As much as she hated needles, Lynne was game for another dose, high spirited for 9 in the morning because Frank was home doing the vacuuming and once their respective chores were complete, they’d join the Senior Spartans on their monthly lunch outing. With the cold infusion slow dripping like a hipster’s coffee- into the orifice forged by the nurse’s ‘… little sting’- there was nothing to do but look around the room, make small talk with the nurse and other patient, or- as was mainly the case- look down at her gnarled hands, driftwood garnished with the ring Frank had given her 55 years earlier- hands that had changed Noel and Fiona’s nappies, held a glass to toast each child’s wedding, cooked countless shepherd’s pies- now too set in their ways to do as Lynne instructs. No way they’d hold the arm of the hoover much less a tennis racket these days, at least not long enough to raise much dust.
Laurie set the alarm for each patient- or client as she preferred to call them- the final job in what had been a long week, what with the mouse fiasco in the boxes that remained piled up in the garage, her ex who yet again asked for ‘just a small favour’ which meant she’d rearranged her plans with the girls to pick up the kids from school- tallying to six-love in the mental score she kept- and the pent up frustration of Jase who was getting tired of the distance between them and was not so subtly hinting he’d like to move in. Watching the translucent IV pouch change shape – imperceptibly unless she paid attention to the gradual shift with every drip – thoughts of domesticity, relationships and the demands of others dissipated until the need to smile and nod and make pleasant conversation with the two women pinned into position by the weight of their illnesses. With her reverie broken, she focused on her captive audience for the small talk that ensued, compelled as they were to wait it out till their last drops and Laurie’s final sigh.
It was Chloe’s first time. She’d come prepared with a couple of books,
–The Old Man and the Sea that a colleague had lent her, an edition with a beautiful watercolour dust jacket, and Care of the Soul– the kind of books she always thought she should read. As soon as she saw the old woman’s hands, Hemingway’s words became a jumbled blur, caught only in short bursts between surreptitious glances at the hands that had lived with the disease longer than Chloe had, time enough to progress in all its joint-distorting, claw-forming cruelty. Had she met her match? A glimpse of what was to come? With only one hand free, she dropped the book in the gap between her thigh and the arm rest. Retrieving it with acute awareness of the nimbleness that she ordinarily takes for granted, she continued ‘reading’ while studying the older woman’s hands, her eyes volleying between page and arthritic digits. Laughter broke the monotony of conversation between the nurse and the older woman, forcing Chloe to look up
“Is that the special upside down edition?” The nurse asked with a half interested nod toward the book Chloe was holding.
Thanks Sonya for the inspiration – Three Line Tales Week 76. I took some liberty with the ‘three line’ rule this week and instead wrote 3 tales with varying numbers of lines.