Monday evening – dining hall
“He is like an infected wound,” Jon said to Walden. They sat together at a table on the far side of the dining hall. Walden looked across to the pair of old men his father was pointing at.
“That Homesman fellow?” Walden asked.
“You have to take care of an infection early. It will leave a small scar but that will fade and disappear quickly. If you leave it unattended too long it could cost you an arm or leg; if you ignore it all together, you could forfeit your life. He is an infection on us all and I will get rid of it; I will be the antibiotic.”
“Afi, we can’t like everybody. Don’t worry about Mr. Homesman. Don’t go doing something weird, you’re a ninety-nine year old man. You could hurt yourself very easily.”
“He’s up to something no good.”
The dining hall was filling up. Aids and attendants pushed carts and carried trays to the residents tables, taking care to see that each person received their prescribed meal.
Walden was not on the dinner list, though guests were welcome to join their loved one for a meal now and then. The attendant offered to bring him a bowl of stew and a white bread roll, the same as she served to Jon. Walden looked at his grandfather’s dinner and declined, with a smile.
“That looks like it came from a can,” Walden said. “Maybe we could get you something else.”
“Never mind that, we have a serial killer in our midst,” Jon warned.
Walden sat back in surprise. “What the heck are you talking about?”
“I just got here and I can already tell you, people are dropping like flies.”
Walden shook his head. “Afi, it’s sad but I think it is just life taking its course. There’s nobody killing anyone in here. People pass on.”
“He wants to do me in. He’s jealous that I will make it to a hundred, that I will win the prize and he will not. He should have taken better care of himself.”
“Do you want some dinner?” another aid asked as she brought a tray of custard for the dessert service.
Walden shook his head.
“What is the prize? Is something supposed to happen if you reach a hundred years old?”
Jon shrugged. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
It couldn’t be heaven Jon was talking about. His grandfather was a proclaimed atheist and often had unkind things to say about religions.
Many of the residents began their long drawn out bedtime routine right after the dinner service. The conversation din quieted as one by one people made their way slowly, braced by a cane or a walker. Some were still quite spry and made a point of walking briskly. Many made the journey to their room in silence, though Mrs. Chin made lively Chinese conversation to her escort as they moved down the long hallway. “I go home soon,” she said happily as she disappeared into her room.
Others, not yet ready for bed, made their way to the Sunroom.
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