By mid-week, on Wednesday, a bruising storm-ravaged Salter’s Point forcing the town folks to remain inside. The only time anyone dared to venture out was to go to work or to the grocery store. For two whole days, heavy rain assaulted the town. Muddy debris mixed with broken branches, paper, and dirt clogged the drains along the roads. Soon water overflowed into the streets, making driving in the area unsafe. Refusing to stay at home, Rachel navigated the treacherous roads taking her chances. Each day, she witnessed fire personnel dressed in yellow jackets shoveling off twigs and muddy debris off the streets. By Friday, the rain decimated, and a drier, more cooling front crept in with the sun’s rays warming the area.
For the first time in a week, Rachel was able to see Mountain Rainier. The snow-capped fourteen-thousand-foot rock wonder looked terrific against the deep blue sky. The mountain stood in Puyallup, a city forty minutes from Salter’s Point. Rachel drove through town on her way to work, admiring the oak trees with their dazzling red and yellow leaves. She chugged up the road to the hospital and noticed pumpkins sitting on the porches of the residents’ homes. With the rain gone and Thanksgiving, only a week and a half away, town residents were looking forward to a festive holiday season.
At precisely seven forty-five, Rachel arrived at the hospital, waving at the stoic guard as she passed through the gate. He didn’t smile, but he waved back. A welcomed change from his usual demeanor. The parking lot at South Campus Hospital was almost full. Forcing Rachel to park several yards from the entrance. Once she found a spot and parked, Rachel grabbed her shoulder bag and got out of her car. She locked the door, and the cool breeze whipped around her. Shivering, Rachel swore the temperature was twenty degrees instead of forty. Rachel strutted across the parking lot, zipping her black coat to her neck. On her right, she heard soft cooing. She looked and saw pigeons fluttering their wings and hovering over grainy piles of brown mush.
Rachel stepped over a pile of mush herself, rubbing her nose when she smelled the rancor odor. She stopped and stooped down to inspect the unusual substance. What is that? She wondered. It sure does stink! Recoiled by the rancor smell, Rachel stood upright and kept going. She reached the entrance and tapped on the button, and the glass doors slid open. When Rachel strutted into the lobby, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The place had been transformed overnight.
Strings of paper pilgrims decorated the front of the reception area, and giant pumpkins with rustic glittery wreaths sat on each end of the counter. Orange bright lights hung over the bay window and across the ceiling and over chairs and end tables. The floor was clean and shiny, it smelled like fresh lemons, and Rachel sneezed bothered by the strong scent. Joyce heard her sneezing, and she came from the back and stood at the counter. Wearing a brown pilgrim dress with a shiny black belt buckled tight around her waist, Joyce’s ample behind appeared two inches larger. “Good Morning, Rachel. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. I’m allergic to wax. Hell, I’m allergic to anything with a strong scent,” Rachel laughed.
“I’m sorry, dear, but the place needed brightening up.”
“I know. It’s about time.” Rachel gave Joyce the side-eye. “Joyce, why are you dress like that? Thanksgiving is still a few days away.”
Joyce frowned. “Does it bother you?”
“Oh, no, I don’t mean to offend you. I was just curious, that’s all.”
“I like dressing up for the holidays. I will be wearing something like this every day.”
Rachel chuckled. “I see. Well, you looked festive.”
Warm perspiration beaded on her forehead, and Rachel unzipped her coat. She opened her bag and grabbed a tissue, dabbing her forehead. “Joyce, do you know when Doctor Louis will be back to work? I would like to meet him.”
Joyce slapped one hand over her mouth, shaking her head. “Oh, you don’t know, do you?”
“Know what?” Rachel ‘s eyes widened.
“Come here,” Joyce whispered, looking around. “I don’t want to say this too loud.”
Rachel stepped to the counter and leaned over. “Okay, I’m all ears. What’s going on?”
“Doctor Louis…” Joyce paused, scoping out the lobby again.
“Joyce, will you hurry up! I want to hear about Doctor Louis.”
“Okay, I just want to make sure no one overhears me.”
Rachel laughed. “Joyce, it’s just you and me in this lobby. No one is going to overhear you.”
“You’re right. Doctor Louis is out ill,” she whispered.
“The poor guy had a heart attack one evening while having vigorous sex with his young wife, Sierra.”
Rachel’s mouth flew open. “Rigorous sex, you don’t say.”
“No one knows sure,” Joyce whispered. “But he’s home recuperating. His wife, a registered nurse, is looking after him, you know.”
“I’ll say.” The sliding doors open, and a tall woman with auburn red hair in a bun pranced in from the outside. Plumb, wearing a black raincoat with matching balloon slacks and toeless heels, her long fake eyelashes blinked erratically over her bright green eyes, and Rachel noticed she had a big shiny diamond on the fourth finger of each hand. Who is this?
“Good Morning,” she quipped in an English accent as she checks out the lobby. “It’s about time someone did something to this dreary, awful lobby. Very festive, indeed.”
“Thank the housekeeping staff for their hard work. How was your vacation?”
“Marvelous! My hubby and I went to the Oregon Coast and had a grand old time.” The woman zeroed in on Rachel. “So, who is this young lady?”
“Our new social worker. She started over a week ago,” Joyce said, glancing at Rachel.
Rachel stepped forward and held out her hand. “I’m Rachel Thomas.”
“Sally Dobbins, please to meet you.” As she shook Rachel’s hand. “Where are you going to be working?”
“On the admissions unit with Doctor Louis.”
“Well, I’m the head nurse on that unit, glad to have you.” Sally leaned over, placing her elbow on the counter. “Speaking of Doctor Louis, I hear he almost met his maker the other day.”
Rachel snickered, and Joyce jumped in. “Yeah, I heard that too.”
“Well, at least it will be pleasant around here for a while. That man ‘s personality is despicable.” Sally looked at Rachel. “Is your office on the unit?”
“Yes, mam, it is.”
Rachel walked alongside Sally as she talked. “Dear, tell me where you’re from?”
“I love San Francisco. It’s just a lovely place.”
“Married? Have any children?”
Boy, she’s nosey! “No, mam.”
“So far, how you like working here?”
“It’s okay. I’m still settling in.”
Sally stopped in mid-step and looked at Rachel, her brow deeply furrowed. Rachel wondered why the grim expression. “Miss Thomas, most people working here are a little bit touched in the head.” Sally tapped her temple with her index finger. “Some of these workers need to be hospitalized themselves.”
“Why? What do you mean?” Rachel placed her hand over her chest. Glad to hear someone other than herself thought some of the employees were a little crazy.
“They’re nuts. Nuttier than your average fruitcake! But don’t fret, dear. A few of us here, like myself, are very sane, indeed,” she softly chuckled.
Rachel giggled. Sally was funny, and she liked her immediately. As the two women headed to the admissions unit, a man in an electric wheelchair whipped by beating them to the door. He stopped and waited for them. Bald with thick black hair around his temples, the man had bushy black eyebrows and a handlebar mustache. Black-framed glasses covered his almond-shaped dark brown eyes, and he wore a candy-striped shirt with a black bow tie. His slacks and shoes were black, and Rachel struggled not to laugh at the man out loud. Man, he’s peculiar looking. He looks like one of the Three Stooges…that dude Carl Marx!
“Good day, ladies.” His voice was pitchy.
“Good Morning Doctor Beebe,” Sally said. “Have you met Rachel, Thomas, our new social worker?”
“No, but I’m aware she’s here,” he smiled, glancing at Rachel. “Sorry, I haven’t gotten around to meeting you yet. It’s been quite busy lately.”
“Nice to meet you, Doctor Beebe.”
“Have you settled in yet?” Rachel swore he wiggled his eyebrows like Carl Marx used to do on his television show.
“No, not yet. I have a few things to get for the office.”
Doctor Beebe leaned forward. “What do you need? We may have it here.”
“A couch, a rug, and a coffee stand would be nice,” she smiled.
“I have maintenance to bring those items to your office today. We want you to feel at home here.”
Sally raised an eyebrow. “Really, Doctor Beebe, this looney bin is a far cry from feeling like home!”
“I speak nothing but the truth, sir,” she winked at Rachel. Sally unlocked the door and shove it open. Doctor Beebe whipped on through with Sally and Rachel walking in behind him.
“Good day, ladies.” As he took off down the hall.
“I gathered he’s the medical director,” Rachel surmised.
“Yes, he is. Doctor Beebe is a workaholic, committed to his career. He never married or had any children.”
“Why is he in a wheelchair?”
“He had a stroke a few years ago. He whips around the hospital like he’s in a race. It’s a wonder he never runs into anyone.”
Rachel laughed. “Sally, where’s your office?
“On the ground floor. Every morning, I stop by the nursing station to get a report before going to my office.” Sally said, glancing at her watch. “And I’m late. Listen, if you have any questions about this looney place, feel free to ask.”
Rachel placed one finger on her lips. “I do have a question.”
“What’s that, dear?”
“That brown mushy stuff on the ground in the parking lot, what is that? It sure does stink.”
Sally cracked up. “My dear, it’s bat poop.”
“Yes, bats hang out in the trees around the hospital, and at night, they like to hang upside down in the clock tower on North Campus.”
Rachel sighed, dropping her shoulders. “This place never ceases to amaze me.”
“Just wait,” Sally laughed. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
Thank-you For Reading, Comments Are Welcome! Have A Great Day!
Categories: Short Stories