- 2014 Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
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Together with Pastor Steve, Dr. McIntosh worked for what seemed like no end attempting to revive Joe Grimaldi. One of the workers from the medical supply office held the oxygen mask securely to Joe’s face after taking control from the Pastor. The other worker worked hurried to verify that all electrical connections to the power strip were accounted for and properly set in place as they should be. Holly watched anxiously with both hands intertwined underneath her chin as she went into silent prayer. At the same time she thought, “I have unanswered questions. How does he know me? Who are these people? And why do they show up now?”
In all actuality, less than 60 seconds had passed since the buzzing of the heart monitor started and Dr. McIntosh had began the chest compressions. Reaching into his medical bag, the doctor stopped compressions to pull out a large syringed needle and prepared to inject it into Mr. Grimaldi. He raised the needle to plunge into his patient’s chest.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!” a worker shouted when he became aware that one or two of the leads were disconnected from the patient.
As quickly as it had all started, it was over. The buzzing stopped; then the rhythmic beeping was heard. The flat line began to move up and down. Everyone heaved a sigh. Surprise was on Holly’s face. On the face of Lorraine and Gloria was disappointment.
Joe coughed. Holly ran to Mr. Grimaldi’s bedside and caressed his hand.
Pastor Steve, who held his head in his hand, looked up at Joe and then to Dr. McIntosh. “You tried to kill him,” he yelled.
With syringe and needle still in hand, the doctor looked down. “Joe, oh my goodness! You’re alive. You scared the life out of me.”
Coughing his reply after removing the oxygen mask, Joe said, “Yes, I’m alive.” He looked unsure of what was happening around him. “What are you holding in your hand, Harold?”
Pastor Steve shouted, “You tried to kill him!” He then ran to the bedside opposite Holly. Placing a firm grip on both of Mr. Grimaldi’s shoulders, Steve stared into his friend’s face, repeating himself, “He tried to kill you, Joe.” The tears fell from his eyes like a waterfall of sorrow.
Of all those in the room, the only true remorse appeared to be coming from Holly and Pastor Steve. His attorney, on the other hand, presented himself as a man who controlled his emotions in every situation. It was difficult to determine how he really felt about the so-called family members that had just filled the house like a burst of morning sunlight.
Holly had worked at the hospice long enough to have familiarized herself with the behaviors of her clients’ families, but this was the first family to place a new twist in it all for her. You always look for the mystery in everything, echoed in her head. Even when her mother didn’t call, Holly could still hear her voice clearly.
Joe spoke up. “Whatever the good doctor was attempting didn’t work. Now, Steve, please give me room to breathe.”
The minute Clara heard her uncle’s reply to Pastor Steve, she murmured, “Oh my…” A thump penetrated the floor, which Holly determined was not Clara’s intention with such a tall young man like Mark standing near. Mark seemed to find it best to hold on to his cowboy hat and keep it safe, rather than to assist this particular lady in distress.
In chorus, Mr. Stevenson, Lorraine, Victoria, and Mr. Grimaldi all sang, “Oh, Clara!”
“Clara, if only you would remember the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’. Your theatrics would surely stop,” Lorraine said.
Gloria added, “Yes, darling, because nobody believes a liar, even when he -” she paused for a moment to look at Joe. “- or she -” she projected her sting at Lorraine, “- is telling the truth.”
Alex plopped down in a nearby chair. “Is this going to take much longer?”
Joe struggled to sit up with Holly’s assistance. “If my demise is taking too long for you, I apologize first to you, Alex, then to the remainder of you money-hungry ingrates. However, as you have come to realize, God is not through with me just yet, despite your eagerness.”
Lorraine stretched her arms out toward Joe. “Oh, Pookie Bear, I’m so pleased that you are doing so well. I don’t know what I would have done without you!”
Mumbling under her breath to Gloria, Victoria said, “She’d get a lawyer and try to take all she could.” Victoria and Gloria chuckled.
Before Lorraine could get any closer, Holly knew she had to gain control. After all, that was why she was there. That was what she did best – she made things right for her client, made things comfortable for her client. She had to do something immediately.
Growing anxious, Holly took a stand. Stepping in front of Lorraine with her voice raised, she made the announcement, “Everyone out!” She pointed towards the exit door leading out of the study.
Apparently appalled at such behavior by the hospice care worker that stood in front of her, Lorraine made an attempt to place her left hand on Holly’s left shoulder, expecting to shove her out of her path. With a wave of her hands, Holly’s voice raised to another level. “I said out, and I mean it!”
The so-called family members looked at one another, apparently taken aback by the ponytailed young lady. No one moved an inch. They stood only with their mouths agape and a few intakes of breath were heard.
“Do I make myself clear, or do we need Mr. Grimaldi’s security guards to kindly escort you all to the door?” Holly stood with her hands on her hips with such attitude that even Joe seemed impressed.
Mr. Stevenson took the opportunity to assist after wiping the impressed smirk from his face. “I feel Miss Higgins has made herself perfectly clear to each and every one of you. Please make your way to the vestibule where you may gather your things if you have any. We all could use some rest, especially Mr. Grimaldi, who has had quite an interesting day.”
Gloria gazed over in the direction of Lorraine.
Lorraine looked to her left in the direction of Victoria, who could do nothing. Then she turned to her ex-husband with pleading in her eyes. “My darling Joe, is this how you allow these people to treat us? Discard us as if we were unwanted luggage?”
Mr. Grimaldi appeared amused by his hospice care worker’s management of the circumstances. When he made the effort to remove his oxygen, Holly stopped him with a look of discontentment. Joe yielded, easily returning his head back onto his pillow without a word.
“Lorraine, please follow the instructions asked of you by Miss Higgins.” Mr. Stevenson paused then continued, “I’m sure after Mr. Grimaldi has had plenty of rest, you will receive a call informing you that he can receive visits.” He looked over at Holly with approval and a slight smile.
“Visits! I’m – ”
Mr. Stevenson placed his hand on Lorraine’s arm to gently guide her and the remainder of them to the foyer without incident. Silenced, Lorraine allowed Mr. Stevenson to walk beside her. As she exited the study door, she cast one more look at Holly as if to let her know that she was not to be forgotten.
Holly exhaled deeply and let her shoulders drop. “I need a massage after dealing with those people.” She rubbed her shoulders, stretching her neck side to side. “I’ve never seen such, such -” She stopped to the music of muffled laughter. Mr. Grimaldi was so impressed at how well Holly handled the uninvited guests that he chuckled and coughed all at the same time. Holly, Pastor Steve, and Dr. McIntosh all joined in. Pastor Steve wiped the last of the tears from his face, and Dr. McIntosh began packing his medical bag.
When Mr. Stevenson returned, he then confronted the doctor. “You do understand that your medical services are no longer necessary for Mr. Grimaldi, don’t you, Dr. McIntosh?”
Dr. McIntosh glanced up from his medical bag with a questioning gaze. “No, Mr. Stevenson, I do not understand.”
“You do understand that Mr. Grimaldi specifically wishes to die at home?”
He stuttered his reply. “Yes – yes.”
“You also understand that Mr. Grimaldi’s specific instructions were that you were to attempt no extraordinary measures to prevent his death?”
Holly watched as the attorney spoke to the doctor as if he was being questioned on the stand in the courtroom.
Stepping aside, Mr. Stevenson gestured to exit the home just as he had done to the previous guests that had already gone their way. “Then you clearly understand and are very familiar with your fate, Doctor, when you do not comply with your patient’s wishes, correct?”
Before placing his hat on his head, Dr. McIntosh turned to Mr. Grimaldi for approval.
Mr. Grimaldi waved his hand. “Goodbye good doctor.” He continued chuckling and laughing. “I wish you the best on your future endeavors.”
Holly was escorting Pastor Steve to the door as they followed along behind the attorney and the doctor when the doorbell rang.
Frustrated, Holly trotted to the door this time before Victoria could answer, ready to lash out at whoever stood on the other side. Yanking open the door, she froze at the sight of a familiar face.
“This is Pesha,” one of the security guards informed her.
It was the man Holly had seen sitting in a dark four-door sedan watching her.
With a bright smile on his face, he checked the time on his expensive watch, then asked, “Am I that late for dinner?”
Chapter 10 will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/community-novel
About A.M. Coffee
Antonette Coffee has resided in Topeka for 24 years; married for 19 years to Don. Together they have six children and four grandchildren. Beginning her writing at the age of 14, inspired by her life experiences and faith, she won a poetry contest for “Heartbroken” at the age of 15 which gave her more inspiration. She has led teenage book reads at her local library; takes the opportunity to mentor to young people by volunteering at local community centers coaching volleyball; and teaches Youth Adult Sunday School at the church she attends. Antonette has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) since 2005–winning in 2011 & 2012. Antonette also coauthored & participated in the 2012 and 2013 Community Novel Projects.