“Do you even know what you’re doing? Charles demands in the high pitched outrage of a dedicated queen who has found his straight roommate putting his favorite angora sweater in the washing machine. I have always considered it a most unfortunate mismatch for overly bulky men to have high pitched girly voices.
Do I even know what I’m doing? I am sitting at a table in the activity room painting. My now months long campaign to sooth Rose’s twitterpatted nerves had succeeded somewhat. She still slyly edged any Barbies lying about out of my reach. Today I had actually been able to clear off a table for a painting project without inducing Rose to more than nervous knuckle chewing.
I had rescued a painting sized piece of plywood from the trash and had painted it thick wavy lavers of black paint. Then I even got Rose to allow me to use some of the blank wooden tiles she had in a big mayo jar in the supplies closet for my project. The tiles were a little larger then a scrabble tile, the tiles I was painting black, except for around the thin edge this I was paint a deep blood red. The idea was to glue the black tiles on the black board so when you look on it straight on all you see is black, approach it from an angle and you see the red edges in all that black. Just something to pass the time.
So I’m painting little tiles black when Diana walks over watching me curiously.
“What are you doing?” She asks.
I tell her describing the project.
“Can I help?”
I set her up with a paint brush, some paint and some tiles to paint. Before you know it I have two more assistants. Move over Andy Whorhol, and my assistants are actual mad people not just spoiled little rich brats looking for attention.
So there we all are sitting around the table painting little tiles black when I feel a large unfriendly bulk filling the air behind me. Charles is one of those annoying people who looks into the library door (never more than looking through the open door, Burt is the only staff member who enters the library.) only to tell me I can’t be drinking coffee in the library.
“Do you even know what you’re doing?” He demands again with lip pursed ill temper.
I glance over my shoulder at him and smile.
“Why yes, yes I do.” I turn back to my painting.
“Well?” He demands.
“Well what?” I flash him the wide eyed smile of the merry child and flash Carol the quirked eyebrow of shared mischief. She ducks her head to hide her surprised grin. A sly grin shared by my entire crew who are all caught between trying to be very small so the big scary man won’t see them, and giggling as they all catch on to my little bear baiting fun.
“Well, what are you doing?"
“Ooooh, well see we’re painting all these little wooden tiles black.” I hold up the tile I’m workingon, giving him the wide eyed blinking innocence of the pig tailed five year old.
“I can see that.” He snaps. Everyone around the table is trying very hard to look very busy painting little tiles black.
“Ohh, well than.” I smile and shrug and turn back to my painting.
I feel his tongue chewing anger filling the air behind me.
“What’s is going to be when you’re done?” He finally asks me.
I turn back to him and pause for a moment before answering with one word.
He flushes red, purses his lips, huffs arms crossed trying to find some thing to vent his temper on. Failing to find even any fantasy reason for his ill temper he snarls and stomps off to the computer room.
“Why is he angry at you?” Diana whispers to me, “You weren’t doing anything wrong.”
“I have no idea. I never even go into the computer room. So far as I know I’ve never once pissed in his Wheaties.”
Everyone cracks up
We finished the painting project and it was interesting.
A couple of weeks later Anna, the nurse in charge of the occupational therapies, asks me if I could help her organize the thrift closet for the patients. It’s a room where donated clothing is available for the patients.
( A room of used clothes?)
Thrift stores and flea markets are a particular passion of mine. Organizing a room of donated clothes sounded like fun to me so off we went, Anna and I and Diana came along to help shift boxes.
The room was about the same size as my library closet, and it was a trash heap. Two over loaded and broken racks leaned against each other in weary surrender, a beaten down rack of miss matched shoes crouched in one corner all buried in boxes of used clothes that people have been apparently dumping in this room for a year.
Anna stands in the middle of the room and spreads her hands in a gesture of helplessness.
“I just have no idea where to begin.”
I look around the room and quickly made an assessment and made a mental plan for making the space work for its purpose.
“Ok than first lets clear the clothes off the broken racks, then I’ll see if I can fix them enough for use. There are too many clothes to lay it all out so I think the best thing would be to use these two racks, if I can fix them. We can pack away the seasonal clothes and put out a rotating selection of clothes the patients can ‘shop’ through. Once its set up we can go in once a day and put out new things and organize any new donations. That way the patients always having something new to look at.
The plan proposed and accepted I turned to the broken rack closest to the door.
“I’ll lift up the rack and you two can take the clothes off. Then I’ll see if I can fix it.”
“What do you think you're doing?”
From out on nowhere Charles appears and grabs the other end of the rack I am lifting up and yanks on it. I have the rack about half way up and the only thing keeping the thing and all the clothes from crashing back to the floor is me. I stumble forward and somehow manage to keep hold of the teetering rack.
Once second I am helping a nice occupational nurse organize some used clothing then, bang. This screaming queen is playing tug of war with me over a broken rack of donated clothes. My brain was taking a moment to catch up.
“Anna asked me to help her organize the clothes closet.” I gasp out as I manage to get my shoulder under the sagging rack.
“Well, not alone you’re not. Not without supervision you’re not.” He snaps out and danged if he didn’t give another great tug on the stupid rack that was at this point about to crush me.
I glanced over to Anna who was herself jaw dropped flummoxed and poor Diana would have fled from the room in terror if Charles had not been so completely blocking the only door.
“She’s not alone.” Anna had gotten over her mental???? “Diana is here and I am here to supervise. I asked her to help me.”
A look flashed across his face, you know I really think that until Anna spoke up he honestly hadn’t seen her or Diana. Considering that this was a small cube of a room with no exits, not seeing them took some real dedicated focus.
“Well,, you’re not in charge around here, you don’t tell people what to do.”
(I swear if he says ‘you’re not the boss of me’ I’m going to have to give him a wedgy)
“If you want to help fine.” He said as though he were extending a great favor toward me. “You can help me set this rack up over there.” And danged if he didn’t give the rack another tug. Everything is teetering, the rack is groaning in protest as are my weary shoulders.
Through gritted teeth I hissed out. “I was asked to help out here. I am in fact a vol-un-teer.” I pronounce the words very slowly as he clearly has just crash landed here from bizzaro world. “If I’m not wanted, I don’t have to be here.”
“Well I guess you don’t.” He snapped.
“Ok fine.” I say pleasantly, I smile and atlas shrugged.
Large men with very bad backs shouldn’t play tug of war I thought as I stepped over him and the fallen rack.
I left more puzzled than pissed. Why he was trying so hard to become my nemesis I had no idea. The real pity of it for him is that I just didn’t have enough interest in him to hold up my end of the conflict.
A bout half anhour later Anna finds me reading in the day room and asks me if I would come back and organize the closet.
“If you’re sure it’s ok?”
“There will be no trouble I promise.”
“Ok then sure.” I tuck away the book and follow Anna back to the closet.
“You handled that really well.” Anna sighs and bites her lips. “Thank you”
“Any idea whats got his panties all in a bunch?” I ask Anna.
She ducks her head to hide her smile and demurs answering. The staff/patient line you just don’t cross, I don’t press.
We get back to the closet.
“I’m sorry but if you don’t mind,, can I leave you here alone? I’m backed up on paperwork.. I know it’s a lot to ask.”
“No worries, it will take me a couple of days to get this all sorted out.” She gives me the key.
Pretty soon I had a couple of patients asking if they can help.
“Why sure.” I say and in no time at all I am setting up the racks and directing my crew in the packing and unpacking of boxes.
Three days later the clothes closet opened for business and the patients lined up for their chance to shop. Mad they may be but at least their well dressed.