The charge nurse told me I was clutching the cedar horse in my hands when they found me. I don’t remember. When I came to, in the sterile room, it was still there firm in my hands. Though someone had dressed me in one of those dreadful hospital gowns. So, she must have been telling the truth. Although I don’t know who to trust.
The horse was symbol of happier times. It made me feel safe. I wish I could travel back to the times it represented. If I close my eyes, I smell the cedar. I hear the brush of the leaves, as he wheedles away at the block of wood. It would soon become some creature that he’d thought up. We would sit on the red stained swing blanketed by the sweet gums and the pines. The heat was stifling. The sweat trickled down my back. It was the reason he wore just a white undershirt beneath his overalls. Mississippi summers made you feel exhausted even if all you did was sit in a swing. Most days, I was content to sit by Papaw. He wheedled and I read. Sometimes I would ask him question after question. He never told me to hush like Momma did. There were times he would tell me stories of his childhood. Tales of watermelon thieves, how he could buy a coke and peanuts for five cents, and the stories would go on and on as stories of his childhood sometimes did.
What would he have to say about this mess that I’m in? Sitting here surrounded by pristine white walls, a stained cotton mattress, and remnants of occupants that came before me. The smell of Clorox fills my nostrils. The moaning and screaming hasn’t stopped since I arrived.
If I try real hard I can almost feel his hand threaded through mine. He would pat it and tell me it was going to be okay. If he said it, I believed him. He was from a generation where his word meant something. A time when men shook hands and kept whatever promises they spoke out loud. But he wasn’t here and my world was spiraling down.
Tears roll down my cheek as I try to recall the last few days. My head starts pounding. My chest tightens. I will myself to remember. Something. Anything. Gunshots, I remember gunshots. I can see a large hand. A man’s hand holding a pistol. The man is in front of me. It’s dark and cold where we are. Miles away from the sweltering Mississippi summers. The land of my childhood. This land is a land of permeate frost, frozen tundra, and vast wilderness.
A knock at the door breaks my concentration. I study the male nurse as he walks through the door. His eyes are soft, but he’s all business. He knows the routine. In and out. Don’t get personal with the patients.
“Time for your medicine Mrs. Carter.” He says.
I take the medicine in the paper cup. I let the pills sit under my tongue. He doesn’t ask me to open my mouth like the woman nurse did at lunch. As soon as he leaves the room, I grab the napkin sitting on the bedside table. I wipe my mouth and deposit the pills in the napkin. I had never taken medicine and I didn’t plan on starting. It was impertinent that I remember the details of the last few days.
*An excerpt of a work.
copyright of judithwnicholson