Rudy Wernbacher was wheeled into the Sunroom. Karl stood in the doorway and was made to move so Rudy’s wheelchair could pass. Rudy’s face was pale and grey and Karl’s turned almost the same shade at the sight of the elderly German resident.
“Didn’t expect to see you again,” Karl mumbled.
Rudy’s upper lip curled; his eyebrows closed in a furl as he cast a look of disdain at Karl. It was the Ibuprofen and Rudy knew that now. Just the same he looked like death and was lucky to have survived its clutches, at his age. Big Bruce wheeled Rudy against the wall facing the television.
“Is the TV broken again?” Rudy asked.
“The new guy is telling stories,” Karl blurted.
“Mr. Magnusson is telling us about stuff in his book,” Odd quickly interjected, then gave a cough into the open air.
“The television is not broken,” Jon said. “Some of our housemates have expressed interest in some true tales from the past.” He held his book up for Rudy to see.
Rudy looked around the room. Half the people were asleep, the other half waiting for Jon to continue.
“Well, if we’re not going to watch Jeopardy then you might as well get on with it.” Rudy waved Bruce away.
“Mr. Magnusson was telling us about his ancestor from hundreds of years ago,” Mr. Z said.
“Telling us about dead people,” Odd added.
“Like you’ll be soon,” Karl grinned at Rudy.
The room went silent. Eyes turned to Karl.
“What?” Karl said as he shrugged his shoulders, holding his hands upward in surrender. “A joke.”
“You should have told me not to take so much of those pills.” Rudy shook a boney finger at Karl. “You’re an animal doctor, you know about these things.”
Karl sneered. “I would have thought they taught you all about drugs, back in the war.”
“Oh, for God’s sake I was never in the war, you old fool. I’m old but not that old.”
“Well you’re still a Kraut, aren’t you.” Karl left the room before anything more was said.
The room was silent for many moments, then Rudy finally said, “my toe still hurts like the devil. Feels like a blow torch.”
Mrs. Branbury snorted, rousing herself from her sleep.
“Go on,” she said in a barely audible voice. “I’m listening.”
Encouragement also came from Mrs. Chin, sitting with her table mates, on the long couch. She cocked her head, straining her ears, listening attentively, repeating words that she recognized as Jon spoke. She found the cadence and tone of his voice to be comforting.
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