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He was referring to one of the male figures in white, whose head was a
portrait of Dr. Benjamin Hitz, the hospital's Chief Obstetrician. Hitz
was a blindingly handsome man.
"Lot of faces still to fill in," said the orderly. He meant that the faces of
many of the figures in the mural were still blank. All blanks were to be
filled with portraits of important people on either the hospital staff or
from the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Termination.
"Must be nice to be able to make pictures that look like something,"
said the orderly.
The painter's face curdled with scorn. "You think I'm proud of this
daub?" he said. "You think this is my idea of what life really looks
like?"
"What's your idea of what life looks like?" said the orderly.
The painter gestured at a foul dropcloth. "There's a good picture of it,"
he said. "Frame that, and you'll have a picture a damn sight more
honest than this one."
"You're a gloomy old duck, aren't you?" said the orderly.
"Is that a crime?" said the painter.
The orderly shrugged. "If you don't like it here, Grandpa—" he said,
and he finished the thought with the trick telephone number that people
who didn't want to live any more were supposed to call. The zero in the
telephone number he pronounced "naught."
The number was: "2 B R 0 2 B."
It was the telephone number of an institution whose fanciful sobriquets
included: "Automat," "Birdland," "Cannery," "Catbox," "De-louser,"
"Easy-go," "Good-by, Mother," "Happy Hooligan," "Kiss-me-quick,"
"Lucky Pierre," "Sheepdip," "Waring Blendor," "Weep-no-more" and
"Why Worry?"
"To be or not to be" was the telephone number of the municipal gas
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