A short story by Lynn McCann
Susie didn’t like getting up that morning. It was cold and Ken was cross with her. She refused to get out of bed and short of pushing her out, there was nothing Ken could do.
By lunch time she was very hungry so she made her way in her pyjamas to the dining hall. Susie put on her fiercest face so none of the staff would challenge her to get dressed. She didn’t even like the thing called shepherds pie that they gave her but she ate, one mouthful at a time until it was cold and everyone else had left the room.
Susie didn’t like going to the lounge. Usually Ken or Sandra would try to make her join in something. Mostly she didn’t understand what they were saying and whatever they put in front of her, usually a piece of board with numbers or writing on it made Susie want to throw it across the room. She was getting good at aiming for certain people who might have annoyed her sometime. They stopped asking her to join in eventually. Susie preferred to sit in her room watching Strictly Come Dancing, over and over again.
It wasn’t Susie’s fault that she punched Kevin that day. He came far too close and she was fed up of him trying to touch her boobs. But Ken and Sandra hadn’t noticed that. As she watched Kevin fall to the floor in slow motion, the staff bounded across the room like superheroes blocking the baddie’s escape and holding Susie’s arms so tightly behind her back that the pain rushed into her head and screamed.
Susie couldn’t remember screaming hysterically or biting Sandra, but she could remember the way they pushed her to the floor and pinned her down. Susie might have been small and round but Susie knew what danger was and she was going to fight it. She was exhausted from the writhing, kicking and convulsing as they carried her to the punishment room. They didn’t even change her. She sat in her damp clothes, staring at the blank wall and retreated into Strictly Come Dancing land where Susie could dance in the pink sequinned dress she had always dreamed of.
Susie didn’t know why they came to get her. It wasn’t even night time. Sandra hissed at her to stop humming and Ken told her to behave for the visitor. Susie was too tired to fight but she wondered what visitor would ask for her especially and whether he would mind that she stank of pee.
Susie shuffled into the lounge and Ken and Sandra ushered her to one of the empty chairs at the back. Then they left her alone. The room was full. Everyone from every ward seemed to be there. No-one seemed to have noticed that she came in, their whole attention was focussed on the Man stood at the front of the room. Only he wasn’t stood still, he began to move towards the people sat at the front, touching each one and whispering to them. Susie wasn’t going to look but she found herself desperately wanting to hear what he was saying…and desperately wanting that look each person he touched displayed on their face.
The room began to buzz with humming, singing, laughter and conversation as the Man walked up and down the rows, missing no-one out. Susie was the last person, sat apart from everyone else.
She found herself unable to look at Him. She felt bad for all the times she’d hit out lost her temper. She felt dirty because she had wet herself and he smelled so lovely. Susie felt sure he wouldn’t speak to her. When she was bad, no-one did.
“Susie, would you dance with me?”
In shock she looked up at the kindest most beautiful face she had ever seen. It was as if stars burst out of his eyes and the whole world was etched on his face. Without taking her eyes from His she nodded and He took her hands gently in His. Together they glided towards the front of the room and suddenly there was music. Susie felt as though a waterfall came down from heaven and washed her dirty, smelly clothes away and replaced them with a pink sparkly ball gown that swished and bobbed gracefully as she danced across the floor with the Man.
“Susie, will you follow me?” He whispered in her ear.
“Yes!” she squealed with delight, “I will.”
“Will you teach others to follow me too?”
“Show them how I danced with you, tell them I AM JESUS.”
The hospital found her a place to live, a lovely home with friendly house-mates and kind staff who take her to the dance school every week. Susie still dances for Him. And at the end of her dance she tells the audience how Jesus came to dance with her. People are amazed at her peace and joy.
This short story was inspired by a conversation I had with my brother about an old ‘mental hospital’ (that’s what it was know as) in our county that I had once visited as a student and he had once worked at. The way that people with learning disabilities were shut away and treated was quite appalling at times and we were both thankful that the old hospital had been closed and the residents moved into group homes in the community. My brother told me that patients were sometimes locked in the toilet, naked or in their wet clothes for the whole day as a punishment for needing more than one incontinent pad a day. I just wanted to remember that Jesus cared for those people too and what might have happened if he had visited it for one day.