Image of Short Story
He brought a chair over to the fireplace. It was late at night and residents were supposed to be sleeping by this time. But he was smart--that was something the fog had not taken from him--he knew the schedule of the night nurse. Every night it was the same: residents were put to bed, the day crew left, the night nurse arrived and from there immediately collapsed onto the couch, slowly drifting off to sleep with The Wheel of Fortune blaring in the background. Finally, around eleven o’clock, she would be asleep and the evening was his to use as he pleased. He made certain to wait until she was fully asleep before creeping out of his bedroom and into the common room. He always sat in the same place, next to the fireplace, with his face tucked into his palms, the only source of warmth during the night when the sun wasn’t shining inside; management was too cheap to pay for a new furnace.

The advertisements had been bright and lively. Hearth and Home Memory Care: Your Home Away From Home! Sunshine in the background, old folks smiling while swaying on a wooden bench swing. It was possible that swing had existed in working condition at one point in time, but not since he had arrived. No, the swing was old now, wood chipping off the corners, chain rusted and broken from what must’ve been years of exposure to rain. The whole advertisement was simply a facade. That’s how it always goes with places like this. Now the beloved wooden bench swing lay in the backyard, chain snapped, bench half immersed in a pool of mud. Nobody had bothered to fix it, just like everything else that came into this place. Familial ties, bench swings, memories, furnaces; all things that were sure to be broken upon arrival but never to be fixed.

As he crept from his bedroom to the common room and sunk into the usual wooden chair that resided in front of the fireplace, he couldn’t help but allow his mind to wander into hidden memories. He found himself gently pulling on the worn, woven bracelet around his wrist. It had been a gift from his daughter. But he couldn’t recall the last time they’d spoken. It must have been years. However, this sense of time was based purely on the wear-and-tear of his bracelet, as there were no calendars or clocks in the home. The strings which, once tight, were now loose and tattered from constant wear over time. His memories, as well as his internal clock, had been overtaken by the fog that filled his head. But he did hold onto one memory, it stuck to him like a fly to rosin. An unpleasant encounter with one of the nurses...

All the other residents were getting ready to go to bed, so he sat alone in the common room, hunched over by the fireplace, letting the warmth caress his thigh. Suddenly he was consumed by thoughts of his daughter. He slowly rose and shuffled towards the nearest nurse, “I would like to call my daughter, please. I feel as though we haven’t spoken in a very long time.” The nurse smiled, “Oh what a wonderful idea! But, how about for now we just do a puzzle? It’s too late to be bothering your poor daughter.” She handed him a bright colored box and guided him by his shoulders over to a table. After a few minutes, he grew restless again, and then frustrated, unsure of how he came to be seated at a table with these pieces laid out in front of him. He hesitantly approached the nurse once more, “I would like to call my daughter, please. I feel as though we haven’t spoken in a very long time.” The nurse gave him an impatient look, “Sorry, our phones are out of service right now; besides, it’s too late. Here, work on this puzzle instead.” Once more she guided him back to the table, but this time she pressed him into the chair.

Dazed, he lifted his head from his palms and looked around the room. Then he turned and stared into the fire, a blank expression burned on his face. Nothing was left now but the fiery orange embers, hidden beneath the ashes. He looked around the room once more, confused and uncertain how he had come to be there, before shrugging and ultimately heading back towards bed.