Authors: Ava Mallory
Mercy & Mayhem
A Mercy Mares Cozy Mystery
By Ava Mallory
Copyright @2015 Ava Mallory. All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
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Table of Contents
Some people get to settle in and learn the lay of the land before they start a new job, but I guess, I'm not like some people. I'd rather take the bull by the horns, but when the bull happens to be a large, elderly gentleman brandishing a cane as a weapon, then, all bets are off. It's time for a serious intervention.
"Hi! I'm Mercedes Mares. I'm the traveling nurse. I'm supposed to..."
The charge nurse waved her hand in my face. "Not now! This guy is going nuts!"
It's not like I didn't see him. He was the first person I saw as soon as I stepped into the unit. He's hardly the kind of man you'd miss at about six feet tall, around two hundred pounds, and swinging a three foot cane, but I just wasn't quite expecting to battle so early on in the game. Mind you, no one back at the agency prepared me for arctic temperatures and/or the obvious self-defense classes I was going to have to take, if I was going to survive the next three months in the panhandle of Nebraska.
Amused by the obvious lack of training received in regards to unruly patients, I had half a mind to pop a squat and watch the show in action, but figured making a bad impression before I was officially trained for the job I'd spent the last twenty years practically doing in my sleep, wouldn't have made me look good. Instead, I sprung into action, tossing the paper thin coat that I purchased at the last truck stop before I'd officially left civilization on the floor, and bags of supplies I might need, depending on how well stocked this nursing home was, and kindly asked the gentleman to step down off the lift and tell me what was wrong.
He must have known I meant business because after a moment of stunned silence, he obliged, handing me his cane as he proceeded to tell me all of his woes.
Together, we walked arm in arm to a nearby common area on the dementia unit and sat down to chat like a couple of old pals. The flustered staff members were both mesmerized and perturbed and I knew my plan to come in and quietly introduce myself had completely flown out the window, along with my sensibilities.
I lost count of how many times I'd been asked to not come charging in with my take no prisoners attitude and my 'I got this' stance?
While the staff huffed and puffed and put the unit back in order, I kept the aforementioned patient occupied. We reveled in stories of his days on the farm and delighted in each others company until the memory, he fought hard to maintain wilted away and he'd all but forgotten that I was the very same nurse that had escorted him off the lift and into the chair he now occupied.
"Alright, Mr. Schmeckpepper, the medication nurse is going to give you your pills now. Can you take them for me, hon?" I cringed as the nurse's aide asked. Over the years, I cannot tell you how many times I heard well-meaning medical staff refer to adult patients that way. Unless something changed since I'd graduated from nursing school, you were never supposed to address a patient that way.
"I don't need pills." Mr. Schmeckpepper quipped. "And, don't call me 'hon'. I don't like it."
The nurse's aide backed away, deferring to the medication aide, holding a medicine cup, filled to the brim with an assortment of pills. I knew exactly what they were trying to do. Despite my own personal feelings about the use of pills to control behavior, I didn't say a word. I needed to get started on the right foot or the next three months would feel like years.
I stood up and looked in the direction of the one I assumed was the charge nurse, but her eyes glossed over me as she watched to ensure Mr. Schmeckpepper took his happy pills. I needed a do-over, but to be clear, I walked into the mess, I didn't bring it with me, but as the newbie every time I accepted a new placement, I knew the drill. They weren't kidding when they said that nurses eat their young. There was a pecking order, no matter what facility or hospital you found yourself employed in. I always seemed to find myself at the bottom of that pecking order.
Veteran nurses ran the roost and new, fresh out of school nurses, just tried to survive. Sad, but true fact. Eventually, it all evened out, if you were lucky, but as someone who took a liking to being a traveling nurse, I didn't often find myself brimming with a heaping spoonful of luck. It didn't matter that I'd been around since long before people were charting on computers or tablets. I'm old school and that's how I liked it. Give me a Pyxis and a clipboard and I'm happy.
I cleared my throat and stood up to get the charge nurse's attention. "Excuse me? Are you the Charge Nurse?"
I saw the eye roll from across the room, but thought it was better not to mention it until I'd at least formerly introduced myself first.
As I approached her, donning my best smile, I said, "Hi! I'm Mercedes Mares. I'm the traveling nurse. Are you Kathleen?"
She exhaled in my face and answered, "Kathy. Don't call me Kathleen. Only my mother calls me that and even then, just don't."
"Oh, well, nice to meet you, Kathy. Everyone calls me Mercy. I mean, everyone. Ever since I was a little girl, I don't think anyone really called me by my full name. Maybe it was just too long or too much. I don't know." I forced myself to stop talking. I had the tendency to talk really fast when I was feeling uncomfortable and, if ever there was a time to feel uncomfortable, this would be it.
Kathy stood with her arms crossed over her plump middle and was flanked by two equally uninterested nurse's aides. Looking at the scowls on their faces, I said a silent prayer, hoping they weren't the official Valley Retirement Estates Welcome Committee because they sure weren't making me feel at all welcome.
"Alright, well, follow me and make sure you bring your luggage or whatever that is with you." Kathy pointed to my small pile of belongings that sat on the floor.
"Sure thing. Thanks for reminding me." The niceties these lips were spewing were beginning to burn my tongue. I needed to figure out a way to turn things around and fast. Working in a hostile environment wasn't pleasant for anyone, especially me.
Kathy slammed the door behind me as I walked in. "Well, go ahead and sit down. Number one, there's not a lot of room in here for all that stuff, so you're going to have to get yourself a locker or leave that stuff at home. Next, try not to step on anyone's toes. We run a tight ship here and there are procedures in place to keep it that way."
I just had to interrupt. If I didn't, I was going to blow a fuse. "Excuse me, Kathy, but did I do something to offend you or are you this friendly with everyone?" I showed my brightest smile to soften the blow.
Kathy leaned back in her chair while I prepared myself for an unpleasant exchange, then, she responded, "Here's the deal. It has been a really bad day. I am the night nurse, but since you needed to be trained by someone who knows what they're doing, I'm forced to work a day shift with you. I'm tired. The snow is coming down hard. All these old farmers are getting antsy because they are worried about their crops. You see, on a dementia unit, there's no telling what era, they are living in and, unfortunately, we are the ones left to help them put the pieces back together or go along with whatever they are thinking just to keep the peace. So, I'm sorry, if your feelings are hurt, but I don't have time for pleasantries. I have a thirty-six bed unit to run and a bunch of support staff members to keep track of." Kathy clapped her hands and turned her back on me while I resisted the urge to walk right on out of there and beg to be reassigned, but I was no quitter and my old Honda really needed some major repairs, so it didn't take me long to figure out what I really needed to do.
"Kathy, I understand how frustrating this must be for you, but I think it would behoove you to at least try to practice a little kindness. I'm only here for three months. I'm more than willing to pitch in and do my part." I thought that sounded nice.
Apparently, Kathy did not and she quickly got up and walked out of the office, leaving me to bask in my brilliance. Truth be told, I had pressing matters that needed to be addressed and this assignment would ease my financial burden. Three months in the frozen tundra of a Nebraska winter was nothing, compared to some of the other assignments I'd been given in the past, but Nurse Ratchet was in no hurry to make my transition any easier and I was going to have to do something to mend fences or I was going to die trying.
I sat quietly, trying really hard to mind my own business, but it was hard, especially surrounded by paper thin walls and having an array of video screens capturing every move in the common areas of the unit and a smattering of high risk patients' rooms.
Kathy returned to the office and sat down. She didn't offer an apology, but instead, corrected my terminology. "We don't have patients here. We call them 'residents', just so you know. Today, you will be my shadow. Don't touch anyone or anything unless I tell you to. I'll get you acquainted with how things run and, then, hand some charts over to you so you can get familiar with residents and their care plans. And, another thing, this door is to remain closed at all times. No residents in here. The door will automatically lock behind you, if you close it right. Understood? "
Yes, Drill Sergeant
, I thought, but my lips said, "Yes, of course. Thank you."
"Good. Then, come on, follow me. I haven't even had time to do morning rounds yet, so let's get to it. Have you ever worked in a dementia unit before?" She asked.
I didn't like to lie, but I figured a tiny fib might make her feel a little better. "No, not since I was in nursing clinicals."
"Do you know anything about dementia?" Her condescending tone was showing again, so naturally I had to oblige.
"Yes, I'm more than familiar. I've been a nurse for almost twenty-five years. I spent the last ten years as a traveling nurse. I've seen patients of all kinds. Before that, I worked in post-surgical, oncology, pediatrics, and in home health." This time, I added a wink with my smile. She didn't appreciate it.
Kathy barged right into the first room. No knock. No introduction. She startled the resident. I didn't see him, but I sure as sugar, heard him.
"Woman, get out of my room! I don't need no more of your shenanigans. Get out and take that one with you!"
I peered around the draw curtain, announcing my presence. "Hello, Mr. Schmeckpepper. We met just a few minutes ago. We sure did have a nice chat about your fields. How are you?"
"One foot in the grave and one foot ready to kick you right on out of here. That's how I am." Someone had given Mr. Schmeckpepper his cane back and he was doing a nice job of waving it like a sword in our faces.
Yep, he and I were going to get along just fine.
"Now, you know that I'm just here to check your vitals. I do this every shift. Doctor's orders." Kathy already had her stethoscope on his heart by the time she'd finished talking.
He immediately grabbed it and shouted into it, "Get out, you loon!"
I had to stifle a laugh. He had a lot of spunk. I could only imagine what he would have been like years earlier.
I had a soft spot for seniors. Although I didn't mention it too often, I'd grown up with my grandparents in my home and my grandfather was such a card. He's part of the reason I became a nurse. Before getting my degree, I'd spent some time as a nurse's aide in a nursing home back home in California. Back then, there was no term for this sad disease. We just called it memory loss or Old Timer's Disease. Now, it had an official title and the word dementia acts as an umbrella for any number of accompanying symptoms. No matter what you call it, anyone who suffered from it and those who care about them are a different breed. I firmly believe they are stronger than the rest of us.
Mr. Schmeckpepper here, from what I've already seen, falls into the category of someone that will keep me on my toes and I liked that about him already.
Kathy spoke over him, like he wasn't in the room. Nothing irritated me more than to see people do that. "After we take his vitals, we'll go next door to Betty's room. Prepare yourself, she's always having some kind of major issue." Kathy spoke as if she didn't have to worry about confidentiality. I couldn't believe my ears.
"Okay, then, Mr. Schmeck... " I began, but he stopped me.
"Will someone please just call me 'Nubbin'? Is that so hard to say. It is my name, you know?"
I loved this guy. I just wanted to hug him and tell him that he was officially one of my all time favorite patients, but unlike present company, I knew what the boundaries were and I especially liked having a job, so I refrained myself, but mentally, I squeezed the lovin' out of him.