Monday morning. Another clean sheet, another gripping tale of sheer normalcy.
“Good morning, Mrs. Tillynaught. Nice weather we’re having.”
Mrs. Tillynaught’s face registered a look of utter shock and delight. She burst into childlike giggles. “Why, one of my oldest and dearest friends used to say that! Exactly like that! You haven’t… but no, you couldn’t have!”
Nora internally shook her head and got down to the business of extracting Mrs. Tillynaught’s perfectly clean sheet from the bed. “Your bed is not so bad, Mrs. Tillynaught.”
“Eh? What’s that, dear?”
Nora straightened up. She still always forgot to face the old people square on and project her voice when talking to them. Mrs. Tillynaught had probably not remembered to turn up her hearing aid today. “I said, your bed is still clean. I think it’s a waste of resources to keep cleaning your sheets. You’re not, uh, you know, sort of…”
“Oh, I’m not incontinent, you mean. Like some of the others here. Yes, well, I’m only eighty-four. I guess it’s the swimming that keeps my bodily control strong.”
Nora nodded. To the best of her knowledge, Oleander Gardens did not have a swimming pool.
“Nora, did you know, when you came in just now, telling me it was nice weather, you reminded me so much of my dear Rodney.”
“Rodney? You mean… I thought the parrot was called George.”
Mrs. Tillynaught looked like she was about to pass out. She was utterly flabbergasted. Nora guessed the old lady wasn’t accustomed to people remembering the name of her late parrot.
Barely whispering, Mrs. Tillynaught said, “The parrot WAS called George… but he’s no longer with me.”
“Oh, Mrs. Tillynaught. I’m so sorry.” You really had to be careful not to bring up old memories with these old people, it seemed.
“But how did you know? My husband Rodney trained him to say that, and, well, many other witty things, as well… but…”
Now Nora was flabbergasted. What was the right, the respectful thing to do now? Should she tell Mrs. Tillynaught where she got her information from, or would that insinuate that the old lady, who still had all her bodily control, was forgetful? Or better to come up with a story? But what story could one possibly come up with that could account for the uncanny knowledge of someone’s parrot’s name? But Nora was off the hook, as Mrs. Tillynaught peered at her all squinty-eyed, and said, “Nora, I do believe you’ve got a touch of the gift.”
“The gift?” Nora was not very gifted in any area. That’s why she was changing bedding in an old people’s home instead of continuing her education or rising over Hollywood.
Mrs. Tillynaught nodded knowingly. “I knew there was something special about you.”
Yeah, the only thing special about Nora was her shoe size. Unusually large feet for a sixteen-year-old girl, otherwise averagely endowed.
Mrs. Tillynaught, however, staggered backwards a few steps and retired into her easy chair. Moving slowly so as not to startle her, Nora placed clean, fresh bedding over the plastic sheet. Lilac wafted up as she smoothed the sheet out and tucked in the corners. Mrs. Tillynaught watched her every move, talking the entire time, about Rodney, and his training of the parrot, George, and the many words and phrases George could say, and in response to what small talk, and how much fun her friends would find it when they came over and had conversations with the parrot, and how clever everybody thought Mr. Tillynaught was to be able to train a parrot so thoroughly. Mrs. Tillynaught had gone all the way around and was back to to “Nice weather we’re having” when Nora finished straightening the bedspread and retrieved her trolley.
“See you at lunch, I guess, Mrs. Tillynaught.” Finally it seemed the old lady had forgotten her shock at Nora’s amazing gift. She nodded and smiled brightly. “Elbow macaroni and cheese day, and not that awful stuff they sell in the box, no sir! Loretta makes authentic elbow macaroni and cheese from scratch!”