The cuckoo’s nest

Posted: 2011 in Post 4.5
Tags: , , , ,

Monday, March 26, 12:47 p.m.

My work line rings.

Journal Newspapers, this is Katherine,” I say.

“I saw a terrible nurse,” Jack says, without preamble.

“A nurse? What?” I reply, attempting to type while holding the receiver cradled at a neck-cramping angle between my shoulder and cheek. My paper goes to press tomorrow. I’m kind of busy.

“She was on the bus,” he says.

“I’m kind of busy,” I say. “Are you at home?”

“No,” he says.

“Didn’t you get my voicemail? About your daughter? You probably should go home and be with her or something. She was pretty upset.”

“In a little bit,” he says.

“I read your article,” I say. “I thought all you write these days are obituaries.”

“It was like an obituary.”

“No it wasn’t,” I say. “It was exceptional.”

I feel quite bitter as I type and talk. While I coddled his daughter through her school’s Career Day and her subsequent trauma, he filed an amazing article. And what did I get for my pains? No copy at all!

“A byline, front page above the fold and everything,” I say, forcing a bright note into my voice. “So…are you back, baby?

There’s a heavy silence on the other end of the phone.

It’s an old TV quote. I didn’t mean it like that. I feel my face turning red. Especially as the silence on Jack’s end extends and extends…and extends.

“So, a nurse?” I say. “Are you sick?”

“Do you have a minute?” Jack says. “To talk?”

“Look, I’m kinda busy, here—”

“When I went to get coffee with Harry on Saturday, I took the bus because you had my car keys.”

“Right?” I say, as I type.

“There was this nurse. Old style. Like in a movie. White dress. White tights. White shoes. One of those white origami caps, even. Like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“Never seen it. Is it any good? I got about fifteen pages into the book, but—”

“She stared at me,” he says.

“Right?” I say.

“The entire ride.”

“Huh. Weird, I guess. Look, I’ve got to finish this piece—we’re about to go to press. So…”

“I’ve seen her before. She stared at me like she knew me and wanted to kill me,” he says.

“Where are you right now?” I say.

“Work,” he says.

“Work—are you kidding me?” I exclaim.

I have an office with a closeable door. Jack, however, is talking crazy out in the open, his three-walled cubicle providing him no buffer zone at all. He’s going to be fired for sure in the next round of layoffs, today’s fantastic front page article not withstanding.

“Why did you write a second piece on the Lake Washington murder?” I say.

“I can’t let it go. I know something about it, but I can’t put my finger on how. Besides, it gives me an excuse to look into what I did on Thursday night. I’ve been checking police reports, the morgue—just in case anyone was killed outside that bar. Do you think I’m really capable of something like that?” he says.

Forget being fired, he’s going to be arrested before the week’s out.

“Jack. Go home. Your daughter’s classmate got raped today. She’s extremely upset,” I say.

I hang up.

When Jack is arrested for manslaughter or whatever dark deed he did outside the bar by his house, I’ll probably get stuck as Lucy’s guardian, the way things are going. And so far, I’ve written not one word of the book that was my sole reason for getting to know him in the first place. Well, not one decent word.

 

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