The night sky was loud with the stampede of raindrops falling on the rooftops of the city. The moon loomed large and full over the Gracy Mental Ward, which was dark and quiet, its inhabitants had been drugged for the evening, some even restrained to their little white beds, in their little white rooms, wearing their little white gowns. But Jill and Marty were standing single file, Marty in front peaking around the corner, trying to get a look at overnight clerk, who was there to guard the crazies, and keep them all in their rooms. Guard Dooley, always had his coffee right after lights out and would carry it around while the nurse administered their night-time doses. Marty got a chance to cheek the past week of his sedatives, crush them up under his little white tennis shoes, and slip it into Guard Dooley’s coffee. Now they waited.
“Is he out?” Jill tapped Marty on the back of his right shoulder. He immediately tugged it away, with a snap.
“Shh! I think so…” Marty crouched down, a funny sight for such a large man, he wasn’t making himself much smaller. Marty crawled over to the desk, and popped his head up to the edge like a jack-in-the-box.
“Pffft!” Marty covered his mouth, to stifle in the laughter, the hand-made a light smacking sound as it hit his fat wet lips. He waved Jill over with his other hand.
“He’s out, look!”
She saw the drool dripping down the guards chin as the older dark-skinned gentleman was crumpled back in his seat, his head resting easily on the table in front of him. Coffee was still steaming, not empty. “How much did you give him Marty?”
“All of it.” Marty shot back with an exasperated look on his face, like the question was a stupid one. “Grab the keys!”
Jill walked around slowly behind the desk and put her small white hand on the guards thick brown belt, unclasped the hook with one hand, grabbed the set of keys with the other.
“I…I got them..” Jill’s voice was shaky, unsure of what she was doing. But they made their way over to the common room door, just a few steps away from the desk, and found the key to open the door. They entered the room, where crazy people try to play children s games to keep their minds from going to those dark places. At night now, the games look so sad with no one playing them, Jill thought. Marty ushered them over to the window and started prying it open. They left the door ajar to the common room, in case they couldn’t get it open or had to run back for some reason.
“Let’s go!” Marty ordered, his full black eyebrows raising with his emphasis on the word go. He was already out the window in a blink of Jill’s eye when she moved over to it.
Jill scrambled out the window, carefully swinging one leg over the ledge before bringing the other out. As she looked down toward the street, a paint chip fell from the window sill, it hung and floated through the air like a beautiful snow flake. “Wake the fuck up, Jill!” Marty screamed from below, his hands cusped around his stupid fat lips like one of those asshole soccer dads that Jill had terrible memories of from her youth. “I…am…I’m, just…” Her voice was a whimper as she swung her hips around, with her chin resting on the sill now, she gingerly started to lower herself to the pavement below. The hospital gown she was wearing was barely covering anything, and Jill knew Marty was getting a good look at her floral print state issued granny panties right about now, so she instinctively started tying her gown again once her feet were down on solid ground.
“About fucking time.” Marty sighed and rolled his eyes. His gown was flapping in the breeze, his hairy ass was there for the whole world to see. Jill thought maybe it took the focus off his bald head, and that might be a good thing. She let herself smile, a quick crooked smirk, then stopped. No time for being happy, they got places to go, people to see.
“Hey! You guys! Wait up!” A hand was pushing out the window, and a fuzzy blonde mess of a head peaked out above them. The two below strained their necks up simultaneously to see Laura beaming down at them, waving her hand frantically to and fro.
“No, no, no, no!” Marty said while waving his arms back and forth. “No way! I’m not taking that nut anywhere!”
“Hey! You guys! Psst! It’s me!” The blonde ball of fuzz swept her hair back, and the prominent nose and transfixed smile of Laura was beaming down at them.
“We know it’s you! Be quiet! You’re gonna wake up Guard Drooly!” Marty hissed at her, spittle flying up toward the window, and falling like spritzing rain back to the pavement in the cold night.
Jill smiled up at Laura and started to wave her down. “OK Laura, but you gotta hurry up.” She gave a sideways glance at Marty, who was turning purple with anger, and he stifled his indignation for now.
“Hey! You guys! I’m coming down!” Laura started to climb out, head first.
“Whoa….what the…Hey! Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Marty stepped forward, making a pumping motion back and forth with his arms, his ass still getting a chilly blast of the cold night air.
Laura’s feet swung right past her head and she somersaulted out of the window, landing perfectly like an Olympic gymnast, in her bright white state issued tennis shoes, that she had drawn little black hearts all over.
“Ta dah!” Laura raised her arms in triumph, awaiting her podium, flowers, anthem and interview now for doing a perfect routine.
“Yeah, great. Can we move the fuck along, please? Jesus Christ!” Marty bellowed, not waiting for an answer and just started stomping forward. His walk was wide like a duck, but at least he was finally noticing his open gown and was trying to gain a handle on it as they started up the road.
Jill nodded at Laura, and took her hand, and they shuffled quickly to catch up to Marty. The three of them walked stride for stride up the dark sidewalk, a glowing yellow street light at the end of the corner seemed to be their only destination for now. As they passed into the light, Jill noted how her shadow seemed so tall and thin on the ground, and her hand was outstretched to Laura, but she couldn’t see Laura’s shadow.
Tires screeched. Glass shattering and a terrible metallic crunch reverberated through Jill so deeply, she nearly jumped out of her clean white tennis shoes. Time seemed to slow, a man was flying through the air, flying through bits of broken glass and splintered wood. His was familiar to Jill, even in its wretched state after going through a windshield. He seemed familiar, someone from another life, perhaps.
“Watch it, asshole!” Marty was yelling at a man laying on the pavement. There was glass and blood everywhere. “Did you not see me walking? Did you not see me using the fucking cross walk?! Idiot!”
“Marty!” Jill yelled, and ran over to him to start pulling at his arm, to get him away from the poor soul who was flattened on the ground. The telephone pole he hit was now cracked in half, laying atop what was left of the car. “We should…we should go, right?” She looked down at the man one last time, a sense of dread washed over her for the briefest of moments as she looked into his eyes, then she was back to their mission.
Laura was twirling in the yellow light, oblivious. Her fuzzy yellow hair bounced around her round little face as she danced around in circles, unaware of the tragedy that just happened. The man who was thrown from his dark blue Buick gasped a horrible gasp, reaching out his left hand, his finger pointed toward them. So much blood, it looked like black ink in this moonlight, and twisted metal and glass everywhere. Marty turned both the others away, pushing them forward.
“Yeah, let’s go, we still need to go get our pancakes!” Marty nodded wildly, his slicked back black hair coming a little unhinged with his overt enthusiasm. “I’m sure someone heard this idiot nearly kill me, he’ll be fine…”
Laura stopped twirling for a moment. Jill’s mind went blank with fear, doubt, uncertainty. “Um, should we…shouldn’t we?” Jill was frozen, but Marty just grabbed her by the wrist with his giant grubby olive toned hand and pulled her along.
“We’ll be fine, let’s go!”
Laura started to move again, and she skipped merrily to catch up to them. They worked their way down to the next corner to the diner, where they knew pancakes were served all day and night long.
“Pancakes!” Shouted Marty and put his forehead and hands up on the glass window, peering in like a 4-year-old. “Mmmm.”
Jill was glad there weren’t a lot of other customers inside, they had a better chance of going unnoticed, she thought. Laura was nodding like a mad woman, that blonde fuzz ball bouncing hysterically in a crazy rhythm. “OK, let’s get our pancakes and then we can figure out the rest.” Jill said in almost a whisper. Marty just kept looking in at the diner, beginning to drool then nodded at her.
“OK, got the money, woman?” Marty was rubbing his hands together, looking to Jill and smiling.
“Yeah, I got it, here, wait…” Jill took off her slip on white tennis shoe, and she noticed a single drop of blood had landed on the toe, a blemish on the pure white virgin canvas. The twenty-dollar bill that was folded under her heel came out stuck to her foot. She unfolded it slowly and showed it to Marty with both hands. Her nails were bitten down.
“Yeah, that’s gross, but it’ll do!” He nudged Laura as he said this, but she was twirling again. “Let’s get our pancakes!”
Ambulance sirens down the street, and police cars flashing lights whizzed by them as they entered the diner. As one cop cruiser rolled by, Jill swore she heard her last name and the words “DOA.” But she focused back on the diner as the door swung shut behind them. The little black placard on the dirty gold pole said “Seat Yourselves,” so that’s just what they did. Marty picked up the menu, he took up almost one entire side of the booth by himself, the deep red cushion deflating as he landed himself into it. Laura and Jill shared the other side. Jill waited quietly for either the waitress or for Marty to give her the menu. Laura played with the salt and pepper shakers.
The waitress, an older woman with a kind face and beautiful short black hair came over as Jill adjusted herself in her seat. She pushed up her red rimmed glasses as she stopped at their table and looked right at Jill with a simple smile.
“What can I get for you, hon?” She asked sweetly, but Jill could see the tired under her eyes.
“I think we need another minute, so we can all see the menu first, right guys?” Jill offered, looking from Marty, who was mouthing “PANCAKES” at her, and Laura who nodded. “Oh fine Marty! We’ll all have a stack of pancakes, please.”
“Um, OK. Who’s “we” hon? Are you expecting someone to join you?…Are you OK?”
An uniformed police officer came in through the door, seating himself at one of the bar-stools. His radio went on, static noise and then a woman’s voice calling out to him and all the other policemen. “APB alert for Jill Morgan. Escaped from Gracy. Considered extremely unstable and dangerous. Code 918V. Call for Back up.”
“That’s my na…” Jill said shakily, under her breath, her whisper disappeared into the air.
Jill’s slight eyebrows raised in confusion as she looked around from Laura, smiling and nodding along, to Marty still mouthing the word “Pancakes” at everyone. She caught her reflection in the diner window, all she saw was her straight brown hair and big brown eyes staring back at her, and the waitress behind her looking impatient, tapping her pen against her notepad.