*skrinch* *crinkle*

*skrinch* *crinkle*

Russel’s eye twitched and he drew in a calming breath. It didn’t help.

The small, sterile, white room surrounded him. Its noises, sights, and smells all too familiar.

*skrinch*

Mrs. Rosiland sat at her tiny table, construction paper and glue sticks spread about her, knobby hands wobbling around a pair of ancient scissors. Their jaws shrieked as they chewed through the paper. Arts and crafts for day seven hundred in a row. This time it was autumn leaves in garish reds, yellows, and browns.

It was almost too much for Russel to bear.

*crinkle*

Across the room Mr. Sault was wrestling with his candy again. The bright blue bag of N&Ns twisted in his grip, plastic unyielding to his fingers. Russel had lost count of how many times this had occurred.

*skrinch* *crinkle*

This was the grating symphony of his life now and the sounds in the room were the harmony punctuating the trickle of time. Mrs. Astin sighed and fanned the collar of a terribly ugly sweater while above her the ceiling fan spun on. Heaven forbid they ever turn it off. Beside her Mr. Billings slurped at that same mug of coffee Russel had never seen him actually finish. The rest of the residents were the same. Wrinkled, shriveled up, silver haired coots who were never happy, never comfortable, never not needing something.

He’d been here too long. He knew this, but he also knew he was close now. He almost had enough stashed away to get out of here and go somewhere warm and sunny. He just needed to hold on a while longer.

The hard slapping of boots interrupted images of white sand beaches. Russel froze.

Not today, he hoped furiously.

It didn’t help, because today was just like every other day.

Mr. Hengle marched up to Russel in his moth eaten, but still pressed, military uniform from the last century, and came to a sharp halt.

Russel forced a smile.

“Good morning, Mr. Hengle. How are you today?”

Hengle’s eyes narrowed beneath a tangle of grey eyebrows.

“Mr. Sault’s wallet is missing!” the old man barked.

Russel’s teeth clenched behind the smile. Not this again.

“Do you want me to have one of the nurses help you look for it?”

Hengle kept glaring.

“Where were you this morning?”

Hengle was nothing if not paranoid. Well, they were all paranoid, and it made things difficult on a daily basis, but Hengle was certainly at the top of the heap.

“I was with Dr. Long all morning,” Russel said. “But I’ll be happy to keep my eyes open.”

Hengle snorted.

“I’m watching you, sonny,” Hengle said and brushed past him, polished shoes clicking against the linoleum.

Russel let the smile fall and ran his fingers through his hair.

Soon.

Then he froze as he caught sight of Mrs. Murphy sitting beside Sault, something flat and shiny clutched in one hand. She began sharply poking at it with one finger.

A new phone. That’s just what he needed. He knew enough to know when he needed to act. He smoothed the front of his shirt and crossed the room to her.

“Good morning, Mrs. Murphy.”

*tap tap*

No response. Beside her Sault kept on fumbling with his bag of candy.

“Did your children get you a new phone?”

*tap tap*

*crinkle*

“I can help you out with that if I can just see it for a minute.”

*tap tap*

Russel put on a smile.

“Here, let me turn it on for you.”

He gently grasped the top of the phone and pulled. Her grip didn’t budge.

“I’ll give it right back,” he said and pulled again.

Her brows drew together, she tugged back.

*crinkle*

Of course it couldn’t be easy.

“Just for a minute,” he said and pulled harder.

The woman had a grip like a vice, her hand didn’t move so much as an inch. But she did look up. Her eyes were hard.

“Stop it!” she shouted.

Russel jumped and then heard a pop, like a gun going off. Or a bag of candy exploding.

He was vaguely aware of mutli-colored N&Ns flying skyward. Directly toward the ceiling fan.

The pinging, cracking, crunching sounds they made were tremendous. And then he forgot about the sounds as hard shelled candies, accelerated to terminal velocity, started zinging across the room.

Mrs. Astin screamed and threw her hands over her head. Sault leapt backward in his chair and went over in heap. Something sharp smacked off the side of Russel’s head and he staggered.

“Incoming!” A voice bellowed and shoes slapped sharply against the floor.

Russel spun in time to see Mr. Hengle tackle Mrs. Rosiland to the floor. Her legs caught her table and then it was fall again as paper leaves went airborne, right into the updraft of the fan.

Red, yellow, and brown paper flew everywhere. Russel tilted and staggered and swatted at the stuff, but it was no use. She’d used a lot of glue. They coated his hands and face. He spat and grabbed. And then his feet went out from under him.

He smacked his head hard and lay there dazed, barely feeling the cold coffee soaking through the back of his shirt. Or noticing that Mr. Sault’s wallet had flopped out of his pocket and on to the floor.

A commotion followed above him, and by the time he’d regained his senses, strong hands had him about the arms and were hauling him to his feet.

Dr. Long stood before him, wallet held in one hand.

“Looks like we need to talk, Russel.”

Long nodded and the two men, who Russel now realized were Biff and Bob, the huge orderlies they kept on staff, hustled him toward Long’s office.

As he was shoved through the doorway, Russel looked back, and the ancient retirees were clustered together, smiling. Mr. Sault winked and waved.

Russel guessed sandy beaches weren’t in his future for a long time.

This was a piece for a 1k – 2k flash fiction challenge requiring the following prompts:

  • Retirees
  • Candy
  • Autumn Leaves
  • A ceiling fan

I hope you enjoyed it.