A Bad Day at the Office

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I worked in Human services for several years. This was one of my big fears.

Submitted: June 10, 2010

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Submitted: June 10, 2010

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A Bad Day at the Office

By Al Len

It was Tuesday morning. Bill hated Tuesdays. Everyone else hates Mondays, but Bill hated Tuesdays. Bill thought at least you still have some weekend refreshment in your system on Monday. By the time Tuesday roles around your knee deep in the week with most of it ahead of you, and knee deep in a long week is an upstream struggle. There is also the fact that on Tuesday, at precisely 12:45 pm, 15 minutes before the end of Bill’s last session before lunch, Mr. Poe will come into the office sit himself patiently in the waiting room and wait for him to walk through attempting egress.

Every Tuesday for the last 82 Tuesdays the day has played out the same. Bill walks through the waiting room, and there he is. He stands up, and talking very calmly and directly tells Bill that he is suicidal. Smart enough to know the eminence in the word suicide, and knowing that Bill would rather make an alpha error like being too watchful. Bill is obligated to at least quickly asses him, as the only therapist on duty. Bill would have him committed, but then his center must house and pay for him. Not to mention the fact that Bill absolutely detests attention seeking behavior, and would rather give him 30 minutes on Tuesday than as much attention as he can manipulate, like he would have to if he were committed. Like it has been when he has been committed. Bill has lied about being sick more on Tuesday than any Monday or Friday rather than opting for the long weekend simply to miss Mr. Poe.

Bill has the interchange down to an art. Bill takes the suicide evaluation form and a clipboard. Bill also takes a set of keys to an anteroom for privacy. Mr. Poe recently contested that his right to privacy was being violated because Bill was conducting the evaluation in public. Rather than try to argue the point that people avoided the office on Tuesday when he was there, so he really was in private, Bill just found some keys. He got the full hour that day by the time Bill got him out of his office.

This is no normal Tuesday. Today is the third Tuesday of the month, which means that Bill has his late staff meeting. Bill will be at the office until at least 8:00 pm; he knows he will have to get lunch or he won’t get to eat until 8:00. Bill knows he needs to make sure that he has everything to make my meeting with Mr. Poe quick and slick.

Incidentally the reason that Mr. Poe corners Bill every Tuesday is because he had one of his sessions cancelled. Bill cancelled one of Mr. Poe’s sessions, his Tuesday at 1:00 session, in order to be able to do sessions with a set of three siblings, two boys and a girl whose parents had been shooting them up with methamphetamines, and loaning them out to kiddy porn ring, but that is a different story. Bill cancelled the session because Mr. Poe has been assessed to be in the same state for the last 9 years, 4 years longer than Bill had been burdened by him. Two hours a week was more than anyone in Mr. Poe’s situation, his own house and ability to support himself, got in a week. Bill also figured he may be able to use that energy spent on Mr. Poe to actually help the three little pigs as he came to think of the children. Triage is what a MD would call the decision.

Today Bill was on his game. He loved his last session with the kids, and even though, they were a mess emotionally and psychologically, they were safe and beginning to open up. It is a very empowering feeling to feel like you are changing the world for the better. Bill even let his session run a little late because he had a trump card today. The new resident apprentice arrived last Friday, and started Monday. Today he was going to take her to lunch under the guise of showing her around, but his real intention was to let her do the suicide evaluation, and hopefully take some of the heat off of him in the long run, as far as Mr. Poe was concerned. This in fact was the same way that Bill was introduced to Mr. Poe. In a way it has become a sort of right of passage for the new low man on the totem pole.

Bill had already asked Lisa to meet him at about five minutes until one at his office. Bill had his small pile of accessories ready for the ambush: two pens, clipboard, all the necessary forms, and of course the newest addition-keys. Lisa showed up a few minutes early. Today would be the last day she would emphatically be early when Bill asked her to meet him. Lisa had a wonderful first impression of Bill. He was an attractive late 20’s male covered in children, and trying desperately to help them. Very few things melt a woman faster. The kid’s foster parents had not arrived yet, and Bill was thinking about how to maximize the time. He asked Lisa if she could watch the children until their foster mother arrived while he took care of some minor business. He planned on going and doing the suicide evaluation quickly, like he had done for the last 82 weeks, since Mr. Poe realized that he could get some of his Tuesday session back by threatening suicide.

Bill walked quickly down the hall. Confidence was strong in him. The cool shadows of the hallway were broke by hot pillars of light coming through windows in its pastel blue walls. It looked like a surrealist picture of a room made out of sky with a nice black and white tile floor. He even wasn’t dreading talking to Mr. Poe. There he was sitting strait backed with his hands on his thighs right above his knees. He looked almost posed. Bill could have sat on him like a chair, and he actually thought about doing it for shock value. He was wearing dark, worn jeans and a heavy flannel jacket, which seemed initially strange due to the fact that it was June, but you quickly dismiss some oddities when you regularly deal with the odd.

“How are you today Mr. Poe?”

“Do you not know the answer to that by now?”

“Suicidal again, I so wish just once it was homicidal.”

“Why are you so cheery today?”

“It’s a beautiful June day, why are you so cold?”

“I’m not.”

“You look it in that jacket.”

“Today is a heavy coat day. I feel like hiding..”

At this point the foster mother of the three little pigs came into the office, and Bill excused himself to call for Lisa to bring the piggies down the hall. Bill walked around behind a little walled off partition where the receptionist sat and asked her to page Lisa to the desk. The foster mother of the three little pigs also walked around the partition to the window to sign out the children. When Bill returned to Mr. Poe he began to explain to him that there was a new resident that he wanted him to meet.

Mr. Poe had been down that road before. Mr. Poe had been traded off four times before Bill. He had a therapist life of about 11 months before Bill, who had been with him for a year more than the other four put together.

“Your trading me off aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re giving me to this resident, and aren’t going to be my therapist anymore.”

“She needs the experience. You and I have known each other a long time, and I have seen very little change in you regardless of my approach. Maybe it is time for you to try someone else.”

“I am going to kill myself today Bill”

“You know you aren’t going to do that. We have had this conversation once a week for over a year and a half. This is just your way of getting your hour back that you think was wrongfully taken from you.”

Mr. Poe got very quiet. Bill felt bad.

“I am sorry. I didn’t mean it. I know you have some serious things to talk about, but you need to be open to other options too. Maybe Lisa can help you better than me. Have you even stopped to think about that?”

Mr. Poe did not say anything. He sat there stoic, starring strait between his knees. In the same board like posture as when he arrived.

“I am going to go get Lisa and introduce you to her. I will be back.”

Bill walked around the partition where Lisa was trying to pull the smallest of the piggies off her leg. It looked like a Norman Rockwell moment, as long as you knew nothing about what was really going on. The most endearing quality about the three little pigs was that they would so easily give affection, but even that was corrupted by their abuse background. The three little pigs and their foster mother walked out of the office, and Bill finished up his portion of the sign-out sheet before taking Lisa around to meet Mr. Poe. As Bill was putting the last few letters in the credentials that regulation said must accompany his John Hancock, he heard a very loud “POP” followed by a horrible gurgling scream. Bill quickly ran around the partition to see Mr. Poe slumping out of the chair. There were feathers and small bits of fabric suspended in the air that looked like dust in a sunbeam. The room smelled like gunpowder and blood. Mr. Poe was attempting to talk. Their was a large thick puddle that looked like transmission fluid slowly covering the black and white tiled floor, which slowly was spreading out from the upper left half of Mr. Poe’s body.

“I didn’t die instantaneously,” Poe gurgled.

The medics arrived in less than a minute and the ambulance in a little less than 10 minutes. Everyone was lost, Bill most of all. He was caught in the vicious “what might have been” regress, replaying the situation to see where he could have intervened, and trying to justify why he didn’t.

“A heavy coat in June, I should have known.”

Over and over Bill thought this, but found no peace in it.

Mr. Poe had shot himself in the chest with what turned out to be a Colt .45 5 shot revolver. He only had one bullet in the gun, and he had never carried it before. As it turns out Mr. Poe shot himself through the left lung and nicked his left pulmonary vein. He would slowly bleed out over the next two days because he had signed a no treatment order in case of a medical emergency.

Lisa decided that mental health was not for her. She resigned two weeks later, and decided to pursue a career in early education. The receptionist proudly told stories of the bullet that had came through the wall six inches to the right of her head, which it actually did, and had landed neatly in her paper tray after expending all of its energy getting through once of the sparse studs in the wall. Bill got his shoes and his psyche covered in blood that day. He sometimes still smells gunpowder and blood when he sees dust in a sunbeam.?


© Copyright 2019 Al Len. All rights reserved.

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