The minute I told that macho he-man high school gym teacher to fuck off,
I was free.
All the classes before his were like surgical waiting rooms
and I waited
worried in all of them, with a blank brain as dark and cold
as the inside of a refrigerated truck.
But it’s ok. He’s doing the pushups now.
Daises, I mean.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
I saw it all. I am the head chef at
the Trickling Minutes Nursing Home
and I even got it all on my cell phone camera.
It looked like this—
—Oscar, trying to eat his cantaloupe,
which kept sliding away on his plate like a
slippery orange canoe, said:
“You feeling alright, Lester? You look a little jumpy.”
“I think my heart’s gonna blow!”
“What? Hey! Where’s your wife?”
“What? At 90?”
“So what? She’s out there on the waves. Hey.
Did you like the Bee Gees?”
“Why would you ask me that in this moment?”
“My ex-wife's ex boyfriend—this was in '78—
he called them The Dolphins, because of how high
they sing. I just remembered that because we
were talking about the sea.”
“Say, I like this new ramp they’ve put in
for us and our wheelchairs.”
“Right there behind you. From the cafe here, all the way
down the hall to the new indoor pool. That will come in handy!”
“Hey. Yeah. Look at that! They put in that red wallpaper
and those yellow lights only last week, not to mention
all the paintings! And I'm ready for a swim, maybe even
today. I never could surf though, Oscar.”
“Listen Lester, why don't you read me from your book
while you finish that omelette. Take your time.
What is it? Moby Dick again? Is there any surfing in there?”
“It’s all I ever read, at this point. Where do you want me to start?”
“At the start.”
“Ok. Hmmm, 625 pages. Fuck me! Ok. Well,
here: Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—oh oh oh. OH!”
“Is this still Moby Dick?”
Lester had picked up his fat hardback of Moby
Dick to read out loud, but he'd picked up an end of
the tablecloth with it, and when he leaned back to relax,
and read—he’d set his wheelchair in motion—backwards
and down the handicapped ramp, taking the table cloth
with him like a long white wedding train.
Oscar grabbed onto the other end of the table cloth and
was pulled along like a panicked bridesmaid—in a wheelchair!
“Hey Lester! You alright? Hang on! We're headed
for the pool! How's your heart?”
“It's beating fast! I think it's gonna blow!”
“BREATHE! Try to meditate before we hit the pool!”
“Oh Oscar, is there time for that? Ha ha, this is fun!”
“It is, but are you alright?”
Lester rolled down the hall into the new blue-tiled indoor
pool room and splashed backwards into the water.
The long table cloth shortened, sort of bunched up and accordioned
into the pool as Oscar rolled down and splashed in on top of it all.
I couldn't see Lester from where I was, running down the ramp.
I threw off my apron and tall chef's hat in order to run faster,
and when I got there I still saw no Lester, but Oscar was floating
and flailing at the water, calling out for his friend.
Then there were bubbles. Bursting up effervescently like
the champagne I'd opened the night before at the
Trickling Minutes Friday Night Chess & Champagne Hour.
Lester bobbled up pink, spraying laughter!
I went back up the ramp and put my chef's hat back on, so relieved,
staying close to enough to hear and film the rest.
“Lester! Catch your breath! How's the heart? Did it blow?”
“Not this time, old friend!”
“I thought you died down there. I missed you already.”
“Not today, Oscar. Not yet. Maybe never, and who cares when it comes!
Isn't this all—hasn't this been—fun?”
“We do have fun. Remember the time we accidentally set fire to the gift shop?”
“Those corny cards and stuffed animals really burn!”
They laughed and splashed and then they looked at me.
“What's for lunch, Captain?”
“What would you like?”
“Well, it's almost Thanksgiving, how about pumpkin pie?”
“And champagne?” I asked.
“And champagne. Yes.”