My head was hurting like someone stuffed me inside a metal trash can and started beating it like a piñata. I mean, it was New Year’s Eve, so there was about a 50% chance that’s exactly what happened. I was stumbling around my room, grasping for anything that might actually contain my Tylenol when I felt it.
You know how some folks say that when certain herd animals start a stampede that you can feel them before you hear them, long before you see them? That’s what I was feeling. It gave me a moment of pause, but my twitching eye and pounding headache had me, once again, searching for relief.
Oooh! There it is! My half-closed eyes spotted the bottle. My greedy hands grabbed it at the same time that the “feel” of the stampede broke into sound. It wasn’t very loud, so I struggled, pills clutched close to my chest, and wandered to my door to investigate.
Mistake number one was opening my God-forsaken door.
As soon as I poked my head out, narrowing my eyes at the source, I was hit with an almost cartoonish blast of sound. Whatever demon gave him the megaphone: you suck, you coward…
Doctor Camp stood in the middle of the hall, megaphone to his rapidly reddening face, screaming at us. I mean, I can’t say I blame him, considering what the hallway looked like. Blinking away tears of pain (my head really hurting at this point), I tried to make out what he was saying. More heads popped out of doors only to shrink back as this tirade of Doc’s built and built.
I couldn’t take it. I slunk back into my room. I chased a handful of my beloved Tylenol with the last of my sweet tea. Well, it looked like sweet tea. It was, in fact, not sweet tea. Aw, hell, I’m ramblin’… Anyhow, I guess a little hair of the Long Island is good enough for me. Doc was still raving. And I forgot to shut the door.
You know, Doc can get a little long-winded when he’s talking passionately about points of interest or trivia when we’re watching movies. But this was almost comically ridiculous. Just as my sight was coming back in focus, he stopped. Curious, I crept back to the door.
With a squeal from the megaphone he screamed, “I want this place cleaned up by the time I get back from Mike’s, or you’ll be finding a new fucking home!”
With that, he turned on his heel, kicked a large lump of, well, I don’t know exactly what it was, but he kicked it out of his way while he stormed out of the exit of the bunker.
“Shit,” I heard from down the hall. “He sounds a little pissed.” Richard had his head poking out of his room, almost at floor level. Whether he was taken down by Doc’s tirade or crawled to the door, I couldn’t tell.
Baylie pulled her door open, just a crack. “Shou…should we clean up, or whatever, then?” I couldn’t see her face, but by the sound of her voice, she was pretty scared.
I honestly don’t remember the soothing words I started muttering to Baylie, but I convinced her it would be okay. Going back into my room for a moment, I grabbed the pill bottle and some giant trash bags (don’t ask) and started handing them out to everyone. Well, except Blair who, despite her fluffed-out fur, seemed to be having a blast running through the hall, bouncing in and out of boxes and trying to eat ribbons.
The boxes I understood, but where the hell did the ribbon come from? A mystery for another day.
I was holding open the bag for Richard when he started bemoaning the fact that he was shoveling the crap while I got to just stand there.
“I’m starting to feel a little abused, Crystal Dawn. You could help more, ya know? I mean, it’s almost like a scene from Roots. ‘My name is …'”
“You finish that sentence, son, and I’ll take back my Tylenol. The hard way,” I said, cutting him off. “Besides. It’s not me. All y’all heard Doc. If we don’t clean up, we’ll lose our happy home, as it were.”
Bella chuckled, doing the same for Baylie as I was for Richard. “Age before beauty, and all that, Richard,” she said as she shrugged. “Does anyone remember how we made such a mess? My head feels like it’s full of cotton balls, and my memory is just as fuzzy.”
Everyone, gingerly, shook their heads. Huh. Must have been one hell of a night. I mean, last year was more or less a dumpster fire, so I guess I could see us showing it out the door in style.
Baylie – sweet, innocent, cherub-like Baylie – started humming ‘9 to 5’ under her breath as she worked. I slipped into the hall closet to grab some rags and disinfectant cleaner as Bella joined her. Before long, all four of us were singing, out loud.
“I guess ‘9 to 5’ is a little more how I’m feeling today. Unreasonable boss, doing shit I wasn’t brought in to do,” Baylie began. “But don’t worry. I promise not to poison Doctor Camp,” she concluded, blushing a little.
“I can’t make any promises,” Bella said, chuckling. She does that, a lot, like she’s laughing at a joke only she gets. But, I digress.
We moved into the viewing room, where empty bottles, cans, and snack wrappers filled the floor. Also, confetti. So much I visibly winced as I surveyed the room. This wasn’t going to go as easily. I gave everyone their marching orders, and began my own task.
“Well,” Bella continued the conversation. “If Doctor Camp is like Franklin Hart, I must say that today, you’re feeling a little Ilsa-like, to me, Miz Crystal Dawn.” Ouch, she even drawled my name in an exaggerated version of my own accent.
“Wow, Bella. I am hurt!” I exclaimed. “I wouldn’t think I was that bad. Besides, I am neither a Nazi nor do I have boots that go that high. I’d like to think that when Doc leaves that y’all would see me as more a slightly elevated, more put-upon coworker than the Gestapo.” We all kind of chuckled, but Richard’s eyes looked a little glazed over. I wondered which among us he was picturing as Ilsa. Or was he just picturing Dyanne Thorne? Who knows.
I snapped my fingers in front of his face a couple of times to bring him back to the present. We continued shoveling and hauling things outside to the dumpster in a companionable silence for quite a while. You know, for as small an amount of space we needed to clean, we hauled out a lot of trash.
As we gathered at the dumpster with the final haul, I chimed in with my thoughts.
“I feel more like we’re in an odd cut of Office Space. We all have our Peter moments, where we don’t want to do shit, so that’s exactly what happens. And we all have our Milton moments where we’re threatening to burn this mother down.” I paused as I watched Richard’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree.
“No, Richard, we will not be setting this particular dumpster on fire. I’m not dealing with the fire department again after last New Year’s.”
We all contemplated how lovely this particular dumpster would look on fire for a moment or three before we all headed back inside. It was as I got myself comfortable in my oversized recliner back in my room that I realized something: all of our vehicles were parked where we last left them.
I guess we really did piss off Doc if he walked all the way in to Town to Mike’s…