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Rehired

Excerpted from "Job Hazard: March 1956," a short story by Donna D. Vitucci in the current Steel City Review.

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When Fernald called Evan back, the Q clearance took only a month, instead of two. Even with previous records that claimed him government-ready, they still ran through his past with a comb so fine-toothed they might as well be Patrice examining Mazie's head for nits. That the government zeroed in and found nothing suspicious only proved his divorce and remarriage were official, according to U.S. law and the FBI, a decree usefully tossed in the faces of all those who'd been feeding the town's rumor mill and making Patrice live life like a hermit crab, all crawled in on herself so even Evan couldn't make inroads there. Through the winter, more than the bed sheets had turned cold.

Now that he'd hired on again at the Plant, his personal life could maybe slip behind the wall of silence that shrouded the whole place, no one wise to what occupied him each day but the guys suffering the same spills and blasts and crap handed down from supervisors on the rungs above. Outsiders had no right to ask, but if they could question and if he could answer, his story'd come down to this: No matter where you worked, bureaucracy still reigned, bullshit still raged.

He wasn't quite sure where they were putting him, and Fernald managers seemed clueless to his assignment, too.

"For now be a floater," Kenny Ingold said. "Ride with it."

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