All Bedlam Courses Past (part four)

Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfire






All Bedlam Courses Past


Chapter One
The Peculiar Nature of Logical Science
(part four)



The lips parted. “Haaaaaaaaaaaa…”

“Mr. Tomlin, how do you do?” Kempf said.

Tomlin struck out a hand. Kempf followed its flight, seized it and shook it.

Tomlin said something more.

“He is telling you, Mr. Kempf, the day is fine, do you think?”

“Warm!” Kempf said, hearty. “But the old ones find the heat a comfort.”

This seemed all. The orderly caught Tomlin from behind, humped his charge like a ragdoll to a bench overlooking the burial yard, the troublesome one.

Kempf shot a wary reconnoitering eye up the path, and saw no other obstacle. But Ebrach and Miss Gremot were gone…into his files, he knew.

He edged through the open door, propped with less clearance than warranted by a stopper in the shape of a flower basket (he had a vivid picture of Miss Gremot’s doing this, a careless nudge with the toe of her boot). She was at his desk, scribbling. And Ebrach was bent at the cabinet, rooting.

“Kempf, a clue to the whereabouts would be ideal.”

“Miss Gremot,” Kempf said, “what are you copying, there?”

She wrote another thing and laid down her pen. “When it’s got down d e c, period, it means the inmate died?”

“Oh, it is more complicated than that!” He wanted to shoo her out of the room, speak with Ebrach man-to-man.

“More complicated. December? Declined?” She paused. “Democrat?”

“You realize, Miss, that book you’ve got hold of, is mostly typhoid. Some few had people, and their being dead don’t mean they weren’t carted away for private burial. It’s no help just having a list.”

“No. My idea was to have a list, and then check things off it.”

Ebrach spoiled the moment with a laugh.

Books and periodicals, and records of treatment, Woolsaver’s notes and Kempf’s own…and no medical library nearer than Evansville. Kempf made no case with the county for preservation. Woolsaver had brought him on to further the research; and if the board would not defend it, a man who’d lived only seven years in Cookesville could hardly insert himself between the last crumbs of the endowment, and the railroad scheme.

“That man Shad.” He spoke from sudden inspiration. “Expressed to me a concern he had about the laying out. It was an idea of yours, Miss.”

“Élucide, it will be easier if you go see about the matter yourself.”

She retained Kempf’s seat. “Mr. Snedden wants to know the scope of the job. He’s got one casket ready to show…pine, fifteen dollars unlined. Two dollars off, if we order more than twenty.”

She allowed Ebrach to decide this a fair price. He nodded, exceeding his authority. Snedden would need bargaining well down in private, better if a quorum of the board was there—to guard the exits, as it were.







Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfireAll Bedlam Courses Past (part five)















(2023, Stephanie Foster)




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