Chapter Seven

The aroma of Natural Green disinfectant wafted past her as Margie opened the door of the little bungalow. Ruby was in her usual spot, a broken down recliner-slash-rocker, covered in crushed purple velveteen upholstery that was most likely soaked in the stuff. Margie dreaded what was to come. After changing the old woman's dressings for the past two weeks, she'd become adept at keeping the nausea away, choking back the dry heaves, as she tried making a whole-hearted attempt at keeping her wounds clean.

            The first day as caretaker was the worst. The woman had shut herself into the tiny poolside bungalow, preferring to "rent" out her LaJolla home to students in the area - in exchange for making her meals and tending to her personal needs.  Margie knew Ruby liked the fact that she was a mom, and that she was taking good care of her house as well. Apparently, Ruby's previous "caretakers" had stolen nearly everything out of her house, leaving her high and dry without food or proper medical care. Ruby made sure Margie knew that her previous caretakers also happened to be her very own children.

            The odor inside the bungalow was putrid. A combination of trash and Natural Green that stuck in her nostrils - a saving grace for what lie before her. Changing Ruby's leg dressings. Ruby had severe pressure sores from never leaving the chair, she tried to keep them covered with a variety of dish towels she kept near her side - but nothing could have prepared Margie for what she saw as she peeled back the makeshift dressings that first night: maggots. Live, moving housefly larvae. Thriving in Ruby's open wounds as if she'd been lying in a dirt grave.

            Aside from feeling the physical effects of caretaking, Margie had fallen numb. Callum had already started school when Margie made the trip out. She drove the three day trip nearly straight through, stopping only at stations - for gas, for food, to sleep - she had even taken up smoking, as a way to stay awake she told herself. Mostly, though, she had stopped caring. Stopped feeling. Evident in the way she told Tom that she was heading to California - asking to stay until she left, borrowing money, and, when questioned about her period, telling him "Oh, this month was a heavy flow, cramps for days." She didn't know, at the time, that he had called the clinic and requested that a receipt for the procedure be sent to him - which he promptly forwarded to her step-father back home.

            LaJolla was certainly gorgeous, and expensive. The town sits overlooking the ocean, with quaint shops and curvy roads leading down to a sandy beach that looks as if boulders were placed upon it purely for the photo opportunities. The walkfront, always busy with families and couples, was rife with little old ladies holding their beach baskets and waffle cones. It was a good distraction from the squirmy worms she'd agreed to clean up twice a day. It was a bad distraction from Margie's real life, from her daughter back home - from actually thinking: "Hey, maybe Ruby needs some actual medical attention." A bad distraction from most things, perhaps.

            When Margie first arrived in LaJolla, she stayed at a nearby hostel and made a few friends there. Jim, one of the front desk attendants, was also looking for a permanent place to stay, so she invited him to come live with her in exchange for a couple hundred dollars in rent. When he could afford to pay it, that is. He was delighted to move in, bringing a knap sack of clothes and his motorcycle gear. Margie noted that she now knew another Jewish motorcycle rider, and thought it was another inane coincidence that she'd been experiencing all her life. At least he didn't give her the same "queer experience" story that a few of the other guys she knew did.

            "My roommate declared his love for me."

            "We got drunk and almost had sex, but I couldn't go through with it."

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