My Brief Encounter With the Great Cicley Tyson
Cicley Tyson-The Trail Blazer
Last week, the world lost a beloved African American movie star and icon. Cicely Tyson’s meteoric career spanned over sixty decades. She was a woman who chose her roles wisely, and she always played strong, inspiring African American female characters—never compromising on the African American experience.
In an unlikely place, I met Cicely Tyson in a restroom at the Atlanta Civic Center one balmy, hot Saturday on June 28, 2003. Mayor Jackson’s family held his funeral there that morning. He died at the young age of sixty-five from a cardiac arrest a few days earlier—a shock to many worldwide.
He was Atlanta’s first African American mayor, and well-known dignitaries and the general public crammed into the civic center to celebrate his legacy that day. Everybody was there, then Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Congressman John Lewis, Former Mayor Andrew Young, Civil Rights Leader, Coretta Scott King, Reverend Joseph Lowery, and Former President Bill Clinton, to name a few.
Dressed in a sleeveless flowing black dress with the hem an inch above the knee with no stockings, too hot to wear them, I was glad I had on my comfortable black open-toed shoes. The walk from my car to the civic center entrance was hot and long. The rhythmic humming of crickets and cicadas in the green foliage along the sidewalk electrified the humid air. Cars whizzed by me, honking their horns as I strutted down Ralph McGill Avenue. Sweat beaded on my forehead and the black cat-framed sunglasses I sported slid down the bridge of my nose. I reached up and pushed them in place, still maintaining my mysterious persona. The best part about living in a sunny state, one can always wear a fabulous pair of shades.
I sighed with relief when I finally reached the building entrance and walked inside an air-conditioned lobby. I stood under a vent to cool off, and the cold air felt good against my face. As I lingered there, I checked out the vast crowd. My first time at the civic center, I struggled with how to get to the main auditorium, searching for signs in the area to guide me. I saw men in black suits and women with big floppy black hats with elegant matching dresses, or pantsuits jammed up against each other in the lobby.
I wiggled my way through and saw a sign scripted with the word auditorium. I hurried in that direction and saw two ushers standing across from each other at the doubled doors. They waved me through, and I made my way down the aisle. The auditorium had red velvet seating, which surprised me. I settled in a seat in the tenth row at the end, a perfect spot so I could leave early to beat the funeral traffic.
I crossed my legs, set my black purse on my lap, and checked out the mourners as they floated past me in the aisle. They sat in the row in front of me, and the mayor’s family, along with several dignitaries, sat in a roped off section several rows up ahead. The mayor’s gold casket decorated with white chrysanthemums looked beautiful as it sat in front of a shiny black piano. Light from the ceiling reflected off the casket giving it a multi-colored glow. The rise and fall of people conversating around me complimented the soft, melodic gospel music playing in the background, and after everyone took their seats, the doubled doors finally closed. Singing, speeches, and poems filled the auditorium, moving the crowd occasionally to their feet. The going home celebration for Atlanta’s first African American mayor proved to be quite a send-off. After President Clinton finished his speech, I got up and hightailed it to the restroom.
When I entered the bathroom, I noticed an elegant older woman with smooth brown skin adjusting her hat in the mirror. She and I were about the same height, five foot and three inches tall, and she had the most expressive dark brown eyes I have ever seen. We said our hello’s as I parked myself in front of the mirror opposite of her. She applied her red lipstick while I reached in my purse for mine.
She looked familiar to me, and I wondered where I had seen her before. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking, so I applied my red lipstick, rolling my lips, as I snuck a peek at the elegant woman in the mirror, carefully checking her out. Finally, we made eye contact, and her expressive eyes seemed to have a hint of laughter. “What brand of lipstick are you wearing?” she asked in a silvery, distinct voice.
“Fashion Fair. Red is my favorite,” I replied.
“Ah, Fashion Fair,” she smiled, showing entirely white, straight teeth. “I love a good red lipstick. Tell me, what shade of red is that? It’s pretty.”
“Red Wine. I wear it all of the time.”
“Well, it’s looks nice on you.”
I felt myself blushing. “Thank you,” I grinned.
“I wear Fashion Fair occasionally. Next time I order, I’ll remember to get some of that red wine lipstick.” The woman smoothed out her dress, grabbed her black sequined purse, and turned in my direction. She looked so familiar to me, and I looked away to keep from staring so hard.
“Well, I must go,” she chuckled. “I don’t want to miss Reverend Joseph Lowery. That man can give some entertaining speeches sometimes.”
“Yes, I heard,” I smiled. “Well, it was nice talking to you.”
“My pleasure.” Then she was gone. I knew I’d seen the lady somewhere before, and I thought about our conversation as I returned to my seat. By the time Reverend Joseph Lowery finished his entertaining speech, it finally hit me. That was Cicely Tyson! Oh, my goodness! I just had a conversation about red lipstick with Cicely Tyson! How could I not have known who she was when I was talking with her? No one would ever believe me!
I went home that day, called my sister, and told her about my brief meeting with the great Cicely Tyson. I never forgot that day—my brief encounter with her has stayed with me for my entire life. We were two women sharing a moment, talking about red lipstick. How funny. I would’ve never guessed it in my wildest dreams.
I’ve shared this story over the years with my friends and family. Because of her death, it seemed appropriate to share it again. Her incredible, prolific talent and contributions to the big screen will endure in our hearts forever. Rest in Peace, Miss Tyson, and thank you again for the wonderful conversation we had in the bathroom that one hot summer day. Thank you for reading. Until next time!
New Release Coming Soon April 2021
Strange Occurrences, is a hilarious but dark mystery novel that promises to keep you on the edge of your seat. A sequel to the novel, She Was A Fly in The Wrong Soup, Salter’s Point Regional keeps attracting crazy and peculiar professionals to its ranks.
It’s been three years since the tragic fire, and Rachel Thomas discovers Peepers hanging out at Saint Mary’s Cemetery. Thrilled the big cat is still alive, she scoops him up and takes him home. For a while, all is well until a serial killer emerges, wreaking havoc on the hospital. Rachel accidentally learns the killer’s identity, which turns out to be someone she knows. Shocked and scared, Rachel wonders what to do. When the killer strikes again, Rachel has to do something, but will she risk her life and reveal the killer’s identity?
Once again, Anita Dixon Thomas gives the readers an in-depth look at the wild and wacky, and sometimes dark side of the mental health profession.
She Was A Fly In The Wrong Soup
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She Was A Fly In The Wrong Soup
It was almost midnight and the moon loomed like a big orange pumpkin in the dark, clear sky. Curled on the hard-narrow bed in a fetal position with a blanket over her, Susan Cole gazed at the moon’s reflection through the octagonal window eight feet above her. Depending on how she moved her head, the unevenness of the safety glass stretched and squeezed the moon’s image, much like a carnival mirror. Susan was struck by the moon’s brilliance, gazing at it until she saw black spots. She squeezed her eyes shut, and when she opened them again, the black spots were gone. She detected footsteps coming down the hallway and suddenly halting at her door. Bob, the charge nurse, was making his final rounds for the night.
The door opened and a bright light shone in her face. Susan lifted her head and squinted into the flashlight’s beam, then pulled the blanket over her head. The door closed, and for a minute or two Susan listened as Bob walked down the hall. Once his footsteps faded, Susan sat up, wrapping her blanket around her, and stared at the light shining underneath the door. When the light finally went out, Susan knew Bob had settled in for the night at the nursing station.
Now safe to move about, Susan threw off her blanket and hopped out of bed. She stooped to the floor, reached under the bed, and pulled out a shopping bag. She set it on the bed carefully and opened it, trying hard not to rattle the crackling paper. In the bag, she kept three outfits along with a pair of Reebok tennis shoes. She took out her jeans and a black sweater and quickly dressed.
Happy to be rid of the dull tan pajamas she’d had to wear since arriving at the hospital two weeks ago, Susan lingered on the edge of the bed and slipped on her Reeboks, tying the strings into neat bows. Leaping to her feet, Susan tiptoed to the closet, opened the door, and took out her black coat and matching wool hat. She threw on her jacket, buttoning it to her chin. With her hat in her hand, Susan tiptoed back to the bed, sat on the edge, twisted her curly blond hair into a bun, and pulled her hat over her head.
Then she sat there staring at the door, twiddling her thumbs while she waited on Doctor George Benny. He was her knight in shining armor, her psychiatrist, and her new lover. He promised to whisk her away from this crazy, awful place she’d found herself in. He promised her a better life from the dreary world she had always known.
While she waited, Susan found herself reflecting on the events that brought her to Salter’s Point Regional Hospital. She didn’t know if she’d been born cursed, or if her perpetual bad luck was a result of her father abandoning her to be raised by a drug-addicted mother. On welfare and high on crack most days, her mother just didn’t seem to care about her, so Susan learned to fend for herself. She came to hate herself as much as her mother seemed to and acted out by sleeping with men and making superficial cuts on her wrists with a small switchblade. She never intended to seriously injure herself, the cutting just made herself feel better. She always treated the cuts and wrapped her arms with thick white gauze, and she wore shirts and sweaters with long sleeves to hide the damage. Except for the nurses and doctors at the psychiatric hospitals she often stayed in, Susan never told a soul about her terrible secret.
Eventually the cutting and sleeping around no longer soothed her, and she graduated to suicide attempts. She would take a bunch of pills and end up in a hospital getting her stomach pumped. Her intention was never to kill herself, she was just desperate for someone, anyone to care about her.
Hoping to leave her troubles behind her, Susan moved from California to Salter’s Point six months earlier, but things didn’t go as she’d planned. She couldn’t make enough money waitressing to pay her rent. She lost her apartment and found herself on the streets. Despondent, homeless and broke, Susan resorted to her old bad behavior. After overdosing on Tylenol, a man found her lying on the town sidewalk moaning in pain and he called 911. After spending time in a local hospital ICU, Susan’s doctor committed her to Salter’s Point Regional, her tenth commitment on record. Susan was saved, guaranteed free room and board for the duration of her stay.
It was at Salter’s Point Regional that Susan met Doctor George Benny. He was working the late shift when she was transferred in, and he assigned himself as her doctor. Susan immediately fell in love with him. When he spoke, she hung on his every word. The doctor’s marginal good looks and charming personality reminded Susan of her estranged father. Caught up in his seductive web, every day they would make love in the doctor’s office. Susan was ecstatic when George offered her a place to stay.
Together they planned Susan’s escape, and now, finally, the night had arrived. Susan was eager to begin her new life and leave the old one behind. So, with her hands clasped tight in her lap, Susan waited for the doctor. The shopping bag with her two additional outfits sat on the floor next to her feet. Susan stared at the door for some time, and when it opened, Doctor Benny entered the room. Susan’s eyes lit up, and she dove off the bed. She fell in his arms, almost knocking him over, and clung to his waist like an expectant child, gazing lovingly at him with bright blue eyes.
“Whoa,” he laughed, “slow down!”
“I thought you’d never get here!” Susan giggled like a schoolgirl. “I’ve been waiting all day!”
“I’m here now. I told you I would come.” George smiled. He was tall and slender with silver-gray hair and a mustache. George’s eyes were intense and sparkling blue. Years of smoking pipes every day left the doctor’s smile with mustard yellow teeth.
George embraced Susan and kissed her forehead, then released her and pointed to the bed. “Get your bag. We need to go. We don’t have much time.”
“What about my medication? I need my pills. They keep me calm.”
“Did Bob give you medication this evening?”
“Yes,” Susan said, snatching her shopping bag and following George to the door.
“No need to worry. I have plenty of medication at home.” He stopped for a moment and looked in both directions. Satisfied the coast was clear, he and Susan tiptoed toward the unit’s exit. When they passed the nursing station, Susan busted out laughing at Bob’s loud grizzly bear snore.
George became incensed. “Be quiet! You’re going to wake Bob up!”
As soon as those words left his lips, Bob’s snoring stopped. George and Susan held their breath as they stood frozen in place. Susan’s heart thumped hard in her chest as they watched Bob smack his lips and yawn. Seconds later, a soft snore rumbled from his lips, and a stream of clear liquid drooled from his mouth. Susan felt George squeeze her hand, causing her to cringe in agony. “Ouch! That hurts!”
“You almost got me in trouble,” George sneered.
“I didn’t mean to. Bob looks so funny sleeping there,” Susan whined as she poked her bottom lip out.
“Just be quiet, and let’s go!” George dragged her down the hall. Sweat dripped from his face. He fiddled with the key ring, dropping it, and it clanged on the floor. George moaned in exasperation and glanced down the hall to see if anyone was coming. “Shit, I just can’t get it together!”
Susan stooped over and picked up the key, handing it to George. “I think you need some of my medication. You’re a nervous wreck.” George cut his eyes at Susan, and she made a face. “Don’t look at me like that! I was only kidding!”
“If you say so,” George snapped as he unlocked the door. He hurled his slender body against the door, shoving it open. George grabbed Susan’s hand, and together they stepped out. After he closed the door, it automatically locked. The two lovers sprinted through the lobby and out the main entrance. The cold, crisp wind stung Susan’s face as they ran across the lit parking lot. They slowed down to a brisk walk as they made their way to George’s red Porsche.
While Susan waited for George as he fumbled with his keys to unlock and open her door, she looked back at the hospital. Dense white fog hung over the hospital, and its gloomy appearance reminded her of a haunted house. In the clock tower, a small light flickered on and off every three seconds, illuminating the clock’s sizable white face. The clock’s black hands crept to the numeral twelve, and Susan heard the clock chime twelve times.
Startled by the sound, bats that were hanging off the clock’s wooden ledge took off with their wings roaring like rushing water. They swooped back and forth over the clock tower. Once the chiming ended, the night creatures settled on the clock’s narrow ledge, lined up like big black crows on a picket fence. One by one, they flipped upside down with their naked bodies suspended in mid-air as if posing for a Halloween portrait. Susan shuddered, turning back around as George opened the car door. “It’s creepy around here,” she mumbled under her breath.
Susan slipped into the soft leather seat of George’s Porsche while he dashed around the car, opened the door, and slipped into the driver’s side. They snuggled together briefly, then George zoomed out of the parking lot with lightning speed, passing through the open the iron gate and down the road. Susan suddenly realized she hadn’t seen John, the security guard, in the lobby when she and George left the hospital.
“Honey, I didn’t see John when we left. Do you know where he might be tonight?”
“Who cares where he is? Be glad we didn’t run into him. Do you want me to go to jail?” George quipped as he stepped on the brake, slowing his vehicle down.
Susan withered in her seat. She hated when George snapped at her. “No, George, I was just asking. He’s usually around.”
George remained silent as he navigated down the sharp, curvy road that snaked through the town of Salter’s Point. Susan gazed out the window at the tall evergreen trees that lined each side of the street. Salter’s Point Regional sat on a cliff, and on the right side of the road was a deep, vast valley. Susan lurched up and strained her neck, trying to look down. All she saw was darkness, and a cold chill rippled through her spine. The whole scene was eerie, and it gave her the creeps.
Susan sighed heavily and sat back in her seat. She glanced at the clock on the dashboard and realized they’d been driving for fifteen minutes. Eager to see her new home, she cleared her throat. “Um, excuse me, George, do we have far to go?”
“Just another fifteen minutes,” he smiled.
“Cool, I can’t wait!” Susan laid her head on the headrest and gazed out the window, counting stars in the midnight sky. Fifteen minutes later, the car came to a stop and George announced, “We’re here.”
Susan straightened in her seat. George’s home took her by surprise. Instead of a mansion like she’d envisioned, his house was a modest white bungalow. It had two front windows with windowpanes painted black. Thick fescue grass grew in the front yard, and red roses crept along the white picket fence. A cobblestone sidewalk led up to the porch, with four steps going to the front door. The door was red with a white wicker chair on each side. Susan sighed with disappointment. Very cute! No mansion. Oh, well.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” George said as he flipped the lock and opened the car door. He stepped out, opened the rear door and he grabbed Susan’s bag. George shut the door, and Susan was already out of the car. “I like your home,” she fibbed.
“Thank you,” George said as he reached over and pulled Susan to him. She, in turn, wrapped her arms around his waist. George lowered his head and planted a wet, passionate kiss on her thin lips. He pulled back and stared into her eyes. “Darling, welcome to your new home. I hope you’ll be comfortable here.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Her lips erupted into a childish grin. George opened the gate, and Susan followed him in. They walked up the steps and George unlocked the door,
twisting the knob and opening it. He flipped the light switch on the wall, and the ceiling light came on. Susan heard soft jazz playing in the background as she followed George inside. He shut the door and Susan looked around wide-eyed. “I hear music. Where is it coming from?”
“I’ve built-in speakers wired throughout my home so I can play music all over the house.”
“So cool.” Susan smiled taking in the ambiance of George’s home. In the living room, along the back wall sat a black leather couch. A few feet from the couch was a matching chair. Next to the chair, a CD Player with CDs stacked on each side sat on a cherry wood entertainment console and a large abstract oil painting with red, blue and orange colors hung over the console. Across the room, a huge stone fireplace with ash residue on the hearth sat between two front rectangle windows with white blinds. So, simple! Susan thought.
Doubled glass French doors separated the living room from the dining area. George opened the doors and stood on the side so Susan could go in. The dining room was simply decorated with an oak oval table and four chairs in black upholstery. On the wall hung another abstract painting with black and burgundy colors. The painting caught Susan’s attention. “George, I love this painting. The colors are so striking.”
“I collect abstract art. I find the art interesting,” he said.
George passed thru an archway leading into the kitchen. Susan followed him and was shocked by the kitchen’s small size. The black refrigerator and stove took up a lot space along the wall. On the other side of the kitchen, there was a black shiny sink, with granite counters. Black painted cabinets hovered over the counters. Susan wondered if black was George’s favorite color. Boy, he had so much of it. “George, is black your favorite color?”
“Black is a masculine color. I like decorating with it.”
“Oh, I definitely see that,” Susan replied. She followed George out of the kitchen, passing through the dining room and out the French doors. George turned left stepping into a short hallway with wood stairs. “Time to show you my room.”
He ran upstairs with Susan on his heels. George pointed to a small room as they walked down the short hallway. “This is one of the two bathrooms. The other one is in the master bedroom.”
“Oh,” Susan said taking note. At the end of the hall was another set of French doors. The doors opened into the master bedroom and when George opened them, there sat a king-sized bed with a black comforter. On the wood floor was a black fur rug and to the right was the bathroom. The walls were bare, except for the rectangle window on the far wall. George dropped Susan’s bag and closed the blinds. Susan plopped her behind on the bed and looked around. George walked over and gently pushed her back on the bed. He covered her face with sloppy, wet kisses and Susan wiggled and giggled with delight. Hopelessly excited, Susan knew she had arrived. Despite all the bad things that had happened in her life to this point, she could finally relax and live her happily ever after. Happy Sunday and Thank You for Reading!
An Excerpt From The Novel, She Was A Fly In The Wrong Soup
Wednesday, January 9th
Rachel didn’t get much sleep, so she called out sick to take time to get herself together. She wasn’t in any emotional shape to see patients, especially mentally ill ones. Rachel showered and threw on her red sweats. She went to the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee. With her back against the counter, Rachel contemplated how to spend her day honoring Jamie. She wasn’t the least bit interested in sitting around moping and crying. Her desire was to do something worthwhile.
Antsy, with no ideas in mind at first, Rachel finished her coffee, grabbed her purse, and strutted out the door. She had no idea where she was headed, but she hopped in her Toyota and took off down the road. To her surprise, Rachel found herself turning on the street where Jamie lived, and she decided she would stop by to see if Peepers was there,
Rachel pulled up in front of Jamie’s townhouse and parked. She was surprised to see a green Oldsmobile sitting in the driveway, Rachel wondered who it belonged too. Maybe it’s one of Jamie’s family members,
Determined to find out, Rachel grabbed her purse and got out of the car. She stepped briskly to the door, and boldly rang the doorbell. Swift and heavy footsteps approached from the other side and abruptly stopped. The door swung open, and a man about five foot and seven inches tall stared back at her with deep-set ocean-blue eyes. He had blond hair, which was thick and lustrous, but greying around the temples, and his suntanned face was sharp and well-defined, giving the impression he had weathered many storms. He wore wrinkled black overalls with Nike tennis shoes.
“Can I help you?” he asked in a gruff voice.
“I’m sorry…I…I don’t mean to pry,” Rachel stuttered, terrified. “My name is Rachel Thomas. I’m a friend of Jamie’s, and I also worked with her at Salter’s Point Regional Hospital.”
The man’s face brightened a little. “I’m John Lee, Jamie’s husband.”
Rachel jerked her head back and bucked her eyes, floored. “Oh, glad to meet you. Jamie didn’t tell me she was married!”
“Yep, for ten long years.” For a minute, he seemed to blank out, staring into space as if he was reminiscing, living in another time. When Rachel cleared her throat, he came to his senses. John took a step back and opened the door wide.
“Would you like to come in? I’m packing some of Jamie’s things.”
“Love to,” Rachel said as she walked inside, and he closed the door behind her. She stood in the living room, inspecting the place. Clothes and shoes were sprawled everywhere on the couch and chairs. Cardboard boxes were scattered on the floor, some filled to the top with clothes and others half filled with Jamie’s shoes. John carefully folded Jamie’s sweaters and packed them in a box.
“I see you’re packing up Jamie’s clothes. Are you taking them somewhere?”
“I thought I’d take them to the women’s shelter in town. I certainly don’t have any use for them,” he gruffly answered.
“Sounds like a plan,” Rachel smiled, pleased Jamie’s clothing would be put to good use.
John stopped packing and walked swiftly toward the kitchen.
“Can I offer you anything? Coffee, juice, water? Anything?” Rachel took the liberty and followed him. The color drained from her face, unable to answer when she entered the kitchen. Cardboard boxes were everywhere, and Jamie’s dishes and pots were out on the counter and table. Rage pulsated through her veins, and her cheeks burned. Why is he packing everything up so soon? Jamie hasn’t been dead for a good forty-eight hours, and he’s already getting rid of her belongings! What’s the rush?
“I didn’t hear your answer,” John said, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry,” Rachel replied. “I guess I was taken aback by all of the packing. Why the rush?” Oh, shit, I didn’t mean to say that. Oh, well.
“I realize this looks quick, but I don’t have a lot of time. I pastor a church in Colorado and I’m leaving on a mission trip next week. Although we were separated, Jamie considered me her family. It was her desire that if something happened to her, I would take care of things.”
Rachel’s anger faded. “I understand. Please forgive me.”
“No problem. So, what would you like to drink?”
“I know it’s early, but a shot of whiskey would be fine.”
John’s eyebrows went up, hesitating, and he cracked up laughing. “A shot of whiskey? So, you’re a whiskey drinker like my wife.”
“No, not really. I prefer wine, if you must know.” Rachel chuckled, batting her eyes.
“Then why the whiskey?”
Rachel shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe it’s my way of honoring Jamie somehow.”
“Perverse, but I love it!” John laughed. “Let’s see if I can find some for you.”
He went to the pantry, opened the door, and shoved some canned goods around. “I know Jamie must have some stashed away in here somewhere,” he muttered to himself. Rachel checked John out. She had to admit Jamie had good taste. Handsome, despite his rugged, weathered looks and short stature, John wasn’t her kind of guy. She preferred a taller man, much like the suave, mysterious Doctor Everett James.
“You’re in luck! Look what I found behind a big can of Crisco.” John held the bottle up so Rachel could see it.
“Great,” Rachel smiled as she pulled out a chair and sat at the table. “I just want a little bit. I’m not used to drinking whiskey.”
“At your service.” John went to the counter and twisted the cap open on the whiskey bottle. He found two shot glasses in the dish rack and poured the whiskey, filling both glasses to the rim. He brought the drinks to the table and sat, shoving one over to Rachel.
A box of photos caught his attention, and he pulled it in front of him. John grabbed the first picture he saw on the pile, that was all it took for his eyes to water. He clutched the solid wooden frame tight in his hand, reminiscing over a perfect moment in his past.
“This is Jamie and I when we first got married. The happiest memories hurt the most,” he said in a low voice as he managed to restrain the flood of tears from within.
“You say you guys were married ten years?”
“Yes. Jamie and I grew up together. We both were from a religious family, grew up Catholic. We talked about having our own church one day.” He handed Rachel the photograph, and she looked at it. Rachel marveled at how Jamie’s style had changed over the years, from dressing feminine to more manly. Thinner and looking happy, Jamie looked cute, holding her bouquet of flowers in her little white dress. She had a big smile on her face as she gazed into her husband’s eyes. John looked like a movie star in his double-breasted pinstriped suit. His hair was longer but still swept back away from his handsome face.
“You know, Jamie never talked about her marriage much. What happened between you two? If you don’t mind me asking.” The photograph reflected happier times, and they were such an attractive couple.
“Anne Cleveland happened,” John quipped in a sour tone, frowning. He almost looked wolfish as he briefly recalled his wife’s betrayal. “Jamie met her at an aerobics class, and the rest is history. It took me a while to get over it,” he said in a low, cracking voice.
“I bet.” Rachel could see it was painful for John to talk about it and decided not to press him for more details, but John apparently needed to talk.
“Every time I called her and learned she was still with Anne it would break my heart. I knew I couldn’t live anywhere near the two of them. My ego couldn’t take it.”
“So, you and Jamie never divorced?”
“No, we never did.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation, Jamie and Anne broke up a month ago.”
John’s eyes widened as he fell back in his chair. “Really? What happened?”
“Anne will tell you they broke up because of her drinking, but the real story is, she fell in love with a man who happens to be my ex,” Rachel answered with sourness in her voice.
“Damn!” John shook his head in disbelief.
“Damn is right,” Rachel said, half smiling.
John looked down for a moment at his glass of whiskey. He brought the alcohol to his lips and threw his head back. The bitter sensation of the liquor made his eyes water. John coughed, blowing out his cheeks as he swallowed, and grunted. “Well, I guess we both got burned!” He looked over at Rachel and noticed she hadn’t touched her glass. “What are you waiting for? Drink up! It’s in Jamie’s honor.”
“I know.” Rachel sighed, taking a deep breath. She laid John’s wedding photo back in the box and picked up her glass. Rachel took one sip, almost spitting the bitter-tasting liquor straight out of her mouth. She managed to hold it in, getting it down, screwing up her face as she swallowed. Rachel coughed repeatedly. “Damn, that’s nasty!” she said in a dry, hoarse voice.
John’s eyes gleamed with amusement as his mouth curved into a smile. “You weren’t kidding. Whiskey is definitely not your drink.”
“No, it’s not.” Rachel looked John dead in the face, scrutinizing him. “I don’t believe I ever witnessed a pastor drinking alcohol.” Rachel wanted him to know she disapproved of his behavior.
“They generally don’t, but this one does,” he smirked, winking at her. “Besides, I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Well, alcohol isn’t the solution.”
“I’m well aware.” John’s smile slipped into a questioning frown. “So, is there a reason why you stopped by? You knew Jamie is no longer here.”
Rachel’s eyes watered. “I know. I guess I wanted to see if she was really gone, besides I was hoping Peepers would be here.”
“Peepers and Jamie are gone, I’m afraid.” His face darkening a little. They sat quietly for a while each soul a million miles away stuck in their own thoughts. Rachel flinched when John tapped his fingers hard on the table.
“Where are you with the funeral arrangements?” she asked.
“I’m almost done with the arrangements. Jamie is Catholic, so her funeral will be at Saint Mary’s Church.” A muscle in John’s jaw twitched as he gazed down at the table misty-eyed.
Recognizing his vulnerability, Rachel felt empathy for the pastor. “Do you need any additional help with the planning? I don’t mind helping,” she softly offered.
“I’m fine. Jamie and I have talked about this many times. She has a will. I’m following her wishes.”
“When is the funeral?”
Rachel stood on her feet. “Okay. If you need anything, please let me know.”
“You’re so kind. Thank you,” John smiled as he stood up. He escorted Rachel out of the kitchen and into the living room. Rachel walked to the door and she abruptly turned around to face him. “I enjoyed meeting you, John. I wish it was under better circumstances,” she said with a warm smile.
“I do, too. It was nice meeting you, too, Miss Thomas, my wife’s friend.”
She laughed, and John opened the door for her. Rachel waved as she walked out.
“See you soon,” she hollered as she hurried to her car.
On her way home, Rachel stopped by the grocery store and bought a pint of chocolate ice cream. She thought about John and his heartbreak over Jamie. For a brief moment, she scolded Jamie for giving up on her marriage, but her scolding turned to sorrow, when reality hit her again. Damn, I’m going to miss that girl!
Once she arrived home, Rachel went to the kitchen, opened her chocolate ice cream and put two scoops of the dessert in a plastic bowl. She put the rest in the refrigerator, then she went to the living room and plopped on the couch. Exhausted from grieving, Rachel turned on the TV, inserted a movie in the VCR, and ate her bowl of ice cream. For the rest of the afternoon, she watched funny movies, and at dusk, she put on her pajamas and climbed into bed.
As Always Thank-You For Reading, Comments Welcome!
The Joy In God’s Creation
Yesterday was a hot, sweltering day in the high nineties in Powder Springs. Later in the evening, while preparing for bed, thunderstorms blew with a vengeance through the neighborhood. When I woke up this morning at seven, I noticed the sun ‘s rays creeping through the blinds. I rolled out of bed and gazed out the window and noticed the sun shining more radiantly than usual. The leaves on the oak trees in my yard seemed to glisten brightly in the soft breeze.
The evening storm brought in a cooler temperature, and I decided to go for a morning stroll. After I changed into a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt, I slipped on my Nikes, grabbed my cell phone and sunglasses, and ran out the door. The cool breeze felt good against my skin, a nice change from the blistering, hot weather from the day before.
I hastened my pace, picking up speed, and the weight of the world pressed on me. I thought about the staggering number of coronavirus cases growing daily in Georgia, and the deepening isolation the virus has caused between myself, my family and close friends. I wondered if life would ever be healthy again, or were we destined as a nation to be locked forever behind a suffocating mask. I thought about the lives lost because of racism and the growing threat to this country’s democracy. I wondered if this country would ever again have a president who possesses qualities of common decency, morality and compassion. I wondered about alot of adverse issues as I strolled down the street in my neighborhood.
I struggled with these awful thoughts until I banished them out of my mind preferring to focus on my blessings and those yet to come. In the mist of my walk, a brown jackrabbit hopped in my path. I jumped back, wide-eyed, startled out of my wits. For a moment, the rabbit sat, staring at me, and the rabbit’s smooth, velvety, light brown fur glistened in the bright sunlight.
Suddenly, the rabbit took off, hopping across the grassy lawn straight to the bushes. The little critter stopped and twisted his little body sideways. He sat on his hind legs, looking at me with one eye. I reached deep in my pocket and took out my cell phone. I quickly scrolled through the apps straight to the camera. While I adjusted the camera, the rabbit seemed to pose as if he knew his picture was about to be taken. I took several photos of the little creature before he took off again, disappearing into the bushes.
As I continued with my morning stroll, I thought about that little rabbit. To me, the rabbit represented hope and free will. These God-given gifts still rang true and revelant today. Although, I can’t expect a trouble-free world, and trials will certainly come no matter what, the rabbit’s presence reminded me that God is real, always near, sheltering me and protecting me as I soldier through this, precarious journey of life.
Thank-you For Reading. Have A Wonderful Sunday, Everyone!
She Was A Fly In The Wrong Soup: An Excerpt From Chapter Four
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!
She Was A Fly In The Wrong Soup-Chapter Three
Monday, November 5th
Rachel hated Mondays with a vengeance. Getting up early to be somewhere on time after a relaxing weekend, got on her nerves. She wished the weekend could last longer than the two days allotted. However, this Monday was different. She was starting a new job. Thrilled and nervous at the same time, a smile came over Rachel ‘s face. She was glad she had a full-time professional job that paid well. She no longer had to pinch pennies to pay her bills.
This morning brought more fog and rain to the town of Salter’s Point. A thick white mist hovered over the road forcing Rachel to turn on her headlights. As she navigated the slippery road, she could see South Campus Hospital up ahead. Eager to start her day, she was excited about her new job. By the time Rachel reached the hospital and parked, the rain had ceased but the fog was so thick, only the outline of the building was visible. Dark outside, the sun wouldn’t rise until eight o’clock, a common occurrence in the great northwest.
Rachel turned off the ignition and sat in her car as she prepared her mind for the day ahead. Feeling flush, Rachel reached up and touched her forehead. It was damp with perspiration, and she slapped the visor down. Rachel peered into the brightly lit vanity mirror and beads of perspiration glistened on her face. She reached in her handbag and took out a tissue. Being careful not to mess up her foundation, Rachel lightly dabbed her face. She closed her eyes momentarily inhaling deep breaths. Her anxiety was getting the best of her, and she desperately needed to calm down.
Soon Rachel felt calmer. She slapped the sun visor in place and opened her car door. When she stepped out of the car, the damp air felt cool against her face. With her handbag on her shoulder, she buttoned up her coat. Rachel grabbed her umbrella and locked the car door. She strutted to the hospital entrance with her high-heeled pumps clicking hard on the charcoal pavement. After she arrived, Rachel reached up and rang the buzzer instead of using the button. She waited for the sliding door to open. The door didn’t move so Rachel grabbed the handle trying to pry it open. The door still wouldn’t budge. Rachel pressed her nose against the cold glass door. She stared into the lobby and noticed Joyce sitting at her desk.
Rachel pounded on the door, but Joyce ignored her. Irritated, Rachel pounded on the door even harder.
“The doors don’t open until eight,” came a rough booming voice from behind. Rachel spun around so quick, she almost lost her balance and fell on the ground. Catching herself, her eyes fell on a tall, slender man about six feet tall, wearing blue sweats and a knit wool hat. He was in the process of chaining his ten-speed bike to the rack. The man’s sparkling blue eyes complimented his silver-gray mustache and beard. “You need a key to get in after hours,” he added.
“Oh, okay,” Rachel replied. She recognized him as the man she saw riding his bike on her way to her interview two weeks ago.
“Are you here for an appointment?”
Rachel cleared her throat. “Um, yes, I’m Rachel Thomas, the new social worker for the admissions unit, and this is my first day.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, young lady. I’m Doctor George Benny,” he smiled exposing a mustard-yellow grill. Rachel lowered her eyes, unnerved by his smile.
“Nice to meet you too.” Damn, he looks like an over-grown Cheshire Cat grinning like that!
George walked over. “I heard you were coming. We need a lot of help around here. Where are you heading?”
“To Beth Jones’ office.”
“Allow me to accompany you there.”
“Well, thank you.” Rachel smiled as she stepped aside to allow Doctor Benny to unlock the sliding glass door. He pulled the door open and stepped inside, holding it back until Rachel safely walked through. When he released the door, it slammed shut. Rachel followed him as he walked wide-leg across the lobby, and he waved as he passed Joyce’s desk. Rachel refrained from waving still sore Joyce had ignored her earlier.
When they arrived at the admissions unit, Doctor Benny unlocked the heavy steel door. He shoved the door open, moving to the side so Rachel could walk in. The door slammed hard behind him and the floor shook beneath them. Rachel walked alongside Doctor Benny the short distance to Beth’s office. Rachel coughed repeatedly, bothered by the strong cigarette smoke in the hall. George looked over at her with pity on his face. “Are you all right?”
“I’m afraid I’m allergic to cigarette smoke,” she explained.
“That’s too bad. Smoking is a common habit around here with staff and patients. I hope you can get used to it.”
Annoyed, Rachel coughed again. The doctor’s lack of concern for her health irritated her. How dare he say that? He can get used to it! This smoking is for the birds! Fuming, Rachel decided during smoke breaks she’d go outside. She didn’t mind the cold. She’d rather breathe fresh air than die from smoke inhalation or, much worse, lung cancer.
Soon they were standing in front of Beth’s office and her door was slightly ajar. Cigarette smoke crept out of her office causing Rachel to cough again. George banged on the door, but Beth ignored him. She was sitting in her high-back swivel chair with her feet propped on the desk, puffing on a cigarette. Her lime-green knee-high granny boots matched her low-cut flowing dress. Pinned on the left side of her head was a flaming lime-green hat. Beth looked like an evil leprechaun in a horror flick, and it took everything in Rachel’s power not to laugh out loud. George pounded on the door again and waited a couple more moments. He grimaced and took the liberty to enter, clearly irritated by Beth ignoring him. He charged into her.
“What the hell is your problem this morning? Didn’t you hear me knocking?”
“You called that knocking? It was more like pounding,” Beth quipped as she flashed her big green eyes at him.
George gave her an icy stare. “You’re so despicable at times,” he mumbled under his breath.
“No more despicable than you,” she shot back. It was clear to Rachel, these two didn’t like each other. Beth smashed her spent cigarette in the ashtray and slid her feet to the floor. Straightening up in her chair, Beth gave Rachel an annoyed look as if she didn’t want her there. “Good morning, young lady, I see you made it.”
“Good Morning Beth, I’m excited to be here,” Rachel replied with big eyes. Scared out of her wits, she wondered if a bomb was going to drop soon. Rachel flinched when Beth popped out of her chair wildly waving her hands.
“Take a seat. You don’t have to stand there looking like a scared goose!”
George rolled his eyes. “Beth, you’ve no class,” he mumbled. Beth glared at him, giving the doctor the silent treatment. Jittery, Rachel pulled off her coat and sat in a chair across from Beth’s desk. She was glad this time the seat was free from cracker crumbs. Styling in a red Liz Claiborne dress with matching two-inch pumps, Rachel realized she was overdressed compared to her new supervisor and Doctor Benny. Tomorrow I’ll wear something more casual.
Sitting like a soldier, erect and straight, Rachel clasped her hands in her lap. Noticing her posture, Beth slyly teased, “Are you okay? You seem stiff.”
“Yes,” Rachel answered, her cheeks warm with embarrassment. She softened her shoulders and crossed her legs. George stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame, looking fierce.
Beth zeroed in on him. “Doctor Benny, have you heard from your patient, Susan Cole? It’s been two weeks since she disappeared from this unit.”
George scowled, curling his lips, snarling at Beth, “Don’t you start with me! I haven’t seen that patient nor heard from her!”
“Huh, huh, I bet.” Beth rolled her eyes heavenward, not convinced. She sucked her teeth as she mockingly looked him up and down.
George jerked his head back. “What do you mean, you bet?”
“Come on! Susan Cole didn’t leave this unit by herself. She had help, and I think you had something to do with it.”
“Hell, you’re speculating as usual!” he growled. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Beth hissed at the doctor with narrowed green eyes, “The ethics committee is looking into this…”
“The ethics committee can kiss my ass!” George retorted with his face red and contorted.
Beth stood up. “How dare you speak to me like that! Do you know how serious this is?”
George stepped inside and slammed the door. Beth and Rachel drew back, startled. His nostrils flared, and the sparkle in his deep blue eyes disappeared, replaced with a fiery, steely gaze. George gritted his yellow teeth and sneered, “Get off my case! I’ve no idea how that woman got off this unit. So, again, you and that ethics committee can kiss my royal ass!”
Beth flung her hands on her hips. “There’s nothing royal about your pasty ass!”
Rachel snickered, slapping her hand over her mouth. George looked wolfish, kicking the trashcan against the wall. He swung the door open with such force it hit the wall and a screw popped from the hinges. George stormed out with Beth yelling, “You damaged my door, you big pasty turkey!”
Beth stared at the doorway as if she expected him to return. When he didn’t, she wobbled over and closed the door. She sat in her chair and reached for her half-spent cigarette. She puffed out several drags, and Rachel held her breath.
Beth spoke a minute later. “I know he’s got something to do with that woman’s disappearance! I know it! He’s too damn defensive.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Rachel had no idea what to say, so she said nothing. She found it odd that Beth suspected Doctor Benny. After all, he seemed professional enough. Why would he risk his career to help a patient escape? What’s in it for him?
Beth interrupted her thoughts as she peered over her bifocals, snuffing out her cigarette. “How much do you know about Susan Cole’s disappearance?”
“I heard it on the news,” Rachel answered as she fidgeted in her seat. “I never knew her name until now.”
Beth’s gaze was stern. “What goes on in this hospital, you need to keep it in this hospital. Do you understand?”
Rachel felt her stomach knot up. “Yes, I understand.”
Beth’s demeanor softened and she changed the subject. “Today, you’re going to hang out with Jamie Lee. She works with that asshole Doctor Benny, but she knows the rules and will show you the ropes.”
“Okay,” said Rachel, forcing a smile. She was stunned by Beth’s choice of words. This woman has got some screws loose!Rachel wondered if she could deal with Beth over the long haul.
“Are you still with me? You seem preoccupied.” Beth’s gaze was heated.
“Yes, ma’am, sorry,” Rachel apologized with her face hot with embarrassment.
“Then pay attention!”
Rachel sank in her seat, even more embarrassed.
Beth continued. “First, I’m going to take you to your new office so you can settle in. Then I’ll take you to meet Jamie Lee.”
“Okay,” Rachel murmured.
Beth bolted from her seat and gestured for Rachel to follow. She opened her office door and took off. Rachel followed the supervisor out and walked alongside her as they made their way down the hall. Oodles of black eyes stared back at them from a sea of thick, white smoke. The patients’ morning smoke break was underway, and Rachel gagged and coughed until they entered the dining room. A smoke-free area, Rachel reveled in the fresh air, taking deep breaths.
A woman dressed in a puffy, high collar red dress with a paper crown on her head came up to them and curtsied, with a big, cheesy smile on her face. Her eyes drifted to Rachel.
“Hi, my name is Mary, Queen of Scots.” She sounded like a squeaky mouse. “Madam, what’s your name?”
Rachel pursed her lips, stifling a laugh. “Rachel Thomas, your new social worker,” she managed to say.
“Pleased to meet you.” The woman curtsied and cocked her head to the side. “Did you know honeybees hum in the key of F?”
“No,” Rachel replied.
“Well, they do.” The woman curtsied three times and spun in a circle. Facing Rachel again, she giggled. “And did you know flies have x-ray vision?”
Beth stepped in, rescuing Rachel. “Ellen, that’s enough, you need to eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”
“Sure,” Ellen beamed as she hurried away, turning around once to glance back at Rachel. Beth leaned in close to whisper in Rachel’s ear. Her breath smelled like stale cigarette smoke and chocolate candy. Rachel cringed, backing up a little.
Unfazed, Beth explained, “Ellen dresses in seventeen-century clothing because she’s delusional. Her mother makes her costumes. Last week she thought she was Marie Antoinette.”
Rachel chuckled. “I see.”
They watched Ellen struggled with her big puffy dress as she attempted to sit at the table, knocking several breakfast trays onto the floor. Patients sitting at the table groaned with frustration as nursing staff ran over to clean up the mess. Laughing, Beth and Rachel exited the dining room. They passed Doctor Louis’ office, and Rachel’s was next to his. Doctor Louis’ door was closed, and Rachel wondered if he was in there.
Beth read her mind. “Doctor Louis is out this morning. You’ll meet him this afternoon.”
“Good, I look forward to it.” Rachel felt uneasy that the supervisor could read her thoughts.
Beth reached in her pocket, taking out two gold keys. One had green plastic trim around the top. “Here’s the keys to your office. The one with the green trim around it is your office key. Now open the door,” she commanded.
Rachel took the keys and inserted the green one in the lock, turning it clockwise. The door clicked opened, and Rachel stepped inside. It was dark, so she left the door open so the light from the hall could shine through. She patted the wall for the light switch, discovering it on the right side, and flipped it on. Her eyes widen as she gave her new office the once over. Surprised to find it half-empty, the only furniture was a cherry wood desk and a high-back swivel chair. The space looked dreary because the office lacked windows. I guess I’ll need to spruce this place up with some wall paintings.
Rachel stepped to her desk and sat in the chair. She spun it around, visualizing decorating her new space. Loud tapping came from behind her and Rachel swung around. Her mouth flew open when she saw Beth in the doorway with both hands on her hips.
Beth glared at her, tapping her right foot. “Are you finished?”
Rachel scrambled out of her chair. “I’m sorry…I was just…”
Beth whipped around and left, cutting her off. Embarrassed, Rachel ran to the door. She shut the door behind her, and in two minutes, she was walking alongside Beth. They walked together in silence, and Rachel welcomed it. Relieved she wasn’t going to be scolded, she pondered what lay ahead. Soon they stop at an office door with a placard scripted with the name Jamie Lee, MSW on it. Beth knocks and enters at the same time, and Rachel sees a woman with her feet propped up on the desk reading the Seattle Times Newspaper. Dressed in black, the woman was plain-looking with no make-up and she had a salt and peppered, jazzy pixie haircut. Rachel noticed her sad light-brown eyes reflected a life of pain.
The woman dropped her newspaper and flashed them a crooked smile. “Good Morning, my people, what’s up? “As she slid her feet to the floor and stood up. Her eyes drifted to Rachel. “So, who do we have here?”
“This is Rachel Thomas, our new social worker. She will be working with you here on the admissions unit,” Beth said.
Jamie offered her hand and Rachel grabbed it. Jamie jerked her forward, gripping her hand so tight, Rachel winced in pain. Jamie didn’t seem to notice. “Hi there, and welcome. I’m Jamie Lee.”
“I’m Rachel. Nice to meet you, too,” Rachel squeaked as intense pain jolted through her hand and arm.
Jamie let go and Rachel took a deep breath, rubbing her sore hand and arm as she glanced around the room for a place to sit. Every seat in Jamie’s office was stacked with books, magazines, and newspapers. Rachel had no choice, so she remained standing. Beth wobbled over and handed Jamie a sheet of paper.
Squishing her face up, Jamie looked annoyed. “What’s this?”
“Instructions. Show Miss Thomas the ropes, and see to it she gets a picture ID.”
“Will do.” Jamie sighed, rolling her eyes. “Is there anything else besides what’s on this paper?”
“No, just show her how things are done around here.”
“Okay,” Jamie said. Satisfied, Beth wobbled out of Jamie’s office, slamming the door behind her. Jamie made a face. “I can’t stand that woman. She gets on my damn nerves.”
Jamie saw Rachel looking around the room and pointed to the sofa. “Shove those papers on the floor and have a seat.”
“Thank you.” Rachel gathered the stack of newspapers and set them on the floor, then sat on the sofa, making herself comfortable. Suddenly her eyes teared up, and she felt a tickling sensation in her nose. Rachel sneezed repeatedly, unable to stop as she inspected the sofa she was sitting on. Black fur covered the cushion where she sat, and the place reeked of stale alcohol and musty newspapers. The combination of cat hair and odors was wreaking havoc on Rachel’s allergies. After five minutes, she was able to stop sneezing, but she sniffled, rubbing her nose hard.
“Are you all right?” Jamie asked, looking concerned.
“Do you…do you…aaaaachooo! Do you have a cat?”
“Yeah, why?” Jamie wrinkled her brow.
“I’m allergic to cats,” Rachel squeaked.
Jamie grabbed a Kleenex box off her desk and gave it to Rachel. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…”
“I know…” Rachel sneezed again. She snatched a tissue from the box and blew her nose hard. It sounded like a foghorn.
“Damn!” Jamie said. “Are you trying to blow your damn brains out, girl?”
Rachel’s laugh was weak. “I’m trying to make sure I get all the snot out.”
Jamie shook her head. “Believe me when I say, there is no more snot in that nose!”
They both laughed out loud. Rachel liked Jamie immediately.
Jamie pointed to a wood chair by the door. “Move those books and sit in that chair. There’s no cat hair there.”
Rachel got up and moved the books to the floor. She sat, crossing her legs with both hands clasped around her knees. Jamie returned to her desk, looking apologetic. “I’m so sorry about your allergies, but the cat is my pet. I bring him to work with me sometimes.”
“I understand,” Rachel said. She blew her nose again and threw the soiled tissue in a nearby wastebasket. Feeling a little better, Rachel peppered Jamie with questions. “What’s the deal with Beth? What’s her story? How is she as a supervisor?”
“Whoa, girl, one question at a time,” Jamie chuckled.
“Sorry, I’m just curious.” Rachel fell back in her seat.
“No problem. Let me tell you, Beth is basically bitchy and controlling, arrogant and rude. Slamming my door like she just did earlier is definitely her typical behavior.”
“Yeah, she thinks she knows everything, likes to have it her way. When she came to Salter’s Point Regional ten years ago, it was rumored she tried to kill her psychiatrist husband for running off with some scrawny young thing in his office!”
“You’re kidding me? Is it really true? How old was she when this happened?” Rachel sniffled, wrinkling her nose. The tickling sensation still bothered her.
“In her forties, not really sure. When I asked her about it, she denied it, cursing me out.”
Rachel leaned forward, wide-eyed. “She really cursed you out?”
“Yup!” Thrilled she had a captive audience, Jamie ramped up the gossip. “It’s also rumored instead of shooting him, and risking going to jail, she fought back another way.”
“What did she do?” Rachel scooted to the edge of her seat, mesmerized.
“She drained his bank account, left town with their two teenage boys, got a job and later went back to school to become a social worker.”
“Well, she triumphed at the end. She got her revenge,” Rachel sniffled.
“Yep,” Jamie agreed.
“So, where are her two sons? Do they live here in Washington State?”
“Yes, they do. She helped them get through law school and now they have families of their own.”
Rachel uncrossed her legs and folded her arms across her chest. “Beth’s weird, but you got to admire her tenacity and determination. How old is she now?”
“Um, I think she’s about sixty-three years old.” Jamie paused, rubbing her forehead. “She’s been a social worker for twenty-some years, so age sixty-three is about right.”
“Wow,” Rachel answered, impressed.
“Girl, did you know she has a crush on Doctor Louis?” Jamie laughed tilting her head back. “She tries to seduce him by wearing low-cut dresses, but he pays her no mind.”
“Nooo…” Rachel’s eyes were as big as an owl.
“Now listen, girl, that Doctor Louis likes young pussy. He’s married to a woman twenty years his junior.”
Rachel squealed with laughter, slapping her hand over her mouth. “That’s freaking hilarious,” she replied with a muffled voice.
Jamie laughed, checking her watch. “I’ve got a meeting with Doctor Benny in an hour. Let’s get started.”
“You’re assigned to Doctor Benny?”
“Yep, Beth didn’t tell you?”
“No, she didn’t. What’s Doctor Benny like?” As far as she could tell from Doctor Benny’s and Beth’s disturbing interaction earlier, his reputation around the hospital was murky. She wanted to learn more about his alleged involvement with Susan Cole’s disappearance.
“He’s all right. He can be a bit eccentric at times.” Jamie’s face turned solemn. “When he gets angry, he becomes extremely passive-aggressive. Did you hear one of his patients took off from the unit two weeks ago?”
Bingo! She walked right into it! “Yes, I heard on the news that a patient escaped, but I didn’t know the patient was his,” Rachel fibbed with her eyes peeled on Jamie.
“Yep the patient is his, and her name is Susan Cole. The woman is diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder and her escape is shaping up to be quite a mystery,” Jamie said, lowering her voice.
“From what I read in the literature about patients with borderline personality disorder, they can be difficult to managed,” Rachel whispered back.
“You’re right. Between their attention-getting suicide attempts and sabotaging their own treatment plan, they can be quite a challenge.”
“Do you have any idea how she managed to escape?” Rachel scooted to the edge of her seat.
Jamie shook her head. “No ma’am, but it’s rumored she and Doctor Benny were lovers and he may have helped her escape.”
Rachel fell back in her chair, floored. “Oh, my goodness!” she gasped. Beth’s rude behavior toward Doctor Benny now made sense. Surely the doctor isn’t really capable of committing such an act, messing around with a patient. That’s unethical.
Jamie changed the subject. “So, I hear you’re going to be working with the colonel,” she said.
“The colonel?” Rachel raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, the infamous Doctor Louis,” she declared.
“Why do you call him the colonel?”
“Because he’s a retired Army colonel and he runs the admissions unit like a damn boot camp!”
Rachel giggled. Suddenly the hinges on the door rattled like a bag of old bones. Someone was pounding on the door, and Jamie stood up, frowning. “Who in the hell is banging on my door like a damn lunatic?”
The door swung open and hit the wall with a thud. A man burst in and stood in the middle of Jamie’s office scowling. Rachel immediately recognized the scruffy-looking man who had attacked the wig heads two weeks earlier. She popped out of her seat and parked herself behind Jamie Lee, spooked. Jamie twisted slightly around to glanced back at Rachel. “I’m okay. I was trying to get out of the way.”
Jamie shook her head and focused her attention on the scruffy man. She folded her arms across her chest. The man stood in front of her, posing, with his hands on his hips, blinking his long eyelashes.
“Dude, what is it?”
“Hiram wants your list of patients for court tomorrow,” he growled. He reached back and scratched his behind.
“What?” Jamie’s face contorted into a shape of a pretzel.
“Hiram wants your list of patients,” the man demanded again.
Seething with rage, Jamie handed the man her list. With the list between his right index finger and thumb, he stared at the paper, dropping it on Jamie’s desk. “The patients on this list are nothing but flies in the wrong soup!” the man said flipping his blond locks to one side. Pissed, Jamie shook her finger at the man and Rachel jumped back with her eyes big as saucers.
“Damn it, Hiram! Stop acting like a nitwit and talking in the third person! You’re so ridiculous! Where are your manners? Don’t you see our new social worker standing here? Introduce yourself!”
Hiram looked at Rachel and gave her a big silly grin. “Miss…”
“It’s Rachel Thomas, sir,” Rachel politely blurted.
“Well, hello, missy. My name is Hiram Gottschalks. I’m the attorney for the poor souls unjustly locked up in this hell hole,” he calmly replied.
Rachel fell out laughing. She couldn’t help herself. The man was a spectacle and hilarious. “You can’t be serious,” she muttered pursing her lips.
“What? Hiram didn’t hear you.” He reached up, flipping his earlobe forward. Rachel regrouped.
“Did you say you’re an attorney?” she politely asked.
“Yeah, missy, and what’s it to you?”
“Forgive me, I don’t mean to offend you.” Rachel struggled not to laugh. She kept her eyes fixed on the floor to avoid eye contact.
“No problem,” Hiram said with his eyes drifting back to Jamie. He poked his chest out, staring at her as if she had horns on her head. With a cunning expression on his face, Hiram told Jamie. “Please forgive me for my rude manners, my sweet sugar tits, but you, my little witch, are as rude as they come!”
Jamie lunged at him. “Get the hell out of my office you weasel of a troll! I’ve had enough of your shenanigans!”
“My, aren’t we bitchy this morning?” he teased with a wicked gleam in his eye. He sniffed the air like a dog as he backed up toward the door. “You smell like a pissy bottle of liquor! Have you been drinking again, Miss Lee?”
Chili-pepper red, Jamie grabbed her empty coffee cup and threw it at Hiram. He ducked and the cup sailed over his head. It hit the floor, breaking into a million pieces. Hiram laughed like a hyena. “Sugar tits, you missed!”
“You son of a bitch!” Jamie screamed. Red-faced, Jamie grabbed another cup and charged the crazy attorney. Hiram bolted out the door, almost falling on his behind as he turned the corner and dashed down the hall. Jamie twisted her face as she stood at the door. She threw the cup at him and missed, and it landed on the floor in big chunky pieces.
“If you come to my office again, you little shit, I’ll kill you!” she screamed. “Do you hear me, you little shit? I’ll kill you!”
Hiram made it to the exit and stopped. He spun around and flipped Jamie the finger. Jamie lurched forward with her hands on her knees, breathing heavily. “Your shitty little troll!” she gasped under her breath.
“Not as shitty as you, sugar tits!” Hiram unlocked the steel gray door to the admissions unit and ran out. It slammed hard behind him.
Rachel stood over Jamie rubbing her back trying to comfort her. “Are you okay?” she asked, feeling worried.
Jamie was silent, still stooped over, her breathing ragged. She stood up and looked at Rachel with her face etched in pain.
“My lungs are shot. I stopped smoking a few months ago, but I still get short of breath.” Jamie took a step and stumbled. Rachel grabbed her before she fell to the floor. Jamie leaned on Rachel for a few seconds until she regained her composure. Still unsteady, Jamie held onto Rachel’s arm as the two women trudged back to Jamie’s office. Once they were safely inside, Jamie separated herself from Rachel, stumbled to her desk, and plopped down in her chair. Rachel returned to her chair and remained quiet, waiting for Jamie to speak first.
As Jamie ducked underneath her desk, Rachel heard rustling papers and wondered what she was looking for. To her bewilderment, when Jamie sat up, she held a half- full bottle of Jack Daniels. “I need a little nip. It’s been a stressful morning.”
Jamie twisted the cap off, and put the bottle to her lips, turning it up. She gulped down the brown liquor with her throat pulsating violently. Jamie stopped a minute and took a breath. She winced and wiggled her nose. “Ahhhh,” she moaned. She finished the bottle and tossed it in the wastebasket.
Rachel was stunned. She wondered what she’d gotten herself into by accepting a job at Salter’s Point Regional. Not only was the hospital’s attorney a full-blown maniac, but her social worker colleague was a drunk. How did these two crazy people land a job in a psychiatric hospital? Can I work with these people? She shook her head in amazement, resigned to her predicament. I’m here now. I guess I can make it work. Rachel glanced at her watch. She was already exhausted, and it was only eleven-thirty in the morning. Is it time for a break? Boy, did she need a break!
“Are you all right, sweetie?” Jamie asked with glassy eyes, interrupting Rachel’s thoughts.
“Just tired,” Rachel sighed. Jamie left her seat and walked to the coffee pot sitting on an end table. She grabbed a cup and poured herself some coffee. “My dear, would you like some coffee?”
“No, thank you,” Rachel calmly replied. She twirled her thumbs. “What’s the deal with Hiram? He seems a little weird.”
Jamie walked back to her desk and sat, sipping on her coffee. “He’s more than a little weird. That weasel of a troll isn’t normal. He’s simply out of his damn tree!”
Rachel laughed. “Well, he’s quite an interesting character, so tell me about him.”
“To be truthful,” Jamie sighed. “Hiram is quite intelligent. He graduated from Harvard at the top of his class and instead of going into corporate law, he decided to be a defender for the little man.”
“How compassionate, I’m impressed.” Intrigued by the unusual attorney, Rachel then asked. “How old is he and has he ever been married?”
“Boy you sure are nosey!” Jamie laughed.
“Social Workers are trained to be nosey.”
“Well, if you must know, nosey girl, Hiram is manic, forty-five years old and divorced.”
“Manic how?” Rachel giggled.
“The man is a nut! Always talking in the third person. It gets on my damn nerves.”
“I noticed that. Why does Hiram do that?”
“Who knows. Two weeks ago, he went to a beauty supply store and bought a bunch of wig heads. He painted their faces, put witches’ hats on their heads and lined them all up on the counter in the lobby.”
“I saw those wig heads when I came for my interview. I wondered why they were there. What possessed Hiram to do such a thing?”
“Crazy,” Jamie chuckled. “He thought the lobby needed sprucing up. He threatened to sue Joyce if she tried to take them down.”
“Well, the lobby is very drab. It could use a makeover.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“The first time I saw Hiram, I thought he was a patient,” Rachel recalled. “He was having a hissy fit in the lobby. He punched the wig heads onto the floor and stomped on them. He… scared the holy shit out of me!”
Jamie laughed. “The man is a knucklehead, but I feel bad for him. I think he suffers from manic depressive disorder.”
“How do you know?”
“Just the way he behaves.”
“Has he ever been diagnosed?”
“No, not as far as I can tell.”
“How does he get away with being so crazy?”
“I don’t know,” Jamie wearily groaned. “He just does.”
Rachel wanted to know more. “Why does he look so dirty? He reminds me of a homeless man.”
Jamie howled. “Hiram has money, but he chooses to live like a pauper. He lives in a garage in an old auto shop near the beach.”
“I see. What did he mean when he made the comment, about flies in the wrong soup?”
“Let me explain something to you.” Jamie leaned forward folding her arms on the desk. “Hiram believes the patients in this hospital don’t belong here. He believes psychiatric institutions don’t help them. He thinks patients fare better in the community with outpatient mental health than institutionalized and held against their will. So, he fights for them in court by getting their cases dismissed. Most of the time he’s unsuccessful, but sometimes he’s not.”
“So, he works for the system, but he doesn’t believe in it. The man sounds conflicted.”
“You got it”
Satisfied for now, Rachel changed the subject. “I’m hungry. When is lunch?”
“Let’s take a break. Meet me back here at one and we’ll go to personnel for your photo ID,” Jamie suggested.
“Cool.” Rachel stood on her feet and left Jamie’s office. Within minutes she was back in her office. She sat in her swivel chair, opened her desk drawer, and took out her lunch bag. Rachel tore into it, took out her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and took a bite, savoring the thick, nutty taste. She thought about Hiram and Jamie and how insane they seemed to be, amused by the craziness of it all. Rachel took another bite of her sandwich, chewing hard. She swallowed and muttered to herself, shaking her head, “Damn, this is one crazy place! I sure hope I can do this.”
Thank-you For Reading, comments welcome!
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