Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.
Walking along behind Greta, Skye and Kookie attracted a fair amount of attention. The bird seemed to know his friend was nearby, because his pupils flared and contracted repeatedly. Each resident stopped to remark on how beautiful the blue-eyed cockatoo looked. I bit my tongue rather than add, “If you think he’s lovely now, you should have seen him before he plucked most of his breast feathers out.”
“Are you going to have animals here?” Skye asked. “I’ve read about nursing homes that have cats and fish and other pets. From what I’ve heard, the residents really enjoy the interaction. Most of them wind up being given light chores, feeding, watering, cleaning cages. It’s mentally stimulating.”
“I sincerely hope we can. Things are rather at sixes and sevens right now. Mr. Boehner and I haven’t even met, officially. We Skyped my interview. With the financing problems, he’s been incredibly busy. Of course, I’ve tried to talk to my direct supervisor, Jose Salazar, but he seems reluctant to move forward on my ideas.”
A tone of her voice suggested that Good Old Jose was more than reluctant. But I had to admire the fact that Greta couched her remarks in a neutral way, rather than out and out complaining about the man. All this conversation came forth in bits and drabs as one elderly person after another waved a greeting to Greta or begged Skye for a closer look at Kookie. As they busied themselves, I had a good chance to examine Martin Gardens with a calculating eye. Again, I found myself impressed. The carpet had been installed so that those using walkers could navigate it easily. At the elevators, there was a clear demarcation between the carpet and the entrance to the doors–a small point, but one I’d learned about from my father. As people age, graduations become harder to discern. The change of texture and color would help keep folks from tripping on their way in or out of the elevator cars. Most of the residents’ doors were closed, but a few were open, and from what I could see, the apartments were well-laid out, brightly lit, and smartly constructed. Passing a social room, we paused long enough to watch foursomes playing cards while two ladies took lessons in how to scrapbook. My friend Kiki Lowenstein would have enjoyed participating.
Finally we wound our way to the back of the building. Greta knocked briskly at a door marked #125-Berger. A caregiver in pastel pink scrubs festooned with hot pink flowers opened up. “Helen’s not doing very well today,” she whispered. Her body blocked the entrance. Skye and I stayed back a respectful distance, but I could still see a lump under the bedclothes. An immobile lump, much smaller than the woman I remembered.
Greta’s brow creased in concern. “I think I have a way to brighten her day. Can we come in, Libby?”
The girl frowned. With a quick glance our way, she took in the bird and shook her head before whispering. “I won’t stop you, but it’s pretty bad. She’s, like, not even talking to me. It’s, like, she’s totally checked out.”
Before Greta could respond, Kookie shrieked, “Helen? Helen? Kookie loves you! Do you have kisses for me?”
With surprising agility, the bird launched himself off of Skye’s shoulder. Since his wings are clipped, he managed to just clear Libby before he hit the floor. With an awkward waddle, he ran over to the bed. “Helen? Helen?”
Grabbing at the coverlet, he managed to haul himself up the side of the bed.
“Eeek,” Libby shrieked.
Skye and I stood frozen to the spot. I didn’t know the parrot could move that fast! In the blink of an eye, Kookie was up, on the bed, and hopping over the prone form.
The wad of sheets shifted slightly, and Helen Berger’s face rotated so that we could see her profile. I held my breath as she slowly raised one hand. Her voice was little more than a rasp as she said, “Kookie? Kookie, I’ve missed you!” And then her shaking fingers reached out to stroke the cockatoo’s head.
~ To Be Continued ~
Author’s Note: I know you’ll want to read this story in its entirety when I’m finished. (And I’m not done yet!) Just so you’re aware, I’ll bundle it with other Cara Mia short stories and make them available as e-publications.