Misery loves company.
Unfortunately for me that saying holds no real meaning. Despite there being four of us in the car, I’m the one sentenced to community service. No company for me, just a DUI and forty hours at the old peoples home.River’s Retirement I think it’s called. No doubt it’ll stink of piss and I’ll have to spoon feed mush to a bunch of senile skin bags.
I swear to God if someone shits on me I’ll throw down. The gloves will come off! My dad drops me off at the front of the home. It’s bigger than I imagined. More palm-springsy than hospice. As I walk through the gates, I hear a soft voice.
“And 1, and 2, and 3…”
It’s coming from the pool were some blonde dish is doing aqua aerobics with ten Betty’s. That’s cool. A pool, I mean. Maybe I’ll get to swim. It’s a warm day and I can feel my t-shirt sticking to my back already. I’m relieved to step into a large air conditioned foyer.
“Hello! Welcome to River’s Retirement. Here to visit?”
“Erm…no. I’m Jack. Here for the community service.”
The lady looks a little startled, she tries to hide it by busying herself with some checking in book. Great! One DUI and I’m treated like fucking Ted Bundy. After a few moments, the lady looks back at me.
“Ok Jack, follow me.” She hands me a name tag with HELPER written on it in big black letters. “You’ll be minding one of our elderly ladies today.
Great! Shit and piss!
“She’s bed bound.”
Oh God, A cripple with dementia.
“And she can be a bit of a handful.”
A violent cripple with dementia.
“But I’m sure you two will get along famously!”
We enter a room, dark, smells like..vanilla? Lavender? Not piss.
“Mrs Chambers? I have a visitor for you.”
The lady opens the curtains and light falls on a permed out older lady lying in a big bed. She’s awake and stares at me. She does not look impressed.
“I’ve been waiting for…” she turns to look at her extra large digital clock. “One hour and twenty-seven minutes for someone to open those curtains!”
“No you haven’t Mrs Chambers.”
“What do you think I am? A fuckin’ bat?”
“I’ll leave you to it.” The lady leaves and I’m left alone with the beast.
“Sup?” Is all I can think to say.
She grimaces. “What’s ‘sup’?” she groans.
It dawns on me that I don’t know how to answer the question.
“What you in for?” she asks.
“Don’t lie to me. Young strapping lad like you wants to be out chasing tail. Not sitting here with me.”
She’s not wrong.
“DUI.” I answer.
I laugh out loud at hearing granny use such a term.
“My first community service was for aggravated assault. Fifteen I was. Kicked the post man right in the balls. Mind you, he deserved it. Filthy bastard touched my mammaries.”
She gives her chest a little shake as I settle into a seat. I’m shocked that she’s so out there. For a granny anyway. This might not be the worst day ever.
“Got any tattoos?” she asks.
“I’m only seventeen.”
At this she pulls her blanket back and sticks out one wrinkled, varicose leg. In the mix of the blue, grey and pink leg there is a distinct tattoo in the shape of a pin up girl.
“Seventeen myself when I got that.”
“Awesome!” I say, genuinely impressed.
“It’s me, a picture of me!”
“That’s pretty cool.”
She laughs and nods.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years, it’s that if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else.”
I laugh loudly at this one. She reaches behind her pillow and pulls out a bottle of whiskey.
“Say kid, why don’t you get us a couple of coffees and I’ll Irish them up.” She winks and shakes the bottle at me.
I leave to get the coffee, nervous at the idea of getting caught but also kind of in awe of this lady. As I pour the coffee, the blonde dish from earlier comes to stand next to me.
“Comm. Service? Who’s they stick you with?”
“Mrs Chambers I think her name was.”
“Ah! Mrs Misery Chambers, what a character. Yup, she’s a hard ass! But y’know, Misery loves company.”