Say it, Melinda, Marge says. She is a staff person and Melinda is one of the participants assigned to her. Marge is sitting at the front table doing her tracking after lunch while Melinda strings beads like she did all morning, and repeats,
EL-LIE, EL-LIE, EL-LIE.
Oh, that’s pretty funny, Ellie, another staff person, says. What happens when she says that at home tonight? They have this conversation right in front of Melinda, who likes to say Ellie’s name. She says it a lot. It must sound good to her. Ellie usually puts up with it. But today she said it was driving her crazy, which caused Marge to start rousting Melinda.
When she screeches, EL-LIE, EL-LLIE, EL-LIE Marge laughs and says, Good job, Melinda.
Ellie is reading the newspaper – her horoscope, the classifieds and the JC Penney’s ad. Lorna and Leo are watching Horton Hears a Who. They watched it this morning. Donnie is watching Sesame Street videos on the computer. Jennie is sleeping on the bed in the front bathroom. Louise is zoned out on the couch.
I’m pissed off as usual. Melinda tends to be loud. Usually she says words that aren’t words, or says PARTY, or BOO BOO, or she just laughs too loud or holds her stomach and cries. She can say, NO WANT TO, when you ask her to do something. She’s had a hab plan for five years to say I’m done and sometimes when she finishes taking the clothes out of the dryer or going pee on the toilet she says DONE.
Would you like me to get her up to do the trash? I ask Marge.
I’ve tried before saying something like, why don’t you get a real job? It doesn’t help. Marge says, knock yourself out and I go over and say ready, set, go while I pull Melinda to her feet. She is still going EL-LIE, EL-LIE, EL-LIE so I don’t use any words with her, just put my fingers to my lips and sush. Then I step towards the trash can and motion. Melinda grabs the garbage bag and pulls it out. I tie the bag and send her down the hallway. She walks slowly and heavy footed. I quickly put a new bag in the trash can and follow her, making sure she goes the right way, making sure she doesn’t fall or punch someone. But I stay back a bit, letting her walk on her own, giving her twenty seconds without someone telling her what to do. She is laughing now, a little too loudly. But she goes straight to the trash bin and pushes the bag in.
I give her a fist bump and think how I love my job.