Creative Writing Contest Winner: Rachel Breen – Opal and Arnie

Rachel Breen

At Summer’s Senior Sunshine Home, sadness didn’t exist. Paralysis, memory loss, and death were treated with the same sunny attitude. The home’s minimum resident age was ninety-two, and from the looks of it, the same held true for its staff. There never was a home like Summer’s home.

The head nurse, aptly named Priscilla, was one hundred years old at least. She had seen it all- metaphorically of course. Her hearing had gone eighteen years previously and her eyesight had shortly followed. But man, could that woman scream! She was feared by all the residents – at least, temporarily.

The majority of them had memory loss. Arnie, age ninety-four, was a third year at the Senior Sunshine. He was endowed with Arterial Sclerosis. Of course, nobody at the Senior Sunshine admitted it. Whether it rooted from the staff’s lack of memory or from their motto – the less you know, the happier you’ll be – patients were never informed about their conditions. Every so often, Arnie would suffer a mild stroke and lose all recollection of recent events. He was quite a typical resident.

One day, a new, young resident joined the home. To Opal, every step was a gift, every day, an adventure. Opal was only ninety-three at the time and was full of life. She truly reflected the spirit of the Senior Sunshine.

It was not long until she met Arnie. The two fell in love immediately. She was captivated by the way he’d remove his dentures and wear them on his head as a crown. He loved her fearless personality. They’d play games together. For example, the wig toss; they’d grab a resident’s wig and see how many times they could toss it back and forth before the resident would scream. All in all, Arnie felt very lucky to have Opal.

The two would leave their rooms each night to meet. They discussed the day’s events when they could remember them, and reminisced about their childhoods (or what they though their childhoods were). Alas, Opal had Anosmia and could not smell, nor could she comprehend the idea of a smell. Therefore she carried around White Diamond perfume. She thought the bottle was pretty, and the feeling of mist was delightful, so she’d spray everyone in sight with it. Therefore, every night when Priscilla would feel that choking sensation that accompanies perfume, she knew Arnie and Opal were up and at it.

Priscilla didn’t appreciate either their disobedience or the fact that due to Opal’s perfume, she had to spend nights hooked up to an oxygen tube.

One day, Arnie and Opal were, as usual, playing wig toss. Alas, Arnie had Macular Degeneration, and couldn’t see very well. He stole the curly blonde wig straight off Priscilla Hodgkin’s head.

“No Arnie, no,”cried Opal, but to no avail. They didn’t even throw the wig once before Priscilla’s screaming started. That was the final straw. Priscilla needed revenge. She sought it, she longed for it. That night, instead of his daily diuretic, she fed him a salt tablet, forty-thousand milligrams. That should do the trick, she thought.

Sure enough, the next morning, he smiled with the dizzying cheerfulness that accompanies memory loss. He proceeded to take a nap. Little did he remember he had scheduled a date in the social hall with Opal at noon. She arrived at his door at 12:15.

“What do you think you’re doing, Arnie?” she asked.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked.

“Oh Arnie!” she cried and wheeled through the door.

“And who the hell is Arnie?” he mumbled. Heartbroken, she couldn’t live any longer. She returned to her room to overdose on sleeping pills. Innocent she was, with no inkling that Priscilla had replaced all her pills with salt tablets as well. She gobbled down sleeping pills – salt tablets – and lay dramatically on her bed cover.

Priscilla Hodgkin met her fate that day. Finally the old hag kicked the bucket, and not a moment too soon. Had she seen (well, figured out) that her crafty plan to destroy the lives of her two nemeses had failed, she would have been heartbroken. Oh wait, she was. She died of a myocardial rupture caused by stress. Long story short, when Opal rushed from Arnie’s room to her own, she dropped the bottle of White Diamond perfume, which broke.

One of the staff members alerted Priscilla of a spill in the hall, and when she went to clean it up, the wretched smell was too much even for Priscilla. On the other hand, a number of other residents were wiped out by the smell as well, so there was still little imbalance in the staff to resident ratio.

Half an hour later, Opal awoke, cheerful as ever. And not even the old man circling the floor mumbling “Who the hell is Arnie” could dampen her spirits.