The Thing, That Thing…

The Word: DARK

Slim woke in the dark, and could not remember.  The thing, that thing. That made it light again. She knocked something off the bedside table, she could hear it hit the floor.  “Shit.” The clock didn’t work either, the numbers, glowing. So irritating, she could see the numbers, but she couldn’t… Oh, why was she so stupid?  Was it time to get up or not?  That’s all she wanted to know.

It was dark, she didn’t think it was time, but those things, over the windows, she couldn’t tell. Was it dark outside too?

She tried to find the thing–the thing that turned on the light, but she couldn’t. Something else fell.  She got out of bed then, maybe she could light a light in the bathroom, by the commode. But suddenly, she was on the floor. She must have sat down. It was dark, and her glasses, she couldn’t see, and she was on the floor, and it was dark. She tried to get up but she couldn’t do that either.  “Shit.”  And she started to cry.

There was something she was supposed to do.  Pull something. couldn’t reach the pull thing that called–who? She believed no one would come anyway.  There was no one who worked here at night, they all went somewhere and drank coffee and laughed at the old people.

If only it wasn’t so damn dark. So many things rambled around in her head, she couldn’t say what exactly. And  there was no one to say them to anyway.   She missed Ritchie. “God, Ritchie, why did you have to leave me here?” it was cold on the floor, she pulled the blanket off the bed and wrapped it around herself.  How had this happened to her? Of all people.  Who the hell said this would be all right?

The clock was even laughing at her, glowing there with its big computery numbers like it was a rocket station. But it was wrong. Nobody ever reset it.  How she hated it here.  “Ritchie, I’m a goddamn fool,” she said.  He was waiting for her, in that place, the sooner the better if you asked her. She reached up to her bed and pulled a pillow down, lay her head on it.  Screw it.  Then she started to cry. Here she was, Slim Tolliver, queen of the goddamn north shore, lying on the floor like an overturned turtle, and there was no one in the goddamn world to help her.

It felt good, infinitely good, to cry like a kid and feel sorry for herself. Ha.  She never let her children do this, when they were young. Teased and bullied them into pulling their socks up.  “Pull your socks up,” she used to say  “Stop sniveling.  You look like absolute hell.”

If only she had a little dog, it would come and lick her face, she could cuddle with it, talk to it.  But they didn’t have animals here. That one big fluffy dog came sometimes, it had a diamond collar–oh, she loved to pet it. That great curly hair.  But she couldn’t bring her own dogs, the big one and the little one… Frenchie?  F… F something.  Cute as could be.  So funny to watch them play together, the little one running in circles, the big one just staring.

Where was her mother? Not mother… sister? Daughter. Pammy.   She came and went whenever she goddamn well wanted to.  Nice to come and go. God she missed her car. White car, white leather, two seater. Just for her. She remembered when she bought it.  She didn’t tell anybody, not even Ritchie. It was the first time she bought something like that without anybody’s say so. Ha.  His face when she brought it home.  Oh, to just get in a car and drive… a white scarf on her head.  Sun on her face.  Ah…

If only she could get the light on.  She crawled in the direction she thought was the bathroom, found the door, felt along the cold porcelain commode and pulled herself up onto her knees. There it was, the thing, the switch, she turned it on, it got light.  Never in her whole life was she so happy to see her jumbled makeup and the toilet rolls,  the towels.

Seeing she was here already, Slim used the commode and wondered if it was time to get up.  They came to give you your pills at six. She had never been an early riser, six was ridiculous, inhuman, for bakers, and people who delivered the paper.  It would probably be hours until it was six.

She decided she wouldn’t tell her mother what had happened. She’d been so mean to those kids.  Not letting them cry or be hurt.   No wonder that one had put her in here, where there was nobody to help her, they just drank coffee in the basement and make fun of the old people, their clumsiness and the mess you couldn’t help making.

She started to cry again.  If she was a dog, they could just take her to the vet, give her a shot. She didn’t think she could do this one more day.  She looked in the mirror over the sink, that blurry thing she assumed was herself. God, it was lucky she couldn’t see more than the white hair.  “Pull up your socks, Slim Tolliver,” she told herself.  “Nobody wants to see that.”

She left the light on, and shuffled back to the bed. She was supposed to use that thing, but she had no idea where it was just now. That thing

Part  of a semi-weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word.  “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

 Next week’s word is: COP

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7 Responses to “The Thing, That Thing…”

  1. It is a perfect tale of vulnerability and the Karmic justice one woman feels she deserves. It was frightening, also–that feeling of not knowing how to care for herself, and feeling hopeless because she had no one to comfort her. Wonderful writing!!

  2. Nice Writing. I felt the hopelessness, emptiness, loneliness.

  3. Tom Rastrelli Says:

    Great short, Janet! Well written and true to the moment of what so many elderly people face in nursing homes.

  4. Janet Clare Says:

    Left behind, left over…every women’s nightmare. Well done.

  5. A disturbing and important tale. Your vivid descrption and details really made it seem as though you were living inside the mind of the elderly woman in the story. Every bit as haunting as it must be to find oneself in such a position.

    This could work well as sensitivity training for those who work with caretaking of the elderly and for that matter everyone else.

    Afterall, we all will have our turn at growing old and all that comes with it.

  6. Thank you! A pleasure to read!

  7. Kristen Holt Says:

    This was amazing. You have such an insight into so many different characters, I hope that I can learn to do this more successfully!

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