The Outing of Nurse and ChargeLaura J. Cutler
They walk apart from one another, Nurse and Charge. Nurse is ahead, marching down the lane with military precision, despite the flowing skirt. Charge lags behind, plucking daisy petals. And she scrutinizes the earth for other signs of life. She likes the way worms stretch and stretch until they snap, popping the bulbous divisions of army ants. The most satisfaction comes from flipping shiny beetles onto their backs, holding them in place with a twig and stripping off their flailing legs. The flying things frustrate Charge. It makes her feel hot and bubbling inside that the flying things are so free from constraint, so untouchable.
"We have a scant half an hour, a bare thirty minutes," reminds Nurse without turning around. "If you want to make it as far as the beach, if you want to see the ocean, you best hurry up, you'll need to stop dawdling."
Charge has long, strong legs and catches up in seven strides.
"Don't forget the arrangement, mind you remember the deal," says Nurse. "You see the ocean and you must draw prettier pictures. You promised to paint Doctor a picture of the ocean with a yellow, yellow sun and blue, blue water."
They walk on. Nurse hums "All Things Bright and Beautiful." Charge thinks about the free ones.
"Smell the salt air, inhale the ocean. It's close, just there."
Indeed, the woods finish. Upright trees become logs, packed soil becomes unruly sand. Grey sand that spills into gray water that collides with gray sky.
"Look," instructs Nurse. "God's greatest ocean, the Creator's bathtub." Nurse chuckles at her whimsy. "Now go feel the water, dip in your hand. I shall sit here on this log, rest on Creator's couch."
Charge moves to the shore until the water licks her toes. She understood the beach would be warm: warmer than the stone courtyard and brighter than the sterile dormitory. She had always understood there would be galloping horses and lilting sailboats, things that were free like that. There was nothing free. There was nothing but Charge and Nurse and gray.
"We must go soon, must leave shortly," calls Nurse from her dead tree. "I have to get back to work, to give out the afternoon meds."
It is easy because Charge is so much bigger and stronger. She pins down Nurse's torso so her arms and legs flail like the beetles'. The same arms and legs that entwined with Doctor's in the artroom as Charge watched from the closet. Charge's Doctor. But even Charge can not pull off the flailing limbs. Aaaah, but the tongue, there wiggling and fat like a juicy pink maggot. It stretches and snaps and undulates by itself on the sand. Nurse obliges by screaming, makes her mouth an inviting receptacle for the gray, gray sand.
After, Charge begins walking west along the shore in hopes of catching up with a brighter, warmer palette. She walks, scrutinizing the gray for flashes of yellow sun or blue sky to paint that pretty picture for Doctor, finally understanding she's always been untouchable, but never free.
Copyright ©2000 Laura J. Cutler. All Rights Reserved.
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