How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O Lord my god: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

Psalm 13: 2-4

"Señor Hal, Señor Hal!" the young man called out.

"I'm in here, Javier," the old man answered from the bathroom.

"Oh, Señor Hal," the young man scolded, "Chu know dat I'm souposed to be wit chu when chu get out of bed in dee morning."

"I've been shaving for more years than you've been alive, Javier." He finished; buried his face in a wet washcloth and wiped away the excess lather. "Hell, I've been doing a lot of things before most people were alive. Some of 'em I don't even do anymore."

"Ees not dee point," the young man, clad in hospital whites insisted. "We 'ave dee rules. I could get in beeg tro-ble."

"We go through this every morning, Javier," he protested. "You haven't been in trouble yet. You should be off helping the other patients—the ones who need it. I can get by on my own."

"Rase-ee-dents!" Javier insisted. "Dey are not dee paychents—rase-ee-dents."

"Whatever you say, Javier," Hal surrendered with a sigh. "What's for breakfast?"

"French toast, I teenk."

"They had that yesterday."

"Maybe left-overs," Javier said with a wry smile. "Maybe dey make too much."

"They probably over counted—didn't realize that so many of the headcount died overnight."

"Come on, Señor Hal. Ees no dat bad."

"Well, look at you, dressed all in white. Each time you come in here I think you're the angel of death. If you catch me in bed, it'll be my turn. So, I've got to get up before you get here."

Javier helped the old man on with his shirt, but left the buttoning to him. "Sit on dee bed an' I help with dee choos." Hal sat as Javier instructed.

"How's that girlfriend of yours, Javier?"

"Oh, chee ees okay," the attendant answered as he continued working away. "Chee want we get married. All dee time chee say 'let's get married'."

"Well, why don't you?" Hal asked.

"I teenk so, we weel, but no right now."

"All in good time," Hal agreed. "In the meantime, you treat her right."

"All dee time I tell her you say dat," Javier replied. "Chee say you are a nice pairsone."

"Aw, baloney! I'm just an old fool."

Hal's shoes were laced and tied. Javier stood to give him a hand to get onto his feet.

"I'll be down in a few minutes," Hal told him. "I think I forgot to brush my teeth. It's okay; I can get down on my own."

"Eef chu say so, Señor Hal. Call eef chu nid me," he said, and disappeared from the room.

As he left Hal sat back down on the bed. He glanced out the window. It looked like it was going to be a nice day. He liked the fall season best—not too hot or too cold. Soon the holidays would arrive; he'd get to go out more. Each family member would take their turns picking him up to take him to this house or that. Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Years, coming and going in succession, were like leaves on the trees—a colorful ending and then only a memory. He enjoyed the excursions to the grandkids' homes. What he liked even more was that fewer of his friends died during the holidays. They summoned their energy for one more round of festive days. After the holidays some would bide their time and try for another round the next year. Others were too tired and decided to go to sleep. But, that would be after the holidays.

He hadn't really forgotten to brush his teeth. He'd been brushing them since he had teeth and that was eighty-eight years. It was too old a habit to forget. It was just that the menu of yesterday's French Toast didn't excite him and he still felt a little tired. He hadn't really wanted to get up so early, but he knew that Javier would be on his way. He always tried to be dressed and shaved before Javier arrived. It was a competition, either with the young attendant or with himself—he wasn't sure.

"I'll just lie back down for a few minutes," he said to himself. "Then, I'll get up and go eat my French Toast. The maid will be in to make up the bed soon."

He pivoted himself and swung his feet up on the bed, shoes and all. He lay back and his head landed softly on his pillow.

"Ah, yes—that was a good idea—just a few minutes."

It was so relaxing. He settled into the mattress just right. It wasn't very often any more that his whole body felt comfortable at the same time. The bright morning sun was shining in the window. He could have gotten up to close the drapes, but he would have had to arise out of his oh-so-comfortable position. Then, finding it again would have been nearly impossible. So, he just closed his eyes.

He liked to remember things when he took his little catnaps. They weren't imagined reveries, for he had seen enough of life to not need them. It didn't bother him that he was living in the past. For what was the difference between reality and a daydream but a span of years? All the same, he kept his daydreaming to himself.

It helped when he allowed himself to relax, get a little drowsy. He wouldn't let himself go all the way to sleep, just half way. It was going to be easy today; he was so comfortable. His back hadn't felt so good in so long. He knew he had little time. The maid would be in soon, and if he didn't show up for French Toast, someone would come running to find him. That would be embarrassing.

Time—that commodity he valued so much less than he used to—still meant something. For the moment he would just dream...

Chapter 1 »

Story tagged with:
Historical /