Waiting Rooms

The little boy sits in his room and he waits. He holds a raggedy bear that has one button eye and an ear that has been chewed down to a nub. He clutches the bear closer to his chest as he hears footsteps that advance down the hallway and past his room. The two social workers gossip to each other in low voices that still manage to seep through the brightly painted door. A few teardrops drip down his face and past his snotty nose. He wipes them off with his Spiderman pajama sleeve. They are saying bad things about his momma. He doesn’t understand their big words, like “negg-lee-gents,” but he does know that they haven’t let him see his momma since he came to this place. The men in uniforms took her away in their po-lice car, the lights flashing and the sirens wailing. But before she got into the car, she told him to behave. So he’s been quietly sitting in the room they brought him to. He doesn’t speak to anyone, because he doesn’t want to get into trouble for talking back to the adults. He finishes all of the food that they bring him, even the hated broccoli, so that he won’t get yelled at. If he behaves like he promised, maybe they’ll let him see his momma. So the little boy tries to behave, and he sits in his room and he waits.

The young mother is locked in a cell, waiting for the morning to come. She’s got drugs left in her system and a rap sheet that’s three pages long. She’s already crashed and has the shakes so bad that she can’t hold a glass of water without it sloshing over the rim. Her hearing is tomorrow, and the test results will be the evidence of criminal behavior. They’ve told her that they’ll be taking her precious baby boy away from her. And this time it’ll be for good. Not like the last time when she got him back after six weeks of rehab. She looks at the grey floor, the grey concrete walls, and the metal bars. She remembers what the copper told her. For the rest of her life, she’ll be in and out of the slammer, and her baby will either forget her or come to hate her. She knows that the hearing will find her guilty. There’s no way out of the verdict, just as there is no way out of the monochromatic cell. The young mother thinks about freedom and her baby while waiting for the morning to come.

The old cop sits at his desk and puts in his time. He catches drug addicts, prostitutes, and thugs every day that he comes to work. He’s stopped seeing them as real people, and just considers them one more report to fill out before he can go home. He made arrests and filled out reports from morning until evening without adding overtime to his schedule. He’s only a year and a half away from retirement. He doesn’t want to rattle any cages or stick his neck out. He just wants to ride this last wave in to the shoreline without falling out of the boat. He’s got a wife and son to go home to at night, and intends to do just that. Hopefully without any additional knife scars or bullet holes to add to his already impressive collection. He types up his report on the druggie mother for his captain and social services one painstaking letter at a time. By the time he’s finished with it, it will be time to head home. So the old copper sits at his desk and puts in his time.

The wife stands next to the kitchen window until she can see him walk up the drive. After thirty five years on the force, she still feels uneasy when he’s a little bit late. She is always afraid of something these days. She’s afraid he’ll be shot in an alleyway. She’s afraid he’ll have a heart attack from too much bad cholesterol. She’s terrified that when he retires they might not have enough money to keep the house. She’s afraid that her son might not turn out to be the angelic young man that she always dreamed of raising. She knows that the father and son will have another screaming match tonight at the dinner table. She’s afraid that her husband likes spending time with their younger, prettier neighbor a little bit too much. She’s afraid that her family is falling apart, just like the house, the yard, and her body seem to be doing. She washes dishes and wrings out the cloths to take her mind off of her worries. Her life may be a mess, but she ensures that her kitchen is spotless. And then she stands by the kitchen window until she can see him walk up the drive.

The son cranks up his music and dyes his hair blue in a bid for their attention. He’s painted his room black and taken to wearing chains. He’s a very angry and lonely young man. His mother obsessively cleans and his father is never home. And even if his father is home, all he does is sit in front of the television and drink beer. Gone are the days when the family would play ball or do a project together. He feels like they do not know who he is anymore. He pierced his ears to see if they would even notice. A week later, his mother stood silently by as his father ranted for three hours. That night he pierced his tongue. They still haven’t noticed that one. He’s got himself a steady girlfriend and they’ve been together for almost a year now. They skip school together and have sex whenever their parents are not home. And whenever they do get home, the son turns up his music and dyes his hair purple and green in a bid for their attention.

The girlfriend wriggles in the blue padded chair until it’s her turn. When they call her back into the office they give her the happy? news that she’s been terrified of hearing. She’s four months along and the baby’s quite healthy. She sits by herself in the examination room and wonders what to do next. She and her boyfriend have never spoken about long term commitments or children. She doesn’t even have parents. She lives with her grandparents on account of the accident that took her parents’ lives when she was a child. She wonders how she is supposed to finish school with the baby in her belly. And the thought of getting rid of it crosses her mind, but wouldn’t it hurt? And she couldn’t see how to get the money to have an abortion. If she had the kid, her grandparents would help raise the baby, just like they raised her. The doctor says they want to set up a check up appointment in order to oversee the baby’s development. She has to come back in order to get the ultrasound, too. So when she returns, she wriggles in the blue padded chair until it’s her turn.

The grandparents are waiting at home for their grandbaby. The granny is wrinkled and cramped with arthritis. But she plants herself in her rocking chair and sews and knits blankets for a living. She sells them one by one in order to have enough for the family to eat, although they look like pieces of artwork. The grandpappy is a veteran, but the checks from the government don’t do much to help the family through the lean times. And he is sick with cancer and doesn’t have long to live. He spends most of his time lying on the couch next to the granny’s rocking chair and reading stories aloud to her while she sews. The grandparent’s haven’t told the grandbaby about the cancer because they know it will break her heart. They’ve been going in secret to the hospital to get the grandpappy his treatment every week. A nurse swings by every once in a while to check on him, too. But soon they won’t be able to hide the effects of the treatment, nor the effect of the bills. They do the best that they can, but realize that it probably will not be good enough. Nevertheless, with love in their hearts, they wait at home for their grandbaby.

The nurse spends all of her spare time studying in the break room. She wants to become a doctor, and be noticed by her crush. But he is already a doctor and won’t consider dating someone of a lower status. So she plunges all of her earnings back into school and textbooks, and all of her waking moments become filled with facts. She gets irritated with interruptions, even if it is an emergency or gossip or phone calls from the local police station. That particular phone call was from her disowned drug addict sister, pleading for her to go save her nephew from the “clutches” of the social services. The nurse looks at her textbooks spread out in the break room. She sees her crush flirting with one of the night shift nurses and makes a decision. She won’t be spending all of her spare time studying in the break room anymore.

What scenarios do you think are depressing and emotionally draining?

Let me know in the comments below what you chose to write about in your response to Monday’s writing prompt.  You can read the prompt here: Short Story Writing Prompt:

Also, please let me know what you enjoyed (or didn’t) about my short story!

 

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