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The Elderly Do Know Best
You sit in a worn, leather chair besides a small table, awaiting your sweltering bowl of clam chowder. Tapping your wrinkly fingers on the flower pattern of the couch, you wait impatiently. You rub the wisps of gray hair on your chin, meeting the eyes of passersby, giving them a certain maniacal grin. A middle-aged woman comes to your assistance, holding a steaming bowl, light mist drifting from the surface of the chowder.
“Where have you been?” you bark once seeing her, “I’m not getting any younger!”
She merely gives you a phony smile, just as she was told to, and hands the bowl over to you, warning, “Be careful! It’s hot!” in that sickly-sweet voice.
Before you process the words, your fingers wrap around the sizzling clay of the bowl. “What the hell?” you wail, furiously.
The woman in front of you merely rolls her eyes.
“Clarence, I warned you!” She leaves before you start on your usual tirade about how the world has gone amiss, repaying veterans by handing them boiling soup that will scorch their fingers. You think back to your days in the Green Berets.
Badass, that’s what you were. Dirt covered the entirety of your face as you returned from your mile-trek in Vietcong territory. Your AK-47 was still in your hand as you entered base camp, fingers still on the trigger, ready to shoot just about any Asian man that crossed your path. You walked in to the sleeping area, trudging over to your cot, when you see Maurice, your buddy, whimpering because his girlfriend back home had found another man. Hundreds of shredded papers were piled on to his bed as he whined about the letters she had sent him. You approached his pitiful self, telling him what he needed to here, that real men don’t cry. You told him that he could find another woman just like that, a foreign woman that could blow his ole Marissa right out of the water. He looked up at you with that pathetic face of his, and you ordered him to get up and go to dinner. Of course, you accompanied him to the dining hall. The camp served you clam chowder that night. You picked one up from the table and gave yours to Maurice, telling him that it was good for a man’s soul. They didn’t dare give you a scorching bowl back then. You would’ve kicked their ass.
Now, that you’re old, they think they can take advantage of you.
Another few minutes pass by as you blow, or wheeze, on to your finger, attempting to fan away the burning feeling. As you pant on to your palm, you’re breaths become staggered and soon turn in to a coughing fit. Another staff member working at the home, rushes to your side, patting your back as you cough. You look up to see the face of the man, shouting in between fits of wheezing.
“What-the-the hell are you- you doing?” you ask, enraged, your face flushed a cherry red, “I’m-I’m dy-ying and all you-you’re g-gonna do is sit here and r-rub my back like I’m s-some Momma’s bo-oy!”
Once seeing your flushed face, the man stands up abruptly and dashes in the direction of the halls. He yells staff members’ names, trying to find someone who would assist you, the infamous Clarence. It’s a hell of a reputation to hold, being notorious and all. You’ve been persistent in your furious rants, fickle behavior, and conceited attitude since the very beginning, grade school as far as you can remember.
You held your chubby legs out for the sole purpose of tripping as many people as you can while walking down the halls. You were on your way to harassing the freaks that were always camped out in front of the boy’s bathroom when a short, scrawny boy had the nerve to approach you. You pushed him out of the way, but he continued to walk back in to your path. He said that he had to go to the restroom too, then pushed up his dorky wire-rimmed glasses from its resting place on his nose. You replied that he couldn’t, just for the hell of it, wanting to know what he would say. Right then, he dared to call you a name that stuck with you for the rest of your childhood,” Scary-Clary.” Of course, you punched him square in the jaw right afterwards, but the name stuck, nonetheless.
From that day forwards, you’re name was associated with fear, and that’s just how you liked to keep it. The staff at this old folks’ home just happened to have their jobs on the line if they called you anything more than Clarence.
The clam-chowder woman comes by after a few moments as you recover from your fit, adjusting your posture. She looks you up and down and turns back to the man, “Looks like he has recovered,” she says, sarcastically.
“Well, no s***, Sherlock,” you say, your voice oozing with disdain, “I think we have the next Albert Einstein in here!”
She looks at you, in some sort of bizarre pity, and turns around to assist the rows of other wheezing old folks. The moron that rubbed your back looks to you hesitantly. “I think I should give you your daily medicine now,” he says, anxiously, as if you have the ability to eat him whole.
You prop your cane up from its leaning position on the ground and hoist your body upwards. “It’s about time,” you mutter, barely audible under your breath. He leads you to a large room filled with cabinets, storage for most of the residents’ medicines. He has a slip of paper with Clarence written on top of it and which pills to take written at the bottom. The moron sets the paper down on the wet counter, and water slowly begins to seep through as he obliviously searches through the cabinets.
You stare at the “drowning” paper, smirking, waiting for him to realize what is happening, although it takes him a few minutes. You suspect that it takes a while longer for morons to truly comprehend certain situations and remember your mother’s crucial piece of advice that she gave so long ago about these kinds of people.
She pulled you aside as you were setting up your dorm room in college. You were just on the way to kicking your parents and little sister out of your new home when she told you she had the urge to say something important. You were completely puzzled as she pinned you to the wall and whispered in your ear. She said, “Clarence, you’re going to meet all kinds of idiots in your lifetime, and some, you’re going to be forced to deal with. Here’s what you do. If you can’t get the hell out of the situation, break out a piece of chocolate or some coffee, maybe even have a drink if it’s drastic. It’ll keep your juices flowing.” You nodded your head like a maniac and told her you would take heed of the advice. With that she gave you a kiss goodbye and exited your dorm, leaving you to marvel at her utter brilliance.
You found out early that she was completely accurate. You have a feeling that this is going to be one of those times. It’s too bad nobody would give an old man a beer around here.
He finally looks over to the soggy piece of paper. “No, no, no,” he exclaims.
“Yes, yes, yes, “ you reply, “What did you think would happen when you set a piece of paper on a wet countertop?”
You give him a hearty laugh, letting it all sink in. He rubs the paper against his shirt attempting to dry it although the ink had already smeared across the page. Then, he tries one of his other ingenious tricks, staring at the slip so hard you would’ve thought he was decoding some cryptic message.
“Wait, I think I can read it,” he yells, as if making some miraculous discovery.
“Oh really?’ you say, sarcastically.
“It says…two of Vicoden, one of Retalin, three of Solpadol, and two of Synflex.”
“One quick question, son,” you say, “Are you taking care of me for the rest of the day.”
“Yes, Sir,” he says, “I’m assigned to you since Ms. Mary Elizabeth is sick.” You take you’re only chance. “Then, that dosage sounds just about right,” you exclaim, thinking that a few more pills would take the edge off what you knew to be a ridiculous day, fulfilling the adventures of the moron. Who cares about over dosage? You lived a good life, might as well die happy.
He hands you the pills and a large cup of water. You swig down each one leisurely, waiting for any immediate, dramatic side effects. After deciding that the dosage was safe for the time being, you take your cane and look at him, prepared.
“Do you want to go on a walk now?” he asks, unsure of what else to do with you.
“Sure, son,” you say, feeling oddly calm as you follow him to the home’s outdoor space.
He points out vibrant flowers and massive trees, giving names and “fun facts” about them as if you were in the second grade. However, you don’t pay any attention. Your mind wanders off, and you feel light, as if you have no weight. You begin to bounce on the balls of your feet, amused. Your delight causes you to laugh hysterically. You begin to wheeze and place a hand on the moron’s shoulder, in order to gain support. Your wrinkly fingers wrap around his arm as you hunch over the ground, coughing from the exertion of energy. The moron looks at you incredulously, as if replaying the image of an old man bouncing up and down, acting as if he was two years old.
He seems worried while looking at you. “Are you alright?” he asks, unsure of what to do.
“Just peachy,” you reply.
“What could I have done wrong?” he mutters to himself.
You stare at him incredulously. “Why don’t you check that soggy slip of paper one more time?” You chuckle, “They say old people need to get their eyes checked.”
He stares at the open air, blankly, and then, it dawns on him. “Did I give you too many pills?”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” you say.
“I thought it sounded reasonable, considering your age,” he said.
“Hey!” you exclaim, “Who are you calling old?”
He turns to you, sorrowfully. “Clarence, let’s face it: you don’t have too many years left.”
You burst in to tears because of your hearty laughter. “You don’t think I know that, son?”
He sighs, “Why did you let me give you extra pills, anyways? You know that I could get in trouble because of you.”
“That’s exactly why I did it, son. I don’t think I could bare to spend the entire day with you, without a few extra drugs.”
He looks at your ridiculous expression and shakes his head, with a grin plastered on his face. “I guess that the elderly do know best.”