If you’d like to read “The Quiet Ones, Part 2” please click on the title.
Kari put Bob and Mabeline’s dinner in the fridge and wiped down the counter. She’d made them a simple baked chicken breast with a salad. Cooking wasn’t exactly her forte, but fortunately the Sheldons weren’t picky eaters.
Bob and Mabeline had two children, a son, Terry and a daughter, Patty. Along with Terry’s wife, Brenda, they took turns helping Bob with Mabeline in the evenings. But they all had jobs of their own, and Kari did what she could to make those visits brief.
“Do you need anything else, Bob?” Kari asked.
“Are you trying to leave us, Kari?” Bob teased.
“It’s all I can do to drag myself away, Bob,” she replied, “but that 5:15 bus won’t wait for me.”
“I understand. You have a wonderful evening. I hope we’ll see you in the morning.”
“I’ll be here, Bob.”
Kari headed down the sidewalk to the bus stop humming as she walked. The commute wasn’t so bad with this job – one bus, twelve stops down. It was about as far as that bus would take her. Her last job was in a different part of town. It took her an hour to get there on two separate buses. From the bus stop she had to cross a busy four lane road to get to the store where she worked as a cashier. It was hard work, on her feet all day, with a long, unpredictable commute, and some strange unpredictable customers.
She was excited to find this job so close to her house. It paid more per hour – $11 versus $9 – but it was only seven hours per day or 35 hours per week. She made a mere $15 per week more, but she saved some money on bus fair, and a lot of time.
Still, it wasn’t even close to enough to enable her to buy a car. She didn’t have any insurance benefits or paid vacation (she didn’t have those at her old job either). She also didn’t have job security. If Mabeline died, her employment would end abruptly. She wouldn’t even be eligible for unemployment benefits because her employer was an individual who didn’t pay unemployment taxes, not a company.
It was a precarious spot to be in to say the least. Kari worried about it, but what could she do? There were serious disadvantages to almost any job she could get with only a high school diploma, and very little work experience.
And Kari loved Mabeline and Bob. They needed her for a change. At only nineteen, this was a new experience for her. She had the power to make someone’s life easier and better just by doing simple tasks – like cooking and washing clothes – tasks that she could handle with confidence. She found success in Bob’s smile and Mabeline’s ravenous consumption of pretty much everything that was put on her plate. It was comfortable.
If you’d have told Kari when she was a child that she would some day be happy helping an old lady bathe, dress and use the toilet, she would have told you you were crazy. Nursing homes creeped her out. There was something about all those people quietly traversing that last, short gap between themselves and the grim reaper that seemed hopeless. It made her sad, and a little afraid.
In high school she visited a nursing home with the choir to sing Christmas carols to the patients. It was clean enough. The staff seemed caring, and efficient. It was a far cry from the horror show depictions of barely living bodies covered in bed sores and sitting in their own feces. But there was something missing, and now Kari understood what it was. The patients were living in an institution, not a home. The staff members were not their family. They were cared for, rather than loved.
Kari understood what Bob was trying to give Mabeline, and she understood why. Even Hell would be better if you were surrounded by people who love you. Or would it? Wouldn’t it be worse knowing they were suffering your fate with you? Isn’t this just the kind of thing we try to save our loved ones from? Kari supposed it was for the best that Mabeline didn’t really know what was going on anymore.
To read “The Quiet Ones, Part 4” click the title.
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