Grandma's Great Escape
There was trouble at Whispering Pines Nursing Home.
“Your grandmother—well, she seems to be the ringleader.” Mr. Peabody, the chief administrator, was a man who needed to be taken very seriously, Stella could tell by the formality of his tone and the stiffness of his stance. Or maybe it was the sweater vest, bowtie, and moustache combination.
Looking out at her grandmother through the office window, Stella couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Ringleader? Look at her! She can’t even lead that straw into her mouth and she’s been trying for ten straight minutes! Please, fill me in, Mr. Peabody. Tell me all about my wild and out grandma.”
Mr. Peabody flushed bright red. His right eye twitched. “I’m not sure how to explain this. She seems to be influencing some of the other residents . . . in some strange ways. She has friends here, about five or six of them, who gather every evening, before bedtime. They don’t eat, or read, or even talk. They just . . . sit there, in a circle, around your grandmother. They scatter every time a nurse approaches. They’re unruly. I imagine it’s quite distressing for the other residents.”
Stella rolled her eyes. “Oh, well gathering in a circle . . . now, that sounds serious. Please, Mr. Peabody, continue.”
“There’s more. Every morning lately, at 3:00 a.m. sharp, the group meets at the window at the end of the hallway, just to stare out at the sky. The nurses have to struggle with everyone to get them back to bed. It’s a real disturbance.“
Stella was losing her patience. “Ah, I see. Old people waking up at three o’clock in the morning. How clear this all is now. My grandma must be a witch! Is the full moon out?”
Mr. Peabody didn’t find Stella funny. In his flatly serious tone, he replied, “The moon is still waxing. It won’t be full until tonight.”
Stella visited her grandmother every Sunday and this is the most excitement she could remember ever having at Whispering Pines. On this day, her grandma rolled her wheelchair to the picture window at the end of the main hall, leading Stella and mumbling incoherently along the way. The janitor, who seemed familiar with the scene, waved to Stella. “That Ms. Elizabeth sure is a frisky one! Takes off to this window every day after lunch. Zooms right past me!” He winked before continuing, “I swear she thinks she can fly!”
“Maybe she can,” Stella replied dryly, watching as her grandma attempted in vain to stand up from her chair. “Grandma, are you going somewhere?”
Elizabeth raised her arm and pointed toward the window.
“Grandma, what is it? You want to go outside?”
“S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e?” Elizabeth’s voice teemed with urgency as her body stiffened in determination, like a dog at attention upon sensing its prey in the forest. With all her might, the feeble woman was pushing herself up from her chair with one arm, while pointing her other arm straight ahead. “S-s-s-s-s-s-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e?”
It took all of Stella’s strength to stop her grandma’s ninety-pound frame from falling face-forward onto the floor. “Sorry, grandma, I don’t see it. But, what happened to your finger? It’s bleeding!”
A nurse’s aide—the tag on her scrubs said her name was Grace—hurried over to explain. “Ms. Elizabeth has been working at this ring on her finger for days now, just trying to get it off. But the ring—it’s not going anywhere. You see? It’s as if her finger’s grown around it.”
True, it did look as though the too-plump finger had grown around the ring. Stella studied the narrow golden loop that had adorned her grandmother’s right ring finger for nearly two decades. “That’s strange. My grandma’s worn that ring since the day my grandfather died. It was a family heirloom, something to do with mourning. She said she’d never take it off—not as long as she had to live without grandpa.”
Grace eyed her feeble charge with wonder before responding, “Well, it’s going to have to be removed before it gets infected, she’s done such a job of it. Jeweler’s scheduled to come out next week to cut it off. Until then, we’re just trying to keep the wound clean. Now come here, Ms. Elizabeth, so we can get you tidied up. You’re going to get blood all over your pretty pink nightgown!”
With that, Grace rolled Elizabeth away and Stella’s time with her grandmother was over.
At 6:00 a.m. the following morning, Stella received a call from staff at Whispering Pines. Her grandmother was missing. Police had already arrived at the scene.
Mr. Peabody met Stella in her grandmother’s room. He was especially uptight, as Ms. Elizabeth’s disappearance would surely bring negative publicity. He’d searched all over for the missing woman, from one wheelchair to the next, and to no avail. Even the police officers were stumped, as all of the old woman’s belongings were in place and there were no signs of foul play. The lead investigator assured Stella that they’d have her grandmother safe and secure in her room at Whispering Pines “in no time.”
But Stella wasn’t worried. She knew the police would never find her grandmother. She was sure of it, just as sure she was of the tiny gold ring on her grandmother’s nightstand—sparkling clean, as if it had never been worn.