“And I was looking out the window and I saw this thing, this… shadowy thing, and you have to understand I was only a youngster at the time, a baby of maybe twenty one or, well this was… let me see. Yes, I was twenty two or twenty one. It was before I married Bob and I was still living with my family. And that was the summer of the fire, when the Nesbit barn burned right down! How old are you now, dear?”
“Still sixteen.” With her back to the old woman, Nora rolled her eyes. She’d told this bitty how old she was every single day for the entire two weeks she’d been working here. Listening to these ridiculous boring stories was almost enough to drive her to go back to school. She tucked the clean sheet corner under the mattress and ran her hand over the sheet to smooth it. The plastic crinkling below the white cotton surface nearly drowned out the next riveting chapter in Mrs. Tillynaught’s epic tale of the shadowy thing.
“Sixteen, well, you’re just a baby yourself, aren’t you? So where was I? Oh, yes, a shadowy thing flapping about outside the window, and I thought to myself, well, it can’t be a bird, now can it? Birds don’t fly around at this time of the night!” Mrs. Tillynaught chuckled to herself. She caught Nora’s eye with her watery old blue eyeball, barely visible under all the flaps of dusty skin, and shook her head. “Do they?”
Nora shrugged. It was a bat, not a ghost from the Nesbit barn fire as Mrs. Tillynaught had thought in her childish imagination. This was at least the third telling of Mrs. Tillynaught’s favourite Hallowe’en story. Nora took the next crisp white sheet from the housekeeping basket and flapped it out over the bed. An invisible cloud of fresh laundry smell floated around her head and she breathed it in. One good thing about working in the Sunnyvale Retirement House was that in the first part of the day, at least, it was a lot nicer smelling than her own home. Not that her mom was a bad housekeeper, but with her working two full-time jobs, she barely had time to sleep let alone to scrub toilets. Now that Nora was a high-school drop out, she would have plenty of time to clean up after them. Just how she wanted to spend her evening after spending the day cleaning up after incontinent octogenarians.
“Well, I’d never seen anything like it before, and you might think it silly, but I was petrified! I’d never been in the old house alone before, and with the Nesbit barn burned down right next door, my mind started coming up with all manner of silly ideas! Heh!” Mrs. Tilllynaught chuckled again, a rumbling throaty sound that erupted into a phlegmy cough.