Mountains Out of Mole Hills
by SM CADMAN
Russian: Делать из мухи слона. [ˈdʲelatʲ iz ˈmuxi slʌˈna]
English: To make a mountain out of a molehill.
When Zoya woke up that morning, she had come to the conclusion that living wasn’t going as planned. So to encourage her demise, she decided to engage in a pre-emptive strike against living. She figured by feigning the act of dying she could hurry along the process much quicker. She was still very healthy, even at the age of ninety-nine; more nimble than most of her contemporaries at the nursing home. And although she was less physically robust now than most other younger Russian Babushka’s, she still had edge. She wouldn’t hesitate to bite back if anyone didn’t know their place with her…
She began playing dead when her Personal Support Worker Lori made an appearance to get her ready for breakfast at seven o’clock that morning. When she tried to wake Zoya from her peaceful slumber, that’s when the drama commenced.
“Zoyica, are we going to get ready for breakfast?” Lori whispered into her ear.
“BREAK-fast? Who needs it? I’m dying today!” Zoya rolled over, burying herself deeper into the coziness of her rumpled hospital linen.
“You need some breakfast. It will make you’ll feel much better…Right?” Lori suggested.
But Zoya was having none of that. She had made up her mind. She was now comfortable in the thought of passing over to the great beyond. Lori however wasn’t. And she wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Zoya lie perfectly still, almost appearing not to breathe for fear of having to contend with the reality of Life. The necessity of a good wash and equally nourishing breakfast after ninety-nine years had significantly lost its appeal. She was content with the feeling that the only novel experience to be had was that of passing over into the spirit world. But she would have settled for slipping into nonexistence too. The idea intrigued her. And as William Shakespeare once wrote in his play, As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, she knew then she must exit in one huge, final dramatic bang. Everyone would know that she had existed and that she had lived a long, hearty life.
Thoughts began to stir about in her fragile body on how to effectively execute this final curtain call. She plotted how her definitive ending would conclude. She needed to showcase her newfound appreciation for the darker side of life.
“Zoyica… C’mon, you’re going to make me ask again?” Lori asked after another ten
minutes had passed without any life signs being emitted from Zoya.
“Bev! Can you come in here and help me out? Zoya won’t move. I have no idea
what’s she up to again today”, Lori pleaded while rolling her eyes. Bev, the charge nurse, peeked in through the large doorway and walked over to Zoya.
“Zoya, this is the final call for breakfast. If you want to eat, Lori’s going to have to get you up, washed and into your wheelchair”, she said as she began facetiously inspecting Zoya.
She ran her fingers over her crinkled forearm checking for a pulse. Zoya began taking deep breaths in and out, her chest heaving and collapsing with great force. Then with one large final and very dramatic sigh, she stopped.
“Oh my, she is indeed, departed. Well, in that case we had better call for the hearse!
Again…” Bev said while winking.
Giggles erupted within the quaint nursing home room and carried out into the corridor where other staff had assembled to witness the departure of one of their eldest residents. But Zoya was still unsure about whether or not she should make an appearance to the breakfast table. She took another deep breath in then let out another final dramatic sigh.
“Well I guess that’s a no then”, Lori said while trying to contain her laughter. “Bah! She’ll come to dinner. She never misses that”, Bev retorted then walked out of the room to finish her rounds, chuckling under her breath.
The breakfast dining room would have to wait for her to make her appearance at a later meal. And by lunch time, Zoya had also decided that wheeling herself into the dining hall would be far too much effort also. But if death hadn’t reaped her soul by dinner, that’s when she would make her final appearance on stage. She was after all, beginning to be somewhat hungry and moving onto the next plane of existence would require all of the energy she could muster. Or so she figured it would.
When six o’clock came, she made her appearance at dinner. She rolled into the dining hall like any Grand Czarina would do, tucking herself neatly under the crook of the dinner table. Still unwashed and feeling slightly over-due, but as cantankerous as ever, she glared suspiciously over at Charles her table mate, who was seated beside her. Charles was in his seventies and had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of Cancer. At this point in his life, he was well aware that his condition was palliative. He had come to a certain sense of peace regarding death and dying. Always an optimist and full of kindness, he never let his condition define the quality of how his life would ultimately end. And fortunately, he had just as much bite as Zoya did. Loving but fierce, much like her.
Zoya harboured a certain sense of animosity and resentment towards Charles and his ominous predicament. She desperately wanted to join him when he departed from their shared reality. Her anger only seemed to escalate over the repetitive dinner banter that transpired between them. Their voices carried throughout the dining hall, heightening with each saucy interaction. Occasionally the dining staff and nurses would glance over and make faces about their heated discussions while cautiously keeping an eye out for any trouble that may occur. Luckily, those who suffered from any type of hearing loss were spared the onslaught from this negative dinner chat.
The tension began to edge closer to doom when a dietary aide stopped to pour Zoya a glass of Iced Tea.
“Juice? I don’t like this juice! WHAT is this?!” Zoya yelled out to the dietary aide as she was pouring. She stepped back trying to avoid the oncoming verbal shrapnel that was now redirected at her instead of Charles. She lowered her head and continued pouring.
“It’s Iced Tea. Just drink it! Christ, Zoya – it’s just TEA!” Charles paused, “But cold. I think…” he hollered back as he sipped from his own glass trying gauge the temperature of it.
And although he was only seated no less than one foot apart from her, he somehow managed to be heard across the ocean in Moscow where Zoya had immigrated from many years ago.
“If you want it, YOU DRINK IT!” She screamed back at Charles then tossed the remaining liquid that was in her glass onto him.
Charles was stunned. He touched his shirt. He was sopping wet and slightly sticky, he reached for the bread basket and flung a white, crusty dinner roll at Zoya’s dainty face. When the dinner roll met with Zoya’s well-worn Russian face, she was completely astounded. Charles screamed out to her, “Take that, you Russkie!” The dining room fell completely silent. Outside where various birds had been merrily chirping away on tree branches during the super hour, they became abruptly mute. It was as if they had promptly died themselves.
Zoya glared at Charles then rolled closer towards him. She began kicking out her tiny legs from her wheelchair directly at his shins. Charles continued throwing dinner rolls at her until he had emptied the entire bread basket. Now, low on doughy weaponry he began to kick back at her shins too.
The dining room erupted into a war zone with nurses and dietary aides separating the two factions of war from each other. Other residents confused by the commotion were still unaware of what exactly was happening between them. After about ten minutes, the tension simmered down to a more equitable Cold-War stance. Now separated on either side of the dining hall, Zoya and Charles had forgotten just exactly what they had been fighting about. After seeing each other from across the dining room, they requested to be sat together once again. The nurses obliged and moved them back together at their previously assigned dining table but doing so very cautiously.
Charles looked at Zoya and smiled. She smiled back at him. But suddenly he realized he hadn’t seen Zoya at either breakfast or lunch that day, so he pleasantly inquired how Zoya’s morning had been, to which she replied, “Oh, this morning, I was dead. But now I’m okay.”