(Disclaimer: this series of stories is completely fictional and none of the persons, places or institutions in these stories are real, but figments of my own imagination. Any similarity to any real person, place or institution is entirely coincidental.)
Loose-lipped Loreen did not earn her nickname by giving away secrets; oh no! She herself had plenty of secrets and knew enough to understand that if one wants to keep a secret, then it is vital to keep it secret that you have a secret to keep. For example, she had told no-one of her vision; a religious epiphany she was certain, in which the hospital’s patron saint, Helvi appeared unto her and said,
“Look, Loreen, I want you to keep an eye on my great-great-great-great-great-grand-niece Paula… If someone’s not there to prevent disaster she’s lethal. But if Paula should actually kill someone it would invoke the ancient curse of the family demon, Count Vladimir the Vacuous (more commonly known as Vlad the Sucker); and bring about the destruction of the hospital as we know it… Oh, and if you don’t do as I say, and Paula is responsible for a patient’s death, then I shall personally see to it that the Devil reserves a particularly hot spot in Hell for you! Usual reward for success, of course… pearly gates and all that… harps… wings… long white smocks… haloes etc…”
Well, patron saints are patron saints aren’t they? And they are there to be obeyed, thought Loreen; besides, she herself was a terrible sinner, so she did not wish to endanger the evidently good chance of going to heaven in the afterlife, which St Helvi’s orders had implied. That other place didn’t sound like much fun at all to her; and ever since her epiphany she had followed her charge around the hospital, trying her best to undo any damage Paula may do to her patients or their chances of recovery. St Helvi would send her secret messages through her horoscope in ‘Take Five’ magazine to keep her ahead of the game…
Thus far she had been successful, but it was a full-time job; and it was often ‘touch and go’, as in her most recent episode with Mr Peabody and the biro-tube… Luckily, as one of a small army of the hospital’s cleaners she had the freedom to virtually roam the premises at will; nobody notices a cleaner and they never look out of place; thus they are virtually invisible.
“But by crikey!” Loreen exclaimed to the little statue of St Helvi that she kept in her bedroom, which had been transformed, ever since her first vision, into a shrine to the hospital’s patron saint, “If you hadn’t sent me that warning, I might not have had a chance to hide in that closet and get a biro-tube ready. And it was a bit cryptic wasn’t it? ‘Today the pen is mightier than the sword to heal a dangerously closed wound…’ If I hadn’t been paying attention I might have missed that one! Next time try to make your message a bit more obvious! Amen!”
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Paula was not having a good day. It had started with the usual burnt toast, hurriedly stuffed into her mouth as she rushed out still only partially dressed to her car; as usual she was running late… And as usual, she found herself doing up her bra-strap at the traffic lights at Gepp’s Cross on her way in to work. A truck had pulled up alongside; the truck-driver wound down the passenger-side window as he leaned over and said, “G’day luv… you make my day you do… every day, same time, same traffic-light, same brunette adjusting her bra-strap! Gives me a giggle every time! Sets me up right for the day…”
Paula had prepared a mouthful of abuse to hurl back at the truckie, but just then the lights changed and she was obliged to settle for flipping the bird at his rear-view mirror.
Of course she was late arriving at work and this put the Director of Nurses’ nose out of joint for the whole day… and then they’d put her on a ward with a Nigerian student nurse who apparently had some difficulty with the English language. Paula had been in the Med-Room washing her hands after Mr Peabody’s enema. She took great pride in being as careful with her personal hygiene as any surgeon; and she scrubbed her fingernails diligently as the water flowed over her hands and down the sink; the plug of which was placed on one side of the sink which occupied the middle of the Med-Room’s workbench…
Just then a yell came from the student nurse on the ward, “HELP!”
The sudden yell was most unprofessional, Paula thought, as she nonetheless rushed out of the Med-Room and into the ward, to be confronted with a student nurse and a patient, rolling around on the floor under a piece of equipment which was supposedly designed to make lifting patients into and out of bed an easier task.
This piece of equipment was, however, designed for use by two nurses and the student nurse had been attempting to operate it on her own. Paula, with something a little short of patience, helped the student nurse to her feet and then helped her get the patient back into bed; finally she gave the student nurse a stern lecture on safety procedures and the proper use of equipment, having completely failed to notice that as she’d left the Med-Room, she had inadvertently knocked the plug into the sink with her elbow and, with a facility which would surprise everyone but the originator of Murphy’s Law, had somehow found its way into the plug-hole, where it rested snugly.
By the time Paula returned to the Med-Room the water had filled the sink, and was now doing a fair imitation of Niagara Falls as it carried various medical documents onto the floor where they now floated in several inches of water. Along with the documents the water had washed a red stamp-pad into the growing flood on the Med-Room floor, and this was swiftly turning the water a beautiful shade of arterial red and permanently dying the hitherto pure-white tiles a delicate shade of pink.
Paula instantly turned off the tap and started looking for something or someone to clean up the mess. She saw a cleaner observing her with something between amusement and pity on her face as she pre-empted Paula’s inevitable request, “Don’t look at me, mate!” said Loreen as Paula’s eyes met hers beseechingly, “I got my regular work to do; I’m not here to clean up after you nurses… Ask the Union! You clean up after your own mess!” And with that, she had turned and left, though she returned a moment later with a mop and bucket.
Thinking Loreen had relented, Paula thanked her effusively, “Oh! Thank you THANK you! I knew you were only kidding…” but Loreen just put the mop and bucket down right in front of her and Paula’s face fell as she was obliged to catch hold of the mop to stop it toppling out of the bucket as Loreen simply said, “Who’s kidding?” and walked away.
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