I heard his voice again, yelling from forty feet away as he walked down the isle toward my machine. I looked up as he called my name. His pudgy body was reeling from side to side, as I had seen it do so many times in the past eight years.
"Bruce, you incompetent nincompoop!" I was Bruce, and he was calling me a nincompoop, whatever that is. I had been called that hundreds of times, and I still didn't know what he meant. But I understood the general idea. I didn't have to wait long for an explanation of the trouble.
"Bruce Bryson," he began, as he walked up to me. He had not lowered the tone of his voice. "Yeah?" I answered.
"This shinbar shaft is too short. Can't you read plain writing."
"Well, I made it like my print lists it...." I picked up the shop worn print and held it in front of his face. He pushed it back roughly, then took it and looked at it. I managed a silly grin.
"That's no decimal, that's a 'fly speck,' Any fool ought to be able to tell the difference between a decimal and a fly speck! You better get your glasses changed before I fire you." That was probably the thousandth time he had threatened to fire me. In the past I had always answered "Yes, Sir," and he had left, mumbling uncomplimentary things about me. I didn't say anything today.
"Do you understand what I said?" he stormed, getting even louder and closer. I just stood and looked him in the eye. I had noticed it before, but this time it was more obvious. Those eyes, seated in that fat face, reminded me of pig eyes. I had dealt with enough pigs in my younger days, and there was no mistaking that look. In those younger days I had hit many pigs between the eyes with a 12 pound hammer, and I felt myself wishing to give him the same treatment.
I didn't have to work at this crummy job anymore. A lucky break the day before had provided me with financial security for life. Why not deal with him as I would any poor pig that was driven into the slaughter chute. I gazed into those pig eyes and realized that there was nothing to keep me from dealing with him as I would any other fattened swine.
"E.R.," I said, "You are a fat pig. You are a foul mouthed, ignorant counterfeit excuse for a human being. There is something that I just have to do." I reached on the table at the head of my machine and picked up a heavy rawhide mallet. Without a moment's hesitation I brought it down just below his eyes - across his wide, ugly nose. I didn't hear a solid thud as in the old hog killing days, but instead heard a low, grinding crunch as the nose cartilage and skin gave way before the mallet.
As Kipling once said in one of his poems. "He dropped like a bullock and he lay like a block". The blood was running freely down the side of his face and his eyes had assumed a glassy, non-caring look. A crowd was gathering as my fellow workers came up to see what was happening. I turned to Red Turner and said, "Red, when he comes to and old man Savage shows up, tell him that I quit. Tell him that the debt is paid in full, and that I won't be back to collect the wages due me. If old E.R. gets well and comes back on the job, tell him I said to watch what he says, because he can never know when a man has taken all he can take, and might get violent."
All Red said was: "Gosh!" Someone else commented on E.R.'s blood actually being red. I guess I was a little shocked, too.
I walked down the isle, past the time clocks and through the door into the street. I had never felt better in my life. I was free! No more cringing to that fat slob who held my fate in his pudgy hand. I was "Marked no more by the wage slave's brand!" As I walked down the street, I began to cautiously contemplate the rest of my life. More especially, I was contemplating how I would use the $1.5 million that I had just won with a lucky lottery ticket.
EPILOGUE: Bruce was feeling fine at the time, and felt he was
sitting on top of the world. What Bruce didn't know was that old E.R. was
dying, and that the next day the District Attorney would be preparing an
arrest warrant especially for him. The lawyers would be feasting on his
big nest egg as soon as Uncle Sam got through.
E.R.'s grieving family would be suing him for the rest of it and poor old Bruce would be working in a prison machine shop under a boss who would make E.R. seem like a fatherly scout leader.