The next night she fell asleep earlier but didn’t make it to lucid until halfway through the night. Too late to go farther.
So, instead, she went back to her parents’ home on Whidbey Island and dangled her legs off the southern edge of the asphalt roof, overlooking the vegetable garden. In the darkness, loose shingle grit scratched the back of her knees and quadriceps as she swung her legs, sprinkling crushed stone granules down below.
Her parents had favored root vegetables: orange Tendersweet carrots, buttery gold potatoes, Walla Walla sweet onions, and ivory sugar beets.
Tell it again, the kids would beg. So, Dad told again the Montana harvest tales of running behind the rickety beet wagon tottering on its wooden wheels, brothers and sisters competing to see who could mine the most “white gold,” and how he’d learned at dusk from the farmhands all he knew, and ever needed to, about playing baseball.
Well, it used to grow vegetables, anyway.
Now, large concrete pavers mapped out a different garden, for repose. It grew resin wicker furniture, a shade umbrella closed in nyctinasty, and an ashy fire pit, and sprouted a hot tub instead of beets. The new family living there were all asleep, like her. Do any of them wander, too?
Next door she peered through the top row of windows of the smaller of two Tuscan-style villas. Her breath left a barely noticeable residue of fog on the glass.
Even the fusion red Tesla Roadster inside slumbered, dreaming of long Sunday drives to Oak Harbor. It was likely unaware that its garage succeeded the farm outbuilding of her birth by 70 years, and her birth preceded Whidbey Island’s first hospital by almost 40.
The twilight morning sky overhead started lightening toward dawn, so she blinked herself back.
“Good morning, Miss Evelyn. Good morning, Miss Judith.” From above she saw Marisol squish across their viridescent room in her white Angel Lites to open the vinyl blinds to the morning.
Marisol rubbed Judith’s shoulder. “Time to wake up, Missus. It’s a very beautiful morning.” She walked past the dividing curtain to Judith’s roommate Evelyn’s side. Evelyn’s alert and anxious face lay in wait.
“Marisol, I had the most disturbing dream last night.” Evelyn held her right arm out expectantly.
“Oh, reeaally? Tell me, Miss Evelyn.” Marisol reached back, grasping the arm, both women leveraging their angle to raise Evelyn to a seated position so she could turn and face her nighttime guardian, a grey bedside commode. Marisol lifted her hands to its foam-gripped armrests.
I wonder if Marisol knows her hair is thinning on top. I’ll bet she can’t see it. Judith would never tell her.
“I was at the Friends Meeting House, waiting for the Spirit to find me. It hadn’t found anybody else yet, either. Suddenly, I felt it! I stood up! I was going to speak, and then…and then…”
Evelyn’s eyes widened, whites bared, as spasmodic rigidity tightened in her neck and shoulders, “…when I stood up, I was the only one with clothes on!”
“Oh no, Miss Evelyn. That is very upsetting. Don’t be embarrassed. It was just a dream.” Marisol winked and patted her back. Evelyn’s body released.
Evelyn was a Quaker, a nudist Quaker, who frequently disrobed. That had been her comfortable normal for a lifetime—why would she change now? Two or three times a week, visitors passing their room viewed her splayed naked on her bed, which was the first inside their room. Lately, forgetting where she was, Evelyn had started undressing in the dining room or the rehab gym. The staff was unphased and kindly directed her to her room.
Marisol helped Evelyn settle onto the commode seat and called to Judith over the light dribbling sounds of urine tapping into the hollow bucket underneath it, “Alright, Miss Judith, almost your turn. Time to wake up, Sleeping Beauty!” she chuckled.
Marisol pulled back the curtain and stood over Judith.
“Are you awake, Missus?”
Judith cracked her eyes open. “Good morning, Miss Marisol,” she said.
It was just before midnight on Friday when Judith was startled awake.
“Oh! I’m wet! Help! I’m weeet! Mamaaa!”
They put Evelyn in generous adult briefs that slipped on like underwear. But two or three nights a week when a brief failed to contain her, a slow-creeping, sour ammonia spill overflowed to the bed pad below, soaking the bedsheets, and wafted over to Judith’s side.
Judith prayed as she pulled the call light string. Please, please, don’t let it be Rick. Minutes passed.
“I’m all wet. I-I need to get up. I have to go potty!”
From the other side of the curtain, she heard Evelyn struggle to sit up and then flop back. Thank God. The alternative was disaster if she ever succeeded. She had fallen before.
After fifteen minutes, Judith knew it was him. The fastest he’d come was half an hour. The slowest–two hours?
And then he’d yell at Evelyn, “Ugh, again? What are you, a baby? I should rub your nose in it. That would teach you.”
Why does he repeat that garbage? Doesn’t he hear his father’s voice? Judith would never tell him. And she wished once more they didn’t need him.
After almost an hour, Evelyn reached her limit.
“Riiiiick! I’m weeeeet,” she screamed.
Even within her perpetually shifting fog, Evelyn eventually remembered who was in charge, who could help her—if he would—when she sat in her own stink and wet.
Rick loped into the room then, first to Judith’s side to reset the call light, and then to Evelyn’s.
“Rick! I’m all wet!” Silence. Judith heard another CNA enter the room.
Judith pictured Evelyn imploring them with the whites of her eyes, while the two men ignored her. Wordlessly they transferred her to the commode, stripped her clothes and sheets, remade the bed, redressed Evelyn, and put her back to bed. The sound of one pair of feet leaving the room. Then a quick, dull papery thump against something on the bed.
“Owww!” Evelyn howled. “I didn’t mean to do it! Ri-hi-hi-hick!” she began to wail.
Judith imagined he’d shoved her shoulder or her bad knee. Not hard, not enough to really hurt, but enough to startle, intimidate, and upset. Judith’s stomach burned.
Late on Saturday night, though by then it was early Sunday, Judith returned from another journey away from her sleeping self. She delayed going back to her body and bed and wandered the quiet halls, pausing at the nurse’s station.
Rick sat staring at his cell phone, while another man fiddled with the brown plastic stir stick in a white Styrofoam cup of vending machine coffee. Like Rick, the long blue lanyard around his neck was printed all over with the same repeating acronym: CNA—certified nursing assistant. But the name tag attached to it was flipped over, and Judith couldn’t remember his name.
“How’s your kid, man?” the CNA asked.
Rick was engrossed in a video on his phone and didn’t hear.
“…code named, The Stargate Project. This secret US military unit was co-created by the Defense Intelligence Agency, or ‘DIA,’ and Stanford University’s remote viewing lab, called ‘SRI,’ and was active from the early 70s until 1995 when it was closed due to a lack of replicable findings. Reportedly, only ten men remained as remote viewers at the time…”
Judith rolled her eyes. Ten men, ten men. They never got it right. Not ten “men” who were remote viewers, ten couples.
You’re right, but you know we can’t tell anyone, Steven would say.
One paper misreported it 25 years ago, and now the story was perpetuated on and on in every new iteration.
You know it’s classified information, Steven gently reminded her again. Let it go, Jude. And she had…mostly.
“Yo, Rick. How’s Shelley?” Rick looked up at his daughter’s name.
“She’s good. Yeah, thanks for askin’. She’s real good. I hadda fight her mom to see her but I got every third weekend.”
“That’s great. So, you get a weekend off every three weeks now, huh?” The CNA chortled. Judith leisurely floated down the hallway away from them, only half-listening to the conversation.