MFotD: Cachinnate and Abstruse
Holy hell two words in one story, what next?
cachinnate, verb (KAK-uh-nayt)
1. to laugh loudly or immoderately
abstruse, adj. (ub-STROOSS)
1. difficult to comprehend
Walking through the automatic front doors of Rotary Plaza, Jarrod was surprised at the lack of institutional oversight; his mom must not have sprung for one of the top-tier assisted-living facilities like she said. He had taken off his bulky headphones and laid them to rest around his neck before entering, in anticipation of an interaction, brief but informative, with a desk clerk, maybe even a sticker to denote his visitor status. Instead, he was greeted by an unstaffed front desk in the center of a spacious, sparsely decorated lobby—the potted tree in the corner was shorter than him and probably wouldn’t challenge the ceiling of the room for another 30 years, when the current employees, if indeed there were any, might be so unfortunate as to become charges of this ward.
Jarrod leaned over the desk and craned his head in hopes of finding a resident list or activity schedule, but all he saw was a yellow legal pad with carefully drawn doodles—a noose with thirteen coils (the historically correct number, as Jarrod knew from his fascination with the Old West as a high schooler), a giant duck nesting in a football stadium—and “Cindy” written at least 20 times in cursive with hearts dotting the I’s. Jarrod liked this Cindy. He wished to meet her on this visit.
Finding no help at the front desk, he picked a hallway and walked down it. The doors in this hallway had no windows so he figured they must be residences. Still, he continued this way, lamenting the lack of signage but not really minding the delay, given the mundane reason he was there. He supposed he, too, would act with no regard to social mores if he were sentenced to live the last few years of his life in a place like this. At least, that’s what he suspected his grandfather was doing, but there was always the possibility that the old man was just losing it.
There was still no one in sight when Jarrod reached the end of the hallway. He didn’t think he would live long enough to make it to one of these places, anyway. He couldn’t imagine being stuck at the snail’s pace of geriatric life: moving only with a walker, being the slowest driver on the road, who knows what else they do. In fact, he had trouble imagining himself even as middle-aged. Perhaps that was why sometimes, in moments of idleness, he pondered if he was doomed to die young. The thought never really troubled him, because if it was true he assumed his last thought would be, “See? I was right!”
He had turned left at the end of the previous hallway and finally heard other people. First, an old woman almost completely drowned out by a microphone, then dozens of little clinks, and then his grandfather cachinnating, which didn’t stop even when Jarrod entered the room, in which the whole community seemed to be gathered for bingo.
His grandfather was away from the crowd, with the only person in the room wearing a tie, whose pleading was met only with more maniacal laughter.
The old woman at the podium said, “Hello. Is it time for knitting now?” Jarrod realized that she was addressing him and didn’t know how to respond, but wasn’t forced to since her comment alerted the man in the tie to his presence.
“I take you’re here for Mr. Boatright?” he said, staying beside Jarrod’s grandfather. Jarrod nodded and the man said, “Please come with me.” His arm extended toward the doorway from which Jerrod just came, so Jarrod went back outside to the hallway and waited.
The man brought Jarrod’s grandfather with him to the hallway. “Mr. Boatright tells me you are his grandson Jarrod. Where is his daughter, Julia?”
“My mom’s currently sailing the Mediterranean. Her husband’s housekeeper told me you people wanted to talk about my granddad, so here I am. Who are you, anyway?”
“He’s nothing but a fat horse’s ass!” his grandfather blurted. “He wants me out of here and that’s fine by me—I’ve had enough of this place, most of all him!”
“Now, now, Mr. Boatright, you know there’s no need for that language here—”
“Fuck off, you ninny!” Jarrod’s grandfather started to shuffle away.
“Mr. Boatright, where are you going? We need to talk to your grandson!”
“I’m going to my room before one of your nurses steals my records! Don’t think I don’t know what goes on around here!” he shouted over his shoulder.
“Wait, is he serious? Are you really kicking him out? What happened to just talking!”
“Well, Mr. Price, we were open to talking to your mother so that Mr. Boatright could stay, given certain considerations.” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together, then fiddled with his wedding ring.
“Money? You were going to extort us?”
“Oh, no, Mr. Price, not extort. I’m insulted at the accusation. It’s just that Mr. Boatright makes life difficult for every member of the Rotary community, and we can’t justify his presence here unless he offers something of value to the other residents.”
“Come on, there’s gotta be another way. He can’t be that bad!”
“Last week, Mr. Boatright claimed to have won at bingo. When I came by to check his card, you know what I saw?” He paused for effect. “Not only had he defecated on his card, he broke it up into little bits so that it actually resembled five chips in a row diagonally!”
Jarrod couldn’t help but laugh.
“This is no laughing matter! Mr. Boatright has no regard for the rules, the staff or any of the other residents here! You must take him with you, today!”
“What the hell, man? Where is he supposed to go?”
“That is not my concern. His room is just down the hall, number 114. I suggest you be gone within the hour. Good day!” The fat man in the tie pulled on his lapel forcefully before returning to the bingo.
Jarrod stood dumbfounded for a few minutes, while the obvious reality that his grandfather would have to move in with him sunk in. He made his way to his grandfather’s room in a daze, considering all the ways the change would affect his day-to-day life. He found the door ajar and his grandfather in the process of trashing the kitchen.
“Grandpa, what the hell?”
“Help me, would you? These bastards think they can kick me out, I’ll show them not to push Dick Boatright around.” He took eggs out of the fridge and handed them to Jarrod.
“Don’t call me grandpa, dammit, call me dick. You’re a man now, and you can’t be calling me grandpa when we live together. Ain’t no way I’m gonna live in that rich prick’s mansion, no way in hell!” He was talking about his son-in-law.
“Fine, Dick. Why don’t we just get your stuff and go?”
His grandfather grabbed the eggs back from Jarrod and starting throwing them at the walls. “Fine, be a ninny. My things are already packed and on my bed. Go get them. I’ll take care of this. But if you knew what they do here, how they make people live—”
He continued on his spiel, which was abstruse and filled with sometimes-racist vitriol. But Jarrod saw his grandfather, standing there muttering madly and throwing eggs at things, as a man with two options: leave meekly or rage against a regime that was forced upon him, that rejected him. And maybe some of his claims were true—the place certainly did seem like a shithole. He saw his grandfather in need of an ally, and supposed that he, if placed in his grandfather’s situation, would want his grandson to stand by him regardless of the truth, or right and wrong.