They sat clustered around one table in an expansive, sterile dining room. No pictures hung on the white walls. A nondescript dull, neutral carpet, just laid yesterday, still emitted its fumes. Dietary workers scrambled to remove food, sweep under tables. Their shift ended when the room cleared. They were eager to go home.
Five elderly women remained around one plastic-topped round table They picked at chunks of lunch meat on wilted iceberg lettuce.
“Netflix tonight. My room!” The lady whose husband and dog died ten days ago in a bizarre auto accident smiled beatifically. Some women acknowledged her invitation as other women kissed her.
“I will bring watermelon to the movies,” one chirped A bowl of diced watermelon sat on a cold table across the room. “I know you’re moving. We gotta get the movies in first.”
“I am so happy! I go next week to live with my daughter in California.”
“My how lucky to get to be with your daughter.”
“I heard you were moving out, too.” The women’s focus shifted, settled on an attractive older woman with neatly coifed hair.
Her face glowed. “I found an apartment up the mountain a ways, five miles from here. I have been in this place for eight years. Came first as a volunteer right after my husband died. I am ready to move on. My new apartment will have a kitchen. I can’t wait to be able to cook my own food.” She eyed a stale brownie she had sitting of a pale yellow plastic plate.
“Is this my brownie?” The attention now shifted across the table. A lady with disheveled, thinning white hair addressed the woman next to her, wearing a gray-striped tunic.
“No it is mine. You can ask for one of your own.”
A short, squat woman in a bright blue muumuu pushed her walker into the dining hall. A wait-staff hurried up to her. “Why, Mrs. Jones, you have come back for more food?”
“I haven’t eaten yet today.”
“Oh yes. You left fifteen minutes ago. Don’t you remember I helped you get a brownie?”
“Oh no, I just got up from my nap.”
"The food is all put away now, Mrs. Jones. You have already eaten.”
Sullenly, Mrs. Jones headed back out of the dining hall.
“You took my brownie. You could get one of your own” The woman in the gray tunic addressed the woman next to her again. She moved the brownie squarely in front of her own place.
Another woman, one with thin, straight hair, parted on one side and held with a jaunty little bow, strutted into the dining room. Dressed in a stylish bright blue shirt and white shorts, she sported practical snub-toed tan loafers. She flashed a warm smile toward the women seated around the table. Her right knee was encased in an ace bandage. Her left arm was taped and attached to her side.”
“Goldie! How are you feeling. I heard you took a nasty fall yesterday!”
“Yes. Broken arm, messed up knee. I walked straight into a tree, fell in a bush.”
“I see you aren’t wearing those sparkly sandals today.”
“No.” She sighed. “My daughter took them from me. Said they were too dangerous.”
“Haven’t you fallen three times in the past three weeks, wearing those sandals?”
The warm smile never left her face. She gingerly rubbed her left arm. “Yeah. I guess my granddaughter will be getting new sandals. Much prettier than these. She scuffed a tan loafer across the floor across the floor.” She flashed a toothy, remorseful grin towards the group. “I have got to stop getting so close to the bushes!’
“You took my brownie. I told you that was mine.” The woman with thin, disheveled hair had surreptitiously moved the plate with the brownie wrapped in plastic closer to her. “I guess I will have to get another, myself.”
“Mrs. Jones! You back again for more food. I told you, you have already eaten tonight. Go on to bed.”
“But I don’t remember! I want dinner!”
Three women of the women shuffled out. “Don’t forget, Netflix tonight. See you soon. She is moving out soon, and so are the movies.”
A woman in faded capris and a dull plaid buttoned shirt, oxygen tube firmly inserted into her nostril, pushed her walker by the dining room. She looked straight ahead, oblivious to the stragglers around the table. She was followed by a care-giver in blue elephant scrubs. “Here.” The care-taker spoke towards the gray lady. “You can sit in this room, listen to DVD’s.” She gestured toward a stack of plastic boxes.
The woman with the gray-striped tunic smiled at the gray lady. “You haven’t been here long, have you?”
“About three weeks.”
“How are you doing? Adjusting?”
“Not well. I miss sitting out by the river every day. I don’t like looking at four walls! I can’t stand the bland food.”
“I found it hard at first, too. It gets easier.”
“The bland food? The four walls?”
“Yes. You sorta adjust. The walls don’t look so threatening. The food grows on you.” She patted a rounded hip, giggled. “What if I come get you tomorrow morning? We could walk together.”
“I don’t walk far these days.”
“But we drive the same car.” She kicked at her walker. “It doesn’t go that far, anyway.” She sighed wistfully
“Mrs. Jones! Dinner is over. You ate here earlier. Time to go back to your room.”
It is dinner time. I don’t remember eating.”
“Bland food gets to all of us” The woman in the gray tunic smiled ruefully at the gray lady with the oxygen. She placed the pale yellow plate with a stale brownie wrapped in plastic into the compartment under the seat of her walker. “See you tomorrow around 10! We can walk around the roses in the parking lot before it gets too hot.”
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"