A tiny room. Adorned with the memories of a long life passed with nothing but beige sterility to hang them on. This was Joseph Fingal’s final room.
At the Last Lakes Retirement Village.
Eighty six years. A World War, that moon landing, love, despair, struggle, and all this racket called music. But, there was also Meredith. God damn Meredith. She walked in a way he had never seen, like waves that began at her hips and crashed at the upward kick of her heel. That low cut, button up dress with the hint of God’s secret recipe ready to burst forth at any moment. He opened his eyes. He almost went there again. God damn that woman. Why here? Why now?
Why did she have to be his nurse?
It was lunchtime. The herds moved through the corridors. Walking cocktails of Valium and Donepezil floating on vapours of boiled chicken and rice to the dining hall to consume what might be their last meal. They didn’t care. Routine had long enveloped their existence. Why not today? They didn’t care. But not Joseph. Not with Meredith flashing that bi-carb soda smile at his unknowing stare.
Joseph sat in his usual spot, at his usual table, next to the usual human bean bags he shared lunch with every day. He grunted silently through his nose.
The same daily mantra.
But it ended abruptly.
He felt it breeze through the door. A walk he could recognise from two rooms away.
What did she see in that rugged, moustachioed, beatnik? This was his enemy. A privileged wannabe with the world handed to him. A good dose of national service is what he needed. Dickhead.
He caught Jeremy’s eye and received a sympathetic glare.
Sympathy? I once met Liberace!
Joseph poked out his tongue. He wasn’t above any tactical manoeuvre. Jeremy just laughed and grabbed Meredith’s waist tighter. This daily tango had gone on long enough. Today would be his day.
Joseph stood. He puffed out his chest. The bean bags kept devouring. Today would be his day. He would tell that beatnik what for.
Then he felt it. Something was wrong.
A small ache at first, followed by a crushing weight pulverising his chest.
Something was very wrong.
Joseph clutched his shirt. The bean bags kept devouring. He tried to let out a plea.
She moved in a blur. She took control. She barked orders here and there. And then she held him. Meredith held him.
He was on the floor. Old folk scurried like snails trying to gain a better view of the feeble pile on the floor. Joseph stared between them all at the ceiling before his eye caught hers, but she slipped away into darkness, and the cold sleep took him away.
Light broke through. Blurs became outlines became a face. Her lips locked to his, forcing breath down his throat. She unlocked and rose to compress his chest. He coughed meekly and her determination transformed to relief. She kissed his forehead. He smiled. He tried to get up. She pleaded for him to stay down but his heart was full of adrenaline. He felt strong, and he rose. In the background he caught Jeremy’s eye and smirked.
He took a step. Then he felt it. The geriatric faltered. His legs buckled. His eyes stared at nothing as he collapsed backwards towards the ground. But it didn’t matter. This wasn’t boring. He hit the tiles hard. A raging, triumphant fist the last to hit the floor.
Rest in Peace Joseph Fingal.