Charles S. Stover: The Slop Detail (micro-fiction) Nov. 2018

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in West Virginia and grew up in West Virginia and Kentucky. I remember when I was a child in West Virginia, running through the fields in the summer, stirring up grasshoppers and bumble bees, and catching lightening bugs at night, putting them in a jar so I could read in bed after my mother made me turn off my light. It did not work very well.

The Slop Detail

“Floyd, go in the back room and get the mop and a bucket of water. Mary, fetch the broom and dustpan. First sweep, then mop. Floyd, that’s not the floor mop. Go get the right one. Schizo, dust the crumbs off the tables and wipe them clean.”

“Chucky, my name is Sammy. Never call me Schizo. Just because you’re in a wheelchair don’t give you the right to call us names.”

“You’re not only Schizo, you’re paranoid as well. Find an old rag and get that peanut butter and jelly off the floor before someone steps in it. Marsha, fold the tablecloths and put them in that box on the other side of the room. Schizo help Marsha clear the tables. Put all the teacups in a pail of water. Get another pail and pitch the silverware in it…”

Chucky had not always been so bossy. When he first came to the nursing home, he was docile, almost pleasant, but as time passed, he grew morose and irritable.

It was just a foolish accident. He tried to run up the stairs of his apartment building, tripped and injured his knee. It began to bleed profusely and he was afraid to move. A neighbor saw him lying on the steps and called an ambulance. They took him to the nearest hospital. The hospital kept him overnight. That overnight visit turned into three weeks, during which time, his legs weakened.

“I want to go home,” he demanded. “My knee stopped bleeding long ago.”

The nurse who was changing his bandages told him he had to stay in bed. When he asked about his clothing, she informed him they were in storage. He tried to get up, but each time he put his feet on the floor, a buzzer sounded and two attendants rushed into his room and made him get back in bed. They told him he could not go home, that his apartment had been closed and his case was tied up in the courts. They said it was because he could not manage his own affairs.

“You can’t do this to me,” Chucky cried angrily.

One day, they moved Chucky off his cot and strapped him to a stretcher. They put him in a van and drove him to a nursing home. The nursing home staff was waiting for him. Two aides rushed out, lifted him off the stretcher and seated him in a wheelchair.

“If this chair is too uncomfortable,” said one of the aides, “we can get you another.”

Chucky was too upset to answer. They pushed him inside the building and the automatic doors closed behind them. They wheeled him down the aisle to his new room.

“You’ve got to let me out of here,” Chucky retorted harshly. “I don’t belong here. I want to go back to my apartment.”

“This is your home now,” they told him.

It took Chucky a long time to adjust to his new surroundings. With nothing to do, the days were long and boring. Finally, rehab gave him a khaki uniform and settled him with a job as assistant supervisor of cleaning in the kitchen and dining room.

The days went faster with the new job. He started work at seven in the morning and usually finished at six in the evening. Still, he was confused as to why he had to stay there. More than anything, he wanted to go home. He considered breaking a window and just walking away, but he knew he was not physically capable.

One night after he finished work, he felt dizzy and disoriented. The others had already left and he was alone. He tried to roll backwards out of the kitchen and mistakenly rolled himself into the storeroom. The wheels of his chair hit the wooden doorstop, dislodged it, and the heavy door of the storeroom swung shut on him leaving him in total darkness.

He was surrounded on three sides by boxes of detergent and cleanser stacked to the ceiling. He wheeled his chair forward, slamming into the door. He tried to push it open, but it would not budge.

“Somebody, get me out of here,” he shouted.

He wanted to turn on the light, but he could not find the switch. He gripped the wheels of his chair and endeavored to jerk it around, but discovered the stacks of boxes were too close. He kicked aimlessly outward trying to create more space. Several boxes fell on him and knocked over his wheelchair. The edge of one of the boxes had struck him on the temple just above his eye. Blood trickled down his face and into the edge of his mouth.

“Please,” he yelled weakly, “somebody help me.”

Chucky lay motionless in his overturned wheelchair, his knees doubled under him. A pool of blood had formed beneath his head and spread across the concrete floor.

Morning sunlight streamed through the white shear curtains of the dining room windows. The chatter was starting to die down as the residents finished breakfast and went back to their rooms. The housekeeping supervisor told the cleanup crew to get to work.

“Mary, find a broom and start sweeping. Floyd, get the mop and a bucket of water. When Mary’s finished sweeping, run the mop over the floor. Sammy, get a rag and wipe off the tables. Don’t push the crumbs off on the floor. Ralph, get the buffer and buff the floor as soon as it’s dry. Has anyone seen Chucky?”