FLOWERS FOR GREGORY
©2010 Kim Brogan
House was using the toothpick to un-wedge a piece of popcorn from between his front teeth. He cursed when the toothpick broke off and now both were firmly wedged in the gap. He grabbed his cane and walked into the industrial looking bathroom with the handicap fixtures and found his floss, pulled off a string and managed to dislodge the foreign objects. It was still hours away from dinner and, since they didn't allow television in the patient's rooms, he decided to wander out to the patient's lounge to see what was on the communal television.
He walked past the sullen woman carrying a vase of mixed spring flowers. She bumped him, murmured an apology and kept going. House turned to watch her. She was in sweats, as were half the patients, and her feet were covered in moccasins made from elk. They were a golden color and couldn't be more than a size six. She wasn't skinny. She wasn't fat. She was somber.
Everyone seemed to be somber in here, except for the bi-polar manics that sometimes wreaked havoc on the staff until they were sedated. On his third day as a patient, House had ventured out to the lounge in the hopes that he could convince the inmates (as he referred to them) to let him watch the Victoria Secret Catwalk show. Arriving in the lounge, he had just taken one of the easy chairs and was about to ask Jason, the forty year old accountant from Buck's County, to let him have the remote, when Raynauldo Munoz burst through the door. Raynaldo had the look of a new patient. His eyes were still bright and frenzied and he wore Dickies, a short sleeved plaid shirt and dark shiny boots. He hadn't graduated to sweats yet.
Raynauldo went from patient to patient pointing first to the roof, then to a chair a few seats over from House and then a corner in the room. There were frenzied words that House couldn't make out. Whatever he was saying, it had the effect of creating great anxiety in the paranoid schizophrenics who hastened into the corner Raynaldo had pointed at.
Finally getting to House, Raynauldo looked into House's eyes and bent down. "The microwaves have been installed on the roofs. You're not safe. Anyone sitting in these chairs will be pulverized. You need to go over there." He pointed to the huddle of paranoid patients, all anxious, mumbling and trying hard to attach themselves to the side of the walls in the corner.
"Why that corner?" House asked, a slight smile slipping across his mouth.
"Lead. It's lined with lead. The microwaves can't penetrate."
"Ah!" House said, nodding. He looked deep into the dark brown eyes of the manic bi-polar Hispanic. "Don't worry, they don't like doctors. I'm a doctor."
Raynauldo vigorously shook his head, "No! You must get to safety."
House patted the man's arm. "You take care of everyone else. Look, you see Jason there? He has the shield remote. If you let me have it. I'll sit here and monitor it, make sure that the lead shield doesn't go down."
Within seconds, a minor scuffle took place between Raynauldo and Jason and soon House was handed the remote while Jason was hustled into the protected corner. House chuckled and changed the station to the Victoria Secret fashion show. For half an hour he sat in the middle of the room by himself, feet up, eating popcorn from the machine in the corner, while the manic bi-polar Raynaldo continued to herd his paranoid schizophrenics into an area no wider than eight by eight.
When the show was done. House held the remote tightly in his hand and started to writhe as if the devil had managed to take over his body. He wrestled with the remote as if it had a mind of its own. "My God, my God. I can't control the shield! It's going to---" House screamed out in mock pain and flung himself to the floor in what appeared to be a fit. "The microwaves….they're loose! The shield's down, run!"
There was a cry from the corner and a half-dozen paranoid schizophrenics screamed and started running through the corridors trying to find safety, screaming about the microwave shield being down.
House rolled into a ball of laughter as he watched the orderlies chase down the patients. Still laughing, House saw a shoe in front of his face and followed it up to the very annoyed face of Ted, the very sturdy and formidable figure of a twenty-something man who wasn't happy with him. House shrugged his shoulders and followed Ted back to House's room where he was locked inside. The staff spent the next half-hour rounding the paranoid patients up and sedating them. House was banned from the lounge for twenty-four hours as punishment.
It was now his fifth day and, sitting in the upholstered chair facing the television, House tried unsuccessfully to wrestle the remote control from Lydia, the obese OCD hoarder. But it was no use, her favorite soap opera, Days of Our Lives was on and she was a talented hoarder, knowing exactly where to hide the damn thing so that House wouldn't dare dive for it. Once again House was going to miss Prescription Passion, which pissed him off. House went to the orderly and offered substantial money if he would let him watch the television in the orderly's lounge.
When the orderly declined, House screamed, "What's wrong with you guys? Have you no respect for the meaning of a bribe?"
"Sorry Dr. House, but the cameras are reviewed on a daily basis by Dr. Molker or Dr. Tarrington. They ask questions. If we don't have the right answers, we're fired. Your bribe isn't worth it."
House said nothing, but hobbled off with an attitude. He looked outside and saw that it was raining—again. Looking closer, he saw that the woman with flowers was outside sitting on the short wall, her face up to the sky, mouth open to catch the rain.
She belongs in a loony bin. Oh, yeah, she is. She's pretty. Older than my pretty little group therapy coed, but still very pretty. How old? Thirty-five? Considering that she's out in the rain and her voice was flat when she bumped into me, I'd say, chronic depression. I don't need that. I'm depressed enough without adding depressive people around me. Still, it might be fun to yank her chain a little, see how she reacts.
House waited for the woman to come back in, which, after an orderly discovered her outside, didn't take long. He whisked her inside with just a few words, "Molly, you know better. Christ, now look at me, I'm drenched too. You better go change. If Dr. Christy sees you, she'll come up with some new medication and your ass will be dragging."
The woman shook her head like a dog does when it's wet. The water flung out from her head in a circle, hitting House and several other patients. A cry of disapproval went up and she sheepishly apologized as she walked towards the patient rooms. House followed, but far enough back that she didn't hear him. He saw which room she was in and then went back out and looked for an orderly.
"Hey, Ted." House motioned for the young black orderly to join him.
After rolling his eyes, Ted walked over to House, who had proven to be quite a nuisance since arriving. "Yes, Dr. House?"
"Ted, Dr. Christy, what's her specialty?"
Ted shrugged, "I'm new, but I know Christy does two group sessions for sex addiction."
House yanked his fist down in victory. After a few seconds of thought, he grabbed Ted by the sleeve. "Ted, have you got a condom in your wallet?"
Ted snorted. Shaking his head he walked off.
At dinner time, House went through the cafeteria line decorated on top of the window protection with plastic plants that looked plastic. Jesus, they couldn't even get silk phony plants? He looked for Molly, finding her sitting with two other patients, one male, one female at a table with four chairs.
"Mind if I sit here?" House pointed to the open chair.
They were all clearly shocked that a stranger wanted to sit down, but being polite, all three of them nodded. House sat down and smiled at each of them. Plopping a fry into his mouth he looked up and stared at Molly. Once he had swallowed he reached over to shake her hand.
House shook everyone's hands. "Well. What did you do to land yourself in a loony bin?"
Everyone's mouth dropped as House gave them all a huge grin.
Molly frowned, "Greg, I'm not comfortable sharing that with someone who's just been admitted."
"I'm not new. I've been here for a five days and I'm already on my fourth step, make close friends and hug them—tight. Real tight."
"Well, I haven't noticed you before." Molly said while pushing her peas into her mashed potatoes.
"That's because you hole up in your room all the time." He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows, "What are you doing in there?"
Molly wrinkled her nose and stood up, busing her tray and then leaving the dining room. House watched until she was gone and then looked at the other two, "What's her problem?"
Shaking their heads, they both stood up and bused their trays too. House watched and chuckled to himself. This was fun.