Birds on a Wire – Episode 6

I sat in my chair staring out the window in my living room. The day had turned cloudy and dreary threatening rain at the slightest provocation. Only a few hours earlier, it had been clear and sunny as I watched the sun rise from my kitchen table. I felt like a prisoner in my own home only able to see the world outside but not experience it as all people were meant to do.

The woman my kids hired to look after me sat across from me reading her damn book and ignoring me. I turned my attention to her and cleared my throat. It had been weeks since my brief stay in the hospital, but I remained confined to the walker that stood beside my chair openly mocking my condition. The nurse, if that’s what she really was, forced me to use the damn thing day after day. I couldn’t sit in peace at all without her trying to encourage me to get up and walk around. When she wasn’t torturing me, she sat quietly reading her book like I wasn’t there.

I didn’t like her. I knew she was in cahoots with Carla and Rudy because she refused to tell me where Barbara was. She pretended that she didn’t know who Barbara was and seemed agitated every time I asked her about my wife. I also didn’t like the way she looked. She had a studded nose ring and multiple earrings on each ear. She also had a tattoo that covered most of her left arm. Barbara would have never let such a woman in our house.

“I’m thirsty,” I said. My voice was still hoarse and feeble. Most people had to lean toward me to understand what I said, but this woman had sharp ears and apparently could hear me curse her name one room away.

She looked over the top of her book at me and smiled. “Sure thing, Mr. Dunn. What would you like?”

She put her book on the coffee table as she waited for my answer. She leaned toward me as if I held the secret meaning of life and was about to spill my guts. For a brief moment, I thought about asking for a shot of whiskey. It had been so long since I had tasted good whiskey, and I suddenly had a hankering for it. A cigarette, too. Instead, I thought of Barbara and how my drinking had affected her years ago and how she had spent more than half of our marriage trying to get me to quit smoking, and I decided that lemonade would be just fine.

I watched the nurse pad off toward my kitchen in her glaring white sneakers and scrubs. I couldn’t shake the contrast of her nurse’s garb and the tattoos and piercings. I cursed her under my breath.

“Did you say something, Mr. Dunn?” she asked as she came back into the room with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a towel in another.

Startled by her question, I said the first thing that came to mind. “When will Carla be here?”

“Probably about the same time she usually gets here.”

I disliked her inexact response. I shook my head before she put the glass to my lips. “And what time is that?”

“6 o’clock,” she said titling the glass up so that I could drink more. Some lemonade dribbled down my chin, and she wiped it with the towel in her other hand. She pulled the glass back so I could take a breath.

“What time is it now?” I asked.

“2 o’clock.”

I sighed and shook my head. The nurse seemed amused.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Dunn, I’m here to take care of you.”

“Where’s Barbara?” I blurted between sips. “My wife.”

“Mr. Dunn…”

“I know you know where she is.”

“I’m sorry…”

“No, tell me. Please.”

She put the glass on the coffee table without the coaster, something Barbara would never have allowed in our house, but I ignored it because I could sense that I had an opportunity.

“When is the last time you saw your wife, Mr. Dunn?” she asked as if she were a police investigator on one of those crime shows she watched when she wasn’t reading her book.

I thought for a moment and tried to determine when she had walked out of our bedroom on that morning she left, but time had become distorted in my mind. A day alone at home felt like a week. A week in the hospital felt like an eternity.

“Last week,” I said giving up on any concept of time.

“Really?” she said ticking her head to one side like a dog when it hears an unusual sound. “When I was here last week?”

“Were you here last week?” I asked, confused. She liked to play mind games with me. “No, before you ever came here.”

“I’ve been with you for four months, Mr. Dunn.”

“Four months?”

“Yes, and I haven’t met your wife.”

Her response dumbfounded me. I asked for more lemonade because I didn’t know what else to say. She retreated to the kitchen again, and I turned to watch the rain drops pelt the window in my living room. The drops began as a sparse series of bulbous drops on my window and quickly coalesced together as the rain storm entombed my house. All was silent save for the rain on my window. I leaned back and closed my eyes and wondered what had kept Barbara away for so long.

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