Do Not Disturb
The following is a short story previously presented at the Richard Hugo House 72 Hour Challenge in Seattle, Washington on February 12, 2009.
“Are we there yet?”
The ward nurse patted the blue-bunnied shoulder, and murmured into the hopeful face looking up at her. “Not yet, honey, a little while longer.”
It satisfied Angie, and she went back to rocking slightly in her chair, her arms folded across her chest, locked in an endless journey; hopeless, but full of hope.
The room was quiet this late in the day. Each chair filled; an entire cafeteria of mental illnesses. Pick your favorite one, we had them all. I had been observing the woman by the window all day. She sat alone and the nurses let her be in her own private “do not disturb” zone. If anyone approached, she only giggled and got agitated, angry. The others learned to stay away.
I’d heard her story earlier, nurses filling in the newbie. They said she’d killed a man. Lured him into his basement with a phone call, braced the door shut and then flooded it. They say she stayed to hear his screams. The firemen found her nearby when they responded to a call about a broken fire hydrant. She had been his lover, they said, but he broke it off. I guess she was mad.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a nurse tilt her head at me. I heard a soft “we leave her alone” before they moved off, whispering. I couldn’t hear, but I knew what they were saying. You see, I too was there that day. I saw her go out of my house. I too went to the basement and beheld the broken bodies of my beautiful babies, the blood-stains in their hair washed out by the cold water. She’d come into my home and beat them to death while they were sleeping. I heard her giggle as she called my husband to tell him what she’d done and where she’d put them.
I’d told him she was crazy. I told him to stop screwing my sister or stop coming home. They thought I was in the garden all that time, protecting my new plants from the rain. They thought I didn’t know. But Carol didn’t brace the basement door shut, and she didn’t stay to listen to him scream. I did.