“Put your finger right there.”
Janie did, but without any charity in her heart. Esther made up the bow all pretty and just on the lid so’s the box would be real easy to open. “Janie, doin’ this ain’t hurtin’ you. Miss Betty is gonna like that we remembered her birthday.”
“Miss Betty has no clue this is her birthday. She’s so far into La-La Land, she doesn’t even react when you speak to her anymore. I don’t like going there; it gives me the creeps, all those zombies.”
“When you’s finished with yo’ attitude, bring you them cookies for all them to share and let’s get a movement on.”
Janie grabbed the handles of the carryall with the plain, soft oatmeal cookies and went to the car with her mother. “It’s ‘get a move on’, not ‘movement’.” She got in the passenger side and shoved the cookies between her feet. The fake nurses would wolf down all the cookies after they left; why feed them?
The main hall in the nursing home smelled of the plastic sheets and diapers and of sanitizers. Janie put one butter tub of cookies on each of the five break room tables and put the lid beside each one while her mother watched. She was irritated that nobody was up yet, this late in the morning and nobody was here to give her even one bare ‘thank you’.
“Now honey, that weren’t so hard, now was it?” She reached inside the carryall and got out the manicure kit and a pair of side cutters from the toolbox. “Now I got to go do up Miss Nattie’s toenails, they’s in awful shape. You go give that present to Miss Betty and give her a kind word.”
All the rooms were doubles and Janie remembered Miss Constanza loved peppermints. She walked into the room and tossed the box onto the staring person on the right. She turned to the left and felt around in the carryall for her mother’s stash of candy. She held out her palm with a starlight mint. Constanza smiled and opened her mouth. Janie glanced back at the door as she peeled the wrapper. She popped the mint into the toothless mouth and left quickly.
Esther had finished with Nattie’s toes, thank goodness, and now sat between Nattie and Jerrita chatting. “Hi, honey! I was just telling these ladies how you won that piano competition. Maybe one of these days you bring that electric keyboard you got for Christmas and play it for these ladies.”
Janie thought, ‘Not a chance’ but said, “Maybe.” She sat in the worn chair and waited for her mother to wind it up. Perhaps she needed help? “Ma, you need to get ready for work.”
“Oh my, look at the time! Yes indeed, I got to go. You ladies take care now, hear?”
Esther exclaimed, “Oh see there! Miss Betty likes it! Miss Connie, look over here at this! Happy Birthday, Miss Betty!”
Janie looked up. The poor old thing had taken the scarf from the box and was holding it to her cheek, even as she stared straight ahead. How could that have happened? Janie looked over to Constanza who opened her gums wide.
Esther automatically got a mint from her pants pocket and pulled the ends to twist it open fast. She popped it into the waiting mouth, and turned to Janie. “We done good here today. Janie, never doubt, you done yo’ part for the good done here today. You feed yo’ heart with that, child.”
Janie thought, ‘Huh. Maybe she’d like some music too.’