass and that the Douglass family had owned the house for less than a year. That seemed strange to Sarah and so she then went over to the library. There was a nice looking lady at the reference desk and Sarah went up to her and asked, “Do you have back issues of the local newspaper? Back about 20 years?”

Millie, the reference librarian, looked up from her work. How nice, she thought, to have a real reference question. “Yes, our microfilm records go back over 100 years. How may I help you?”

Suddenly Sarah felt rather stupid. What difference did it all make? So what if there was a doll under the porch? But the librarian looked so kind that Sarah told how she’d found the doll and then discovered that her sellers had lived there for 20 years but they in fact had bought the house from a couple who’d only lived there for less than a year and now she was curious. That seemed such a short time to own a home.

Millie looked intrigued as well. “For sure,” commented Millie. “And you say that the Wingers had no family. Maybe they also didn’t have a dog like yours who explored under the porch!”

Sarah laughed and felt more at ease. “And the doll looks so sad with a broken face and all, and it definitely seems at least 20 years old, maybe even older. I just wondered who might have owned it. It’s not really important,” Sarah continued. “It just has been nagging at me so I thought I’d play detective.”

“Let’s see what we can find out,” said Millie. “You have me curious now also and to be honest, today is a pretty slow day and I am not really interested in compiling reference statistics. These days the county library administration seems to be moving us farther and farther away from the patrons and closer and closer to the paper pushers. Trying to answer your question will help me as well.”

Sarah was now really glad she had come in. Millie said, “First, let’s look through the newspaper index for the years covering the Douglasses time in the house. Now it is 2011 now. And you bought the house earlier this year?”

“Yes,” said Sarah, “from Carl and Joyce Winger. And they had bought it from Jack and Mary Douglass in 1991. In turn, Jack and Mary had bought the house from a family named Rogers, but also in early 1991. That’s what seems so strange.”

“Ok,” said Millie. “Here is the newspaper index from the 1990’s. Let’s look up Douglass.” Millie put the microfilm in the reader and started winding carefully. All of a sudden she stopped. “Look here,” she said. “An obituary for a Susan Douglass, aged 7, died of leukemia on August 21, 1991.”

“Oh dear,” said Sarah. “That explains a lot! Was she their only child?”

Millie read further, “Yes, it says that she was survived by her parents, Jack and Mary Douglass, and then both sets of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, but no other siblings. She was buried in a cemetery back East. How sad.”

“I bet the parents couldn’t bear staying in the house and so they moved. One of them might even have thrown the doll in anger at the total unfairness of it all.”

“So,” Millie wondered, “what will you do with this information?”

“I think,” said Sarah slowly, “that I will wash and mend the dolls clothes, see about getting a new face for her from the doll repair shop in town, and then bury her under the big pine tree in the backyard. That seems a fitting way to put poor Susan’s doll to rest and honor the short life Susan had, I think. Thank you for all your help.”

“You are most welcome,” answered Millie, “and thank you for giving me an interesting reference question. Have a good afternoon.”

Sarah returned home and told Herbie, “Well, we have a job to do,” and she set to work mending the sad broken doll.

Novel is Finished!

Ok, I have succeeded in the November Novel Writing Challenge! I finished my first draft of my very first novel today! It is 60,319 words in 30 chapters. Whatever happens after this is just the icing on the cake! Can’t wait to read it and then start editing it. I like it well enough now (before reading it of course) that I plan to self-publish it once I revise it. But for now I will rest. I hope to be back to doing flash fiction tomorrow or the next day. We shall see. Stay tuned!

First Day

First day and first chapter written. 1809 words! Won’t be doing a lot of flash fiction for November but will keep updates going on the novel as I participate in my first ever National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Absolutely exhausted–hope I build endurance!