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A man recalls his first encounter with a member of the Occult Underground
Let me begin by saying that I'm a dog-person. Like the guy in that movie said, dog-people should marry dog-people and cat-people should marry cat-people. Well, I'm not married, and I probably never WILL be, but I know for damned sure that I'm a dog-person. You might be wondering why I know so exuberantly, so definitively, that my door only swings in the canine direction, or you might not care. If you are the latter, then go read someone else’s blog. This little bit of autobiographical prose is above you and is insulted by your apathy. Get out.
So where was I? Oh, yeah. I'm a dog-person, and I was going to tell you how I know that. Well, for those of you who are still reading, grab yourself a comfy chair, a bag of your favorite processed, high-fat snack crunches, and something to drink. The more flammable the better.
I grew up in a small, Bible-thumping town just far enough South of the Mason-Dixon that burning crosses were occasionally seen, but didn't double as street-lights. My town (funny, but I've only recently started to think of it as "my town" again--fuck but I couldn't WAIT to get out of there when I got set loose from juvvie) didn't have much in the way of an economic backbone. You might say it was repressed. There was a Conoco gas station, run by this fat, lazy bastard and his cripple old fat lazy bastard of a father; there was a grocery store, a five-and-dime, two car dealerships (run by rival brothers-in-law), like twelve beauty salons (two of them run by sisters married to the aforementioned rival brothers-in-law) and about 20 churches. That was pretty much it. Not even a video store.
But the big industry, the one where most people who didn't work at the candle factory over in Claysburg worked, was the nursing home. They called it the County Convalescent Center and Institute for Aging. What it really was was a place where people got rid of furniture they didn't want anymore. And by furniture, of course, I mean old people. And the nursing home was more than happy to be the recipient of that unwanted furniture and would, in exchange, agree to fleece the living SHIT out of those ungrateful and irreverent family members who decided to dump their old relatives off into their care. It was a pretty beautiful business relationship, really. Of course, nobody ever bothered to ask the old people what THEY wanted. But then again no one really had the opportunity, seeing as most of the "residents" were busy being strapped to their beds with wet rubber sheets or strapped to wheelchairs and left in the hallway with drool running down their chins and shit dripping out of their gowns.
It was a hell-hole. No, that's not quite right. Nursing homes are designed so that those poor bastards who live there no longer have a fear of hell--whether they go up or down, it's gotta be better than where they are. Matter of fact, I'm fairly sure that the Administrator (that's what they called the guy who ran the place), actually sat on Hell's Board of Directors and most likely wasn't happy with how soft and cushy it was down there. So the point I'm trying to make here is that the County Convalescent Center and Institute for Aging was just about the worst place on earth.
And, as luck would have it, it also happened to be the only place a 14-year-old boy could work. Since they were non-profit, the child labor laws didn't apply, and it was considered to be "public service", wherein I got rewarded by a two-fifty-an-hour "gift bonus" at the end of every week. Of course, minimum wage back then was $4.25, but fuck, what nursing home could afford to pay that? The Administrator only drove to work every day in an always-new Mercedes E-500. Heh. People used to wonder how he managed that when his book-salary was only twenty-grand. The fleecees posited he was independently wealthy and just did the job to contribute to society. I suppose I've heard stupider shit, but not since I cancelled my subscription to Stupid Shit Quarterly.
Some fresh-out-of-college reporter for the local paper once started running stories about the nursing home, saying that The Administrator actually took a slightly bigger slice out of the pie--to the tune of about a cool million a year. She was gonna have the Staties audit their books--had this whole big townwide outcry. But then she suddenly decided to "move back to the East Coast" and we never heard from her again. Someone said she just decided one day to pursue a career in marine geology, studying rocks in a lakebed. I think that was pretty close to the truth.
So I worked at the hell-hole. After school, during summers, during holiday breaks. I pushed furniture around (both kinds), I daubed spit, I cleaned shit. At first it was too much--I saw how they looked when they got dropped off, either by car or ambulance. They might be in bad shape, but they at least KNEW what was happening. But after a few weeks (a couple of months for the really strong ones), they just sort of hung up the phone. They'd get this glassy look, kind of like they grew cataracts overnight. And then teacher or preacher, grave-digger or jazz-nigger, the drooling and shitting would start. They might have wanted to stop breathing if they would have had the will to do that. But they didn't even have that. And they stayed (I won't call it "lived") for a LONG TIME. Some of them for decades. I heard rumors that a couple of the old ones had been there for over fifty years. I laughed at that, figuring that even if they got dropped off in their fifties that would still put them at the centurial mark or more. But now, whatever, maybe it was true.
I think I've established my point that work at the nursing home was pretty much the worst thing that could ever be imagined, except for being a "resident", of course. But there was always a bright spot. Every day, I'd get to change the sheets on the bed of one particular resident. And this resident, out of all of the furniture, was not furniture at all. She was a beautiful, smart, coy, savvy old lady named Cora Woodfin. I'll never forget the first day I walked into her room, and I'll never forget the first thing she said to me when I did:
"My cat eats ghosts."
And, the horrible thing is, it DOES.
Encryptshun | profile | May 02, 05 | 11:40 am