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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2205617
A man comes to work sick, only to have something worse happen.
It was Friday, and I dragged myself to work, not wanting to be there, but having to, because the truck note was due next Friday, and I needed the hours. I had the flu. It had been going around work, and I was the latest victim.

As I was punching in, Jim, my co-worker with me on a piping project, took one look at me and said, "Dang Ralph, you look like fifteen miles of bad road."

I answered, "Yeah, and I feel like it, too."

"You need to go home, I can finish this project. There's just a couple more welds and fitups to do, and then we will be loading it onto the transport truck. I can get the apprentice to help me," he kindly offered.

"No can do man," I answered, coughing and hacking at the same time, "I need the money for my truck payment this next Friday."

"Yeah, but the boss needs you well, also. You are going to be a contributing factor to all this 'sick-out' going on around here."

"No, I promise not to shake no hands, and plus go wash my hands every time I cough into them," I promised.

"Then you better go make good on that promise before you clock in, I just saw you cough into your hand."

"You're right." I headed off to the men's room, promptly washed my hands, and got back to the clock with just a couple minutes to spare before I was considered late, even though I always show up every morning, sick or not, rain, sleet, or shine within fifteen minutes before time to punch in.

The rest of the morning, the crew had got tired of me walking around, trying to work, coughing, hacking and wheezing all over everything. finally, at lunchtime, the foreman came out into the shop and whistled for me to come see him.

"Ralph," he started, "I would normally call someone into my office, but I don't want your germs everywhere in there, So I'm just going to tell you out here. Go home."

"But Larry," I protested.

"No...no 'but Larry' to it. Punch out, go home," he ordered.

I reluctantly walked over to the shop table where Jim was, told him the news, and then grabbed my lunch box and headed for the clock to punch out. "See you all next on Monday!" I called out to no one in particular.

I drove home, still coughing and hacking, but weirdly, I felt kind of good that they did let me go home. I knew Jim and the apprentice could finish that last little bit of work on the pipe he and I had been working on.

I made it home, took a shower, took some medicine, and then crawled off into my wife and mine's warm bed. I went fast asleep. Hours later, my wife, Jeannie, woke. me with soft kisses on my forehead.
"Well, good evening, sick man."

"Good evening," I answered, still groggy from the medication, and wet from perspiration from my fever breaking while I slept.

"How are you?" she asked.

Actually, I felt better. I think I beat the flu. I would know the next morning, on Saturday.

The weekend came and went, and I was sure that I had this flu tackled, and not have to worry anymore. I pulled into the shop parking lot, to an odd site. There were my co-workers, milling about, talking loudly, a couple raising their fists in the air towards our shop. I parked my Ford, and quickly found Jim.

"What's going on?" I asked.

Jim nodded towards the building. "Shop's shut down for good. They went bankrupt."

I just fell against his Dodge Ram, in stunned silence.
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