“Are you wearing black stockings?”
“I beg your pardon, Mr Jenkins!”
“Are you wearing black stockings and suspenders?”
“Really Mr Jenkins, your questions are extremely inappropriate. I run a nursing home, not a brothel. Now please control yourself! Do you not want to know how your mother is?”
“Oh bugger that old witch, she hasn’t got any money anyway. I’m far more interested in your sexy body. And God those legs of yours! I’m getting excited just thinking about them. Do you wear black knickers as well?”
“Now Mr Jenkins, that really is enough! I am ending this phone call and will speak to you again when you decide to moderate your tone. Good day!”
“Oh, I love it when you get all matronly on me, you know all bossy. Will you spank me if I …….”
“Good day, Mr Jenkins!
The phone went down and Mr Jenkins was left to his fantasies of whips, suspenders and whatever else got him going. Silly man and GP’s were no different, but at least she knew how to handle them; years of experience from her nurses training on hospital wards to the dizzy heights of running a 50 bed nursing home. Dirty buggers the lot of them.
Matron Elisa Lucia Sulavoski – there was a dispossessed Russian Count and a luscious Italian lurking somewhere in her tortuous genealogical tree – sat back in her chair. Her lips moved into a momentary smile. The resident’s son had travelled well beyond the boundaries of professional etiquette but she couldn’t help but feel a trifle flattered.
She was 49 years of age; 50 and the Saga Club loomed as did sagging bellies, wrinkled necks and tits that had fallen from the penthouse suite to the ground floor. It was a depressing future for a woman who had always taken good looks for granted and the constant attention of men as a simple fact of life.
Since a matrimonial demolition job 10 years ago, men had become a figment of amusement and to a certain extent, fascination. The Matron knew nothing about bitterness, it simply wasn’t in her. Her husband had been a lovely, charming chap but bloody useless when it came to the general business of living, but more than anything else he just hadn’t been strong enough to handle her wilful ways.
Boredom and a quick, friendly divorce.
The Matron was a tough cookie, at least she was tough on the outside. On the inside? Well now, that was another matter altogether. In spite of staring death in the face on a daily basis, she could still shed tears when watching an undertaker’s van leave the nursing home car park. She and her staff had tried their best, but in the end death had no time for dried up bundles of disease. It had no patience at all really.
These days where men were concerned, her arms tended to push away, they didn’t draw in. Sanctity of body didn’t come in to it, it was more a case of will he excite? Will he really tickle my fancy, will he challenge me enough? She was fed up of dominating, fed up of weak men.
In recent years her heart had resigned itself to a future of aloneness, not loneliness mark you, there was a difference. The Matron led a full life, she had her children and friends, she enjoyed a lively social life, who needed men anyway? They were a pretty stupid lot after all, the world began and ended at the tips of their winkies and that was about it.
They were so bloody predictable.
She just couldn’t find a man who was tough enough to handle her,who didn’t wear check short sleeve shirts with breast pockets and who didn’t wash and wax his alter cock on a Sunday afternoon. She wanted a man with a brain and at least a modicum of refinement. She was a highly intelligent woman and just couldn’t cope with dip-sticks, that was all there was to it.
Basically, she demanded a ‘man’ nothing more nothing less. He didn’t have to be all muscles and brawn, he just needed to be manly with a fine brain to go with it. Her magnificent femininity demanded both and she wasn’t prepared to give any quarter on either.
She wanted someone to tame her…..and not in the sexy sense either!
The Matron sighed again and glanced around her office, with eyes that could spot a pin head at 100 paces, a nose that could detect a carer’s fag at 200 paces and a touch that combined both compassion and healing in equal measure.
She was a formidable creature of the old school, she cared about her charges but could cast a fearsome eye upon those who refused to obey. The staccato tunes of her heels warned of her presence and her voice defied even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s on a good day. Her imperious gob (she was sometimes referred to as Matron Gob by some of her less respectful minions, but always behind her back), ensured that her Empire ran smoothly and with the minimum of fuss, sometimes even Death thought twice about causing a stink.
For all that, Matron Sulavoski was a cracking nurse. The best.
The Matron looked at her watch,” God, I’m going to be late!” she shouted at a Springer Spaniel that lay on the floor in the bedroom doorway – even he knew better than to stray into the actual bedroom. She was never late, not for work anyway.
She leapt out of bed and ran into the shower. As she stood beneath the hot spray, she remembered earlier times when the water was used to wash away the debris of passion and the aromas of intimacy. Now, her untouched skin required little attention from the water.
She dressed quickly, grabbed a piece of burnt toast (she liked it this way) and jumped in a car that had seen better days but still served her well. Her driving was fast and skilful, it had to be; she employed the dangerous habit of applying some bits of scanty makeup, attaching her seat belt and driving the car all at the same time. The Matron could still treat cosmetics with a degree of contempt, as her beauty had not yet succumbed to the ravages of age and inevitable fatigue.
She arrived at the Nursing Home. A place where she made sure that her residents would experience impeccable waitress service and unwavering attention to their every need. Although the Matron lived with death, she knew her laughter could give the residents a temporary immortality and sometimes even a belief in a benign afterlife. She also made damned sure that death was met in comfort and with as much dignity as was humanely possible. Her charges were always able to say Goodbye to morbid responsibility and a peaceful Hello to another world that only they understood. She saw to the needs of worried relatives with equal determination. Sometimes though, her compassion neglected the most important person in her life:
Elisa Lucia Sulavoski.
“Matron! Matron! We have got a situation!” she was greeted by a nurse attempting to keep panic at bay.
“Now calm down Jenny, what’s the matter?” The Matron replied in that calm but assuring way of hers.
“It’s the builders! They won’t do any more work until they see you. They’ve downed tools and Mr Graham hasn’t got any running water in his room. He’s threatening to report us to the Authorities. He’s going mad!”
“Where are they?”
“Top floor, Matron.”
“Right, leave it to me, Jenny.”
The Matron’s lips set into boss mode, tight and threatening, her hands gripped her hips, she pulled her body upright, flicked back the long brunette hair (she hadn’t had time to tie it back) and moved.
The vision in blue was ready for action. Builders? How dare they upset one of her residents!
“Right, what’s going on here, gentlemen?! What’s all the fuss about?”
Two men were sitting down on a plank .
They seemed to be in shock.
They quickly stubbed out the sly fags, the Matron had a reputation. They both fancied her too. Black stockings and suspenders again.
They kept quiet and pointed to a red bucket. Its lid was tightly shut. Next to it was a women’s handbag. It was an odd place for a handbag, the Matron had to admit. The room was supposed to be unoccupied as it was being virtually rebuilt. She followed their eyes and said, “Well, one of the residents must have wandered in here and left their handbag. So what’s the problem? Our residents do suffer from dementia you know.”
“ Dementia, my arse Matron, if you’ll excuse the French,” one of the builders replied as he pointed again at the red bucket.
“So? It’s a bucket, one of yours I believe.”
“Oh, it’s a bucket all right. An empty bucket at that, at least it was when we finished last night. Have a look inside.”
“Have a look inside the bucket. One of your residents has left a business card.”
“A business card? What’s this nonsense?”
She picked up the bucket, it seemed a bit too heavy to be empty, very heavy in fact. She lifted the lid and peered inside. The stench must have ambushed the builders and nearly knocked them over. No wonder they were in a state of shock! Not the Matron though, she was used to it. There was indeed a business card nestling at the bottom of the bucket.
A monstrous, steaming one at that.
A huge turd had been left by one of the residents, a woman, judging by the handbag that had been left meticulously alongside the red bucket. The poor dear had been caught short. Had left her handbag too.
The Matron looked at the two precious builders and burst out laughing.
“Now you know what working in a Nursing Home is all about! Terrible thing dementia.” She left the room still laughing but taking the offending item with her.
“Matron! Matron!” Here we go again, she looked over her shoulder and saw a fat, sweaty care worker running after her.
“What is it, Mildred? Another panic again, over nothing no doubt.” It was the story of her life.
“It’s Major Lester. He’s smoking in the TV room again. The other residents are complaining and when I asked him to go to the smoking area he told me to fuck off to a Weight Watchers meeting, the rude man! No need for that was there?”
“Leave it with me,” the Matron replied, trying not to laugh. “I’ll see to him.”
The Matron braced her shoulders and hips, time to do battle again. She confronted the old soldier. He was sitting down ignoring the sniffs of aged self- righteousness and swallowing whisky as if it was his last night on mother earth. Which it could well have been, bearing in mind his ruined body.
She sat down on her haunches, gone was the steady stare and look of, ‘I defy you to disobey’, instead she took the old boy’s hand and said quietly,” Now look Major Lester, you know that smoking isn’t allowed in here. If it was down to me you could smoke to your hearts content but we have to abide by the rules set down by the powers that be. Now come on, otherwise I will be out of a job and you will be put in some awful Council home.”
She smiled one of her best. There was a lecherous twinkle in the old boy’s eyes as he said, “You are the only one in here with any sense Matron, anything for you. Why couldn’t that gargantuan lump have asked me nicely in the first place, I am an officer and a gentleman after all. By the way will you be bringing me my hot drink at bed time?”
“Not tonight, Major.”
“More is the pity, I could still give you a fine rogering you know! Damn waste, you not having a man in your life! Damn waste! Christ if I was 30 years younger———-! The Matron’s single status was well known. The Major’s withering arm tried to wrestle with one of her buttocks but gave up. The tragedy of lost manhood caught his crinkled face for a moment. Age poisoned everything.
“I’m sure you could,” she laughed, “now, let’s get you to the smoking area before you kill off some of the residents.”
“That would be an act of mercy for some of them if you ask me, Matron. Look at ‘em. Worse than me after Burma!…..and don’t forget my whisky!” As she pushed his wheelchair, she knew that some of those he referred to may well outlive him. Mortality was never in any doubt in her Nursing Home. There was only ever one question, when?
Did it never end?
“What is it, Fiona?”
“Mr McAlastair is ripping his room apart!”
“Oh, is he now? A DIY fanatic at home if I remember correctly, his wife did warn us. Come on let’s go and calm his enthusiasm.”
This was the last crisis of the day, in a place where life came to an end and age prevailed in every nook and cranny. Some of the residents held on in spite of prickly degradation, some in spite of joint cracking pain. Some held on without even knowing why, their minds crawling over fantastic memories of other times or the left over glimpses of years that their sick brains had erased and destroyed. Some wandered in their own forgotten minds, content with the release from a world so fraught and hard. Some craved an understanding of reality and tortured themselves in their addiction. For all in the Matron’s Nursing Home, Death came and collected regardless of suffering or happiness. It roamed around the hygienic environment mocking tears of farewell and the grabbing relatives that hovered around hopeless death beds waiting to pounce. Their greed could never compete. Death never reneged on its terminal contracts either.
Every day of her working life, the Matron watched all that was good in the human condition and all that was bad. When she closed the door on certain death it was laugh or cry She always laughed, her sanity depended on it. She made sure the residents laughed too. She accepted the comical if tragic, harmony of Life and Death. She wasn’t quite sure where love fitted in to the existential joke though.
The band played on.
People swayed and shook. Alcohol blended with casual enjoyment and everyone forgot who they were for a few short blissful hours. The Matron had arrived with a friend and as usual male heads turned and male imaginations dropped into depraved areas that no one dared speak about. 49 the Matron may have been, but she fulfilled the carnal fantasies of both middle age ennui and youthful desire for the filthy older women. Some might say she had it all, although her unwavering modesty would have denied such a claim.
A few men approached and bored.
The Matron was polite but clear in her will to seek nothing more than uncommitted friendship without the sex. Other men tried to charm and lie, the Matron saw through them all. Men were so fickle and easy to read. Her right index finger twitched once or twice, she had tried hard to dump this pointing extravagance but had got nowhere. She knew pointing was rude but just couldn’t help herself. It was her way of saying, ‘I’m the boss around here and don’t you forget it!’
Not one man was able to satisfy the standards that the Matron demanded. They kept coming and they kept walking away empty handed. Old and young. Rich and poor. No one was allowed to get close.
The night wore on and the Matron celebrated her independent state. It was surely preferable to the disappointment and callous disregard of 20-30 year marriages? She looked at the tolerant faces of long term union, the eyes that scratched and tore, the fingertips that had gone cold in the night and the hideous predictability. She thanked the Gods that she had got out.
Aloneness was by far the better deal after all. At least she never knew what the next day would bring. Or the next moment. As she went to the bar a man brushed past her. His mumbled apology was lost in the noise and carefree din.
A quick glance told her there was something different about him. He hadn’t leered, he hadn’t even seemed to notice her. Unusual. She bought a drink and returned to her friends. She started to ignore the shouted conversation. Her eyes were searching. At last she spotted him. He was standing alone. Aloof and apart. Well, maybe not quite aloof. There was a solitary air about him. A detachment that could not be easily understood. Other women noticed him too.
He was different.
The Matron continued to watch the man. His movements. He spoke to no one. He stood and like her, just watched, although he seemed to absorb with a greater intensity than herself. He was well dressed, in a tailored tweedy sort of way. There was a refined measure about him, a natural and dignified ease. His whole body seemed to speak.
Unable to resist the man’s perceived loneliness, the Matron’s kind heart gave way yet again. Or so she convinced herself anyway. She went up to him and started talking. God did she talk! The gob was on fine form. The music saved the unsuspecting man’s eardrums but not his disposition. The right index finger was out, the gob mutilated, or at least tried to, and the hands stood on hips ready for just about anything. The man endured but remained calm. He looked at the outspoken Boudicca before him, the strength, the domination.
“Madam,” he said gently, as he ignored the verbal velocity of the Matron’s gob, “if you point your finger at me one more time I shall shove it right up your arse. Now, talking of anal endeavour, try giving your mouth a rest and your arse a chance, as I have no doubt it is as capable as the former when it comes to exuding utter drivel. Do please consider the fact, that an over – indulged oral orifice is usually a symptom of mental illness. It proceeds from being totally disinterested if not oblivious, to the thoughts and views of other people in the immediate verbal vicinity as it were. Now do please, go away.”
The Matron stood still.
Her mouth closed tight.
Her hands dropped to her sides as she curled the right index finger into her palm. Her eyes widened. Shock. For the first time in years she was unable to speak. The gob was silent. After a few thumps of drumbeat she managed to say, “Er——–well….. er—– there’s no need to be so offensive is there? I mean……”
“Well now,” the man interrupted, “I’ve just received a crash course on the subject from your good self, so I thought I would try out my new skills. Good God women do you ever stop transmitting? Have you ever tried going on receive and allowing some other poor bugger a crack at the airwaves? And as for that finger of yours, have you any idea how insulting it is to point at someone? Obviously not!”
“Well——–yes.” The matron demurred. “But I don’t mean to be rude.” She was being reduced by the second and in an odd way was enjoying every moment. Her voice was edged with a rare humility, as she said, “May I buy you a drink? Um….a peace offering if you like.”
The man looked at her more closely. He couldn’t help but admire her. She hadn’t wilted, she had taken his attack right on the chin.
“Yes alright, I will have a whisky and water please but let’s go into the other bar, it’s quieter and we won’t have to shout.”
He took her hand without asking and led her to the bar next door. They sat for an hour. Two strong characters discovering the lines of least resistance. The Matron quickly realised that she could never dominate this man, could never boss him. He was tougher than her and smarter. She was a pragmatic black and white, he was a grey intellect. He took her home and kissed her cheek goodnight.
Months later the Matron had found a proper use for her shower again. These days the right index finger rarely pointed and the gob was more subdued .
The Matron had been tamed.