She ain’t so bad, Mrs. Davids. I know she drink too much, and she sure do swear a lot, especially for a body as old as she is. But she ain’t so bad. I’m about sixty-five years old, and I been taking care of her, feels like, my whole life. Ain’t nobody really understand why, I guess, but I do. I do.
I wasn’t none surprised when the kitchen staff called me this evening. Said something about Mrs. Davids disrupting all the other residents, said something about Mrs. Davids making some remark the kitchen folk ain’t took too kindly.
So I drive over to Parksland, quick as I can, seeing as how I live a good thirty minutes away. I make it there in about fifteen and run over to the office where the wait staff is holding Mrs. Davids like she some kind of escaped prisoner. It’s a sight to behold. That’s God’s truth right there. Two young waitresses dressed all up in they tuxedo shirts and black pants and bowties sitting with they boss, a boy who ain’t old enough to be nobody’s daddy, let alone boss. And they’s got Mrs. Davids across from them looking every single bit the ninety-nine years old she is, sitting in that small chair that swallows her up and holding that cane her husband had made for her, thirty-some years back, when everyone thought she’d die first. I can see by the strong line of her back and the thin lines of they lips that Mrs. Davids sure enough been giving them hell.
“Sam, thank you for coming all this way,” the boss-boy says, finally noticing me in the doorway, “She wouldn’t go back up to her room until you came over here.”
“Ah, Sam!” Mrs. Davids says, standing up slowly, “These people have treated me absolutely horribly! I want you to place a dinner order for me and bring it up to my room before you go.” Then without saying one word to any of the other folks in the room, she grabs her cane and walks on out of the office, headed slow as can be to her room on the second floor.
Soon as she’s out of earshot one of the waitresses shakes her head and lets out a little scream. “I cannot stand her!”
The boss-boy glances quickly at me to see if I look offended by this remark, and I don’t think I do, but my guess is that waitress is going to get a talking to after I’m gone, letting her know that there are some things you ain’t supposed to say in front of some people, which I suppose is the lesson they were trying to teach Mrs. Davids.
“Well, I guess I’m supposed to place a dinner order,” I say to them, and they bring me her Thursday meal.
“If y’all don’t mind my asking,” I start when I’m almost out of the door, “what exactly did Mrs. Davids say that’s got you all riled up?”
That question sure enough hits a hot note. The boss-boy don’t really know what to do with himself either, shoves his hands into his pockets and starts to stammer a bit. “Well, Sam . . . sir, she said. . . .”
Boy takes so long to spit it out that I start to wonder if old Mrs. Davids done told everyone she was going to shoot up the retirement home.
“Sam, she said that she didn’t want to sit in the back of the dining room because that’s where all the niggers sit.” [End Page 693]
The room gets quiet for another minute, and the boss-boy turns every kind of red there is before he decides to look at me again. Seems to me, white folks nowadays always feel the fear of God after they say the word “nigger” in front of one.
I shift the weight of the tray in my hands. “Don’t that beat all,” I finally say, “What a silly woman, Mrs...