The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Friday November 25, 1994
The Carvale Home was always subdued the day after Thanksgiving. Some of the residents were away with their loved ones for the holiday but most were here, forgotten and abandoned. The facility was short-handed and the staff that was on hand did not want to be there.
Phil pushed Zara in her wheelchair. The cold weather kept them inside, pacing the Home's twisting hallways.
“No Carol today huh?” Phil asked.
Zara nodded. Nodding was all she could do now, the strokes had left her aphasic.
“Everybody's got to have a four day weekend,” Phil grumbled as he rolled her down the hallway of empty administrative offices, “in our day people worked.”
Turning off the administrative hallway Phil pushed Zara past the kitchens and the cafeteria. The staff was busy cleaning up from lunch, the air was heavy with the smell of disinfectants.
“So how was the Thanksgiving here? For what I'm paying you should have filet mignon for breakfast lunch and dinner.” Because he had been occupied with Tristam's last free lesson Phil had only been able to stay with Zara through the afternoon. He was getting exhausted so quickly, another reminder of how long he had been out of practice. It had been stupid for him to let his abilities lapse but it would have been even more stupid for him to get caught or killed because he had been pitching in the bullpen.
Zara reached up with her good hand and patted his wrist. Phil suppressed a shudder, her arm was bony and peppered with liver spots. What had time and illness done to the woman he loved? Had he saved her from death almost forty years ago just to see her final days reduced to this? Would he have been better off just leaving her tied to that altar? He thought of Victor and his blades and frowned, No. Never.
Turning another corner they returned to Zara's room, her private room; Phil's safety deposit boxes full of cash had seen to that. Bad enough she had to go through this nightmare, there was no way she was going through this with some roommate. Half the patients here were either bugshit crazy with senility or more concerned with dying than living.
But not us babe. He thought as he helped her into bed, When this is done, we're gonna leave Gawain Wight, Victor Kovach and even Death himself wondering what the frig happened.
Phil drew the covers up to her waist and pulled up a chair, he laced his fingers in hers, “You want to watch some TV?”
Zara smiled, Phil clicked on the remote. The Price Is Right was on. It had always made her laugh the way he mocked the contestants and the spokesmodels. Phil glanced back at her for a moment.
“Sweets.” He said evenly, “Where is your watch?”
It was a fairly expensive watch, he'd bought it for her birthday. “Zara?”
Her only answer was to look away. She seemed almost ashamed.
On the TV the announcer was calling for the contestants to 'Come On Down' but Phil was searching through her night table and her closets. He even gave the bathroom a once over. “Zara? Where is your watch?”
No watch. No nothing. First the ring I gave her now this. Is she starting to loose it upstairs?
No. I won’t think that, I can't think that!
There were tears welling up in her eyes
Did she lose the watch or had it been stolen? How could he be sure?
He remembered saying once, “It was a real snake pit… but the Goddamn State came in and made them clean up their act.”
Had the Carvale Home really cleaned up its act? Had it really?
Phil thought, They could do anything to her here. They could do anything to her and she couldn't even scream for help. She couldn't even tell anyone what had happened.
Shaking, he sat down on the bed.