Chris sat down in Martin’s chair

on

“This is what I’ve heard that scares me the most. The numbers are pretty
bad. I think there are a whole bunch of new people on the books,” Martin said.
“We have to figure out if we can’t do anything about it.”

“Do you know if the numbers are worse at the hospital?” Chris asked.

“I’m not sure. I’ll check into it.”

“OK,” Chris said, getting up. “Thanks for coming.”

“Don’t forget to give me the report card when it comes in,” Martin said. “And
I have to ask, why are you wearing overalls?”

“I’m training to be a fireman,” Chris said nonchalantly. “Wearing a uniform
is important to me.”

“Well, wear it anyway!”

“Well, I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?” Chris laughed. “But then, you
really need to stay away from the city.”

“I’m not going to let it happen, either.”

“Good. So, why are you here?”

“I’ve got a report card for us. We need to see how we did in our monthly
quotations and review our year-end report card,” Martin said. He held up a
printout with the day’s total on it. At the top, it listed “A”’s, “B’s”, and “C’s”
in neat columns. The printout was a simple black-and-white, with Chris’s name
in blue at the top.

“How about we get you started with each of the categories? Just sort of
introduce yourself from the beginning,” Chris suggested.

“Sure. That sounds good.” Martin opened up his laptop, and a screen came up
with a long list of categories. “I just got into the hospital. You have
nothing to do there except sign a check and get the hell out. We’ll start with
the bottom line, from the beginning. ‘A’ means we have passed. ‘B’ means that
we are doing a good job. ‘C’ means that we are making progress.”

Chris sat in his chair and pulled up the list. “What about the annual
reports? Has everyone been working on them?” Chris asked. “They have to be
going out pretty soon. And the quarterly reports. I know we’re still working on
those.”

“You’re right,” Martin said, nodding. “I think that’s it.”

“Then, you’ll need to talk to the department heads and get a report card on
them, as well.”

“Yup. Let me go do that.”

Chris put his laptop aside. “It just seems like you’re not spending enough
time at the hospital,” Chris said. “Not that it matters. We all know that
you’re a fireman. You can’t be expected to do everything.”

“Hey, don’t make light of this,” Martin said quietly. “I’m going to miss that
job if you guys ever fire me.”

Chris looked at him steadily. “You have to focus on things that are
important to you. Look for opportunities to be helpful to others, and you’ll be
much happier.”

“I know. And you have to be willing to do that. I’m going to miss that
job, too. At least, not right away. But I’ll be with you guys for a long time.
Then I’ll be right back here.” Chris nodded. He thought for a moment. “Did
you find out anything from the city, Martin?” Chris asked.

“Nothing concrete. But they are definitely trying to get us to leave, and
if they can, they will. It’s a huge city.” Martin said. “If this goes on,
they will probably take over. I don’t know how they’ll get out, but they
will.”

“Well, the truth is, we have to try,” Chris said. “I am committed to us
all. You have to be committed to your work, too.”

“Yeah. I’ll do whatever I can. I love the job and the people. I really do.”

“And if you can stop all this from coming to an end, I want you to,” Chris
said. He pointed out the window to the garden. “That’s where I’m going to go
for my run this morning.”

Then, he was gone.

***

In the garden, Chris listened to the soft lapping of the water as it swept
against the stone walls and the small pond. The only sound he could hear was
the gentle swishing of the leaves against each other. Birds were singing
outside one of the many trees that filled the garden with a soft sound of
plaintive music.

He stood at the edge of the garden and stared into the wooded area beyond.
There were no signs of life on the ground. And the forest was a serene
place.

Chris heard the soft swishing of leaves on the large stone slabs. The sound
of the water was the only sound other than the birds outside of the garden.
It was quiet and pleasant there, in the peaceful darkness of the summer
season.

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