Pay Back's a Bitch

He gets up from the table and walks to the window and back several times, as though trying to wear a trench in the carpet.  Then stopping to stare down at her, he exclaims,  “You’re kidding, right?  You have got to be kidding.”  He resumes his work on the trench.

“Oh, relax, for heaven’s sake. And sit down. You're making me seasick.” She takes a sip of her coffee and delicately dabs at her lips, careful not to smudge her lipstick. “You know we don't have any choice in this.  It has to be done.  It won’t be for all that long and, besides, it’s the only way.”

He stops his pacing and turns to look at her.  He's pissed as hell, but even so, looking at her is a treat.  She's a fine looking woman.  “Yeah, so you said.  You're probably right.  But I still don’t like it.”


The LPN on duty at the memory-impaired unit of the Oakhurst Retirement Facility sits at front desk updating her daily charts, while keeping one eye on the activity in the living room.  The residents all have their own rooms located along the short corridors running off the center hub like the spokes on a wheel, but most leave their doors open and wander down to the common rooms as if this were home and they were members of a big extended family.  And that’s as it should be, the nurse thinks.

“Hello. I’m Helen Meurtrier.”  The stooped gray-haired woman holds a shaking hand out toward the man seated in front of the television.  Her voice is deep-throated and still rather sexy, much stronger than her body looks to be.  Behind her glasses, there is the hint of a sparkle in her blue eyes.

Startled out of the reverie he’d slipped into as he watched Gene Kelly splash though puddles, John Vendetti draws back a bit.  He looks blankly up at the woman standing between him and Gene.  “Mary?  Mary, is that you?”

John is a tall, reedy, and still quite handsome man who carries himself with the dignity of his former position.  His records indicate he used to be a professor of  chemistry an Ivy League college.  You can tell, the nurse thinks as she watches from her position behind the desk.  He totally looks the part.  A bow tie peeks out from the neckline of his sweater.  Obviously, years of habit outlast any conscious thought as he chooses his clothes each day.

“No, no, I’m Helen.”  The woman withdraws her hand, realizing he isn’t going to shake it.  “What’s your name?”

The nurse watches, ready to step in if need be. She doesn’t feel she knows these two well enough yet to predict how the little social vignette will play out.  The newest residents in the unit, Helen has been here just a few days, and John only arrived yesterday.

“I see you’re watching Singing in the Rain.  That’s always been a favorite of mine.  May I join you?”

John moves over a bit and Helen carefully sits down beside him, resting her cane against the lamp table nearby.  Both turn their attention to Gene Kelly, now doffing his hat to a policeman and dancing off down the street.

The nurse smiles as Helen reaches out and takes John’s hand, and then returns to her charts.


The aide braces herself as she readies the afternoon snack. Things are usually fairly quiet here.  Today, not so much. 

“Who’s ready for a bite to eat?” she calls brightly, then picks up the tray holding a plate of cookies and several glasses of juice and begins serving the residents seated at tables around the communal dining room.

Though she’d never say it aloud, she thinks to herself, oh, boy the inmates are restless today. Maybe they can sense the blizzard that’s coming. Either that, or it's a full moon.

Two of the women are taking turns in a duet of shouts, Marian Butera calling “Help me! Help me! They’re trying to kill me!” at regular intervals and Hazel Johnson demanding “What are you doing?” every time anyone comes near.

Everyone seems especially twitchy, uninterested in the word search game the Activities Director has now given up trying to conduct. The couple who have come to visit Charlie, the husband’s elderly father, look decidedly uneasy as they watch the shenanigans going on around them.  The aide hopes the snack she is serving will bring peace and quiet along with the juice and cookies.


“Oh, my gawd, this place is deadly.  No wonder they’re all acting like whackos.”  His voice drips in sarcasm as he mutters to his wife.  “I feel like I’m in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  How can they stand it?”

She shoots him a quick look.  “Hush.  Who knows, someday you may find yourself living in one of these places, and be glad of it.”

“I rather doubt that, sweetheart,” he answers, smirking.  “I intend to hold on to all my buttons, thank you very much.  I'm not so sure about you, though.”

She gives him a little kick and returns the polite smile to her face.


The aide sets a glass of juice down in front of Hazel and extends the plate of cookies.  “How about a cookie, Hazel?”

“What are you doing? What are you doing?”  Hazel shouts, as her scrawny hand darts out and grabs a cookie.

Sighing, the aide moves to the table where the younger couple are seated with Charlie. She holds out the tray of refreshments. 

“Hi, Folks. Would you like a…”  she begins .

From across the room where he sits with Marian and Helen, John suddenly bellows: “Whoop. Whoop. Whoop. Look at that one. Look at that one. Wow, she’s hot, all right.  I’ve got a big boner now.”  Everyone looks away in embarrassment.  Even Hazel and Marian seem to be at a loss for words.

Helen looks over at the aide and rolls her eyes.   The she reaches over and gives John’s hand a soothing little pat as she empties the vial of slow-acting poison into Marian’s juice glass.” 

Returning the small smile she sees flash across John’s face, Helen leans  toward Marian and confesses in a whisper, “You know, you’re quite right, my dear, we are trying to kill you.  Too bad no one will believe you.”


‘The staff at the Oakhurst Retirement Facility made a shocking discovery Tuesday morning.  When the nurses made their rounds to awaken the residents in the memory-impaired unit, they found one resident dead and two others missing.

“Marian Butera, mother of crime boss Vinnie “The Butcher” Butera, was found in her bed this morning,  dead of an apparent heart attack.  Butera, who has left a long trail of bodies behind him during his criminal career, was recently spared the death sentence he was about to receive for his role in the well-planned Hemmings armored car robbery two years ago.  Both Hemmings Security company employees were killed by the thieves before they took off with over $5 million in cash and negotiable bonds.  Injured in the heist, Butera was the only member of the criminal gang apprehended.  According to sources, Butera’s expected sentence was reduced in a last minute plea bargain.  Butera is reported to have identified his accomplices in exchange for a life sentence.

The two missing Oakhurst residents are John Vendetti and Helen Meurtrier.  Authorities say their disappearance and Mrs. Butera’s death are unrelated.  It is believed that the two residents, both of whom suffered from Alzheimer’s, wandered off during the night.  A search has been mounted in the woods behind Oakhurst, but after the nor’easter that dumped thirteen inches of snow over the area during the night, authorities don’t hold out much hope of finding them until spring.”

This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory, where the prompt is "Confession."


  1. dang. nice patti...was enjoying my time in the home...the characters were fun....except that dastardly one that killed them...yikes. nice 10DOM...

  2. I worked for years in a seniors facility, and you have captured what it is like, DEAD-ON!!!!!!! So well written, interesting, fabulous characters......and then shocking...........wonderfully written!

  3. I enjoyed this, Patti. You have brought the old folks to life with their individual, but very real, foibles. You get some wonderful story starters from newspapers!! I love the increasing strength I sense in your direct speech. Must look to that myself.

  4. Brian: Glad you enjoyed your visit. Don't be in a rush to move in, though. ;-)

    Sherry: Thanks. The facility and residents were taken from real life. My MIL just moved into a facility, and these folks are snapshot. Well, except for the bad guys, hopefully.

    Julie: Thank you! The newspaper article is total fiction, including the headline. Jeff deserves most of the credit for any improvement in my speech. Very persuasive, that fellow.

  5. Wonderful writing, as usual...entertaining throughout. And I love the title you've chosen.

  6. BRAVO!

    Dialog is very much improved. And you know what? It still reads like you! (there's your damned exclamation point)


  7. You are so wonderfully diabolical. Given our recent family experiences with "Assisted Living" and a "Memory Care Unit", this all smacks of personal experience - but very well recounted.

  8. it was very intriguing and clever... I totally didn't see that coming!

  9. Janice: Thank you. I'm glad you were entertained.

    Jeff: Thank goodness! I was having serious withdrawal here!!! (she says in her best alarmist dialog!!!)

    Lou: Oh, diabolical. I like that.

    Maha: Thank you. I tried to make the ending a surprise.

  10. Bravo! Inspired and nicely played out. Good dialogue, character developement, plot, and surprise. I'm impressed! Thanks for a good read, Patti. I can guess where the inspiration came from ... :-)

    Look forward to more such like from you .... Hooray!

  11. No no no no ... re the shading in my layout ... I took your advice and went for black text on a white background ... just forgot to tell you all. You eyesight/computer are perfectly fine! I appreciate the feedback.

  12. got a real soap opera going on there. Lust, gossip..murder. What a hoot!

  13. ooooooh this was reeaaallllly good -- very nice patti! this was a smart, fun read.....love the fact that you placed this in a retirement home, what an unexpected twist!

  14. I love the setting. So very rich, all of the lives that are found in an institution... the pasts playing on the present. Nice work. -J

  15. Jamie: Sorry to take so long in responding. Thanks for the high compliments. You are absolutely correct on the inspiration. They live their days out loud. Hard not to find inspiration.

    Tom: We look at old faces and just see an old man or woman. We tend to forget that there are people inside, people with all the passions, weaknesses, and sometimes less than honorable intentions enjoyed (suffered?) by younger folks. Easy to make a soap opera out of that. Glad you liked it.

    Amanda: Thank you. Coming from a multi-time winner, high praise indeed.

    H-H: Thank you. It's always fascinating to imagine what the lives of those you see all around you are like.

  16. Hmmm... Not sure why my original comment didn't take... This is one of the best 10thDoMs I've enjoyed in a while! :)


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.