The Custodian By Brian Hinshaw


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The Custodian
By Brian Hinshaw

The job would get boring if you didn't mix it up a little. Like this woman in 14-A, the nurses called her the mockingbird, start any song and this old lady would sing it through. Couldn't speak, couldn't eat a lick of solid food, but she sang like a house on fire. So for a kick, I would go in there with my mop and such, prop the door open with the bucket, and set her going. She was best at the songs you'd sing with a group--"Oh Susanna," campfire stuff. Any kind of Christmas song worked good too, and it always cracked the nurses if I could get her into "Let It Snow" during a heat spell. We'd try to make her to take up a song from the radio or some of the old songs with cursing in them, but she would never go for those. Although once I had her do "How Dry I Am" while Nurse Winchell fussed with the catheter.

Yesterday, her daughter or maybe granddaughter comes in while 14-A and I were partways into "Auld Lang Syne" and the daughter says "oh oh oh" like she had interrupted scintillating conversation and then she takes a long look at 14-A lying there in the gurney with her eyes shut and her curled-up hands, taking a cup of kindness yet. And the daughter looks at me the way a girl does at the end of an old movie and she says "my god," says "you're an angel," and now I can't do it anymore, can hardly step into her room.

1996 Winner of the Florida State University “World’s Greatest Short, Short Story Contest.”


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