Short Stories

Note: I wrote most of these stories for my writing classes and all characters are fictional.

A Doll Maker


Claire squints her eyes to focus on the one-eyed porcelain doll’s face. She waits for the small paintbrush in her hand to stop shaking. She carefully paints the outer rim of the new eye with jet black ink, using small, quick strokes. Claire took great care making all her dolls, paying close attention to intricate details such as size, symmetry, color and texture. Claire enjoys naming each doll, giving them a unique identity and story through their facial expressions, clothing and accessories.

“Mommy!!” Rachel tightly hugs Claire from behind, throwing her coat and pink Hello Kitty backpack to the floor.

“Ah!” Claire nearly drops the delicate doll in her hands. She sets the doll and the paintbrush aside on the wooden table.

“What’s the dolly’s name, mommy?” Rachel’s bright hazel eyes twinkle, “Who’s it for?”

Claire picks up Rachel’s coat and shoes. She stuffs them inside the narrow closet overflowing with old cardboard boxes and a few winter coats and jackets.

“It’s for Mrs. Waterman’s doll collection, sweetie. I’m planning on presenting it to her. If she’s pleased, Mrs. Waterman might even recommend me to her friends and display the doll as part of her doll collection. Since Mrs. Waterman’s picky, Mommy has to do her best.” Claire reaches for the doll and paint brush again, “I’ll call her Laura, after Aunty Laura. She has the same soft smile, see?”

Rachel giggles with excitement.

Claire notices the growing pile of bills stacking up on the kitchen counter. Her headache returns. Claire’s crafts and doll making business hasn’t picked up after moving into the cramped, one-bedroom apartment after Jacob’s death last spring. Being a single parent, Claire couldn’t afford their old house with her sole income. When Sally Waterman invited Claire to a dinner party at her posh mansion, Claire decides it is the golden opportunity she needs for her business to prosper, especially as a new doll maker. Doll making gave Claire the freedom to work at home and take care of Rachel. Claire never imagined her childhood summers spent watching and helping her grandmother making and painting antique dolls at their cottage would help now.

“Hor d’oeuvres, mam?” A waiter offers her a tray full of colourful gourmet finger-food.

“Oh, Thank you.” Claire took a bite of her bite-sized caviar dish with a sip of her chardonnay.

“So this is how the rich live.” She mumbles to herself, her eyes filled with wonder and excitement at the breathtaking avant-garde paintings on the walls and the shimmering chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling.

Chatter, live classical music and laughter resonate from the enormous room. Claire glimpses at the beautiful silk dress and glittering diamond jewellery of the woman next to her. Claire feels out of place in Mrs. Waterman’s lavish mansion. She is hyper-aware of the fact that she’s in a foreign world, a world of aristocrats and celebrities.

“Claire, dear!” Sally Waterman approaches Claire in a glittering, green sequined dress, her sparkling emerald earrings matching perfectly with her dress.

“Let me introduce you to a dear friend of mine. Claire, this is Madame Veronica. She owns a famous doll making business.”

Claire extendes her arm towards the distinguished looking middle-aged woman in the dazzling red velvet gown, “Hello, nice to meet you.”

“How do you do?” Madame Veronica politely nods and shook Claire’s hand. Madame Veronica has a thick French accent.

“I am currently recruiting more workers for my doll making company, Magma. We just opened a branch right here in old Carlton Hill. Would you be interested? Sally told me you are a single mother. We have very flexible hours.”

“Umm...” Claire didn’t know how to respond.

Claire is happiest working from home but she thought about the bills piling on and the lack of steady income. Claire already used up all of her savings. What if there’s an emergency? Didn’t Rachel want to join Tae Kwon Do this year? Claire didn’t know much about the company and how they’ll use her talent but she made up her mind.

She bit her lip, “sure. I’d like to know more.”

Madame Veronica smiles, “Here’s our business card. We are located right behind the Mimico buildings on Wesley drive.”

After the mouth-watering feast at the dinner party, Claire realizes she forgot to present her creation. Mrs. Waterman is nowhere in sight. Claire stumbles through the crowd towards the door. If she likes the job Madame Veronica mentioned, she wouldn’t need to present the doll after all.

Claire stares up at the gloomy grey factory building. Dark, billowing grey clouds of smoke puff out from the factory. Unsure if she’s at the right address, Claire hesitantly scurries in. Steady motor sounds and buzzing fills the hallways. Maybe my office is upstairs away from the factory, Claire wonders. She still didn’t know many details regarding the job. Claire spots a yawning watchman in a khaki uniform seated in a wooden chair beside two large metal doors.

“Hi there. Do you know where Madame Veronica’s office is?”

The watchman sneers, “office? Why would she need that? She owns the place but she never even set foot inside this factory once. You should see how horrible the management is down here!” he grumbles.

He rubs his rough grey stubble, “Anyway, why do you need to see her?”

“Madame Veronica hired me as the new doll maker. She told me to come here Monday morning to get acquainted with my new position,” Claire glances around the dim-lit corridors, “Is there someone who can assist me?”

“Oh!” The watchman rubs his eyes; the flickering lights strain his sensitive eyes.

“A doll maker, eh? Is that what they call a factory worker now? Funny fancy names they come with these days for all kinda jobs.” He snorts, “They called my position ‘security operative employee’ when they first hired me.”

He opens the heavy metal doors. Claire peers in. Hundreds of factory workers in identical grey uniforms restlessly assemble individual parts of a doll on the massive conveyor belt. A supervisor yells orders to a middle-aged man to stop lagging behind. He hurriedly attaches the doll’s arms and places it on the conveyor belt, monotonously repeating his steps. Claire shook her head, disgruntled.

Claire scoffs, “This is Madame Veronica’s idea of doll making? They’re...they’re all just attaching individual parts of a doll.” She mutters to herself.

Claire thought about her experience of naming each doll she made with Rachel and the unique clothes and accessories painstakingly hand-made for each doll with love and care. She enjoys working on a doll from beginning to end, every bit of the doll made by only her with the individual customer in mind. No two dolls were the same, like people. Claire believes after a hard day’s work, the joyful expressions of a happy customer made her work worthwhile and rewarding.

Claire sighs, her eyes frozen at the conveyor belt fervently whirring on. Working as a factory worker wouldn’t offer any of these rewards. She knew she’d never be happy labouring in a factory assembling dolls for eight hours a day. She hates the idea of mass producing thousands of identical dolls with no individual identity or story or a sole creator. Claire drove back, strangely content to return home and work on her next doll but first, she headed to Sally Waterman’s mansion to present her latest antique doll.



 Peer Helpers Club



Monday, 4:10 PM.

“Yo, Mrs. Chung cancelled today’s meeting too!” Vikas rubs his head full of thick, curly black hair. I move closer to the door to read the green post-it note stuck on; ‘Peer Helpers meeting cancelled.’ Mrs. Chung is the school guidance counselor and the head of the Peer Helpers club at Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School.

8:45AM.

Mrs. Chung’s usually glossy pin-straight hair looks coarse and untidy. Her once shiny, manicured nails are chipped and uneven, her elbows dry and cracked and her eyes heavy and droopy. Her noisy 5-inch pumps and suit is replaced with white running shoes and faded grey track pants. Mrs. Chung flies past me, clutching onto a folder overflowing with papers. She accidentally drops her Blackberry and jumps back; as she reaches for her cell phone, her folders slips from her hands, the papers flying to the floor. Mrs. Chung grits her teeth and scoffs.

4: 20 PM.

Vikas gently slaps the back of my head with a rolled-up Bristol board, “What’re you spacing out for?”

I shake my head, “We didn’t have a Peer Helpers meeting for 3 weeks now! I think something’s going on with Mrs. Chung.”

Vikas looks thoughtful, rubbing his stub of a chin, “hhmm… true. I could’ve sworn I’ve seen her crying in her car this morning.”

What if Mrs. Chung had a nasty breakup? Is she overwhelmed with work? Maybe it’s health problems. I’ll investigate. Even guidance counselors need someone to talk to. There would be no Peer Helpers without Mrs. Chung.

I walk to the school office. The soft grey reception desk is organized with a bundle of folders on one side, and colorful souvenirs and knickknacks on the other side. A mini Santa Claus figurine in an orange and yellow Hawaiian shirt and black sunglasses bobs his oversized head from side to side. Two identical reindeer bobble-heads with apple-red noses and matching sunglasses with a drink in their hands jingle their heads back and forth on each side of the Santa figurine. Mrs. Persaud likes to collect bobble heads.

Mrs. Persaud greets me with her best smile, her brown eyes sparkling “Hello dear, how I can help you?”

I set up an appointment with Mrs. Chung at 4:10 pm tomorrow. All appointments for today are cancelled. I scribble my signature and student number onto the sign-up sheet and head out, thanking Mrs. Persaud. She waves at me, the colorful charms on her silver bracelet dangling.

Tuesday, 4:25 PM.

I wait outside Mrs. Chung’s door, poking at Mrs. Persaud’s bobble heads. Mrs. Persaud returns from the cafeteria with a steaming cup of coffee.

Mrs. Persaud frowns, “Mrs. Chung’s not here yet?”

I shake my head and immediately spot Mrs. Chung through the glass in the empty corridor, speed walking. Her shoulder-length hair is caught in the handle of her violet Gucci handbag. She frantically tries to untangle her hair as she creaks open the office door. Mrs. Chung rushes into her room, placing her Starbucks coffee and leather handbag onto her cluttered wooden desk overflowing with transcripts, paperclips, a couple of pens and pencils and folders. She gestures at me, asking me to come inside. Her face looks haggard and tired. The wrinkles at the edge of her dark brown eyes are prominent. Her skin looks dry and irritable, her usual tan glow missing.

“So, what would you like to talk about?”

I stare at the pale grey-blue carpet. My mind remains blank and my body is stiff. I listen to a muffled ringtone coming from Mrs.Chung's handbag .

“Just give me a minute” Mrs. Chung grabs her cell phone out of her handbag and walks out the door.

I sink back in my chair, relieved. I gaze around the tiny room. The shelves are stuffed with thick encyclopedias and novels, and photos of her two young children; a boy and a girl. Everything looks the same like before, except the desk is more cluttered. I search for the family picture in a polished, wooden frame. I scan the room closely; it’s not here. Maybe it was a separation. I hear Mrs. Chung’s footsteps approaching closer. I sit back in my seat.

“Don’t worry sweetheart, Daddy will come by next week, ok? Ok, I love you.”

Mrs. Chung throws her cell phone onto her desk, nearly missing. Her face instantly reddens.

“Sorry, I just need to reorganize everything and I’ll be good to go.” she admits, tying her hair up in a messy bun.

I nod, unsure of what to say. The clock reads 4: 45PM. A student waits outside the door.

“Looks like my time’s up, Mrs. Chung. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Sure. See you next week in the Peer Helpers meeting!” Mrs. Chung smiles warmly.

Mrs. Chung shuffles her notes, organizes her folders and clears the food from her table. Half the clutter is already gone.

Smile through the Pain


She sleeps peacefully in her bed. She looks like an angel; her grey hair looks completely white and translucent. It almost glows as the full moon sheds its light through the open window.

“Good night, mom” He softly kisses her cheek and heads downstairs.

She squints her eyes at the sun as it engulfs the entire room in its bright rays. She sits up and yawns, only half awake. She looks around the room, dazed. Everything looks blurry, like she is looking through a dirty glass window. She looks up and sees a hazy, yet familiar looking face.

I’ve seen this face before. Those sea-green eyes look just like mine. I think his name is Thomas… no… Timothy?

“You… you’re Ti-Timothy?” she squints, moving closer.

“Good morning, mom! I’m Thomas, remember?” he flashes a quick smile and reaches for her glasses on the desk.

“Here, put these on.”

Her head is muffled with thoughts and various images. She doesn’t move. He gently adjusts the glasses onto her wrinkled, delicate face and starts to help her up. The phone rings from the next room. He runs over.

She gets up and wanders through the kitchen and hears meowing outside the door. She heads towards the road, walking barefoot on the cold concrete floor. The cool, gentle autumn breeze sweeps up her thin hair. She doesn’t know where she’s heading but the streets look familiar to her, like she’s been here before, many years ago as a child.

“Hi, Mrs. Jamieson!” She turns to her side to see a thin, young boy with dark curly hair and brown eyes. He smiles at her. He is missing one of his front teeth.

“Okay, I’ll call you back later. I think she’ll enjoy it” Thomas places the phone on the receiver and returns to the room. His heart sinks at the sight of the empty room. Beads of sweat form on his forehead. Thomas runs past all the rooms, calling out for her. He dashes out the front door.

“Mom!” he pants, gasping for air, “Mom!! Where are you?”

He feels a gentle tug on his shirt.

“Oh, Jimmy…what’s wrong?”

The young curly-haired boy sobs.

“M-Mrs. Jamieson yelled at me! Sh-she said she didn’t …she said she didn’t know me! I asked her to play with me”

“Jimmy, you saw Mrs. Jamieson?! Which way did she go?”

Jimmy rubs his eyes and points towards the dog park. Thoughts race in Thomas’ mind.

I shouldn’t have left you by yourself, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I should’ve been more careful. You’re vulnerable and frail. You could get seriously injured, especially at this stage of Alzheimer’s. You’ve been through enough in your life, mom. You worked two jobs just so I could go to college. You never missed a recital; you always celebrated our birthdays, no matter how little money we had. I won’t forget how you smiled at me, even though you were in so much pain, battling with depression after dad’s accident.

Thomas runs through the park, asking nearby dog-walkers if they’ve seen an elderly woman.

“Yea, she looked very dazed and confused. She headed towards Mimico creek”

Thomas sprints towards the creek. He hears loud, playful barking behind the big oak tree.
“Mom!” Thomas collapses on his knees onto the soft grass, catching his breath.

The small brown Pomeranian in her arms licks her face, excitedly wagging its tail and barking. Her deep green eyes widen when she sees tears streaming down his face.

Thomas gets up and hugs her tightly.

“I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I’ll take good care of you, just like how you took good care of me.”





Safety in Seclusion


Her sweaty hands tremble on the cool, rusty metal of the door handle. She reaches into her worn jeans and took out her jingling keys and click; she locks the front door. She takes a deep breath of the fresh spring air. She put her hands inside her fuzzy sweater to warm them. She briskly heads to the bakery store down the block, occasionally looking over her shoulders and side to side on the quiet, empty suburban street filled with rows of identical brick-red houses. The healthy green, groomed lawns and blooming buds and flowers are moist from the refreshing spring dew.

The melodic wind chimes in front of the small bakery noisily welcome her in, as the lighted sign ‘Leon’s Bakery’ in big bold cherry-red letters twitches on and off. She glances at the counter; no one there. The warm, enticing smell of buttery croissants fills her nose. She stares the glass display and the variety of fresh baked goods inside; giant chocolate chip cookies, double-chocolate cake, apple tarts, pecan pie, and her favorite, strawberry cheesecake. She turns away from the display to see a man with a dark, thick mustache flipped at the edges and intense black eyebrows in a white apron. He flashes his widest smile, his light hazel eyes twinkling.

“Lina, my dear! It’s been so long!” the burly man gives Lina a warm bear hug.

“I missed you, uncle Leon.” She fights back aggressive tears ready to leave her eyes, her voice cracking “I-I finally…” she trails off momentarily, wiping off the tears “.. .Managed to leave the house.”

Uncle Leon gently pats Lina’s back and pulls up another chair by the counter.

“I knew you could do it, Lina. Remember that me and Aunty Rose are always here for you, ok?”

Lina nods, biting her lower up, “Where is Aunty Rose?”

The sound of the wind chimes fills the store once again as a tall, frail-looking woman enters the store carrying a tan wicker basket full of baking supplies. Lina leaps out of her seat and hugs her. Aunty Rose hugs her back, stroking Lina’s soft black hair, “We missed you, sweetie.”

Lina remembers that harsh, winter day again- a day she cannot forget.

Winter 2009.

Lina walks home from the bakery, carrying a plastic bag full of cakes and pastries Uncle Leon baked earlier. Suddenly, she feels a jolt of pain in her lower back that momentarily freezes her entire body. She swiftly turns around, alarmed and confused to find two menacing grins. The thinner boy, Jacob has a lopsided smirk, his dark eyes hollow and smug. The short one, Damien, roars with laughter, crossing his arms. Lina’s voice becomes a whisper, “Why did you do that?”

Now, Jacob joins in on the laughter; his gaunt, angular face looks menacing.

“Are you gonna eat all that, you fat pig?” Damien glares at Lina with a disgusted face, eyeing her up and down.

“Oink, oink!” Jacob laughs, slapping his knee in excitement.

Lina’s right hand holding on to the plastic bag shakes. She could feel her face become hot and flustered, her ears almost burning in embarrassment.

“My weight is none of your business.” Lina sputters, “What right do you have to make fun of my weight, anyway?”

Jacob bares his teeth like a rabid dog, fuming. He grabs onto Lina’s coat and punches her repeatedly, ignoring Lina’s yelps of pain. Damien grabs the plastic bag lying on the concrete pavement and opens the box of warm pastries, throwing it on top of Lina. Jacob and Damien snicker, satisfied seeing the fear in Lina’s eyes.

15 minutes after Jacob and Damien leave, Lina slowly gets up, first on her knees, then all the way up. She wipes off the cake icing and crumbs of cake from her clothes, her knees trembling. She wipes off the hot tears burning her eyes, gasping for air as her throat feels muffled and twisted. Her lungs feel like they are about to burst any minute, like an over blown balloon.

December 3, 2009.

Dear Diary,

Today might just be the worst day of my life. Yes, it’s about my weight again. I would do anything to lose this weight. I hate being fat. I hate it so much. The only thing I hate more than being fat in my life right now is the depression. It’s like people think that if someone’s overweight, you automatically have the right to make fun of them. It’s not just Damien and Jacob. Even in the media, it’s always the fat person who’s made fun of. I find it funny how on TV, they show the big, fat kid as the bully, though in real life, the fat kid is the one being bullied.

Is it some sort of crime to be a few pounds overweight? I feel worthless and insecure because of my weight. Of course, this depression is like a vicious cycle and I’m aware of that; I eat more to numb my feelings and pain and in turn, I gain even more weight. I wish I could stop. I’m sick of being made fun of. This is eating me up inside. I made a decision today. I won’t leave my house anymore. Ever. At least at home, I feel safe and protected, away from people who can hurt me.


Yours,
Lina


A Temporary Solution


“Munnaaaa!” Mrs. Chowdary grabs her keys and her limp burlap bag from the kitchen counter, “I’m going to the marketplace. I’ll be back soon.”

Munna enters the veranda, covering his ears. “Aba!” he moans, frowning, “I can hear you mummy, no need to yell.”

Munna turns on the large Sony TV in the veranda and flips over to E TV for the evening news, his daily ritual.

Corruption in India is at an all time high, in every level of society. Just yesterday, Vishal Bhatia, a businessman that works for Kavari Aluminum bribed the higher…

Munna doesn’t blink, “Chi! Why can’t someone do something about all this corruption in our country?”

“Munna, watch TV later. Finish your homework!”Mrs. Chowdary wraps a white handkerchief over half her face and heads downstairs.

She starts the engine of her new cherry-red Honda Aviator and zooms out of the garage. Beads of sweat trickle down her face from the blazing, unforgiving Vijayawada sun. She sneezes under her kerchief; the harsh smell of gasoline and dust from the honking autos, trucks, buses and two-wheelers irritates her sensitive nose. A large pothole at the side of the street almost sends her flying out of her seat and momentarily paralyzes her out of fear. After 10 minutes stuck in traffic, Mrs. Chowdary impatiently whirs out of Jammi Chettu Street. As she exits the corner of the street, she abruptly stops, tightly grasping her handle bars. She spots a police car in her rear-view mirror.

Two men dressed in identical khaki-colored uniforms swagger over to Mrs. Chowdary.

“Ni peru enti?” one of the men sputters in his hoarse voice; he impatiently taps his foot.

Why do they need my name? The police didn’t ask me last time.
Mrs. Chowdary sternly answers, “Rama Chowdary.” she asserts, readily opening her wallet from her bag.

The man with the thick black mustache folds his arms and glares, “license yedi?”

I knew it. They know I don’t have a license. One of them must be who caught me from last time!

“Ledu.”

The men smirk at each other, satisfied. One mumbles something to the other.

“You’re not supposed to be driving without a license. Don’t you know that?”

Mrs. Chowdary grumbles under her breath.

This is the second time they’ve caught me. They’ll definitely ask for more this time.

Mrs. Chowdary reaches into her wallet and pulls out 2 hundred rupee bills. She hands each of the men one bill each.

The man raises his eyebrows, intently examining the bill. He clears his throat, “inka.”

The other officer nods in agreement.

More!? That’s twice what I paid last time! It’ll be almost cheaper to just get my license now.

Mrs. Chowdary sighs and reaches for her wallet again. She hands each of them a 10 rupee bill.

“10 more rupees.” The man stuffs the hundred rupees into his pocket, “because this happened in our break time.”

Mrs. Chowdary hesitantly unzips her wallet again, visibly annoyed. She slaps two more bills into the man’s hand and darts away to her scooter.

Mrs. Chowdary parks her scooter under a large, lush neem tree by the corner. She strides over to the crowded, colorful market place buzzing with vendors and customers bargaining over fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. She thoroughly inspects the sapodillas and ripe custard apples, her favorite. Her burlap bag is already half full with jackfruits, guavas and pomegranates.

The nearby vegetable vendor next to the fruit cart simultaneously calls out to attract customers as the crowd passes back and forth; “Fresh okra, tomatoes, and ripe brinjal, good for making pickles.”

The frail vegetable vendor frantically fans himself with a newspaper in the overwhelming heat. His bony face looks gaunt and exhausted; his ribcage visibly juts out. His height and weight resembles an adolescent boy. Only his face and streaks of grey hair give up his age. His lively, energetic voice turns a few heads and brings a couple of customers over. The customers begin their inspection for the finest vegetables. Mrs. Chowdary hobbles over, her shoulder aching from the weight of her bag. She is impressed at the array of vegetables; maroon beets, long snake gourds, fragrant bitter gourds, okra, and cauliflowers the size of volleyballs catch her eye. She waits for the newly formed crowd to finish their haggling and transactions.

The vegetable vendor helps a customer with selection, and collects money from several others instantaneously; he is happiest when he is busy. Just as the crowd subsides, a he feels a tap on his shoulder. He turns to the side to find a man in a khaki-colored hat and uniform. The vendor braces himself for the inevitable. Mrs. Chowdary watches intently, “Greedy bastard.” she murmurs to herself.

“Permit yedi?”

The vendor lowers his eyes- “Ledu, sir.”

A menacing smile enters his lips, “Sare, 100 rupees evu.”

The vendor swallows his throat, “Sir, a man from the municipal corporation came yesterday to collect 200 rupees. That too, he came last week to collect 100 rupees before that. I don’t even make that much sometimes.”

The officer clenches his wooden lathi fiercely, a police weapon. The officer’s face is expressionless and his eyes look dead, staring blankly at the vendor.

The officer swings the thick wooden stick through the air and attacks the vendor, leaving him screaming in agony. The crowd silently watching in fear turn their heads in shame and guilt, knowing they don’t want to be involved. Others lower their eyes in sympathy. Some women gasp and cover their mouths and a child wails. Mrs. Chowdary covers her mouth in utter shock. She heard about similar incidents occurring frequently but to witness such brutality and corruption from a police officer, someone whose duty is to protect people, it made her blood boil.

“50 rupees more for being disobedient!” the police officer growls, grabbing the vendor’s collar.

A teenage boy in the middle of the crowd grabs a stone from the ground, his hand shaking. He wields it at the back of the officer’s head and dashes out of the crowd within seconds. The crowd instantly scrambles, making it impossible for the officer to see who attacked him. The officer tightly grips his bleeding head, a purple vein bulging out of his enormous forehead from his fury. The money in his hand is dirtied with a blood stain.

Mrs. Chowdary roars in laughter as she shares the incident with Munna.

“I know the boy was wrong to throw a rock, but I felt as if justice has been served.”

Munna clenches his fists in excitement, “That police man deserved what he got! Though, it may not necessarily be right, it’s better than doing nothing, right?”

Mrs. Chowdary nods thoughtfully, “Okay, but how will India overcome all this corruption?”

She stares at the sparkling marble floors of the veranda, “The bigger issue still remains, whether the officer got what he deserved or not. Are we capable of standing up against corruption when it’s seeped into every level of our society?”





The Price of a Life



September 1, 2010. 7 p.m.

“I…I don’t know what to do anymore, Serena…” his lower lip quivers, his face contorting in frustration. His trembling hand nearly drops the cell phone over the wooden bridge into the river as he steadies his umbrella. The cold breeze ruffles his long tan trench coat, sending a shiver done his spine. He continues to ignore the pitter-patter of rain.

He swallows, “How can I trust her in the hands of complete strangers?”

“Sweetheart, we don’t have a choice. We both need to work and start saving again. Dylan’s graduating next year and we have next to nothing saved up for his college.”

September 5, 2010. 3 p.m.

“Hey, it’ll be ok.” She gently rubs his hand, managing a polite smile.

Thomas and Serena enter through the automatic doors at the Riverwood elder care facilities.

“Come on, Dylan.”

Spider plants and weeping figs sit on both sides of the door. An enormous aquarium rests across the large window covered in silk maroon curtains. Dylan examines the colorful tails of the school of guppies, swimming near the top of the aquarium. He stares in awe at the red guppy nipping at a smaller swordtail fish next to a miniature castle.

Thomas and Serena wait at the reception desk for one of the tour guides.

“Hellooo, Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson!”

Thomas and Serena turn around to find a short, small-framed man in a maroon sweater and black dress pants. His huge, plastered smile leaves Thomas almost reluctant to shake his hand.

“I’m Raymond. I’ll be your tour guide for today. Let me show you all the wonderful facilities we offer our best clients!” Raymond points towards the left corridor, wallpapered in subtle blue and white flowers.

“Best clients? So not everyone can enjoy them?” Thomas whispers to Serena, frowning.

“And I don’t want my mother to be treated as just a client. I want these people to care for her”

Serena sighs, “Thomas, keep an open mind, ok? I heard good things about this place.”

Raymond talks about the weekly fitness classes, swimming lessons, bingo Tuesdays, and various other activities exclusively available to their VIP clients. Thomas bombards the man with several questions, ignoring Serena’s nudges. After 45 minutes of discussion, Thomas makes a decision.

September 26, 2010. 2 p.m.

Thomas, Serena and Dylan enter the Riverwood elder care facilities, anxious to see Mrs. Jamieson. It has been a week since Mrs. Jamieson’s admittance into Riverwood.

“Hi, we’re here to see Mrs. Jamieson in room 105.”

“There she is!” Dylan points to Mrs. Jamieson across the hall; her care giver pushes her wheelchair towards them.

Mrs. Jamieson’s pale skin has a tinge of grey to it, her face gaunt. She shivers in her thick fern-green woolen sweater; her delicate, bony hands appear even thinner than before. Her once twinkling sea-green eyes look dull and almost lifeless. Her heavy, laborious wheezing breaks the thick cloud of silence.

Serena frowns, tears form on her dark brown eyes. Dylan stares at his grandmother, stunned; a light gasp escapes his mouth.

“What happened to her?! She… she looks so lifeless!” Thomas stammers, baffled at the face he could barely recognize.

“Yes… well, her health has been deteriorating lately.” The care taker blankly stares at Thomas, “Sorry, but I have to go now. Someone just paged me.”

Thomas turns towards Serena “How can her health deteriorate this fast?! It’s only been a week!”

Serena places her hand over his shoulder, unable to provide answers.

“Maybe they’re not taking proper care of grandma here” Dylan mutters.

Thomas didn’t understand. Riverwood was supposed to be the best facility in the city. It’s expensive; they mortgaged their house to afford the place. Why is her condition worsening so suddenly? He took Mrs. Jamieson’s cold trembling hand and kissed it, tears escaping his red eyes. It had to be the Alzheimer’s.

November 20, 2010. 1 p.m.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Now, I request the caregiver, Mrs. Lombardi to take the stand.

Court officer: Mrs. Lombardi, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Mrs. Lombardi: I do.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Mrs. Lombardi, you were the main care taker for Mrs. Jamieson at Riverwood elder care facilities. Am I right?

Mrs. Lombardi: Yes, sir.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Now, is it true that Mrs. Jamieson passed away while she was in your full-time care?

Mrs. Lombardi: err…umm…

Mrs. Lombardi’s red, swollen eyes tear up. Her grey and dark messy hair frames the face of a woman who aged 10 years overnight.

Defense lawyer William Humphrey: Objection, your Honor! The prosecutor is leading the defendant.

Judge: Overruled.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Thank you, your Honor. Well, Mrs. Jamieson, did she or did she not die while she was in your care!?

Mrs. Lombardi: Ye-yes.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Thank you, that is all. I now want to call Dr. Hefner to the stand to testify.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Dr. Hefner, can you please share the autopsy results?
Medical examiner: The autopsy concludes that Mrs. Jamieson died due to an overdose of Exelon, or rivastigmine, her Alzheimer’s medication.

Prosecutor Tony Rizzoli: Thank you, doctor. You may leave the stand. As you all may know, Mrs. Lombardi is in charge of giving Mrs. Jamieson her daily medication and other duties, as she is in her full-time care at Riverwood. Mrs. Jamieson died because of Mrs. Lombardi’s neglect. The people at Riverwood did not bother checking up to see if any of their caretakers were reliable, because they were too busy thinking about expanding their business. Yes, business, not care for the elderly. No one at Riverwood inspected to see if the caregivers were doing their duties properly and no one noticed Mrs. Jamieson’s worsening condition. Most of the time, Mrs. Jamieson was simply left alone in her room.

December 10, 2010. 3 p.m.

Judge: Mrs. Lombardi, you have been found guilty for criminal negligence leading to Mrs. Jamieson’s death. I want to add that though Riverwood should be held responsible for their poor service and negligence, the prosecutors put you on the stand as Mrs. Jamieson was specifically put in your full-time care and you were the one who overdosed her, resulting in her death. Do you have anything to say for yourself?

Mrs. Lombardi tries to steady her shaking hands by holding on to the podium bars. Her mouth trembles, and her voice cracks.

Mrs. Lombardi: I… I’m so sorry. I didn’t meant to harm her, I didn’t. I forgot to give her Exelon pills for a week and when I remembered, I gave her all the pills for the week she missed. I… I was too scared to call for help when she began to violently shake and gasp for air. I-I just stood there.

Mrs. Lombardi sobs continuously, her sobs echo, breaking the deafening silence of the court room. The Jamiesons stare in shock, unable to utter a word.

Mrs. Lombardi: It... It was terrible of me, I know. I wish I could change what happened but I can’t. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did to the Jamieson family and for their terrible loss.

January 3, 2010. 6 p.m.

Thomas places a bouquet of elegant white lilies on his mother’s gravestone. He squeezes Serena’s cold hands. They close their eyes in silence and mumble a soft prayer.

They quietly walk over to the wooden bench and sit down. 10 minutes pass. They know each is thinking of the same thing, but neither feels the urge to share it.

Why didn’t we know? Why did we just assume mother’s condition was because of Alzheimer’s instead of neglect? I may someday be able to forgive Mrs. Lombardi for accepting her mistake, but I can’t forgive those who don’t ask for forgiveness. Riverwood didn’t take any responsibility. They simply denied it till the end. They didn’t see the elders in their care as people, they only thought about them in terms of profit. They didn’t show compassion, they showed greed. Is money all people care about? If they cared enough to check out who they hired as caregivers… or checked out to see if their ‘clients’ were all right, mom could’ve been saved. Do they think of person’s life in terms of price? They didn’t bother checking up on her because mom wasn’t one of their VIP clients.

Thomas covers his tired face in his cold arms; his head feels as if someone is banging it against a concrete wall. Thomas shakes with anger. Serena gently hugs him, sharing her warmth “We’ll get through this.”

The billowing grey clouds make room for some of the sun’s rays.

4 comments:

  1. They are so amazing! I seriously loved your short stories.
    Keep it up! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. nicely narrated... liked it a lot!

    ReplyDelete

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