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Two Blind Men and a Fool

by Sherman Smith

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Chapter 24: Stepping in Harm’s Way

Stella slept like a baby for the first hour. After that, the worry goblins whispered in her ear. If she lost her job, which was the likely case, what could she do? Henry’s paycheck? Earl’s stolen pay? Reference from Mann — not likely.

Elroy... Was she a fool for even going near the hospital? The man was dangerous. Brooks: bombastic and vulnerable. Her thoughts caught like so many leaves in a turbulent breeze.

When Stella arrived at the hospital, Rose told her that Herbert Mann wanted to see her in his office. Nothing was said about Henry’s pay. Elroy would not clock in for an hour; she would have a little time to see how Brooks was doing.

“You wanted to see me?” Stella said with a tone less than respectful. She hadn’t knocked on the door, which further irritated the administrator.

Herbert Mann looked up from his desk, greeting her with clear disdain: “No, Nurse Tate, seeing you does not brighten my day.” He paused, allowing for the silence and his cold stare to dictate who was the boss. “I have summoned you, in my official capacity, to inform you that, despite your years of service, I regard you as an individual who has disgraced this institution, a troublemaker who has caused me a great deal of unnecessary distress. I said it before, and this time I’ll make it official. You’re fired, and don’t expect any references.”

He pushed a small pile of documents across the desk in her direction. “There is two weeks’ severance pay, which you don’t deserve. But it is policy, and I have no choice. Now get the hell out of here.”

“What about Henry Akita?” she demanded, her eyes burning holes in him.

“No severance pay. He was a probationary employee. He’s not even in the system yet. What he has coming he can collect from Elroy.”

She stood there, her shoulders and neck tight, trying to hold back her rage. She knew without a doubt the sanctimonious son-of-a-bitch was complicit in the theft of Earl’s back pay — and how many others? That Elroy had done it was without question.

Despite the NO SMOKING sign in the office, she lit a cigarette. “I think not,” she said, and she deliberately blew a pall of smoke across his desk. She picked up the papers Mann had been reading when she had come in and, without another word, touched the red-hot tip of her cigarette to them until they ignited. She dropped the burning papers into a trash can. Its contents burst into flame. She turned and left, easing the door closed behind her.

“You’re fired!” Mann shrieked. He poured the contents of his coffeepot on the fire and screamed at his secretary through the closed door. “Find Elroy, and have him come straight up to my office!”

As smoke filled the room, he coughed, opened a window and leaned out into the breeze. “Elroy! Where the hell are you?” He cursed aloud. “It’s a conspiracy! A conspiracy!” He slapped a tight closed fist into his open palm. “I knew it the moment that goddamned Jap arrived. It has got to stop, even if I have to fire every one of them.

“This hospital has too many malcontents who do not understand that it isn’t about medicine anymore. The doctors are all incompetent. They’re as useless as the deadwood they send me. Deadwood.

“God, the money that could be saved by cutting out all the mollycoddling. This isn’t God’s little waiting room. Here we rack them, sedate them, then box them up in a bag when it’s time to plant them in the ground. The best we can do is to keep them quiet, no unnecessary agitation. Elroy!” He screamed loud enough to be heard on the floors and the parking lot below. “Elroy!”

To be continued...

Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith

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