Sick and Fired
A cut story from the literary fiction novel, Last Chance California
The doctor jammed a thin prod down my throat.
“Wow. Jesus,” the doctor said as he examined my lymph nodes. “We’ll run a culture, but you have strep throat. No doubt.”
He gave me a prescription and recommended rest.
The rapid culture test came back positive.
Strep throat confirmed.
It was a great way to start a Monday.
Because now, I had a medical excuse to avoid work.
As I left the emergency care center, I texted my boss to let him know I wouldn’t be showing up at the office.
Jason, my boss, responded.
Damn man. That stuff ain’t no joke. That puts me down for a week easily. Take off until Wednesday. Get better. I’ll handle King Dustin.
Dustin was the overbearing, bumbling moron who ran the real estate company where I worked. It hadn’t even been a month on the job, and I hated it already. Dustin made the job unbearable. He ran the company as its CEO, but he had no idea how the sauce was made, or what his company actually did. No one could tell him this, so he’d ruin projects, force errors, and cause delays in everything he touched. And Dustin liked to touch everything. When the work was ruined, Dustin blamed his employees, not himself, for the mistakes. I was his wrath’s favorite target.
I had been looking for new jobs, but the market was bad, and no one was hiring.
My only options were to quit and have no income or stay at my job until I was fired.
Thankfully, strep throat came and saved me from my cubicle prison.
I bought my prescription from a pharmacy around the corner from my apartment.
The pills were made by an off-brand pharmaceutical company, but the high price of the drugs didn’t seem to match. Shit. The pills were as big as my hand. The worst part of strep throat isn’t the pain. It isn’t the clogged throat, fever, or wishing to die. No. It’s the antibiotics. They’re horse pills. Who thought this was a good idea? We have fucking robots doing surgeries, but doctors prescribe gigantic unchewable pills to patients with swollen lymph nodes? Why?
At my apartment, I grabbed blankets, pillows and water before setting up my day on the couch. I watched The Office. All day. And all night. I got super pissed every time I laughed too hard. Laughing hurt the most. I ordered a bowl of pho and ate two pints of ice cream.
That was my Monday.
And it was glorious.
On Tuesday, I watched six kung-fu movies from my couch. I felt slightly better, but still pretty awful. Dustin emailed me, asking about a few projects I led, but between the aches and tiredness, I refused to work. I ignored Dustin’s emails and texts. Jason texted me in the afternoon and let me know Dustin wasn’t happy that I didn’t answer his messages.
I sent a quick message to Jason.
I’m sick. Last thing I need is Dustin’s BS.
I know what you mean.
I could have gone to work on Wednesday, but I wasn’t one hundred percent. If I was employed at a job that didn’t make me want to eat a gun, I would have gone back to the office. Instead, I sent an email informing my boss that I needed one more day of rest.
The antibiotics were working.
I felt better.
My throat wasn’t as swollen.
And it had been forty-eight hours since I started taking drugs for my sickness. According to the paper with the pill bottle, I was no longer contagious. Which was fantastic. I had a beer-league softball game that night. If I was going to make the game, I needed to conserve my energy. I ignored more work emails and slept. All day. Playoff push, baby.
Before I left for the game, I promised myself I was going back to work on Thursday.
Despite being offered multiple beers throughout the night by teammates, I didn’t have one. Because I’m responsible. You can’t mix penicillin and booze. That would destroy my liver.
But I should have stayed home.
We got creamed.
I didn’t get one hit.
Never even made contact with the ball.
The bat weighed sixty pounds.
I couldn’t run four steps without losing my breath.
I skipped the post-game beers that I grabbed with Noah after every game and decided to stop at CVS on the way home for Gatorade and cans of chicken noodle soup. I was sitting at a red light about to make a left turn when I heard a loud crash before my car jolted forward. My head whipped forward and back into the back of the seat. The force wasn’t strong enough where I hit my head against my steering wheel. But I didn’t feel good.
My neck pinched.
I didn’t understand what could have happened.
I was at the red light.
It had been red for a few minutes.
If someone hit me, they couldn’t have been paying attention.
The light turned green.
Instinctively, I turned left and parked along the curb.
The car behind me did the same.
I shook my head a bit.
Everything moved slowly.
My thoughts moved even slower than usual, too.
Gravity helped me up when I fell out of my car.
My legs buckled.
I couldn’t get my balance.
Dragging my hand along the smooth metal feeling for imperfections, I used my car to guide myself to my trunk. A little scratch, but nothing major on it. But it was dark. And hard to focus. The damage might be worse in the sunlight.
I approached the driver’s side of the car that hit me.
“Oh my God,” a woman in a pink bathrobe said. “I am so sorry. I didn’t even see you there. Please don’t call the cops.”
I could smell the alcohol on her breath.
“Do you have insurance?” I asked.
“We don’t need to do that.”
“Do you have insurance?”
“There doesn’t look to be any damage. It looks like my car took the brunt of it.”
She hadn’t left the car.
“Look lady, my head hurts. I’m fucking sick. You just hit my car. I can’t deal with this. I don’t want to call the cops.”
“Do you have an insurance card?” I repeated.
“I don’t have insurance.”
“A driver’s license?”
I took a photo of her fake ID.
And of her plates as she sped away.
I stumbled back into my car.
I felt a little out of it, but I figured it was from the strep, softball, and shock of the crash.
When I started to drive, the car felt like it was about to tip over.
I pulled over in a parking lot.
The world moved like slime.
Nothing I did mattered.
My thought to physical action took a decade with each move.
I needed a doctor.
But I couldn’t afford a hospital visit.
It’s the strep throat.
I’m sure it was that.
After a ten-minute nap in my car, I drove home and went right to sleep.
I woke up the next morning in agony.
My back was sore.
A shooting pain shot up my spine and settled in my neck when I sat up.
Moving my head or shoulders caused a pinch with each micromovement.
My throat felt worse than it did the day before.
I texted Jason and let him know I was still not feeling well, and that I was going to work some from home. Or at least try to work from home.
I didn’t want to tell him I was in a car accident.
Not because I went to softball. I’d leave that part out. I’d just say I was out getting fluids and soup and got rear ended by a drunk woman fresh out of a shower.
The whole week felt unbelievable.
I stuck to strep throat being the cause of me not being in the office.
No matter how I positioned my laptop or my body, I was in pain. I packed a bowl of weed and smoked it. The pain was still unbearable. I popped Tylenol, closed my laptop and slept.
I woke up after a few hours feeling even more stiff.
I had emails, calls and texts from almost everyone who worked at my job.
Nothing from Jason.
He knew I was sick.
The only decent human at the place.
I went to the same emergency care as Monday.
Figured I’d respond to my slave lords when I came back.
The doctor from Monday treated me once more.
“You again?” he said.
“I had a good time last time,” I said. “I missed the banter.”
“The nurse says you were in a car accident last night?”
“I got blasted at a red light. I was completely stopped. Slam. Made no sense.”
“A car accident and strep throat in the same week?”
“You know, they say bad things happen in threes,” I said.
“I’m going to treat you as quickly as possible. Get you the hell away from me.”
We both laughed.
The doctor asked me a bunch of questions.
He touched me in places that made me feel weird.
Why are doctor’s hands always so fucking cold?
And why is he touching my stomach?
My neck and back hurt.
“Here’s a script for muscle relaxers,” the doctor said. “But be careful with these. Only use them if you’re in a lot of pain. I’ll give you a doctor’s note for today and tomorrow.”
“You’ve had a rough week. You should just relax until Monday.”
I shook his hand.
Now, that’s a good doctor.
I had no intention of getting muscle relaxers.
I knew better than to trust myself with something like that.
I texted Dustin and let him know I couldn’t finish the day.
Dustin responded immediately.
I’ll see you in the office tomorrow.
Little did he know that I had an excused medical absence for tomorrow, too.
The rest of my day was spent in bed.
The couch hurt to lay on.
Movies from my phone and a lot of naps.
I awoke the next day and stood up.
My back cracked.
I fell back down into bed as I shouted into my pillow.
I couldn’t even open my mouth all the way.
My jaw was stuck.
From my still swollen fucking lymph nodes.
It was the most embarrassing noise of my entire life.
A dying baby yam type of sound.
Never heard a baby yam dying?
But I imagine it sounds horrifying.
I should have filed a police report that night.
Rather than send another email about missing work, I texted Dustin.
I am still not okay. I won’t be coming in today. I’ll be fresh on Monday.”
Dustin: You need to come to the office today.
Wyatt: I am sick. I will not be coming into the office today.
Dustin: I was planning on terminating your employment this morning to your face, but since you refuse to come in, I’ll do it here. You’re fired. Bring your keys and collect your final paycheck at the office. Today.
It was the best I felt all week.
I’ll pick that all up on Monday. I couldn’t come to work. Why would I come to pick that up?
Dustin didn’t want to take no for an answer.
I’ll come to your place and drop off your check.
A boss making house calls.
That’s not weird.
I texted back.
Uh no. I’m sick. And that’s weird. I’ll meet you Monday.
He called a few times.
Sent angry text messages.
A few emails, too.
I didn’t respond.
I tossed my phone onto my bed somewhere and went back to sleep.
He wasn’t my boss anymore.