On Call – Vam
I had been on duty for 36 hours straight, when I got the call over the P.A. “Orderly to 4th Floor East, report to Security.” That was my call, I thought to myself as I ran for the elevator. All I could think about was the 3-day weekend, my first real holiday since my draft board had sent me to this godforsaken hamlet in the desert. I was almost dead on my feet, but I somehow managed to push open the elevator door. I was met by the only other draft board refugee in the hospital, Jon, a conscientious objector from Boston, like me drafted out of Northeastern University and sent off to the Arizona desert for 2 long years.
Jon said, “Looks like you got that call. Better you than me, I’m off until Tuesday. I have been back and forth up and down, bedpans, x-rays and now they need a janitor. Before you go to the 4th floor stop and get the broom and dustpan at security. I got that information from the charge nurse.”
“Thanks Jon, you lucky bastard.”
Jon got off the elevator on the 3rd floor and headed straight for the staff lockers. He turned and said, “See you later. Oh by the way, watch out for the Moose, she’s in a real foul mood today.”
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“Thanks for the info.” The Moose was our name for the 4th floor charge nurse. She was a real piece of work, about 6 feet tall and built like a linebacker. We called her Moose because she bellowed like a moose in heat and was always in a rotten mood. She was clearly sexually repressed and took out her frustrations out on anyone who had the displeasure of working under her. She had a particular dislike for “hippies and other long-haired vermin” as she used to call us. Jon said it was because she secretly wanted to be a Marine sergeant in Vietnam, but had flunked the sex test.
The elevator door opened and I proceeded to exit and head toward the security desk. The security guard said, “Hey, Hank, what’s happening? You the one they sent upstairs, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess somebody has to do it,” I said and chuckled to myself, as I thought about the 3 days that awaited me after this last shift.
“Well, here you are,” he said and he handed me a long-handled broom and dustpan. Then he opened the electric door. 4th floor is the secure ward – only mental patients and patients from the county jail are on this floor. I had been to the psychiatric ward on numerous occasions, but never to the “prison ward”. The security guard led me down the corridor past the desk and then opened the barred door that separated the mental patients from the prison ward.
I went into the first clinic where the infamous Moose said, “Damn it, where have you been? Look, all this has to be cleaned up, stat.” I looked at the floor and it was covered with hair, long red and brown hair. It looked like the floor of an Army barbershop. Moose looked at the floor and said, “That’s from two of the hippies that were caught with the dope from Mexico, the guy had more goddamned hair than the girl. Go get Rapunzel from the hallway, she’s the last one.” Then the Moose handed me a pair of latex gloves and said, “Use these – you never know what’s in their hair.” I obliged and swept up the locks that surrounded the floor. Then I went to the hallway to look for Moose’s last victim. I thought Moose was in an unusually good mood, she really seemed to be enjoying her work today.
I had read in the local news rag that three marijuana smugglers had been caught when their jeep overturned in a high-speed chase. I had seen their pictures on the front page, because here any outsiders are news. These folks came in from California and got busted right here in Winslow, hippie-hating capital of the Great American West. I saw a girl of about 18 in a wheelchair with a cast on her right leg and her left arm in a sling. I thought she must be the one, I could see why Moose called her “Rapunzel”. She had long blond hair hanging halfway to her ass and pale blue eyes.
I heard the Moose yell impatiently, “Come on, come on, bring her in, let’s get started.”
The girl looked up at me with a pained expression and said, “Where are you taking me? Where are my friends?”
I said, “You’ll see, soon enough,” knowing what was awaiting her behind the door.
I opened the door and there was the Moose standing there like a lion getting ready to pounce on an antelope. Moose said, “O.K. put her right there,” and she pulled on her latex gloves. Then Moose said, as she looked at the chart on her desk, “Howard, Candace, is that your name? Looks like you’re in some big trouble, blondie. Pot smugglers, you’ll get to see your friends soon,” and she points at the pile of hair on the floor, “just as soon as I’m done with you.” Then she reached for the shears and electric clippers on the counter.
Then the girl looked at the hair on the floor and started screaming. “No, no you can’t cut my hair.”
Moose with a sadistic gleam in her eye said, “Oh yes I can and I’m going make you look like a Marine, cause I hate you god-damned hippies.” The girl started to flail uncontrollably as Moose parted her hair in the center of her head.
“Hold this bitch still, I don’t want to cut off her ear.”
I responded by holding the trembling girl still in the wheelchair and putting on the brake. Moose had all her tools assembled on the counter: shears, clippers and the surgical shaver that the hospital used on brain surgery patients. Moose said, “I wish I had a big mirror so you could see what I’m doing. You’ll have plenty of time to get used to your new hairstyle, before it grows back after you get out of jail.”
Then she grabbed a hank of her thick blond hair and sheared it off as close to the roots as possible, letting it drop dramatically in her lap. Moose had a broad smile on her face as the girl let out a bloodcurdling scream. “NO, NO.” Moose was not deterred. She continued shearing locks and dropping them in the girl’s lap.
Moose said to me as she cut the last few long locks from her scalp, “Now for the clippers, she’s gonna jump so hold this bitch down.” I firmed up my grasp on her shoulders as Moose turned on the clippers and held them next to the girl’s ear. “Now we’ll get rid of the rest of this,” she said as she held up the last long blond lock and sheared it off. Then the room came to life with the buzz of the clippers. Moose pushed the girl’s head forward, pressing her chin to her breasts. Then she started clipping away all the stubbly blond hair from her neck to her crown letting the hair fall free to the floor. Each stroke removed more and more hair. Slowly and methodically Moose clipped away all the remaining hair. The shorn, thick blond hair was piled up 6″ high on her lap and the floor under the wheelchair. The girl had stopped resisting, realizing that resistance was futile. Moose said to the girl, “Now that wasn’t so bad was it? Now we’re going to give you a good shave, that should last for at least a week.” She picked up the surgical shaver and shaved off the last vestiges of blond hair from her pale white scalp. Moose was enjoying herself and took her time slowly denuding the girl’s scalp. After about 15 minutes of shaving she said, “Let her go now and clean up this mess.”
I couldn’t believe the transformation I had witnessed. Her bald head was perfectly egg-shaped, smooth as a baby’s ass, a far cry from the shaggy blond I had brought into the clinic less than 30 minutes prior.
Moose had to add insult to injury, she reached into her purse and pulled out a compact mirror. “Take a look. Every week I’m going to shave you and your friends clean. Like I said, you’ll look like a Marine while you’re here.” She resisted looking in the mirror so Moose said, “Go on, get used to it, Rapunzel.” She opened her eyes, stared at her shaved head and looked at the pile of thick blonde locks on the floor and in her lap and started to scream.
“My hair! Oh God, my hair.”
“Get her to the ward,” said Moose.
I released the wheelchair brake and pushed the hysterical girl out to the security desk, where the security guard took over and took her to the ward. I could hear her screaming all the way down the corridor, “My hair, my hair, my hair.” As I looked down the corridor I saw two other girls who had also been to see Moose that day, they both had been shaved clean. I returned to the clinic where Moose was examining the charts, swept up the mountains of hair and Moose said, “This is the only part of this job I like.”