CODE by Bonnie Schell Her expertise is tracing grave histories, the woman in Harbor Hills1 who waits by the only pay phone for her FBI connection to call. It will be dit-duh-duh-dit, again, with pauses repeated. She only wants someone somewhere when she delivers the code to proclaim the meaning. She is clairvoyant wraps her head in strips of gold and ruby lame and tells young inmate-patients from the jail that she can take out eyes. Eat them. They stay away. This woman in Harbor Hills calls the Anti-Christ in Sacramento collect. She sees him sleeping under bulky volumes of unrecorded deals between millionaires and mercenaries. At dawn the night orderlies argue in Spanish about water rights and crack while she hums Taps to food stamp vendors, Public Guardians who have lost her few treasures.2 The nurses go for coffee to divvy up Klonapin prn. The woman at Harbor Hills shrieks when her suitor’s blood drips in the high weeds next to the hospital. He traded his MediCal card for a dollar, broken feet, and a grocery cart pushing his body into the ocean. She gasps, runs for the phone. Patients shuffle into their compartments to wait. The ward psychiatrist who has certified the woman at Harbor Hills as gravely disabled summons the orderlies to prepare restraints. He grunts after the woman down the hall, whispers a greeting behind her at the phone. “You would benefit from seclusion.” He thrusts his pink hand in the receiver’s curve. Five orderlies drag her dead-weight limbs and head. The doctor follows with his clipboard, slips in without announcement, begs the woman to touch his palm, tell his fortune and how much longer he has. And the woman in Harbor Hills clears her tongue of ready spit, strokes his wish, then lies: “I see a long life. Surely, you are God.”
1Harbor Hills is an Institute for Mental Disease and a skilled nursing facility in Santa Cruz, CA.
2Possessions of 67 year old Caucasian female recorded by the Public Guardian: 2 pillows with multiple cigarette burns; sleeping bag with same; two blue towels; 1 lawn leaf bag of clothes and underwear; large box of discontinued greeting cards; box of pots and pans all scorched or split; 1 Sundesign twin cassette player missing all buttons; partial flash lights; 13 candles and holders; 8 strings of Christmas twinkle lights; picture of someone else’s granddaughter from a yard sale.