Out with the Old

Copyright 2011 by Carl Garrett

Cettie Harper was only half-aware of the two troubled men who stood before her bed. At eighty-nine, she had one of the most extensive medication regimens of any of the nursing home's "guests," and it left her a bit detached at certain times of the day.

"Mrs. Harper," said the first (the sad one), "What I'm trying to say is, the staff... is leaving, now."

"Leaving," she repeated. The mind she had so seldom exercised pondered the word and found it wanting. "Well, then, the night nurse. The night nurse, then."

"Ms. Harper," said the second (the angry one), "That what we've been telling you. There is no night nurse. There is no more staff. The law's been changed, the government money is gone, the Qual-Care network is bankrupt, and no one's come to claim you."

"Claim me?" There was something obscene about the word. Lost puppies and overcoats got claimed. Baggage got claimed. "Who is supposed to do that? There has to be someone who is supposed to do that."

"We have proof of our attempts to contact your family, ma'am," he replied, "Which is what the new law requires. We've fulfilled our obligations." It seemed to Cettie that his words, though spoken so harshly, were making him sick. There was a nursery rhyme about that, or a Sunday school story.

The sad one said, "There may be a government care team coming to collect you and the others in the next... in the near future. But I understand they've got... quite a backlog." He placed two miniature cereal boxes on her bedside table. "Goodbye, Mrs. Harper."

They were gone, leaving an odd sense of blankness behind them. It occurred to Cettie that the lights weren't working. She would ask the night nurse about it, when she came.

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