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LJI: Jantelagen

She comes on the unit and everyone scatters like the roaches we pretend aren't hiding in the walls.

She trails Chanel No5 (who wears that anymore?) in her Botoxed, stilettoed stomp down the hall.  The Unit is her catwalk.  Her red carpet.  The balcony at Buckingham fucking Palace.

"My husband needs to be changed.  Come here."

I bite my lower lip.  The words want to escape.  "You are his ex wife. You only come here to get more money out of him."

"I'm sorry.  Did you hear me?"

They heard you three counties over, bitch.  "Yes, ma'am.  Just getting some gloves."

Thirty five years, three kids, pictures of you both adorning his walls with country club smiles...and you can't pretend to be his wife long enough to change his diaper?  You'd rather a stranger do it?

I guess it's better than getting your perfectly manicured hands dirty.

He likes me.  Calls me Jo for some reason, even though that's not even close to my name.  I like to think, locked somewhere in his mind, he's heard me talk through enough changes and showers about my own life that he's referencing Jo March from Little Women, knowing that I'd like that.  Anyway, that's what I tell myself.

"He needs the cream for his rash."

Lookee here.  It's in my hand before the words fly out of her mouth.  And does she have the last tube of Cherries in the Snow?  Because she might want to be sparing with that, and quit caking it on her condescending lips.  I think it's been discontinued.

"Here are his clothes."  The paper bag from Harris Teeter has a busted handle.  Her voices raises, a cheerily false tone that barely escapes dog whistle.  "New clothes for you, Hugh!  We have to have you looking sharp, right?"

I buy my clothes at PTA Thrift, and I recognize the scent of industrial laundry detergent.  The left cuff on the maroon sweater I pull out of the bag is starting to fray.  I'll have to remember to smuggle in my sewing kit and fix it.  It's a good sweater, if you ignore the dime sized moth hole near the neck.

"You have to be gentle with his left arm.  You know..."

"Yes, ma'am.  He hurt it in the war.  My father was military, so we've talked."

"Well, don't talk to him too much.  He's addled enough as it is."

I bite my lower lip again, wondering if I can keep biting back the words.  And even if I can, for how long?

"Are you done yet?"

"Yes ma'am.  Right as rain.  So, are y'all going somewhere today?"

"No.  Pastor may come by, so I wanted to make sure he wasn't wearing sloppy clothes.  It's Christmas, you know. Now, will you let me out?"

She can't keep up with my strides in her tiny little heels.  This pleases me.  I punch in the code.  She wafts past me, throwing ver her shoulder, "Take care of him for me.  If you don't I'll know."

"Yes, ma'am."

The door swings shut with magnetic finality.  And the words spill forth, quiet but rocket loud in my brain.

"Fuck you."



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 28th, 2016 05:06 pm (UTC)
You have quite a way with painting a portrait. I hope I am never on your bad side!
Dec. 28th, 2016 05:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Dec. 28th, 2016 07:06 pm (UTC)
This breaks my heart in the best of ways.
Dec. 28th, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)

I've seen parents treat their kids' teachers like this too. Sigh. The Karma Fairy needs to set that bitch straight!

Dec. 29th, 2016 03:19 am (UTC)
Cripes! Couldn't take 2 minutes out of her precious schedule to pop in to WalMart/Kohl's/Target and get something new?! Or at least Walgreen's for a sweatshirt?!
Jan. 2nd, 2017 12:10 am (UTC)
Apparently not. And she's sucking down his military pension at an alarming rate from what I hear.
Dec. 31st, 2016 03:29 pm (UTC)
Jan. 1st, 2017 03:15 pm (UTC)
This was very well written! You did a great job creating a character and a situation/setting. Is this from personal experience/observation?
Jan. 2nd, 2017 12:11 am (UTC)
Yup. Sadly, got to see it again at work today. :(
Jan. 2nd, 2017 02:54 pm (UTC)
Striking, the contrast between a wife who should care and an employee who actually does.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )