Seeing the body bag sit up was really more exciting than anything else.
“Finally,” I thought. “Something is happening to me.”
I’d been breaking the hospital bed down and getting ready to move it out when the body bag got up and started thrashing around.
“I swear to God,” said the body bag. “THREE TIMES! How does this happen three times…”
I heard the zipper undo itself. The body bag birthed a regular looking guy dressed in a dapper button-up and dress pants and very nice-looking dress shoes. I’d never seen him before.
“Oh, shit,” he said upon seeing me, startled. “I’m sorry. What are you doing here?”
“I’m picking up the bed,” I told him. “I’m from Novacare.”
“Bahhh,” said the guy. He got off the gurney and briskly walked out of the room like nothing had happened.
“Hey, wait!” I called. I caught him in the hallway.
He turned around, impatient. He was big, bald, older. He kind of reminded me of Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince.
“I just… is everything all right?”
He spun around again, kept walking.
“Don’t worry about it, young man,” he said, waving a hand at me.
I followed the guy down the hall even though I hadn’t been invited.
“I don’t understand how you could possibly screw this up three times,” he said upon reaching the front desk where a notoriously grumpy nurse named Gail was doing paperwork. She looked at him like he was her dad and she was a teenager trying to be on her phone.
“Once, I can understand,” said the guy. “Twice? Maybe. Three fucking times, after I specifically had Harbineaux call down here and explain for what I believe is the TENTH fucking time what is going on? From the superintendent on down? And you people still fuck it up?”
“Whaddya mean, ‘you people’?” Gail snapped.
“I mean, ‘you people’, as in, ‘the staff of this facility’,” said the former corpse. “I was told this is the most efficient facility in the area. I insist on a controlled environment with real-world implications. But apparently, I need to go shopping again.”
Another nurse named Rhonda stuck her head out of the office.
“Mr. Brekski, did they bag you again?”
“For the THIRD time,” said the former corpse, who was apparently named Brekski. He held up his hand with his thumb, pointer finger and middle finger out, all of them vibrating with anger.
He pointed at me. I was standing awkwardly off to the side, hoping they’d let me stay long enough to hear what was going on.
“I scared the crap outta your Novacare guy,” said Brekski. “He screamed like a cheerleader when I sat up.”
“No, I didn’t,” I tried to say but now the nurses and Brekski were talking over each other. Gail was being combative, Rhonda was trying to keep the peace and Brekski was about how this is the most imperative data collection and how is he supposed to do his job if he can’t even get 24 hours of what I think he calls “flat-lining” without someone cutting him off and ruining the experiment.
“It was our new nurse,” said Rhonda apologetically. “Nancy. She’s brand new. We told her what was up but she probably just put in the paperwork out of habit. Once the morgue — ”
“You think I didn’t clear this with the morgue, too?” thundered Breski. “I’m surrounded by incompetence!”
“Nigga, you can’t even spell incompetent,” said Gail, not intimidated by Brekski, who had the air of someone very important and very smart and very used to being catered to.
“I’ll have your job for this, you bloated hag!” Brekski bellowed, and his voice echoed down the hall. I could see patients and staff sticking their heads out of doorways to see what the commotion was.
“Once the morgue gets their orders it’s out of our control,” said poor Rhonda, trying to explain. She had a phone in one hand. “You know they’ll send whoever’s available to collect the body. Nancy probably called it in, she was trying to be efficient, this is such a big place, we have at least three patients expire a day — “
“I’m simply going to find someone else to help with this groundbreaking experiment,” said Brekski, still glowering at Gail who glowered right back. “It would appear that Waltonwood on Main is not up to the task. THREE TIMES! Three times I wake up in total darkness and that awful plastic bag smell, only to discover that not only has another round of flatlining gone bad, but I’ve been tagged and nearly disposed of like a common peasant!”
“We’re so sorry, Mr. Brekski,” pleaded Rhonda. “Please let me call Director Harbineaux and he’ll set this right for good.”
“I am doing God’s work,” yelled Brekski. “I’m Sebastian Brekski! I am one of the foremost researchers on consciousness and the afterlife, and at this rate I’ll never prove my theory of infinite conscious energy! I’m sorry, but three times is just too much for me to bear. Good day to you, ma’am.”
He turned to me.
“You’re free to pick up the hospice bed,” he snapped. “I certainly won’t be needing it now.”
With that, the former corpse named Brekski turned on his expensive-looking heels and stomped out the front door.
Rhonda turned to Gail.
“It was you again, wasn’t it?” she hissed at Gail. “You called the county once he was hooked in this morning. All because he yelled at you that one time for not getting him coffee.”
“That man’s head is so big I’m surprised they were able to fit it in the damn bag,” Gail said. “Shit, I don’t care if he brings back the Almighty Himself, I ain’t no one’s errand girl. Just cause he’s got like twenty degrees don’t put him above Gail Robinson.”
Rhonda was still holding the phone. She slammed it down on the cradle and walked back into the office. Gail went back to her paperwork. All the curious heads and onlookers from down the hall disappeared back into their doorways like prairie dogs into their holes.
I turned and walked back down the hall. I couldn’t wait to tell the guys back at the shop about this.