Michael the orderly was seated on a bench, nodding his head, drawing information from Todd, a patient in the long-term care facility.
“I think Marty Vreeland’s in love with Valerie,” Todd said. “He’s crazy hungry, like before. You can’t knock a guy for that. I can’t.”
Michael nodded. “Everybody has to love somebody around here or go nuts. Valerie’s his anchor.”
Todd thought Michael sounded like a professor, often dispensing good advice in the facility. “There’s a new edge to this,” he said. “They want to play around. French or what, I don’t know, but it has to be handled by someone who’s thoughtful.”
“Yes, and…?” Michael said.
“Somebody has to put them up to it. Literally, I mean. Find a room where they can have some time. Line them up like loving little soldiers on parade. Position them, whatever, so they’d be aware of each other. He’s dying to get near her, but needs privacy.”
“That’s not privacy,” Michael said. “That’s invasion!”
“Oh, knock it off, Michael. How in hell would they manage? They need help. I came to you, not any of those other jerks sensitive as crutches. This is only a paycheck for most of them.”
Todd reassessed his statement. “Well, some of them’d make noise about it. Blab it to kingdom come. They’d carry tales down to the city, fall all over themselves talking about a couple of quads playing love games!”
Todd’s face turned red carrying an anger Michael could measure. “Can’t you see some of them, down there in O’Malley’s, shooting off their mouths about the two quads going at it?”
Sensitive as he was, Michael thought about his wife Mercedes and how it would be with her and a third party if anything like this ever come between them.
“What’s Valerie’s take on this?” Michael said. His question hung itself out in the air bright as any double-entendre.
Todd snickered a reply. Michael had other questions looking for answers, then realized it didn’t make much difference if Valerie and Marty got together. Under his breath he said, “It’s what makes the world go ‘round.”
“She’s all for it,” Todd replied. “Marty didn’t tell me. Valerie told me herself, those blue eyes of hers lit up like the match is burning all the time regardless of what everything else looks like in here. Like a pilot light, on all the time. She had a lot going for her before her accident. Guys chasing her since she was fourteen. Now she says she’s half wild again with the idea. It’s like she was crying, coming out of a long nightmare, not that it’s ever going to be over by a long shot. You know her as much me. She’s tough hanging on this long, not going off the other side. Memory’s often a killer in a place like this. Have to keep it in order, and that’s a reverence and a preference in itself. No matter what she wants, it makes no difference. She’s just game. She even kissed me on the cheek after we talked about it. Said I smelled like the old days. How do you like them apples, huh? The old biker’s still got a wallop!” He wagged two forefingers on the wheels as though denoting minor erections. “And she was wearing some goddamned sweet-ass perfume, I can tell you!”
Michael, on his rounds, saw Valerie sitting at the end of the corridor, looking down on the span of field between her and the town spread wide in a brown and gold encounter with day. October had crashed in a late rain the past week, the leaves at flight, acorn color coming once again. The same color was in her hair. She felt the shadow over her shoulder, measured its play on the wall and knew it was Michael, her favorite orderly, a hunk and a half in his own right.
“Hey, man,” she said, “you been talking to our mutual friend, my agent?” Her eyes were lit-up blue, her nose small and neat with a slight bump in it, and a scar, slim as a saber, accompanying her left brow. The thin span of the scar was a testimony to the hand of the surgeon who had saved her face but found difficulty saving her limbs from permanent dangle.
She spun the wheelchair about, let the light of an overhead neon hit her eyes, knew the flash of light bounced on its way. Michael had once again assessed the warmth in the 27-year old woman who had been bounced against the back end of a trailer rig by her biker boyfriend out on the Mass Pike. She spent 22 hours between the emergency room and the operating room before they threw in the towel.
“This proposal your agent offered up. I can assist, but it’s got to be a private matter. I don’t want it blabbed about so I’d be inundated with private heart requests. I can’t be Valentine and do my job.” His deep brown eyes poured into hers in a serious demand. “And before I get caught up in embarrassment, I’d want a few things squared away.”
“Don’t worry, Michael, he’s pulling my strings all ready. Something about him gets me and I admit it has for a long time. I’ll give you all the instructions, and please, don’t get any deeper involved than what it appears to be, just a little exploratory fun and matters of the mind. We’ve all had a try at that.”
She told him all that she could. He listened, he nodded, he left.
The next day the arrangements were settled and put into action; the room set up, the key to the door set aside.
Night came. Valerie took herself to the appointed room, the wheels rolling softly under the wheel chair, a heart running ahead of itself. Marty Vreeland was there first. They looked at each other, aglow. Michael walked in and locked the door behind him.
“You ain’t staying, are you, Michael?” Marty said.
Valerie laughed at him. “Strange number,” she said. “Strange combo.”
Michael and Marty let it go past them.
Michael, with care and respect, shifted Valerie so that she was comfortable on the bed. He wiped beads of perspiration from her brow. Then, with heavy muscles working, he situated Marty. He felt no embarrassment, saw none, imagined the face of his wife Mercedes if she were in such a situation, the fears she would exhibit, seeing her mother over her shoulder where she resided for too much of her life.
Michael, departing, smiled at the two of them. “Ring the buzzer if you need me.”
He touched each one on the shoulder where sensation swam. Each felt the connection, electricity and need rolled into a single charge running through them.
Valerie’s eyes were on fire. She said, “What a threesome we could make.”
And she finished by saying:
Today the sun is shining, the clouds have sprung on past,
The heart is playing somewhere, though this love can never last;
But somewhere a guy is smiling and somewhere a doll exults,
For though we keep on dreaming, think long about results.
Sheehan has 13 books, 14 Pushcart nominations, Georges Simenon Fiction Award, included in Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009, nominated for 2010 and 2011. He has 165 short stories on Rope and Wire Magazine and has appeared in Rosebud Magazine (3), Ocean Magazine (7) and Troubadour 21(+150).