My first overnight shift at the Kevorkian clinic was dark. Jane was from Kenya. Jane wasn’t her real name. She was old. She was strong. She had a face like a balloon, filled with cement. She didn’t smile much. We cleaned the patients, gave them their medication, stuck them in their beds. We slept, even we weren’t supposed to.
“No one is in danger,” Jane told me. I didn’t agree, I didn’t disagree. I was tired. I slept. In the morning, Jane put on the gospel channel. She said “amen” a lot. We prepared breakfast.
“Go wake Patrick,” she said. I found him in bed. He had Down’s Syndrome, but was asleep like anyone else. He didn’t want to get up.
“No, David!” he cried at me.
“My name isn’t David, Patrick.”
“David, go away!”
I sighed and left.
Jane was in the kitchen.
“He won’t get up.”
She chuckled as she blended up some ham and eggs.
“He knows. You tell him I come.”
She had a strong accent.
I went back to the room. Patrick was curled in a ball. His blanket had race cars on it. He liked race cars. He was in his sixties.
“Patrick. Jane will come if you don’t get up.”
Patrick opened one hairless wrinkled eye.
“David I am tired,” he moaned.
“I know Patrick, but you have to go do your activities,” I tried. I sat down at the end of the bed and placed a hand on his calf. I squeezed it gently.
“Come on, Patrick.”
He pulled his calf out of my reach.
I stood up. I turned. Jane was in the doorway.
“Time to get up Patrick,” she said.
Patrick opened both eyes.
Jane chuckled, advancing on the bed. I stepped away. She grabbed the blanket and ripped it from him. She handed it to me. I held it. She grabbed Patrick by the arm. He rolled over and smacked her on the elbow.
“Get up Mr.!” she demanded. She hauled him from bed. He stood, hunched slightly. He had a sandal in one hand.
“Bitch!” he cried. He swiped at Jane, once, twice. The second one caught the end of her nose. She pulled back her hand and slapped him across the face. He fell to the floor.
“You want to act like a child. I treat you like child,” she informed him, calmly. She grabbed him by the ankles. Dragged him from the room. Down the hall they went.
“You bitch! You bitch!” he cried, brandishing his sandal. They fall out of sight. I hear the bathroom door open and then close.
I hold the blanket. It is soft. Fleece, I think. Jane returns to the doorway. She is chuckling.
“Sorry, you do not understand. He is like a child. He needs strong discipline. He will forget as soon as he finishes in the bathroom. You will see. You make his bed, yes?”
I nodded. She smiled. I made the bed, race car blanket on top. I went to the kitchen. Jane was spoon feeding blended eggs and ham to a low-functioning patient. Patrick joined us a minute later. I got him a coffee.
“Thank you very much,” he told me.
“Good morning, Patrick,” Jane said.
Patrick smiled, took a sip of coffee, “good morning Jane,” he said.