Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
|Table of Contents|
Earl Crier wakes screaming from nightmares in which his ship sinks in the Arctic in World War II. He has survived but is now blind. He takes refuge in music and in the kindness of Stella. Meanwhile, other veterans return, and their most serious wounds are not always visible.
Chapter 12: Goodbye, Mr. Akita
Stella let the door silently slide shut as she listened one last time to Ivory strum his guitar. She smiled. Earl generously took a back seat on the piano, letting Ivory take the lead.
She sighed as she looked at Ivory in wonder. Neither she nor Henry had anticipated his response. Too few men recovered when their war-shattered minds took them as low as Ivory had gone. The music... Earl, Brooks, she and Henry had all extended a hand, doubtful that Ivory would lift a finger back in their direction. He had. He had catapulted out of the depths of his own personal hell and landed on solid ground, with a tear to acknowledge where he had been and a song to rejoice in the light.
Too much, too fast. She knew he would slip back, perhaps all the way. But for now, there was hope: Ivory was no longer a wait-and-see patient. He now knew that he didn’t have to live burdened forever with guilt, tortured by the accusing faces of the dead. A little light had seeped through a crack in the wall, beckoning him to begin the journey into the light of day and life.
The smile in her eyes changed as Elroy stepped up behind Henry.
Henry saw Elroy’s reflection and braced too late as Elroy put a vise-like grip on his elbow, twisting just hard enough to control his movement. “Mr. Mann requests” — his voice more than threatening — “he demands that” — he looked at Stella — “you come with me to his office. Now!”
“I’m sure that whatever—” She was cut off in mid-sentence. The look in Elroy’s eyes was malevolent, giving her a cold shiver as if she was about to be violated.
Her breath caught as Elroy gave Henry a sudden forceful shove, knocking him to the floor. “You have one minute to get your Jap ass out of this hospital,” he said. He pulled an envelope out of his pocket, took the cash out of it for Henry to see, pocketed it, then wadded up and threw Henry’s pink slip on the floor next to him. “You are fired, effective immediately, wages owed and paid” — he patted his pocket — “and deducted for damages.”
There was a brief sullen silence. Elroy baited Henry for an argument, any sign of defiance, relishing the opportunity to pummel and throw Henry out onto the street like so much garbage.
Henry started to rise.
Elroy moved as fast as a predatory cat, kicking Henry back onto his knees.
“Henry, don’t!” Stella screamed.
Elroy swayed back and forth on boxer’s feet, looking for an excuse to attack either of them. “Come on, give me a chance to send you back to your ancestors.”
“Henry, please,” Stella said, her voice just short of a whisper, “don’t give him an excuse. I’ll talk to Mann.” We both know where that will go, she thought, knowing that Herbert Mann would not lift a finger to help either of them. He was as much a puppet of Elroy’s as anyone. Her eyes were dark with a woman’s scorn as she glared directly into Elroy’s eyes. “Dr. Garitty will do something...”
Elroy snorted a single laugh. He looked away from Stella and gave Henry a second kick.
Henry crawled backwards, struggled to rise to his knees, then to his feet in a defensive position. Strong arms grabbed him from behind, Simon and Alex, two orderlies restraining him, twisting one arm painfully behind his back, another wrapped around his neck. Elroy twitched, ready to deliver a fist or a kick into Henry’s gut.
Stella blocked his attack by placing herself between them, her back to Elroy. She knew the two orderlies were harmless cowards by themselves, afraid to refuse Elroy’s bidding. Frequently drunk from the bad hooch Elroy provided, they were incompetent puppets who kept their jobs only on Elroy’s whim. She hadn’t seen them coming, but now that they were here, they might prove to be useful.
Stella caught their eyes, drawing their attention away from Elroy as she addressed them in her most authoritative head-nurse voice. “Gentlemen, Mr. Akita was about to leave. Would you please escort him to the front door, then stay there to make sure he doesn’t try to return?”
Henry’s eyes went wide with indignation and a sense of betrayal. She couldn’t help that. Elroy could and would do serious harm if given a chance, and his fuse was short and burning.
“Goodbye, Mr. Akita.”
Simon and Alex looked beyond her at Elroy, then without further hesitation dragged Henry towards the stairwell door.
“Stella...” Henry gasped uselessly as his arm was twisted harder.
Losing his prize, Elroy needed to vent. Stella had interfered once too often. He wrapped his arm around Stella’s waist and spun her around. She slipped from his grasp faster than he thought possible, then spun around twice as he reached for her again. And missed. Henry’s cry as he wrestled with his escorts in the stairwell distracted Elroy just long enough for Stella to reach the open door to the elevator, which slid shut behind her before he could stop it.
Stella’s mind raced faster than her labored breath. What the hell was happening? She knew that there was no love lost between management and Henry. The fact that he was a war hero with a bronze star was the only reason he had gotten the job. Japanese-Americans were still not welcome back in this shining city by the bay. Elroy had been more than self-confident and cocky with Henry. Whatever is happening must be sanctioned by Herbert Mann. That being true, what of my fate?
Her breath steadied as she tried to get a fix on... No sooner had the elevator door begun to open than a strong hand slipped through, followed by Elroy’s menacing face. Before she could step back, his thick ham-hock sized hand seized her by her throat, lifting her from the floor as he forced her to the rear of the elevator.
Her eyes bulged with panic as she struggled to find her footing as the door slid shut. With a free hand he punched the stop button, freezing the elevator in place, then drew it roughly down to her breasts, crudely cupping them as he tore off two of her blouse buttons. His breath smelled of cheap tobacco and rank with alcohol as he licked her left cheek.
“It’s payback time, bitch,” he swore as he tried to force his tongue into her mouth, only to have it bitten. This brought a strong backhanded slap which drew blood. “You’ve screwed with me one too many times. Now I’m going to screw you until you beg...” He ripped off another button, snapping her bra, as a fingernail dug into her breast as he leaned in to capture an exposed nipple.
Stella brought her knee forcefully into his groin.
“JESAHGOD!!!” he swore as he sucked in his breath, arching his back in agony. He dropped his grasp on her throat as he slumped forward, which allowed her to bring her other knee up in a driving force into his chin. That was all it took.
Stella had no time to gloat as she spun around, triple-tapped the open button and flew out of the elevator as fast as the opening doors would allow her.
Herbert Mann stood outside his office door as Stella burst out of the elevator. He had been waiting outside for Stella to be delivered. When Elroy had vaulted from the stairwell and forced himself into the elevator he had almost smiled. It brought on a slightly jealous rush, if not a sexual urge. He knew what Elroy wanted and could only imagine the pleasure he would receive at Stella’s expense. She deserved everything coming to her.
He couldn’t have been more surprised when it was Stella who came out of the elevator. Seeing Elroy slumped on the floor of the elevator as she came out seemingly unscathed, he sputtered something unintelligible beneath his breath, then turned to the sanctuary of his office.
Stella’s first inclination was to flee to the stairs, down and out of the hospital, before Elroy could manage to get to his feet. She wasn’t about to underestimate him. He was dangerous, and now that she had put him on his knees, he would be after blood. That was, until she saw Mann. “You asked for me?” she demanded with a voice demanding his attention.
Mann turned to face her, annoyed with her attitude. He had intended to reprimand her for her insolence, but froze as she approached, fast and far more determined then he was prepared for. A second later she stood eye to eye with him.
Stella was disgusted with the man, but she would not let him look away. “I’ve seen my share of ugliness, horror, stupidity, and inhumanity in the last few years! This...” she sputtered, never leaving eye contact, “this takes the cake. You wanted to see me. Here I am, you miserable...”
That was all Herbert Mann heard. Her unexpected and painful slap to his face sent him reeling and he fell backwards through his open office door. His secretary, who had been watching intently from her desk chair, shrieked at the sudden violence, only adding to his humiliation.
Stella shook out the pain in her wrist as she smiled meekly at Mann’s secretary. Her smile broadened into a mask of contempt as she returned her glare to Mann. “And since you won’t be needing me any further, sir, I’ve got rounds to do.”
She shut the office door behind her as she turned towards the stairs. Not so fast, she thought, as she eyed the elevator where Elroy lay in a fetal position gripping his injured manhood. Some unfinished business. She walked over to the elevator, reached in, tapped the Alarm button, and then the Close button. She knew that more then one door had just been closed. Her career was down the drain. Her only thought was to find Henry.
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith