An excerpt from

Wardlife: The apprenticeship of a young writer as a hospital clerk
by Andrew Steinmetz

Take five plus ten. I step outside for my break. A bag of salt and vinegar chips. I need to get away. Outside the garage, the ground is littered with cigarettes, A tobacco stew, tar meets tar on a hot humid night in July. Ambulances come and go. Thirty-one degrees and the city has cement breath, heat rises, time-released from the core.

I walk out to the top of University and look down over the city. Buildings jut up from the central basin, aglow, towers clustered like disposable flashcubes. It's been an evening of strange behaviour, beatings, and verbal abuse. A summer fugue. A festival of primal urges. C'est fou. C'est le bordel. A psych patient propositioned me with a butter knife. A drunk visited the waiting room with a steel bar. Then came the arrival of a woman by ambulance, postpartum, post-coherent, her new-born was found by the police tucked away in a dresser drawer.

I have these fifteen minutes to get away, I check my watch, view the city from above. I'm seeking some perspective in a very literal way. A new-born in a dresser drawer. That's no NICU. A dresser drawer, Jesus, son of Mary, stranger things have happened. Resurrections, resuscitations. In the distance on bridges draped over the river, a chain of red lights signals the outbound traffic. Electricity's brocade. I follow their progress, commuters retreating to the suburbs, the South Shore and beyond, into a wilderness of population statistics · of morbidity rates and demographic profiles · my attention lapses, I check my watch again and by some paralysis of will I cannot read the time.

The clock-face reports back esoteric detail.

I stare, my eyes migrate over the city, from light to light, shining, shining - never assembling sight.

I forget what I'm doing.

I've been gone over twenty minutes. I'm late going back in. Ready or not, here I come.