Recap of Chapter Five: Susan Cole is back in Salter’s Point. She checked herself into Salter’s Point Hotel and while there, she saw Doctor Benny’s face televised on a news station with the newscaster reporting his murder and she being accused as a possible suspect. She panics and becomes suicidal. She decides to take her own life. In chapter six, Doctor Poppy, still dealing with guilt over Robert Harris’ disappearance is facing a possible lawsuit promised by his wife. Meanwhile on the admissions unit, the evening staff are having a pizza party complete with music, dancing and alcohol.
Seven-Thirty, Wednesday Evening. Ethan Poppy was finishing up her skills group while Cathy was busy serving cupcakes and grape Kool-Aid to thirty-some patients. Ethan, in an upbeat mood, was pleased with the turn-out despite such a horrible start to her day. After everyone signed in and received a cupcake, Ethan waddled over to the nursing station and sat down. She took notes while she quietly observed the patients mingling with one another, Soon Cathy joined her,
“Great turn-out,” she said plopping down in a chair next to her.
“Yes, I think so,” the doctor said breaking out into a bright toothy grin. Her bright smile took Cathy by surprise. “You should smile more often. It brightens up your face,” she said complimenting her.
“Thank-you,” Ethan said turning rosy pink. Cathy got down to business but treaded lightly. “I heard about Robert Harris,” she probed. “How are you doing with all of this?”
Ethan’s face turned very grave. “I’m still bummed about it,” she softly replied. “He’s missing and I’m responsible.”
“Try not to worry so much,” Cathy said trying to be supportive. “He’s probably hanging out with friends somewhere.”
“Cathy, do you realize how serious this is?!” She asked with her violet eyes intense. “If he does something harmful to himself, I could lose my medical license!”
“I doubt that,” Cathy said. “You can’t predict every patient’s behavior. They fool you sometimes. It’s the nature of the beast.”
“You didn’t see how angry his wife was,” she insisted frowning up. “The woman threatened to sue me for malpractice!”
“Then you need to get yourself a good lawyer and quick,” Cathy urged. “Otherwise you are screwed!”
Ethan gave her a sour look. “Let’s just hope the police find him alive and well,” she quipped. “I want this nightmare to be over!”
“I know you do,” Cathy smirked with one eye on Celeste Brown.
Celeste Brown, a petite brunette staggered up to the nursing station. She held her stomach, grimacing in pain. Concerned, Cathy scooted out of her chair with a quickness. “What’s the matter, Celeste?!”
“I have a tummy ache,” she whined. “Can I get something for it?”
Ethan, already out of her seat, was by her side in a jiffy. “Let me help you,” she said throwing an arm around her shoulder. She escorted Celeste to a dining room chair and helped her sit down. “Tell me about your pain. Is it sharp or achy?”
“Achy,” Celeste whined. “It’s like I have gas trapped in my stomach!”
“Well I got something for that,” Ethan assured her smiling. A nurse ran over to assist. “Let the nurse take you to your room, and I will order something for that tummy ache,” she promised.
“Okay,” Celeste groaned, rubbing her abdomen with her face pasty white. The nurse threw one arm around her waist and helped Celeste out of the chair. Celeste held on to the nurse for dear life as the two women shuffled down the hall. Cathy’s smile was wicked. “Poor child,” she sighed. “I guess she ate way too many cupcakes.”
An hour later, Sammie, the charge nurse was up on a creaky ladder removing the glass from the clock on the wall. Tina held onto the ladder while he fiddled with the time. “Change the time to nine thirty,” Tina suggested. “The patients will think it’s time for bed.”
“You got it,” Sammie beamed as he followed her directive. After he changed the time and replaced the glass covering on the clock, he climbed down. “Hurry up and pass out those meds,” he told her. “When you’re finished I’ll order pizza and beer so that we can get our party on!”
“Cool,” Tina said as she ran to the med room. Patients, confused about the time, began preparing for bed. Tina began dashing in and out of rooms administering medications and thirty minutes later she was done. She made a sweep through the hall again, this time shutting doors to every patient’s room. Then she locked her cart in the med room and made a beeline to the nursing station.
“I’m done with medication rounds!” She yelled. “It’s pizza time! Let’s Party!”
Sammie reached for the phone. “Party, Party, Party!” He shouted with glee on his long face. He dialed Shakey’s Pizza. When he heard a voice on the other end, he barked into the phone, “I want thirty large pizzas, ten bottles of sprite, fifteen six packs of Rainer Beer, and four bottles of Saint Michelle Chardonnay wine delivered to East Campus Hospital pronto,” he demanded, his voice hurried. He paused and bucked his big brown droopy eyes. “What?! You didn’t hear me?!” He yelled into the phone.
He took a deep breath and ran his large fingers through his thick brown greasy hair. He repeated the order, this time he spoke very slow. “Thirty large pizzas, ten bottles of sprite, fifteen six packs of Rainer Beer, and four bottles of Saint Chardonnay wine.”
When the order was confirmed, he hung up. Tall and lanky, he managed to climb on top of the counter sitting upright. He reached for the mic and hollered into it, his voice loud and booming. “I need one hundred and fifty dollars for the pizza boy! One hundred and fifty dollars for the pizza boy right here!”
Nurses dug deep into their pockets, handbags, bras, and shirts for dollar bills as they lined up to give the charge nurse their money. Two male nurses moved tables and chairs up against the wall in the dining room; then dragged a pool table out of a nearby closet setting it up in the middle of the floor. Soon everyone, gathered around the pool table, smoking cigarettes, placing bets, and taking turns shooting the ball. Grey smoke hovered in the air above then, and they whooped and hollered, jostling with one another. Thirty minutes into their partying, the unit doorbell rang. “The pizza is here you guys,” Sammie yelled.
Two male nurses raced down the hall to the exit and unlocked the heavy steel door. One nurse shoved the door open while the other nurse leaned into it to keep it from closing. The baby-faced pizza boy, grinning like a hyena, was dressed in white shorts and a Shakey’s Pizza tee-shirt. His cart was overflowing with pizza, pop, beer and wine. “Here’s your order, sir,” he said with a deep voice.
“Thanks dude,” said the nurse handing him a wad of dollar bills as he snatched the cart away from the boy.
“Move back,” he demanded. Just when the pizza boy stepped away, the other nurse lets go of the door, and it slammed in the boy’s face. The door frame rattled like an earthquake as they raced down the hall dragging the cart behind them.
“Time to grub,” both nurses yelled as they charged into the dining room. They emptied the cart, placing the pizza and drinks on a table. One nurse arranged paper plates and napkins on another table while another took care of the drinks. Within minutes, staff surrounded the table piling up their plates with their favorite pizza. They laughed, talked, and teased each other hogging the table as they fought over the beer, wine and soda. One nurse turned on the boom box and Kool and the Gang’s song “Celebration” boomed through loudspeakers. Several nurse took to the floor and danced the hustle. While some began to breakdance, and do the robot.
When the security guard heard the music while out conducting his evening rounds, he hesitated and raised an eyebrow. “What the hell?” He mumbled. His name was John, and he was a big man with a pot belly and a bald head. His uniform was busting at the seams, and he wobbled when he walked. He took his time walking to the heavy steel door, and his bottom jaw hung opened when he peered through the window. “What are they doing in there? Having a party?!”
He unlocked the heavy steel door and wobbled down the hall. As soon as he appeared in the dining room, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Nurses were huddled in small groups guzzling down beer, playing pool or doing the fast hustle. Two techs were in a nearby corner making out. One nurse was out cold on the sofa, snoring like a freight train and another nurse was dancing on top of the nursing station counter smoking a joint. John swung his keys high into the air and shouted. “WHAT ARE YOU FREAKING PEOPLE DOING?!”
Everyone stopped in mid-action and turned to face John. Male nurses lined up in front of the pool table while Sammie ran to greet him. “Look here man,” he said trying to smooth things over. “We are just trying to have a little fun here,” he said. “Cut us some slack!”
John stretched his neck to see over Sammie’s head. “Man, is that pizza over there?” He asked eyeing the pizza boxes on the table.
“Yep,” said Sammie moving aside. “Help yourself.”
“I think I will,” John grinned. Their eyes followed him as he wobbled to the dining room table. They watched in silence, holding their breath as he rummaged through every pizza box searching for a slice of pizza. Finally, he found himself a slice, and he devoured it in seconds. He smacked and licked his thick, crusty lips and then he looked over at Sammie. “Got any beer to wash this down?”
“Sure do,” Sammie said as he pointed to the table with the liquor. John wobbled over and grabbed himself a beer. He cracked it opened and guzzled it down. “Ahhhhh, that’s good and cold,” he said. He crushed the can with one hand and tossed it on the table. Then he glanced around the room. Oodles of eyes stared back at him, and no one said a word. “What are you people looking at?” He chided them. “Let’s Party!”
Everyone broke out in a roaring cheer, and John helped himself to another beer. Several nurses joined him while others hauled butt to the pool table to play another game of pool. John lit his pipe, and a rich tobacco aroma filled the air. They partied late into the night, placing bets, arguing, drinking, eating and dancing, only stopping once to conduct rounds and check on patients.
By the time Thursday morning rolled around, the unit was in a complete shambles. Pizza boxes, wine bottles, beer and soda cans were scattered on tables, chairs and on the floor. Nurses were either slumped over in chairs sleeping off a hangover or charting quietly at the nursing station. A faint odor of stale cigarette smoke mixed with marijuana lingered in the air. When Sally arrived for morning report, the chaotic scene took her by surprise and she threw a fit. “Damn it!” She cursed.
She looked across the room. Stretched out on the sofa, with an empty beer can on his stomach, was Sammie. He was snoring like a grizzly bear. Sally threw her Louie Vuitton handbag on a nearby table and marched over to him. She snatched the pillow from underneath his head and slapped him on the head.
“What the fuck?” He shouted falling off the sofa and bumping his head on the floor. He groaned loudly as he rubbed the back of his head.
“Get your ass up!” She demanded, glaring at him. “What kind of a charge nurse are you?!”
He rose to a sitting position and massaged his lower back. “Don’t curse me woman!” He said grimacing with pain. “We were just having a little fun!”
“This is not the place to have fun,” she hissed. “This is a hospital dirt bag not a nightclub!” She scolded him.
He laughed, mocking her. “Honey, don’t get your panties in such a knot!”
She glowered at him, and he responded by sticking his tongue out. Disgusted, she turned around and stomped to the front of the room. She clapped her hands until she got everyone’s attention. “Listen up,” she shouted her voice very shrill. “You people should be ashamed of yourselves behaving in such an unprofessional manner! I want this place cleaned up now!”
One nurse waved her off, dismissively. “Aww, Sally,” she groaned. “Don’t be such a hard….”
Sally immediately cuts into her. Her face was wolfish. “I SAID NOW!” She yelled stomping one foot on the floor. The nurse’s eyes widened. Then she spun into action like a frightened mouse and began scurrying around the room picking up pizza boxes. Other nurses followed suit, lining up like little ants, confiscating dirty paper plates, napkins, wine bottles, empty beer cans and cigarette butts. They tossed the items in nearby trashcans on their way to their lockers and Sally, still disgusted, snatched her handbag and headed to the exit. “I need a cigarette,” she muttered under her breath. Once she reached the heavy steel door, she spun around and shouted. “Report in the conference room in ten minutes and be on time!” Then she unlocked the door and stomped out.
Fifteen miles down the road, in downtown Salter’s Point, the town clock struck seven times signaling seven in the morning. A maid at Salter’s Point Hotel shoved her cart down the hall on the fourth floor starting her rounds. She passed by room four hundred and twelve and stopped when she noticed the door slightly ajar. She knocked three times and there was no answer. She hesitated and then listened. She couldn’t hear anything. Not even a sound. She knocked on the door again, but still no answer. Then she pushed it opened and walked in. Her eyes got big, and she gasped. “Oh my god!”
Susan, spread-eagled on the bed, had a bluish tint to her bloated heart-shaped face and her blue eyes, half shut, appeared still and glassy. The maid’s face was white as a sheet as she crept over to the bed. Her heart jumped into her throat when she touched Susan’s wrist. Her skin, clammy and cold, sent chills up her spine. She dropped Susan’s wrist and reached for the telephone. She gripped the phone so tight, her knuckles turned a pasty shade of white. She dialed 9-1-1. Within seconds, a dispatcher came on the line. “Ma’am, what’s your emergency?”
“Get an ambulance to Salter’s Point Hotel right now,” the maid yelled shaken to the core. “I think this woman is dead! I can’t wake her up!”
Three Sheets In The Wind will be available on Amazon.com in the next few days. Be sure to purchase a copy so you can find out whether Susan Cole successfully committed suicide. As the story continues three claustrophobic events occur at Salter’s Point Regional taking everyone by surprise. Comments are welcome. Thanks for reading!
Categories: Short Stories