Word Count 500
Pilots of Time
by G Ackman
Mabel didn’t really want lunch, but she knew if she didn’t eat some of it, they would give her grief about it. She really was too excited to eat. Today was Tuesday, and on Tuesdays Oscar came to visit. Dutifully, she swallowed another spoonful of soup and took two bites of her sandwich. She thought maybe it was tomato soup and grilled cheese, but she wasn’t quite sure. Her mind was on Oscar’s visit.
Mabel wiped her mouth and put her napkin on her plate, as she was taught to do when she was just a little girl. She slowly and painfully used her arms to wheel herself to the front door, so she could be there when Oscar arrived. There he was, coming in the door now. Her trembling hands reached out for him and when the woman – Mary? Sarah? – No, Carol, that was it. When Carol put Oscar in her lap, her years and infirmities melted away like ice on a summer day. Oscar’s head nuzzled sweetly against her neck and one of his little paws was lying protectively on her chest. After he said hello, he gave her cheek a little lick – just one – and then settled into her lap, his brown eyes looking up at her and telling her that he was back, and for just this moment, it was only the two of them. Mabel came alive on Tuesdays. Oscar took her back to better days, when she had her little Gretel to jump up on her lap, and Frank was snoozing in his own chair beside her. In those days, they traveled, they entertained, they square danced – they were active. Her hands didn’t shake uncontrollably, her mouth could form the words that her brain wanted her to say, and her feet took her where she wanted to go. Those days shone like jewels in Mabel’s mind and it was the normalcy of holding little Oscar that illuminated those jewels. The rest of her week was spent counting down the days until Tuesday when she would come alive again.
Today’s duty nurse was new and this was her first Tuesday. When they told her Carol would be bringing a dog in for the residents to spend time with, Karissa was skeptical. Dogs were not clean and maintaining a hygienic environment was vital to the health of the residents. However, one look at Mabel’s eyes, usually dull, dry, and lifeless, now sparkling with life and love changed her mind. She walked over to Carol and introduced herself. “What made you start to do this,” she asked.
Carol, watching the line of residents waiting for their turn to hold Oscar, smiled gently. “I know what my dogs mean to me and how it would destroy me to not be with them. I wanted to give that feeling back to these people, so I started the pilot program two years ago and now a network of dogs all over the country fly nursing home residents back in time.”