I arrived having learned my next lesson like a dutiful schoolgirl. Instead of arriving close to the 10pm work time, I had someone drop me off closer to 9:30. The night before I had come to the gate only to be greeted by a gruff man with a horse voice: “We ain’t be needin you, sweetheart. We done already got two workers.”
Today I was going to make sure one of those two was me. This community service needs to have it’s butt kicked. I’m a midwife; service is my middle name. I’ve been trained for this job for years… cold, hunger, sleeplessness, latex glove wearing, cleaning up bodily fluids, smiling at irrational people. This is right up my alley.
To my great sadness I was back rolling toilet paper. And not just for four hours this time. All night.
But fortunately they let me do it in the clubhouse so I could watch television while I did it. Unfortunately, the television was set to a chanel that only played horror films all night and nobody new how to change that.
At some point in the middle of The Exorcism of Emily Rose a vet walked in. It was around 2:30 in the morning and he startled me a little. He was dragging his blanket like Linus and blinked in the dark, trying to get his eyes to adjust. He appeared to be in his mid fifties. He was average height, thin and his skin was as dark as mine is white. And my skin pretty much glows in the dark. We appeared to be as opposite, visually, as you can get in this world.
Eventually he saw me in the corner.
“Heynow! I didn’t see nobody in hare. You a communtee service worka?”
“Yes, sir. You a vet?”
“Yes ma’am. Shor am. And I can’t sleep fo sheeyit.”
“Well, have a seat. Can’t promise you’ll find sleep in here. They got bedtime stories on the TV.”
He looked at the TV for a few seconds and then laughed hard. “You ain’t kiddin. What da fuck this sheeyit they showin?”
And he sat down.
For the next hour, “Slim” told me about his fight in Vietnam over the screams of a possessed Emily Rose telling us she was inhabited by legions of demons.
“Those mothafuckahs don’t help me fo sheeyit. Even if they came down hare right NOW, I wouldn’t fight fo them NO mo. Hell no. I took one bullet in ma shoulda and the medic says ‘lay down, Slim!’ and I keeps goin. And then the fuckahs hit me in the otha sholda. I shoulda died. I shoulda died. Now they can’t even give ma a token fo the bus to the VA offices.”
I was able to share with Slim that my daddy was a marine in Vietnam. His eyes lit up and he began to ask me questions about my conviction.
“You done the right thing, honey. Yo daddy’d be prouda ya.”
My daddy, if he had survived the military, could have been sitting right next to Slim.