“But Jacqueline, that doesn’t mean he’s dead!”
Jacqueline had gathered her friends, all fellow inhabitants of the retirement home known as The Limes around Mr Albert’s bed to witness the death of the old man.
“I hope he isn’t dead,” added Marguerite, “he’s so young.”
“Still, he is eighty-five,” clarified Ghislaine.
“That’s not so old… I’ve just got to ninety-four,” replied Marguerite.
“Whether he’s young or not is irrelevant. If he’s dead, I’ll be able to have his room,” said Jacqueline.
“That’s horrible. Wishing somebody dead just for a room!” exclaimed Marguerite.
“It’s obvious you don’t have a room with an unobstructed view of the morgue!”
Jacqueline attempted to use her walking-stick as a stethoscope, prodding the body.
“He’s hard…” she announced.
“It must be a long time since that happened to him,” replied Pierrette.
They all burst out laughing, except Marguerite. “I didn’t get that...”
That was when light suddenly flooded the room through the open door.
“What are you all doing in here?” asked the care giver. “Get to your rooms! And quick about it!”
Faced with the stern expression of the care giver, the old ladies filed out, some of them dragging their legs a bit more than usual, others lifting their walking frames with a little more difficulty, with the sole aim of arousing pity. Jacqueline stopped and looked the care giver up and down.
“You don’t have to speak to us like children just because we wear nappies, you know!”
The next morning, Jacqueline was sitting in the director’s office.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Arrachard, but you are not next on the waiting list.”
“Who’s going to have the room?”
“You are joking?”
“Mr. Lemoine has been with us longer than you have.”
“But he’s blind!”
The director looked at the file and cleared his throat.
“That’s true, but that’s no reason to deprive him of light. You must learn to be patient, Mrs. Arrachard.”
“ Patient? Do you really think there’s still time to be patient at my age?”
“If it’s any consolation,” added the director examining Mr. Lemoine’s medical file more closely, "you shouldn’t have too long to wait.”
Back in the day room of The Limes, Jacqueline shared the latest news on the situation.
“But I haven’t finished yet! I’ve got a plan!”
“I have a feeling you’re not going to mince your words, Jacqueline…”
“Listen to me. We’ll all go into Lemoine’s room, Pierrette and Ghislaine will hold his legs, Marguerite and Marcelle will take one arm each, Monique will be on lookout, and I’ll put a pillow over his head. In three minutes, it’ll all be sorted!”
“But what’s the point of that?” asked Marguerite.
“I think Jacqueline is intending to ram his birth certificate down his throat,” explained Ghislaine.
“Oh no, Jacqueline!” rebelled Pierrette. “We don’t want to end up in prison at our age!”
“In prison?” muttered Jacqueline. “Would that really be any different?”
Translated by Wendy Cross