Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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“Durned knees ache …” Ron avoids eye contact and mutters under his foul breath. “Sick of it, that’s what I am.”
Shirley-Temple-type ringlets frame nurse Becky’s porcelain face. She searches Ron’s downcast eyes and flips a yellow number two pencil against her thumb, knowing his motives sometimes seem questionable. “We know; I’m so sorry. Doctor is doing everything he can to help you. Arthritis is not an easy problem to correct.”
Becky’s grandfather lives on sardines packed with a hot mustard sauce from little cans with roll-top lids, and Ron’s distant gaze and fishy smells reminds her of him. But Ron is much harder to handle. It seems he has a split personality. Sometimes he’s so innocent it hurts; other times he seems almost controlled by evil. Becky tells herself this could be just a symptom of aging, and yet she dislikes confronting him on bad days.
“Cain’t walk. Cain’t hardly move. It’s a bummer of a way to live, missy.”
Ron finally dares to glance in her direction. As in the case with the quick look of Lot’s wife, it is done with lustful motives. The glance stiffens into a stare. If he were only younger, he might find himself a woman, and this one appeals to him. No matter that she’s young enough to be his daughter.
“You’re downright pretty.” A faint shadow of a smile escapes his cracked lips. Becky smiles politely and nods her acknowledgment with an air of professionalism.
“I’ll have the doctor write up your prescription; be back in a minute.”
Ron’s eyes withdraw behind pitifully fluttering, paper-thin eyelids. Desperate to manipulate the situation, he waggles his cane like an old-fashioned chalkboard pointer. “You … you do just that, missy … you find some way to make this old man feel a little more human.”
Relishing the opportunity for momentary escape, Becky exits and quietly pulls the door shut behind her.
In the spirit realm, a sadistic demon rubs his hands together amidst gleeful tittering. Annoyances like this can go a long way in wearing a person down! Ron is doing a fine job of making Becky miserable. She is too beautiful in every sense of the word - too much a servant and a reflection of her Father. Now she’s squirming!
Becky re-enters holding a white square with scribbles. “Here you go, Ron – this will carry you for another few months. Doctor would like to schedule another appointment then, to see how you’re doing.”
Deep down Ron hates himself for being such a fool. As a desperate, lonely old man struggling with pain, he all too often transforms into a reckless, angry, self-centered badger in Becky’s presence. He knows this. But he can’t seem to stop.
“Well now, I s’pose I should thank ya.” He extends his free hand – the one not holding the cane – as if to shake.
Becky does not reciprocate. “You’re welcome Ron, I’m glad we can help you.”
“Whassa matter missy, afraid of a crochety old man?” His bottom lip curls and the words hiss like spit from a snake.
“It’s just that I’m not supposed to touch my patients except for medical reasons. There are policies about such things, Ron. You should know that.”
The demon jumps from his chair; this is perfect! Ron simultaneously senses a fresh surge of determination.
“You’re just one downright disgusting little girl, missy, if you won’t even shake an old man’s hand! What’s this world coming to? No common courtesy left, no respect for your elders!” With every couple of words he pokes his black-rubber-tipped cane toward Becky’s chest as if launching an assault.
Internally, Becky quietly cries out to God. “Please … give me courage and wisdom to deal with Ron …”
Angels rejoice and glare at the controlling demon disdainfully. Becky’s God will not abandon her.
“Ron, I want to ask you a question. Why is it that sometimes you seem pushy – almost hateful – when you’re around me? Have I done something to offend you?”
This is not good – not good at all. Transparency, emotional connection, authenticity …. No!
Ron’s hard demeanor seems to crack; his dark façade crumbles. “I don’t honestly know, missy … it just seems like sometimes I’m one of those chess statues … and somebody’s pushin’ me around …”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what you call ‘em.”
“Ron, Ron! Don’t blow it buddy …”
“That’s it. The charade … it’s over.”
“Perhaps you’ve been deceived, Ron … I’ll pray for you.”
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