This is a cross-post from The Parking Lot Confessional. We’re writing a round robin story. Here is the first installment, which I posted on Monday. The next installment, written by Amy McLane, can be read here. Michael Greenwald will post the third installment on Friday; and S.C. Green will wrap the story up on Sunday. Hope you enjoy it!
The Gentleman in 114
Thursday and a quarter moon. Should have been a quiet night on the ward.
Lauren — Dr. Barstandt to the patients and staff — waved her security badge across the scanner and waited for the charge nurse to unlock the doors. She found the double-fail system a nuisance, but understood the necessity. Better safe than sued. Or worse.
The bolt clicked open, echoing through the empty corridor. Lauren clipped the badge back onto the pocket of her lab coat, pulled open the door and let it self-close behind her. Her Birks whispered across the yellowed linoleum as she walked toward the nurse’s station. She’d already passed rooms 106 and 108 — Mr. Turley and Mr. Denton’s rooms — by the time the bolt slid back into place.
Lauren addressed the patients with formality and respect, though the other doctors at St. Ninian’s argued they deserved neither. It was something she’d held onto since her days at U of I. Dr. Connell, her clinical psychology practicum advisor, insisted the old adage of vinegar and honey held true, particularly with the mentally infirm.
Lauren passed room 114. The lights were off, the reenforced window dark. Hopefully the old man was sleeping.
Judy, the charge nurse, greeted her with a worn smile. “Evening, Dr. B.”
“Slow night?” Lauren rested her elbows on the desk.
“Things got pretty loud earlier in 118, but other than that…”
“You mean Mizz Cuckoo. Started pounding on the door, yelling something about ‘he’s here, he’s here’. Tried smashing her head into the wall, too, but we got her sedated and strapped before she could do damage.” Judy slid a file across the desk.
Lauren opened it and read the report. She pulled a pen from her coat pocket and clicked the tip again and again with her thumb. “She’s usually so compliant.”
“You’re telling me. Not even a full moon tonight.”
“And our gentleman in 114?”
“Our gentleman still hasn’t slept.”
Lauren stopped clicking the pen. “The lights are off.”
“You don’t believe me? Go see for yourself.” Judy set another file on top of the first.
“Did you ask him if he knew where he was?”
Judy sighed. “I asked him all the questions. No change.”
Lauren gathered the files and returned the pen to her pocket. “Alright. Guess I’ll start with him tonight. That’ll give Ms. Portman more time to sleep.”
She rapped her knuckles twice on the desk and walked to room 114. At the door, she stopped and flipped open the file. They knew so little about their newest patient, most of the report remained incomplete. Likely schizophrenic. Manic highs with acute insomnia. Compliant (so far). Non-violent (so far). Paper-clipped to the file was a black-and-white photo, the only item found in the patient’s possession. It was yellowed at the edges with an aged crease across one corner. In it a group of people dressed in early 40s fashion marveled at a passing car. A young man in the back stood out from the crowd. Taller than the rest. Wearing sunglasses and carrying a camera much too modern for the photo’s time.
Honey, not vinegar, Lauren reminded herself as she unlatched the door and flipped on the light. “Good evening, Mr. Cantor. I see you’re still awake.”
Read the next installment here.