The three of us in my room shared a bathroom with one toilet with three women on the other side. One of them was very ill and required a lot of time there, often. The polite custom was to wait at the door until you heard the opposite door close, and then go in.
On this particular occasion, I had been waiting at the door in my wheelchair for about an hour. Just as I was about to go in, Smiley leaped from her bed, saying that she was faster than I was, and pushed ahead of me. I was furious, but didn’t say anything.
But the next night, she did the very same thing. So I asked her if she went to church. As I suspected, she said she did, so I said, “I could tell,” thinking of the many people who are loyal worshippers, but lose their values upon exiting the church door.
At this point, the Reader, who was not involved in this, and to whom I had never talked about religion, shouted, “Do you go to church?” and when I said no, she shouted back, “We could tell.” I did not really expect Smiley to understand what I was trying to tell her, but my slur against the Church was more important to the Reader than the lesson I was trying to convey to Smiley.
That was the real beginning of the descent.
A number of the service personnel were in the habit of coming to the Reader’s bed to enjoy breaks, during which they imbibed leftover food and drink from patients’ trays. The Reader spoke more often of the blue blanket which had been a gift to her and which she could not find. On just such an accasion, I woke from a catnap to find a man and a woman standing over my table. My daughter had brought me a plastic drawer with get well cards, bills, my checkbook and my adding machine. Before they became aware that I was awake, I heard the woman ask the man, as she pointed at my adding machine, what it was. When she saw my eyes open, she apologized and said it looked something like a tool which some of the staff used.
End of Chapter Two