Authors: Ava Mallory
“I'll see you in a little bit, Nubbin.” I followed Kathy into the office, unsure whether to be relieved that she wouldn't be training me today or worried that I'd been reassigned because of what had happened. Either way, things weren't looking good for me again. I hoped this wasn't going to become a new custom for me.
Kathy didn't even give me a moment to settle before she started rattling off doctor's orders and a list of tasks that needed to be completed.
I stopped her. “Wait, am I alone today? No one is training me?” It was only her and I in the office and as far as I knew there weren't any other nurses nearby.
She rolled her eyes, becoming increasingly annoyed by the second. “You're alone today. I don't know where you're from, but did you see all that snow outside? That's not a dusting. That's what you call a blizzard. This is farm country. Roads don't get plowed like they do in big cities. People can't get out of their driveways, so you are flying solo.”
“Okay, but I haven't met all of the residents yet and I don't know their schedules. Do you have a list of daily duties?” Normally, I wouldn't be at all uncomfortable being left on my own, but given the circumstances, I wasn't exactly feeling all that confident that I would be allowed to do my job without being overly scrutinized at every turn.
Kathy sighed, before getting up to yell out the door. “Tina, Sarah, someone get in here!”
Now, I was the one becoming annoyed. “Why are you calling them in here? What's wrong?”
Tina rushed into the office, believing something was wrong. When she saw me, a look of confusion washed over her face, but she managed to offer me a kind smile.
Kathy spoke about me as if I wasn't there. That seemed to be just the way she chose to operate. “Can you keep an eye on this one? She's going to be in charge today and doesn't know what to do.”
That was it. I'd had enough. It was time to nip this in the bud and do it now. “I don't need a babysitter. I've been a nurse – a good nurse – for longer than Tina has been alive. I can handle the job just fine. My concern was that since I've not been officially trained or introduced to all of the residents that I may need someone to make the introductions. Is that a problem?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tina laugh, but I didn't say what I said to make anyone laugh. I was just trying to get my point across.
Kathy took a few minutes to glare at me as I sat trying my hardest not to be intimidated by her bullying behavior. Tina shuffled from foot to foot, waiting for Kathy to dismiss her.
The way things operated around here were beyond comprehension and I had no intention of allowing myself to be sucked into any of it. I didn't know how I was going to keep the negativity at bay, but if I intended to live in the not-so-glamorous lifestyle I'd become accustomed to living in, I was going to need to do something to maintain my sanity.
I decided it was high time I cut sweet Tina loose before she became just as jaded as her superior. “I'm fine, Tina. I'll call you if I need you.” I offered her a reassuring smile, watching Kathy's reaction in my periphery. By all accounts, she wasn't at all pleased, but was probably too tired to want to do anything about it.
Nubbin's yelling took me right out of my charting. For the most part, the day had been uneventful. I'd learned some names and became somewhat acquainted with routines and temperaments throughout the first half of my twelve hour shift. Nothing was at all out of the ordinary until Nubbin started yelling bloody murder.
“Help! Help! Someone get in here now!” Nubbin screamed.
I nearly tripped over Jeb as he pushed his cart down the walkway toward the exit doors.
Tina and Sarah ran into Nubbin's room behind me.
Nubbin stopped yelling as soon as he had all three of us in his view. “What took you so long, Nova?”
“Nova?” Tina looked at me, confusion in her eyes.
He clarified things for her. “I know her name. I just don't see the point in using it all the time. It's too long, if you ask me. I need something to eat. I'm losing weight here.”
I had to give him credit. Nubbin sure knew how to lure the ladies. As soon as my heart rate returned to a normal rate, I promised myself to laugh about this moment, but since I didn't see any chance of that happening soon, I had to make a quick mental note.
Tina asked, “Would you like some pudding, Nubbin? I think we have banana pudding in the kitchenette.”
“No, not pudding. I want a burrito. Run on down to Juanita's Cantina and get me a beef and bean burrito.” Nubbin started digging in his pocket for his wallet.
I had to intervene. “Nubbin, the roads are probably pretty difficult to get through with all the snow. Looks like we have a bonafide blizzard outside.” I opened the curtains to let him see. That was enough to cause a temporary distraction, while I sent Tina to the kitchenette to see if she could whip up a burrito for him with the items we had on hand.
Nubbin's focused turned to the snow storm. I sat down next to him to shoot the breeze for a few minutes, since I'd not had much opportunity to interact with him all day long.
After Tina cleared the room, Nubbin whispered, “He was murdered, you know?”
I thought that I hadn't heard him right. Clearly, we'd all been under a lot of stress. It was only natural that the residents would be suffering from symptoms of stress too.
Poor Betty spent the morning crying over her loss until I was finally able to get a doctor's order to give her something to help her sleep. She slept quietly in her room for the time being.
I hoped that by not responding to Nubbin's remark that he'd move on to another subject, but that didn't happen.
“Did you hear me? Someone murdered him. He didn't just die. He may not have been my favorite, but he sure as molasses didn't die of natural causes. If you ask me, she killed him. It's been a long time coming.”
My curiosity was piqued. “Who killed him, Nubbin?”
Tina returned to the room, holding an egg and cheese burrito on a plate in her hand.
“One burrito for one very special man.” Tina announced, placing the plate down on the nightstand next to Nubbin's wheelchair.
“What's this?” Nubbin examined the contents of the plate as if they were foreign objects. “Is this some kind of burrito?”
I answered, “Yes, just what you asked for.”
“I don't like burritos.” He shoved the plate away from him. “What are you doing? Trying to fatten me up?”
I wanted to ask Nubbin more questions, but his mind had already wandered and we had an audience. I liked Tina, but I wasn't quite sure if I could trust her yet. Right now, I was still a newbie that no one wanted around and I had no friend in sight.
“What's with the long face, Corsica? Someone put salt in your coffee?” Nubbin asked as I excused myself to return to my paperwork.
I turned my head back to answer. “No, I'm fine. I have to go finish up some things. You call me if you need anything, Nubbin. I'll be just right there.” I pointed to the nursing office, but Nubbin had already stopped paying attention and was nibbling on the burrito he claimed he didn't want. Satisfied that he'd be okay for a while, I walked back to the office, still thinking about what he'd said.
What did he mean by Rowdy being murdered?
Hopefully, the staff wouldn't have mentioned the findings of the autopsy. If they had that would be highly unprofessional to disclose that information to the other residents. Perhaps he overheard the conversation Betty's son and Kathy were having, but even then, it really wasn't the place to discuss it in front of impressionable folks like Nubbin.
Just as I was about to close the door behind me, Betty ran out of her room, screaming at the top of her lungs. “Help! Help!” She yelled.
Tina was still in Nubbin's room and came running out immediately to assist her. “What's wrong? Are you okay?” Tina asked.
Betty made a mad dash for me, still screaming as if she'd had the life scared out of her.
I ran out to meet her. She grabbed my shoulders, begging me to help her.
“What's wrong? Are you hurt?” I asked.
“It's gone. He took it. It's gone.” Betty cried.
“Who? Took what?” I motioned for Tina to check Betty's room. I hadn't seen any visitors enter the unit, but maybe one slipped passed me while I was in with Nubbin.
Tina called out from Betty's room. “There's no one in here.”
I lead Betty to a seat in the dining room, wrapping my arm around her frail shoulders. “There's no one there now. Who did you see? What did they take?”
“The watch. He took his pocket watch.” Betty answered.
I looked at Tina for clarification because I had no idea what Betty could be talking about.
Tina shrugged. “I don't know. I've never seen a watch.”
“Betty, can you tell me who you're talking about, so I can help you?” I asked, hoping that would help her to calm down. I figured she must have been delusional or thinking back to a time long ago. It could have been any number of reasons, given her dementia, but who was I to tell her that she was imagining it?
“Welcome to the zoo.” Tina stood with her hands outstretched, waiting for Nubbin to hand her the cane he was swinging dangerously close to her head.
“Murderers! The whole lot of you are murderers and I don't want no part of it. Now, let me out of this prison and leave me be!” Nubbin shouted from the counter top in the kitchenette.
Good grief! Another day in paradise
, I thought. I hadn't even had time to walk onto the unit fully before another crisis needed to be handled.
Tina, bless her heart, tried her best to cajole him down, but he was not in the mood to comply with requests or listen to reason. Not when he was this agitated.
I set my bags down next to the other aides, whom were enjoying the show and not the least bit interested in assisting Tina or Nubbin in any way.
I wracked my brain to come up with a creative way to convince Nubbin to climb down from the counter top. Given his agility, I had to question why he had a wheelchair to begin with. Judging by his latest death defying stunts, I'd hazard a guess that the chair was used as a restraint and not as an assistive device. The only person that wheelchair assisted was the lazy staff member who didn't want to deal with him and his penchant for mood swings.
I crossed my fingers and hoped this would work. “Mr. Schmeckpepper, that snow out there is something awful. I'm a California girl. I have no idea how you're supposed to drive in this mess. Do you think you could give me some driving lessons?”
Nubbin grumbled at first, ready for an argument, then, something in his mind clicked and he stopped himself. “Hyundai, you got no business trying to drive if you don't know what you're doing.” He scolded me, offering Tina his cane.
I offered him my hand and helped him to sit on the counter top, so Tina and I could ease him to the ground.
“Well, how else was I supposed to get to work today?” I teased. “You would have missed me.”
“You shouldn't drive when the weathers like this. Didn't they teach you that when you were growing up?” Nubbin continued with the scolding.
He was so engaged in conversation, he had no idea that we'd managed to get him down safely, secured his cane, and walked him back to his room without so much as a stern word.
After we had him settled in with the day's newspaper, I was finally able to go into the office and prepare for the day. To my surprise, Kathy was hard at work, finishing up her charting from the night before. All I could do was think some not-so-kind thoughts about the audacity of her to sit there and do nothing while her staff needed her help.
“Well, hello.” I couldn't bring myself to pretend I was thrilled to see her.
She kept her head down, continuing her charting.
“You had to work overnight again?” I asked, anxious to get what little conversation we were going to have started, so I could get on with my day.
She pretended not to notice that I was in the office with her and kept her eyes focused on the chart in front of her.
That was it. I was going to make this woman behave like a decent human being even if it killed me.
“Okay. You don't have to like me, but since I am going to be here for a few months, you might want to get over whatever your issue is and learn to practice kindness.” It had to be said. I knew that surviving three months with this incorrigible woman wouldn't be a possibility unless I confronted her now about her issues.
I watched her neck turn red. I knew I had gotten to her. She wrote the last of her nurse's notes with more force, digging her pen into the paper. I definitely touched a nerve.
“If you became a nurse to make friends, you're in the wrong profession, honey.” She said through clenched teeth.
Arguing with her or anyone was not my cup of tea, especially this early in the morning, so I bit my tongue – literally – to prevent myself from saying what I so badly wanted to say to this wretched woman.
She rolled her eyes, disappointed that I didn't respond in kind and said, “I just want to go home. This working overnight thing is for the birds, but there's no way that Marie would be able to drive into town safely. I recorded my report for you while you were out there playing jungle gym with Schmeckpepper. Be prepared to work overnight tonight because if we get as much snow as they claim we're going to get today, there's no way I'm even going to attempt to come in tonight.”
She might as well have slapped me with a bag of books, I felt like the rug had been pulled out from right under me.
Why couldn't she have called me to warn me before I reported for duty today?
“Nice of you to give me a heads up before I came in here with my lone sandwich and juice box for lunch. It's not like I need food or drink to survive or anything.” I couldn't help myself. She needed to know how much I didn't appreciate being treated like a second class citizen.
Kathy smiled. “Yeah, sorry about that. Busy night and besides its not like you have a house or family in town that you have to tend to.”
I felt heat rise in my throat. This woman had officially crossed the line with me and there was no hope of redemption coming anytime soon.
Just as I opened my mouth to give her a piece of my mind, Jeb tapped his knuckles on the door, making both Kathy and myself lurch out of our seats.
Kathy opened the door. “Jeb, you scared the living daylights out of me. What are you doing here so early today?”
His cheeks turned red. “Sorry, ladies. I've been working extra hours for a while now. I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be installing new cameras today.”
Kathy's whole attitude changed. Suddenly she was this bright, cheery woman who wore a smile on her face. Without the attitude, she really was a handsome woman. She even sounded like a kind woman as she spoke to Jeb. I wouldn't have been able to pick this Kathy – the kinder, friendlier Kathy – out of a lineup.
I sat in stunned silence as I listened to the two chat back and forth with each other. I wouldn't have made Kathy for a good conversationalist had I not heard it myself.
When Jeb walked out, I thought it was time to make amends now that I'd seen the softer side of Kathy. I guess I'd jumped to conclusions and hadn't considered the amount of stress she must have been under. I mean, from her perspective, I showed up and within a couple of hours a snowstorm hit and a man dies on her unit during her shift. That couldn't have been how she intended her day to go either.
“So, are there any treatments I should know about that need to be done on the night shift?” I asked, feeling much better about the possibility of us being able to get along.
The smile that she'd plastered on her face for her discussion with Jeb vanished just as quickly as it had appeared and now she glared at me, her cheeks flushing.
“If you bothered to study their treatment plans, you'd know what the residents needed.” She hissed as she gathered her bags and made a point of securing a drawer with a key that she shoved into her smock pocket.
“Really? We're doing this again?” I asked, not expecting her to answer me.
She turned just as the door was about to close. “Before I forget, the administrator wants to talk to you today and Betty's family will be picking her up later this morning. Try not to kill anyone while they are here and feed that mutt, but don't let it in the office at all. Do you understand?.” She let the door slam behind her.
“Why can't I have just one normal day? Is that too much to ask for?” I watched Kathy walk off the unit, waving at the nurse's aides as she left.
As soon as the doors sealed shut behind her, I breathed a sigh of relief. At least, I wouldn't have to listen to her insensitive, condescending remarks all day long.
Knowing that she was no longer nearby to wreak havoc on my nerves, I took the opportunity to become familiar with the resident's care plans and medication lists. I figured getting a jump start before all of the patients were awake was the best thing I could do while listening to what I was sure would be a very informative report from Kathy.
No sooner had I started to get familiar with the resident's charts when I looked up to find a pair of baby blues looking right at me and they weren't happy eyes. I jumped up to open the door and was surprised by not one, but three sets of eyes staring back at me.
Now, what do they think I did?
I opened the door, tentatively, preparing for more devastating news. Barney nearly knocked the trio over by taking a flying leap into the office, knocking a chart right out of my hand.
“Hello. Mercedes, right?” The blue eyed woman asked, offering me a friendly smile and her hand.
The two women behind her weren't quite as friendly. They both stood with their arms folded over their chests, not one hint of a smile on either of their faces.
“Yes and you are?” I asked, looking for a name tag on her blazer.
“I'm Carol Higginbotham. I'm the administrator here. Do you have a few minutes, so we can get acquainted with each other?” She seemed friendly enough. Her eyes shined brightly as she smiled. Her tone was warm and relaxing. I had no reason to feel nervous, but that's exactly what I felt – nervous.
“I was just looking at treatment plans before I started rounds.” I pointed to the pile of charts on the desk and the one that the dog was trampling on.
“That's okay. It won't take too long. I'm going to have Trisha and Marie here cover for you while you and I talk. Why don't you let your staff know that you'll be stepping off the unit for a little bit and, then, we can take a walk down to my office.” She smiled again. This time, her eyes didn't light up. She meant business.
My throat went dry. By the looks of it, she wasn't in my corner either, otherwise she wouldn't have needed her two cohorts to assist in convincing me to speak with her privately. My day had just officially gotten worse. I worried that a recovery would not come soon enough.
Carol didn't hesitate to jump right into her questions. “So, how did your interview with Charlie go?”
“Charlie?” I asked.
“The Sheriff? You met with him, didn't you? How did it go?” Carol sat down in her leather club chair, but didn't offer me a seat.
I looked around nervously, not knowing whether I should grab a chair or remain standing.
She grinned, taking pleasure in my dilemma. “You are allowed to sit down, dear.”
Great! She was one of those with the fake terms of endearment. If I didn't have my back up against the wall, I'd spend an evening researching whether or not that was just the Nebraska way. Maybe, it's just how they spoke.
I tried to deflect by asking her a question. “Are the snowstorms always this bad around here? Kathy told me that I might have to stay over tonight.”
She sniffled. I got the feeling it was to allow herself a moment to think about how to respond and not because she had a cold.
After a moment, she leaned forward on her desk, clasping her hands in front of her face. “Mercedes, you didn't answer my question. How did your interview go?”
I shrugged, not knowing how one was supposed to answer that question. I say that anytime you've been asked to speak to the police isn't a time to reflect on whether or not it went well. I'd call that a pretty bad day, whichever side of the law you were on.
“Fine. He just had some follow up questions. Did you know that the autopsy came back?” I asked, figuring, given her familiarity with the Sheriff, she knew long before I arrived for work today.
She grimaced as if the words hurt to hear. “Yes, such a shame that someone would infiltrate our safe community and do such a thing. Rowdy may not have been the nicest man, but he was still a fine, upstanding member of our community.”
That was the second time someone had mentioned that Rowdy wasn't an all around kind man.