It was what they called “The Great Depression”. Work was scarce, if you had a job you held onto it, otherwise you might not be eating regularly. I knew a guy named Harold, had a job at a news stand. He hated it, but it kept him alive.
My plan was, go to the hospital, visit with Harold for a bit, then head home. He was a real quiet fellow, didn’t seem to have many friends, maybe I was the only one. I’d be there at the stand buying a paper and see customers come and go and Harold wouldn’t say a word, just take the cash and make change. I had talked with him a bit, knew he didn’t have any family left, no pets, just him in his little room. He’s the kind of guy you just wouldn’t notice, average height, gray hair, glasses, pale blue eyes, kinda watery. Every day at the news stand, all day long, then gone until next morning, early.
Harold got clipped by a taxi the other day as he tried to get across the busy downtown street, knocked him down pretty good. I happened to get there just as they loaded him into an ambulance, heard them say they were going to St Andrews Hospital.
I had made it to the hospital that evening but was too late for visiting hours. He was still in the ER, no room number yet, so I had to come back another time.
Two days later I asked at the main desk where I’d find Harold Wimberly (I had noticed his last name on the license at his stand). The girl ran her finger up and down the names on the page and said, “We don’t have a Harold Wimberly here. Would there be anything else?” I told her that I was positive that he was brought here, could she check again. A moment later, “Nope, “ she said, “no Harold Wimberly.”
I thanked her and walked away, off to explore the surgical ward where he was likely recuperating. I had no better luck at the nurse’s station when I inquired about him, so I pretty much gave up, since if you’re not in the card file, you just don’t exist. I was on my way out, walking back down the long hallway of patient rooms and passed one of those food delivery carts where the orderlies were gathering up the trays from the rooms. I glanced down; saw the name “H. Wimberly” on one of the little cards. My heart skipped a beat. What was going on here?
I went back to the nurse’s station, asked to see the floor supervisor. After a little delay, I was met by Nurse Entropy. I told her what I had discovered, and she said, “Hmm, pretty strange, alright. Please come with me, we’ll see if we can get this figured out.”
We went in to her office, I took a seat and she handed me a cup of coffee from her pot on the hotplate. I sipped the hot coffee as she consulted her card file. Before very long, I noticed that things were somehow drifting in and out of focus, very odd; I was sort of swaying in my chair. Nurse Entropy turned to me when she noticed my discomfort. She had an odd smile on her face. “You know,” she said, “you and Harold Wimberly had a few things in common. No relatives, very few friends, no pets. Not likely that you’ll be missed, either.”
I wasn’t really unconscious when they put me on the gurney, I could tell we were going into the dark unused wing of the hospital, and as I was rolled into the last room I felt everything just slip away.