467. Communal lounge
© Bruce Goodman 20 January 2015

For almost three years, Josephine had done the daily cryptic crossword in the paper. She followed a routine. The newspaper was a shared one in the old folks home, but everyone knew the crossword belonged to Josephine. Occasionally she would ask, in the communal lounge, if someone knew the answer to some clue or other. But usually it was Josephine, taking all morning, and part of the period after lunch, to complete the crossword.

For Josephine, the routine kept her mentally alert and filled in the time.

Then the old folks home got a new resident: Christina. Christina was loud, bossy, demanding, and good at crosswords. She took over.

Josephine hated it, and so did everyone else. The crossword was no longer a thing to amuse, a titillating time-filler. It was the scene of war. Christina would complete the crossword early in the morning to let everyone know how clever she was.

Old Mrs Simpson (no one knew her first name, she always introduced herself as “Mrs Simpson”) was a wily old woman. She started getting up even earlier and cutting out the crossword and hiding it. Everyone thought it was Josephine. But it wasn’t. It was Mrs Simpson.

Christina was furious. Among the twenty or so old folks who inhabited the communal lounge, there was more cunning than in a pack of foxes. It took only several months before Christiana moved on to another old folks home. She had been most unhappy. Not that anyone could point a finger.

Josephine went back to her crossword. Peace reigned. All were well pleased.

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