Looking after this place is quite a job. I have to make my rounds at least three times a day and there’s usually something to sort out down by the big front doors where there is so much coming and going. Then I go and check the garden and car park to make sure everything is tidy. People leave stuff all over the place, they drop things without a thought. Yesterday there was a shoe lying there. How could they forget a shoe?
Of course I make sure I go through the kitchen whenever I can but it is best to pick the right time for that. In the mornings there’s a woman with a quiet voice and she’s always got something for me. But later in the day they’re as likely to tell me to clear off.
Most of the people here aren’t well, they rarely leave their beds and they even eat there. The worst of them need help with even that and probably the other end as well. There are smells sometimes so I know. But the place mostly smells of cleaning. They wipe everything down with cleaner. It doesn’t smell bad, exactly, though believe me it tastes foul. It gets everywhere. I’m used to it now but in the early days I almost walked out. If you sit anywhere it gets on you and then you stink of it for hours.
So there are the sick ones, the ones that do the cleaning and so on, and then there are the visitors. I try and avoid the visitors, especially the little ones. Some of us like cuddling and snogging with strangers but not me. I’ve got a lot to do around here and I can’t be wasting time on that. They make a mess too, tramping in and out. But that isn’t my problem. That’s probably why they clean things all the time now I come to think of it.
But it isn’t all work. I have a few spots on my rounds that don’t stink of cleaner and are enough out of the way that I can catch a quiet nap in peace. One of them is near the kitchen so that I know if the woman calls me. I usually curl up there after my first morning round and leave one ear awake for her.
Then sometimes there is another job for me to do. Like I said, most of the people here aren’t well. A few of them have been here since before my time, but as far as I can tell none of them walk out of here. This is the last stop before, well, you know.
I can tell when they’re ready. You’ll want to know how. Is it the smell? Is it the way they move? I don’t really know. I just know they’re ready, that soon they’ll go still and they won’t need feeding anymore and the light will come for them the way it does.
So I wait with them. I’m not one for cuddles, I already said that. But when they lie there ready for the light I wait with them. They know I’m there, though they don’t know much else, and sometimes they’re afraid. But they know we’re both waiting for the light, and that helps.
“…just a few minutes ago. Oh, yes, very peacefully, very quietly. There was no suffering. You know the cat stayed with him the whole time? Just lay beside him on the bed. I saw his hand pat it an hour ago so he knew it was there. It always does that, we don’t know why. But, well, they seem to like it and it does no harm after all.”
There is a real cat who does just this. No one knows why he does it or how he knows when ‘his’ patients are about to die.