She opened the door and turned without giving Bob a proper greeting. Taking tiny steps that scuffed her feet across the beige carpet, she made her way slowly back to her electric recliner. Bob came in and shut the down behind him as his mother carefully placed her bent body into the chair.
“How are ya, Mom?” he asked. She didn’t answer. The television was on. It was always on. Again, she had it turned to one of her favorite news stations that maintained 24 hour coverage of the most horrific things that were happening across the planet. Bob walked to her chair, grabbed the remote, and went to the channel guide. His mother finally acknowledged him with a glare.
“What’dya do that for?” she asked.
“You’ve gotta stop watching that stuff, Mom,” he said. “It’s not good for you. It just poisons your mind.”
“I gotta be informed about what’s going on!” she shouted. She reached her hand out for the remote that Bob held. Despite her best efforts to open her fingers, the swollen knuckles only allowed her to keep the shape of a deformed claw. Bob kept the remote.
“Mom, you’re only making your depression worse,” he said. He thumbed through the channels and quickly found an evangelical station. He handed the remote back to his mother.
She grunted. “You change news for snake oil?” She shook her head and pointed at the TV with her remote in hand. “I suppose he’s gonna fix my moods?”
Bob ignored what she said and scanned the room. His eyes landed on a clock on the wall. “Want me to fix your clock?” he asked.
She glared at Bob and then the clock and then Bob again. The hand holding the remote began to shake. “What do I care what time it is?” she asked. “It’s all the same.”
Bob took the clock down and opened its back. He began searching through the drawers in search of fresh batteries. “Don’t you have any batteries?”
“No!” she shouted with a hoarse voice. “I ain’t got no batteries and I sure as hell don’t need to know what time it is.” She changed the channel back to the news station. According to the sidebar, four children had been slain in a recent school shooting. Two more were listed in critical condition. She shook her head and muttered to herself.
“Mom,” Bob said, “you’ve got to get out more. You’ve got to interact with the other people in the home. If you don’t know what time it is, you can’t go to any of the activities.”
“Damn the activities and damn the home and damn these people,” she said under her breath.
“What?” he asked.
“I said I don’t have any fresh batteries.” She scowled at him when he wasn’t looking.
Bob found a pack of double-As and tore them open. He slipped one into the clock, adjusted the time, and set it back on the wall. “There,” he said. “That’s better.”
His mother stared at her son. “Yeah, much better. Now I know how long I’ve been sitting in the waiting room for hell.” She saw Bob motion to speak and she cut him off by pointing a shaky hand at him. “My husband is dead, my sister is dead, my brother is dead, my parents are dead, and two of my children are dead.” She gave Bob a hard look. “I know what time it is.”