Odd Gunnerson’s room
“When you are old like me, there is no point looking back, so I just look ahead instead,” Karl said.
“We’re not old”. Odd Gunnerson packed his few bits of clothing into an army surplus duffle bag. He was moving to the third floor, to Blount’s old room. He smiled at Karl and offered him his Felix the Cat smoking ashtray.
“No smoking up there,” Odd said.
“I don’t want that thing,” Karl pushed it away. “I’ll be up there in short order. Soon as the Kraut kicks the bucket.”
Rudy Wernbacher had not passed away but he had passed a significant amount of blood onto his bed sheet and was rushed to the Sisters of Mercy hospital. He was expected to recover and return to The Lodge, so his room was not available for a new resident. Rudy had been on the limp, with a severe gout pain in the big toe on his right foot. Karl managed to sneak Rudy his own bottle of extra strength Ibuprofen, to manage the pain. But Karl did not tell him that an overdose of the medicine could cause internal bleeding. It did, and much of the blood passed through him escaping out his hind end while he lay unconscious in his bed, from a deep faint. He would live.
The second floor of The Lodge was for elderly residents afflicted with dementia, suffering with Alzheimer’s disease or disorientation in their thinking from a psychological break. The north wing was secured by a steel door, a man trap and beyond that a wall of heavy bars with a door that could only be unlocked from the second floor hub. The dangerous or violent residents were kept there, under lock and key. Karl never went near that wing; it gave him the creeps to look down that corridor; brought the hair on his neck up. He did not think himself as dangerous. Foreboding shrouded Karl like a cloud so thick it was almost visible. It haunted him about that wing. He couldn’t remember, but Karl Homesman thought he may have been housed down there at one time.
The east wing wasn’t locked, though the residents were closely monitored. They weren’t considered dangerous but many were prone to seek escape. An unlocked emergency exit, an open stairwell door and even an unattended elevator key were prime opportunities. Not all were runners, two of the residents were catatonic but most were resigned to their condition.
The second floor west wing housed patients that had graduated from the need for supervision and could soon be discharged to supportive living. Elderly residents, with little means to support themselves on the outside or with no caregiver, and still requiring care, were often moved to the third floor. Some like Odd and Karl saw this as an earned promotion. Karl had lobbied long for his turn to join the third floor elderly. He had spent enough time making his way to the west wing.
“You’re damn lucky,” Karl said. “You won’t have to die here among the nut jobs.”
“They’re not nut jobs, just folks needing some looking after,” Odd defended.
Karl was envious and angry. It should be him being awarded Blount’s room. Hadn’t he earned it? He had been in this place longer than weak minded Oddar Gunnerson. Odd smiled, his thin lips pulled well back, showing what was left of his grey teeth. He was contented, his old face looking goofy and childlike with pleasure.
Karl clucked. “Never mind then. Give me that bag, I’ll carry it, you’re too skinny, you’ll snap under the weight of it.”
Odd’s hands seemed to shake less than they had.
They stood waiting at the elevator door. When it arrived and the door opened, Odd entered but Karl stood at the opening, gazing into the small compartment.
“C’mon, they’re waiting for me,” Odd urged.
Karl snapped out of his reverie; his thoughts lost like a popping bubble.
“They’re waiting for me. My room should be ready.”
“I know that.”
“Well then what are you waiting for? Let’s go before the elevator leaves you here.”
‘Here. Imprisoned still, on the second floor. What if I’m trapped here forever. I shouldn’t even be in this place; they are all against me. I wouldn’t be here if mother hadn’t died, she is the one that abandoned me here, it’s her fault. Always selfish. I did everything for her and still she complained, still she treated me like a stupid child. It’s good that she is gone. But now I’m here, it’s her fault. How could I be expected to still be taking care of that old sack of skin and bone. How many more of these useless old people have to go before it’s my turn.’
Karl turned around to look at the heavy locked door of the North Wing. ‘Was I in there before?’
He couldn’t remember.