Geriatric Dragon

It was somewhat hard to believe. That people could so rarely see themselves as they were. Ignacio, of course, was just one such person. For surely, if he could see himself, he would have the decency–the good sense of decorum–to cease what he was doing. And what he was doing, most of the time, was emitting regurgitative sounds. Those of an indescribably onomatopoeic variety, but if Reese absolutely had to come up with an imitation, it would be something along the lines of, “Pfff-pff-pff” over and over again. Like she was stuck in some foul sonic time loop for the decaying.

When she had taken on the job of being Ignacio’s caretaker, he had seemed harmless and inoffensive enough. And it didn’t really become immediately evident what his most irksome trait would be until about two days in to their tenure together. That was when he ostensibly assumed there was no need to go on pretending with her, putting his best veneer forward. In that respect, Reese later ruminated–when it was all over–he must have known on some level the extent to which the sounds he issued from the depths of his body could vex and vanquish even the most patient of souls. Reese was, at one time before Ignacio got to her, just such a soul. You had to be in order to find yourself in this profession: working with the aged. The decrepit, the forgotten. That’s what they were. For once a person reaches a certain decade, no one wants to think about them anymore. It’s too painful a reminder–too grim a portent–of what they themselves will become.

And so the elderly are cast aside, whether by their own children or someone else in their family comparably close. The progeny, naturally (or rather, unnaturally) are always most eager to ditch the responsibility–the dead weight–of their parents. There is no sense of equitability on their part, no guilty conscience about maybe needing to repay them in some way for all that was done in their childhood and adolescence. Then again, most spawns have, by now, gotten wise to the idea that their parents have only done them a disservice in bringing them to this affronting planet. Reese certainly felt that way toward her parents, even though they had long ago kicked the bucket, as it were. Maybe some part of her resented them for that. And maybe that’s why she ended up in the profession of “elder care” in the first place: as a means to make up for the time lost with them by tending to other people’s parents.

But Ignacio, she admitted to herself, was one “surrogate” parent she could have done without taking care of. Even though he, out of all her charges, was likely the one who needed her most of all… well, him and the paraplegic. Knowing this, Reese found it somewhat impossible to quit the position. For not only was Ignacio’s corporate lawyer daughter paying her quite handsomely–more handsomely than her other clients, in truth–but she also felt an inexplicable sense of being liable for him. Burpy as a frail dragon though he was.

“Hupt-pfft-pluh,” came the sound from the living room. It was even worse when she actually had to sit with him at the table. A task she found herself frequently inveigled to do by Ignacio after prepping his dinner for him.

“Reese?” he would ask.

Bracing herself for what was coming, she would say, “Yes?”

“Have you got any dinner plans tonight?”

She would hesitate ever so slightly before admitting, “No Ignacio, can’t say that I do.”

Happy that she had opened the door for his usual joke, he would then inquire, “How would you like to dine with a handsome young man this evening then?”

Reese, as though acting out the scenes in the play called their nightly “bit,” would subsequently turn from the sink to face him, smile pleasantly and approach the table with a second plate already made up for herself. It was a running gambit they had perfected at this juncture. One that Reese probably shouldn’t have kept up for as long as she did. For maybe if she hadn’t, things wouldn’t have escalated so drastically as they did the night Ignacio died.

The day started out as it usually did, with Reese arriving by eight a.m. to make sure Ignacio had a fresh adult diaper to wear after his morning shit. She had grown accustomed to the robustness of the “load,” long ago talking herself out of the idea that he was deliberately packing the diaper overly full out of spite. Because if she continued to think that way, she knew she would turn resentful and vindictive. Which, as it turned out, she did anyway… so she supposed she might as well have allowed herself to despise him openly from the get-go. Particularly those moments when she was subjected to his morning diaper and non-stop geriatric dragon discharges emanating from his constantly open mouth.

As the afternoon unfolded into evening, he invited her to play a game of chess with her, which she typically let him win. But not today. No, today, something in her activated and she was no longer willing to comply with his need for obsequious company just because his daughter was paying her. Something within Reese, instead, finally initialized and there was no going back. She was no longer willing to put up with his disgusting behavior, which, to him, was merely “being himself.” That’s what it was to all people. It just so happened that being old intensified the inability of people to truly see themselves: as the grotesque, horrific caricatures they were. In old age, there was less and less possibility to hide the bare essence of humanity in this regard. An endless array of slack-jawed, open-mawed and self-involved parasites, grabbing at and clinging to anything and anyone they could suck from. But unless it was her pussy, Reese was at her threshold for being sucked.

When the next round of regurgitative sound effects predictably came along–“Hupt-pfft-pluh”–Reese was in the process of making her winning move. Or one that she was certain was winning until Ignacio’s spewings distracted her. Setting her rook down, she instantly realized it was not, in fact, the coup de grâce she thought it was. The wretched retching had proven a tactical distraction, Reese felt, on Ignacio’s part. And that’s when, mid-hupfting, she lurched forward and strangled him, screaming, “Shut the fuck up!” over and over again until what little life was left within him dissolved entirely.

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