The Saga of Amberlin – Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Miriam watched the door close and the calendar hanging on the back of the door swing from side to side.  A strange place to put a calendar, she thought, but then again that was hardly the only thing strange about her superior’s way of doing things.  As the calendar stopped swinging, Miriam continued to gaze it at.  Wow, while it has only been a few weeks since starting her job, it felt like she’d been there for far longer.

This may be a record for feeling stuck in a job, she thought as she turned her attention to the notes Nurse Rankin had left for her, mostly a list of drugs that were to be given to the patients and a few particulars about them; notes like: Watch out for Spooks.  She’s more ornery than usual even for her, and Noona actually spoke something today besides ‘noona, noona’…still mostly incoherent.

Well, Miriam had to admit that, for all her faults of which there were many, Nurse Rankin did keep meticulous records which had allowed Miriam to get a better understanding, not only of the patients but their level of care, or more accurately, their lack of care, which was almost exclusively heavy medications and three time per week Bible study.

Yes, Nurse Rankin kept meticulous records but they were also incomplete. There was almost nothing about any of the clients’ histories, nothing about where they came from or what prompted them to be admitted.  Just one day they’re admitted with a diagnosis and treatment regimen prescribed by Dr. Allen, which for the most part is then followed with little or no adjustment.

On the Bible Study days, the meds were reduced. Miriam imagined the assumption was that God’s word was best received with a less drug-fogged mind, which probably accounted for Spooks’ change in temperament, since it was Miriam’s turn this evening to lead the Bible study, so all the patients’ meds had been reduced.  But tonight’s Bible study would be different.  Miriam had made a pledge to herself, and asked God’s forgiveness in advance, though in truth it felt like God guiding her to follow her heart.

“Okay everyone, welcome to tonight’s Bible study,” Miriam started but realized no one paid her any attention.  She paused for a moment, asked for strength and started again.

“Okay, tonight we’re going to stage a breakout from the Asylum!” The silence was immediate and deafening.

“Thank you. Now that I have your attention, let me finish my sentence.  Tonight, we’re going to break out of the Asylum’s customary Bible study, and instead I’d like for us to get to know each other.  I’ve been reading your records, and I know something about you, but that’s mostly just your medical history, which isn’t really you, so tonight I’d like to get to know you, and don’t worry, I won’t try to ‘therapize you’ as I believe some of you call your meetings with Dr. Allen.”

The silence continued, which really didn’t surprise her.  After all, no one had treated these poor souls like people for so long that most of them had probably forgotten that they were all God’s children.  After a couple of minutes of everyone looking everywhere except at each other, she chuckled.

“Okay, I’ll start.  I’m originally from this area but left to attend nursing school in Atlanta.  After graduation, I met a man who I planned to spend the rest of my life with…except he was killed a few months ago while on a training mission…” she noticed a few of the patients glanced in her direction with that comment.  There was some life behind those drug induced stares, she thought as she continued her story.

She continued her story, sharing about her move back home, her son and elderly mother, and finished with her interviewing for the job with Dr. Allen.

“So, you could say I’m about as trap here as you are, just under slightly different circumstances.”

“Yeah, but when your shift is over, you can leave,”  Spooks said with fire in her eyes.

“True, I get to go home to be with my son and mother, and that’s nice.  Where would you go if you could leave for at least an evening, knowing you’d have to return here at the end of the night?  Let’s go around the room and share what you miss about the outside and where you’d want to go if you had a free evening.”

“What’s the point about dreaming about the outside.” Spooks seemed to have appointed herself the group’s spokesperson.  “None of us are ever going to see the outside, even for an evening.”

Lord what have I gotten myself into, Miriam thought. Well, at least I’ve gotten one of them to talk; that’s a start.

“Okay, fair enough.  Answer me this question.  What could make your confinement here more bearable?”

“Softer toilet paper,” Noona was the first one to speak up.

“Fresh fruit occasionally wouldn’t hurt,” Birdman joined in.

“A television that gets more than 2 stations.”

“Our sheets changed more than every two weeks.”

“Meat that we can recognize.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Miriam said as she jumped up to get a clipboard from her desk.

As she came back to the circle, it was Spook’s turn.  “Yea right. Going to write it all down so we get our hopes up that we’ll ever see any of these changes…right.”

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.  I’m not promising that all these suggestions will be taken, and who knows, you may be right. I may not be able to get any of the implemented, but at least we’re getting to know each other. That’s a start.”

“You don’t know squat about us,” Spooks replied, turning in her seat so her back was partially to Miriam.

“Well, for sure there’s a lot more to know about you. But so far I know that Birdman there enjoys fruit, just like many of his namesakes do.”

With that Birdman smiled shyly and nodded.

“And Noona has particularly soft, easily irritated skin, especially on her tush.”

Noona giggled as her face turned red.

“Yea, and what do you know about me?” Spooks asked angrily.

Miriam took a deep breath, closed her eyes for a moment to center herself before replying.  “I know you miss someone from your former life more than anything in the world.”

Spooks and Miriam gasped simultaneously.  “How did you know that?

“I don’t know.  I’m not sure where that came from.” God really does work in mysterious ways, she thought, and sometimes it’s downright scary.

“Ahh, I get it. It’s a cheap parlor trick.  It’s a pretty good guess that everyone here misses someone from their past.  You’re just playing the odds.”

“Maybe, maybe so,” Miriam replied, but it sure didn’t feel like it to her.