Ugly Nurses ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
He didn’t always know what was happening. They gave him pills and he didn’t know what they were for. He suspected they purposely kept him knocked out so he wouldn’t complain or cause trouble.
“What is this place?” he asked a nurse who came in to turn the knobs on the machines behind his head.
“You’re in the hospital,” the nurse said.
“Does it make any difference?”
He drifted off to sleep and when a young doctor came in, he asked, “What is this place?”
“How are you feeling today, Mr. Leonard?” the young doctor asked.
“I don’t feel anything.”
“That’s the definition of happiness,” the doctor said. “The absence of pain.”
“I’m going home today.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Am I in prison?”
“No, you’re not in prison, but you’re not able to go home just yet.”
“What’s wrong with me anyway?”
“You’re just feeling your age, Mr. Leonard, as we all do.”
“How old are you, doctor?”
“Do you want to trade places?”
After the doctor left, he turned as far as he could to look out the window. He could see a patch of blue sky, some white clouds and the corner of a building. None of it helped him to know where he was.
The next time a nurse came in, he asked, “What city am I in? What state?”
The nurse ignored him, marked something on her clipboard, and left.
A little while later they said they were going to get him up. They unhooked him from the machines and put him in a wheelchair.
“I can walk!” he said.
A large nurse wheeled him down a long hallway and into a large room with potted plants. One entire wall was glass. They called this room the “solarium.”
The nurse parked the chair so that his back was to the glass wall and left without a word. He tried to turn the chair around so he could see out, but it was locked in place and wouldn’t move. He was going to stand up and turn the chair around on his own, but he knew that as soon as he did that, he’d have a sharp-tongued nurse squawking at him and she would probably take him right back to his room and put him back to bed as punishment.
From where he sat, he could see the hallway and an elevator. People passed by so fast they were a blur. Some of them talked loudly and some of them laughed. The elevator doors opened and closed. Blurs got on and some got off.
“I have to get out of here,” he said. “This place is making me sick.”
A man in a red bathrobe came and sat on the couch to his left. He was the only other person in the solarium.
“Excuse me!” Mr. Leonard said.
The man in the red bathrobe turned and looked at him.
“Can you help me turn the chair around so I can see the sky?” he asked.
The man in the red bathrobe stood up, released the brake on the chair, turned it around and sat back down on the couch.
“What is this place?” Mr. Leonard turned his head and asked. The man was now to his right instead of left.
“Hospital,” the man said.
“What city? What state?”
The man shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “I’ve been here for six days,” he said. “Had surgery.”
“When are they going to let you go home?” Mr. Leonard asked.
The man shrugged again. “I like it all right here,” he said. “I like having pretty nurses take care of me.”
“I haven’t seen any pretty nurses,” Mr. Leonard said. “The ones I’ve seen are all ugly.”
“They make themselves pretty by being kind.”
“I’m going home, whether they say I can or not.”
“Where do you live?”
“I can’t seem to remember.”
“Do you know we’re on the ninth floor?” the man in the bathrobe asked. “That means it’s ninety feet down to the street.”
“Look up there in the sky,” Mr. Leonard said. “A jet plane.”
“That’s a hawk or a large crow,” the man in the bathrobe said.
“I can walk, and as soon as I get back to my room I’m going to get dressed and go home.”
“How are you going to get there?”
“I’ll call me a cab.”
“That might be a problem if you don’t remember where you live.”
“I’m not going to stay here.”
“Would you like to play a game?” the man in the bathrobe asked.
“What kind of a game?”
“I don’t know. A card game.”
“I don’t know how to play any card games.”
“Me, either. You got a wife?”
“Mine too. She died. Children?”
“Yeah, two, I think,” Mr. Leonard said. “A boy and a girl. I’m not sure if they’re still alive, though.”
“Don’t they ever come to visit you?”
“I’m not sure they know where I am.”
“I have three daughters,” the man in the bathrobe said. “Two are married and the third one is a lesbian.”
“I knew a lesbian once,” Mr. Leonard said. “She was a steel worker.”
“My name’s Eddie Peabody,” the man in the bathrobe said.
“Pleased to meet you.”
“I have a car parked outside. I can leave this place any time I want and go wherever I want. Free as a bird.”
“Maybe you could drop me off at my house,” Mr. Leonard said.
“I can’t if you don’t know where you live.”
“I could pay you for your gas.”
“It’s not that. How can I take you home if you don’t know where home is?”
“As soon as I get out of this place,” Mr. Leonard said, “I’ll start to see things I recognize. Then I’ll know where I am and I’ll know how to get home.”
“I don’t know,” Eddie Peabody said. “I think they’d see us and stop us on the way down.”
“Those ugly nurses.”
“This is not a prison,” Mr. Leonard said. “I’m an American citizen and I have certain rights.”
“Maybe I’d rather stay until they say I can go,” Eddie Peabody said.
“Do you have a car parked outside, or don’t you?”
“No, I don’t. I was only fooling.”
“Then why did you say you did?”
“I don’t know. I guess I was trying to impress you.”
“I wasn’t impressed,” Mr. Leonard said.
“Nobody ever is.”
Mr. Leonard stood up from the wheelchair and took three small steps. “See?” he said. “I told you I can walk!”
Eddie Peabody clapped his hands like a child. “Let’s go someplace and grab us a beer and a hamburger,” he said.
“Don’t you think I ought to go get dressed first?”
With tiny steps, he went out of the room and started down the hall in the direction of his room. He didn’t get far, though. Two nurses intercepted him and when they had hold of his arms, a third nurse wheeled a chair up behind him and he was forced to sit down.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” the nurse asked.
“My friend and I were just going out for a beer and a hamburger.”
The nurses put him back to bed and one of them gave him a shot that made him sleep. He dreamed that he was in the solarium but on the other side of the glass. Instead of falling the ninety feet to the street, though, he found that he could float and, once he was floating, he began to hover like a bird. There were hundreds of nurses in white uniforms down there on the street looking up at him. One of them aimed a gun at him that was a very large syringe. He smiled and waved at them and flew off over the tops of the buildings. They shook their fists at him and called him names.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp