The Forgotten People • A Short Story
In dedication to my late grandmother, Mama Thelma

I hate this place. It is always cold and depressing. From around the corner, a woman is
heard wailing.
“Home, home! I want to go home!”
Am I the only one finding her eerie screaming disturbing? Yes.
The scrubs come and go, not rushing in any way, but steady and slow as though they
were taking a stroll in a mall. Window shopping, taking time to say hello to a friend and
complain about one of us or all of us. Some lean against the walls with hands resting in their
pockets as they talk about God knows what. As if they have nothing better to do.
“Morning, Maggie.”

I don't reply. My name's Margret, not Maggie. I keep telling these people that, but they
don't listen. They don't care. They do the minimum requirement for the day and go home leaving
us in this prison. Everyone is here for the same crime; old age, and we are paying the ultimate
price of living a life beyond our youth.
“The only way you leave here is in a body bag,” my first roommate told me when I got
here.
She smelled god-awful, like the facility itself. Her name was Jane, and it only took a day
for me to realize why she smelled so god-awful.
“I don't need this,” I told them, but they made me put one on anyway. A diaper. An adult
diaper. I could still go on my own. I could still wipe, flush, and wash my hands, but in here, that
basic right is taken from you. They say we can fall, but that never is a good enough reason for
me to be treated this way. In the end, I pull up the padded underwear. When I sit down, it doesn't
feel right. When I walk, it rubs the crevices of my lady parts with its elastic band and often
causes reddening sores.
After my first meal in this place, I had to go. I've always been like that, eat then go, eat
then go. That's why I have such a small figure. I ate, and I told a scrub I had to go. I told the
scrubs before I had my meal of slimy lima beans and stale cornbread, and overcooked frozen
steak. I told her that right after, I would have to go.
She said, “Okay, just let one of us know when the time comes.”
I trusted that woman because she looked into my eyes when she spoke. I ate that food that
might as well have been cardboard, and I called on her again. “Ma'am, I have to go now.”

This time around, she didn’t look at me. Instead, she looked around, flipping her blond
horse tail swatting at invisible flies. “Let me find your nurse.”
She walked away and never came back. When another scrub came by, I told her, “I have
to go.” She did the same thing, minus the blond hair. This one wore a wig as red as the devil
himself.
However, the devil scrub came back to tell me my nurse was busy and would be with me
after.
After? How long was after? I could wait, was what I knew of my will. I had patience, but
my bladder wasn't what it used to be. I couldn't wait too long, not as long as they wanted.
One hour. I told myself when they put that thing on me that, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't
use it. I wouldn't disgrace myself, but after one hour, I couldn't hold it any longer. My stomach
was rumbling and building with gas, and my thighs hurt from squeezing so hard for so long. It
was a relief when I finally let it go, but it was such a shameful experience. I didn't get changed
'til another hour had passed. First, I had to get a scrub to push me to my room. Then I had to wait
for my scrub to change me.
That's why my first roommate and every roommate after that smelt so god-awful. The
smell goes away, though. It fades like a childhood memory, and no one cares about it anymore.
Just like no one cares about that woman.
“I want to go home; I don't belong here; I don't belong here!” She keeps crying so
pitifully, and it makes me uncomfortable.
She is that kid on the first day of kindergarten crying for their mama. You don’t know if
you should feel sorry for them or tell them to shut up.

I get up out of my bed, placing every ounce of weight on my walker 'til I get my balance.
If no one is going to shut this woman up, I will. I walk down the hall and thank God as I do. I
thank Him every time I walk down the halls. I thanked him when my walker came in the mail. It
saved me. It saved me from becoming the zombie people I pass.
Aimlessly they push or pull themselves past me up and down the halls. Their eyes, large
or sleepy, are always looking past whatever is in front of them. Sometimes I swear they are blind
to this world.
I avoid the group of zombies the best I can, but their large wheelchairs end up bumping
into me. After that group of zombies, there are the greeters at the front. They don't move, only for
supper, but they shout out at you. I never know what they say.
“Hey Amy,” I only say hi because she was my roommate before the last set of her
marbles went loose. We used to talk, but now she speaks another language, one I don't know.
Babble. I know she understands me. Her long skeletal fingers flap up and down, hitting the base
of her palm with a loud smack.
“Yayaya, ba.” That's hello, in Babble. I think.
They have zombie eyes too. A bit more lively than the others. Their eyes follow me as I
make a left to the source of the crying lady. Every one of them, in their little way saying hello and
smelling god-awful.
“I don't belong here,” the wailing is louder now. My tired body feels like I'd walked a
mile though I'd only walked down one hall from the center of the facility to the front.

“I just need a Pepsi and a chocolate bar,” Linda is up to it again. “My head, my head
hurts so bad. If I had a Pepsi and a chocolate bar, I know I'll be fine. I will be okay if I just had
that.”
A visitor, for no one in particular, walks past me. No chocolate bar or Pepsi, but she has a
Dr. Pepper. Uh-oh.
“Here you go. I couldn't find a candy machine.”
Uh-oh, that wouldn't do for Linda.
Linda looks at the visitor. The visitor is one of those lovely looking ladies, the ones close
to the pastor, but not close enough for a scandal. She wears a sundress that stops at her knees and
a peach coverup with sleeves stopping above the elbow.
“That ain't a Pepsi.” Linda frowns. Her nose crinkles like paper, and the wrinkles in her
gray skin deepen. The spots on her forehead are swallowed into the crevices, and that pitiful,
helpless mask goes. "I said a Pepsi. I don't know what that is, and I don't want it."
“It's a Dr. Pepper. The machine was out, but this still has caffeine.”
Linda smacks her lips and places her hands on the wheels of her chair. “Is it a Pepsi?”
“No,” The visitor said softly.
“Then I don't want it,” and off she goes. Slowly, but she is gone. Wheeling herself to
another place where visitors sit so she could complain about the headache she has every day of
every hour.
“I want to go home! I don't belong here.”
I walk around the last corner, and I finally see her. The wailing woman in a wheelchair
has her frail hands stretched out to the scrubs passing her by. Wide brown eyes are bloodshot red,

and she resembles that lost babe in the store. The one with a finger hanging on the bottom lip
showing two little teeth coming in. That child is lost and doesn't know where to go, but they
know they don't belong where they are.
“I don't belong here; I don't belong here.”
I walk over to her; she doesn't notice me until I touch her shoulder. Her lips are quivering
bad, and I no longer want to just shut her up. I stroke her gray cotton hair. It is just like mine,
soft. I plait mine, but white folk don't know how to braid, so hers falls on her shoulders.
“Shh, baby,” I know what they will do if she doesn't quiet down. Strap her down and
medicate her until she is a zombie, like the rest. “Shh, I know you don't belong here. No one
belongs in this prison.”
“I want to go home. I have roses to water, and Ms. Beth she comes and takes care of me.
If I'm not there, she won't have a job.”
“Baby,” I say, feeling sorry for her. She isn't completely out of it, not yet. Her disease isn't
full-blown, but her memory still isn't completely there. I continue, “Baby, I think your family let
Ms. Beth go. I think they chose to move you to the nursing home instead.”
There are the tears again rolling down to the sharp cliff of her cheekbones and falling off
onto the softness of her shirt. “No, no, but my house. Edward left me that house. I said I would
take care of it. We worked hard to own that house.”
“Maybe your kids are caring for it now.” I force the bit of hope to come out in that
sentence.
I know what children do to their parent's homes. Only a few take care of them, but the
majority sell the trophy of achievement.
Pen / Forgotten People / 7
“Why don't we go outside?” She has the same color band around her wrist that I wear,
purple. We have a little more freedom, yet it is all false in the end. “Come, they have a porch. I
like sitting in the rocking chairs and watching nature at work.”
She nods her head. I'm happy that she chose me and not to wallow in the hall depressed
and crying.
I can hear the squeaking of her chair behind me in rhythm with the clinking of my walker.
We parade around the corner I came from and towards the only bright light that wasn't artificial.
There's an open office by the door, a broom closet. The scrub inside glances at our wrists before
buzzing us out.
“Isn't this better?” I sit in my favorite rocking chair, and she rolls beside me.
“It smells like peaches,” She lifts her head flaring her nostrils to sniff the air.
“Yes, the peach factory is down the road packaging the state's fruit.”
“I like peaches. It's my favorite fruit. That's why Georgia will always be my favorite
state, my home.”
“That's good to hear,” I say.
We admire the scene of green grass across the road from us, then close our eyes and
imagine the peaches at our fingertips. She falls asleep, I guess, from all that crying. She is at
peace now, but I wondered how long I will know this one. Who will be the first to leave this
place, she or me?
My face never shows my age, but my hands do. Brown skin sinks between long slender
bones. My freckles from when I was a little girl are more visible, being larger and darker than
before. My hands look fragile and shake really hard for an unknown reason. They'd been that

way since I turned seventy-five. Five years and they are worse than the year before. I hate these
hands. They could not catch me when I fell. They are the reason my family sent me to this godawful
prison.

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