Icebergs


by Mae Siu-Wai Stroshane

Hello, Mrs. Bridges? My name's Lily Jen, the new aide.

Are you from the agency?

Yes.

Good. Experienced, right?

Absolutely. Nothing fazes me.

Miss Jen, I hope not. Follow me, please.

Sure.

Hello, Thelma. How are you this morning?

Who wants to know?

Lily, meet Thelma Whorton. The 'h' is silent. Thelma, this is Lily. She's going to take care of you today.

Good morning, Thelma.

Mmmph.

After she's finished her cornflakes, she'll need toileting. Can you manage?

No problem, Mrs. Bridges.

Stop talking about me! I'm not a dumb post.

My apologies, Thelma. Lily, her schedule's on the wall here. After toileting she'll need a shower. But make it quick, because Sunshine Group starts at ten. They don't like it if residents are late.

I said stop talking about me!

Lily, stop by my office during their lunch. Have a wonderful morning!

Can I take your tray now, Thelma?

You Chinese or Japanese?

Well, I was born here. So technically I'm an American--

Don't give me that crap. 'Cause if you're a Jap, you can just get right out of here. My husband died at Guadalcanal.

I'm sorry to hear that, Thelma.

Why? You didn't bury him up to his neck and smear him with honey and red ants.

Oh my goodness! Is that what happened?

You believe everything people say?

Uh—of course not. Shall I take your tray now?

No you shall not.

Your bowl's empty and I imagine you're needing the bathroom now.

Then you've got a smutty imagination.

I'll just put your tray by the window.

Nurse! She's stealing my breakfast.

You're done eating, Thelma. Now here we go. Hold onto the railing so you don't fall.

Who cares if I fall anyway? I'm just waiting to die here.

Do you have any family?

Are you serious? You're wiping my ass and making chitchat?

Just trying to be pleasant. Now let's get you out of your nightie.

NURSE! I'm being raped!

Thelma, I'm a woman. You're safe with me.

Don't matter if you're a woman. You could be a thespian.

A what?

You know.

Oh! Well, no. See my wedding ring?

What's a thespian anyway?

I'm not sure, but I'm not one.

OW! The water's burning me, you stupid girl!

I'll turn it down. There. Nice and warm. Do you want help with washing?

Don't you touch me. I don't do nasty things with anyone.

I'm sure you don't. All right, here's your towel. What would you like to wear today?

That's a stupid question. Clothes.

That's funny. You know, Thelma, I like you.

Huh?

I do. You're real sharp. Nothing gets by you.

Oh stop. You're trying to butter me up. Nobody likes me.

Well, I do. It's nice to work with someone who's spunky. Most of my clients can't talk at all.

They can't talk? Not at all?

No. Most of them can't walk or do anything for themselves anymore. They even wear adult diapers.

Oh, that's awful. You wouldn't catch me dead in one.

Thelma, I hope not.

If I ever get that bad, I hope someone floats me away on an iceberg. Like the Eskimos.

Well, from what I see, you're nowhere near needing an iceberg.

I can't believe you said you like me. Most people think I'm a B-I-T-C-H.

Well, you could be a little nicer to them.

Pooh, that's boring. I'm just having a little fun, that's all.

Do you like this sweater? It looks nice with these slacks.

All right. Today they have poker. Real money. Maybe I'll go.

Sounds like fun. Now you're talking.

Will you take me there?

Sure.

Good. Put me next to Flora Hensen.

Oh, is she a friend of yours?

Well, she's blind.

So you help her with the cards then?

I like to steal her pennies. It's like taking candy from a baby.


BIO: Mae Siu-Wai Stroshane is a longtime Boston writer. She specializes in historical fiction and enjoys time traveling on her days off.