To Mr. Perry my Writer’s Craft teacher. Without you this story would have never been created. Thanks a million, this little character sketch has developed into something much more than that.
The car tires screeched as I sliced around the corner onto Arthur Street.
Emily was strapped into her car seat screaming in the back of the minivan. I passed two cars and quickly veered off to the right as an oncoming car missed me by an inch. Taking a deep breath my fingers gripped the steering wheel. “Marsha, it’s going to be okay,” I told myself for the fifth time today since the chase began. “I’m going to get him back.”
The bright pink van plodded along ten cars ahead of me and turned onto Main Street. Flying past a stop sign I went left onto Dundurn Street, hoping to cut them off before they reached the street lights. Turning the corner and, much to my relief, there was the big smiley face painted on the back of the pink van. The lights were set to red as I stopped right behind it. The sign on the car read: Happy Nappy’s Diaper Service. I continued to stare. It was taunting me. I honked my horn but the only reply was an angrier honk. The light turned green and the van sped off, giving me just enough time to see a tiny head poke out the back window of the ridiculous looking vehicle. “Jacob!” I gritted my teeth and stayed right on Happy Nappy’s tail, not letting it gain one iota of space: praying for the driver to pull over. Working for the Henry’s for three years has not been what one would consider a picnic; Jake was a serious cause for lack of parental discipline, always screaming out for attention. Always going about it the wrong way.
I watched, horrified, as I saw the back of the service van opening and the smiling face of Jacob. I knew that mischievous smile all too well. He was planning something. I didn’t see what was in his hand until it was too late. Splat! The sound was sickening, in the center of the window, a dirty diaper landed, spraying its foul contents all over the minivan. I used the window wipers to remove most of the mess, but it didn’t stop the smearing. Jacob was clutching his stomach in laughter as he shut the door.
I had never realized how pathetic my life really was until that moment. Driving a van smeared with feces is not my idea of how to spend a sunny Friday afternoon. Was it my fault that no one would accept me to be a nurse? Was it my fault that no one would give me a job? I expelled one more long, deep breath. Emily’s howling had subsided to a low whimper. “If I lose this kid I can kiss my grocery money goodbye,” I muttered, thinking ‘This is what I get for ten lousy bucks an hour and working with a child that has A.D.D.’
My foot jammed down on the gas pedal as the tires burned rubber passing the pink abomination. The Happy Nappy signature on the van’s side blurred as I sped by. The tires squealed as the brakes were pushed to their limits as the silver minivan spun 180 degrees in front of the bright pink atrocity. The pink van came to a stop.
Shutting the van door as not to disturb Emily I was rewarded with a large, heavyset man with a brown grizzly beard. “What do you think you’re doing lady? I coulda been killed!” His voice and size intimidated me and all my anger turned to nervousness. “You’ve been following me for half an hour,” he bellowed. “What do you want!” I paused, visibly overwhelmed by his reaction. He stopped glaring daggers and sighed, his voice still rough with anger. ”Women drivers! How many days do you think I actually enjoy hauling this crap? One in a million. It was my lucky day and then you come along.”
I focused on the ketchup stain on his white t-shirt, avoiding his gaze. “You wouldn’t stop and Jake, I mean Jacob, is in your van.”
“Speak up; I can barely hear you for pity’s sake. Jacob? Who the heck is Jacob, I still have a lot of houses to deliver diapers to and you’re slowing me down.”
“He’s in the back, I’m…I’m babysitting him.”
I never thought I’d see a man that sold diapers look at me with such disgust. I bet lots of people at the age of 25 babysit; it’s a common career…. He waved a big sausage-like finger at the van. “Go get ‘em, but stay out of my way. You should learn to look after those kids better. I’m surprised you’re even allowed to babysit.”
I scurried off, averting his gaze as I hurried to the back and opened the door to find Jacob sleeping on a skid of diapers. The back of the van reeked of dirty diapers and the man’s sweat. Diapers were stacked here and there: in bags, on skids. I lifted Jacob up and took him out of that accursed vehicle. I shut the doors with my foot and headed to my van before driving off with the Happy Nappy man shooting me poisonous rays of hate. Curious and pitiful looks were also sent my way by other drivers, stopped at the scene. Pity…like I needed any more of that.
Silence enveloped my car as the two children slept. Two-year-old Emily must have worn herself out from crying. I turned into number fifty-five on Broadway. The neighbours were out tending to their already trimmed hedges and weedless gardens. Their old eyes stared at me through wire-rimmed glasses. No one said anything and, for the first time today, I was thankful for silence as I took the two children into the house.
Their parents would be home in ten minutes and the van still had dirty diaper all over it. Running around to the backyard I grabbed the hose. Setting it to jet, I let the water rip out of the nozzle. I had no time for soap as I rinsed it down until it at least looked like it hadn’t been bombed with poo. I parked it in the garage, ran into the house, turned on the T.V. and made one of the only meals I knew.
The Kraft Dinner was still cooking as their parents walked into the house.
The sad thing about it is that this wasn’t even a bad day…in fact, it was relatively good.
I walked out of the house and headed to my apartment, surprised that I had gotten away with the fiasco. Jacob may be a brat but he’s no tattletale and Emily can barely even speak.
On the way home I checked my cell phone, reviewing my voicemail. I was surprised to find I had a message. Playing it, I was filled with anxiety, not knowing why until I heard a tiny voice.
Marsha Wellington. This is Sue Foster calling from Dr. Pearson’s office. Dr. Pearson would like to meet with you. Be at Kensington Hospital tomorrow for an interview at 10:15 sharp on the third floor, room 305.
That night I replayed the message over and over again, not believing that, of all the resumes I had sent out, at least one of them had gotten through to someone.
The Interview from Hell
Sitting in the dark, dreary office, gripping the armchair until my knuckles turned white I realized what a bad idea this might have been. The room zapped all happy thoughts from my mind. The door clicked open. The hustle and bustle of the hospital could be heard in the hallway. I sank even deeper into the leather, hoping to disappear. The door closed behind with a resounding thud. No sound entered or escaped this man’s sound proof walls. I was a rat locked in a cage with nowhere to go.
I have prayed for this meeting but was now thoroughly regretting it. From the stories I’d heard flitting about, Kensington Hospital is a dream. But it soon became apparent I had a meeting with the devil. As far as Rumors go, Dr. Pearson used to be a likable guy, a little rough around the edges but nothing compared to what he is now. Not until his ex wife got her claws into him during the divorce and took everything from him. His daughter and only child, Abigail was given the sole custody to his wife where she then preceded to sell not only his house but to move to a different province. His happiness had been snuffed out the moment his daughter left him. She knew well that he wouldn’t be able to see his daughter much and when she moved to a different province it was almost non-existent. Until she turned 18 and was able to make her own decisions he only gets to see her once or twice a year. Already as the story goes she hates her father due to her mother’s influence. So that’s when he hit rock bottom and became as bitter as his ex-wife. Others say it’s the stress of doing surgeries that ultimately result in death on young children like the age of his daughter sent him on his breaking point. I suspected it was a little bit of both. But the known fact to everyone was he was not fond of the female gender after that fiasco.
Dr. Pearson’s cane could be heard chipping away at the hardwood as he hobbled over toward the mahogany desk. Even his cane seemed angry at my appearance. Maybe staring in front of the mirror for two hours trying to find the perfect look for this meeting was all going to be for nothing. Fretting over posture and poise in this man’s presence didn’t seem like it mattered. Already I was thinking about the jumbled clothes thrown everywhere on my bed in paranoia, I was doomed from the moment he walked in the door. All those hours wasted.
He adjusted his spectacles, his wrinkled eyes piercing my very soul. “What is your purpose here?” He asked the question unabashed and cold, sitting in front of his impressive collection of ceiling high bookshelves. His office was daunting to me, someone who is barely five feet. His eyes narrowed at me as I stared into their inky depths. I shifted my gaze to my hands, clasping them firmly in my lap to stop the shaking.
I reached up and began to fiddle with my necklace and, after a moment’s hesitation, mustered “I—I wish to, t-to be-become a n-nurse.” My mouth felt like sandpaper. “T-to be able to save lives.” I stared, face glued to the floor, too afraid to look up.
“Not just any nurse but head nurse. Why?” He said disapprovingly. “I don’t like people who overestimate their capabilities.”
I sat up silent, not wanting to tell him my real reason. My parents always wanted the best and head nurse was their wish. I was not about to tell him about my parents, it would just give him more leverage to taunt me. Did this look like a man you would want to spill your life story to?
He scowled at my lack of information. “Former education, if you ever had any?” His voice came out more as a hiss than a word. I looked up to make sure I had heard him correctly but was too frightened to ask him to repeat the question. “Out with it woman. Spit it out. I haven’t got all day!” For a man who worked in the pediatric ward, he didn’t look like he would be very good with kids. Rumors aside, he didn’t look like he could have ever been an agreeable man.
“S-sorry sir…education? Education. I went to Niagara College then t-to Queens University, Sir.”
He leaned back on his chair closing his eyes and snickered, “Is that all?”
I was confused but kept my emotions inside, and in a meek voice answered. “Yes sir.” I was not about to let him dishearten me; I had worked too long and too hard in school to be a nurse. I wanted to show my parents that all the struggling I had done wasn’t for nothing, that I can make a difference like they made a difference in my life. But of course I couldn’t tell him that.
A tiny knock sounded on the door as a petite secretary walked in. The Dr.’s eyes snapped open, eyes blazing at the interruption. Her complexion paled as she recognized her error and left the room in haste.
The Dr. lit a cigar, inhaled and blew a ring of smoke in my face. He grinned at me through the smog as I began to cough. He then set his cigar, smoldering, into the ashtray.
My eyes followed glow of the red embers, panic finally setting in. My career would soon go up in flames. “What engaged you into this line of work? What do you have that the other twenty-five sniveling little whelps don’t have?” His weathered face showed no emotion after hurling such an insult.
The phone rang. He snatched it up ferociously, sparing me another tedious question. “What?!,” he snapped crankily into the receiver, spit flying from his mouth and landing on his desk. “No, no, no I told you not to do that! Such actions cannot be tolerated Mr. Simpson…” The other end of the line was silent. “Since you have nothing further to say, you’re fired! I’m sure we’ll all be better for it.” He slammed down the phone causing his jowls to jiggle like jelly.
My eyebrows rose skyward at his rudeness and before I heard his cries for me to return I was already halfway through the door. Leaving was the only sensible thing I had done all day.
My black cat stared back accusingly at me as I entered my tiny apartment, the sound of pins being knocked down by bowling balls could be heard from below. “Don’t look at me like that Mittens, I’m sorry…” I trailed off as I went to shut the blinds to keep the neon light of Fred’s Bowling Alley from flashing in my face. The feline flicked his tail in agitation, jumped off the counter and padded over to his dish. “Oh! You’re hungry.” And I fetched him some Meowmix from under the cruddy sink and loaded it into his bowl.
Mittens sniffed his food cautiously, turned his back on the delicacy and headed for the couch. “Aw…don’t be like that. I promise I won’t be late again. I’ve had the most horrible day today. Do you want to hear about it?” He began to lick his paws, implying just the opposite before letting out a small mew of resignation.
I sat down beside him on the couch. I went to pet him but he gave me sleety looks that meant he wasn’t going to forgive me that easily and exasperated sigh flew out of my lips. “Not you too. I went for my interview at the Kensington Hospital today it didn’t go over too well. Dr. Pearson scares me. His personality reeks of nothing but Dr., a flaw that all Dr.’s posses unfortunately it is incurable. I let the stories about him get to me. He really is an evil man. I don’t know why I thought I could actually get a job in this sort of work…” I trailed off in thought as Mittens crawled on my lap to comfort me. I had moved back to my home country, Canada after my schooling was finished to try and find work, maybe even to escape my parent’s death for America held to many painful memories. They had to move there when I was just a baby for their work. The babysitting gig appeared in the newspaper, mainly working for families of wealth. They are always looking for help. I figured it would be a temporary way to get some cash flow going, temporary turned into permanent.
“But I can’t let my parents down. It’s the one and only reason I’m doing this no matter how much I hate doctors. All they ever wanted was for me to be head nurse.” I picked up a book where my TV should have occupied and turned on the overhead light, losing myself in the literature and letting my problems melt away while allowing someone else’s life to take full control.