I haul misery in a can, pre-packed sorrow in waiting. I pack ‘em in – their wires and tubes – ship ‘em where there’s daylight in the halls, where there’s rumors of miracles. I don’t need to know beyond this: keep everything straight, no touching, no talking unless they feel to; give a smooth ride. I watch for floods and droughts, keep plasma packs upright and flowing, check what the manual calls ‘signs of distress’.

If they’re conscious, partway lucid, we might trade words on what bit ‘em, how it hurts, what they think gives with the fable of upstairs. I heard stuff they tell these bedbugs: that this procedure got an eighty chance of succeeding; that this process scores ninety-two though not everyone comes straight. They get told the risks but not so they dwell. They all signed forms, they all got loved ones who said – on zero knowledge – it’ll be okay.

Loved ones are a pain in the ass. When I secured the bed wheels, levered shut the gates, loved ones stand down toe of the shaft waving or smiling though I see their faces breaking, trying so what’s in bed thinks upstairs is fine. As I freight them floor over floor cogent ones ask is the butcher a good butcher, is the place equipped with some techno-junk they saw in a docu-drama. What can I say: I press these buttons, hum sad tunes, watch the numbers rise.

What I ship in this cage got pain so bad the morphine is sugar for toothache. If they got strength sometimes you see them crunch down the sheet, fingers tight to brace the agony. I don’t say it’ll be fine upstairs. I don’t say nothing but what’s lame with local sports teams. I don’t say a thing to the ones I bring back.

The down run don’t stop at ground level; no need: this cage ain’t for tourists. Down shift is straight in the basement, hauling whatever missed the cut in theater. There’s no conversation on the way down, the paperwork ain’t my business and I can bust these wheels more harsh across the ramps. I get along better with guys downstairs than up among the white coats. I ship up chances to fail; I bring down certainties. Upstairs is aftercare and explanations; all the basement got is throughput. Through the furnace if no other ways.

Upstairs call me handling; basement call me traffic man. I like to traffic. I seen too much hope make that slow crawl to shades of disappointment. I wouldn’t risk hope if it bit me. I’m carrying: I pack a little certainty to help folks out of thinking that eighty percent’s a pro-bet. I carry for me: people fall sick too easy. I don’t wanna be a bug in this cage with the night shift guy giving me a smooth ride up where the white coats got revenge for redemption. I want done before the gates close: one way, certainty bound.

© 2011, Mark Wagstaff