Florence can sense something bad is going to happen as soon as she wakes up. She rises from her bed and peers out of the bedroom window of her assisted living community, Chestnut View. She lives in the Striped Bass apartment whose one-bedroom floorplan has a smaller bedroom and larger living room. She had picked this apartment out seven years ago when she moved into the community. There were five floor plans to choose from, Striped Bass, Hickory Shad, Spotted Seatrout, Blue Ridge Sculpin, and White Marlin; all different names of fish found in the Chesapeake Bay. Florence had scoffed at this when she had arrived here but came to find it as a good ice breaker when meeting new people. “What type of floor plan did you choose?” was the first question she asked a new person as soon as she ran out of things to talk about. She once even canoodled with a man who had lived in a White Marlin floor plan a few years back. That had been a two bedroom with a den; really high end. From what she recalls, he ended up keeling over on the treadmill one afternoon. What was his name anyways? She can’t recall.
Florence frowns at sight of the rain pouring out of the window and looks over at the pond across the terrace. No geese this morning; usually a bad sign. She always has had a knack for premonitions. One day when she was in primary school, she started crying during lunch and didn’t know why. When she was dropped home from school later that day, she came to find that her mother had been killed in a car crash earlier that day, probably while she was eating lunch. Florence always trusted her premonitions.
“Knock, knock!” Florence hears a strange woman’s voice coming from the front door of her apartment. Could someone be breaking and entering right now? But a burglar would not just announce themselves so obviously, would they?
“Who’s there?” Florence yells as she closes her bathrobe tightly over her nightgown, making sure not to expose herself to the burglar. She puts her morning slippers on and tip toes over to her bedroom door.
“Hola, it’s me, Miss Florence, your nurse, Angela,” the voice says cheerfully. She sounds Hispanic. Florence doesn’t remember inviting a nurse over this morning and doesn’t know how this Angela obtained a key to her apartment. She pulls the bedroom door open and peeks over at the woman who appears to have already taken her coat off, started a pot of boiling water on the stove, and is lining pills up on the kitchen counter. Angela has jet black hair and is wearing mauve colored scrubs. She also has a mask covering her face as if she is about to perform surgery. The oddest bird indeed, thinks Florence.
“Good morning, Miss Florence,” Angela says as she observes Florence peering at her from behind the door. “Come out here and have some tea. I am making you some toast, too. And I am going to need you to put on this mask just as a safety standard.”
Florence steps out from behind the door and walks towards Angela warily. “How did you get in here?” she asks the nurse as she crosses her arm in front of her chest protectively.
“Miss Florence, I am your nurse, Angela. I come here everyday to help you out. We need to put on these masks because there is a pandemic and people are getting sick. We need to put these on so we do not get each other sick.” She reaches over and hands Florence the mask.
“I knew something bad was going to happen today. I just knew it,” Florence says as she puts the mask over her face reluctantly. “You said you come here every day? I don’t recall that although my memory isn’t what is used to be.”
“Si, Ma’am,” Angela says as she begins to put caps back on the various pill bottles assorted on the counter. “Here you go Florence, can you take these for me?” she asks as she hands Florence a glass of water. Florence reaches out and takes the pills and glass of water from Angela.
“How am I supposed to take these pills with this thing over my mouth?” she asks gesturing towards her mask.
“You can take it off to take the pills,” Angela says as she walks over and drops an egg into a pot of boiling water.
“Well, this is just silly,” Florence says as she tries to pull her mask down with her free pinkie. She gulps down the pills and scurries over to the couch. “I need a little rest,” she says as she sits down and presses on the power button of the TV.
“Good morning. Today, May 5, 2020, more than 3.6 million cases of the novel coronavirus, including at least 251,000 deaths have been recorded worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University,” the newscaster begins. Angela walks over and hands Florence a cup of hot tea with milk and walks back into the kitchen. Florence looks back and forth from the TV to Angela with shock in her eyes. A wave of panic washes over her.
“Angela!” she yells as she stands up quickly, spilling the hot tea all over her lap.
“Miss Florence!” Angela yells as she runs over with a dish towel and begins blotting the tea on Florence’s robe. “Miss Florence! Miss Florence! That was hot tea! Are you hurt! What happened?”
“Angela! Did you see the news?” Florence says as she pushes Angela off of her and guides her face towards the TV. “Look, Look! A pandemic! A real pandemic! Do you see this! Coronavirus! It’s killing people! I knew it! I had such a feeling this morning something bad was going to happen and look! Look what has happened?” Florence sets her tea down and begins to pace up and down the living room. Her robe has opened up and her night gown is exposed. There are little teddy bears on it with pink ribbons around their necks.
“Si, Si, Miss Florence. I told you before! A pandemic! This is why I gave you mask!” Angela says as she points at the mask on her face.
Florence touches the mask on her face as if she has forgotten she is wearing it. “But why have they not told people? Why has this been a secret?” Florence hears a knock on the door and before Angela can respond to her, she walks over and answers it. A large, burly man is standing at the door with a toolbox around his waist. He has a mask on his face as well.
“Hola, Jimmy,” Angela says as she points towards the closet. “Washing machine is in there.” The handyman nods and walks inside towards the closet. Florence stares at the encounter in disbelief. Who in the hell is this Jimmy and why is Angela just letting him in my apartment? Florence thinks.
“Hello Miss Florence!” Jimmy yells from the closet as she sees him pulling tools from his toolbelt and begins to bang away at the machine.
“And what, do tell, is that man doing in MY apartment?” Florence whispers to Angela as she walks back over to the couch and picks up her half-filled tea. She needs a sip to calm her nerves. This has all been too much to take in today.
“Miss Florence, that is Jimmy, the maintenance man. Your washing machine broke a few days ago and he is just fixing it,” Angela says as she walks back over to the kitchen and takes the egg out of the pot with a spoon. She places it under running water and taps it on the sides of the sink.
“Broke?” Florence asks. She doesn’t remember it breaking. But come to think of it, she doesn’t remember doing laundry recently either. Angela walks over with a plate of toast smeared with orange marmalade and a cup filled with a soft-boiled egg, Florence’s favorite breakfast. Well at least one thing is going well today, Florence thinks. Florence picks up the plate and places it on her lap as she continues to watch the morning news. Jimmy’s banging is getting louder so she has to turn the volume up three times just so she can hear it.
“Did you hear restaurants are closed?” Florence shouts to Angela loudly over the TV reporters. “We are on lockdown!”
“Si, Miss Florence,” Angela says as she scrubs the pot in the sink. Florence puts a dollop of drippy egg on top of her toast and takes a big bite, devouring the sweet and salty flavors mixing together. That Angela sure can cook, Florence thinks. She needs to remember her if she comes tomorrow; she has been quite helpful this morning.
“Machine is fixed!” Jimmy announces as he steps into the living room.
“Gracias,” says Angela as she dries the pot with a dishrag.
“Looks like someone put some forks and knives in there,” he says as he hands some utensils to Angela.
“Who would do such a thing?” Florence asks as she takes a bite of her toast.
Angela and Jimmy look at each other and smile.
“I’m not sure, Miss Florence, you have any grandkids? Maybe they put them in there,” Jimmy asks as he winks at her.
Florence thinks about it for a minute. Does she have any grand kids? She can’t recall at this moment. Maybe she does. That would make the most sense. “Yes, maybe I do,” she says as she looks away from him and back to the TV. Jimmy smiles politely and turns back to Angela.
“Well, anyways I put a lock on it so that way only you can use the machine when you are here,” he says as he reaches out and hands Angela a key.
“Good idea,” Angela says, and she gives him a wink. She places the key in her pocket. Florence doesn’t hear this as she is intently watching the screen and sipping at her tea which is now cold.
“Now what about this dishwashing machine?” Jimmy asks as he walks into the kitchen.
“Dishwasher, you say?” Florence shouts over the now blaring TV.
“Si, Miss Florence. The dishwasher broke yesterday,” Angela shouts as she points towards the machine.
Florence rolls her eyes at this. Does Angela think I don’t know what a dishwasher is? Florence thinks to herself.
“I wrote down on the calendar on your fridge that Jimmy was coming today to make the repairs,” Angela shouts as she points towards a calendar on the fridge that has photos of puppies on it. Florence squints from where she is sitting on the couch, but it is so far away she can barely even see it.
“I’m telling you, Angela,” she shouts. “I knew something bad would happen and look what has happened. My washing machine has broken. My dishwashing machine has broken. And look,” she gestures towards the TV, “Millions. Millions with this virus and I knew it. I’m going to go down to the lobby to make sure they all know,” she says as she stands up to go down to the lobby.
“No, no, Miss Florence,” Angela stops her, “The lobby is closed. No one in and out. Everyone here is confined to their apartments until this virus is over.”
Florence looks at Angela in shock. “Since when?” she asks perturbed.
Angela smiles patiently and folds her hands together, “For a little bit now, Miss Florence. Why don’t you go take a nice warm shower and get dressed for the day? Then maybe we can take a walk outside?”
Florence thinks about this for a minute. Yes, a nice warm shower does sound like a nice idea, she decides. She puts her tea down, turns the TV off, and gets up from the couch.
“Miss Florence?” Jimmy says as Florence passes him to go to the bathroom attached to her bedroom.
“Yes Jimmy?” Florence says turning her head towards the kitchen.
“I found a pair of…ladies’ underwear…wrapped up in the filtration system of the dishwasher,” Jimmy says; his face turning beet red.
“Ladies underwear?” Florence gasps as she tightly closes her robe protecting her private parts from this inappropriate conversation. “What kind of pervert are you?” she asks him accusingly.
“Miss Florence,” Angela interrupts, “Do you think maybe you may have gotten the dishwasher and washing machines mixed up and put clothing in the dishwasher and utensils in the washing machine?”
Florence stares at Angela. How dare she accuse me of such a preposterous thing? she thinks. “I don’t know who you two think you are, but I very well know the difference between these machines. Have you ever thought that maybe YOU, Angela, mixed them up? Or maybe it was my grandchild like Henry here suggested,” Florence says as she points at Jimmy. “Either way you don’t come into MY apartment and accuse me of any of this nonsense.” Florence turns and stomps off into the bathroom.
How dare these two hooligans accuse her of such preposterous behavior? she thinks as she turns on the knobs of the shower to get the temperature just right. She undresses and puts her shower cap on carefully, as to not mess up her neatly permed hair. She uses the handlebars to step in and lathers up as she thinks more and more about what she is being accused of. It seems to her that she doesn’t even need this Angela or this Henry or whatever his name is to work for her any more anyways. She can make her own food. She doesn’t even like living here anyways. All these old people dying all the time. How depressing. Maybe she should just buy a house or rent a condo. She rinses off and steps out of the shower carefully, making sure not to fall and then she dries off. As she walks into her room, she gets even more agitated as she hears Jimmy’s drill loudly piercing away at her dishwasher. How is she supposed to get any sort of peace with him in here? She gets dressed in her lounge pants and blue blouse and puts on her black house slippers. She looks in the mirror and rubs a little moisturizer on her face. She is looking pale. Maybe she should go for a walk after lunch. What did she want for lunch? Maybe a grilled cheese and soup on this rainy day. Florence walks over and looks out of the window. It is raining hard. Nothing ever good happens on rainy days. She looks over at the raindrops pelting down at the pond across the terrace. She’s getting a strong feeling something bad is going to happen today. She hears a loud banging in the kitchen, walks to her bedroom door, and opens it.
“Hello, Miss Florence, you look nice,” Angela says as she stands in the living room folding towels. Florence stares at her mutely for a minute and then looks over at Jimmy standing in the kitchen. A hammer is in his hand.
“Hello Miss Florence, almost done here,” he says smiling. Florence looks at him blankly and then looks back at Angela.
“Miss Florence, it’s me Angela. And that is Jimmy. I am your nurse, and he is the maintenance man. He is fixing the dishwasher.” Florence appears annoyed and begins to walk past her towards the couch.
“I know who you are Angela, I’m not a Moron,” Florence begins. Angela looks relieved and smiles at Jimmy. “But why the hell are you both wearing those ridiculous masks; are you going into surgery?” Florence shakes her head and turns on the TV to see what’s on the news today. Maybe they will announce when this rain will finally end.