I wrote this on a whim, without thinking. It might be nonsensical. I'm not really sure.
Just an exercise to keep my gears oiled, though it turned out interesting, if nothing else.
Crash. An overweight, middle-aged woman, named Magdalyn, collided into an idle shopping cart while her head had been turned the other way."OH MY GOODNESS, SORRY SWEETIE, SO SORRY." A man loudly called to her, turning away from a freezer door. He bowed to her, rather extravagantly, then pivoted on his heels back to his shopping cart. He spread his arms out widely as if speaking to an audience. The Toaster Strudles and Eggo waffles listened intently, but there was no one else in the direction. "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?" He couldn’t speak a word without shouting it. The man shook his head and pushed on through the frozen breakfast aisle.
Magdalyn was shopping that day at Gram's Grocery. It sat in the middle of a sleepy town, which often made for interesting characters. That the local crazy ward was just two blocks away made this man's eccentricity not all that surprising, almost familiar.
Magdalyn frowned. Mentally ill people made her uncomfortable. Of course, they needed groceries too, but why couldn't a caregiver come with them? You never knew what kind of crazy they were. Delusional? Violent? What if they lashed out at someone? (At her?)
He was in front of her at the check out, flirting with the cashier, who was new here, Magdalyn noticed--she knew all the cashiers at Gram's. The pretty young girl ignored the man, but looked irritated.
"Hello," the cashier said to her, sounding uncomfortable, like Magdalyn.
"You let her be," she barked at him, using a voice she'd often heard from her mother. The man glanced at her, undaunted, as though he hadn't heard her say anything at all. But as she continued to glare, he turned and waved pleasantly, muttering something as he heaved paper sacks into his arms.
"Can I help you?" The girl squeaked, peering down the check out. Magdalyn smiled in response and dropped her things onto the old conveyor belt.
“Don’t mind it all, sweetie. We always get loonies in here.” She said with an apologetic smile.
“Oh, ma’am. I don’t mind at all. My mother was a nurse.” She smiled shyly as the belt scrolled the groceries to the counter.
Magdalyn eyed her name tag. “Tia, is it?” The girl nodded sweetly. “You new here, Tia?” She only asked to be polite.
“I moved to Rockview just last month.”
“Where you from, dear?”
“Minneapolis,” she smiled with a slight nostalgia and shrugged. “’City girl.”
“Minneapolis? I used to own a lake house there. Sold it to open my boutique.”
“Is that yours, down the block?” The girl tipped her head towards the window.
Magdalyn turned to look, and nodded. “That’s the one!”
“I applied there,” the girl frowned slightly. “I never heard back.”
“Aww sweetie. Well Gram’s is a good place! Known the old’ croon since I was a baby, ya know.” She scooped the single grocery bag into one arm, pushing the cart with the other. “I’ll see you around!” She called over her shoulder.
“Have a good day, ma’am…”
On the way out to her car, she found that awful loon had parked beside her. He sat in his car idly, window rolled down without so much as the radio turned on. He looked to be waiting for someone. But it was a hell-hot summer, and anyone would suffocate waiting out in a car like that.
She slipped into the door of her ’67 Chevelle and looked over to the man in his rusted, sun-bleached truck. He caught her glance and saluted her, winking one grey eye. She started her engine just as he opened his mouth to say something. He hollered over the roar of her engine as she pulled away, but she made no attempt to sate his delusions.
Confound those damn loons, she cursed to herself. Damn hospital oughtta keep ‘em on a leash. She flinched slightly at her own rudeness. The man hadn’t done her any harm. She must have been irritable today. Mood swings came with menopause, she remembered.
Her uncle Liam had been a crazy, himself. Brought hell to the family with all them medical bills, and nobody liked those damn-awful visits to the hospital. Especially herself--being in that dirty piss hole for longer than a breath made her mood foul as rotten egg. She’d loved him, though, as a girl, before he’d up and got himself locked away, gone crazy.
He got himself killed when he escaped the hospital, and ran right out onto Culmer street—busiest street in town. Got himself smashed by a semi truck. No life insurance either, the bastard.
Hell, Maggie. You’re in such a damn-awful mood. Her thoughts rammed at her.
She pulled onto 4102 Raymond Street, and felt herself relaxing already. Perky spring flowers lined the walkway to a sheltered porch. The house was painted powder blue, with a Mahogany door. The weeping willow in the front yard swayed softly with a faint breeze. Home was a good place to be, always.
Her mother came out to greet her. She was aging so quickly these days. Her hair was ratted up into a bun, and she wore jeans and an oversized blouse that made her skin-and-bone figure look even more emaciated.
“Maggie?” Her eyes widened. “Sweetie, what ar’you doing over here?”
She looked down in the empty crook of her arm. “Went to Gram’s. We were out of vegetable oil and toilet paper.”
“Sweetheart—“ she broke off, and sighed. Turning, she hollered into the house. “Bill?”
Just then, an olive-colored car rolled into the driveway, crunching against the white gravel. Bill, her stepfather, scampered out of the house, pulling a coat over his shoulders as he walked off the porch. He saw the car, stopped, and waved at it with a slight frown curved into his leathery mouth. The car door opened.
“Maggie,” said a dreadfully familiar voice with an audible smile. She turned and saw the pretty, young orderly from Rockview State Hospital. She was in uniform, all-white hospitalwear, donning a falsely pleasant face.
“Maggie—“ Bill, now, said. “Maggie, you’re going to catch a cold. Where’s your jacket?”
And suddenly her skin felt like ice, while her feet burned with chill. “I left it at—“ She felt fur lining drape over her shoulders from behind.
“Oh, Abigail, that’s not necessary. She can use Evelyn’s.” Her father disappeared into the house. Which was not bustling with spring flowers, but dripping with icicle fangs, the lawn slushed with blobs of melting snow, and the faded house looked years older than before. Magdalyn felt a sharp pain in her head, like hot needles. She sighed through gritted teeth. Her feet, damn, her feet. They felt like icy iron pokers had been shoved through her heels, all the way up to her knees. Her fingers were numb, and she started to cry.
Bill reappeared with a coat. He returned the other to the beautiful orderly, and pushed Magdalyn’s arms into lined sleeves.
“You’re alright, Maggie.” He said.
“We’ll take care of her,” the damn-awful girl said to Bill and her mother, warmly placing a hand on her back that made her scream. She raised her arms up in defense, and a different damn-awful voice cried out.
“OH MY GOODNESS EXCUSE ME SWEETHEART, SO SORRY.” She found the loony standing next to her, instead of Abigail.
“Maggie, who do you see?”
But she wasn’t listening by this point. She was thrashing and kicking against her father’s arms which struggled to hold her back. “AWFUL LOON! DAMN IT! DAMN IT!”
“Liam,” her mother said with soft concern pressed into her eyebrows.
“PISS OFF, PISS OFF.” She wrangled her way out of their grasp several times before they got a solid grip on her.
The three waited for the episode to pass, for the hallucination to disappear. Then Magdalyn, exhausted, embarrassed, and lucid, let her parents lead her into the olive car. She sat in the back seat—patients were never allowed to sit in the front seat, no.
“You walked all the way over here, Maggie? With no shoes?”
“I drove.” She mumbled, despite remembering every painful step through the snow.
“Maggie, you don’t drive anymore, remember?” Maggie said nothing. “You live at the hospital. With Dottie, Oliver… remember? Sissi, too.”
She was suddenly very tired, and ignored Maggie’s nonsense.
“…they’re not real. They were only real a long time ago.” Maggie shut the car off, having arrived at their destination. “Remember, Maggie?”
Maggie had fallen asleep, where she had dreams. Dreams were the safest place to be, anymore.