Joe never cared for holidays while he was married, they were a pain in the ass, more money spent for posterity's sake, money he didn't have. Awww you shouldn't have, she says. Thanks for thinking of us, they say, I can't accept this, they'd wince while unwrapping.
Bullshit, take the god-damn garbage!
It cost me the price of owning a new pair of shoes or paying my cable bill. He gave because he had to, she wanted him to, and because that's what everyone did, and that fucking $200 birthday cake for a 4 year old, what was that all about?
None of that mattered anymore, not here, not at the Shadybrook nursing home of Farm Road 971. Here he could crap his pants, smile, and know some semi-illiterate with a GED and 4 months of technical school was gonna wipe his ass and change his diaper. He was a mean son-of-a-bitch to them, all except for one, Norma.
Norma Gutierrez had been working here far longer than he'd been involuntarily sequestered by his son and his short-haired-pixie-cut bitch. His son was a doctor, paid Joe's room and board at the Geriatric Inn, but useless to him otherwise, more concerned about saving his marriage to that woman and her affinity for the nightlife with other men. They're just friends she'd tell him. She convinced him to have an open marriage. His son bored him with his complaints.
Joe saw her sucking off someone, another doctor probably, or maybe that Hobbit looking fellow, a friend of hers who'd come over while her son was at work. She was deep-throating this fella' in the back seat of an Audi behind Halcyon coffee bar. He saw her, she saw him. She sat up. Put on his coat, kept walking, drove to the hospital, his son's pick-up truck still in the parking lot, confirmation.
Norma was good to him, didn't bullshit him. When his sister died, she held his hand for over an hour while he cried himself to sleep. She kept unwanted visitors away, uploaded his favorite liberal-pinko podcasts, always fixed the mistakes the young attendants made, like that wacky time one of them accidentally clogged his catheter with a soiled tampon and yanked out his Foley bag. She changed his channel to Fox News in the day room. He belittled her nit-wit narrow minded small town ideology. She played a joke oh him, but what's an old bed-ridden man to do when hearing the same honky bullshit he's heard for decades?
Norma wheeled him back to the television lounge after he'd promised to be nice to old redneck Steve Hillard. He was an Iraq War Veteran, you know?
He referred to any brown skinned person without a Mexican accent as Haji, even Dr. Sidhu, who was clearly Indian.
His fat family of hunting-camouflage-dressed buffoons came every other Sunday. His son and daughter-in-law would pretend to engage while the fat children would clumsily pound their sausage fingers on tiny cell phone screens and occasionally look up in disgust at the rest of us.
Embarrassing to watch, it ended in 15 minutes, then they'd waddle out, climb into their enormous pick-up truck tattooed with various conservative stickers hating one racial group or another and head to the slop trough at the Golden Corral or some other vestige of "Texas" charm, license plates and hubcaps on the wall, the smell of Wal-Mart and bacon.
Joe promised to be be nice, after all it was almost Thanksgiving. He could tell by the plastic cornucopias and the fake orange and yellow leaves. He hadn't been outside in months. He liked the sweet smell of gardenias in the spring, the cedar trees outside his window in the summer, and remembers the smell of wet mesquite in the desert dawns of his youth.
In a few weeks it'll be Christmas again, new plastic decorations, lights, and shitty music.