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[Taped to one of the cabinet doors]

MEN'S FIRST FLOOR WARD STAFF BREAK ROOM RULES

1. The door has a number pad for a reason. Only staff who regularly work with patients in a given ward may use the corresponding break rooms. Do NOT give out the code to someone not connected to MFFW.

2. If we can't keep this place tidy of our own volition, we're going to have to set up a chore wheel. Let's avoid that. Button is not an omnipresent cleaning fairy, though he acknowledges that his name would be appropriate for one.

3. Anything patients aren't allowed to have goes into your locker before you go through the double doors. Shoelaces and work-related equipment excepted. Either trust your coworkers or provide your own combination lock.

5. Aaron is only allowed to put one picture of his daughter on the fridge at a time. Yes, she's cute. You're not the only one with offspring, and we need the space for other things too. Replace the photos as often as you want, Aaron. We like them. One at a time.

6. Finished the coffee? Make more coffee. Immediately.

7. Any food left alone on the table for more than twenty minutes is automatically public property. Put it in the fridge or your locker to avoid this fate.

8. Feel free to play with Phyllis' poetry magnets, but please let others' poems stand for at least a full shift cycle before poaching words.

9. Leaving magazines on the table for others to enjoy is a fun trend worth continuing. Please only leave ones that are happy and colorful. We deal with enough angst. Magazines such as Cosmopolitan make some of us uncomfortable, and are badly written anyway.

10. The break room whiteboard is meant to help us communicate throughout our staggered shifts. It's unrealistic to ban discussion of patients, so here are the requirements:
a. Only patient common room interactions and incidents.
b. Patients are referred to by codename.
c. Board is erased every 24 hours.

****

[Squared-off section of whiteboard]

DISCUSSION OF NEW OFFICIAL RULES LIST: EXEMPT FROM ERASURE

I like it, but can the 24-hour rule be staggered just like our shifts? If the board continues to be erased at 8:00 as it often is, almost no one sees what I wrote. It makes me feel like *I'm* being erased. Cato

Ditto. York (stopping by, meeting w admin)

Night shift = fight shift. Hercules

Of course! Sorry. I wasn't thinking. Can you maybe put a squiggly line around what you write to remind me? Aaron

That reminds me. Phyllis and Cato, is it okay if we leave out snacks and things during Ramadan? Does that cause you stress? Eliza

During Ramadan we can eat as much as we want after dark. :D Cato

I can control myself during my day shifts. That's really thoughtful of you, though. And what Cato said. :) Phyllis

As an extension of the housekeeping rules, let me remind you all that no matter how sleep-deprived you are, you still can't put metal in a microwave. Betsy.

Also, don't crush other people's lunch bags when you're making space for your own. Molly.

Do therapists and psychiatrists use this room too? I'm new. Martha the Tech

Sometimes, if we work with MFFW patients. Angelica

Especially if we are sisters with MFFW staff. Rarely psychiatrists, though. We're too *mundane* for them. Sometimes if they want to use the microwave. Peggy

Not true. We also sometimes want to borrow your can opener. Dr. GWash

****

[Note affixed to fridge via tragedy/comedy masks magnet.]

 

Here's a list of current patient codenames. Ask me verbally if you can't figure it out. I'm the one who gets to coin them, since I'm usually the one who processes them as they check in.

<3 Penelope

SEPT 3 UPDATED CODENAME LIST

Simba

Gemstone

Headache

Nymph

Shouty

Despot

Shipwreck

Bluebird

Almanac

Lamb

Chapter Text

[On the "Daily Discourse" section of the whiteboard, September 3]

It's 12 AM, so...FIRST! ^_^ Cato

Petition to always call Night Shift "Fight Shift". I'll make badges. Hey, Cool Cat, if you see this before we talk mano-a-mano, watch out during bedroom checks. Shipwreck's back to setting traps for "Agents of Congress", and Despot just encourages him. Hercules

The first rule of Fight Shift is don't talk...loudly, because the patients are sleeping. Or should be sleeping. Permission to get the weighted blankets we have on hand for any ND patients who might benefit and see if three of them combined will keep Simba down??? Cato

The second rule of Fight Shift is that Button is not allowed to put his mop bucket on Cato's prayer rug. Seriously. Hercules

Oh, man, sorry. I didn't realize what it was. I thought they looked like little carpets and only got used during the day. I won't do it again. Button

Mine's travel-size. Folds into a pouch. Accidental bucket contact won't desecrate it, and I know it was an accident. The third rule of Fight Shift is be forgiving. I pray at night when I sleep all day. I switch my prayer schedule to a time zone that resembles my shifts. Cato

How do you know which way to face? Also how are there crumbs on TOP of the Fridge? Button

1. App. 2. Beats me. Good morning, daylings! I'm out. Cato

Deb and I have way too many clementines after that weird theme wedding we went to last Saturday. There are now some on the table. Who drank the coffee without making a new pot? Molly

Wasn't me. Despot's continuing with his campaign to make Gemstone and Bluejay miserable bc they're easy targets. Insults in the bathroom during morning rush, overheard, though Almanac stuck up for them. Someone please do something about that. Going home. Hercules

FUCKING Despot. Molly

I'm with you, but the situation is fraught. Aaron

New patient later this afternoon. Heads up. Penelope

Where'd all the spoons go? Who keeps using all the spoons? Angelica

How ironic. Is that ironic? Or is it fitting? Maria

It depends. It's fitting in the sense that patients have few spoons and use up ours. It's ironic in the sense that one of the purposes of staff break rooms is to help us replenish our spoons. I had to eat my yogurt with a crude scoop made from the foil lid. Angelica

I have no idea what this mysterious other significance of spoons is, but I took them home to wash them properly and forgot to bring them back. Aaron

I'll send you a link. Also I want to talk to you about Theo Sr.'s help with my divorce case. What sorts of chocolates does she like? Maria

Burr, you weary me. Angelica

As long as you're not wary of me. Aaron

I put a spoon in your locker, Angelica. Have a real lunch today. Talk a walk. Listen to some music. The point is to LET patients cry, not MAKE them. Eliza

Work, work. Peggy

My first impression of Lamb boils down to "too good for this Earth, why can't I cuddle him and make everything okay?" Which is not ideal. Is there something we can add to the coffee to make us more jaded? Penelope

The day we stop caring is the day we should quit. That said, it sucks. Angelica

Quick snack, many thanks to Molly for leaving the bowl of mini oranges. I'm going back in there to start Group. Whose idea was it to put Lamb with Simba? Threatened-to-shove-a-pen-up-Gemstone's nose Simba? Aaron

Gemstone did provoke him, to be fair. Eliza

I retract my original criticism. Simba adores Lamb and is growing more peaceable under Lamb's influence. It's a miracle. Aaron

Is it bad that I suppress laughter whenever Simba and Headache squabble? Eliza

It would be bad if you didn't suppress it, sis. (I'm with you tho.) Peggy

Simba's always been gentle to Bluebird, too. It's that code most of them stick to. Betsy

Okay, having observed, new hypothesis. Simba's infatuated with Lamb? Aaron

Simba is capable of being nice to people he's not attracted to. Eliza

Not to be inflammatory, sweetheart, but how would you know? Betsy

Um...I'm going home. Remember the spoons, Aaron. Eliza

General question: how do I make Angelica not annoyed at me? (note to self, erase before her shift tomorrow). Aaron

She has a soft spot for Simba and loves peonies and handwritten letters. Shhh. Peggy

Having just helped with physical care, I can confidently say that Lamb's wound is worse than he lets on or seems to notice. I suspect he has nerve damage along with standard depressive apathy. Be extra vigilant, for his sake. Betsy

FUCKING DESPOT. Martha the Tech

Why do you keep calling yourself that? And everyone cheered at how you made Despot clean up after himself. Betsy

Headache keeps 'jokingly' hitting on me because I have the same name as his dead wife. He's got MARTHA tattooed on his arm in huge letters. Like, Hancock-handwriting huge. Also there's a Martha in Maintenance and a Nurse Martha on the second floor. Gahh.Martha the Tech

There has to be a mouse somewhere. I found crumbs inside the cutlery drawer. Button

I've agreed to take Phyllis' Friday 1AM-8AM on Fight Shift so she can go to son's graduation without conking out in her chair. So I'll have an extra night of checking my locker for your betting slips. We currently have 4 believers that Shouty and Nymph are kissing on the sly, and 2 who categorically deny. Hercules

Speaking of Hancock handwriting, can someone ask him to stop accosting us with flyers in 52-or-something-point font? Think of the trees and...inkpools. I think he needs to update his glasses prescription. P.S, am now erasing everything before "Remember the spoons, Aaron," according to the new erasure rules from our group email convo. Cato

****

[Flyer on the fridge]

TO ALL STAFF!!!

HERCULES MULLIGAN HAS COUPON CODES FOR HIS HANDMADE-CLOTHING ETSY STORE!

PAUL REVERE IS OFFERING A FUN JEWELRY WORKSHOP AT A DISCOUNT!

PENELOPE BARKER IS HOSTING AN EDUCATIONAL TEA PARTY!

PHYLLIS WHEATLEY INVITES EVERYONE TO HER UPCOMING POETRY READING!

BETSY ROSS WANTS YOU TO JOIN HER QUILTING CIRCLE!

DETAILS FOR ALL THIS AND MORE ON THE ATTACHED PAGES!

J O H N H A N C O C K

*****

[Current poetry magnet composition]

I see you are a green thought
my friend with bent limb
hello hi there

******

[Typed note taped to fridge]

Simba will roar far less once he's had some real sleep. Mufasa

Chapter Text

[Note attached by kitten magnet to newly squared-off section of whiteboard, Sept 4]

WHO IS MUFASA?

Current data:

- He(?) has left two notes so far. There's the one from yesterday about Simba's need for sleep (obvs.), and there was one the first night of Simba's stay, alerting us to Simba's Lyme disease. And tendency to forget to tell medical professionals about said Lyme disease.

- "Mufasa" has only left computer-printed slips of paper rather than writing messages by hand.

- For those of you unfamiliar with The Lion King, Mufasa is Simba-the-lion-cub's father.

Extrapolations:

- Mufasa's handwriting is known to at least some of us, otherwise there would be no reason to go to such lengths.

- Mufasa knows Simba very well, and may have a paternal, or at least parental, interest. Note that Simba has listed relatives as deceased or N/A.

- Mufasa is someone with access to this room.

Discuss!

 

[Written under the note]

Cato, did you finish all your paperwork before you wrote this?      Hercules

I typed it up at home, don't worry. Hey, do you think I could be Rafiki? Or however it's spelled?     Cato

The Lion King is based on Hamlet, and Ti Moune and Pumba(a?) are based on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so I think that should be you and me. Hercules

I want to be the hyena matriarch. The one voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. Real hyenas are matriarchal too, did you know? Lions steal their kills more often than the other way around. Now, Angelica is clearly Rafiki.      Molly

I prefer Macbeth to Hamlet and would love to see a Disney film based on that. However, I accept the mantle of wise mentor baboon. Remember who you arrrrre.     Angelica

Meanwhile, Aaron is Zazu.      Molly

I resent that. I maintain I was not overreacting to Shouty and Nymph's compromising position.     Aaron

Eliza can be Nala.      Peggy

Hey! Simba flirts with Aaron too!      Eliza

Tbh, with me he seems vaguely interested in angry sex if he found out I was up for it. With you it's like he wants to go ballroom dancing and later write you love letters.      Aaron

With me it's "I'm dtf if that's cool and your shitty husband won't attack me". I'm paraphrasing.     Maria

At least there's the implicit "if you're cool with it". Better than Headache. "I'm rich and clearly awesome. Why are you not responding ecstatically. What." Paraphrased. Not by much.      Sally

Headache can be Scar.     Aaron

I'll have a word with him.    Angelica

I've never seen The Lion King.      Martha the Tech

Theo cries copiously if she doesn't get to watch it once a week, at minimum. Feel free to babysit.      Aaron

You mean lil' Theo isn't perfect???     Martha the Tech   

Love doesn't discriminate. Goodnight, all.      Aaron

Wow. What would Mufasa think of this conversation?   Betsy

 

[Typed note affixed on board via chocolate chip cookie magnet]

Mufasa is pleasantly surprised to have afforded you so much amusement.

Chapter Text

[Handwritten letter in the center of the break room table]

To All Men's First Floor Ward Staff,

Please leave this in a location where it's easy for all of you to read. Thank you.

First, I want to apologize for my and Friedrich's conduct. I understand the reasoning behind the rules involving physical contact between patients: we are here to focus on healing rather than complicated new entanglements, it can create unneeded drama throughout the ward, we are at an emotionally fragile point in our lives, and in this microcosmic environment our perceptions of one another can be skewed and lead us to make regrettable decisions.

I understand. I need you to know, however, that my only regret is the possibility of others being punished for my choices. Obviously Friedrich and I were equally complicit (in getting to 2rd base, by the way, actual sex would be premature and ridiculously inappropriate). But because of our age difference, the burden of blame will inevitably fall on him.

I am nineteen years old. Regardless of any age difference between me and a partner, I am above age of consent. I have Tourette's syndrome and slightly-above-average anxiety, most of it about the Tourette's syndrome. Neither of these impair my ability to consent. As for whether I was being coerced or manipulated in some fashion - while I appreciate your concern and am aware of the horror stories out there, did it look like I wasn't having fun, Mr. Burr, sir?

Please don't assign any blame to Cato, York, Hercules, or Phyllis either. It wasn't the first time we'd quietly fooled around a little, but we carefully timed it between lights-out checks. Many thanks to Molly for letting us off with a warning and roommate switch. We won't abuse that trust. Or make poor Jay uncomfortable like that. (You must admit Franklin would gleefully abet such things. I'm just saying.)

I don't know if I'm in love. I'm definitely in like. And I have a tendency to seek physical contact in times of stress. He didn't need that much convincing, but I promise you I made the first move. Please let the fallout stop where it is now. Please think badly of no one.

I have the honor to be your obedient patient,
P. Et.

********

[Post-it note next to the letter]

I'll reassure him. Aaron

Nice going, Zazu. Molly

 

**********

[Second note, stuck beside the first]

Bright young man, but what the f is this? Angelica

I'll explain when I have a sec. Eliza

Chapter Text

[Still Sept 4, handwritten letter stuck to fridge via Area 51 souvenir magnet]

Dear all,

There has been some fuss lately, and additional fuss about how I've handled it. It's caused some unintended consequences in my, shall we say, equilibrium. It's unfair to expect others to take things into context when they don't know the context. I've decided to come clean.

I was once a patient at Vernon, before most of you worked here. (Thank you to those who remember and haven't said anything.) This was after I disrupted court proceedings by rushing at someone who wasn't my defense team's client, waving a lit candle, and shouting BEHOLD THE MURDERER! It was a lot less hilarious at the time. I was already in trouble for dating a member of the prosecuting team. I took my life-changing inpatient experience as a sign.

"Everyone" knows what rules are okay to bend, and by how much. "Everyone" knows the acceptable amount of sloppiness and chill that makes you a fun coworker rather than an uptight or irresponsible coworker. "Everyone" knows the difference between playful banter and uncalled-for personal attack. "Everyone" knows how to be angry at a friend without threatening that friend with bodily harm. "Everyone" knows, without needing to ask, the difference between being the recipient of teasing vs. thinly-veiled disgust.

I don't. Borderline Personality Disorder is not helpful in making such distinctions. So I follow rules to the letter. It's the only way I know how. As my new default, I am pleasant. Placid. Diffident. I talk less and smile more. It's simple and safe. I don't want to drive anyone away, but I'd rather risk you shunning me than another career-obliterating mistake.

Sincerely,
Aaron Burr

Chapter Text

[Still Sept 4, on the main section of the whiteboard]

I left "Fight Shift's" comments. But I erased some things I said about Aaron. I want to support you, Aaron, not make things harder. Thank you for opening up about yr deal. Molly

I still see you the same way, Aaron. I just have more context now. xoxo Maria

I already knew. You should have seen him before. There's been a lot of progress. Angelica

ANGIE YOU KNEW? (I second Maria, btw, Aaron, we're chill) Peggy

Thanks, ladies. She wasn't my therapist, but we go way back. I don't mind her teasing me because I know what -she- means by it. I appreciate your gesture, Molly. I notice you didn't erase Button's extensive diagrams of how to get rid of the mysterious mouse/rat and/or mice/rats. Aaron

P.S. You can call me Zazu if I can call you Molly Millions. Aaron

YESSSSSS. You read Neuromancer, you're officially cool in my book. Molly

As long as he doesn't put traps in the drawers, where we regularly stick our hands, leave Button to it. Angelica

Button, pleeeeeease use humane traps. I can help relocate any rodents. Sally

On a diff. note, I asked Lamb to give me a version of his emerg. contact's name that's official yet won't break our database by sheer length. The version he gave rung a bell. Anyone else notice? Aaron

I agree re humane traps: Dead animals are very unsanitary. Peggy

Yeah, he's one of Simba's emerg. cont.s too. Also I support you, Aaron, thx for sharin'. (hug) Eliza

Peggyyyyyy! :( !! Sally

I'm on your side! Peggy

Stop winding Sally up, Margarita. Eliza

Your name is Margarita? I thought it was Margaret. Also don't bother responding in writing, I'm going home. xoxo to all. Maria

Everyone's always surprised. Don't fullname me, ELIZABETH. (this is sisterly banter, Aaron, we're not mad) Peggy

Thanks for telling me. I don't have siblings either, so I'm doubly out of my depth here. Aaron

Ooooh you guys were talking about Lancelot! That's what I call him. He brought in Lamb AND Nymph. He's the only person I've ever seen to be on three patients' emergency contact list. Isn't he so conscientious, though? He made sure both of them actually read everything they signed. And he asked permission to kiss my hand. I know it's unprofessional of me but ahhhhh. (Also pledging support to Aaron.) Penelope

Thank you. Everyone give it up for our psych ward's favorite fighting Frenchman? Aaron

Was Arthurian Lancelot also French? Norman? (This one, wow, I have a little accent kink, don't mind me; my husband's RP accent sure doesn't hurt things) Angelica

You're emotionally cheating on poor J-Church's accent! It's the only really exciting thing about him! Peggy

Hey now. My hubby's coin collection is full of thrills. Angelica

The legendary Lancelot's nationality a subject of some debate, but I've seen our modern version during visits to Simba and Nymph. My hypothesis is that he treats his enemies like acquaintances, his acquaintances like friends, and his friends like they're more-or-less chastely dating. Betsy

Why must Lancelot be married??? :'( Martha the Tech

...Day shift be weird, yo. Hercules

And Fight Shift "be cool" with Aaron Burr. Cato

But I am not cool with these crumbs INSIDE MY LOCKER HOW HOW HOW, why am I the only one taking this seriously? Button

We trust you to protect us from even the fiercest of vermin. Cato

You're the real night in shining armor, no matter who Day Shift is swooning over. By the way, almost everyone else bet on Shouty and Nymph getting together, so I have bad news for you and Israel, Button...Hercules

If Israel wins the side bet I've got going with him I'm going to scream. Button

You two owe a lot of pastries to a lot of coworkers. Unless you beat Israel in whatever your game is, and do so all or nothing. I would love a James Bond movie where everyone is gambling for baked goods. Cato

I bet Bond's never eaten a brownie in his life. Hercules

Chapter Text

[General discourse section of white board, Sept 5]

Deee dee DEE DEEE dee DEE dee dee dee the lion sleeps toniiiiiiiight - seriously, though, Simba is getting the rest he desperately needs. Cato

Unlike real lions, which sleep in the day and not in mighty jungles. Hey, could you possibly stop humming that song as you make your rounds? You might wake someone. Hercules

HAH. The night I wake a patient is the night I eat a piece of bacon and perhaps discover what the fuss is. Not counting Shipwreck setting booby traps. You don't own me, Herc. Cato

You'd go for bacon, really? I'd have pegged you for ham-curious. Hercules

It seems to be the most prized of infidel meats. Have you not read the first issue of Ms. Marvel? Kamala Khan craves the forbidden but remains strong. Cato

omg wtf I found tiny droppings!! Button

Have you noticed nobody's food's been nibbled on, tho? Weird. Unrelated, but I think Fight Shift should start referring to the other squad as Bae Shift. Hercules

Bae Shift reporting for duty. Aaron and Molly

UNHOLY F GUYS WTFFFFFFF Im not ok where's deb i need deb

That was Molly. We're composing ourselves. There's been an incident. She managed to keep Shipwreck calm and deliver him to our infirmary. They've sent him to the general hospital. Despot is with Doctors Washington and Paine. Aaron

Paul R from AFFW is babysitting MFFW, we didn't abandon them. shipwreck had a skin rash or sm on back + desp convinced him it was bc spy devices + "helped" him "remove" them w/a piece of metal he broke off a grate. im off to admin to push paper while hating the world Molly

WTF just got here running to ward now Maria

Paul's covering for me till I finish report. Eliza and I told Dunno AGAIN and AGAIN Despot should have been on the second floor and he dismissed us out of hand. I would never hit a patient, but this is the first time I've wanted to. (I admit to having wanted to gently shake Headache or lightly swat Simba with a rolled-up newspaper.) Aaron

I think everyone's wanted to do the last two. Today's going to be SO awesome, wow. (Sigh) Angelica

omfg Barleyface tried to search patients' property w/o consent. Lamb SHAMED HIM OUT OF IT. Maria

I'm running out of words. When our children tell our story, they'll tell the story of this morning. Aaron

Confession: I observed Nymph out in the yard, huddled against the fence and possibly crying. Shouty had a hand on his thigh, technically against regs. Soothing manner. Not sexy. I let it be. Ok? Eliza

You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind as you, sis. If someone gives you grief over being compassionate I will shank them. Angelica

Update: Shipwreck's wounds minor (though ugly) and without infection. Will stay overnight for observation. His next-of-kin's been consulting on phone from Canada. Uninterested in pressing charges against Despot if Des. sent away immediately. Penelope

I've put pictures of various baby animals on the fridge. For morale. Eliza

The remaining guys enjoyed art hour, so that's good. You should see the photo I took of the drawing Lamb did. It's Simba's wrist. He spent more than thirty minutes on it. I have never looked at a wrist so hard before, and it's somehow beautiful. Makes you think. Peggy

I read in some guide for beginning poets (paraphrasing): If you love someone, don't write about all of them. Not even about their face. Write about the backs of one of their hands. Metaphorically. Phyllis

That's beautiful. You're here early, Phyllis. Eliza

Pen. asked to go home early + Phy. agreed to cover for her. Pen's been working on self-care skills. Angelica

For morale, as this has been the subject of some interest: Simba has residual baggage from having been a foster teen, but has decided to end the secrecy surrounding his past. Which means I am permitted to tell you that I'm Mufasa. Dr. GWash

Oh thank heavens for small mercies. My poker face was starting to crack. Angelica

what Martha the Tech

This has been quite a day, hasn't it? Betsy

I knew I should have started changing up my nightly check-in schedule to be less predictable. Especially after Shouty and Nymph fooled me. Look. I started today's board bragging about how stealthy I was and then I let THAT happen. I've let everyone down. I'm so sorry. Cato

While that may be worth a try, it wasn't your fault, not at all. Dunno fucked up, not you. We'll get to the bottom of this. Hercules

I don't feel guilty about missing the Mufasa thing, there's no sin in that, but the signs were all there! I'm not a very good spy. Cato

I dispute that on a number of levels. What about that theory you have about the mouse for example? I think it's solid. Hercules

WHAT THEORY Button

***

[Multiple magnetic poems on fridge]

1.
telling a joke really wrong be like: my dog has no eyes oh no

2.
it does not matter the why if you cannot
hold on to it for strength
think of what and when
that would be enough

3.
insert pun

4.
am mystified by the range of vocabulary she must have bought expansion packs who does that
do they sell expansion packs solely of punctuation? secret santa idea?

5.
my dog has no nose but he is popular online
there I fixed it?

Chapter Text

[Printout of an email stuck to the fridge, using the tragedy/comedy masks magnet.]

You got me, Cato! Please print this out and make this widely available. If you want to make multiple copies and hand it around, that'd be sweet, but I know how you are about wasting paper. (You can leave out the postscript, though. I understand if you choose to.)

However, you totally didn't get me, Button! Now you're solely responsible for supplying the break room with the agreed-upon number of pastries! MWAHAHA

Last Friday night I covered for York. Button and I started discussing the betting pool regarding whether Shouty and Nymph were a thing, I said it wasn't fair on me because I only work here once a week and didn't have time to observe. Or fair to him because he works while they're asleep. But Button got all huffy and said he can extrapolate from office gossip, and anyway Cato was in the betting pool too. (Though Cato described himself as 'participating in the pastry sweepstakes', because he considers gambling haram .) I replied that Cato is really observant, and that was the difference.

Button got even more huffy and challenged me to fool him about something. We agreed I'd win if I could make something unusual happen for three consecutive shifts at some point in the next month, without him realizing it was me.

Cato put the following elements together:

1. The crumbs were only appearing in break room spots Button frequently looks at.

2. No one's food had nibble marks.

3. The "droppings" were made of something malleable rather than all dry.

4. Button had mentioned something to him about a side bet with me.

5. I only -work- here once a week, but my weekday job is with the Postal Service. I deliver Vernon's mail. I come here for at least a few minutes Monday to Friday.

Triumphantly,
Israel Bissell

 

P.S. I can be unobservant too.

The last time we managed to be awake and free simultaneously, Cato, out of the blue, told me that he's blessed to have parents who support him in everything. Even when relatives in Mali might have misgivings. And that he didn't want to be pushy but he also didn't want to be "unduly secretive".

Then he typed "oops, g2g, ttyl" and didn't contact me again until the mouse thing. Usually we can only hang out Friday night bc then he's off work and I can sleep in the next day. Saturday evening sometimes.

I read that email and thought about how he's the only one out of all of MFFW (rather than the Vernon mailroom) who knows I'm your mail guy. I'm much chattier through text than in person unless I'm really relaxed. He also knows I like elaborate practical jokes. People don't know much about me in general.

Then I felt a bit silly.

YES. Yes, you're my boyfriend if you want to be! Yes, we can count those as dates! We can ride on a horse through town shouting it if you want! (Aw man, I covered for York when the movie night I had to cancel was potentially romantic...)

Cato likes chocolate croissants, btw.

 

***

[Post-it note stuck to above printout]

If Aaron Burr can be brave, so can we.

(Israel prefers cinnamon rolls. Possibly bc he is one.)

 

***

[Magnetic poetry]

look around
how lucky we are to be a love right now

Chapter Text

We met at staff BBQ a few months ago. Phyllis decided not to go bc Ramadan but I wanted to hang out w Bae Shift. Israel misunderstood my fasting, offered me stuff he brought that was both kosher & halal & we got to talking bc that was rly nice of him anyway. We're official now, wow. I only tend to out myself in settings when it both comes up naturally and I'm sure nobody will care. Also I'm not ready to figure out a sexual aspect, which tends to be a dealbreaker, but we've talked it over. We're going bowling tonight. I've never gone bowling. How does - oops, patients!

Cato

 

As most of you experience Cato as nothing but words on this board and light footsteps in patients' dreams: this is huge. You normally have to slowly extract personal details out of him. That doesn't always work. He'd be stoic against thumbscrews. My girlfriend and I like bowling once in awhile. I'm gonna show him some moves. Hercules

The thing I resent is that your announcement is so cute that I'll look like a jerk if I go on a rant about the prank. Button

(Slow clap followed by excited clap) 1 time I met Israel when he needed a package signed in a hurry and I happened to be near the door. I didn't know who he was! Deb and I were on vacation during that BBQ. We often go to a shooting range on our dates. I have great aim for someone shooting with a cannon, not so much with a handgun. She's fab at paintball. I beat her at laser tag, tho, bc she gets disoriented. Molly

Shipwreck's back. Shaken but hopeful. Also I notice a certain theme in Molly & Deb's dates. Aaron

Yay for Shipwreck! AB, we're preparing ourselves for the next phase of the war against corrupt corporate capitalism & the patriarchy. What do you and Theo Sr. do? Molly

Theodosia and I often have dates Fri night too, since I only work 3-4 hours. We go out for dinner or a comedy club. Yes, people, I laugh. Aaron

My lady Sarabi and I go dancing. Ballroom and swing. Mufasa

Dr. GW is a Stealth Dork, everyone. You should see him hanging out with our dad. My hubby and I are usually both emotionally exhausted, so we drink wine and play board games. Just think when we decide it's time for kids... Angelica

You can still carve out space for excitement, I promise. Congrats, C & I. Smile more. See you all on the other side of the weekend. Aaron

I must admit Dad and G.W. are pretty cringey in that special dad way. Our brothers compile lists of the terrible jokes those two make. Eliza

You three have BROTHERS? Maria

Yes, but none of you have met them and Angelica pretends they don't exist. I could use advice. I need a nice fifth date idea for Sybil. We've done coffee, dinner, and nightclub, she's taking me horseback riding on Saturday(!) because she's a really successful amateur(!) and it's my turn to figure out the next one. Peggy

Maybe since she's showing you "her world", you could show her something that's part of you. Go up to DC and the Nat'l gallery? Hey, Eliza and Sally, wanna have a single ladies' adventure of some kind? Help me celebrate my finalized divorce? Maria

That sounds wonderful. I've decided I'm not going to waste time pining after Simba or whoever. I admit I was, a little. Eliza

No shame here. You said no to that. Maria

Count me in, M. I admit I was into Headache for 5 minutes. The 1st 5 minutes. Then he said "Sally, be a lamb, darling..." and it was all over. Has anyone noticed Lancelot looks kinda like him if you squint? But has a far superior personality? It's apparently Lancelot's birthday and "Mufasa" asked if he could crash MFFW Music Hour. Hee. Sally

Wonderful and very married Lancelot. It's now official that if Headache gives you anymore trouble, he gets no more violin during Sharps Hour. Have fun politely ogling. I doubt Lancelot minds. Eliza

WHOA Lancelot brought cake to his own party. Cake his wife baked and he decorated. Then he handed someone the cake. And then he French-kissed Nymph in every sense of the word. Twice. Once for self, once for wife. Shouty stood there beaming. Then Gemstone said something a little homophobic and/or kinkshamey (poly-shamey?) and HEADACHE defended them. Against GEMSTONE. Sally

I put the remaining cake on the break room table, as per Lancelot's request. Have a good weekend, all! Eliza

Also Nymph, Simba, and Lamb declared themselves the Queer Trio and did a rap from Bly, cute. Sally

The world turned upside down. The cake is sooo good. Why does Nymph have the most elaborate love life of all of us? I'm jealous. Martha the Tech

Remember that Nymph needs to spend time in a psych ward and takes meds every day of his life. Congrats to C&I! My husband and I drive to lots of county fairs and small town carnivals. I check out the quilts and he checks out the animals and we do the hokey rides and rigged games and eat too much sugar. Excellent cake here, I agree. Betsy

That's fair, Betsy. Good reality check. MtT

Heads up, all! I didn't have time to write earlier. New guy's codename is Raincloud. Yay cake. Penelope

Group therapy notes: Shipwreck revealed that his skin rash that led to Despot's trick was probably bc he's allergic to the bleach we use for bedsheets. I made a formal report. Bluebird's made an effort to comfort Raincloud, which is a v. positive sign. Lamb is a huge fan of Raincloud's work and has really perked up. Nymph is sniffly at Shouty's departure but Simba's staying close to him. Dynamic's a lot better now Despot's gone. Betsy

Let it be known that York and I split the last piece of cake. Button abstained. Hercules

It makes me happy to know that my Friday night/Saturday early morning shifts let Cato go on dates. On a more serious note, Lamb sometimes tosses and turns in his sleep and tonight he hurt his shoulder. Herc and I fixed it but it's worth being aware in future. York

Does it ever feel creepy to you that Fight Shift spends a lot of cumulative time staring at patients sleeping? Button

They know we do it. Signed a release form. We're not from Twilight or something. York

Chapter Text

[Post-it note exchange on a wrapped box left in the middle of the table]

Herc, I know ur exhausted from overtime this week, but shouldn't this go to patient mail locker, not here? Lamb will be happy to get a care package. York

The package isn't for Lamb. That's a poorly handwritten first name, not a "Mister". H

MARTHA THE TECH? Y

Estranged. Hasn't recognized her (years, her weight change and glasses, his trauma and depression). Nobody's lying to him. She asked all of us to let them be. Angelica agrees in this case. H

Chapter Text

[Whiteboard, September 7]

working 6.75 consecutive night shifts isn't going as fun as I hoped. not done yet but yay for being outta here from 8AM Monday to 11:30 PM Friday. going to sleep + sew + repeat I'd get my costumes done faster if I could sew in the ward but no needles of course Herc

This looks like something a weary, mild-mannered inmate might scratch into a wall. York

i got a big order was up all day Herc

Wow, go home and go to bed, Hercules. You're making me feel guilty for having you cover for me so much this week. Are we going to give Weekend Shift a name? The staffing is similar. Phyllis

It's not a rhyme like the others, but I like Skeleton Crew. I can consult with Israel when we overlap on Sunday morning. We're the only two exclusively weekenders. Good day to ya'll. York

There's something wrong with the washing machine. Penelope

However, Birdwoman is amazing. Raincloud clearly platonically adores her. I get to codename her since Penelope's busy. Phyllis

Why Birdwoman? Penelope

Etymology. She's mentioned it in interviews. Also Lancelot initiated a cuddle puddle under the table, 3 only, since Nymph was busy kissing *guest* Shouty. Phyllis

Sort of sweet & sort of weird that Gemstone & wife let Headache orbit them. Penelope

I like Saturdays. They're quiet. I wrote something while supervising exercise time, in case anyone wants to see. Left it on the fridge. I see Aaron's cleared his announcement but I won't touch Israel's. Phyllis

Read it! I like how it's only sort of about flowers. I met Birdwoman a while back. A protest against history textbooks leaving out POC contributions. York

Where's the coffee? why the pot not coffee Herc

I have bent regs and ordered Herc to take a nap on the common room couch. Sorry not sorry. York

***

[On the fridge, affixed via chocolate chip cookie magnet]

DANDELION MANIFESTO

Don't deny you find us pretty.
Whatever you try with spades and gloved hands,
your ripping rending of roots
will bruise your fingers and tax
muscles used to complacency,
never fighting for survival or sight.

Your children,
who have not been taught we are weeds,
vermin among vegetable,
delight in our brightness, how we
in our sunbursts show thaw is coming;
it's only later they curse as you curse.

Do as you like. Of course it hurts
to be wrenched, but even as you burn
the sweet grass with chemicals,
you poison yourselves, too.

We will press through the litter. We
are untamed and our tendrils
run deep through the earth.
Our seeds have wings.

Far-off soil will host what you reject.
We will conquer your lost places.

Make a wish, gardener. Go on.

***

[On the table, next to the package, someone has left a bouquet made out of stainless steel spoons, tied together with a ribbon and stuck in a vase.]

Chapter Text

[Whiteboard, Sept 8 ]

It's official. The people who work on weekends are part of Skeleton Crew. See you next time. York

I like your poem, Phyllis, and I feel bad for hijacking, but CATO LEFT A POETRY QUOTE IN MY LOCKER Israel

Ooh, what poet? Phyllis

Rumi. Israel

Mm! I highly respect Coleman Barks as translator. Phyllis

why is Dr Gwash here Israel

Why are all the patients acting more subdued than usual, except Shipwreck, who seems sort of floaty and serene? Israel again

I updated them on George King's situation and the ramifications thereof. Mufasa

??????? Israel

Raincloud is like that naturally. Unrelated. As for the rest, I'll grab you when there's a lull and we can chat face-to-face. Phyllis

She did. Got it now. Being purely Skeleton Crew has its drawbacks. Watching visitors is nice though. Good to see Shipwreck getting support. Didn't know Almanac had a niece. Israel

Sarabi came to see Simba but she brought corn muffins for Lamb! That is very sweet. Goodnight, all. Phyllis

I would put nice notes in Cato's locker too, but this is the one night a week our shifts overlap and we can have a few minutes so there's

Got here 17 minutes ago. Israel was about to write that there's no point. I'm not sure. He left 2 minutes ago, but candy is sure to keep for a week, right? Cato

I need to do something rowdy and profane to counteract all this schmoop. Hercules

***

[The Note]

Come to the orchard in Spring.
There is light and wine, and sweethearts
in the pomegranate flowers.
If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.
- Rumi

p.s. It's not spring, but I found out about an apple orchard that might be nice next date. Y/N?

Chapter Text

[whiteboard Sept 9]

Found what I think is a Prozac tablet on the floor? Button

We better not have another "midnight med fight" on our hands like we did last June. There's nothing like summer in the psych ward. Cato

It's chill, guys, it's mine. But I've got plenty. Hercules

Cool. Don't forget to take it/them. Cato

Won't. Thanks. I'm freeeeeeee see you in a few nights! Hercules

As long as I don't end up unacknowledged and doing all the hard work around here AGAIN, I hope Herc has a nice break. Button's fulfilling his pastry debt. Not sure if halal, but look great. Cato

Theodosia and I went to see a movie on Saturday and both of us fell asleep. Cute, I guess, but we couldn't get our money back, and we'd really been looking forward to this one. Argh. Aaron

I volunteer as tribute babysitter! Don't want kids full time, but I like sanctioned borrowing. Molly

These are really good muffins. Also Simba just gave me a intentionally hilarious, overwrought compliment/pickup line: "Ma'am, you're worth causing a scandal over." Maria

"You're worth fighting a war to meet." Eliza

"The Kinsey Scale is an interesting concept. It helps me with other interesting concepts." Lamb swatted him for that one. Nice to see the guy showing some more life. Aaron

Why do you three get the funny, not-creepy attention? Sally

Pure luck, sadly. It doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints. Aaron

Patients have been creepy to me before, but this is a good group of guys. Maria

Ditto. AFFW has more histrionics and heartache, but teenagers haven't intimidated me since college. Pros and cons. Eliza

Lamb and Shipwreck have consented to medication starting tomorrow. Feel hope, and prepare. Mufasa

I am increasingly convinced that Mufasa has become a certain pdoc's playful twin, a la the evil twin concept. Maria

He's like that in person when he feels comfortable. Hey, anyone see the fancy buffalo meat jerky that I thought was in my locker? Peggy

No. And my cheese and crackers have gone missing. Eliza

Conspiracy theory: Israel was lying to cover up the mouse's true agenda, and they are working in league with one another. Check Cato's locker! It's sappy gift-giving gone wrong!* Penelope

*Joke. P.B.

Sorry!! I was going to run out and replace them for you, but Headache just HAD to reschedule his turn in my office at the last minute. I don't know what came over me. I've started wanting salty, meaty, cheesy foods at a ridiculously higher intensity than usual. Angelica

Huh. Peggy

Bear in mind that we don't live in a sitcom, Pegs. Don't assume. Eliza

Still. Huh. Peggy

I'm not touching this one. Aaron

She might well have nutritional imbalances that her brain wishes to correct. Betsy

I'm really glad Lamb wants to get better. Martha the Tech.

Chapter Text

[Whiteboard, Sept 10]

To take my mind off tomorrow's date, I'm gonna make a playlist. I would like suggestions for songs that express something about the mental health care experience, on either side, plz. W/ quote. Ex: "War on Drugs" by Barenaked Ladies: "Won't it be dull if we rid ourselves of all these demons haunting us?" Cato

That's a great idea. Did you lose someone on 9/11? You don't have to answer. Phyllis

I didn't lose anyone, and my heart goes to those who did. My selfish personal reason is that the Islamophobic bullying at my school kicked up several notches. Cato

Ah yes. My mosque community was nervous for awhile. I choose "Lullabye for a Stormy Night" by Vienna Teng: "For now I am grown, and these years have shown that rain's a part of how life goes. But it's dark and it's late, so I'll hold you and wait til your frightened eyes do close." Phyllis

"Be Calm" by fun. "Take it from me, I've been there a thousand times, you hate your pulse because it still thinks you're alive." Button

"Runs in the Family" by Amanda Palmer. "They say it's genetic, they say he can't help it, they say you can catch it but sometimes you're born with it." Molly

"The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. "And I will hold on hope, and I won't let you choke on that noose around your neck. And I'll find strength in pain, and I will change my ways."
Aaron

As "Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts" are cliche by now, may I suggest "Imitation of Life" by REM? "This lightning storm, this tidal wave, this hurricane, I'm not afraid, come on, come on, no one can see me cry." Mufasa

"Welcome Home" by Radical Face: "Peel the scars from off my back, I don't need them anymore." Eliza

I'm not going to quote "Girl Anachronism" by the Dresden Dolls bc triggers, but patients have told me it describes some manifestations of the ugly side of manic/mixed episodes well. Angelica

Read as a dialogue between a caregiver and someone with mental illness or dementia, "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men works great. The music vid is a fab animated Norse-y fairytale too. Peggy

"Closer to Fine" by Indigo Girls. "I wrapped my fear around me like a blanket, I sailed my ship of safety til I sank it..." Penelope

A bunch by Florence + The Machine. Sally

A patient likes Steam Powered Giraffe. I checked em out. From "Electricity is in My Soul": "I peeked inside to glean the design, but I could not behold, for the truth would amount to an overload." Martha the Tech

Suzanne Vega, "Night Vision": "I would shelter you and keep you in light, but I can only give you night vision." Betsy

You guys are awesome. Cato