Thursday, March 7, 2024

Preliminary Qualifications

This is what I believe will be the first chapter of my next novel. I started it this morning and typed out my first one thousand words. I welcome any comments. 

Wade Watson stood at the chain-link gate to the Liberty State Hospital.

“Can I help you?” Said the canned male voice from the intercom speaker just above the gate. 

Wade turned around and looked up at the brick guard tower. He turned back to the speaker. “I want to apply for a job.”

The electronic lock to the gate buzzed. He walked into a small cage-like entrance as soon as the outer door locked and there was a buzz to open the inner door. 

It was a routine seen and heard many times by Wade and never experienced. Over the past years, he would often be with his mom to pick up his dad when his dad worked there. 

Wade’s dad got the job when he was 45. It was his last chance at employment that offered a retirement beyond Social Security. The reality, it was likely the only place that might hire a man with few skills and a sketchy work record. 

Wade Watson filled out his application for an attendant’s job at the Liberty State Hospital. He handed the application to a young lady seated behind a desk. 

She lifted her glasses and glanced at it and said, “You meet our preliminary qualifications.”

Wade thought, “Six two, two hundred, that’s all she had time to read.”

“ You should be hearing from us shortly, within a week.,” she said placing the applications in her out box on the desk. 

Three days later Wade sat in front of the desk of Ralph Korman, director of personnel at the Liberty State Hospital.”

“This job can be challenging,” Korman said leaning back in his chair. “The men you will manage are diagnosed as mentally incompetent to defend themselves in a court of law. Some fake mental illness to stay away from prisons. Others are forced on us by the prisons because they can’t handle them. This is a mental facility and the people in charge must deal with inmates mentally.”

“I understand that,” Wade said. “My dad worked here.”

“Who was your dad?” Korman said.

“Duke Watson,” Wade said.

“Duke Watson was your dad?” Korman smiled. “I should have seen it in you. You look just like him. He was a good man. How long has he been gone now?”

“He’s been dead for a little more than three years,” Wade said.

“I started out on the wards when I first hired in,” Korman said. “Your ole man show me the ropes. We didn’t have all the medications we have now. The meds make the job easier. We were always putting somebody in the hole.” Korman chucked. “Your ole man used to tell ‘em, ‘Ya got your choice; there’s two holes, the one down the hallway or the one across the road in the graveyard. We had this guy who came in here from the State Pen. He was too tough for them to handle. Four of us couldn’t get him in the hole. Old Duke tells everybody to get off him and back away. Your dad grabs a leg from a broken chair. He told the guy, “That’s it, This ends only one way.’ Then your dad picks up the phone and calls the charge room. He tells them to start diggin’ a hole. Your dad walks toward the guy slappin’ that chair leg in his hand. The guy runs around your dad like a halfback. Your dad swings and cracks that leg across his back as he ran by. That guy ran straight to the hole and closed the door on himself. From that point on, the best inmate we ever had.”

“I’ve heard that story a few times,” Wade said. “I always thought Dad was shoveling bull.”

“How’s your mom?” Korman said.

“She’s doing well,” Wade said.

“Next time you see her, tell her I said hi,” Korman said, “and be sure to give her my best.”

“I will.”

“When would you like to start?”

“I can start anytime,” Wade said.

“Can you start Monday?”


“There will be a physical and the rest of the week will be orientation and training,” Korman said. “Then for the next 30 days, there is an evaluation and then we’ll assign you permanently to a ward.”

“I don’t suppose two or four is open, is it?” Wade said.

Korman chuckled. “That was you ole man’s ward, wasn’t it?”


“It takes some whiskers to get on that ward,” Korman said. “Best wards in the joint.”

Korman stood and shook Wade's hand. “Be here at 7:30 Monday.”

“Thanks a lot, Mr. Korman,” Wade said.

“Don’t mention it.”

“By the way,” Korman said as Wade started to turn away. “This doesn’t have to be a dead-end job. You move up. And I don’t mean just being a charge man on a ward or a supervisor. Other things can open up. You can take courses at the branch. We can work out a schedule for you. There’s a lot of downtime here. You can use that time to study. That’s what I did.”

“My dad talked about some guys who did that,” Wade said.

“Your dad was old school,” Korman grinned, “too much education can ruin a good man.”

“Dad always wanted me to get an education,” Wade said, “but always talked about guys who had an education as worthless.”

“Likely, I was on your dad’s list,” Korman said. “But I respected him.”

“Dad changed from day to day,” Wade said. “One day you were a good guy and the next day you didn’t know what you were talking about.”

“To be honest,” Korman grinned, “he was probably right. There were those days I didn’t know what I was talking about. I hope they were the same days.”

“And there were a lot of days my dad didn’t know what he was talking about.

“There’s a lot of frustration with this job,” Korman said. “Sometimes the best thing to do is talk it out; if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t think my dad talked it out very much.”

“More than most,” Korman said. 

“I know my dad had a reputation.”

“That he did,” Korman nodded. “He crossed the line a few times.”

“More than a few,” Wade interrupted.

“He probably had to. We had few options in those days,” Korman said. “We train people better now.”

“I’m not anything like my dad,” Wade said.

“I hope you are in some ways,” Korman said. “He could talk an inmate down before he blew up.”

“Blew up, my dad or the inmate?” Wade joked.

“Probably both,” Korman said.

 There were some inmates he really cared for and looked after. It didn’t show, but he did.”

Wade walked through the gates and back to his car. He smiled just before he grabbed the door handles. “It ain’t much of a job, but it’s a job.”

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