|A Novel By Max Rabinowitz|
|I never forgot what that fink, Phillip, had done to me and I always hoped to come across him again one day. It had been five years since he struck me with that sharpened toothbrush.
I finally saw him again when I went to work in the mess hall kitchen. I really wasn't sure whether it was him or not, at first, because he had aged and his face had changed quite a bit. When it did dawn on me that it was that bastard in the flesh, I decided not to waste my time getting even.
He was working on a machine that sliced the cold cuts; an electrical device with a whirling blade to cut uniform slices. It was a dangerous machine to use and only a patient who was halfway sane was allowed to operate it.
I snuck up behind Phillip and jammed his arm into that machine as hard as I could. I really only intended for the machine to cut him, but a guard piece was absent and the whirling blade sliced clean through Phillip's arm. I wound up holding onto the lower portion of it. The blade cut his arm off right about the elbow and blood spurted from the stiffly flapping stump that remained.
I was in total panic. I quickly took off my belt and wrapped it around the upper part of his arm, twisting tightly to retard the flow of blood. I placed the lower portion of his arm inside a nearby paper bag and yelled for help. I tried hard to keep the blood from squirting, but even with the belt it was no go.
Finally a kitchen attendant arrived and took Phillip away. I followed with the paper bag containing the bottom part of Phillip's arm.
At the emergency room, they had to cut some more of Phillip's arm off in order to save his life.
The punishment for me was less severe than I thought it would be. A couple of beatings, three weeks in a straight sheet and only one month in a seclusion room. I don't think they went light on me because of what Phillip had done to me. I think it was because they didn't really care what we did to each other, as long as we didn't hurt any of the staff. As long as we confined our violence to another patient, we could do just about anything and get away with it. Human life was cheap in that place.
Korea was a special kind of nut all by himself. He never said much to any of us, but he was always there when you needed a hand. There was only one thing wrong with Korea and his nickname was the key.
No one ever, under any circumstances, called him Korea when he was around to hear it. We all called him Bob. Only when we were positive that he couldn't hear us did we call him by his nickname.
Korea was a combat veteran and had been in the Army during the Korean conflict. After many battles, Korea was involved in a incident where he jumped into a hut and sprayed it with .45-caliber slugs from his Thompson submachine gun. The two occupants of the hut were blown to pieces and too late Korea found out he had wasted an old woman and a very small baby. The incident blew his mind.
They sent him to a Veteran's Administration hospital, but the V.A. couldn't cure him and he grew increasingly violent, so they shipped him off to our hospital.
Korea was perfectly fine, unless you happened to mention Korea. The word was magic and, like a bell at the start of a fight, it set him off. We were all careful not to mention that word in his presence and whenever we watched television we hoped that a news commentator wouldn't mention it either. Once it happened and Korea put his fist right through Walter Cronkite's face! We didn't get the TV set repaired for almost two weeks.
There was another time that Korea received a visit from his sister and his wife and one of those stupid broads said something like, "Isn't it better there than in the hospital with all the men you knew in Korea?"
BANG!! Korea leaped out of his chair, grabbed her around the throat and began to punch the shit out of her… real man-sized punches too! He ripped every stitch of clothing off her. Her mouth opened to scream but not one sound emerged from her throat because of the stranglehold he had on her neck.
I dropped a broom that I was sweeping the floor with, ran over and tried to pry him away, but he was just too strong. I snatched up the broom and smashed it over the top of his head. It broke with the impact and his head began to bleed profusely. He whirled, let go of that woman and grabbed me by the throat! In a panic, I punched him in the face several times until I couldn't lift my arms anymore, yet it didn't even faze him. I was slipping into unconsciousness when Tombstone saved my life.
He was also in the visiting room sweeping, but he dropped his broom and ran over to Korea. At first he kicked Korea a couple of times on the side of his face, but even that didn't make Korea let go of my throat.
Finally Tombstone picked up one of those great big state tables and crashed it into Korea's back. Korea let me go and I slumped to the floor gasping for breath.
Then Korea went after Tombstone. And I couldn't help because I was ruined.
Things were looking bad for Tombstone, but like in an old western movie, the cavalry arrived in the nick of time. Mr. Doggett stormed through the door and grasped Korea by the shoulder. With one massive punch Mr. Doggett broke Korea's jaw in two places. Then he hit Korea in the temple and that was the end of that. Mr. Doggett was the biggest and strongest attendant they had. I knew then why they had hired him.
More attendants arrived along with one of the ugly nurses and Korea was wrestled into a rubberized straight jacket. Two hypodermics full of tranquilizers were sot into his ass, then he was hustled off to a seclusion room. His wife was taken to a private hospital for treatment.
Korea was one of my best buddies, but he sure hurt me badly that time. Maybe it was my own fault for interfering, but I couldn't just let him kill his wife. There was no telling what it would have done to him once he came back to earth and realized what he had done.
You've never seen anyone as big as Gerald "Pop" Ramsey. There was something wrong with his glandular system that caused him to grow. He was seven feet nine inches tall and weighed around four hundred and fifty pounds. Not one bit of that weight was fat either. Pop Ramsey was all muscle.
His hands were twice as large as my own. When we stood close together I hardly came up to the middle of his chest. His biceps were as big around as my thighs.
The reason we all called him Pop was because he called everyone either son or daughter and would rub his huge hands over their head as he did so. No one ever asked him to stop doing it.
The staff gave him so many pills that I thought they would surely kill him, but Pop never looked doped up at any time. There didn't seem to be enough medication in the world to slow him down.
One night Ramsey was in the mess hall and he decided that someone had taken his food from his tray. We all knew that eve the craziest of crazies wouldn't be that stupid, but who was going to tell Pop that? It certainly wasn't going to be me.
Anyway, Pop punched the table top and a four-inch-thick piece of solid oak snapped as if it was a twig.
Me and everybody else broke for the door, even the attendants, rough as they were. I would've run over anyone that who to stop me from leaving that mess hall. Pop Ramsey was on one of his very rare toots and no one was about to get into his way. On my way out, and because of all the noise, I took a hurried look back and saw Pop smashing tables and chairs like matchsticks.
By the time Ramsey had destroyed the mess hall the entire building had bee evacuated, including staff. Every single patient was lined up outside, according to ward, and we stood there listening to Pop's rampage. He went through the building floor by floor. If he came across a locked door he would just kick it off its hinges.
The attendants were busy trying to keep patients with rabbit blood in their veins from running, while Pop stomped around for almost an hour. Then he came outside, looked meekly at the doctors and apologized for losing his temper.
Each of us remained wary, ready to run, but Ramsey was through. He wouldn't do anything like that again for a long time.
When we re-entered the building it looked as if a tornado had attacked every nook and cranny. There were broken tables, chairs, desks, windows, iron gratings, ripped clothing, torn paper, bedding and mattresses scattered all over the place. I found out later that the cost of repairs ran to about thirty thousand dollars. A few days later Pop Ramsey was transferred upstate. I never saw him again and I was kind of glad that I didn't. Yet I had to admit that he would've been one helluva back-up man in a fight.