“Help!” the gravelly voice yelled. “Get me off this thing!”
The elderly patient on the gurney did not lack for volume as two male attendants rolled him onto the ward where Lois was in charge of three dozen ailing veterans. The sight and smell of the raggedy fellow was stunning to all ears, eyes, and noses. She tried not to react to the obnoxious fumes swirling around his dirt-caked body.
“Mr. Weeble, the admitting physician has ordered a nice hot bath before we assign a bed.”
He flailed his arms and kicked at Fred’s and Jim’s efforts to remove him from the stretcher. “I don’t need no bleepin’ bath,” he sputtered.
Fred, always full of wit, teased, “Hey Buddy, all we’re gonna do is help you get cleaned up. By the way, when’s the last time you came in contact with soap and water?”
“I don’t need cleaning up. I had a bath three years ago.”
Lois raised her brows. “Do you mean three weeks…or maybe three months?”
He stopped ranting and leaned toward her, winked, and whispered, “I said years, didn’t I? Then he let loose with a raucous laugh.
“I’ll talk with him later,” she instructed her aides, “Get going.”
After three tubs of water had been drawn, muddied, and drained, Fred and Jim wheeled out a cleaner version of Mr. Weeble. Lois could hardly believe it was the same man. Clearly it would take a few more washings to complete his sanitization but she figured this was a good start.
With his usual wry humor, Fred joked again, “Why fellow, we weren’t even sure what race you were.”
The newly subdued and formerly filthy back-woods character made another run at belligerence for shock value.
“I kin tell ya one thing! I shore ain’t no WHITE man. There ain’t no sech thing as a WHITE person. I’ll betcha there ain’t even one in this whole hospital.”
Red haired Jim spoke. “I’m pretty sure I’m considered white.”
Mr. Weeble eyed him suspiciously and sat up straighter…the better for a fight.
“No you ain’t,” he bellowed, “Yer beige.”
His voice rose to a new level as he punched the air with his fist. “I’m tellin’ ya… there AIN’T no sech thing in a human.”
He pointed to Lois and asked the men, “What color dress is she a-wearin’?”
Fred answered, “White, of course. That’s what nurses wear here.”
The crafty old man snickered. “Ya’ ever seen anybody’s skin thet color?”
No one responded as they tucked him between the sheets of the freshly made bed and pulled up the side rails for his protection. He wasn’t through with his own brand of cockeyed observations.
“I hope I don’t git no kind of disease from these pitiful sick folks surroundin’ me.”
Lois patted his arm and spoke quietly before applying the cuff to take his blood pressure.
“Mr. Weeble, this is a ward. We need to keep our voices down so as not to disturb the others. Try to be a good neighbor, okay?”
From the twinkle in his eye and his toothless disarming smile, she realized she must have struck just the right note.
He practically purred, “Honey, yer so purty and sweet, I’d do anythin’ fer ya.”
Lois had to admit, especially with several layers of dirt washed away, he might be easier to manage than she had first thought.
“I appreciate that, Sir. Now I’m going to bring some medicine the doctor ordered and then maybe you can get a good night’s sleep.”
The grinning, fresh-washed, feisty fellow had one last comment to belabor his point.
“Psst! Just don’t ever fergit, Girlie. I ain’t white and I never will be, and besides, you and that redheaded fellow ain’t neither.”
He paused to ponder about Fred.
“I like that big strong’un with the nice teeth. Now I’d say he’s kind of a chocklity color--more like Jesus would’ve been over there in thet hot country where he was born. But people-shades don’t matter one bit. It’s what’s inside ‘em.”
She replied from her personal philosophical and theological beliefs. “More than our skin can become dangerously stained.”
“And even after that scrubbin’ I got tonight,” he declared, “I’m sure I ain’t never gonna be pure white.”
As Lois wondered about the ways of dirty old men, sleepy Mr. Weeble mumbled something about smelling funny.
She couldn’t resist. “That’s the Ivory© soap, Sir.”
His eyes were closed. He didn’t get it.
Based on a true story
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