Short Story
               Still Got That Magic Touch!
                                                       By Rose Titus


Ricardo hated his job, he hated the place where he worked, and he hated the
people there, also.  But it was the only job he could get, and the pay was way
too low.  He had to lift people, clean up other people’s messes, and feed
people who would most likely puke up all over on his clean white shirt.  He
hated everything about his job at Happy Dale Retirement Home.

The commute was also bad, having to drive all the way to Salem, also known
as the “Witch City.”  At least he could laugh at the little old ladies and call
them “witches,” knowing they might be too deaf too hear, or too senile to
know what he was saying.

When the head nurse wasn’t watching, he could play a few fun pranks, also.  
He could spill orange juice all over some old man’s pants and then yell, “Oh, I
guess yah gotta be changed again, Mr. Jones!”  Or tell an old lady her new
blue nightgown looked nice, because, “it matched her hair.”  He sometimes
tossed dentures into the dumpster behind the nursing home, also, just so the
senile people could not bite him.

It never occurred to Ricardo that the day would come when he himself would
be elderly or unable to walk, that one day he might be unable to see clearly
or hear correctly, that he may one day become forgetful, or have to live in a
facility, forgotten by his own family and left alone to sit and wait for visitors
who would never come.

Cindy Lou was suspicious of the new guy.  There was just something about
him she could not stand.  He gave her the creeps, especially when he asked
her out.  “Leave me alone, Ricardo,” she would always say, but he would not
leave her alone.  He was always in the staff break room, and never around
when people needed help.  If he wasn’t in the break room, he would be out in
the back parking lot, smoking.  Sometimes he took long lunches and came
back smelling like alcohol.

She thought of reporting him, but worried he would do something to get back
at her, slash her tires, or worse.  It wouldn’t be the first time a person’s car
was vandalized or a purse stolen in that place.  She had worked there five
years and still couldn’t believe that people who worked to take care of elderly
people could sometimes be so mean and sneaky.  It made her worry about
her own parents when they got old someday.

Edna sat and stared blankly at the television in the day room and tried to
continue to knit a shawl she was working on.  It became difficult as her
arthritic hands began to stiffen and ache.  She looked sideways as she saw
Clyde pull up beside her in his wheelchair, “Edna,” he whispered, “Pass it on.  
Tonight, we go over the wall.”

“I don’t think you’ll make it over the wall, Clyde.  Not with your bad back.”

“Well, then there’s always the tunnel me and the boys have been digging.  
We could all go out that way, you know.”

She just looked at Clyde and smiled.  He pretended to be crazy, and he was
very good at it.

“And what are we going to do then?  Hop on a bus and go to town?”

“Sure.  We’ll go to town and have a few drinks.  I’m buying.”

“It’s a deal, then.”

Then he asked, “Is that rotten, no good orderly going to be working today?”

“Let’s find out,” she reached into the bag where she kept her yarn and
knitting needles and pulled out a pack of tarot cards.  She shuffled the cards
and pulled one out:  The Devil.  “Yup.  He’ll be here today.”

“How about that nice girl, what’s her name?  Betty Lou?”

“Her name is Cindy and she’s here today, because I saw her walking the
halls.”

“Good.  Maybe she’ll find my dentures today.  She looked all over yesterday.”

“No, I don’t think she’ll find them.  I’ve a feeling they’re gone, Clyde.  You’ll
need to just get new ones.”

“Darn it.  I shouldn’t have to get new ones.  I never lost anything until that
young punk started here.  Things are going missing.  Watches, wallets, all
kinds of things going missing around here since he started.”

“Just let him push too far, Clyde.”

“Got something planned, have you, old girl?”

She just looked at him and said nothing.  All around them in the day room,
other residents of Happy Dale looked away from the television and looked at
Edna and Clyde, as if expecting to see something happen.  Edna put the tarot
cards away and went back to her knitting, “If they would let me use my herbs I
could fix this arthritis, you know.”

“Can you find my dentures, old girl?”

“No.  I told you, they are long gone.”

Just then Ricardo shuffled into the day room.  He sat in front of the TV and
changed the channel to watch cartoons.

“That’s my show!” cried Irma, who sat in the back of the room.  She actually
could not see the TV very well because she was nearly blind, but she wore
hearing aids and strained to listen.

“Yeah, old lady?  Well, it’s my break, and now I wanna see my show!”

“Don’t the employees have their own television, in their break room?” said
Rochester.  No one seemed to know his first name, or if that was his first
name, so everyone just called him “Rochester” or “Mr. Rochester.”  He was a
World War Two veteran and claimed to have killed ten – and sometimes he
claimed more – Nazis, and three Hitler Youth boys, when he was a younger
age than Ricardo.

“Yeah.  The other TV is broken, so I’m watching this one, Roger.”

“It’s Mr. Rochester to you, boy!  When I was your age, I machine-gunned
twenty Nazis and I don’t know how many Hitler Youth!  I took a shot at Hitler
himself, but I missed, damn it!  I would have got him, too, if he hadn’t ducked
under his Mercedes!  Now you just fix that TV back so Irma can watch her
soap!”

“Now lookit, grandpa!”  Ricardo stood up, towering over Mr. Rochester, and
shook his fist, “I’ve had about as much as I can take from you senile, crazy old
people–

Edna pointed at Ricardo and began to mumble something quietly.  She was
almost incoherent, but Clyde could still hear well enough to make out a few
words like “reprobate,” “vermin,” and “maggot.”  Then she closed her eyes
and whispered an incantation…

“What?  Talkin’ to yerself again, old lady?”

And then there was a flash of light and a puff of smoke.

Ricardo suddenly realized he was now very small.  He looked up and saw
Edna’s pink fluffy slippers and the wheels of Clyde’s wheelchair above his
head.  He tried to scream, but all that came out was a faint squeak.  He
looked down and saw his own legs, all six of them.

“Cindy!” cried Edna, “Cindy!  Come here, will you!”

“What is it, Mrs. Johnson?”  Cindy Lou came into the day room, wondering
what sort of emergency Edna Johnson could be shouting about.

“Look!  Look there!  Cindy, look at that on the floor!”

“Huh?”

“That right there!  Cindy, what sort of place is this?  I cannot believe, with all
the money we pay to reside in this home, that there are cockroaches at
Happy Dale!  This is supposed to be a top rated home for the elderly, and
you have roaches!”

Cindy Lou quickly stepped on the cockroach, “Okay?  There!  It won’t bother
you.  I’ll send the janitor to mop up the spot on the floor, okay, Mrs. Johnson?”

“Thank you, dear.”

Edna looked at Clyde again and smiled.

“You still got that magic touch, old girl!” he said.

“I may be old, but I’m still Queen of the Witches.”

“Damn!  Wish I had my bazooka!” said Rochester.  “That would take him out
and put a hole in the damn wall!  Take out all the cars in the parking lot, too!”

“Shut up, Rochester,” snapped Edna, “It’s cold outside.  We don’t want any
holes in the wall!  You want to blow up a young punk like that, then you need
to use sorcery!  It’s more accurate than one of your stupid guns!”

“And more fun, too,” added Clyde.

Irma cackled, “Does anyone know where the TV control is?  I hope that fool
boy didn’t have it in his pocket when the girl stepped on him.  We’ll never get
it back, now.”
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
About Rose Titus

Rose Titus works two
jobs to support her
writing habit.  She exists
somewhere in a suburb
in cold, dreary New
England, with three pain
in the arse cats and a
very out of date
Macintosh.  She also
has a restored classic
Buick that gets her to
the grocery store.

Her work has previously
appeared in Lost
Worlds, Lynx Eye, Bog
Gob, Mausoleum,
Midnight Times, Blood
Moon Rising, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
and Wicked Wheels.