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Out of Retirement by Erica Lawson

Chapter One


Into the Nuthouse



Melanie drove into the cracked, pocked driveway and parked her car behind a yellow Chevy station wagon that was easily ten years old and looked remarkably shabby. She got out, grabbed her bag and locked her car. 


The house she had been called to showed signs of neglect. The peeling paint and the rusted gutters told a sad tale about the single story building. On the wall near the front door was a sign.


Shady Oakes had been spelled out in large letters, with Retirement Home added in smaller letters underneath. What drew Mel's attention was the removal of some of the letters, leaving behind a dirty outline of what had been there before. The remaining letters had been painted in bright red to highlight them. The sign now said Dykes Retirement Home.


“Okay,” Mel said to herself. 


Something hit her in the back and she turned to see a boy straddling a bike. At her feet lay a rolled-up newspaper.


“Come back here, you little runt!”


An old lady, barely five feet tall, jumped out of the bushes and ran toward the boy on the bike as fast as her elderly legs would carry her. She flailed a cane above her head and took a swipe or two in his direction.


The boy’s eyes widened and he put his feet on the pedals. He pumped as hard as he could, to little effect. The bike responded slowly and finally broke away from whatever invisible force had held it in place.


“Crazy old woman!” he yelled.


“You tell them that we won’t fall for their games. They want a fight, then come and get us!” She shook her fist at the departing boy then stomped down the driveway and up the small ramp to the front door. She sniffed at Mel, opened the door, walked through and slammed it shut.


Mel blinked. Her mouth moved but nothing happened, so she blinked again. “Okay.”


As her mind digested what had just happened, her hand rose and knocked on the door. It took a few seconds before she could hear movement on the other side. 


“Isabel, could you see that Alice finds the right bed this time.”


The door opened and a young woman stood there. Mel would have classed her as hot, but she tried not to react to her. Just because the sign said dykes didn’t necessarily mean that everyone who lived in the house were so minded. Mel blinked again. 


“Can I help you?” The woman’s voice was low and husky.


“Errr.” Mel’s mouth opened and closed like a guppy and her finger pointed backward and forward from the road to the house. “I… I’m Dr. Stokes.”


“Great!” The woman grabbed her hand and shook it enthusiastically. 


“That woman….”


“Alice? She thinks she’s in the Resistance. I’m surprised she didn’t try to capture you.”


“Capture me? She does this sort of thing often?” Mel tried to remember what she had learned about Alzheimer’s.


“From time to time. She’s getting on.”


“I can see that. May I come in?”


It was obvious to Mel that the woman didn’t realize she had left her standing on the doorstep for some time. 


“Where are my manners? Come in, come in.” She ushered Mel quickly into the room, as if she was expecting her to make a sudden escape. “I’m Caitlin, by the way.”


“Nice to meet you, Caitlin. I’m Melanie, but most people call me Mel.” Mel put down her bag. “Now, what seems to be the problem?”


“One of my girls said she needed some help.”


“Help? What sort of help?”


“Why don’t I let her tell you herself?”


Mel wondered what could be so awful that Caitlin couldn’t say. She picked up her bag. “Lead on.”


Mel checked out the house as she wandered through it. While the structure was a little run down, the inside had been kept immaculate. She revised her initial opinion about the state of disrepair. It was obviously a matter of money and not of care. Unfortunately, she had seen too many houses of late in the same condition. 


“How many residents are there?”


“Residents?” Caitlin chuckled.


“Did I say something funny?”


“It sounds a lot better than patients or inmates.” Caitlin entered the last room on the left. 


“Sophie, the doctor’s here! Now you behave yourself.”


“Woo hoo, a lady doctor!” Sophie gave a loud wolf whistle and grinned.


Mel glanced at Caitlin, who shrugged her shoulders. 


“So, Sophie. What seems to be the problem?” Mel placed her bag on the bed.


“Well, right now it’s that I’m forty years too old, sugar.” She winked at Mel, who blushed.


“She’s got asteroids!” The miniature woman who had slammed the door in her face appeared in the doorway.




“Hemorrhoids,” Caitlin murmured.


“Ahh.” Mel couldn’t stop a chuckle as an image of two hemorrhoids shooting across the night sky like blazing comets came to mind. She glanced at Caitlin again.


“My girls are a little… feisty.”


“Feisty? Really?”


“Do you think you can handle me, sugar?”


“It depends on what I’m handling you for.” Mel brought her hands together to warm them, while Sophie laughed.


“Touché, sugar.”


“You can call me Dr. Stokes.” Mel tried to sound stern but she was sure Sophie would have none of it.


“Is she a Nazi spy?” Alice asked.


“No, she’s here to help us,” Caitlin responded


“Good, a Yankee paratrooper. Do you know field first aid?” Alice sidled up to Mel. “Let’s see your I.D.”


Mel reached into her bag and pulled out her driver’s license. “Is that good enough?”


“All correct, Captain.” Alice saluted Caitlin.


“Alice, go back to bed,” Caitlin ordered, “and Sophie, no more nonsense. The doctor is a busy woman.”


“She can be busy with me any time.” Sophie gave a throaty laugh that sounded like she was choking. The laugh ended with a cough.


“Sophie!” A fifth voice entered the conversation. 


“Phyllis, what are you doing here?”


“I heard a wolf whistle. I came to see what all the noise was about.” Phyllis turned her gaze to Mel and gave her the once over. “New doc? I approve.” She addressed Sophie, “Listen, my girl, you be nice around the doc. We can’t afford to lose another one.”


“Another one?” Mel took a mental step back.


“Sophie’s a bit of a tease.”


“No, really?” Mel couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice. “Then the sign on the building is not a joke.”


“Not for me, darlin’.” Sophie winked at Mel.


“Oh, Lord,” Caitlin whispered.


“And how old are you, Sophie?”


“Seventy-seven years young. And you?”




“No, that’s okay. I’m thirty-four.”


“So, there’s some hope for me yet.” 


“Maybe.” Mel winked at Sophie. “I’m currently unattached.”


“And what were you attached to?” Sophie continued.


“That’s enough!” Phyllis moved into the room and used her wheelchair to clear the space she needed. “Don’t answer that, Doc. It’s none of her business.”


“I have a feeling it’s going to be a long debate in this house so I’ll put you out of your misery. I like my attachments with skirts. But that information is top secret, okay?”


“Woo hoo! Hot diggety!” Sophie clapped.


“You shouldn’t have said that,” Phyllis warned.




“Because Sophie will make our lives miserable. She now thinks she’s got a chance.”


“What the hell are you talking about? Our love was made in heaven.” Sophie reached for her shirt. “Unless you all want to cop an eyeful, I suggest you leave while the doc here examines me.”


“There’s no need to remove your blouse.”


“But, where’s the fun in that?” Sophie batted her eyelashes at Mel.


“Do you want me to stay?” Caitlin asked.


“Help,” Mel cried quietly.



“I suppose it’s too late to say I’m off the market,” Mel said hopefully.


“It’s all my fault.” Caitlin said as she escorted Mel to the kitchen. “Have a cup of coffee before you go. You look like you need it.”


Mel sat down at the kitchen table. She was numb. She’d never come across anyone quite like Sophie, young or old. A couple of minutes later a mug of steaming coffee sat in front of her. “Thanks.”


“I don’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ is a good start, I suppose.” Caitlin sat down opposite Mel with her own coffee in hand.


“No, it was my fault for playing her game.” Mel took a sip of her coffee and stared out into space. “What do I do now?”


“The only thing to do is to get someone else to take your place for these visits. Trying to get a female doctor has been hard, especially from the Community Center.”


“The ladies don’t like men.” It was a statement rather than a question for Mel.


“Not really, no. They tolerate them when they’re sick.”


“That doesn’t leave me with a lot of choice then. I suppose I’ll be your doctor until someone more suitable comes along.”


“More suitable?” Caitlin tilted her head.


“You know, attached. Off the market. In a relationship. Straight.”


“I get it. I suppose you could wait a few weeks then tell her you’ve got a girlfriend.”


“And have Sophie try to string me up? Are you joking? Besides, she won’t believe that.”


“She doesn’t know where you live.” Caitlin chuckled.


“True, but unless I can produce the girlfriend I don’t think she’s going to believe me.”


Caitlin stood up and went to the shelf and returned with a cookie jar. “Cookie?”


Mel felt her stomach rumble and decided that missing breakfast was not a good idea. “Thanks.” She reached in and pulled out an oatmeal cookie. 


“Don’t worry. It’s not like she’s going to stalk you or anything.”


“Stalk?” Mel’s eyes grew wide. “How mobile is she?” She looked over her shoulder at the corridor. “I wonder if I can plant a GPS tracker on her.”


“A tracker? The woman is seventy-seven years old.”


“Seventy-seven, going on twenty-three.” Mel took a huge mouthful of coffee and swirled it around in her mouth while she thought. After she swallowed, she spoke, “When does a woman’s sex drive run out? I’ll have to look it up back at the center.”


“By the way Sophie is acting, I’d say she’s had her tank re-filled.” Caitlin smiled. “I’m sorry, but this is just too funny.”


“Funny?” Mel looked at Caitlin. “You must be the only one. I’m terrified.” Mel looked down at her hands and saw they were shaking.


Caitlin reached across the table and took her hand. “Stop worrying. It’s one little old woman.”


Mel looked at Caitlin’s hand lying on her own. Quickly, she withdrew it. “Um, I better go.”


“So soon? Oh, okay.” Caitlin stood. “Thanks again for coming so quickly.” Caitlin extended her hand and Mel took it, shaking it slowly and deliberately. “Let’s hope Sophie suffers a bout of amnesia sometime soon.”


“That would only make my job harder. As a doctor, I mean. However, my female persona will be cheering you on.”


Caitlin escorted Mel to the front door and opened it to let Mel step out into the sunshine. 


“I’ll be in touch,” Mel said.


“Fine.” Caitlin looked at Mel. “Well, goodbye.”


“Bye,” Mel watched the door close. She stood there for a moment to allow the heat of the sun to seep into her body. In a way, it made her feel better, but she wasn’t sure whether it was the weather or the fact that she was leaving the nuthouse.

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