Survivor X, Challenge 21: Rashomon

The penultimate week’s challenge was to write in the flavor of Rashomon, essentially writing the same scene from two different perspectives.  I had no ideas this week.  So I wrote this:


Nikki knocked on the door, and then entered. There was a strong odor to the room, but she was used to it.  She never thought she would be, but the joy of taking care of the elderly made it easy to get past it.  Most days it didn’t even feel like a job.  Especially with Esther.  She wasn’t supposed to have favorites, but she couldn’t help it.  Esther was her favorite.

“Good morning, Esther!  Should we get ready for breakfast?”  Nikki pulled the privacy curtain.

“Okay,” Esther said, smiling.  She had a beautiful smile, even after all these years.  Esther had told her she loved smiling, because she took great care of her teeth and didn’t need dentures, a rarity from her generation.

Nikki put on a pair of gloves and grabbed a new incontinent product.  “Okay, Esther, can we roll over to the side?”  Esther could not really turn on her own.  Thankfully, she didn’t weigh much.

Esther shifted her weight the best she could as Nikki wrapped a transfer belt around her.  “What’s for breakfast this morning?”

“Well,” Nikki replied.  She was careful to support Esther with the belt as she gently rolled her.  “I think it’s an egg bake with an apple tort.  Of course, you can always have oatmeal, too.  Extra cinnamon, right?”

“That’s right, dear!” Esther said.  Her positive attitude also gave Nikki a boost.  Most of the other residents complained about the food.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but Nikki had sampled most everything.  It wasn’t bad, and the home tried to be accommodating to people’s tastes.

After cleaning her up, Nikki placed the pad.  “What would you like to wear today?  The blue or the brown outfit?”  Esther had more, but she couldn’t remember her wardrobe.  Nikki was trained to offer her a choice that was simple and would hopefully make Esther feel more in control of her situation.

“The blue one, dear,” Esther said.  Putting on the pants was fairly simple.  The shirt was tougher, as Esther didn’t have much range of motion in her arms.  Nikki had to be careful, or Esther would wince in pain.

“All right, put your arms up.  Okay, now let’s get your right hand through here…good!  Ready for the left?”

Esther nodded.

“Now, let me help straighten your left arm here…all right.  There we go.  Now let’s get your head through.  Great.  Now let me just pull the rest down.”  Whew.  “Did that go okay?  Any pain?”

Esther shook her head.

“Great.  Would you like to stay in bed or watch TV before breakfast?”

“Oh, I think I’ll stay in bed for a while.  Can you grab my word finds?”  Esther pointed to the nightstand.

“Sure!” Nikki said, eagerly grabbing the book and a pen.  She handed it to Esther.  “Okay, I’ll bring you to breakfast in about thirty minutes.”

“Thanks, dear!” said Esther, smiling back.

Nikki disposed of her gloves, pulled back the privacy curtain, and walked briskly across the hall to answer a call light.  She felt a warmness in her heart.  Esther always did that for her.


Finally!  Esther had her call light on for two hours before anyone came.  She knew the aides were busy, but this was ridiculous.  Not only that, she just barged into the room.  The least she could do was knock.

“Good morning, Esther!  Should we get ready for breakfast?”

“Okay,” Esther said.  At least she could have apologized for making her wait so long.  Esther smiled at the girl.  The last thing she wanted was to get on her bad side.  She saw her getting gloves and a diaper.  Esther didn’t recall asking to be changed.

“Okay, Esther, let’s roll over!” the girl barked.  Now she thinks I’m a dog, Esther thought.  No use arguing; it would just take longer that way.  She tensed as the belt was wrapped around her.  She needed a distraction.

“What’s for breakfast this morning?” she asked.  Not that she cared, unless they were serving bacon, which was only on Sundays.  As the girl manhandled her, she said something about eggs and cereal.  She felt a sharp pain in her hip.  She held her breath.

“Right?” the aide said.  Esther exhaled.

“That’s right, dear!”  She wondered to herself what she agreed to.  It soon became apparent, as the girl started cleaning her bottom.  Esther knew she needed help.  She just wished these damn girls knew how humiliating it was.  No, they just acted like they were coming to your door with flowers and a singing telegram.  Thankfully, it was over soon.  If Esther didn’t drink much at breakfast she could put this off for several more hours, at least.

“Would you like the blue or brown outfit?” the aide asked.  Two outfits?  Esther knew she had more than that.  These aides just get lazier every day.  Lucky for her, she was in the mood for blue today.

“The blue one, dear,” she said as enthusiastically as she could.  She was not looking forward to this.  The girl told her to raise her arms and pretended to be careful while putting it on.  It didn’t matter.  This always hurt like a bastard.

She got her arms through after what seemed like minutes.  “Did that go okay?  Any pain?” the girl asked, oblivious.  Esther shook her head.  She didn’t want to be labeled a complainer.

“Great!” the girl continued.  “Would you like to stay in your bed or watch TV before breakfast?”

What Esther wanted was a drink of water.  Her mouth was dry as a desert.  But she didn’t want to go through the hassle of having the head of her bed raised, and she couldn’t stand this girl’s face much longer.  So she asked for her word finds.

“I’ll bring you to breakfast in about thirty minutes!” the aide said.  Unlikely.

“Thanks, dear!” was all she said, opening up her book to a random page.  As she was searching for aster—must be a flower themed puzzle—the aide finally left the room.  Esther placed the book on her lap and turned her head to the wall, fighting back tears.

K: This one is a good idea, I think, but I saw the second part coming from a mile away, and once it started, I knew where every beat was going. This challenge is extremely difficult and I get that, but this one just didn’t have enough surprises, just like the first. Is it so much to ask that every one of these is as good as Kurosawa’s Rashomon?

DK: The key part here for me is the detail used in describing the setting and the training someone like Nikki possesses. There isn’t anything particularly mind-bendy about it – I had a pretty good idea Esther’s side was going to be like that from how chipper Nikki came off – but I get a good sense that this kind of encounter plays out just like this many times every day.

Yeah, this was one of my weaker efforts of the season.  While it was meant to be brutally obvious where the story was heading, I was hoping there’d be enough atmosphere and detail to still give this story that “plays out just like this many times every day” some impact.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do that.  I just didn’t have the energy this week to really add much.  One thing I would like to point out, though, is that I’m not favoring either character here.  They both have flaws, and both are seeing the same situation incorrectly.  I hope that came out, at least.


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