The windowpane was sputtering the way it did when he first awoke in this room. The window would shake in fits and starts, giving up and then rolling in stronger. It kept at it this way for several minutes until finally the window popped up from the sill—just a crack.
The old man looked curiously at the crack when the gentle breath of fresh air glided across his face. In the gentlest of whispers, he swore he could hear someone say, “the forest.”
* * *
The old man had been strapped to his bed for a week. He’d been lying in his own filth for just as long, when Blondie and two of the men in white came to pay him a visit.
“You need to behave yourself. You’re going to be staying with us for the rest of your life. They found you tied up with a black chain in a basement somewhere and no one else would take you. If you leave here, there’s nowhere for you to go. You’ll be alone on the streets picking through trash or begging for food. They put your face up all over the news. No friends or family came for you. The state is paying us to care for you, but they aren’t paying us to deal with any bullshit. Now we’re going to shower you, feed you, clean up this room after you messed it, and you’re going to act right, you understand?”
The old man’s anger was tempered by his wisdom. He was wise enough to play his part until the time was right. He shook his head in agreement.
* * *
After his shower, the old man was seated alone in the cafeteria, eating his meal. The old woman with the brown eyes sat down across from him. He looked around and couldn’t see the woman she had been feeding the other day. What happened to her?
She looked up at him. “Are you doing okay?”
He tried to say something back, but it was just mumbled gibberish. The old woman looked confused. The old man looked back at her in frustration. He pointed at his mouth and shrugged his shoulders.
“Oh, you can’t talk?” He shook his head yes. “Are you a mute?” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Huh,” she said, “my name’s Loretta.” The old man gave her a smile and she smiled back, then she went back to eating.