I love stories, so when I learned that Lynda Simmons had written a short story to promote her latest book Love, Albert I jumped at the chance to feature it on my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
All’s Well Etc. Etc.
(With Executive Director, Gina Baron)
“What time is it?” Grace asks.
“Four o’clock!” I snap. “Four frigging o’clock.”
Grace doesn’t care. Just paces back and forth in front of my desk like nothing happened. It’s the nurse I have to think about. My words were uncalled for and unprofessional. The kind of slip that would earn a subordinate a trip to this very office and a refresher course on sensitivity in the workplace. But it’s three-thirty in the morning, for God’s sake. I’ve been cooped up in here with the two of them for nearly an hour, and while I appreciate everything the nurse has done, I have things to do. Things that must be taken care of within two hours of rising, that’s the rule. And I will not tempt fate today.
I’m Gina Baron, after all, Executive Director of Willow Tree Long Term Care, the one responsible for the success of this boutique nursing home where even pureed meals are first class and showers are almost daily. Potential investors are expected later this morning and I’ve been assigned the tour.
I slip a hand into my pocket. The pearls are warm, a very good sign. Those investors are as good as signed. And if I have to tap dance a little to keep the nurse on side, so be it.
“Dylan, what I said—”
“I’d say Grace is back to normal,” he says and gives me a smile. “I’ll take her to her room.”
The pearls grow hot in my hand.
“Good idea,” I say and try not to fidget or appear in any way anxious for their departure. But the clock is ticking.
“Four o’clock,” Grace says.
Not yet, I want to yell but hold my tongue while she holds the doorknob a moment before heading back to the window. She’s been repeating this behaviour ever since Dylan brought her in here.
He spotted her outside around one thirty, wandering through the snow in her nightgown. Thank God he had the presence of mind to fetch her quietly, take her to my office and close the door.
He wrapped her in my afghans, fed her my tea and checked for frozen fingers or toes or anything else that would be difficult to explain. Then he called the Dire Emergency number, coming directly to me instead of the doctor or anyone else. Giving me a head start on damage control even though I haven’t said more than a dozen words to the kid since he started working here, and wouldn’t know his name without the tag above his pocket. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty, but you can capitalize on it. By the time I arrived thirty minutes later, I had a plan.
Get Grace back to bed. And say nothing to anyone.
This was not a tragedy after all. More like a fire alarm or a wakeup call. Be alert, is the take away. And no one needs to lose her job over it.
It took me off guard when Dylan agreed right away. “No harm, no foul,” he said, and if I didn’t think it would qualify as sexual harassment, I would have kissed him. I still don’t know why he’s done any of this, and I don’t care. All that matters is getting my morning routine underway.
He takes Grace’s arm but doesn’t leave.
Please make him go, I plead, but the pearls suddenly go cold.
“I know the doctor asked to have Grace transferred,” he says. “But I’d appreciate it if you said no.”
At last. The kid’s agenda. Everyone has one, after all.
“Sure.” I grip the pearls tighter and stand up. Still he lingers.
“The oddest thing happened today,” he continues. “Grace asked what time it was, then looked straight at me and said it’s time to go. Do you think there’s any connection to her getting out tonight?”
“Absolutely not.” I open a drawer. Count the candles for a third time. One. Two Three. Four. Still perfect. “She’s been hanging around the doors a lot lately.” I close the drawer, check that the red scarf is still on the back of my chair and hope I won’t be asked to burn incense again. It’s too cold to leave the windows open for long. “It was an escape waiting to happen,” I continue. “I’ll have her fitted with an alarm bracelet right away. For her own protection.”
Ten more minutes in the cold and we would have been overrun with inspectors and police by now. The doctor’s right. She’s got to go.
“It’s just strange,” Dylan says. “Her saying that and then actually getting outside.”
I glance over at the picture of my mother. “If my mom were alive, she’d say it was an evil spirit playing with us through the weak-minded.”
“Is that possible?”
“No. Now go.”
At last he opens the door, makes sure the coast is clear then hurries her along the hall. They disappear into her room. My shoulders relax, my jaw loosens.
“All’s well that ends well, right mom?” I close the door. Cover my hair with the scarf, lay the cold pearls in front of her picture and go to the drawer for the candles.
One . Two. Three?
I swing around. The pearls are gone.
A scream in the hall. Running feet.
I can’t breathe, can’t move. The scarf slides to the floor. Where are the pearls?
My door bursts open. Dylan and Grace.
I reach for the scarf. It scrambles away. Hides under the desk.
“We’ve got trouble,” Dylan says. “Grace didn’t go outside alone. Someone just found Bernice.”
And then he’s gone, leaving me alone with her.
“What time is it?” the picture whispers.
“Four o’clock,” Grace says.
“Four o’clock,” she insists.
But she’s wrong. It’s one minute past.
Pearls wrap around my neck. Candles flare.
Sirens in the distance.
I fall on my knees. “Mother, I’m begging you. Don’t do this.”
If this is your first time reading this serial story from Lynda Simmons, you can catch up with all the segments here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynda-Simmons-Author/149740745067442
Love, Albert By Lynda Simmons
Sometimes all love needs is a road trip, a rubber chicken and a touch of magic
Vicky Ferguson loves her husband Reid, always has, always will. But with two kids to think about, it’s time for the free-wheeling, sports car loving pilot to put his feet on the ground and lay down some roots. Reid can’t imagine life without Vicky but neither can he see himself pushing a lawn mower or driving a mini-van. They’re on track to a divorce neither one wants until a last request from beloved Uncle Albert puts them on the road together one last time.
“Which brings us to the issue at hand,” the lawyer said and opened a file. “I have here the last will and testament of Albert Ferguson. Handwritten but perfectly legal.” He leaned down and picked up Albert’s old leather suitcase. It was the only thing the old man ever carried – the true master of travelling light. Lyle set the case on the desk, undid the straps and slid back the zipper. Reached inside and came up with a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, complete with bulbous pink nose, bushy eyebrows, and a formidable mustache.
Reid sat forward. “Not the glasses,” he said, a smile already tugging at his lips.
Lyle nodded solemnly and put them on, carefully adjusting the nose over his own before picking up the paper again. The lawyer’s delivery was perfectly straight, if a bit nasal. “I, Albert John Ferguson, being of sound mind and body— ”
Reid glanced over at Vicky. She was staring at the lawyer, eyes wide, lips pinched tightly together, holding back her laughter.
“Do hereby bequeath all my worldly goods to my favorite nephew and niece, Reid Allan Ferguson and Victoria Ann Ferguson, to be used as they see fit. This includes one hand buzzer, one whoopee cushion, one pair of Groucho glasses.” He reached into the suitcase again. “One rubber chicken –”
“I’ll take that.” Vicky’s face turned pink when the lawyer paused and looked at her over the nose of the glasses. “For the kids,” she added, and turned to Reid. “Unless you want it.”
“Not at all.” He pointed to the suitcase. “But I’ve got dibs on the fly-in-the-ice-cube.”
“One fly-in-the-ice-cube,” Lyle continued, and set it in front of Reid. “One can of worms—”
“Snakes,” Reid cut in. “They’re snakes.
The lawyer slid the can toward him and Reid popped the lid. Three long colorful snakes sprang from the tin and flew over the desk, squeaking as they bounced against the walls. “They were always his favorite.” Reid smiled at Vicky. “Do you mind if I take them?”
She held up the whoopee cushion. “Not as long as I can have this,” she said, and Reid understood why Albert had loved her, too.
“You can go through the rest on your own later,” Lyle said, taking off the glasses and setting them aside. “But in return for his worldly goods, Albert has a favor to ask.”
Reid raised his head. “A favor?”
“More of a decree really.” Lyle cleared his throat and resumed reading from the will. “In return for my worldly goods, Reid and Vicky must promise to take my remains to Seaport, Oregon. ”
The chicken’s head bobbed as she sat up straighter. “But I thought he’d already been buried.”
“Not quite.” Lyle lifted a plain white shoebox out of the suitcase and set it on the desk in front of them. “He’s been waiting for you.”
Reid stared at the box. “That’s Albert?”
“Ashes to ashes.” The lawyer picked up the box. “I know it’s not much to look at, but it’s practical, sturdy, and holds up to five pounds of loved one, no problem.” He looked from Reid to Vicky. “The point is Albert didn’t want a fancy urn because he wasn’t planning to spend much time in it anyway.”
Reid shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
Lyle smiled. “Your Uncle Albert wants to fly one last time.”
Lynda Simmons is a writer by day, college instructor by night and a late sleeper on weekends. She grew up in Toronto reading Greek mythology, bringing home stray cats and making up stories about bodies in the basement. From an early age, her family knew she would either end up as a writer or the old lady with a hundred cats. As luck would have it, she married a man with allergies so writing it was.
With two daughters to raise, Lynda and her husband moved into a lovely two storey mortgage in Burlington, a small city on the water just outside Toronto. While the girls are grown and gone, Lynda and her husband are still there. And yes, there is a cat - a beautiful, if spoiled, Birman.
When she's not writing or teaching, Lynda gives serious thought to using the treadmill in her basement. Fortunately, she's found that if she waits long enough, something urgent will pop up and save her - like a phone call or an e-mail or a whistling kettle. Or even that cat just looking for a little more attention!
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Lynda-Simmons/e/B001KI3Z4O
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