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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
Grupp usually gave the last patient a slap on the buttocks for good measure. Then he emerged from his toilet barber shop and sat down in his rocking chair. His henchmen gathered around him, and Grupp consulted his watch. "An hour and fifty-five minutes today, boys," he would report. "You guys are slowing down. We used to do the job in an hour and a half."
He distributed three cigarettes to each of the patients who had helped with "bath day" and told them to clean up the shower room and toilet. Then he would light his pipe and spread a newspaper on his knees. Except for interruptions for meals and to answer the phone, Grupp would spend the rest of the day in his chair.
(Based on reports 662 and 667)
"Clothes do make a difference," exclaimed Mitzi as she slipped a clean cotton dress over her head and pressed it against her bare skin.
"Huh!" grunted Margaret. "Better hold onto that dress then. No tellin' what you'll get in the morning."
"I just can't stand those rough old dresses. Not when they don't give you any slip or underwear. I thought I'd die last night when the attendant put that old blue denim on me."
"Look around you, girlie. Most of 'em on this ward wear blue denim."
Mitzi looked at her ward-mates. She had been transferred just yesterday and had been so upset she hadn't paid any attention. Now she noticed that of the hundred and forty women on the ward, a few were naked, a good many wore heavy denim dresses, and the rest wore faded cottons.
Mitzi shuddered. "Don't they ever give you slips and underclothes?"
"Oh, sure! When you have a visitor. You get shoes to go to the beauty shop, shoes and underwear to go to the doctor, and the whole works when you have company -- even stockings!"
"I'll sure be glad to have company," Mitzi replied.
The day was little different from other days on other wards. As there was only one attendant to handle the whole ward, the patients did most of the work. Mitzi had helped make beds on her former ward, but here the patients didn't take kindly to her offer of help. "Quit trying to horn in, girlie," she was told. So she sat and watched an old lady tear up her blue denim dress into narrow strips. Mitzi wished she had something to tear up, too -- at least, something to do. But she sat, and went to dinner; sat, and moved when a neighbor urinated on the floor; sat, and went with the other patients to supper at four-fifteen.
As the women were herded up the steps from supper, the big patient who had rebuffed Mitzi's offer of help in the morning met them at the head of the stairs. "Give me your dress," she boomed at each patient. Most of the women removed their dresses and handed them over meekly. When one hesitated, the big patient stooped down, whisked the dress off and gave her a stinging slap on the rear.
Mitzi watched Margaret stride up the stairs. She made an ugly face, said, "Don't touch this dress, you dried-up shrew. I'll tear ya' limb from limb," and stalked into the dayroom untouched.
Mitzi was pushed ever nearer to the top of the steps. At last she stopped before the domineering patient. "Please? I'd like to keep my dress if I may?" She asked it timidly. A few seconds later, Mitzi found herself in the center of a roomful of naked women, with a hot stinging sensation on her back and a red ball of fire in her brain. Confused and miserable, she sought a corner of the big room and slumped against the wall.
Margaret came over. "Gee, kid, I forgot all about you. You should have stuck to me."
''How long do we stay like this?" Mitzi asked tearfully.
"Until we go to bed. About eight-thirty. Then we get to cover up with a sheet."
"I hope I'll be -- dead before -- then," Mitzi wept.
"Aw, quit your bawlin', girlie. You got nothin' to be ashamed of -- like some of these creatures has."
"But -- but -- I -- "
"Skip it. Let's plan on gettin' you a garb for tomorrow."
"You mean -- I won't get my own dress back tomorrow?"
"There's one chance in a hundred and forty. And with that devil-dog dishin' 'em out, you ain't got the chance of a cat on a tin roof in a high wind."
"Oh-h-h," Mitzi moaned.
"She'll be lookin' for a nice filthy one to give you." Margaret smiled and nodded her head. "Yeah. I can see it now. She'll hand out one of them denim jobs, big as a barrel and stinkin' with sweat. Then you say, like you meant business, that you'll take a clean cotton dress, thank you."
Mitzi began to be interested. This would be a new role for her -- standing up to a big bully.
Margaret went on enthusiastically. "Well, while she's drawin' in her breath to blast ya' one -- she barks loud but she don't bite -- I'll slip up and whisk the dress off little Lil. Mmm, boy!"
"Who's Lil," asked Mitzi, while Margaret rocked back and forth in obvious satisfaction with her plan.
"Lil? Oh, she's that little prissy that's always trailin' the shrew, lickin' her boots and warmin' her bed. She always gets nice dresses to wear."
"And you'll give me her dress?"
"Yep. Right there in front of her!" Margaret's big body shook gleefully. "You stick to me, sister, and we'll have a lot of fun. You make the trouble, and I'll settle it. This is goin' to be great fun!"