AGAIN written by Joyce Martin Perz
Flora Carpenter Porter woke up – again.
No one living or working at the Glendale Senior Care Center was more surprised than Flora herself. After all, she’d celebrated her hundredth birthday two days before. Everyone had gathered in the dining room to sing “Happy Birthday.” Television cameras filmed Flora blowing out the ten candles on her cake.
“Thank goodness they didn’t light a hundred candles,” Flora told herself. “The blaze would have burned this place down.”
“Did you say something?” Asked a young nurse as she stepped into Flora’s room. “Can I get you anything?”
“A birthday cake with five candles would be nice,” Flora said.
“I can do that!” The cheerful ninny replied. “Would you like me to sing Happy Birthday?”
“Do you have a particularly lovely singing voice?” Flora chuckled and closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes – again – in a room flooded with sunlight. Flora was puzzled by what was most definitely the smell of popcorn.”
“Why?” She asked no one in particular.
“Are you comfortable Miss Flora?” asked a girl’s voice near the head of Flora’s bed.
Flora turned her face as far as the pillows would allow “I can’t see you,” she said.
“I know it’s hard to lose your sight.”
The soothing voice was so irritating. What did this flibbertigibbit of a girl know about loss?
“Loss? Are you still a virgin?” Flora asked sarcastically. She had no expectation the girl would answer and was surprised for the second time that morning.
“Yes I am, Miss Flora,” she replied with obvious pride.
Popcorn. Popcorn. Why popcorn in a place were people are waiting to die? At a circus – yes. At a movie theatre – yes. At Christmastime – stringing popcorn on a long thread, then hanging the garlands on a real pine tree. Real candles too, none of those bubbling lights that were so popular a while back.
“They were all the rage,” Flora said and looked up at the ceiling.
“What did you say?” asked the Virgin.
Flora closed her eyes and waited for the smell of popcorn to disappear.
“Lunch, Miss Flora,” said a young man carrying a tray. He positioned a bed table across Flora’s lap and raised her to a sitting position.
“Lobster?” Flora asked facetiously.
“Maybe tomorrow,” said the dark-skinned boy. “Chicken broth today.”
“Rules are made to be broken,” Flora told him.
“What rule did you have in mind?” he asked.
Flora had hopes for this one. He seemed to have his wits about him. “Sit in the back of the bus,” she said.
“That was a long time ago,” he replied.
“Free at last! Free at last!” Flora said and remembered those turbulent times as one of the golden moments her life shared with the country’s history.
“No chocolate!” Flora fixed her beady eyes on the handsome face behind a spoonful of lukewarm chicken broth.
“No chocolate?” he asked. “Are you trying to trick me into breaking the rules?”
“Maybe tomorrow,” she told him and closed her eyes.
Flora’s room was never totally dark. The hall lights were on twenty-four-seven. Her door was only closed when the nurses gave Flora a bed bath. She especially liked the almond-scented oil they massaged into her skin.
“Whose legs are those?” Flora asked when she looked at the withered appendages lying on her bed. Flora’s once sturdy legs had carried her to school, peddled a bicycle and had run into the ocean waves.
“Those are your legs, Miss Flora,” said one of the nurses.
“Can’t you feel us massaging you?” asked the other woman. Her words were cautious. She gave her partner a meaningful look.
They are seeking a sign, Flora thought. They don’t want any surprises
“No U turn!” Flora chuckled. “Exit here!”
“Driving on the highway can be stressful,” the nurse said adjusting Flora’s blankets.
I’m not driving, Flora thought. She closed her eyes – again.