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By Sam Difalco

A cap of green snot had cemented shut Pernell’s nostrils. I put on some latex gloves and wiped his face with tissue paper. He was trying to clear his throat. I pulled the hoyer up to the bed. I peeled away the blankets. I slid the sling under him and he groaned.

“It’s wrinkled.”

“No, it’s not Pernell.”

“Around my butt. Pull the flap out.”

“How’s that?”

“Start over.”


“I said –”

“I’m not starting over.”

His face reddened.

I hooked the straps to the hoyer and started pumping. Pernell’s eyes bulged and his chin trembled. I unplugged his ventilator, but waited to put his speaking valve on. He could go up to an hour without the vent. I spun him around and pushed the hoyer to his commode chair. I released the hoyer valve and gently lowered him. He was hissing. I put on his speaking valve.

“Put me back in bed!” he screamed.


“You have to start over!”

“Yeah, right.”

“You better start over!”

“Or what, Pernell, what are you going to do?”

He tried to spit at me but couldn’t generate the force required to propel his gob any distance and it dribbled over his stomach.

“I’m writing you up, buddy,” I said.

“I’m writing you up.”

“You know what, Pernell. I’m going to sit you over the toilet and you can stew there for a while, okay? Then I’m going down to the lounge for a coffee.”

I wheeled him into the bathroom and positioned the commode chair over the toilet bowl. I shut the bathroom door behind me and went down to the staff lounge.

By the time I returned to Pernell’s apartment, he had taken a dump. His feces was orange from his stomach medication. It smelled like a cheese shop in there. I put on gloves, wiped him and flushed the toilet.

I pushed him under the shower. I soaped him down with a sponge, then hosed him off. I rinsed his underparts and soaped them down as well. I scrubbed his tiny penis. Then I hosed him off again. I washed his hair with a tarry-smelling pharmaceutical shampoo. Pernell had a touch of psoriasis on the scalp. He squawked when the shampoo settled in.

“Rinse it off.”

“It’s supposed to sit a minute or two.”

“Rinse it off, you prick. It’s burning.”

I rinsed it off.

“Let me sit here a while. Go make a coffee.”

“I didn’t hear a please.”


He blinked as the spray bounced off the top of his head.

“Pull me back a bit.”

“Like this?”

“Not so far.”

“Like so?”


I shook my head and left him there.

“Bobby!” Pernell cried. “Bobby!”

I went out to the kitchen. I made him a triple-triple coffee. I went in and dried him off. He wanted me to brush his small gummy teeth. I had to use a baby’s toothbrush on him because he could barely open his mouth. Pernell’s gums were rotting. I brushed as gently as I could, but his gums still bled.

I put him back on the bed and dried him off. Pernell wore a diaper and sweat pants. He still had a smell to him.

After I dressed Pernell, I put him in his wheelchair.

“You follow my directions or I’ll call Mark.”

“Go ahead, Pernell.”

“You’re ugly. Anyone ever tell you that. You’re an ugly man.”

“I may be ugly, Pernell, but at least I’m not in hell.”

Pernell spit again. “You piece of shit!” he said.

I removed his speaking valve. After I hooked him up to his ventilator, he still couldn’t speak. He needed suctioning. I got a catheter out, unplugged his inner canula and switched on the suction pump. He had wads of yellow crap lodged in there and it took twenty takes to get it all out.

Pernell was red-faced and quiet after that. I fed his two turtles and his fish and I tapped the glass case of his coral snake. Pernell drank his coffee in the living room. He had taped a wrestling program the night before and wanted to watch it on his big screen television.

“Thanks, Pernell,” I said at the conclusion.

“No, thank you.”

Sam Difalco was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario and is currently residing in Toronto. For several years he’s been writing under the pseudonyms Gareth Wiggins and Margaret Gabriel and has had stories and poems published in many journals and lit mags.

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