The following events are not fictional, but they may have happened at different times, with different people, at different places. Each one of the authors has had people just like these, in situations just like those described. If you want to know what it’s like to live a day in the life of an ambulance driver, or a small town cop, or a small town ER nurse, join us for the story. It’s the same story. On the same day. With the same people. This is what we do, and working with paramedics and nurses like these is part of the reason we do it. What follows is part 1 of the story. After you have read my entry, follow along with Ambulance Driver for part 2 as he picks it up and carries it before handing it – and the patient – off to Babs.
So. We start.
“Excuse me, run that by one more time?”
“Puppy support. I didn’t want this to happen, and it’s partially his fault, so I think I deserves some compensation.”
I look at Earl’s prize bird-dog. She looks back at me intently — until her left eye starts to track right. I watch in fascination as her left eye winds up looking squarely at her right eye — which is, I should add, still looking at me.
“Now see here,” interjects Bobby — incidentally, Earl’s brother — “If’n he’d keep that tramp locked up, my old Eustice wouldn’t be tempted by just any old tail …”
“Enough. God, enough. Earl. There is no such thing as puppy support. And even if there was such a thing, it would be a civil matter, and the Sheriff’s Office can’t help you anyway. Bobby. Keep Eustice locked up, or get him fixed, or something.”
“Fixed? Ain’t nothing wrong with that dawg.” The subject in question is sprawled on a porch thirty feet away, and hasn’t moved the entire time I’ve been here. I’m pretty sure there’s a nest of field-mice under one floppy ear.
“I don’t care. Now. There will be no fighting, no dog-napping, no drive-by skunk-throwing, no biting, no out-house toppling, no kicking, no tyre flattening, no wrasslin’, no possum pitching, no Indian burns, nothing. Am I understood? If your mama calls me because you’re fighting over those puppies, I’m going to whip both your butts and throw you in jail. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. ‘Dog.”
“Yes, Mr. ‘Dog.”
Five minutes later I’m kiting down the highway.
“County, car 12.”
“Respond to 212 Muir Road. The usual.”
Heh. I’m always up for homemade cinnamon rolls and sweet iced tea.
212 Muir Road belongs to Mrs. Helen Schenk, widowed the past ten years. It’s a huge two-story plantation-style house on the edge of town.
Mrs. Schenk’s four kids are married and gone — Houston, California, Miami, the Army — and with Mr. Schenk being gone, Mrs. Schenk occupies about three rooms on the ground floor of her house. The other rooms, and the entire second floor, are behind closed doors, furniture draped in sheets and the occasional spider web, dust laying thick about.
Once a month or so, Mrs. Schenk calls the Sheriff’s Office, always with the same report: the ghosts upstairs are having a party. This in and of itself, doesn’t bother her — unless it’s after their bed-time, or if there are unchaperoned girl ghosts up there with the boy ghosts. When that happens she calls us to come settle them down.
“Car 12, County, I’ll be 10-6 at 212 Muir.”
As usual, I’m about halfway to the front door, when it opens up and Mrs. Schenk waves to me, happily, the scent of home-made, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls blossoming on the front porch.
“Hello, Mrs. Schenk. How are you?”
“One can’t complain, officer,” she pats my arm gently, “You know, I didn’t want to be a bother.”
“I know that, Mrs. Schenk. How are the ghosts today?”
“Well, they’re being very quiet.”
I take off my hat as we step into the foyer, the smell of cinnamon making my mouth water. “Is being quiet — bad?”
She smiles at me, “I raised three boys. When they’re being quiet is when they’re getting into trouble. Besides, I think I heard a giggle earlier, and I don’t think boy ghosts giggle.”
I smile back at her, “Probably not. I’ll go sort them out.”
I scoot up the steps to the second floor landing and slip into the first door on the front side of the hall, pulling my SureFire off my belt as I do. This was probably a sitting room at one time, smaller with chairs and side-tables arranged about. I circle the room, running my light around the window and checking the dust for new footprints — nothing.
The two bedrooms are next, I check under the beds and in the closets, as well as the windows. One of these days something is going to jump out at me, and I’m going to embarrass myself — but today everything is clear. Although the second bedroom window has broken sometime since the last time I was here. I make a mental note to drop by her preacher and mention this.
The end of the hall is a large room, stacked floor to ceiling in furniture. I hate this room — I’m always afraid I’ll pull something off a stack accidentally and get crushed in the resulting avalanche, but I check the windows and look for the prowlers I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to find. The same occurs back up the hall until I’m in the ball room on the opposite side.
This one is different in that there is no furniture stacked about. I make my circuit — all clear — check to make sure Mrs. Schenk hasn’t come up the stairs, and close the door.
I step to the center of the parquet floor, take a deep breath:
“To be, or not to be: that is the question!
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.”
I finish my oratory, bow gently to a room only a complete cynic would consider to be empty and step back down the stairs.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Schenk has set out two saucers — each holding a cinnamon roll — and two tall glasses of iced tea. “You weren’t too harsh with them, I hope?”
“That’s good. Is it true what I heard about the Perkins boy?”
This is also part of dealing with Mrs. Schenk’s ghosts: You have to share the town gossip — over rolls and tea, of course.
About ten minutes into the chat, and I notice that Mrs. Schenk isn’t eating her roll — normally gossip gives her a good appetite — but it’s when she rubs her jaw that I perk up and start to take notice.
“Ma’am, are you all right?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, a bit of heartburn, that’s all, but I do wish that I wasn’t getting a toothache at the same time. One is bad enough, but both together are just awful.”
“How long have you had this toothache, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Oh, it just cropped up this morning. To tell God’s own truth, it’s the worst one I believe I’ve ever had.”
“Ma’am, if you’ll excuse me for just a bit, I need to call the office.”
Pleased at the prospect of more visitors, Mrs. Schenk perks up a bit, “Of course.”
I step out on the front porch, then break into a jog, heading for the jump-kit in my cruiser.
“Car 12, County.”
“County, would you send a paramedic to my location, please.”
“Say again, car 12?”
Part 2 is at AD’s place.