Black Banana

bana

While in a training on mental health, I felt my eyelids growing heavy. I could barely resist the urge to let them fall shut just for a few minutes. The struggle to stay awake was intense and I was losing.

Just as I gave in and let my head drop forward, the presenter started to pass out pink foil chocolate hearts. She scattered a handful on each table and graciously declared a chocolate break for all.

After ten minutes, most of the crowd had reassembled with the smokers and vending machine patrons still straggling in when our generous presenter restarted on the thrilling topic of depression.

Yet again, drowsiness crept over me. A few pieces of candy remained on the table in front of me, just a little less tempting than taking a nap underneath of the table. The nap was not going to happen so I began my plans to eat the one closest to me and maybe the one next to it, too.

Wait, I pulled my hand back from little hearts that I was a second away from capturing. I remembered in a fleeting moment of self-control a pack of nuts in the front pocket of my bag. That would be a healthier option than post-Valentine’s Day discount chocolates.

Be stealthy, I told myself. I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself than my intermittent dozing may have already done.

I reached down into the front pocket where I was certain the nuts awaited me and grabbed something that was not the sealed plastic bag I expected.

Whatever it was that I grabbed was cool and slimy.

And oh so organic, I thought as I pulled out what I suspected to be a decomposing banana.

It was completely black and starting to shrink into a little mummified fruit corpse.

More surprises were to follow on my return from the trash can.

In my brief absence, my neighbor had gathered up the remaining chocolates into a pile, including the ones that I had been eyeing, and scooped them into her purse.

On second check of the former-banana pocket, there were no nuts.

There were never any nuts.

Only the lingering smell of a rotten banana remained.

End of January troubles

The man knocked on the door and yelled, “Maintenance.”

“Hang on, hang on, I’m coming,” a gruff voice said from inside of the apartment.

A large woman opened the door and narrowed her eyes in suspicion at the man. She held a grey cat in her arms and stroked its purring head. The cat stopped purring and glared at the man in suspicion, as well. The four eyes stared at the man in a moment of uncomfortable silence before the woman stepped out of the doorway and motioned for the man to enter.

Flustered, the man looked at his clipboard again, quickly trying to find the woman’s name.

“So the neighbors have been filling your apartment with meth gas?” the man asked as he scanned his paperwork and set a large black bag just inside of the door.

“Mrs. January, right?”

Her head bobbed up and down so vigorously the skin under her chin wobbled back and forth.

“So, that’s a yes,” he said with a smile.

Nice teeth, she thought, before continuing.

“And that’s not all,” the woman added.

Her confidence was quickly growing in the visitor. As a rule, she trusted people with nice teeth. He needs to know everything if he’s going to be able to help, she thought.

The man raised his eyebrows in question and nodded his head encouraging the woman to go on. He pulled a pen out of his coat pocket and poised it over the paper, ready to add to the existing list of complaints.

“They snuck in here and took my original birth certificate and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave it to that woman who stays over there, so she can change her name.”

“And is that it?” the man asked as he made his notes.

“No, it’s not. They also took my heating pad and when I went over there last week, guess who had a heating pad?”

The man didn’t need to guess.

“Her,” she clarified, “you know, the one they gave my birth certificate to after they stole it from me.”

Nodding his head in understanding, “I see no reason to wait any longer to get started. Let’s sit at the table.”

She took his lead and seated herself at the table, with the blind trust that a sheep gives to its shepherd.
He unzipped the black bag and pulled out a machine with silver nobs and needle indicators. Setting it on the table, he flicked a switch on the back and the machine started to whir to life. From another section of the bag, he pulled out a handful of wires.

As he prepared the treatment, he turned to the woman and said, “Go ahead and take off your glasses. We’ll attach these to your temples and get you fixed right up.”

She stared at him with blue eyes of gratitude before removing her glasses. A tear splashed from the corner of one eye down her cheek.

“Thank you,” she said simply and closed her eyes.

Making it work

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A woman sat on the edge of a hard backed chair.  She still wore her uniform from her work as a security guard, tight in all the wrong places.  She struggled to keep her glassy eyes open.

The room was dark and cluttered with boxes and furniture, speakers and shoes.   There was only one window in the room, sealed tight with a piece of plastic and blanket stapled to the wall. 

The off-duty security guard was not alone in the room.  An old woman sat on a couch with an afghan on her lap.  She wore wrinkled pajamas, unchanged from the day and possibly from the week.  The air around the woman smelled rank and greasy. 

“Mom, why did you do this?” the off-duty security guard/daughter asked with as much emotion as she could muster. 

She felt so tired that she didn’t particularly care about the answer.  Monday through Friday, she squeezed into that hateful uniform and walked to the bus station, and rode for an hour to work.  10 hours later, she rode another bus back to her neighborhood and walked home in the dark.  She trudged through rain and snow, past thugs and punks, careful not to trip over the broken sidewalk or fall into a pothole, to take care of her mother.  

“Do what?” the old woman asked innocently. 

“I found all of your pills in the toilet, Mom.  I’m sure you would have gotten away with it if you hadn’t tried to flush the bottles, too.”

The old woman snickered and leaned back against the couch.  “I’m quitting the pills.”

“Not doing it anymore,” the old woman declared and resolutely crossed her arms across her chest.

Ring-a-ling-a-ling, ring-a-ling-a-ling, an electronic song began to play and a screen lit up a digital blue.

“Mom, leave it.  They can wait.”

The old woman frowned at her daughter and sat straight up.  She picked up the small flip-phone, looked at the blue screen with a slight smile, and set it back down next to her leg.  

“I’m better now, so I don’t need the pills anymore,” she said.

 Frustrated and tired, the younger woman threw her hands up. 

“No, Mom, you’re not better.  You’ll never be better.” 

The old woman leaned back against the couch again and glanced at her phone with a secret smile.   

Quick, its urgent.

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Hanging up the phone, the woman grabbed her keys and headed back down the stairs and through the doors.

The voicemail was urgent and said to come quick.  They had been there again and this time she was left without power and freezing cold.

Assuming the heat had been accidentally shut off or a bill was unpaid, the woman left to investigate.  Twenty minutes later, she arrived and let herself in through a side door.

“Marg, it’s me,” she said and stomped the snow from her boots onto the rug.

“Oh honey, I’m so glad you’re here.  They’ve been here again, the little green men,” the woman said gravely.

Feeling her way along the wall towards the sound of the voice, an old woman in dark glasses slowly padded forward in a pair of dirty slippers and wrapped in a threadbare bathrobe.

“Marg,” the woman asked, taking off her gloves, “how do you know they’re green?  And how do you know they’ve been here?”

Scanning the apartment, the woman flipped a light switch, flooding the room with light.  No men, and certainly no green men, were present.

“I just know it, that’s how.  They hide behind the stove and the fridge so I can’t get them.  See, they know I’m blind.”

“Marg, you said they took the electricity, what happened?”

“They took it, just like they always do.  They’ve been stealing it from me, little bits at a time.  Those little green men are mean men. They are bad and mean men,” the old woman declared.

“How did you get the heat back on if they took the electricity?” the visitor asked, her face twisted with concern.

Calmly, the old woman explained, “It wasn’t me.  They knew that you would come and turned it back on.”

“Do you see how they torment me?  Come on, let’s sit down and I’ll tell you all about them,” the old woman suggested and patted the back of a lumpy looking brown couch.

“Marg, did you take your medication today?” her visitor inquired.

“What medication?  I don’t have a health problem; I have a little green man problem.”