“How do you apologize to someone who doesn’t remember the reason you’re apologizing?”
“Is this hypothetical?” Jaylynn asked.
“No dammit, it’s a real question.” Bobby said
“So…you want an answer?”
“I didn’t call you down here for laughs.”
“You didn’t call me at all, I come here every week. Where else am I supposed to get my Werthers? At a store? With Money? No thanks.”
The old man huffed. She was no relation to him and he wasn’t even sure what her last name was. She used to come by as part of a probation thing but as the time went on and they became more comfortable with each other the conversations changed as well. He would tell her about all the things you come to know and see being alive for 85 years and she would keep him up to date on the latest TV movie and celebrity gossip despite how little he cared for it.
“Speaking of which…” Her mind was on candy.
She got out of the straight back chair and went to the drawer where he kept his candy.
“How do you get these in here,” she asked “it’s not like there’s gift shop in the lobby. And you always tell me that I’m the only person who ever visits you. Unless you’re hustling me for companionship.”
“Trust me if I wanted companionship I could get it from someone younger and better looking.”
“Cradle robber.” She shot back.
“Shut up. Now I have a real problem dammit.”
“Right the non-hypothetical question about apologizing. I don’t get it.”
“Three days ago Richard Fenton moved in.”
“Ah! No!” She said dramatically as she fingered the wrapper off the candy.
“Two doors down in the same hallway!”
“What will the papers say…?” She said in mock shock
“I’m serious dammit!”
“I don’t know who Richard Fenton is.”
“I told you the story. I had to have to you.”
“If I had a nickel for every story you told me I’d…well I’d probably have a buncha nickels.”
“During the war. I got discharged early right? Well I came home and he and his old lady lived down the street and you know she was waiting…and we sorta…”
She bolted from her chair in shock.
“You banged his wife while he was in Korea?”
“You make it sound dirty.”
“Oh I’m sorry, was there more to the affair than just the adulterous sex?”
“No…we mostly just banged”
“Jesus!…And? What happened?”
“Nothing, he came home from the war and I stopped going over there.”
“Just like that?”
“Did you ever talk to him after that?”
“He lived down the road I talked to him all the time.”
“Did you ever mention plowing his wife?”
“No but he found out. Tried to take me out with his Buick Riviera once. Helluva good car.”
“Well he didn’t kill me.”
“Jesus! I figured, but I meant what happened after the word the affair got out.”
“Nothing. I mean we stopped talking obviously but within months of that his job transferred him half way across the country.”
“And he stayed married to his wife?”
“As far as I know.”
“So what?…what’s the dilemma? Is he plotting revenge? Gonna slip fentanyl into your butterscotch pudding.”
“No he doesn’t remember anything. Got Alzheimer’s or something.”
“Or something.” She sassed.
“Hell I’m not a doctor. Could be demetia. Could be shell shock.”
“So I don’t get the problem, if he doesn’t remember what’s the problem?
“The problem is, I’m damn close to death and I’d rather not have this shit hanging over my head when I finally kick the bucket.”
“So apologize to him.”
“He doesn’t remember anything that happened, it would be like apologizing to a bowl of jello.”
“Okay so what now?”
“I need your help.” He said hunching over into a scheming pose.
“With what?” Her eyebrow raised in suspicion.
“We need to get him to remember me and keep that memory open long enough for me to apologize to him.”
“I don’t think that’s how that works, this isn’t Star Trek.”
“I never watched that crap.”
“Oh I forgot you were too busy banging housewives.”
“You make me sound like a gigolo.”
He just glared at her so she continued
“Okay so we do this magical memory door open… thing and then what? Are you expecting forgiveness?”
“Hell no. I wouldn’t forgive me. But at least I’ll have a clean conscious.”
“So the plan is to make a disabled veteran remember what might be the most heartbreaking moment of his life so you can get closure.” She highlighted as many keywords as she thought he needed to hear
“You’re a monster.” She said plainly
“O what’s so wrong with that? Give it five minutes and he probably won’t remember it anyway.
“If you had shit memory would you be okay with people playing games with you.”
“Why not? It’s not like I’m doing anybody any favors at least you should be able to get a few laughs.”
“If I agree to this, what’s your plan?”
“So tomorrow you come in and we’ll go down and see him together. I already told the nurses we were friends back in the day but thank god they haven’t put us together yet.”
“He’s got Alzheimer’s. I mean god love him for it but it’s annoying talking to someone who doesn’t know what anything is or where they are.”
“Again…you’re a monster.”
“Act noble if you want. You’ll change your tune when you have the same short conversation thirty times in a row?”
“Ugh. Fine. Tomorrow then?” She said as she was getting up.
“Don’t be late.”
“Why, you going somewhere?” she smirked.
“Bitch.” He said under his breath.
The next day came as quick as black molasses in a blizzard but Jaylynn was right, where was he gonna go? He spent the better part of the morning remembering or trying to remember everything that happened back then. He accepted the fact that he wasn’t the nicest person in the world and he certainly wasn’t an angel when it came to that situation but he was hoping that he would at least feel a little better for owning up to the sins of his past. Even if they were being told to someone who wouldn’t remember it a day later.
Jalynn showed up a little past her usual time. He was already sitting on the foldout part of his walker. He was dressed like he was going somewhere. He had on a clean blue suit and even had a matching tie.
“Bout damn time.”
“That’s a weird way to say ‘hey thanks for showing up to help me with my scheme to make an old man feel bad’”.
“Well it’s gonna make this old man feel good.”
“Come on we’ve work to do” he said bringing his hands into a menacing triangle.
“Nothing malevolent about that.”
“Shut up and push.”
“You can WALK.”
“I know, but that’s gonna wind me so I want to save my strength.”
“You planning on throwing some bows.”
“Just let’s go!”
She reached down and grabbed the handles of his walker and steered him into the hallway.
As they rolled by the desk he gave a big grin to the nurse on duty
“Going down to see an old war buddy”
“Lying through your teeth” she whispered to him
“What? It’s not a lie.” He whispered back
“Yea but it’s not an innocent little visit.”
When they got to the room the door was slightly opened and Jaylynn gave a quick knock before she pushed the door in. The room was identical to Bobby’s except it had no personal effects anywhere. Either they weren’t done setting up his room or this was it. She pondered whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. Keep remnants of a life forgotten to make the room as basic as possible.
“Call him Dick.” Bobby said under his breath.
“No that’s his name. He goes by Dick. Everyone called him Dick.”
“Ugh…Hey Dick!” She felt weird saying it
Dick turned his head and had a vacant stare that was common with memory patients he acted aloof of their visit.
“Hello.” He said with a smile
“I’m Jalynn and this is Bobby. You and him were in the war together.”
“Is that right?” He said, his smile still strong.
“Yes it is. Do you remember Bobby?
His eyes got wide. She could only imagine what was going through his head. Did he remember every time he was asked a question and people got upset when he didn’t remember? Or was he aware of his memory loss and upset that things couldn’t connect?
“I’m afraid not.”
“He lived down the street from you when you got back from Korea.”
He smiled absently and nodded his head
“It’s not working.” She said out of the side of her mouth.
“Give it time Dr…Pepper.”
“Really? That’s what you came up with?”
“I was on the spot. And I’m old”
She took it in and kept trying
“You remember, your house on Bishop Street?”
“It was Brook Street.” Bobby added annoyed.
“Brook Street,” she corrected “with the white picket fence”
“We didn’t live next to Ozzie and Harriet”
“Huh” she didn’t get the reference. “I’m just trying to set a scene.”
“Well set the right one.”
“I wasn’t there.”
They could see Dick was losing touch again as he looked back and forth at the two of them during their silent argument.
“With your beautiful wife Barbara.”
“You knew her name was Barbara?” Bobby asked surprised.
Dick repeated the name.
“We got something.” Bobby said excitedly.
“Yea Barbara your wife. Remember. Summer days cooking out. Drinking cold ones by the grill with everyone in the neighborhood. Everybody happy and white and middle class”
Bobby glared at her but Dick just kept smiling and saying Barbara
“You remember Bobby. He was there.”
“Bobby.” He repeated the name with familiarity in his eyes.
“Yea that’s right. Bobby lived right down the street. Where you lived. With Barbara. And a grill. And a Buick Riviera.”
A blink and he was back.
“Yea Dick, it’s me.”
“Bobby my god how’ve you been?”
“I’ve been alright.”
“We got old didn’t we.”
“Yea we sure did.”
Both the old men were smiling in a moment of reminiscence until Jaylynn cleared her throat
Bobby refocused and spoke. “Look about Barbara”
Dick looked confused
“You know…when you were still in Korea. And well I…I mean we…Barbara and I…well I comforted her in those hard times.”
Dick was confused.
“Physically.” Bobby clarified.
Dick was still confused and they both wondered if they lost him again.
“I fucked Barbara, Dick.”
Dick’s eyes went wide “No good son of a bitch!”
With their age and mobility the whole accident played out like it was in slow motion. The brittle old Dick charged as fast as he could at Bobby and swung a rather low flying fist towards his face. Before anybody could move the hit connected and Bobby went to the floor like bag of yard trimmings.
The commotion was enough to trigger the lightning response from the nurse’s station. She practically flew in the room and radioed for backup. Jaylynn did her best to bleed into the background and be invisible.
When the ruckus was settled and Bobby was back in his walker they asked Jaylynn in a very irritated tone what had happened. She prayed the moment of clarity had ended for Dick and tried to bluff
“Well they were just talking about old stuff and then Dick attacked Bobby.”
The nurse checking on dick was doing all the basic checkup procedures. Eyes heart rate responses.
“What happened Mr. Fenton? What’s the problem?”
His face was angry and then it settled out
“Who are you people? Where am I?
“It’s okay Mr. Fenton you’re in a safe place. You just need to relax and take some big breaths. Let’s get that heart rate down.
“What’s going on?
“You just got a little excited that’s all we just need to have a lie down okay”
He was angry and confused but he agreed “Yea”
“How about you are you okay?
“Yea I think I’ll be okay. Probably bruise up later.”
“Hmmm okay we’ll send a nurse along after a bit to check on you.”
“Let’s get you back to your room”
“It’s okay. I can take him on my way out.”
She was hesitant but gave in “Okay. Fine”
She started slowly pushing Bobby away from the scene of the crime and back to his room.
Once they were in the hallway and out of earshot Bobby whispered to Jalynn.
“Told you it would work.”
“And I told you that you are the devil”
“Me?!” he said defensively “He’s the one that took a swing”
“Yea for something you had coming.”
“Meh. You’re right.”
He was rubbing his jaw where the hit had connected. “If my heartbeat was a little stronger I might be able to feel how much that hurt.”
“Shut up” she said playfully
“By the way I’m taking a handful of Werthers with me when I leave”
“Those are my candies”
“Yea and my payment for services rendered.”
He huffed as she pushed him into his room and made her way to his candy drawer.
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The dialogue was Mwaah and I would be glad to take a few notes Turner. Keep writing 😁
That sounded like a real life story. I could picture it. Only issue I had - i would have like to have know who was speaking and saying different things, and the formatting me threw me off a little, but it was good!!! thanks for writing.