BY CONNIE LYNN COOK
Connie Lynn Cook has been writing short stories for the last three years. Copyright is held by the author.
ROSE NEVER NEEDED an alarm clock in the morning. She simply woke up when she was ready. Such was the bliss of being 86 years old.
Today, she wiggled arthritic toes under the comforter. Yes, they were moving and ruffling the sheets under her blanket. It meant she was still alive, still breathing and that single acknowledgement flipping made her day.
There would be plenty of time for her to sleep when she was dead, but today was another opportunity to celebrate life. Besides, she had a job to do, a purpose for getting up. The lobby channel patiently waited.
At her age, Rose recognized that life took on different complexities. Shifting from the bed to a standing position took a whole 10 minutes, accompanied by the sound effects of creaking and cracking bones. Osteoporosis is such a joy. One wrong move or a bad turn, and you could have a fracture. But then again you can’t live your life that way, besides worrying gave you ulcers, and that would just be remedied by another pill from the Doc. Pharmaceutical companies had a joy ride with the elderly she reckoned.
Today, Rose wondered if she would get to the bathroom on time to pee, but then stopped and giggled to herself. Hell, that’s what overnight Depends are for. Why worry about it?
As she fixed herself tea and toast, her 56” flat screen TV beckoned. Rose chuckled as she recalled her great grandchildren buying it for her. What a production they’d made of it. You’d have thought they were offering her the holy grail of aging. Of late, they’d been way too attentive, wanting to take her to doctor’s appointments, probably waiting to see how soon she would die, then offering to take her to the lawyers to make sure her will was up to date. If they were any more transparent they’d be carved in plastic somewhere. Thank god, plastic is recyclable, she thought.
They’d get their due when they finally read her will and discovered her entire estate had been bequeathed to a cat rescue service. Serves those grandkids right, too little and way too late, she mused.
In the meantime, Rose had lots of channel choices on her TV. But why watch the weather station, when she wasn’t going out. Why listen to news that was glorified, biased and filtered by some producer who was telling her what news she should be listening to. As for regular programming, there was just too much reality crap happening.
Whether it was a program on cooking, decorating, child rearing, the message was always the same. We’re never going to get it done on time, we’re over budget, kids’ are ruling the roost, yaddah yaddah yaddah. Rose reckoned the producers were saving a shit load of money by not having to pay real actors or actresses. There was something really wrong with this, she thought. What ever happened to shows like I Love Lucy, Dr. Kildare, Bonanza and, Father Knows’ Best. They were good stories that sometimes made you laugh, sometimes made you cry, but at the very least had a beginning, middle and an end. Some real meat in the sandwich that left you feeling satisfied, not stressed.
But as she settled into her recliner and hit 99 on the remote control, The Lobby Channel, her own personal version of reality TV came to life.
Ah yes, there was the lady who lived upstairs. Ms Late 201 was racing through the lobby, glancing at her watch as she ran. Rose reckoned she’d be late for work again. She wondered why Ms 201 hadn’t been fired yet. She was late at least three days out of a five day work week and Rose had been watching her for the last year.
The door had barely closed when Mr. Virile 502 entered the lobby from the elevator with yet another lady in trail. Rose chuckled. Three mornings this week there had been a different lady leaving the building with him. Smeared mascara under their eyes from the night before, looking straggled and probably wondering why they’d spent the night with this guy. Rose hoped the women were making him use condoms. Otherwise, this guy could be a walking sexually-transmitting-disease-chamber.
Thank goodness for Mrs. Perfect Mom from 603, exiting the elevator with two kids in tow. Nicely dressed, carrying lunch bags and holding hands. The scene restored Rose’s faith in family and all that was considered good. Her heart went out to them.
Oh, and what was this? She watched intently as the delivery man from Canada Post buzzed the front door, carrying a package in a plain brown wrapper. Thank goodness for that big screen TV. Rose could see the return address and she wasn’t stupid. Plain brown wrapper meant something to be hidden. Usually it was those Viagra pills or something naughty. She waited with heightened anticipation. Who would come to claim it?
Man, it was taking a long time for the recipient to come down. But when he did it was Mr. 708. Rose was shocked. Mr. 708 had always seemed such a nice man, in his 70’s and always very polite whenever they’d met in the communal laundry room. Guess you can’t judge a book by its cover, she thought.
The lobby had barely cleared when the front doors opened again. Oh crap, there was Mr. 701 coming in from an all night bender. He struggled to catch his balance, held onto the walls and had there been sound effects, she was sure a loud belch would have erupted from his mouth. At least he hadn’t hurled this time. Last week, there had been porridge like spew spattered all over the walls.
Rose felt sorry for the superintendent who had to clear up after his messes. He’d sprayed/mopped and disinfected for an hour after the last episode. She reckoned it was time for a good person to enter or exit the lobby doors.
But then along came Mary from 305, with her rat sized dog in tow, dragging him by the leash to the outside door. The poor wee dog barely had a chance to pee and poop under the shrub on the front lawn, before it was hauled back inside. Rose took note of the date and time. Mary never scooped and it was a long time issue with the condo board. She needed to be reported, again.
Couldn’t there be a redeeming soul who entered the building, wondered Rose?
Ah yes, here was Lizzie, bursting through the front door. Her uniform was immaculate, huge blue eyes, looking straight into the lobby camera, doing a happy dance and mouthing, “I know what you’re up to. Let me in willya?”
Rose quickly buzzed her in. Lizzie was her personal support worker from Home Care. She was the sweet young girl who helped her in the shower, did some light housekeeping, grocery shopping and enabled her to live independently in her condo.
Lizzie laughed out loud as Rose shared her morning stories. “You’re a wicked woman Rose,” she said. “You’re like neighborhood watch and building security all rolled into one. I’ll try not to keep you too long. I know you have a job to do and the TV is waiting. Besides, it’s Friday, the weekend. If you stay up late enough, God only knows the stories you’ll be able to tell me next.”
Lizzie was right on the money, thought Rose. She could stay up as late as she wanted, didn’t have to wake up until she felt like it, and if tomorrow she was still breathing, the TV would be waiting. If death took her during the night, the cat rescue service would be well endowed and her great grandchildren would have to find their own way in life.
For now, The Lobby Channel would continue to be her lifeline, at least until she was six feet under! Rose giggled. She was still breathing. Life was good!