Chapter 4 of my transgressive novel soon to be submitted to big 5 publishers. Check earlier posts for previous chapters. Strong graphic content and language throughout.
I don’t just kill random patients.
I thought we should get this out of the way.
It’s not like I’m some homicidal maniac patrolling the floor, looking for the next opportunity to strike. I only kill patients that are knocking on death’s door. Those who have lost a reverence for life, any semblance of appreciation and respect for it. I wake them up to the cold, cruel nature of existence, where everything can be taken from them in less than a moment, and for no real reason at all.
The answer to the first riddle is death.
If you need to flip back to earlier in the novel, I understand.
I cannot kill patients during the day shift; there is too much going on and too high a likelihood of being noticed. I must pick my moments wisely and operate under the cover of night, when very little is happening on the floor. I have to be very specific with who I kill as well, since the death of a relatively healthy patient would warrant an investigation.
It’s been three days since I took care of 406, though keeping track of time and what is real has been proving difficult. There’s a new 406, shipped in and dropped off like a package from FedEx. She’s a middle aged woman with liver trouble. Her health and amiable mood mean she’s not a candidate for enlightenment and thus will dodge the proverbial bullet.
Or pillow, I should say.
During the day shift, my day progresses in rounds. We start by feeding the patients. Food service delivers the food based upon dietary needs and general preferences. Some patients have the wherewithal and physical capabilities to feed themselves, however, many do not, and this is where I come in.
408 leans forward, trying to catch the latest spoonful in her mouth. Just as I complete the meal, 408, one of the patients who seems to like attention, let’s out a tremendous belch. This is followed by her pitching forward and vomiting, the chunks of sausage and egg I fed her still largely intact amongst the muck.
Now I have to change and bathe her.
408 is an elderly woman. I carefully remove her clothes (like her prom suitor seven decades earlier) and begin scrubbing with a soapy hand towel. I use a water basin to wet and rinse the cloth. 408’s breasts are narrow, like a pair of isosceles triangles, nipples pointing down as the tips. Varicose veins run down the sides, bright blue and standing out staunchly from behind her wrinkled, ghostly white skin. Everything on her is saggy and loose despite how skinny she is, and each bit of skin I scrub moves with my motion, clinging to the towel like drying silly-putty.
Life’s filled with unnecessary details.
You may want to skip the next paragraph.
The worst part of all is her vagina, which is literally falling out of itself, unwinding with flaps and folds spilling out of her entrance. There’s still hair abound, something we don’t like to think about when picturing the elderly. I ask her if she’s able to clean that region herself, as is protocol, and of course she responds that she is too weak. I dip the towel in the water and get the work, lightly dabbing and swabbing, practically giving this old bird a hand job.
On one occasion, a perfectly able woman requested I wash her, and asked that I spend a longer time on her genital region. To my surprise, she grinded up against my hand, let out a few moans, and proceeded to orgasm.
I didn’t know whether to be flattered or mortified.
I later learned that she was a nymphomaniac and had pulled the same stunt with other aides, including the females. I’ve also dealt with multiple men getting erections, much to their shame, as they claimed to be heterosexual. They couldn’t look at me for the rest of the duration of their stay.
We all have something we’re hiding from the world.
I move on from 408 and return to my rounds.
After feeding comes bathing. Most patients simply need help to the showers. For those who cannot walk, as aforementioned, they are bathed. The worst of these are the obese patients, whose flaps and folds must be lifted and scrubbed, with disastrous surprises lurking around every curve. Pens, change, and molding food are just some of the items I’d discovered while adventuring.
After this, the rounds consists of checking in on patients, asking if they need anything (which they always do) and responding to the pings of the call bell. I act as a personal attendant until lunch, when the feeding process repeats itself.
It’s the only thing I really hear as I work. Everything else blends together, like static or background noise. I’m speaking, I’m acting, but I’m not really there. My routine is so ingrained I’m more like a robot than a person.
See: productive worker.
I just finish taking the vitals on 412 an ass-disaster strikes.
No, that’s not a clinical term.
These are also known as mudslides. They are rare but memorable, with a specific set of factors required to unleash the hell.
There are four patients who are on diuretics as part of their treatment. These four patients are also four who cannot get up and use the restroom on their own. After breakfast the chaos strikes, as all four patients, as if coordinating, shit themselves in an hour’s span.
Cleaning up shit is a paramount duty of mine. In fact, I’ve probably spent months of my life rummaging through people’s assholes. I’m so “good” at wiping patients that I am the go-to guy for training new hires on the proper technique.
At least I have one work accomplishment, I suppose.
I take my wealth of knowledge to ground zero. The first patient has a puddle to go along with the mudslide. This is when an obese patient, whose fat legs mash together, has a puddle of piss festering in their thighs like a small lake. Joey Dryden, the other aide on this floor, sometimes tries to amuse himself by sailing tiny paper boats in them.
We all have our hobbies.
I clean up the piss. The next part is the most challenging. The obese get so fat that their asshole is almost lost, squashed and hidden behind nearly immovable ass cheeks. I go searching and am “lucky” to find the brown geyser after pushing aside a few flaps of skin. I begin wiping up the thick sludge. The patient yawns, appearing bored, wanting me to hurry up and finish so she can get back to watching her Price is Right reruns. As I’m finishing up, she farts, a spray of crusty shit-chunks blasting out onto the blanket.
“Oof, that was a good one,” she says, distracted, before shouting out “eight hundred and fifty dollars!” as the price of the next item.
I give her the powder treatment and get onto the next room.
I spend most of the next hour wrist deep in shit.
We all gripe about our jobs, sure, but when you have to clean the rancid shit of the dying off your arms (and on unfortunate occasions, your face) becomes common routine, you have to look in the mirror and reconsider your life.
At least what’s left of it.
After the ass-disaster, the day progresses as usual. I walk by Joey and the other aide on duty, Cullen, who are puzzling over a piece of paper Joey found in the break room refrigerator. Joey reads the paper aloud:
“What am I, what am I?
I exist only in the past
Am made in the present
And am needed for the future
What am I, what am I?”
Joey says the riddle is “fucking stupid” before they go back to chattering about their favorite reality television show. Joey crumbles up the paper and tosses it to the floor.
There goes my legacy.
Lunch offers no challenges besides 403, a cantankerous middle aged man who insults me and the hospital every chance he gets.
“The food sucks, the care sucks, and you suck,” he says.
The guy is on point, but I’m in no mood to admit it.
“I am sorry the accommodations are not up to your standards, sir. Is there any way I can make things more comfortable for you?”
“Don’t mouth off with me,” he wheezes. The man is often in and out of consciousness. Lung cancer threatens to have him transferred to the ICU (that’s intensive care unit, we’ve yet to cover that one.) “Kid, you don’t know the life I’ve lived. Bitch of an ex-wife, bitch of a daughter, and now I gotta deal with you. Life sucks.”
“Then you die.”
“Oh hardy, har,” he spits. “Do your fucking job, get me a magazine to read or something. Can’t you see I’m in pain, shit-for-brains?” He coughs at the end of his question.
“Did you smoke?” I ask.
“Get my fucking magazine,” he barks. “Or I’ll make your life a living hell.”
I get him a stack of magazines. Most of them are Teen Vogue, and for whatever reason, they don’t suit his fancy. He tosses one back into my face.
“At least I make your day exciting, huh?” he says.
I think about how I can make his day exciting. How I can boost him in front of 402 as the next person to kill. The poor guy doesn’t realize that his temperament only exacerbates his suffering.
He needs a release.
To be free of the prison of himself.
I can provide it for him.
I put him on the mental list and leave him to respond to a call from room 401, a tall, thin woman recovering from surgery. I hadn’t shared many words with her, and she had been one of the rare patients not to abuse the call button privilege.
“I’m sorry for bothering you,” she says in a soft, grandmotherly sort of way as I enter.
“It’s no bother, it’s my job,” I respond.
Her face is narrow, her eyes light green, soft, and caring. A natural sort of empathy exudes itself from her, and I’m hit with a sense of deja vu, as if I’ve been here or known her before.
“But you look so bothered, so stressed,” she notes. “A walking epitome of doom and gloom, if you don’t mind me saying.”
I look to her, showing more emotion than I intend. “Just…a rough day is all,” I say slowly.
The empathy in her eyes appears legitimate. Most patients at the hospital looked to me as a means to an end. I was more of a service than a person, but this woman looked to me as if I was family.
“Rough day or rough life? You’re too young to look so glum. There’s more for you out there.”
“What do you need?” I ask.
She tilts her head, looking eager to follow up but decides against it. “It’s my telephone,” she says, motioning to it. “I don’t believe it is working. Could you get a technician to look into it?”
I walk over to the side table. I pick up the phone place it to my ear.
I tap a few numbers; the results are the same.
“I’ll have someone come up and look at it,” I say, setting it down. “In the meantime, if any calls come to the desk for you I’ll be sure to inform you.”
Her face lights up. “Thank you so much. My granddaughter is away in college and is so worried about me. I want to ease her concerns.”
“That’s very considerate of you.”
“Thank you,” she says. “You’re so kind for helping me.”
I shake my head. “It’s just my job.”
She shakes her head in return. “No, being a decent human being is a choice, and one you’ve decided to make. This place wears on you, all the death and ungrateful patients I’m sure. Don’t let it. You’re making a difference in others’ lives every day, even if no one will acknowledge it.”
Normally my interactions with patients are framed around responding to their wants and needs. This woman is throwing me for a loop and I can’t help but stare. I’m curious about her in a way I hadn’t been over patients for years so I decide to ask her the question I hadn’t bothered asking a single patient during my time employed at Rosedale Memorial.
“My name is Trevor, I’m going to be your aide while you’re here. What’s your name, miss?”
Her smile is bright. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Trevor. My name is Molly.”
And so, for the first time, a patient has a name.