What Michael couldn't stand was not knowing. He rocked in his chair outside the foyer of the holding office scratching his beard and rehashing the last forty years of his life.
He hadn’t been proud of everything, but he had paid his time, and deserved another chance. Rod “Tick-Tock” Johnson got another shot. He was released last year, but never bothered to write. Michael would write someone back though, probably Tiny. He wouldn’t want him to wonder.
The large wooden doors to the office swung open, and Michael shot up. He stood taller now in his orange suit than his hunched frame would have alluded to. Two men, one in a uniform, and another in a white lab coat left the office. Michael watched the doors slowly close on the panel of somber looking men behind them.
“Michael, do you have a moment?” asked the warden as he stepped away for some privacy.
Michael’s lips tightened as he did his best to suppress a laugh. Yes, he supposed he could spare a moment. He managed a nod, and followed him a few feet away.
“I never thought I’d say this to you,” said the Warden, taking in a deep breath and looking at his prisoner’s free hands. “I mean, with what you did-”
“Sir,” started Michael, balling his fists. “Just give it to me straight. I deserve at least that.”
“You don’t deserve nothin’ boy,” said the Warden. “Unfortunately, the panel and I don’t see eye to eye on that though. Doctor…” The Warden waved his hand, and walked away.
Michael was stunned. It wasn’t until the Doctor clapped him on the back and smiled that he realized what had happened.
“Come with me, son,” the Doctor said as he guided Michael back to a nearby examination room. “A lot has changed since you’ve been here. Health care costs are ludicrous, and strict regulations safeguard the general population. Here, put this on.” The doctor handed Michael a gown and pointed at a changing room. He wasted no time.
"There was the H1N1 virus of 2009, the plague of 2012, and, well, many others. I just need to vaccinate you, and have you sign a few papers.”
Michael opened the door, big grin on his face as if he were making his entrance for the grand finale. The doctor flicked the end of a syringe as Michael sat down on the patient bed and rolled up his sleeve.
“What will you do first,” asked the Doctor as he removed the needle. He sat down and they shared a moment of silence.
“I’ll go find Stacy,” said Michael nodding, “and make it right.”
“That sounds nice,” said the Doctor.
Suddenly the door opened, and at the same moment, Michael collapsed.
“Your shift is over, Peter.”
“I wasn’t quite done, John,” said the doctor, clearing his throat.
“Hey, it’s okay, Peter. It’s okay. It's better when they don't know.”
John took a deep breath. “Head home. I’ll take it from here.”