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Oh, Earl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It’s our second day at the hospital volunteering as candy stripers. Dressed in hideous red and white-striped pinafores, we look like two plump peppermint drops rolling along with our trolley.

Starting in Room 601, we maneuver our metal cart around the loop, stopping at each room to collect the styrofoam water pitchers. The corridors echo with the wails of a poor soul begging, “Someone ... someone take me home! Take me home!”

When we cautiously tap on a door and politely ask if we can “freshen” the occupant’s water, we never know what we’ll find. Everyone seems old and mentally unstable. Half the time the patients are curled up in fetal positions, and groan and wheeze and glare at us with bulging, cataract-covered eyes as we remove their pitchers. We try not to look when their hospital smocks bunch up around their waists and their pallid thighs protrude, nearly exposing everything we do not want to see.

We were about halfway around the floor when Rachel breezed out of a room, eyes bugged out and sucking in her breath.

“Don’t go in there. I don’t think he needs water,” she whispered, pointing to the open door. “The person has a sheet over his head. I think he’s dead!”

My face clouded. Scenes from horror movies flashed through my head. Morbid as it may sound, though, my curiosity got the better of me and I peeked into the room.

There on the bed lay a still form. A white cloth was draped over the body, the fabric sunk around its crookedly cocked head to form hollow shadows over the eye sockets. Only two bloated, yellow-toenailed feet protruded from the sheet.

My stomach hiccuped as I looked away. How pathetic that the hospital didn’t even have a sheet large enough to cover the body! And how could all the nurses and doctors traipse from room to room so happily when a dead man lay just down the hall?

As we continued down the corridor with our cart of water pitchers, Rachel and I whispered in a flurry of disbelief, “Oh my God! I can’t believe it! How crazy is this place?”

Just as we rounded the corner, however, we heard a nurse tap on the door to the room we had just left and exclaim in a sing-song voice, “Oh, Earl, only your feet are sticking out of the blanket!”

Rachel and I looked at each other, pressing a hand to our mouths as our faces split into grins. Oops! Poor old Earl never did get his pitcher of water that day!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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