CAUSE PERMANENT DISABILITY
M.A. De Neve
figured out a way out of this job,” Ron told me.
didn't say that.”
get over here. I thought I told you to...” Jack, our boss shouted above the
noise of the presses and the huge guillotine paper cutters.
I watched Ron hurry over to where Jack stood, I wondered what he had in mind.
He could pretend he hurt his back and collect disability. Here in rural Michigan,
tree cutting and
paper-mill factory jobs offered opportunities for disabling injuries, real or
imagined. Ron wouldn't be the first
person I knew who took the easy way out of a boring, low-paying job.
Ron got fired, he'd get unemployment checks for 26 weeks. Jack often threatened
to fire Rowan, but despite Jack's gripes, Ron was a good worker. Jack was NOT
going to make good on the threat, and Ron needed this job.
went back to work. Jack didn't pick on me as much as he picked on Ron, but that
didn't mean he wouldn't call me on the carpet or dock my pay or give me the
worst job in the plant. The worst job usually belonged to Ron. Sometimes he
had to run the fearsome gigantic
electronic guillotine paper cutters. These machines are as big as a small bathroom.
The wicked blades come down with
the power of thousands of pounds.
that day at the punch-clock, I asked Ron, “What did you mean when you said you
found a way out of this job? Are you
don't know. I didn't say that. Did I?”
need a ride home?” I asked. Waiting for the bus could take up to half an hour,
and Ron took the bus. On our wages, I
was lucky I could afford a car, but then my wife works. Ron is a bachelor.
shook his head. He was upset. Jack had been extra mean that day, and as usual
Ron got the worst of Jack's ugly moods.
drove to the bar down the road and ordered a beer. I wished Ron had come with
me. I was worried about him. All that abuse he'd been taking from Jack was
bound to hurt. I was finishing my second
beer when I heard the sirens. Looking put the window, I watched police cars and
fire engines head toward the plant.
stood in the parking lot. “Was the bus late?”
went for a walk. There'll be another bus.”
happened?” I nodded toward the plant. An ambulance had followed the police cars
and emergency workers hurried inside.
shrugged. I noticed some red stains on his shirt. Ketchup? Red ink that might
have leaked from one of the presses?
workers crowded around us. The parking lot was blocked off, but they found
parking spaces on side streets.
happened?” we asked each other.
didn't have a night shift.”
in the plant?”
everybody check out?
Jack's assistant foreman, approached the building and talked to an officer. I
walked up closer, so I could hear what they were saying.
us a messy accident. The guy somehow got caught in the guillotine cutter. It
cut his upper body in two.”
workers heard the news the same time, I did.
I heard their nervous murmurs. Our guillotine cutters used to have
dozens of safeguards. Since Jack became foreman, he cared more for production
than safety. Many of those safeguards had been discarded.
was it?” I asked loud enough for the officer to hear.
Jack...” the officer took a stab at pronouncing Jack's long foreign name.
ran through the crowd. None of us liked Jack very much, but no one deserved to
be cut in half in a guillotine paper cutter. When I turned to look at Ron, he
grimaced. Was that a grimace? It looked more like a smile.
crime lab cleaned up, and all of us workers got a week of unemployment
insurance while they cleaned. Back at the plant, on our next workday, Kyle
called us all together.
the machine that killed Jack is gone,”
he told us. “All the other
guillotines have been serviced and they've now got safeguards on top of
safeguards. If you think there's anything to be concerned about, call me over.
I'll make sure the machine is closely checked out.”
paused and let us murmur about machine problems. “I've put in for five percent
raises for everyone,” he said.
hurrayed and applauded and a few of us patted Kyle on the back. We'd missed
chances at raises over the years because Jack didn't think we were worth squat.
I want everyone to say 'hello' to the new assistant foreman. Ron.”
nodded at all of us. He'd get an even
bigger raise than the rest of us because he had the new job. And Jack was gone.
He wouldn't be harassed anymore. As the others made their way to their work
stations. I watched Kyle and Ron. I hadn't realized they were such good friends
remembered the day of the accident. Ron had been in the parking lot waiting for
the bus, and Kyle had been in the plant with Jack. What if Ron had gone back
in. What if Ron and Kyle held Jack down and...
are the police handling Jack's... How are they handling what happened?” I
don't know how it happened. Machine probably malfunctioned,” Kyle told me.
never ran that machine. What was he doing stretched inside it when the blade
turned away. He didn't want to answer the question.
get back to work,” Ron told me. “And, Buddy, forget what I said about finding a
way out of the old job. I didn't mean
De Neve holds a master’s degree in
English and taught college-level writing for over twenty years. M. A. wrote two
novels, both available on Amazon, and has published articles in many newspapers
and magazines, including Over My Dead
Body and Mysterical-E. M.
A. volunteers with an animal rescue
group in Michigan.