Volume 19, Number 107
February/March 2016

The Rustler of Dusty Pines
by Gwendolyn A. Bursey

He opened his eyes and looked at the alarm clock. It was exactly 3 a.m. - time for his nightly foray - time to explore his domain. He swung his legs over the side of his bed, stretched, put on his slippers and robe, and headed for the door of his room. He quietly pulled the door open and checked the hallway. The WD-40 he had borrowed from the maintenance department had done the trick. Good - nobody in sight. No sounds either. He grabbed his brightly coloured rubber tipped cane and crept into the corridor.

Harvey Livingstone Bainbridge was 88 years of age with a mind as sharp as a tack. He was in fairly good physical shape except for the arthritis that occasionally plagued him. He had decided to enter the Dusty Pines Retirement Centre at the urging of his son and daughter. Mr. Bainbridge was prone to bouts of absent-mindedness, daydreaming, and nodding off every once and a while - usually just after he had a meal cooking on the stove. His family, along with the local fire chief, were glad he had finally decided to enter a long term care facility where he eventually acquired lovely, secluded, private accommodations. He had been originally placed in a semi-private room on the first floor, but due to his sudden penchant for requiring the window to be constantly open, especially at night, and the many complaints from his roommate and neighbours, it was decided by the administration of the home that it would be best for all concerned if he had a room to himself. Strangely enough, he no longer required the window open anymore, except to air the room out once and a while.

As he moved further down the corridor, he decided which route he would take tonight and pre-planned his hiding places, if needed, before proceeding. He didn’t want to feign sleepwalking as an excuse as he would be constantly monitored from then on. As he neared the desk on his floor he could hear the steady breathing of the nurse sound asleep at her station. The sound of snoring from the rooms he passed was comforting too. He headed for the stairs (which were forbidden to him by day) and proceeded down two floors to the kitchen. In the stairwell, he found a loonie and put it in his pocket. It would prove useful at this week’s Bingo Game.

As he neared the kitchen, he could smell the roasted hip of beef cooling, already prepared for dinner tomorrow. He checked the fire panel and saw that no units were displaying “TROUBLE” lights, so nothing to fear there. As he neared the staff lunch room he hesitated and listened. The lights were dimmed, i.e. nobody there. He decided to head that way as the smell of beef had whetted his appetite.

In the lunch room, he discovered some pieces of lemon meringue pie left over from supper, that were usually left out for the staff. He quietly went to the refrigerator, poured himself a glass of milk, and took a piece of pie to the darkened dining room that looked out over the enclosed garden. Nothing like a cold glass of milk and a piece of his second favourite pie (his most favourite was apple) to get the juices flowing. However, he had to be quiet using the silverware, the clang of which was deafening at this hour. Upon depositing his glass and plate in the sink, he moved on down another floor to the basement area.

He quietly emerged from the stairwell, and looked out. Nobody about and the prone body of the night maintenance man was in view. He was snuggled in for the night on the one sofa that took up most of the staff lower lounge. As Mr. Bainbridge proceeded into the long, semi-dark corridor, he decided to check the laundry to see if his clothes had been cleaned and ironed. They had and he knew they would be delivered to his room early this morning. It was now time to move off to the recreational area.

As he neared the indoor pool which was locked and fortified for the night as nobody was allowed near the area after 5 p.m., he remembered looking forward to his first visit to the pool. Dressed in his floral beach kimono, he had disrobed at the side of the pool, much to the shock and indignation of the rest of the swimmers. Mrs. Trumble had fainted dead away, and the rest of the women had started screaming in shock. The swim instructor immediately got him back into his kimono and suggested that his skimpy Speedos were really not appropriate for their pool and suggested he acquire a pair of regular swim trunks. His daughter had taken him shopping and he now wore his new swimware anytime he swam. They were okay, but he didn’t like the “drag” they produced when he was doing his version of the Australian crawl.

Further on he came to the wood working room which was open, much to his surprise. One could get into trouble with all those machines they had in there. He himself had a very unpleasant experience with a circular saw. He had completely lost control of it, cut into the top of the table, and had emptied the room of everyone intending to complete their wooden “Loonie Bins”. He noticed that the Recreation Director had readied templates of bird houses to work on tomorrow. He had them lined up on the long wooden table that was now, unfortunately, missing a couple of feet. A bird house would be nice. He could paint it various colours to attract the wrens. Getting it on the limb of the tree outside his window would be a challenge but he would figure that out later on. He turned off the light, left the room and locked it. He felt it was his duty to do so.

He decided it was time to move on and ascended a floor to the main lobby. There happened to be a lovely large basket of flowers, probably donated from a funeral home, on a table there. He looked around carefully and took a plastic bag from his pocket. Using his Swiss Army Knife, he cut some especially lovely roses, carnations, and lilies, along with a bit of greenery. He didn’t think anyone would mind and he had always loved flowers. These would look especially nice in the vase he always kept in his room. Stopping by the library he noticed a new box of books had been donated. Using his trusty mini pen light, he proceeded to go through them and acquired a Kit Carson Western. He slipped the paperback into his robe pocket and would, of course, return it to the library as soon as he was finished with it.

He very quietly and slowly made his way up the stairwell. Peeking out when he reached his floor, he realized things were just as quiet as when he had left forty-five minutes ago. He entered his room, put the flowers in water, placed the book on his small bookcase, deposited the coin in his Loonie Bin, which was getting heavier by the day, and crawled back into bed. Feeling a little bit sleepy now he immediately began dozing off. He would be seeing his daughter and son-in-law tomorrow for a drive in the country at which time he would accept their invitation to spend two weeks in Florida with them. A diversion would be nice this time of year, and he looked forward to spending time with his family.

As he slowly drifted into a contented sleep, he tried to remember where he had put those Speedos. Ah, never mind, he would look for them tomorrow if he had a spare moment. After all, there was a lot to do at Dusty Pines, and he had just begun to scratch the surface.