Pure Writerly Moments - Part 5 - Beer

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Chester wakes up and he's thirsty. I go out to get him some juice and some strawberry shaved ice. On the way back to Chester's room a nurse accosts me.

"What are you doing? You know you have a resident with piss all over himself in Room 8. What's a matter with you? You can't spend all your time with Chester. You got to look after all your residents! Damned newbie."

In the novel I never wrote and never meant to write, this character has been working there for five months. But the other coworkers, mostly black women, call him a newbie, a baby, a college boy (even though he's dropped out). Every type of epithet they can think of to mark him as "soft". Even the ones who like him do it to "toughen him up".

I return to Chester's room and hand him the shaved strawberry ice. He is strong enough to peel the tab off himself. But barely. I notice that he has noticeable pain and his breathing is too heavy as he sits up in his bed.

"Hey," he says. "How about a beer?"

"There's no beer in here," I tell him again.

"Yeah, but you can sneak one in."

"No, I can't. I could lose my job."

"That guy Jenkins. He snuck me in a beer."

"Jenkins is going to get fired pretty soon. I'm pretty sure he didn't show up to work yesterday because he thought he'd get fired."

"Yeah, but he made fifty dollars for that beer and he sold a lot of beers in his time here."

"And other things...and he stole."

"Hey, didn't he help you get this job. I thought yous were tight."

I don't say anything more.

"It's simple," he says. "You get me a beer and I promise I won't write your ending for you."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Your ending. The one you like so much, where I do that little speech. I got a better one. I got one that will really crackle and pop."

I don't say anything.

"You don't have to say anything, kid. You know I can write that ending better than you. And you know I'll have that beer by the end of the day."

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