rnie turned the dial on his television. The station he had selected brightened and the face of the set turned from dark to blue. Ernie sipped his can of beer. He was alone in the room, and it was night.
The picture steadied and Jory looked out of the set at him. Jory's face was tired. He looked bad.
"Hello, Ernie," Jory said.
Ernie turned the dial to the next station.
"Hello, Ernie," the face of Jory said.
At the next spot on the dial: "Hello, Ernie." The next: "Hello, Ernie."
There were five stations that Ernie's set was able to receive. When the fifth station said "Hello, Ernie," and Jory's tired face looked out at him, Ernie shrugged, took another sip from his can of beer and sat down to watch the set.
That happened Wednesday night. Wednesday morning began like this:
Ernie woke feeling bored. It seemed he was always bored these days. An empty can of beer and a crumpled pack of cigarettes rested on top of the dead television. All he did nights was watch TV.
Ernie sighed and thanked God that today was Wednesday. Tonight, when he came home from work, he would be over the hump ... only two days left and then the week end. Ernie didn't know for sure what he would do on his week end—go bowling, maybe—but whatever he did it was sure to be better than staying home every night.
Oh, he supposed he could go out, just once in a while, during the work week. Some of the guys at the plant did. But then, the guys that did go out week nights weren't as sharp at their jobs as Ernie was. Sometimes they showed up late and pulled other stuff like that. You couldn't do things like that too often, Ernie thought virtuously. Not if it was a good job, a job that you wanted to keep. You had to be sharp.
Ernie smiled. He was sharp. A growing feeling of virtue began to replace his boredom.
Ernie glanced at his watch and went sprawling out of his bed. He was late. He didn't even have time for breakfast.
His last thought, as he slammed out of his apartment, was an angry regret that he had not had time to pack a lunch. He would have to eat in the plant cafeteria again. Cafeteria lunches cost money. Money concerned Ernie. It always did. But right now he was going to need money for the week end; payday was another week away.
Ernie punched in twelve minutes late.
His foreman was waiting beside the time clock. He was a big man, and what was left of his red hair matched in color the skin of his neck. And the color of his face, when he grew angry.
His name was Rogers. He smiled now as Ernie nervously pushed his time card into the clock. His voice was warm and jovial as he spoke.
"Well ... good morning, Mr. Stump. And did we have a nice, late, cozy little sleep-in this morning?"
Ernie smiled uncertainly. "I'm sorry, Rogers. I know I'm late, but the time just sort of got away from me—"
Rogers laughed lightly. "Think nothing of it, Mr. Stump. These things happen, after all."
"Uh, yeah. Well, like I said, I'm sorry and—"
Rogers went on, unheeding. "Of course, complications can develop when your number three wrist-pin man decides that he just isn't feeling sharp this morning and he needs a little extra sleep to put him right. If you're the foreman for Sub-Assembly Line 3-A, for example, Mr....