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Two Blind Men and a Fool

by Sherman Smith

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15: Time To Take a Stand

Ivory pushed open the bathroom door just in time to catch a glance of Elroy, a bag in hand, as he bullied his way through the hallway. There was a palatable tension in the air. Small groups of patients huddled here and there in whispered conversations. Something had them spooked; they grew quiet, eyes downcast as Elroy passed. The expression on Elroy’s face read trouble, and a glance of Earl’s new tux poking out of the bag Elroy carried raised the hair on the back of Ivory’s neck.

He pushed his way through the crowd in his squeaky wheelchair. “Come on, guys, get out of the way.”

Voices rose, angry and confused, their focus on the day room doors. He grasped the padlock, gave it a firm tug, then let it drop back with a solid thump against the door. “My guitar is in there,” he said, surprised at how much its sudden loss meant to him. He kicked the door with his one good leg but lacked the strength to do any damage.

“Stella?” He searched the hallway. Stella was nowhere to be found. “Henry...” He stopped mid-breath as he realized who he was calling. “Henry Akita...” He called again, kicked at the day room door from his wheelchair, then turned and rolled towards the elevator, punching the Up button angrily multiple times. The tracking light remained on Five as he continued to punish the button.

“Hey, what gives?” demanded a bear of a man, his voice sounding like rolling gravel on a dry creek bed. He stood well above everyone else, his hospital blues two sizes too small, which made him appear even more gargantuan.

“Bastard,” Ivory swore as he turned back towards the locked day room door. He was steamed. It felt good. The raw emotion, a valve to let off the weight of anger and frustration that had been holding him down too long.

“These bastards don’t give a rip whether any of us live or die.” A guy named Sully, whom Ivory had met at chow, edged his way through the crowd. He was a nervous little man, all of five foot two, with an annoying facial twitch and wild, darting eyes.

“I’ve had enough of this crap,” the big guy said.

It was then that Ivory noticed that the giant lacked a left arm from the shoulder down. His right hand was missing the thumb and the top third of the first finger. Ivory just stared for a moment. The man was a mountain, a living pack mule, a man who could carry his weight and yours when things got tough and not break a sweat. Now, he couldn’t light his own cigarette.

Ivory looked down where his own leg should have been and for the moment realized that he might just have gotten off lucky. He looked at the maimed giant, nervous little Sully, then back at his own amputation, and sighed. “We’re not exactly going to storm the citadel are we?”

The giant looked down at Sully and back again at Ivory in his wheelchair. “I reckon not,” he rumbled. He grew silent again, as if searching for words that were not his to begin with.“It ain’t right, letting them get away with crap like this without us lifting a finger.” He held out his mangled hand, pondered it for a moment, as he stared at the chain and padlock securing the day room doors. “No, sir, it ain’t right. We’re going to take back what’s ours.”

He pushed with his shoulder against one of the doors, then pointed the best he could at one of the door’s hinges. “We’ll need something to pry these loose. Who’s with me? We’ll take the doors down, chain or no chain.”

The crowd shrank quietly back into their wards.

“That might work,” Ivory said. “Then what?” At least I can get my guitar, he thought. That doesn’t do anything for Stella and Henry... or Earl.

“Earl?” someone asked.

“Earl should be in the day room, only he isn’t here, is he?” Sully said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. I just saw Elroy go by with Earl’s tux. Any bets that Earl is up on the fifth floor?”

Ivory eyed the frozen elevator light button. Everyone spoke at once, low voices, no one willing to say what they all knew to be the truth, that Earl was as good as gone. Ivory clenched his fist. “It ain’t right.”

“That’s God’s truth,” Sully said, “and being that Mann is God and Elroy is J.C., there is not one damn thing we can do.” Suddenly, Sully jumped as if he had been hit by an electrical charge. “We’ll hold ourselves a little protest and take back what’s ours.” He spun around and ran like a baying coon dog down the hallway and into the chow hall, returning a moment later with two dull table knives. “These ought to do it.”

The giant rolled one in his palm until he had a grip on it and began to chisel away the dry paint that held the bolts in place. Sully worked on the lower bolt while Ivory kept an eye on the elevator.

“Burrell Smith,” the giant said to his new friend as he pulled the first bolt. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Ivory,” he answered. What little energy he had was sputtering. Things were happening so fast. Part of him wanted to retreat back into the old fog where he didn’t give a damn. His hands began to tighten on the wheels to his chair as he started to push himself back.

“Lewis,” said one of the other men who had stayed, “and this here is Tony. We’re going to need more help with these. Those doors look plenty heavy. Tony, let’s you and me round up a few of the guys.”

Tony looked uncertainly back. “And don’t take no for an answer. Burrell is right; it’s time we took a stand.”

The doors were opened.

Ivory, Burrell, Sully, and sixteen others who were dragged from the wards filled the day room. Lewis and Tony set the doors back in place, minus the bolts, then sat back and waited with a few other curious souls. “We’ve got the best seats in the house,” Lewis told Tony. “Nothing is going to happen in there until shit happens out here.”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith

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