(Should you not yet have read Part One of this little hospital memoir, you may want to check it out first.)
“Let’s get out of here!” The teen-aged son of Dr. B appeared every bit as worried as the rest of us, seeing as the empty hospital’s front entrance had been locked again by the intruders, the drug room door was wide open and a light was burning inside. And someone had called for the elevator but failed to ascend to the fourth floor where we had been about to call for the lift.
With a recent break-in and theft at the recently-abandoned facility in Carrollton Missouri, the 19-year-old’s suggestion appeared to have great merit. My little sister Laura and I thought the idea sound. Thunder rumbled outside, the nighttime storm continuing unabated.
Everyone spoke in whispers. “What about the watermelons?” It was his girlfriend doing the asking.
Laura and I exchanged glances of disbelief before heading down the ramp toward the basement, figuring we could grab the melons and exit out the service door that opened to the parking lot of the abandoned hospital. I took the lead, Laura at my heels, and we moved as quietly as possible, no one speaking, rounding the bend at a landing and descending toward the dim light we’d left burning upon our arrival.
Just as I cautiously approached the final turn toward the kitchen, every nerve on edge…a sudden shock sent me jumping back right into poor little Laura.
Older sister Colleen had jumped out of the shadows and sent all our hearts through the roof.
“What are you guys up to?” she asked, all innocent eyes, of course.
As lightning continued to flash through the narrow basement windows and thunder shook the concrete walls, we learned the whole story. Dr. B. and my father had wondered what was taking so long fetching watermelons for dessert, so they had driven over to the hospital. Colleen had opted to join them. They came in the front door, locking it behind them. Then they rang for the elevator, assuming (rightly) that we were upstairs picking out beds for the family’s overnight stay. But before the elevator car arrived, Dr. B opened up the drug room, leaving the light on, intending to make up a first-aid kit for my parents as a gift to carry on our travels. Then they had decided to go down and get the melons before checking on us upstairs.
No break-in. No fevered drug addicts out to get us. Nothing scary at all.
Just one older sister taking some smiling pleasure in having scared the bejeesus out of me. Of us.
Time for revenge.
A couple of hours later the family had gathered on the fourth floor and our mother assigned bedrooms. Mine was closest to the elevator end of the hall. Then came Colleen’s. And the our mother’s, and so on. Each with a single bed, each along the same side of the hall.
I gave it about ten or fifteen minutes, to make sure everyone had settled down and ideally drifted off. The storm continued unabated, with sheets of rain pouring down the tall windows and flashes of lightning momentarily lighting up the room as thunder rattled the panes.
I inched out of the tall hospital bed and eased myself low, close to the floor. Step-by-step, inch-by-inch, I made my silent way by lightning light into the neighboring room until I reached my goal, ready to rise up at the foot of the bed, ready to return the favor to my dear sister Colleen.
At the moment of a particularly loud clap of thunder, I assumed my full fifteen-year-old height and let out what I hoped to be my spookiest howl.
Further dead silence.
And then…from the head of the bed came a stern voice, uh-oh, my mother’s voice: “Pat, no nonsense, just go back to bed and let people sleep.”
I slunk back into my room, bested once again by Colleen, who, I am sure, heard it all in the next room and fell asleep gloating and giggling at having, once again, gotten the best of me. She had switched rooms at the last minute with our mother, knowing what I was sure to try in the darkness of that abandoned hospital.
Look out, Colleen. I still owe you for that one, dear sister.