The Truth About Fruitcake
“Oh! That is you!” Night Nurse Water Walker plops down, breathless, on the lower bench of the Hilltopia Utopia. “I did not know!” she giggles, embarrassed? Penelope wonders why, but is feeling too relaxed to bother asking after her strenuous Friday afternoon swim with the Rusty Hinges.
Usually she tries to make it into the pool with plenty of time to spare before the Rusty Hinges invade the premises. They take up all the lanes. The blaring 40's musical music and bellowing Hinges Leader exhaust her. They're a cute group, what with their colorful Mervyn's suits and flowered shower caps. Yet she'd rather have the pool to herself, of course. Today when she'd had to share the pool with them for the first 20 minutes of their class, she'd been miffed with herself for running late. For no particular reason. Other than it was Friday. And she was cold.
So now, after lying in the sauna for the last 15 minutes, and Night Nurse appears, Penelope is too spaced out to ask why she seems confused about Penelope’s identity. If in fact this is what was going on. Again, Penelope doesn’t care. She's survived the Rusty Hinges Mayhem. She’s finally warm. And she enjoys chatting with Night Nurse.
There’s always a story.
“Ohhhh! My back. It is aching!” NN exclaims, groaning softly as she adjusts her hearty girth round on the bench. “I go upstairs. Do the cardio. It always hurt my back!”
“That’s why you swim!”
“Oh!” She waves Penelope away. “I don’t swim. You swim. You are the swimmer. If I could swim like you.....” Her voice trails off. Wistful?
“You just need to get in the water,” Penelope offers. “It’s healing.”
NN nods. “That is very true, very true.” She sighs. “Today I have to finally go back to work. I have been on vacation for the holidays.”
Penelope thinks how the holidays have been over for weeks---NN must get a lot of vacation! Not that she doesn’t deserve it. Hell, anyone that works the nightshift at SF General or wherever the hell she works, deserves a LOT of vacation!
“Did you have a good New Years?” NN continues.
“Sure, it was fine,” Penelope purposely avoids her own story, wanting to listen to NN’s instead. “How was yours?”
”It was very good!” she pronounces, grinning. Penelope can’t really see the grin in the shadowy dark of Hilltopia, but she can hear it. “We had a big party. My husband he is back from India.”
“That’s nice,” Penelope nods, knowing that her husband has long stints in India away from NN.
“Yes, I was supposed to go to India but the trip is cancelled.” NN pauses. Penelope almost asks why her trip was cancelled but senses that maybe it’s not a good idea. Her intuition tells her that something wrong happened and this is why she didn’t go to India. Like someone died. Or was sick. Or..... who knows?
Today she decides to take a safer tack. “How many people were at your party?”
“45!” NN exclaims, pleased.
“Wow! 45! That’s a lot of people!”
“Yes, but I like it. I cook and people they bring dishes and it is so much fun. I even made Fruitcake but know that the American Friends, they will not like it. British people, Indian people, they like it. But Americans. They do not like fruitcake.”
“Yes, I think that’s true,” Penelope agrees. “I know I don’t like it, but my boyfriend, he’s from Scotland, he likes it.”
”There! You see? British people they like it. But not Americans. I used to take it to work to share with the other nurses, but no one would eat it. They wouldn’t tell me. I just saw that it sat there and no one touched it. They could tell me they don’t like it. I don’t care,” she shrugs, “I would rather that people they tell me what they think. They can be open, tell their opinion. This is so much better. Everyone is more comfortability.”
Penelope smiles to herself, loving the word, ‘comfortabilitly’. Both the misuse of the word form and the strange context of definition. Of course, she knew exactly what NN meant. That we’d all be so much more comfortable if we just said what we think; but is this really true? Penelope thinks that for matters such as Fruitcake Dislike, the truth makes sense. But for other deeper matters, such as things that she can’t even type, (You, dear readers, can fill in the keystrokes) perhaps the truth is better left unsaid.
“That’s so true,” Penelope agrees, not divulging her ‘comfortability’ analysis. For this might be just one of those instances where the truth is better left unsaid. Not that she’d hurt NN’s feelings, or create any sort of uneasiness or tension, but such analysis just didn’t flow with the present narrative of Comfortability Fruitcake.
“Like I said. I don’t care what people think. They don’t like Fruitcake?” she shrugs, laughing softly. “They don’t like Fruitcake. I just don’t bring it for them anymore.”
”Their Fruitcake Loss!”
“Well, you don’t have to bring me any Fruitcake!” Penelope teases.
The belly laugh erupts in gales of mirth. NN doubles over, holding her sides. “OH, you are too funny! Okay, I will remember that. Not to bring you any Fruitcake.” She continues to chuckle, her delight filling the dark heated little room.
“Happy New Year,” Penelope rises, gathering up her stuff and heading toward the door.
“Yes, Happy New Year to you, too!” NN calls after her.
Penelope closes the door behind her; the Fruitcake Mirth Giggles filter out into the locker room.
And so this was one instance where the Truth, in the form of a Tease, was the right choice.
Sometimes, Penelope gets it right.