Can't Wait to Get to Heaven (5 page)

BOOK: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
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“What did she say?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, Tot, if it makes her happy to think that, let her. I’ve given up trying to figure out why people believe what they do. Look at those suicide bombers that blow themselves up thinking they are going to wake up and have seventy virgins or something.”

“Yeah, well, they may be in for a big surprise when they wake up and find out they are just plain old dead and they blew themselves up for nothing. What’s that song Peggy Lee sang, ‘Is That All There Is?’”

“Yes, well, unfortunately nobody knows if this is it, or if there is life after death,” said Norma.

Tot suddenly stopped brushing Norma’s hair. “God, I hope not, this one has wore me out. I just want to sleep.”

“Oh, Tot, you don’t mean that. What if you had a chance to see your family again?”

“Hell no, I didn’t want to see most of them when they were alive.”

Tot then picked up a can of Clairol hard-to-hold hair spray. “What’s life all about anyway, that’s what I want to know, and I don’t want to have to wait until I’m dead to find out either,” she said, spraying Norma’s hair with a vengeance. “Is that too damn much to ask?”

After she finished, Tot looked at Norma’s hair in the large glass, rearranged a few curls, then handed Norma a hand mirror and spun her chair around so she could see the back. “There you go, hon, pretty as a picture!”

         

After her hair appointment, Norma felt a little uneasy, so when she arrived at Aunt Elner’s house, she was happy to see her sitting on her porch with a big smile on her face. As she came up the stairs, she said, “You look mighty cheerful today.”

“Oh, I am, honey. I just saved a butterfly! I walked out here a little while ago and saw the prettiest butterfly caught in a spiderweb and I was able to set it loose. I’m sorry that spider missed out on his lunch, but butterflies only have one day to live, now at least he’ll have the rest of the day.”

Norma cleared off a chair and sat down. “I’m sure he’ll be happy about that.”

Elner said, “Did you know a turtle lives to be a hundred and fifty years old and poor little butterflies just get a day? Life doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

“No,” said Norma. “Tot was just saying the same thing a few minutes ago.”

“About butterflies?”

“No, that life was not fair.”

“Ah…what brought that up?”

“She’s worried about not being able to collect her social security before the end of the world.”

“Poor Tot, as if she didn’t have enough to worry about with those children of hers. What else is she carrying on about this morning?”

“Just her usual this and that, and she’s mad because she doesn’t know what life is all about.”

Aunt Elner laughed. “Well, join the club, who does? That’s one of those sixty-four-thousand-dollar questions, isn’t it, I’d say it’s right up there with the chicken or the egg, wouldn’t you?”

“I suppose.”

Elner said, “You tell Tot if she finds out, to let me know.”

Suddenly, as loud bells began dinging, Norma was abruptly jerked back into the present moment with a start. Back to the horrible present moment at hand, when only five days ago, Aunt Elner had been happy and laughing, and now she was in the emergency room at a strange hospital in God knows what kind of condition. As Norma sat there and waited for the bells to stop clanging and the red and white arms of the railroad cross stoop to finish lifting, she too joined the club and wondered, “What is life all about anyway?”

The Waiting Room

9:58
AM

B
ecause of the delay at the train crossing Norma and Macky arrived at the hospital about eight minutes after the ambulance. The woman at the admittance desk told them that Elner was in the emergency room and she had no information on her condition, but the doctor would meet them in the waiting room and give them a report as soon as he knew something. Meanwhile Norma had to fill out a bunch of insurance forms and answer all the medical questions as best she could. Her hands were shaking so badly she could hardly write.

Of course she never really knew what to put down as Aunt Elner’s age. Like most people back then, she had been born at home and the only evidence of her birth date had been recorded in the family Bible, but the Bible had disappeared years ago. Norma’s mother had always lied about her own age, and was most likely the one who had gotten rid of the Bible, so now there was no telling how old Aunt Elner was, so she just put down eighty-nine.

She turned to Macky. “Do you think she’s allergic to any medications?”

He shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”

She went down the list of all past or present ailments and was able to check off no on every one. As far as she knew, Aunt Elner had never really been sick a day in her life, although she didn’t know why. Most people her age had already had something, and with how she ate, and cooked everything in butter, she should have had diabetes or a heart attack years ago, but she was still in good health, as far as Norma could tell. She was certainly not frail. Norma knew that she was always lifting twenty-pound bags of birdseed even though she had asked her not to. After she finished filling out all the forms, Norma turned again to Macky. “Should we call Linda and let her know what’s happened?”

“No, honey, let’s just wait and see what’s going on, there’s no need to get her upset for nothing. She’s in good hands, everything will be fine, you’ll see.” Norma took a deep breath and reached over and squeezed Macky’s hand. “Thank God I have you. I don’t know what I would do without you, just go completely insane, I guess.”

Yoo Hoo!

10:09
AM

W
hen Elner woke up from her nap, the room was pitch black and she had no idea what time it was, but she knew she was still in the hospital, because she could hear those beeping sounds and people walking around outside the door. She figured she must be all right, though, because she was not in pain and she could move all her fingers and toes. No broken bones, that was good. She lay there for a few more minutes and wondered where Norma and Macky were. “Oh, well,” she thought. Norma might have had another one of her fainting spells and that had waylaid them getting to the hospital. They would be here pretty soon, she guessed, but in the meantime, she hoped those people in the green smocks had not stuck her in some room and forgotten where she was. “I hope they didn’t lose me.” It would be pretty hard to lose a big fat old woman like herself, but if by any chance they had lost her, she knew Norma would be fit to be tied.

Poor little Norma had inherited her good looks and bad nerves from her mother. Elner had always been a pleasant-looking woman but never a beauty like her youngest sister, Ida. She had never been a nervous or high-strung person either, and pretty much took things as they came, but Ida had been a nervous child growing up and so had Norma. Although Elner loved Norma like her own child, she could be hard to deal with at times. Norma, for example, was a clean freak. Macky used to say that he was scared to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because by the time he got back, she would have made the bed. He said she must have come out of the womb with a can of Lysol in one hand and a rag in the other. But with all of her little quirks, Norma had a heart of gold. Her biggest problem was that she cared too much about people and wanted to take care of the whole world. If there was anything in town that needed to be done, Norma did it. There wasn’t a single old person that didn’t have a hot meal or a visit from someone once a day, thanks to Norma. So with all of her little faults and her nervous fits, underneath she was one of the most loving people around.

After about another half hour went by, and nobody came to get her, Elner suddenly thought of something. Maybe Norma didn’t even know she was here. Maybe the green-smock people didn’t know who
she
was or who to contact. That had to be it, or else they would have been there by now, so Elner figured she better get up and go try and get somebody to call Norma to come get her and take her home. She sure did not want to stay overnight. Elner sat up and slowly and carefully got out of bed. “That’s all I need, to slip and break my neck after I survived the first fall.” But after she stood up, she was surprised at how easy it had been, and how light she felt. She figured she must have lost a little weight while she was waiting. “Norma will be glad of that.” Norma was always worried about the fact that Elner was a little on the heavy side, and Norma ran over to her house every day to take her blood pressure. Norma had even cut off Elner’s bacon, to no more than two pieces at breakfast, and none at night. Of course, when she had gone over to Merle and Verbena’s for dinner the other night, and had had liver and bacon, she had not mentioned it. No use to get Norma upset.

Elner was now standing by the bed, but the room was so dark that she could not see a thing and had to feel her way around the room. She headed in the direction of the voices, and located the door, groped around, found the handle, opened it, and walked out into the bright light of the hall. She looked up and down, but she didn’t see a single person anywhere.

She walked down the corridor past a lot of empty rooms. “Yoo hoo!” she called out, but not too loudly because she didn’t want to disturb any sick people trying to sleep. She had wandered all the way down to one end and then down to the other end when she saw the elevator. There wasn’t a soul on this floor, as far as she could tell, so she guessed she’d better go to another one and try to find somebody. She pushed the button, and after a moment the elevator stopped with a jerk and the doors opened. She stepped inside and turned around, but before she could push another button, the doors closed, and up she went.

The Doctor’s Report

10:20
AM

N
orma and Macky had been in the hospital waiting room for over twenty minutes, and they had been told nothing yet. Three other people, two women and a man, were there in the waiting room as well, waiting to hear news of their mother’s hip replacement. Norma informed them in great detail who she and Macky were, where they were from, why they were there, and how she had warned her aunt over and over again to be careful on that ladder, a fact Macky was sure the hip-replacement family couldn’t have cared less about. And that may have been the reason all three decided to go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. After another anxious ten minutes a young doctor walked in with a chart and looked around the room. “Is there a Mrs. Norma Warren here?” Norma jumped up. “Yes, that’s me.”

“Are you Mrs. Shimfissle’s next of kin?”

Norma was a complete wreck by this time and began to babble uncontrollably. “Yes…she’s my aunt, my mother’s sister, is she badly hurt, Doctor? I’ve told her a hundred times not to get on that ladder, but she won’t listen to me, I said, ‘Aunt Elner, wait until Macky gets off from work.’”

Macky knew she was never going to shut up, and cut her off. “How is she, Doctor? Is she conscious yet?”

Norma, who still didn’t know that Aunt Elner had been knocked out cold, turned and looked at Macky. “What do you mean, is she conscious yet?”

The young doctor sized up the situation and said, “Let’s go sit down.”

“What do you mean, is she conscious yet?” asked Norma again.

When they were seated, the doctor looked first at Macky, then at Norma. “Mrs. Warren, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your aunt”—he glanced down at his chart—“uh, Mrs. Shimfissle, died at 9:47
AM
. We tried our best to revive her, but by the time she got here, she was already in bad shape, and considering her age and the circumstances, there was nothing we could do. I’m sorry.”

Norma collapsed and slowly slid off the chair, and Macky and the doctor were just barely able to catch her, a second before the back of her head hit the floor.

BOOK: Can't Wait to Get to Heaven
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