Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Organ Donor Program

I thought it had only been a bad dream as the pounding in my head and that incessant ringing in my ears continued. I sat on the curbstone looking carefully into the fog listening for anything that might be threatening, anything at all. The early morning air hung low with its mist and made the edges of each building blend with the shadows until it was impossible to distinguish one from another. I felt the back of my neck, a frantic gesture as my finger tips searched for any sign that I might have been punctured or pricked. My eyes strained within their sockets as if they could assist my finger’s painstakingly slow progress. I could not remember, had that small blemish at the hairline been there or was it new. Terror took over until I realized that Charlie at the barbershop had nicked me with his straight razor last Saturday. Zelda, my regular barber, had taken the day off and I needed a haircut; enough to gamble my chances that Charlie wouldn’t slice my ear off. I needed time to collect myself, time to figure out; but there was no time as I heard footsteps coming down the sidewalk. I was fortunate in that there was a spillway into the sewer below my feet that allowed me to slither, as it were, out of sight until the danger had passed.

The runoff water from the curb made a steady and measurable plunking into a pool of standing water at my feet. The porous material of my cross trainer shoes was singularly inadequate, having been designed for light jogging, not for trudging through swamps.. That noise in my head, that infernal roaring, like the sound one hears when flying in a commercial airliner at cruising altitude, was deafening.

Until three days ago my life had been normal to the point of boredom. I could not have imagined that I would be hiding in a storm sewer at four in the morning, hiding from the “harvesters”. I had not heard of the harvesters, at least nothing that a rational hard working everyday person would put stock in. After all, I had a good job and was diligent to a fault in paying my bills. It never occurred to me that one day I would . . ; but I am getting ahead of myself, I should digress.

My name is Patrick Nelson. I am , by trade, a writer. No, I’m not a novelist, not even a journalist. I write product brochures for The Harvest, a major pharmaceuticals company, at least I did until this past Friday. You might wonder, “Product brochure; what kind of job is that?” My job was to make a short statement about each item in the company inventory, not so much a sales pitch; more like a synopsis of what it was intended to do or how it might perform. I wrote the instructions for each product; instructions that would be simple enough to be followed by the most ignorant moron to keep the company free from litigation. I was really quite good at my job and had no thought that I might one day write myself out of employment. You could say that I had lulled myself into that elusive feeling of job security.

Last Friday afternoon my boss, Franklin Little, rang my station and asked me to come up to his office. It was almost five and time to wrap things up anyway as I placed the drafts, those product brochures that I had completed along with those that were nearly completed, into my briefcase. I don’t suppose its matters much, not now; but I always had the feeling that Franklin Little never took the time to know me. My work reviews might as well have been Xeroxed from year to year as they never varied. I was, at least on paper, “a consistently productive employee who requires little if any supervision”. That line appeared on my review sheet without any change, verbatim, for the past nineteen years. Upon entering his office I noticed the standard review form on the desk. He would be required to explain the company policy and we would both sign the form.

“Patrick, have a chair.” Franklin pushed his own away from the desk and got up, his back to me as he looked out the large windows that formed his private cubicle.

“Thank you Sir; have I done something wrong?” There was an avoidance in his looking out the window.

“How long have you been with the company Patrick?” Franklin cleared his throat and pretended to look for something in his suit pocket. His fingers fumbled around as he glimpsed into the dark confines of fabric.

“It will be twenty years come September.”, the question made no sense. The form had a place clearly marked with each employee’s tenure.

“I’m not sure how to break this to you, no good way to say it so I’ll just come out with it. The company is downsizing and your services are no longer needed as of today. There will be a two week period for you to challenge this decision; mind you it won’t do any good; but that’s the rule and you have the right.” The sounds boomeranged around the room; having missed any semblance of reason.

“Did I do something wrong or is this just a numbers game?” I bent my neck so that I could get a better angle to read the review form.

“We were instructed to trim those who had the most seniority, those who would become eligible for any retirement packages in the next two years. The stockholders want more profits and the board looks at retirement funding as non-productive expenses.”

“So that’s it, here’s your hat and there’s the door?”

“If it means anything to you, your yearly review sheet shows you to be . . .”

“I know, ‘a consistently productive employee who requires little if any supervision’, thanks for reminding me.” Franklin pushed the form to the edge of the desk and handed me a ball point pen to sign.

“You will, of course, be able to use this company as a positive referral when handing out your resume.” Franklin opened the drawer of his desk and pulled out a large manila envelope with my name on the pre-printed stick on label. “This contains your final paycheck along with an accounting of any accumulated vacation pay, sick days or other entitlements that the company considers equitable. You will notice that it includes two extra weeks of pay to cover your transitional period while finding suitable employment.” The words came out of Franklin’s mouth in a monotone regurgitation; nothing that would console or comfort a fellow human being. I glanced over the list:

Level 6 Base Pay (14 Days) $ 2,128.92
Level 6 Incentive Pay (14 Days) ( BA- English University of Arizona) $ 71.03
Accumulated Vacation Time - (14 Days) $ 2,128.92
Accumulated Sick Days - (15 Days) $ 2,280.99
Bonus Wellness Days (5 Days based on 5 years perfect attendance) - $ 760.35
Two Week Transitional Salary - $ 2,128.92
Total Amount before taxes/deductions $ 9,499.13
Federal Withholding Tax ( Single Deduction ) <$ 2,279.79>
FICA <$ 1,139.90>
Harvest Gold Health Insurance (Bimonthly premium) <$ 569.95>
Total Net Pay ……… $ 5,509.49

I did a quick calculation in my head; basically it was a little over one months pay. The bonus pay for being healthy glared at me as I thought about the company policy restricting any roll over of accumulated sick time from year to year. I hadn’t been sick, saving the company 45 days, that’s 45 days at scale plus incentive level bonus pay. They had the nerve to grant me 5 days back at base pay; how generous could they be. I had never made a claim against the health insurance either; wasted, totally wasted money.

“Your signature is required. . . ”, pointing to the lines that had been highlighted with a fluorescent yellow marker, “ . . .here, here and. . .”turning the pages, “. . .and here.”

I hesitated for a moment, not wishing to sign anything without first having read it. The review sheet was standard as was the signature line on the pay voucher form; however, the last page had a small paragraph that I had not seen before.

“This report is submitted for the general information of the shareholders of Harvest/Harvest Gold Fund. It is not authorized for distribution to prospective investors unless it has been preceded or is accompanied by an effective prospectus of Harvest/Harvest Gold Fund which contains additional information on how to purchase shares, the sales charges, and other pertinent data. Standardized total return assumes reinvestment of all distributions for the period and includes payment of the maximum sales charge or contingent deferred sales charges for early withdrawal. See the Prior Performance section of the current prospectus. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investment return and net asset value will fluctuate with market conditions. Harvest/Harvest Gold shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.”

“What the heck is that?”, pointing to the small print.

“That’s a release form authorizing the use of pertinent data to the insurance company so that we can pay you that Wellness Bonus.” Franklin pointed to the pay voucher. “That $760.35 comes from the Harvest Gold Fund. We have to justify the expenditure by providing them with your Wellness folder proving that you have not been sick as stipulated.” It seemed to fit with everything else, the company was paying me the bonus with someone else’s money. I signed the forms and was about to leave when Franklin reminded me to leave the files that were in my briefcase. I had planned to work on them over the weekend; tweak here and there until each product brochure was as close to perfection and up to my own standard. They had no value to me other than pride as I handed them over. I took my copy of the severance package forms and tossed them haphazardly into the now empty briefcase. I could think of nothing to say to Franklin. I was in a state of bewilderment; and yes, I was a little hostile as I slammed the door. The main floor, its rat’s maze of cubicles, was nearly empty now; Friday and five o’clock made for quick exits.

I made my way onto the street, only four blocks from Minute Maid Park. I wished there had been a ball game scheduled; I would have distracted myself with a couple of hot dogs while sitting in the cheap seats. There was a sports bar close by where I had gone with a few buddies from work, not that I was planning on getting drunk, just that I might be able to unwind in a noise filled bar more easily than riding home in rush hour traffic. The pavement was torn up, like it had been for the past several years, putting in new underground sewer lines this time. What a waste of money; you’d think that just once that the traffic planners could get together with City Engineering Department or with Metro and the utilities so that they would tear up the street one time and be done with it. Last year they had torn it up to replace this, next year it would be that or whatever. Three lanes of traffic were bottlenecked into one as they all pressed for a chance to get out of downtown.

I timed my mad dash across the street where the sidewalk had been removed; leaped over a chunk of broken concrete and avoided an issue of muddy water that ran into the storm drain. I looked down the street, a feeble attempt at what might someday become a street. They had planted four oak trees on each side with a fancy bricked prominence marked with steel grates to cover the root systems at the base. I tried to imagine the beautiful shade that would one day be provided pedestrians as they strolled, in the event the sidewalks were ever replaced. The roof of the stadium had been left open and the green seats in the upper deck behind home plate were reminding me that tomorrow would be a better day; not to let today’s loss get me down. The rows of seats, at this distance looked like a living organism; some kind of fancy seashell that had been arranged to let the light dance across its spines to create a splendid panorama. I took a breath, let it out and then went inside the bar.


The Foul Pole, as the name implied, was a sports bar with a baseball theme. Upon entering the front door I enjoyed how the owner had provided a sign, much as you would find at the ball park, indicating that isles 127 – 137 were to the right while isles 125 – 101 were to the left. The banisters on either side were made from inch and a half pipe painted dark green, coated with several layers and chipped in places to make it appear weathered. The floors were hard oak slats, sanded and left without varnish so that light and noise was absorbed rather than reflected. Along the walls were pictures of old time baseball players, some signed and framed along with faded pennants from an era long since vanished. It was like stepping into a time machine that was preset forty years or so back. With a little imagination one might expect Dizzy Dean, Mickey Mantle or even the great Marv Throneberry to be seated at one of the small tables. My dad used to rib me that he had talked with Marv, “just the other day”, when I would call to talk baseball. There was a pleasant amount of free rumbling noise, not that there is a meter that measures the difference between a full fledged riot and gone fishing. I recognized a few patrons sitting at the bar as Harvest employees and decided to wander in their general direction, hoping that they might invite me into a conversation.

I took a seat at the bar, about mid way so that I would be noticed if anyone wanted to extend themselves, and asked the bartender for a Dr. Pepper. It cost the same for a fountain drink as it did for one with whiskey or rum; all the same I just wanted a Dr. Pepper to sip on to appear sociable. I overheard one fellow as he finished a joke that involved a farmer’s daughter, not one that could be repeated in Sunday School; but it drew a laugh from everyone, including me, as its base level of amusement was irrepressible.

“Hey, Patrick.”, I heard a familiar voice from a table behind me. When I first had made my way up to the bar I had not paid much attention to the tables in the middle of the place. I turned and acknowledged by tilting my head Japanese style. It was an acquaintance from legal services support, Bill Needles. Bill and I often would have “meet and shares”, especially on consumer product lines. I liked him because we shared many small twists; for instance, we both grew up in the Greater New York City area and thought that the Yankees of the 50’s and 60’s were close to gods. When I had told him of my being at Yankee Stadium the day the Mantle hit his 53rd homer, the same year that Maris went on to hit 61, it was like we had grown up on the same street or something. He had a good head for protecting the company and so we often conferred to make sure that product information was litigation proof.

“Bill, you old son of a gun; how’s the world treating you?” Less than half an hour ago I had lost my job, a job that had supported me for nearly twenty years, a job which allowed me to be creative and use my talents as a writer and here I was smiling and carrying on as if nothing had happened. I reached out to receive his extended hand and grasped it firmly while wondering who it was that he was sitting with. I didn’t want to unload anything negative, self pity or anger with a total stranger present; after all, I might be looking for work with one of Bill’s network. The fellow began to get up from his chair, and kept getting up. My guess would be six three, six four and built like a linebacker. I instantly thought of the actor, the one who played with Mel Gibson in all those cop shows, big black actor, Danny Glover. This guy had that same huge grin as he stretched forth his arm toward me to greet and shake.

“Patrick I’d like you to meet Ron McClain. Ron, this is Patrick, Patrick Nelson.” We all sat down and touched glasses as if we had been longtime friends, not that it mattered. The muscles along my back began to relax as some of the day’s tension escaped into the smoke filled room.

“Patrick. . .”, his mind searched for a familiarity and returned, “. . .seems like I have heard your name come up. For the life of me it eludes me at the moment. Nice to meet you.”

“Ron works in Gold, something so hush-hush that I couldn’t begin to tell you what he does.” Bill laughed and I noticed that his brows rose up and fell to express his lack of knowledge regarding someone with whom he felt comfortable around. It was as if he had said, “What the hell, have another drink.”

“Its not like that at all. Just call me Bond, James Bond.” Ron laughed a deep belly laugh as he made light of the fact that one of his close friends had no clue as to how he made a living. “I work in an area of the industry that is so competitive that people would slit throats to know how it’s done.”

“Sounds interesting, got any openings for a good write up guy with nineteen years experience?” I had not intended to drop a line like that so quickly; but I was now a player in the open market looking for a job.

“No way!” Bill’s outburst was almost as good as when I first found that I would no longer be an employee of The Harvest. “When did all this happen?” It must have occurred to him that if it happened to me it could just as easily have been him. He reflexively ran his fingers through his hair, typical male pattern receding hairline for a man in his early fifties. He had what I would call, the Billy Crystal hairdo; sort of a white man’s Afro. It had been deep brown at one time, yielding to middle aged salt and pepper. That and his having been brought up in New York made for such thoughts, his Yankee accent never left. Even when he said, “Y’all” it came out Yankee, like he was going to say, “You’s guy’s” and at the last moment changed it to “Y’all”.

“True, no kidding. I only found out a little while ago myself.” I wanted to come off as brave and not sound like a victim of the corporate massacre. “Oh well, I was looking for a job when I found this one; isn’t that the old saying?” For a brief but discernable moment I could see a light bulb going off in Ron McClain’s head. It was the kind of look that indicated that he‘d known about my being released before I had.

“You have anything lined up, I mean, hell, you know what I mean.” Bill took a sip from his glass and looked away.

“Not yet. I was hoping to take a couple of days off to assess my situation and go on from there.” I had no idea what I’d said and only hoped that it sounded intelligent.

“Well don’t wait too long. You know what happens to the unemployed around here; they become organ donors.” Bill thought it was funny as he joked about the fact that Houston no longer had a problem with the homeless and that over the past couple of years it was impossible to even spot a wino begging for quarters during rush hour. A local news station investigative reporter had done some work on the possibility that the police department was hauling these undesirables off and dumping them in Louisiana. Nothing had ever come from the story and it was put on the back burner the closer it came to Super Bowl bidding. The propaganda machine was in full swing, light rail from downtown to Reliant Center was being installed and the streets were to be free from dirt and clutter. It wouldn’t do to start a smear campaign about how the City of Houston might be cleaning up the streets just to impress the out of towners by violating some wino’s rights.

“He has a point there. I heard about a guy, used to be a repo-man, claims that some hospital pays him to find “live” organ donors.” Ron’s eyes reflected the light coming in from off the street like “steelies” in a marble sack. “Watch out for the repo-man.”, a low laugh followed with a big grin that exposed a perfect set of teeth.

“I heard that all the homeless people who used to live around here all work at Minute Maid Park as vendors and such.” Bill didn’t like the way the conversation was going. “’Stros will be back in for a home stand with the Cubs next week. Either of you want to help me use the company seats up in the club level?” The Harvest had box seats in the club for entertaining prospective customers or for rewarding top employees. Patrick had been given four tickets to a game the year before when the Milwaukee Brewers had come to town. It had been the kind of game to talk about for years after catching a foul ball and getting to show it off at work the next day.

“Not this time Bill, thanks all the same.” It would have been nice to take in a game at the company’s expense; but that would be taking a cheap shot. “Hey, I better be headed home; look at the time.”

“Nice to meet you, see you again sometime.” Ron got half way up from his chair and motioned with his glass.

“Keep me posted and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Bill shook hands and reluctantly let go. It was like watching a friend getting on the Titanic the way Bill looked at him.

“Hey, what’s with the doom and gloom look? I’m still worth something out there in the market.” While heading for the door Ron took a mini day planner from his coat pocket and flipped it open, nodding his head while putting his finger on the page. He looked at me and smiled.


I looked down at my watch only to realize that I had missed the last rush hour bus to the North Park and Ride lot and that I would now have to remain an hour for the late schedule run to take me up that way. I waited at the bus stop near the court house annex where the lighting was pretty good. There was a trash bin loaded to overflowing next to where I stood with a recently discarded copy of the Chronicle, folded neatly and laying on top where it hadn’t had a chance to have anything spilled on it. I picked it up and covered the headline stories quickly. There wasn’t much there that I hadn’t gotten off the internet earlier in the morning. I went to the local section, stories about who’d gotten shot, where the latest freeway construction was planned for the next day, the obituary section where I would occasionally find one of my old school buddies pictures, and then onto the editorials.

I was about to toss the paper back into the trash bin when I caught a glimpse of something in a photograph. It was an article about some fellow who had survived a heart transplant. There was a large picture of him as he tossed his old heart, the damaged one that had been removed, into the air like it was a football. In the background, behind the fellow was the doctor who had performed the surgery shaking hands with none other than Ron McClain; the same Ron McClain from a while ago at the Foul Pole. The article was very complimentary about Harvest Gold and how instrumental Ron was in setting up and coordinating a regional system that matched organ donors with those in need.

The bus arrived about the same time as I was finishing the article. I decided that I wanted to enlighten myself about the Harvest Gold organ donor program and, rather than get on the bus, it was only a couple of blocks back to the Harvest Building. It would be no problem getting back in since I still had my company identification card. The night security guard would only ask to see it, not make a thorough investigation of it. Once inside I could log into the system and pull out quite a bit of data without having to use any of the secure stations.

The security guard was sitting behind the front desk reading the latest Harry Potter book when I walked up and flashed my card. The book held his interest and he only nodded as I went to the elevators. It would be best to use the computers that were always left running in the employees lounge area. Those had cable access to the internet and were always online along with being tied into the main data center. An employee could compare Harvest products with anything on the market with only a few keystrokes and be productive while enjoying a bowl of soup or eating a sandwich.

There was only one other in the employee lounge when I placed my briefcase down next to one of the computer monitors. I walked over to the vending machine wall where I dropped a couple of quarters into the slot and reached down for my can of Dr. Pepper. While walking back to the computer I lifted the cold soda up and nodded without comment in her direction; a non-threatening way of dividing social spaces. She looked up only long enough to calculate that I was not moving in her direction and went back to whatever it was she had in front of her. Since the computers were always “on” there was no need to log on, something that would protect me as long as I didn’t attempt to pry too much. I went to the Harvest Gold homepage and glanced at the options before selecting “Services”. The page was very colorful with pictures of Harvest brand drugs in familiar translucent brown plastic pill bottles, smiling doctors wearing lab coats holding patient’s hands wore Harvest hospital gowns. There even was a self repeating video of an air ambulance flying over the Houston skyline and landing at the hospital. There was a close up when the helicopter landed, a technician in his lab coat with the Harvest company logo over the left pocket delivered a small cooler clearly stenciled with the words, “Human Heart”, then placed it on a waiting stretcher. The short video would not have bothered me, at least not before that wise crack from Bill Needles down at the bar. What was it he’d joked about, “Well don’t wait too long. You know what happens to the unemployed around here; they become organ donors.” There was a link to some press releases; none of which mentioned anything about the organ donor program. There was one link that looked promising; a video library of short clips that could be downloaded that showed enough so that the average patient might have a better understanding of what was involved. There were a couple of clips that referenced transplants; liver, eye, and heart.

I clicked on the “Eye” video and there was a short film showing how various parts of the eye could be repaired with corneal transplants. At the end of the clip there was a line that made me feel a bit queasy, “There is no longer a waiting list for this item”. I then clicked on “Heart” and found the same, “There is no longer a waiting list for this item”, as if they kept them next to the Blue Bell Ice Cream in some walk in freezer. I read some more, “Have your doctor call our Organ Hot Line : 1-800-HARVEST”. For years I had heard about the long waiting list for heart transplant hopefuls and here, on the internet page for Harvest Gold was a phone number and the line “No Waiting List”. I tried clicking on the link and an error page came up that stated the page was not available without permission.

“Aren’t you Patrick Nelson from product development?” I looked up as I heard my name called out. The young woman across the room asked again, “It is Patrick, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. You seem to have me at a disadvantage. Do I know you?” I had only given her a cursory look when I had entered the lounge, not wishing to draw any attention to myself. I now looked at her face and for the life of me, couldn’t remember having seen her. She was kind of average looking, not beautiful, not ugly, plain to the point of blending in. I suppose that she might be somebody’s sister, wife, next door neighbor or along those lines. Maybe she looked that way on purpose to prevent the opposite sex from acting improperly in the work place.

“Virgie Sampson, I work in personnel. I saw your folder this morning. There was a picture of you accepting some kind of award at one of the company dinners in it; that’s how I recognized you. Sorry to hear about your being laid off.”

“Me too.” I smiled wryly and even laughed, thinking to myself, “What, did they pass around my folder at lunch? Got a job opening, level 6 product writer; anyone interested?”

“Well, don’t you worry. I heard someone, I forget who at the moment, any way they said they had something already planned for you so I guess you won’t have to bother with standing in any unemployment lines.” She gathered up her paperwork as she got out of her chair. Out of conditioning I stood up, my mother would have been proud that all that training hadn’t been squandered while holding doors open for little old ladies. “I have to be getting on home now.” I thought it odd that she was wearing gloves, those white dress up kind that you see women wear to church as she reached and shook my hand.

“Goodnight Ms’ Sampson, maybe we’ll meet under happier circumstances down the road.” When I let go of her hand I noticed there was something sticky, like when you pick up a small child just after he’s had ice cream.

“I’m sorry, really, I must have leaned on something that was on the table.” She looked at her gloved hand and there was some kind of gooey substance, maybe some jelly from a sandwich, smeared down the center of her palm. She immediately took her gloves off and tossed them in her purse. “You’d better wash that off or you’ll get it on your suit.”

“I think you’re right.” There was a sink and some paper towels in the lounge. “Don’t worry about it, wasn’t you’re fault. Some fool didn’t clean up after himself.” I walked over and turned on the faucet to let some water wash it off. “See, nothing to it.”
I waved politely and it was done. She stepped out the door and that was that.

Only a few minutes passed from the time that we shook hands when my heart started to pound. The room began spinning and my legs went limp. I thought I was having a heart attack and loosened my tie. It was a good thing that I was next to a chair or I would have crashed to the floor, instead I was able to slow my fall into the chair by holding onto the table. It was then that I noticed a terrible ringing in my ears, so intense that I wanted to cry out in pain. I closed my eyes and let the room spin around me.


“Patrick, can you hear me in there?”, a voice broke through the interminable roaring that my ears had tried to block out. I had hoped that by hiding in the storm sewer I’d avoided being seen.

“Who’s there?”, I called out from the darkness.

“Ron McClain, does that surprise you?”

“Get away from me, I have a gun!” I didn’t; but there was no way he could know for sure with me hidden in the shadows.

“No you don’t. You’re not even where you think you are.” I could hear a muffled laugh. “Try to open your eyes Patrick, if you think you can.” It was so dark as I crouched in the sewer that no light made its way down; besides, it was still to early and the sun wouldn’t be up for an hour or so.

“I mean it, get away or I’ll shoot.”

“We took your eyes yesterday, Patrick. Some kid involved in a terrible auto accident sends his thanks for your making it possible for him to see his young bride. He has a four point average at UT and has been accepted into their law school; makes you feel proud to be a part of it, doesn’t it Patrick? Still don’t believe me; all you have to do is open your eyes.” I could hear him laughing close to my ear, too close for him to be at street level and me safely in this storm sewer. I tried to reach out with my hand to feel where he might be.

“You still don’t get it, do you Patrick. You don’t even exist, at least not the way you think you do. We have you on life support for a while longer. My guess is the drugs keeping you alive are making the tiny veins in your head swell. That’s what they all complain about so we, or should I say, Harvest Gold is working to improve that problem. Someday future organ donors, like yourself, won’t have splitting headaches or the ringing in your ears. The liver that the doctor is harvesting, even as we speak, will allow a very gifted airline pilot to continue serving in his capacity for several more years.” The words had a chilling effect as they began to ring true. “Just so you know; we had planned to use your friend Bill’s liver but it turned out that he drank too much to be considered. Bill was getting a bad case of guilt complexes and anxieties that made it impossible for him to continue. About the only thing Bill was able to donate was his heart; you know what they say about lawyers, “the hearts the least used organ in their body”. I guess it must be true, his was finally put to good use for a mother of three who had been suffering since birth with leaky heart valves”.

“This can’t be true. I’m still hiding in this storm sewer.” There was a sinking feeling in the pit of my gut that lent itself to the possibility that what I was hearing was true.

“You never left the Harvest Building last Friday. When you went back and started looking things up on the computer; remember, in the employee lounge? You were on our surveillance camera the whole time. We had you under observation the from the minute you left Franklin’s office until the time you went back after drinking two Dr. Peppers and even while you read the paper at the bus stop. That jelly you had to wash off your hands is some pretty fancy stuff; doesn’t activate until it comes in contact with water and it works within seconds. The best part is that we have a very effective antidote so that you never died from that heart attack; being taken directly to our lab here in lower level three; I know, there is no lower level three. We have our secrets.”

“You’ll never get away with this. People just don’t disappear on the way home from work.”

“We alerted the Coast Guard about you and Bill having been missing. The two of you went fishing on his boat way out in the Gulf without checking the progress of that tropical storm. I suppose there will be some kind of memorial service after a week or so.

“So how long can you keep me here?”

“That’s a very astute question, Patrick. After all, it costs us a great deal to suspend the natural decaying process. We can stave it off for a while by keeping you buried in a bed of crushed ice. We found that trick in National Geographic of all places; doctors in Russia have been icing down patients for years.”

“Yea, I read about that too.” Still trying to open my eyes. My hands were limp at my side and refused to work either.

“Wednesday we have you scheduled to donate your kidneys, your lungs and yes; I’m sorry to say, your heart. Several people have been waiting for you to donate these precious organs so they can go on being productive citizens. I have to be getting along now Patrick. You know. . .”, there was a decided pause as Ron formed his next thought, “You were right when you said that you were still valuable. We will clear somewhere in the neighborhood of four hundred thousand dollars just on your organ donations alone.”

As a standard disclaimer: Any and all persons and events in this story are purely fictional. Any similarity with persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any similarity with reality is purely coincidental. The use of the phone number: 1-800-HARVEST was created for the sole purpose of this fictional story and is not intended to match with any actual telephone number that may happen to match with a telephone number that is already in use. No humans were harmed or injured in any way to make this fictional story, other than the readers of this presentation.