To read part one of The Transfer, see May 14th issue of The Voice [v11 i 20] (http://www.ausu.org/voice/articles/articledisplay.php?ART=1550).
“That’s a pretty doll Aggie. Can you bring it closer so I can see it?”
The old woman shuffled forward until she stood a few paces from Angel’s bed. Tentatively the old women reach out and gingerly poked the top of Angel ‘s spiked purple hair. “Oh, pretty baby,” she said. Patting first Angel’s hair and then what was left of the yellow wool of the rag doll. Aggie’s eyes grew wide as she saw Angel’s wrists restrained by the buckle straps. Her wizened old face began to crumple and Angel thought Aggie was about to cry. “Oh poor baby, poor baby,” Aggie said, running dry warm fingers over Angel’s hand.
Angel held her breath, barely daring to make a motion. “Aggie,” she whispered. “Do you think you could undo my hand?”
At first , Angel thought Aggie hadn’t heard, because the old woman continued to croon, “poor baby, poor baby.” But gently Aggie placed the rag doll on the sheets of Angel’s bed and began to work bony fingers beneath the buckle of the wrist restraint.
Angel dared not move for fear the old woman would lose concentration. Angel saw the little flap holding the buckle begin to loosen, a fraction at first, but slowly, painstakingly, Aggie worked at it until there was a loop about an inch high.
“Aggie, You get away from there!” Aggie jumped and Angel felt her own hot blinding tears of frustration gather beneath her eyelids.
Beauregard swooped into the room grasped Aggie by the shoulders, plucked the rag doll from Angel’s bed and guided Aggie back to her side of the room.
Aggie began to whimper, a soft mewing sound.
“Oh, come on Sweets, Daddy’s not mad. Now come on Aggie, get into bed.”
Aggie began to croon to her dolly, “poor baby, poor baby.”
Beauregard turned toward Angel, his dark face a mask of controlled anger. “You had no right to encourage her like that. ” The poor old soul doesn’t like restraints. God knows she’s had enough of them in her day.”
“I know you just wanted to be rid of ’em. But like I told you already, Selma will probably remove them when she comes on duty. She’s been known to bend a rule a little.” He reached behind Angel’s head and handed her a cord with a button at the end of it, then he placed it in the palm of her hand so that even with the wrist restraints in place she would be able to signal the nursing station.
“Now you do as I say, and you’ll make this whole experience a little easier on yur self. It’s almost change of shift, you wait for a half hour or so, give Selma a chance to listen to report and read her notes and then give her a buzz, if you talk real nice to her, I suspect she might just take off your hand restraints. Especially if you promise her you won’t make a peep the rest of the night. Understood?”
Angel nodded her head. This was one helluva place she’d landed herself in and it seemed to have rules she didn’t understand. “Thanks mister, I’ll do as you say.”
“Smart girl,” he said, as he winked and left the room.
Angel decided she’d wait at least an hour before she buzzed the nurse, no point in getting her pissed.
Night Shift 24:00 Saturday, April 24
Selma slipped the taped report into the machine and listed while Alice Munroe’s voice droned on about the events of the evening. “Alice Munroe, recording for evenings, April 24…” who else would be recording, Selma wondered, Santa Claus? “Ward census nine plus one.” Now that was something different, plus one, an admission to chronic? “Jake Reardon was incontinent twice.” As if Selma cared how many times the old guy wet himself. “Aggie Turner was given a laxative.” When wasn’t Aggie given a laxative? Selma leafed through the notes left by the orderly.
Beau had written in heavy bold script, that the new admit wanted her wrist restraints removed, beside it he wrote in bold letters, NO ORDER.
Selma pulled the new patient’s chart. Sure enough, there was no doctor’s order to remove restraints. She scanned through the data. The poor kid, she was just a runaway getting herself into trouble, been seen in emerg by the admitting Doctor, guy probably wrote hand restraints to keep the emergency room nurses happy. Then the kid had been shipped off to chronic. The ER Doc probably expected the kid to end up on the short stay psych unit; too bad short term was full.
Selma searched the chart, she saw that the ward psychiatrist Dr Blaine had telephoned in verbal admission orders, said he’d see the patient in the morning at his regular rounds. His verbal orders were mostly routine stuff, blood work, diet. Hadn’t said a word about wrist restraints. The old coot probably didn’t know the kid was still wearing wrist restraints. Selma wouldn’t go down the hall to remove them, she still had her paper work to do, but if the kid was still awake when she made her first round, what the hell she’d take them off. You had to do something now and then to let administration know you were alive on night shift, otherwise they forgot all about you.
Selma snapped the off button of the tape recorder. There was no point in listening to the rest of the drivel. Nothing ever changed on chronic.
She was tired, so very tired, and the snoring sounds from Room 101 seemed louder than she could ever remember. She placed her hands over ears trying to block out the constant whining wheeze. Suddenly, without warning, the desk fan above her head stopped. Selma could feel the roar coming from Room 101.
Quietly and deliberately Selma closed the orderlies’ note book. Without the fan, Alvin’s snore clawed at her soul like razors along the soft underbelly of a bird.
Soundlessly, Selma walked as only a night nurse can, into the darkened room just off the nurses’ station. She paused for a moment. She noticed the hearing aid and the false teeth sitting on the bedside table. “Beau should have put those teeth in a denture cup,” she thought.
The room smelled faintly of an unopened urinal. Her foot caught on the over bed table. She steadied herself. The pillow was in the Geri chair by Alvin’s bed, just as for months she’d imagined it would be. Consciously, deliberately, she picked up the pillow with both hands. Alvin MacAvoy lay flat on his back, his skinny chest heaving rhythmically. A string of spittle curled down over his lip and bubbled with each breath. She advanced slowly toward him until the sound of his wheezy, shrieking sleep noises thundered in her ears like the roar of a thousand fire trucks.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkened room, she saw three silver nose hairs protruding from his right nostril. Beau should have trimmed those. She held the pillow to her body like a shield against the clatter of Alvin’s sleep noises while she moved in closer. When the pillow was within inches of his wrinkled brown cheeks, she placed it firmly over his face.
Alvin struggled once, Selma exerted more pressure. Alvin tried to get bony fingers beneath the pillow. Selma held on. Alvin MacAvoy jerked his scrawny legs making a feeble scissor cut. Finally, the wheezy, shrieking sleep noises ceased and Selma found peace. Selma counted slowly to sixty. One little rabbit, two little rabbits…
Selma replaced the pillow case with a fresh one and carefully returned the pillow to the Geri chair. Alvin would need his pillow when the day shift came in to take him for a walk. Alvin’s backside always got sore if he didn’t have his pillow to sit on. She straightened Alvin’s top sheet so that it lay neatly just below his jaw and wiped a bloody string of spittle from his chin. She kissed the small St. Christopher medal that was handing about her neck. She was glad Alvin’s wheeze was better tonight. Come to think of it she couldn’t remember a night shift when Alvin’s piercing wheeze hadn’t grated on her nerves.
Selma left the room and quietly closed the door. She smoothed her hands down over her uniform and plucked at imaginary pieces of lint. Something didn’t seem right to her, but she didn’t quite know what it was. She had to get off nights. She just had to.
She turned toward the nursing station when she caught the blink of the call light at the end of the corridor. Why did she have this uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach?
Selma opened the room occupied by Aggie and the new Admission.
Shortly after Beau left her alone with Aggie, Angel had dozed. She was awakened by the distant sounds of a shrill wheezing sound, but a few moments later the sound stopped. It was dark out but the glow from the outside parking lot lit up the shadows on the far wall. Aggie had fallen asleep and Angel found the wrist restraints becoming more and more uncomfortable.
Tentatively she pressed the buzzer Beau had given her. She had rehearsed what she would say when the night nurse came in. It wasn’t as if she were actually a psychiatric patient. She had simply taken some bad drugs. Not too smart maybe and perhaps even illegal but not crazy.
Angel felt the door to her room opening and a woman with short cropped brown hair turned on the overhead light. If Angel could have, she would have hidden her head under the covers.
The nurse wore a name tag, the same kind Beau had worn, but, it was the woman’s eyes that terrified Angel. The eyes were dark and hooded with a glassy look. There were smouldering dark circles under the eyes and Angel was certain the woman didn’t know where she was. Angel had seen that vacant look many times on the streets. Usually she avoided people with eyes like that. Angel was sorry she had rung her buzzer.
Angel heard Aggie whimper. The nurse whipped her head around toward the sound and sniffed at the air. Angel could smell the distinct odour of feces. Aggie must have dirtied her diaper. The nurse moved swiftly, pulled a pillow from beneath the old woman’s head and held it down.
It’s been two weeks since Aggie’s death. Angel no longer wears wrist restraints, but she doesn’t say much anymore, just “sleep pretty baby, sleep” and sometimes she mutters, “bad mommy, bad mommy.” Beauregard and the evening Charge Nurse, Alice Munroe, occasionally discuss what a shame it was Aggie’s death happened the same night Angel Mason was admitted. “Imagine the poor kid coming up with a story about Selma smothering poor old Aggie.”
It was Beau that said, “Guess two deaths in one night, the restraints and bad drugs must have completely unhinged the poor kid. Too, Bad.”
Selma Barclay doesn’t work night shifts at Island Pacific anymore. Her transfer to days finally came through. She stayed another week but then she got an opportunity to work on the children’s unit at Mercy Hospital on the lower East side. S he bumped into Beau one evening at the movie theatre. When he asked her how she liked her new job she told him she really enjoyed it at first, but lately she’d put in for another transfer. She said she just hated to hear the poor little children cry.
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