The Crossing Guard
Want me to write a book? You get to pick it! I’ll be posting snippets from the dozen or so I have been working on, and you’ll pick which one I finish! More details will be on the way in the coming weeks.
This post is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events would be just plain weird.
My name is Lewis Chum, and I am in a nursing home. I’m not here by choice; but after The Final Accident, I wasn’t given much of one.
I wasn’t given much of a choice with my name either. Lewis Chum. “Aw, c’mon, won’t you be my chum?” No, I’ve never heard that line before. When we learned in grade school that chum was what sharks eat, I never heard the end of it. My nickname became Shark Bait. That followed me out of grade school and into high school.
Oh, I wasn’t hated in high school or anything; but I certainly wasn’t the star quarterback either. I was a tall, raily chap whose nickname, for no hidden reason, was Shark Bait. I played the bass guitar over Charlie’s house on Saturday afternoons, and I was Shark Bait there too. I grew to hear it so many times that the words “shark” and “bait” ceased to have any real meaning to me.
The unfortunate name did fizzle and almost vanish when everyone graduated and escaped The Great State Of Maine. Well, at least some of us escaped the state.
Anyways, Disney… that darned old Walt Disney. He came out with that fish movie… Nemo. By then I was fifty-something years out of high school; so nobody really knew, but I did. I remembered those words. How on Earth could I ever forget? Although it was supposed to be funny in that fish movie, it traumatized me nonetheless. I had thought I was rid of those two words forever… but no… those dumb little fish, chanting “Shark Bait, HOO HAA HAA,” dragged me kicking and screaming back to my high school days. It had taken my years to shake that from my active memory; but now it will probably never be completely gone from my raggedy old brain.
Don’t take all this the wrong way. I haven’t been picked on my whole life or anything. To the contrary — I’ve lived a very full, incredibly interesting, though at time incredibly sad, life.
I guess that leads me to where I am now… to the place every old man dreams to be… yeah right… a nursing home.
Well, to be truthful, they call this “assisted living.” The trouble is, I don’t need any assistance with living. I’m doing the living thing just fine on my own.
Because of that stupid accident, though, they must think I’m crazy or something. Seems like I can never get a straight answer out of anybody — not even the aliens.
This place, though… it’s a prison. I don’t care what the brochures say. I don’t care what the staff tells us. I am locked inside this two-story, two-wing fortress for twenty hours out of the day. The windows open, but they have chicken wire screens. They just didn’t want to make us feel bad by covering them with actual bars. Most of the schmucks in here couldn’t punch through the chicken wire if they wanted to anyways. They don’t have the strength.
I once did.
I can’t even take a walk for longer than an hour. They’d call the “campus police” if I did. They almost did that on my once already. Instead of taking two loops around the perimeter of the property, which takes a total of about thirty minutes, I decided to do three instead. I was feeling spunky. At least, I thought I took three loops. Maybe I lost count. Anyways, they called my name over the outside intercom: “Lewis Chum, would you please check in at the front desk?”
What that really means is, go to the nurse’s station, or we’re going to call the police. I did as I was told. Jumpy dummies.
Right now I’m sitting outside, in a patch of sunshine, wanting to take a nap in this bright warm sun like a kitten would. I’m fighting it, though. I’m not a kitten, and I’m certainly not a damned old man. Well… maybe lots of people would look at my shriveled raily frame and think so, but it’s just not true. I’m very young on the inside — young and full of faith in the goodness of my fellow man. Men. Whatever.
So this wide-ruled notebook (I don’t need wide-ruled, I’m not blind) and this mechanical pencil (I’ve never used one of these before recently and I actually like it) were by the suggestion of Philip.
Philip is my counselor (read: Parole Officer). He gave me this notebook and suggested I write down some of my memories and stories and doodads and such. He had no idea what he was suggesting. They’re too random and weird and crazy and… well, unbelievable. Yeah yeah, this notebook is only for me, and no one will read it; but that’s not true, really. One day, not too far from now I guess, I’ll die. Then what? Someone will start rifling through all my things, and they’ll find this, and they’ll read it.
No one will believe my stories are actually the truth. They’ll just think I’m a batty old man.
If for some crazy reason someone does read this and think the stories are good, at least hear me out. Here are my wishes: turn this notebook into a book-book, and sell it to a book publisher or something, and put the money into a trust fund for my granddaughter, Emily.
Someday they’re going to find that bastard father of hers and put him in the slammer where he belongs.
Then, and probably only then, Emily will be able to come see me here in the “assisted living facility”… that is, if she even finds out I’m still alive. Wait — is she even old enough to come here to The Prison on her own? I can’t remember how old she is.
I don’t think a single human being who knew me while I was alive knows I’m here anyways. That’s because, well, not that many people really knew me.
Originally published at susanpitman.com on June 23, 2017.