You can get used to almost anything
A Short Story by
New Orleans, 2015
It was a quarter-after two in the morning and the hospital security guard, Bill Carson, had just finished his rounds. It didn't bother him to be on the night shift. He was a loner and, as far as he was concerned, this was the perfect job. No one to hassle you.
Sitting at his desk in the guard station, he opened the aluminum foil wrapper of his sandwich. It was from Danny & Clyde's. The best.
New Orleans has many things to offer the world, jazz, Mardi Gras, the Superdome, but to Carson nothing could compare to the po-boy sandwich.
It was a marvel of engineering. Thick slices of roast beef, fully dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayonnaise, stuffed into a long French bread and dripping with gravy. Some people added onions, but to him, that was a sacrilege. Like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
He separated one half of the sandwich and raised it to his mouth. A voice came from the opened door of the guard station.
"Pardon, could you help me? I seem to be lost."
There was a young girl standing there. Pretty.
Carson put down the po-boy. "Give me a minute. I'll be right with you."
"Thank you," she said.
He re-wrapped the sandwich and placed it into the small fridge next to his desk. He stood up, put on his ball-cap, and reached for the keys hanging from his belt.
"I have to lock up," he said.
She was polite. Carson liked that. Sometimes they weren't.
He locked the door and started walking toward the rear of the hallway.
"We have to go through the back," he said. "They're waxing the lobby."
"I understand," she said.
He wondered why they were always so deferring. They seemed to look at him as some kind of authority figure.
Could it be the uniform? he thought.
The rear hallway was a jumble of wires and air duct tubing. Construction was underway for the new wing of the hospital and the workers were careless with their mess. As a neat freak, it bothered Carson to no end.
"Watch your step," he said to the young girl, realizing immediately how silly that sounded.
When they reached the service elevator, Carson used his pass key to unlock the doors. He gestured for the girl to enter and once inside pushed the button labeled B2. The doors slid closed.
They descended in silence.
He glanced over to his fellow passenger. She was in her early twenties, wore her hair long, and was neatly dressed.
Carson liked that. It made her look feminine. He didn't care for that grungy look the kids sported now.
She wasn't asking questions. Carson didn't like it when they asked questions. He had no answers to give them, anyway.
The elevator stopped and the doors slid open. They walked out into a dark hallway filled with instrument carts and wheel-chairs. The sub-basement was used for temporary storage, whatever wasn't needed on the top floors.
At the end of the hall was a single light. As they approached, Carson recognized Raymond Sutter, the night technician. He was sitting behind a desk working on his laptop. Next to him were a pair of swinging doors.
Carson liked Ray. He was quiet, didn't talk much. Perfectly suited for his job. Just like him.
Ray looked up when he saw them.
"The little lady has lost her way," said Carson.
Ray picked up a clipboard on his desk. "What's your name?"
The girl turned and looked at Carson.
"It's okay, honey, just tell him your name."
"Dianne. Dianne Bennings."
Ray looked at the list on the clipboard. "Yea, she's here. Follow me."
He got up from his chair and walked over to the swinging doors. He pushed them open and entered the next room. The doors swung back.
The girl hesitated.
"It'll be all right," said Carson, "we'll go in together."
The next room was large and well-lit and had a thick antiseptic smell. There were counters holding trays of gleaming surgical instruments and cabinets filled with glass jars of various sizes. Three large stainless steel tables were set to one side.
Ray was standing by the rear wall. It was comprised of small doors stacked three-high. He opened one of the center units and pulled out a long drawer. Something was covered with a white sheet.
Carson and the girl walked over and stood on the opposite side of the drawer as Ray pulled the sheet off of one end.
A body lay there. It was the same girl, but different. Her skin was now very pale causing the bruises on her face to stand out in stark contrast. There was a long scar across her throat.
A mocking smile, thought Carson.
He looked over at the young girl standing next to him. He was looking for some signs of emotion or shock. Something.
But there was nothing. There never was. Only that same odd look of recognition as she slowly began to fade and disappear as if she was never there at all.
Ray recovered the body and pushed the drawer back into the vault. He closed the door and the two men walked back across the room in silence.
Outside the morgue, Ray took his seat at the desk.
Carson spoke first. "It's funny how they get lost sometimes."
"Yea, you'd think they'd have a better system by now."
"Do you think they go to a better place?"
Ray turned his head toward the swinging doors. "I sure hope so," he said softly.
Back in the guard station, Carson took his sandwich from the microwave and placed it on his desk. He sat down and opened the top portion to allow the excess steam to escape.
He frowned. They never tasted the same after you nuked them.
Carson looked up and stared out of the opened door. The hallway was dark and empty.
For a moment he contemplated the meaning of life and death, the mysteries of the universe. Then he shrugged and chuckled and returned his attention to the sandwich.
Tonight his universe was a roast beef po-boy from Danny & Clyde's, fully dressed, and dripping with gravy.